Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Our Smokey Mountain Vacation - Day One: Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge

This is the first post in a series of travel posts to the Smokey Mountains.  Every Wednesday I will be covering a different activity/hike we did in the Smokies!  

After a year of lockdowns, I am so excited to bring you a REAL travel series again!  Now don't get me wrong, I never really stopped traveling after the initial three month lock down.  I still went to Indiana last fall and winter to see my kids and grandkids and we did a lot of fun activities with them.  My husband and I also hiked a lot in the fall traveling to various communities in our state or the upper peninsula.  So we did still travel, but on a more limited scale than we have in past years.  Our Gatlinburg trip was actually planned for spring of 2020, right when the pandemic hit.  Thankfully, the hotel refunded all our money and we were able to reschedule for this spring.

Now, onto our trip!  We started our spring vacation on Easter weekend.  We drove eight hours to Indiana to spend Easter with our children.  On Monday morning we then drove another 7 1/2 hours to Gatlinburg.

To get to Gatlinburg, you first have to drive through Pigeon Forge.  It is a very touristy town, home to Dolly Parton's resort and theme park.  I don't have a lot of pictures to share of Pigeon Forge because we didn't spend a lot of time there.  We basically just stopped for lunch at their most famous restaurant:  The Old Mill Restaurant.  This restaurant is really worth the stop!  It's absolutely beautiful.  The restaurant is inside this old mill, along with a gift shop,  There are beautiful walking trails right along the river.

It is the most popular restaurant in town, but they are quite efficient at getting people in and out in a timely fashion.  It only took about 20 minutes for us to get seated.  But I can imagine the lines getting very long during the summer months as they had long multi-story ramps leading to the entrance.  While waiting for your table, they have lots of historic signs and photos to read along the ramps.

We were fortunate to get a table with a beautiful river view.

Excuse my appearance, but this photo was taken after waking up at 5:00 am and spending eight hours in the car 😀.  The restaurants specialty is southern food, which my hubby is not a fan of.  I of course wanted to try southern food so I ordered the southern fried chicken while hubby had a hamburger.  We enjoyed our meals immensely, and the lunch prices were very reasonable.  

We were both surprised to discover how much we enjoyed the corn fritters.  I don't think either one of us ever had them before.

After lunch, we decided to stretch our legs and walk around a bit.  We were elated to see flowers, for they weren't blooming yet in our neck of the woods.

We only stopped inside one store and that was this charming home-turned-store.  It was a "Cat House".  They sold any items related to cats...decor, toys, etc.  

But my favorite part of this store wasn't what was for sale, but what wasn't:  this beautiful, ball of fur sunning himself by the window.  You were allowed to pet him if you sanitized your hands first.  I was surprised how he laid there so content with complete strangers petting him all day.  My Jackson would never do that.

After visiting the cat store, we walked down to the Main Street of Pigeon Forge and looked up and down, then just headed back to the car to go to our final destination:  Gatlinburg.  Pigeon Forge is mostly a tourist town filled with attractions, hotels, and restaurants.  We were there to hike in the Smokey Mountains, so I got a hotel room for the week in Gatlinburg because it is closest to the Smokies.

Like Pigeon Forge the city of Gatlinburg is a busy tourist town.  There is only one main road that travels into town, and it is always busy and full of traffic and people.  Along this road are most of the restaurants and tourists attractions. 

My husband and I drove up to one of the higher points above the town to get these pictures.

After checking into our hotel, we walked to find a place to eat dinner.  Parking in Gatlinburg costs $15-20.  There is no free parking anywhere!  So if you want to go to Gatlinburg, stay at a hotel close to where the action is as you will be doing a lot of walking.  They do have a trolley, but it always seemed full to capacity every time we saw one go by.  Our hotel was maybe five to six blocks away from the main drag, and uphill at that!  I can't tell you how many times I thought of going without dinner because I didn't think I couldn't walk one more step after hiking in the Smokies all day, then having to return to the hotel and hike to dinner.

Below is a view we saw everyday on the way to get some dinner.  It is Gatlinburg's famous Sky Bridge.  For $28 per person, you take a gondola to get to the top, and then walk the glass floored bridge across.  We are not tourist attraction type people, so we did not do it.

