Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Adventure #3: Camping at Jellystone of the Smokies

We decided to take off for a weekend of camping.  We called our usual favorite campgrounds and they were full.  We called a few new ones and finally found a spot on the creek at Jellystone of the Smokies in Cosby Tennessee, just outside Gatlinburg.  This was our first time at a Jellystone, but several of my friends had recommended it.
I have to say that this was the cleanest, friendliest campground we have ever visited! The baths and showers were immaculate!  (That is a REALLY BIG DEAL with me.)  I admit, it was more crowded than we prefer.  I honestly prefer the National Park Campgrounds, especially Deep Creek and Cosby. However, none of them have showers.  I'm not going 3 days without a shower.  You can travel right outside the park on the Deep Creek side and buy a shower..but really???  There used to be a place you could shower near Cosby, but it was closed down when we were there.  I still would love to visit Deep Creek later this summer...even if I do have to go somewhere and buy a shower... I know that some people bathe in creeks and streams, but there are environmental issues with that.
Jellystone is family run and everyone was friendly and helpful.  We were escorted to our site by the owner.  Our shady site was right on a little creek.  It was really nice, just a little closer to the neighbors than we normally prefer.

The creek that ran beside our campsite

After getting set up, we toured the grounds. The grounds were exceptionally neat and clean.  There was a pool, a mini golf course, ping pong, a game room, an outdoor theatre for viewing movies (a different children's movie each night), and a pavilion for various activities.  We don't do movies/ TV when we are camping, but my daughter loved the pool and the mini golf. There are even hayrides (which they call "hey"rides) on Saturday nights.  Best of all- on Friday evenings, Yogi himself walks around the campground greeting the kids and getting his picture made with them.

Mini Golf Course

I'll admit, this is not the type of camping experience we are used to. We are "outdoors" people.  I don't think of swimming pools and mini golf as camping activities. However, if your child loves it and has a good's a success.  She did try fishing... and caught a couple of trees.

We also get out into the park.  I will post our visit to Cataloochee tomorrow. We even saw a black bear! I haven't seen one in the Smokies in years.  This one wasn't in the park-- it was walking through some one's yard!  We tried to take a picture, but he got away.
Again, this was not our typical family camping experience.  We are used to more secluded locations, with less people and more nature. Still, I can't say it was bad.  We did have fun.  And some of the conveniences were nice- like a laundromat.  The people were friendly, the campground was clean and safe.  We still sat around the fire at night making s'mores.  We got away from the house and had a good time.  I call it a success.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Porch Swing Therapy

Porches are fairly common parts of any house. You can find them on houses across the USA. But here in the south, a porch is seen as a further extension of the family room. Indeed, it even surpasses the family room as the gathering place on warm nights. In the past, families would gather on their porches after dinner to rest, to talk, to watch the world go by.  Couples "courted" on porches. Women shelled beans, men whittled, children played on the steps.  In traditional southern families, the porch is a gathering place, a resting place.
My maternal grandmother (MawMaw) had a screen porch that spanned the entire length of her house.  Lined with a variety of rockers and straight-back chairs, it was a gathering place for family members young and old.  The front yard was shaded by huge old oak trees (and a hickory nut tree).  The men smoked and told hunting stories. The women gossiped and traded recipes. The teenagers giggled and shared secrets (and pierced each other's ears with a potato- eww!). We kids played (even roller-skated) on this porch.  It was a huge part of family life.  Living here on the mountain, there was little traffic to watch (a car during the day was big news). Still we gathered here on Sunday afternoons, on warm summer nights.  I remember sleeping out there on a featherbed with my cousins telling ghost stories.  Whenever I hear cicadas and tree frogs, to this very day, I think of my MawMaw.
My father's parents lived on the Lyerly Highway (GA 114). Their porch faced the highway. Here, the family gathered always. The only time I can remember the family gathering in the living room was on Christmas or Thanksgiving. Otherwise, you were either in the kitchen or on the porch.  A requirement for this porch was a glass of iced tea that my Granny made daily and kept in the refrigerator (which she called the Frigidaire).
On one end of Granny's porch was my favorite thing- the porch swing.  My cousin Terri and I would sit for hours on that swing playing a game called "It's Mine". It went like this: the first car to come down the highway was hers, the next was mine. If it was nice- a sports car, etc., you were a winner of sorts. Mine was usually a clunker...
My Grandaddy would listen to us sing there on the porch at night. He would say. "Sing for Grandaddy" and we'd sing old gospel songs with all our heart. One of my last memories of him was there on the porch.  He asked me to get him a glass of iced tea.  When I banged back out the screen door and handed him a Tupperware glass he held my arm and said. "Thank you, Sugar. Your Grandaddy loves you."  I was 14 that summer. He died that July 3rd.  I can not look at that porch without thinking of him.  Terri lives there now. The porch swing remains (moved to the other side).  If that house ever passes from the family I do believe a part of my very soul will be lost.  I pray that never happens.
My house today has a porch and a deck. The deck gets the morning sun, the porch gets the evening sun.  There is an outdoor respite for every time of day. And, of course, on the porch, is my swing.  Here is a place I can go on lazy afternoons to read, to think.  My husband and I sit here to talk. My daughter and I gather here to paint.  Even the dogs love to lie here and while away the hours.  I sit here on sleepless nights and listen to the cicadas and tree frogs, and of course I remember.  I sit on the deck steps and listen to the wind blowing up Devil's Holler. It is humbling. It is peaceful.  It  is a reminder that these trees, this holler, this land were here long before me. They will be here long after. My troubles are only temporary. This, too, shall pass.
How different would the world be if we all took time to sit on our porch swing at the end of a long day?  What stories would our children tell us that we never have time to hear?  What memories would we build for them? What stories would we tell?
Everyone can use a little porch swing therapy.  Try it some time....

