Monday, June 20, 2011

Looking Back Part 4: The Honeymoon

Sunday was our last full day in Tennessee before we flew back to Austin Monday morning.  I definitely didn't want our trip to end but neither one of us had much time off work and we already taken care of the important part of the trip: getting married.  However, I realized that Sunday morning as I handed Chris his Father's day cards from Kiddo and Maverick that I was going to be faced with a dilemma in a year.  Indeed, our first anniversary would fall on Father's Day.  So I would have to share the day with a celebration for Chris.  Little did I realize at the time that Mother's Day would also fall on Chris's birthday.  I have been so cheated this year.  At least I get my birthday all to myself unless Jackson makes his appearance early but I digress.
Since we finally had time to relax a bit now that the wedding was over and we had finished all the running around related to the festivities, we were finally able to take in the scenery around the lodge.  Just a short hike down the trail from the main lodge and our cabin were two lakes and clubhouse where they stored canoes and bicycles that could be used around the grounds.  If it hadn't have been unusually hot for the area, we might have taken advantage of the down to explore a bit more.  However, Chris did find something he would like to have at our house once we have the proper location to place one.
After our hike, we headed down the mountain to experience Dollywood.  Now as a Disney snob, I have high standards for theme parks.  Of course no park outside of the Disney experience can usually live up to those standards.  Dollywood was nice with a few neat shows and some enjoyable rides but it was no Disney park.  They were celebrating their 25th anniversary and it was obvious that some parts of the park need work after 25 years.  However, we had a good time especially since the park wasn't crowded thanks to Father's Day.
After our trip to Dollywood, we headed back in to Pigeon Forge to complete the Rocky Top Wine Trail at the Hilltop Winery and to receive our wine glasses.  Then it was off to dinner at a local Italian restaurant before heading back to the lodge to pack for our trip home.  I was so sad when it came time for us to leave the next morning.  Our little escape to the mountains was much needed and the perfect way to celebrate the start of our lives together.
Once we were back in Austin, we both had one last day off before returning to work on Wednesday.  We celebrated the last night of our honeymoon by having dinner at Trio at the Four Seasons in downtown Austin. It was a great way to complete the long weekend and send us back to work two happy married people.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Looking Back Part 3: Our Wedding Day

So the big day had finally arrived.  I can't say I was nervous or anxious because I was pretty comfortable with my decision to marry Chris.  I was just excited and ready for the ceremony.  As with the rest of our trip up to that point, we hit the ground running that morning.  First it was breakfast at the lodge and then it was time to start getting ready.  While I was getting my hair done and a pedicure, Chris was enjoy a massage at the salon.  We then had to swing by the dry cleaners to pick up my dress which had been dropped off the day before to be pressed before heading back to the lodge for the picnic lunch we had ordered.  Once again, I can't say enough great things about the staff at Berry Springs Lodge.  Lunch was waiting for us in our cabin when we got back along with the flowers my mother had ordered for us for the ceremony.

I mentioned yesterday that my parents came to Pigeon Forge for the wedding.  What I didn't tell you is that they intended to surprise us by showing up the night before and letting us know they were there.  However, I spoiled the surprise about a week before we left Texas by asking my mother point blank if they were planning on coming.  They had decided to make a weekend of it and drove to Anniston, Alabama so my dad could check out the stock of M-1 Garands they had for sale.  In typical fashion, my father purchased one of the rifles while they were there and proceeded to show it off to my (new) husband he had never met before shortly after the ceremony.  At least Daddy was there to give me away.

Mom and Dad arrived at the lodge around 1 while we were finishing getting dressed for the ceremony at 2.  It was about that time that the rain started.  We had had beautiful weather all up to that point.  But it proceeded to rain through the entire ceremony and most of our pictures afterwards only to be a gorgeous evening once everything was said and done.  The ceremony itself was quite lovely.  The rain had cooled the air off a bit and we had a nice breeze blowing the whole time.  Plus we had a fantastic view of the Smokey Mountains in the background.  The only issue I had was trying to keep my heels from sliding between the cracks in the boards on the porch of the lodge.  Well, that and the horribly ugly tie our minister was wearing.
I still think choosing to elope was one of the greatest decisions we could have made.  We got a wedding we could enjoy without all the stress of a lot of planning.  We still had a Christian ceremony which was important to us and we were able to have some fantastic photos taken as well.  The owners of the lodge made most of the arrangements for us, providing the cake, the minister, and the photographer.  Mom got our flowers and brought our toasting goblets (which we will use today with some sparkling grape juice since I can't have any wine).  And we picked out our attire and the wine to toast with.  The whole day couldn't have gone easier.
I am still upset though that no one got a picture of me walking from our cabin to the lodge in the red and black lumberjack checked bathrobe the lodge provided so my dress wouldn't get wet.  Nor are there any shots of me in my flip flops as soon as we were done with pictures.  My shoes were fabulous but they were also fabulously uncomfortable.  I couldn't wait to get them off.  

