It’s been awhile since I did a What’s On Moosey’s Mind series, and boy do I have a lot to tell you! Last week, I went on vacation to Pigeon Forge, TN, so I have lots of pictures to share. Then a group of very wonderful and amazing bloggers threw me a virtual birthday party. I’ll share with you the plans I don’t have for Memorial Day, and last, a list of recipes I’ve found from other bloggers that I can’t wait to try.
Last week was family vacation with my parents and brother to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee to visit Dollywood and the Smoky Mountains. Dad and brother have been wanting to go here for years and years now. For once I didn’t have a big role in the planning. The first day we drove down through a bunch of rain storms. Along the way we stopped at New River Gorge in West Virginia, which is one of the oldest rivers in North America. Finally we arrived in Pigeon Forge. We didn’t expect the place to be so touristy with all of the shows, attractions, and souvenir shops.
Day 2 we spent the whole day in Gatlinburg (the town next to Pigeon Forge), which was more touristy than Pigeon Forge itself. Attractions like The Guinness Book of World Records Museum, Ripley’s Haunted Adventure, a comedy hypnosis show, places that you know are there just to take your money. Along with that is the nightmare of parking. If you decide to visit Gatlinburg, just accept that you have to pay for parking. We found a $5 lot. Others were $8-$10 or parking garages. Despite the touristy feel, you can’t argue with the beauty of the Smoky Mountains. We rode up to the top of the one mountain in an aerial tram car. Can you imagine staying in one of those houses on the mountain like that? I think I could for a week getaway, but I definitely couldn’t live in one permanently. I’d be constantly expecting a landslide. Then Dad and I rode up on a ski lift to another view of the mountains.
(not my family)
Next, we went to a place that legally makes real moonshine. Because it was Sunday, you are not allowed to buy moonshine. However, they were still offering tastings (which doesn’t make sense – you can still drink but not buy?). I tried lemon drop and peach. Although they tasted better than what I expected, I don’t think I would be drinking a whole glass anytime soon.
Our final activity for the day was visiting Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. I’ve been to aquariums before, but this one stood out because they had an underwater tunnel where you could literally be underneath the sharks. And if you ever wanted to test your camera skills, aquariums are one of the toughest places to photograph because of all the low lighting. Thankfully I’m getting better at manual mode, so I was able to compensate some of the settings.
For dinner, we ate at Smoky Mountain Brewery. When Dad and I travel, we make it a point to find at least one brewery for dinner and try the beer. We got a sampler to try all of the beers. My favorite was the Tuckaleechee Porter, which is a dark ale with caramel and roasted malts. For dinner, I got the Smoked Portabella Mushroom Philly Sandwich. I may not be a vegetarian, but I do love meatless options when I dine out.
Day 3 we spent a little bit at Dollywood. If you’re planning a trip to the amusement park, keep this in mind – if you buy your ticket after 3 PM at the gate, you get in the next day for free (except they are closed on Tuesdays, so our next day was Wednesday). So we spent four hours at the park on Monday night and the whole day on Wednesday. I took my DSLR in Monday to get some nice shots of the park.
Day 4 we spent the first half at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As you drive around, there are different areas to pull off and take pictures. Our goal was Clingman’s Dome, the highest point in the mountains. At first glance, you read that the trail up and back is 1 mile. Don’t let that fool you! Yes it’s a mile, but the first half is up a steep, steep mountain! We were out of breath and exhausted when we got to the top, something to keep in mind if you’re not in shape for hiking.
Later that evening, we had dinner and a show at Dixie Stampede. You weren’t allowed to take pictures, so I have none to share. However, when they say you get no utensils to eat dinner, they weren’t kidding. You literally have to tear your (whole!) roasted chicken with your hands. The soup bowl had a handle so you could drink your soup. The slice of pork tenderloin, well, you just picked it up and ate it. The food was good, but they give you so. much. food. I ate everything but half of the chicken.
Day 5 was my birthday! There was a cupcakery in town, so we stopped by after breakfast for birthday cupcakes. I got a chocolate cupcake with cream cheese frosting, my parents split a chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting, and my brother got a chocolate cinnamon cupcake with chocolate frosting. They were good, but there was too much frosting for me. I felt sick after eating all that sugar!