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Diary of a Chicken Chaser

Last spring my husband brought home three White Leghorn chicks.  The feed store had dyed them for Easter. (I'm not sure how I feel about dying an animal, but no one involved asked me what I thought.)  It's not that we didn't already have a bazillion chickens - but we didn't have a pink one...or an orange one...or a green one.  He was already planning on visiting my daughters' Pre-K class with chicks. He thought the colorful ones would be a hit. They were.
Now, a couple months later, those chicks have grown up considerably. They are white now, except for a tiny bit of color left around their eyes.  (Again, I'm not sure I like the idea of a dyed animal.  It just seems wrong to me.)  The chicks are friendly and don't mind being held.  This makes them a prime target for my daughter, the Chicken Chaser.  Her favorite chicken to chase is the one with green around its eyes.  I think it (can't tell yet if its a he or a she) enjoys the game, to tell the truth.  It keeps on coming back for more.
She takes this chicken chasing seriously, my little one.  She thinks... she plans...

Plan A- sneaking, stalking
She instructed everyone around to shush and freeze while she approached the, this elaborate tiptoe (think Looney Tunes).  The chicken would be happily pecking around in the grass, seemingly unaware that it was being stalked.  Suddenly, the Chicken Chaser would dash forward and the chase was on!  Green Eyes was getting pretty good at this. Time to shake things up a little.

Plan B- the laundry basket
I was headed into the backyard to take some sheets off the line when I saw the Chicken Chaser with my laundry basket raised above her head.  (Again, the elaborate tiptoe.)  Poor Green Eyes was over by the edge of the woods investigating an ant hill, completely unaware of what was about to happen.  Luckily for Green Eyes, I had to get that laundry in and get back to a tomato pie I had in the oven. I reclaimed my basket while the Chaser was in mid stalk.  Her plans were temporarily foiled, but she wasn't giving up that easily.

Plan C- enlist help
I was taking the last of the sheets from the line when I heard her calling Cricket, our Blue Heeler.  BAD IDEA.  Blue Heelers are bred to chase things. Intelligent and faithful, that dog would probably try to climb a tree if one of us asked her to do it.  However,  whatever she chases she generally catches. And whatever she catches, she tends to see as rightfully hers.  Green Eyes does NOT deserve this. Mom intervened.  I informed her that she was NOT, under any circumstances, to involve Cricket in ANY of her chicken plans. Period.  I then heard her whisper to the dog, "Come on and help me Cricket! Just don't tell Mama"  Thankfully, Cricket listens to me, even if no one else does.

Plan D- blackberry bait
The Chicken Chaser and her dad went blackberry picking yesterday.  She rushed through the kitchen door proudly holding the bowl of blackberries and declared, "Daddy and me picked this bowl of booberries. They're just for me and you-- not daddy!"  She plopped them on to the table and rushed back out the door. Hmmm...not sure what heinous crime Daddy committed that brought about this banishment from blackberries... Oh well, more for me!
She was gone about 10 minutes before she rushed back into the kitchen.  "I need some of those booberries!!  I gonna use 'em to catch that chicken!"  She careful selected a few berries and was gone in a whirlwind. Ah ha! She's using bait now.  She's getting smarter!  Poor Green Eyes!  Hope he/she can resist.
Evidently, Green Eyes is not a blackberry fan. Either that, or he/she can eat on the run.