We rounded out the evening with dinner with parents and seeing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  For dinner, we decided to pay homage to our home state of Texas and hit up a place called the Alamo Steakhouse.  The food was pretty good and the outside was designed to look like the Alamo in San Antonio.  The show that night was great as well.  I have performed in Joseph several times and it is one of my favorite musicals because it is just fun.  The cast did a great job although they were able to pull off a lot more than we ever could have gotten away with at a Baptist college.

In the end, it was a great day that I think Chris and I both enjoyed far more than we ever would have if we had decided on a larger wedding.  We can look back on it and actually remember what all went on that day as well as the weekend around it.  Plus we were able to share the day with my parents which meant a great deal to me.  

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Looking Back Part 2: The Day Before

It was a good thing Chris quickly recovered from his stomach virus because our second day in Tennessee was a busy one.  We started off the day with our first breakfast at the lodge and that is when I realized that the trip was well worth it.  We had a 3 course breakfast every morning that included some type of home made sweet bread, fresh fruit with yogurt, and a main course.  The main courses ranged from pancakes to eggs and bacon to stuffed french toast.  This was some of the best food I had ever tasted.

Once we completed breakfast, it was time to head to town to take care of some very important business: getting our marriage license.  One of the great things about Sevier County is that, like Las Vegas, it is considered a tourist wedding location so getting a marriage license there is a simple and inexpensive task.  We had applied online about month in advance which meant we were only in the courthouse about fifteen minutes finishing up the paperwork.
Once we were done with that, we decided to head to Gatlinburg for lunch and some shopping.  While in Gatlinburg, I got to take Chris to his first Hard Rock Cafe.  Now I have been to Hard Rocks all over from New Orleans to New York to Paris to London to Honolulu.  I couldn't believe Chris had never been to one before.
We also took time to visit the Aquarium while we were in Gatlinburg.  They had a fun exhibit of penguins with this tunnel you could climb through so you could see the penguins up close.  The tunnel was supposed to be just for kids but Chris and I both got into the fun although we got a little nervous when we saw a man ahead of us in the tunnel who was probably about 6'5" and pushing 300 lbs.  He made it through OK but I couldn't help to think he would get stuck.  (I think he was nervous too.)  The picture of both of us in the tunnel didn't turn out great since they were cleaning the inside of the playhouse at the time the photo was snapped.
The best part of the trip to Gatlinburg was the drive from Pigeon Forge to Gatlinburg.  You got to pass through a portion of the Smokey Mountain Trail and it was just simply lovely.  Chris wished we had a dashboard cam so we could capture the drive because he wanted to remember it.  I fully expect that we will go back one day and really soak in the trail so we can get some photographs of the fabulous scenery there.

After spending the afternoon in Gatlinburg, we headed back to Pigeon Forge because we had tickets to Dixie Stampede that evening.  However, we had some time to kill before the show began and that is when we discovered the Rocky Top Wine Trail.  We had seen one of the wineries on the way into town the night before so we decided to swing in there to see if we could pick out a bottle for the wedding the next day.  While we were there, we discovered that there were 2 other wineries in town and we would get a free wine glass if we completed tasting at all 3 wineries and had our passport stamped.  Never one to pass up a challenge we decided to go for it.  After picking out the Mountain Valley Blush for our wedding toast, we headed to the next winery on the list: the Apple Barn Vineyard.  It was at the Apple Barn that we overheard another couple talking about being from Texas.  We struck up a conversation with them and learned that they were from Waco and they were visiting friends who had moved to the area because they were performing in the shows at the Miracle Theatre.  After visiting with them, Chris and I decided to call in a favor to Mom and Dad who were heading to Pigeon Forge to be guests at our wedding.  They got us four tickets to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat the next evening after the ceremony.
At this point it was time to battle the traffic through downtown Pigeon Forge to head to Dixie Stampede.  For those of you who don't know, Dolly Parton was born in raised in Sevier County.  She is probably the area's biggest celebrity and she does a lot to try to give back to the community there.  That is why both Dixie Stampede and Dollywood can be found in Pigeon Forge.  Our B&B was actually two miles up the mountain from Dollywood.  The first night we drove up there, we got in the wrong lane and almost ended up in the parking lot for the park.  There is also a statue of Dolly in front of the courthouse.  After hearing everyone talk about her, I gained a new level of respect for Dolly.
The show at Dixie Stampede was better than I expected it to be.  They had a great little pre-show with a trio that played all kinds of classic country music.  Then the show itself was extremely patriotic and was set in the Civil War era.  I was a little disturbed at the lack of silverware during the meal and even asked the waiter for some utensils.  Apparently that is a frequent question at the show and I was told I didn't need utensils.  For someone who doesn't like to get her hands dirty, the whole eating with my fingers bothered me a lot but I got over it and the food was pretty good.  By the time the show was over, I think Chris and I were both sufficiently exhausted.  We headed back to the lodge where we crashed for the evening.  After all, we had a big day ahead of us on Saturday!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Looking Back: Traveling to Tennessee