Then we spent the whole day at Dollywood. I took my point and shoot camera in because I didn’t want to deal with my (heavy and expensive) DSLR on the rides. I think I’m getting too old for roller coasters because I didn’t feel well after most of them. I even hit my head really hard on the one because I wasn’t expecting it to jerk right after we left the station. The park is definitely a work out because you do have to walk up hills.
Day 6 we went back to the Smoky Mountains, this time to Cades Cove. It’s just a one-way loop you drive around to enjoy the wilderness. We were lucky and saw a good bit of wild life, including bears! FYI, if you’re not moving, chances are there is a bear somewhere. Traffic will stop and people will block the road.
Day 7 was our last day in Pigeon Forge as we headed to North Carolina for a side trip. On the way there, we stopped at Bush’s Baked Beans Museum and Store. Although we didn’t physically tour the factory, they showed us a video on Bush’s over the years. Then they had a little museum that showed the evolution of the company.
Andy Griffith’s house growing up. An actual family lives here now. Can you imagine living in a famous person’s old house?
Day 8 we spent the first half of the day in Mount Airy, NC. It is the town that Maybury in The Andy Griffith Show was based on. You could actually visit and buy/eat at the places you saw in the show. For show fanatics, that is a dream come true. Although I’ve never really seen the show, my dad told me all about it. Then we drove back home in some more rain storms.
While I was on vacation, some of my best blogging friends threw me a virtual surprise birthday party! I was so shocked when I woke up that morning. I expected just tweets and texts, not full posts and recipes dedicated to me. Thank you to Jen for coordinating the party and to Joan, Kim, Susan, Nicole, Renee, Jennie, Isabel, Nancy, and Jen for coming! I am so thankful for the beautiful friendships I have made through blogging. Here are the recipes they made me (don’t they know me so well!):
- Coconut Fudge Cream-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars ~ Juanita’s Cocina
- Chocolate Mousse Cake for Chocolate Moosey ~ Chocolate, Chocolate, and More
- Chocolate Moose Cookies | Happy Birthday Chocolate Moosey ~ Cravings of a Lunatic
- Individual Funfetti Cake ~ The Girl in the Little Red Kitchen
- Chocolate Moose Cupcakes ~ Daily Dish Recipes
- Torticas de Moron (Cuban Sugar Cookies) ~ Magnolia Days
- Funfetti Cookie Cups ~ The Messy Baker
- Happy Birthday Thumbprint Cookies ~ Family Foodie
- Lemon Poppyseed Layer Cake for a Chocolate Moosey Birthday ~ Gotta Get Baked
- Blackberry Cobbler ~ Jen’s Favorite Cookies
For my birthday, my parents got me two cookbooks, a cookie scoop since I kept breaking mine, and popsicle molds. Now I can make fudgesicles!
Memorial Day for me is pretty boring. My family and I usually grill hot dogs and hamburgers then have either potato or macaroni salad and something for dessert. Then I get to drive back a few hours to my place. They really need to invent instant transportation or I need to figure out how to be like Nightcrawler on X-Men.
Speaking of macaroni salad, I reshot the Amish Macaroni Salad I posted a few years ago. I am never, ever, ever shooting outside again. As soon as I started setting up, the wind really kicked in, and my tablecloth, napkins, paper plates, etc. went flying! If you’re looking for a non-traditional macaroni salad to serve this summer, you should check out my Amish version. It uses mustard and paprika.
Recipes To Try
- Banana Split Cupcakes from Crazy For Crust
- Brownie Batter Cookie Dough Popcorn from Inside BruCrew LIfe
- Grapefruit Curd from Savory Simple
- Peanut Butter Cup Crack Brownies from Cookies and Cups
- Peanut Butter Texas Sheet Cake from Bake Or Break
- Raspberry-Filled Powdered Donut Muffins from Rock Recipes
- Rootbeer Ice Cream from Say Not Sweet Anne
- Strawberry Raspberry Fruit Leather from Juanita’s Cocina
- Tandoori-Style Chicken Burgers from The Little Ferraro Kitchen
- Toasted Marshmallow Fudge from Morsels and Musings