Plan E- better uniform
I was removing the tomato pie from the oven when Chicken Chaser returned.  "Oh, hey!", she said as she headed for her room.
"Oh hey!" I replied, trying to see what she was up to now.
  She was rumbling in her closet.  "I gotta get my daddy wears!  They'll help me catch that chicken!"  I assumed she meant her pink John Deere boots.  (Every country kid needs a pair.)  But, no- she comes back into the kitchen wearing her suede "school boots".  Really?  Well, they were too small anyway.  I shrugged and let her pass.

When it was beginning to get dark outside, the little Chicken Chaser came inside with her dad. She was tired, but determined.  Green Eyes headed off to roost, equally exhausted and equally determined.

It's a rainy Sunday morning now and Chicken Chaser sits quietly nibbling a biscuit and watching cartoons. She is thinking.  You can almost hear those wheels turning in her mind.  The rain and church have put a momentary halt to her plans...for now.  Green Eyes has likely found a dry spot in the shed and is enjoying this temporary respite.

 This is only a temporary truce.  Come afternoon, the chase will be on!

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Garden

I took some pics of the garden today.  Ours is a little behind some of our neighbors.  Better late than never I guess...

 I'm surprised the deer haven't attacked already.  Our garden is close to the woods.  You can see the pasture all grown up in the background.  We needs to get some goats!

 Beans running up the corn

 2 rows of watermelon: Dixie Queen & Georgia Rattlesnake

It isn't fancy, and it looks nothing like you see in magazines.  It's just a plain, old-fashioned garden. But- as long as it provides and makes us happy... that is all that matters. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Adventure #2: Lake Winnepesauka

I gave my daughter a surprise this morning.  I woke her up saying, "Come on! We're going to Lake Winnie!" She woke up quickly. :o)  Today, in her eyes, I was a Super Hero.
If you live in North Georgia (or South Tennessee), Lake Winnepesauka (Lake Winnie) is a long standing tradition.  This year Lake Winnie has opened for it's 87th season.  Lake Winnie gets its name from a Native American word meaning "bountiful waters" or "beautiful lake of the highands".  Located in Rossville, GA, it was opened in 1925 by Carl and Minette Dixon. It is still operated by their descendants today.
Lake Winnie is NOT one of those cookie-cutter amusement parks run by chains all over America. Lake Winnie is the real deal.  It is what amusement parks used to be.  Parking is free and an all-day arm band costs $26. However, local McDonalds give out coupons for $5 off the armbamd price if you go on Wednesdays. And get this: on Thursdays you get $5 off if you bring a Sunbeam bread bag (no kidding)!  My advice- come on a weekday morning- no crowds and short wait lines.
View from the Ferris Wheel

 Lake Winnie isn't as big as the famous parks, but that is part of the charm. Lake Winnie is a safe place to take your kids.  The staff is very friendly.
 Everybody I know loves Lake Winnie!  My parents came to Lake Winnepesauka when they were dating. My grandparents came here.  I've been coming here all my life. My own child loves it as much as I did.  For us, a day at Lake Winnie means summer has finally arrived.
You can eat at the concession stands in the park, or carry your own picnic basket and coolers and eat in the shaded picnic area.  There is even a small pavilion shaped like a birthday cake (complete with candles) that can be reserved for parties.
Some of the rides have been there since the park began.  The Merry Go Round was built in 1916, the boat chute in the 1920's. The coolest ride of all (to me) will always be the Cannon Ball. It is a real wooden roller coaster, built in 1967.  (One night, a few years back, I was watching a television show about wooden coasters and there it was on national TV- The Cannon Ball!)  It's like watching TV and seeing an old friend. Ha!  Not only are there rides, there is also a mini-golf course, a playground, a water play area (bring a change of clothes) and a concert area.
Today, I let my daughter be the boss. She chose the rides and I tagged along. She had the time of her life! She giggled and laughed and made me feel young again.  She even drug me on the Pipeline Plunge- a 5 story flume ride. I am terrified of heights and very claustrophobic.  If that doesn't prove my love for that kid, I don't know what does.  I nearly froze in terror before I reached the top of the stairway. Then I realized that my only choice was to walk back down (NO WAY) or ride through that tunnel.  I took the tunnel. NEVER AGAIN!
View from the Touring Train