Our first anniversary is this weekend.  Thinking about that has had me looking back on what we were doing this time last year as we prepared to head to Tennessee.  I realized that I hadn't shared a lot about the weekend we had so I thought I could take a little stroll down memory lane.
Chris and I decided a couple of months after we got engaged that the "big" wedding wasn't going to work for us.  We had both been there, done that with our first marriages and neither one of us really wanted to kill ourselves over one day.  We were more concerned about what would come after that day.  Initially we thought about getting married in Austin since we lived here but couldn't get over the cost of trying to plan a small family and friends gathering here.  Mobile was our next option.  The cost would be less but we kept running into roadblocks with trying to schedule around everyone else's schedules.  One night I found a website called Let's Run Off, a resource for eloping.  I threw the idea out at Chris and we both knew it was what we wanted to do.  Once we got the buy in from both sets of parents, we settled on the elopement package at Berry Springs Lodge in Sevierville, Tennessee.  In the end, we were very happy with the decision because it made planning our wedding a lot easier and less stressful.

The picture above was taken around this time last year.  Chris and I were in the airport in Austin waiting to board our flight to Knoxville.  Chris had just gotten off work and was exhausted.  He was completely prepared to sleep on the plane.  That, however, did not work out very well thanks to broken seats and short flights.  Little did we know he had picked up the stomach virus I had a couple of weeks earlier.  That made for a fun first day of vacation for us.  But we were thrilled to be getting out of Austin for a few days and couldn't wait to see what the Smokey Mountains had in store for us.
This was the view that greeted us when finally arrived in Sevierville at Berry Springs Lodge.  I couldn't get over how breath taking the Smokies were.  I am still dying to go back when it will be cooler (and I am not a million months pregnant) so we can do some exploring in the mountains themselves.  We had such little free time while we were there, we really didn't get to appreciate all the Smokey Mountains had to offer us.  
Our first night in town, we drive into Pigeon Forge for dinner.  Just a quick geography lesson for you: Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, and Gatlinburg are all nestled right together about an hour from Knoxville, Tennessee.  It's one of those areas where you don't really realize when you have left one town and entered another.  The drive from our B&B to the heart of Pigeon Forge took maybe 10 minutes.  Anyway...we decided on this great local place called the Old Mill Restaurant.  They had wonderful home style cooking that made me happy to be in the South again.  Plus they had these adorable black bear salt and pepper shakers on the table that are handcrafted there in Pigeon Forge.  I am still kicking myself for not buying a set while we were there to enjoy at home and remind us of our wedding weekend.
Chris unfortunately was functioning on no sleep in 24 hours at this point and was completely miserable.  He suffered through the meal only to learn when we got back to the hotel that night that it wasn't his lack of sleep that was bothering him but that nasty stomach virus I had unknowingly passed on to him.  It definitely made for a rough start to our trip.  Fortunately, he recovered in time to fully appreciate the breakfast part of the bed and breakfast we were staying at the next morning.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Home Stretch

I hit 34 weeks yesterday which means I have 6 weeks left in this pregnancy.  It is officially drawing to a close.  In 3 weeks, I will be considered full term so Jackson's arrival could happen at anytime from this point forward.  I have felt all along he will get here before his due date at the end of July.  And now my blood pressure is doing wacky things so I keep expecting the doctor to tell me it is time.

And with that all I can think about everything I still need to do to get ready.  My intent is to leave detailed instructions behind at work so my coworkers can easily pick up behind me and carry on while I am out.  We also keep putting off moving the furniture out of the office to make room for the nursery furniture that we haven't yet purchased.  Somewhere around the beginning of May, our schedules imploded.  All the sudden we were a lot busier than we had been and free time was a minimum.  I thought the end of the school year would bring some relief but all it has done is changed the activities that are filling up our time.

Panic set in somewhere around week 30 when I realized that Jackson could show up at anytime and nothing was ready.  We didn't have any stuff for him.  We barely had any clothes and we certainly didn't have any diapers.  Fortunately, the trifecta of baby showers started around that time and I could breath a sigh of relief once I started to receive gifts.  I must say that we have truly wonderful friends who have blessed us with a lot of great stuff for Jackson.  We still have things we need to get before he arrives but at least I can say we are pretty much prepared for him now.

Now all I can do is wait.  Wait through the aches and pains.  Wait through the crazy pregnancy related ailments I have developed.  And suffer through the heat, knowing it is only going to get worse.  (The high in Austin today is 103.)  I won't say that I am ready for it to be over.  I have actually enjoyed being pregnant.  But I will say that I am ready to move on to the next chapter of this process.