One of the most shocking thing about Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg to us was how insanely busy it was.  We always travel during the off season to avoid the crowds, and we were shocked to see how many people were there.  The crowds were so thick at times you were rubbing shoulders with the people around you.  I added a short video at the end of the post so you could get a sense of the crowds.

Because there is only one main road to enter/exit town traffic really gets backed up, especially during certain times of the day.  It is literally bumper to bumper traffic.

I'm sorry this post will not include any activities other than eating that we did in the city of Gatlinburg.  But as I said earlier, we are not tourist attraction type of people.  We were only in the area to see the Smokies, and we stayed in Gatlinburg because it is closest to the park.  This photo shows a tower that you can go up in to see views of the mountains and the city.

One of our favorite chain restaurant is Mellow Mushroom.  They don't have any in our state, so when we see one when we travel we always stop to eat there.  They had one in Gatlinburg and it was really cool because it was on the second level of this shopping villa and had great views of the mountains in the distance and the city streets below.

Perhaps the thing that I never expected to see in the Smokies was all the water.  There is fresh, running water everywhere in the Smokies.  I don't think there was a town or hike we took where there wasn't a beautiful river.  Both Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg had a gorgeous river running through it.

All the typical touristy attractions were in Gatlinburg like "Ripley's Believe it or Not".  

This is "Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies".  I thought it was quite a beautiful and impressive building, and I loved the location alongside the river with the pretty bridge crossing.

My favorite part of downtown Gatlinburg was the little European Villages.  I loved the design and they were also less populated, so it was quieter back inside of them.

It was nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city streets, and enter into this quiet, magical little village.

The villages are full of gift shops and restaurants.  I like to pop into gift shops when I travel, and I usually buy one or two souvenirs to remember my trip.  This vacation I purchased a baseball cap and a handmade salsa bowl.

It was the week after Easter when we visited, so they still had Easter decorations up,

Even the restrooms in the villages was cute!

And finally, here is a video that may help give you a sense of the crowds in Gatlinburg.  It was made for my kids, so if you hear me mention "Alethea" that's why.  We wondered if Gatlinburg was busy because we traveled Easter week, which is usually spring break for most schools.  We've never done that before.  We always traveled the week before Memorial Day.  However, after talking to many people they said that Gatlinburg became insanely busy three weeks before we even got there.  Which is very unusual because they usually don't get really busy till after Memorial Day.  Either people have a lot of stimulus money they are dying to spend, or after a year of being cooped up they are eager to travel.  We were constantly checking license plates while we there, and saw plates from all over the country.  

 Next week, I will share our very first hike in the Smokies:  Rainbow Falls.  It was a killer!

Have a Great Day!  Amy

Linking Up with these Fabulous Blogs HERE!

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Carmel Indiana Ice Festival

This past February I went to visit my children and grandchildren who live in the Carmel Indiana area.  I was fortunate to be there the weekend of "Carmel's Festival of Ice".  Carmel, IN – Eight of the top ice carvers from around the Midwest bring their tools and talents to Carmel for a weekend of ice carving competition and demonstrations (source)

It was really fun getting outside and seeing these great works of art.

The city was beautifully lit up with lights of their own to celebrate the event and winter.

Each sculpture was protected by the sun with a tent, and roped off to keep people from getting too close.

The grandkids sure had fun looking at the sculptures.  

This was one of my personal favorites.  The detail in that mane is incredible.

I loved this angel fish too.

The name of each artist and where they came from was by each sculpture.  Carmel residents were able to vote and pick their favorites.  You can see who won HERE.

This little plumbing dude was so cute and fun!

The red lights in the ground changed colors.  The kids really enjoyed watching them.

This seahorse was the grandkids favorite.  I can definitely see why.

 Have A Great Day!  Amy

Linking Up with these Fabulous Blogs HERE!

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

March Bible Journaling Pages

Once a month I like to share my Bible Journaling Pages and what God has been teaching me.  In the month of March I finished the books of Ezekiel, and started the book of Daniel.   Sometimes I just color in the preprinted images of the "Inspire Bible" (available on Amazon) and I also create my own pages.
Unless otherwise stated, all the images are colored in with either gel pens or colored pencils.  I tend to color larger areas with pencils then get the more intricate spots with pens.  I high light my Bible with gel highlighters, and I usually use gelatos or  craft paint for my backgrounds.