If you are looking for a day of old-fashioned fun that won't break the bank. I'd highly recommend Lake Winnie.  Your kids will love it. 
Would I visit again? You bet- every year until I'm too old to make the trip! 
See you at Lake Winnie!
Beth :o)
For more info, visit

Monday, June 4, 2012

Family Adventure #1: Yurt Camping at Red Top Mtn

I have made up my mind that this will be a good summer. Last summer my husband worked long hours (and we were grateful for the work) but we had very little time together as a family. He missed out on a lot of our daughter's life last summer- and she will never have a summer of being four again. It seems like she and I spent all our time waiting around for his day off in order to go here or there, then that day would come and he'd have to work.  I promised her that this summer would be different. I promised her that this summer we would have fun. His schedule has changed so he can join in as well. I'm determined this summer will be FUN!
We began our "summer adventures" this past weekend.  I plan to blog each one.  Family Adventure #1 was planned on the spur of the moment.  My husband had the weekend off, but we all had plans/ commitments for Saturday. We thought a one-night camping trip would be fun. There are several campgrounds near our home, so we didn't plan to travel far. At first we planned to just pack the tent. However, Saturday night (late) I discovered that storms were going to move in Sunday night. Storms in a tent are not fun. And lugging the pop-up out for a one-night camp is a little much. Sunday morning before church, I was checking out the web, looking for fun things to do nearby.  What could we do that was close to home? We didn't want to spend our entire day in the car.
 I was checking out the website for Red Top Mountain and discovered that they have a yurt! Hey- it's camping, but will protect you better than a tent if it storms! YES!!! I called the park and reserved the yurt. (If you call the 1-800 number you have to reserve for 2 nights, but if you call the park office or walk in, you can get it for one night.)  I told my husband excitedly that we were camping in a yurt. He responded with, "A what?!?!?" Nevertheless, we hurried home from church, packed our things and were on our way...
Red top Mountain is a short drive on I75- less than 45 minutes from our house.  In a short time we were arriving at the yurt:

 How cool is this? Inside we had bunk beds (full on bottom, twin on top) and a futon. We brought our own linens.
 The yurt had a ceiling fan and electricity. (There was a water spigot outside.)
This was our view of the lake. I loved these rocks! As soon as we were settled we climbed up on the rocks to watch the boats on the lake below.
Here are a few more pictures I took of the lake as we strolled down to the shore.

 See that huge houseboat backed into the cove in the photo above? Remember that thing. More about that later.

We were just enjoying the view, watching the boats and jet skis.  We were admiring the houseboat across the lake and wondering what it would be like to vacation on a houseboat.  The boat was playing music, people were laughing and swimming- it was a beautiful afternoon.
My daughter enjoyed exploring the shore of Lake Allatoona.  She wasn't too sure about wading, but she eventually decided to put on her bathing suit and play. She also discovered a tiny frog. They made friends and then she sent Mr. Frog on his merry way.
Here is a view of the yurt form the shore:
That hill is steeper than it looks!
I did some exploring of my own and discovered an old road bed that ran beside this old stone wall. The road ran straight into the lake. It made me stop and think about the history of this area: the battles fought here during the Civil War, the families that lived here before the lake existed.

We decided to drive over to the mini golf course to play a round or two.  When we got there, it was empty. We asked the girl in the snack bar next door where we paid to play mini golf. She looked a little blank for a moment then told us she wasn't sure. She told us she thought you had to do that in the park office (about a mile away) but she really didn't know. Okay- We reasoned that the park office closed at 5:00 and it was now 5:30ish, so golf was out.  We decided to drive around the park and see what we could see.  I have to say it really is a beautiful park. Very quiet and wooded. We saw several deer.  My daughter was quite impressed with all the playgrounds (of course).

Arriving back at the campsite, we decided to prepare dinner and chill awhile. Evening and nightfall are always my favorite part of camping.  For one thing, there is FOOD!  The outdoors makes you hungry! Three is something so peaceful about preparing the meal together and eating together outside.Tonight we grilled some steaks and baked potatoes along with some steak side mushrooms.  (I didn't take any pics of the food, but I will include pics and recipes on another camping trip.) 
After cleaning up, we sat back by the fire and roasted a few marshmallows. (We decided we wanted just marshmallows- no s'mores tonight.)  Again, this is usually my favorite time. We can just sit around the fire and talk. It's peaceful and it gives us time to  talk and really listen to one another. However, our reverie was cut short by a few loud yells and a blast of music.  We looked around- quiet time is 10 PM-7am. One rule of camping etiquette is that quiet times are honored and we respect other campers.  It is fine to laugh and have a good time- but you shouldn't destroy the peace of the other campers.  The music continued on and we realized it was coming from the huge houseboat across the lake. (Remember those guys?)  I decided to make a trip to the bath house with my daughter and continue the campfire time later.  Maybe it would be quieter then.
The bath house was an adventure of it's own.  (Really.)  One VERY important part of any campground is the bath house. It should be CLEAN! (The cleanest I have ever seen is Indian Creek in NC,  but that's another story...)  This bath house was very clean. I had no complaints.  For those of you who are non-campers- a bath house shower has 2 parts.  There is an outer section for dressing (and undressing) and then there is the actual shower. Always (ALWAYS) wear flip flops in a shower. I don't care how clean it looks.  We placed our shower caddy and clothes in the outer section and I proceeded to help my daughter shower.  (I've found that the easiest way to do this- although a PAIN- is to put on a bathing suit and just get in there and wash her. Then, put her in the outer section and get her dressed. She waits there while I shower.)Yes, this IS a big "to-do". (Every self- respecting southerner knows what a "to-do" is.) One small problem with the bath house tonight- the drain is CLOGGED!! I am half way through washing my daughter when I realize a huge flood is heading straight for our clean (DRY) clothes! We scurried to save them. I'm in a (non-flattering) bathing suit and she is in her birthday suit and we are running all over this bath house like blathering idiots. We saved some of the clothes- the ones we planned to put on.  Yeesh! Back to the shower. By the time it was over, both of us were soaked, but I'm not too sure about clean. Oh well... We headed back to the yurt.  While we spread our wet clothes out on the deck to dry, Dave headed out to the men's bath house. Suddenly, above the yowling and music that was still going on across the lake, we heard sirens. My first thought was, "Good grief! They scream and play loud music and NOW they have sirens?" Then I saw the blue lights.  Who needs TV when you can watch an episode of Cops from your camp site?  I don't know what took place, but as soon as those cops pulled away, it was ON! I swear they were howling! Standing there howling!!!  My daughter, who loves to camp, was asking me,"What are those people doing? Can we go home?"  I was livid.  I used this as a time to teach her about the importance of manners and respect for others. What else can you do?  I was considering the fact that I was very close to home. Should we just pack up and go?
 When Dave returned to the yurt they were still howling.  We helped our little one into her bed and he broke out his iPhone and  found a LONG lullaby video on YouTube. (Bless his youtubin' self) She was out fairly quickly.  While he and I fumed on the deck, the houseboat idiots began to quieten down. "Great!." he said, "Maybe their dumb butts are beginning to pass out." But NO! What do we hear then but.."Dum dum DUM DUM" The beginning strains of the song came on and Dave threw up his hands and shook his head in disgust. "Great! They've done broke out the Skynyrd! Its ON now! They're just getting started!"  
For those of you "non-southerners" out there. We all love Lynyrd Skynyrd. We ALL do. However, if you are ever near a rowdy crowd of drunken rednecks and you hear Skynyrd start up-- LEAVE!!! Nothing good will come after that...
We went to bed to sleep as best we could amid the racket.
Sometime in the wee hours I awoke with a start- silence! I walked out onto the deck and stared at the lake. The moon reflected on the water below. Other than the night creatures there was nothing to be heard.  David followed me out onto the deck. THIS is what a campground should sound like.  THIS is why we love to camp. Sadly, our little one missed it.  
The next morning, I awoke to the sound of rain.  I was so glad we decided to camp here instead of a tent.  We were warm, dry, and snug. I walked over to the window. As usual, the lake was beautiful.  I arrived at the window just in time to hear the famous houseboat start up and glide away into the mist.  I watched as it glided out of sight. "Of course!", I thought, "Your work here is done. You ruined every one's night, so it's time to leave." 
Would I come here again? Maybe... I have to say the people who work here are extremely helpful and friendly.  You couldn't ask for nicer folks.  However, the houseboat makes me hesitate.  My dad told me he has heard of a boat down here called "The Party Boat" that is a rental. If this is true, then they must be creating havoc here every weekend.  So... maybe in the fall...when the "Party Boat" is less likely to be terrorizing the campers. Other than that, I'd come here for day visits only.
 As for the rest of the summer...
Bring on the next adventure. I can take it! HA!