I have been doing so much Bible study the past few months that I have way too many Bible Journaling pages to show you.  I thought about posting Bible Journaling pages once a week, but I know the gardening season coming up will soon be slowing me down.  With everything that has been going in the world, I feel more and more compelled to stay in the word, search the word for answers, and pray.  I feel so many Christians are being deceived right now;   did you know that in the last days a great deception would take place and many will fall away?  I don't want to fall into that category, so I am constantly praying for God to search my heart and reveal any wrong thinking in me;  to show me the truth!  Truth is so hard to come by today.  We can't trust the media, we can't trust doctors, scientists, and especially not politicians.  Dissenting voices and opinions are always immediately shut down or "cancelled" so that we can't even hear the other side to determine what the truth is.  This then only leads me to one place, my Bible and my Lord.

In the month of March I began and finished the book of Ezekiel.  What an amazing book!  And what a great book to read for such a time as this.  Ezekiel is another prophetic book describing both near and far prophecies.  Below is the chapter cover of the book of Ezekiel.  The beautiful verse is in essence the meaning of the book of Ezekiel.  It is God's promise that the people of Israel will maintain their covenant with God when they are purified and receive a "new heart"  which will enable them to observe God's commandments and live in the land in a proper relationship with Yahweh (Wickipedia).  But it is also a promise to every believer today, that when we repent of our sins and accept Him as our personal savior, He will give us a new heart and put His spirit inside of us.

What an interesting and beautiful verse this is, how can paper taste as "sweet as honey"?  I think what it is really saying is that "God's word is as sweet as honey".  It guides us, leads us, changes our lives, and we must devour God's word daily to have it be an impact in our lives.   Ezekiel must receive and internalize and digest the word of God before he could be a messenger of that word to the house of Israel (Enduring Word Commentary).

This page symbolizes what the book of Ezekiel is all about:  Hope.  In the midst of their suffering, God promises not only to regather them, but to REVIVE the Israelites. 

This page was colored using the "stained glass effect".  Every little "bubble" was colored in using a gel pen in many different colors.

Here is a page I created myself.  It's mostly just notes in the margin.  I used some floral stickers and washi tape to make it pretty.  As I read Chapter 13 I was struck by how many times God was referred to as "Sovereign".  I underlined every time "sovereign" was mentioned, then wrote the definition in the margins.

The page below was made with a digital image from "Keys of the Kingdom".  I loved the verse and the image of God's children being His bride and that He has made a covenant with Israel (and all believers).  We are His, and someday soon He will be returning for us.

I added little adhesive hearts to emphasize how much God loves us.  Then I hand wrote some words to myself on the bottom of the page to explain what this verse means to me.

When I was a new believer, one night I spent a long time in anguished prayer.  I was begging, crying out to God to prove something to me.  Then I heard a voice that just silenced all my thoughts and struck me to my core leaving me in utter shock.  He said "My Word shall be enough!"  His answer was in His Word, yet I wanted Him to show me in yet another way too.  But He obviously did not want to at that time.  This verse reminds me of that time.  If God speaks, that's it.  What He says will happen.

Apparently it wasn't just me to notice that "Sovereignty" was a theme in the book of Elijah, because several pages after I created my own page on "Sovereignty" the Inspire Bible had a page on this theme too.  

"There will be showers of blessings" is such a beautiful verse and every time I hear this verse I can't help but hear the old chorus in my head.  Do any of you old timers remember it?  Here it is on YouTube if you need a refresh:

I was so inspired by this verse, that I had to create my own page as well using digis from "Keys of the Kingdom" again.  I hand wrote some of the key take aways I got from these chapters too.

Now I know some of you will think these next two pages are weird, but hey, it's an illustration in the Bible, and well, the Bible is a really weird supernatural book!  Once again using digis from "Keys of the Kingdom" I simply illustrated the "Dry Bones" vision in chapter 37.  I love how these pages turned out.  The flowers around the skeletons symbolize new life.  Just as the story is a picture of restoration for the Israelites, it is also a promise to us that we can too can be spiritually restored whenever we feel dry.  We can have new life in our tired, dry bones when we accept Christ into our lives.

This digital kit came with the full scripture so I printed and cut it out and I added it to my page.

God told Ezekiel to speak to the dry bones and say "Listen to the word of the Lord!"  He says the same thing to us today.  Whenever we feel spiritual dry, pick up the Holy Bible, spend time in prayer, and you too will be revived!

The Inspire Bible ended the book of Ezekiel with this verse "The Lord is There".  So beautiful and so appropriate. The Israelites and all believers have the hope, the promise, that one day God will reside among us.

Now, onto the book of Daniel.  Who doesn't love to read the book of Daniel?  What an amazing man Daniel was.  Daniel was one of the few heroes in the Bible with no mention of sin (that doesn't mean he was sinless, no man is, it just means we aren't told of any of his sins).  Daniel was wise, obedient, and he had the ability to interpret visions and dreams.

This is the cover page to the book of Daniel.  I think the Inspire Bible chose the right verse for this book as the wisdom of Daniel and his friends certainly comes to play in this book.

Here I once again created my own page using images from "Keys of the Kingdom" and some stickers.  I loved how once Daniel received the meaning to the kings dream, he didn't run to the king immediately but took the time to first worship and thank the Lord.

What a beautiful verse, and such a revelation of Daniel's.  Here Daniel is acknowledging that it wasn't him that figured out the king's dream, rather it was God who revealed it to Daniel.

I really love the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the fiery furnace, I mean who doesn't?  The faith and courage of the three men is incredible, and how God rescues them is even more incredible.  And as amazing as this verse is, what is even more amazing is the second half of it:  "But even if he doesn't".  The three men, by faith, trusted God to save them because they knew He was able to do so.  But they also trusted God enough not to save them, knowing that dying in the furnace might be God's will for them.  When we are afraid, when we pray and seek God for answers to our problems, are we prepared for Him to answer in a different way, perhaps a way we might not initially want?

This is a verse by Nebuchadnezzar who is praising God after being punished and then having everything restored to him.  It is a great story and it made me wonder  about myself  that if I were disciplined by God, would I  react this way or would I be bitter?

This page was created based on the story of "Daniel in the Lions Den".  What struck me the most while reading this story was not God keeping the mouths of the lions shut, but the verse "Just as he had always done."  The king issued a decree that no one could pray to "anyone, divine or human" except the king.  Daniel remained calm, and simply went into his room and prayed "Just as he had always done".  This verse struck a chord with me because this past year we have had our government apply some pretty crazy, tyrannical rules to the church.  Every believer and every church has had to ask themselves at what point do we obey and when do we disobey the government and obey God's word?  For myself, as much as I was able to do (our church was locked down for three months) I did "just as I had always done".  I went back to church as soon as the lockdowns were lifted.  I never wore a mask inside a church for I do not believe they work and that they are simply instruments used to keep the fear of Covid alive and visible and also to dehumanize people.  I continued to live as normal of a life as possible.  I traveled, I saw my children and grandchildren regularly.  I never missed celebrating a single holiday.  I trusted God to keep me safe and healthy, but I also trusted in His sovereignty:  that if it was His will for me to get sick, I was going to sick whether I locked myself in the basement and hid from the world for a year, or I went on enjoying my life.  I simply lived "just as I had always done".

Once the  king  found out that Daniel was still alive, he praised Daniel's God!  He realized how powerful He was and said He is the living, enduring God.  Beautiful!

And finally, here is another page I created myself.  This page was created on the prophetic vision Daniel had of seeing the return of Jesus.  I am so anxiously awaiting the return of Christ, especially as this world gets crazier and crazier.  Are you anxiously awaiting His return?

Since I'm not an artist, whenever I want an illustration for a page I usually have to buy a digital image.  But recently I've discovered that you can just google black and white coloring book pages of Bible stories off the Internet for nothing!  That makes me so happy!  So I googled this image, printed, colored, and cut it out.  The background was created with craft paint, and I used my own handwriting and stickers for the verses.

Sorry if this was a long post.  I think next month's Bible Journaling Pages will be long as well, but after that it will be gardening season and I won't have as much time to illustrate in my Bible...but you can bet I'll still be reading it!  And I hope you are reading your Bibles too.  I really do believe we are living in the last days, and we really have to be aware that "the enemy is out there like a roaring lion seeking who he might devour".  Please stay in His word and prayer.  Do not trust main stream media, social media, or even your own politicians.  Seek after God.  Ask for the truth from Him, and He shall reveal it to you.

Have a Great Day!  Amy

Linking Up with these Fabulous Blogs HERE!