Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas in North Georgia

After visiting family, we decided to make use of our timeshare in Clarkesville, Georgia before heading back to "real life." The area is beautiful!! We enjoyed a quiet day with just our family on Christmas Day--bagles with cream cheese & smoked salmon for breakfast--yummm--and an assortment of other treats with stuffed shells for dinner.  Steve & I enjoyed watching our kids give gifts to each other. Coming from a non-gifting kind of family, I'm astounded at how good our kids are at giving gifts! Watching the joy on their faces as they watched a sibling open a gift, looking just as excited as if it were their own present, is priceless!!

Afterwards, we played a round of mini-golf that the littles could not possibly have enjoyed more! Seriously, Jake & Katie had soooo much fun! Katie kept swiping the balls on the course, and Jake somehow managed to find a way to wade through the streams winding through the course, all in pursuit of the ball, of course. ;) We also enjoyed (at least some of us did) a little tennis while the littles enjoyed playground time.

Somebody can't wait to open the presents
Smoked Salmon and bagels were a special treat on Christmas morning
On the best weather day, we decided to go to Tululah Gorge briefly. Really the best thing about this gorge is hiking down into the gorge, with the next best thing to just go down all the stairs to the suspension bridge & back up again, but we decided against all those stairs with all the littles in tow. The visitor center is a lot of fun for the kids though, will lots of animal displays on the bottom level & replicas of what the area used to look like in times past on the upper level.

It was a very pretty December day for visiting the gorge
Some people are so cute they can't help themselves
After a picnic lunch, we were off to see Minnehaha Falls. The drive to get to them was amazing--winding roads alongside the river with absolutely spectacular homes!  Even the kids were delighted by the sights! The hike to see the falls is short and the falls were totally worth the trek. It was definitely chilly, but the falls were beautiful & watching Jake & Genna hold hands while blasting down the hiking trail warmed my heart!

Beautiful Minnehaha Falls
He still wants to marry her ;)
We also enjoyed the fantastic playgrounds at Sam Pitts Park in Clarkesville.  For some reason, the area of Florida we're in just doesn't have many playgrounds. It was so much fun to see all the kids run & play, but it was especially delightful to see Katie discover the joys of slides for the first time!

We thoroughly enjoyed our time here & hope to come back exploring again!

The Clarkesville town square had a gazebo and lots of pretty Christmas lights
Katie did not 'allow' us to have a picture with just the parents
Dad has this merry-go-round spinning quite fast, but not with Katie on it.
Somebody really enjoyed themselves at the park
Giving Mom a kiss
It is always a treat to take a bubble bath in the jetted tub

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Visiting Family in South Carolina

After living far, far away from where I grew up in South Carolina for the last couple years, we finally live within reasonable driving distance (8 hours) to my parents & my oldest brother & his wife.  We decided to come visit over the week of Christmas because Steve's office would be closed for part of that time.  I had the crazy idea of bringing Shanan & Alyssa to stay with Glen & Cindy for the week prior to the rest of us coming  to visit. I figured they probably weren't ready for the whole crew just yet. ;)  I proposed my idea, & they took me up on it, offering to meet us partway even!

After burning off a little energy from the long drive, we enjoyed a late lunch at Cracker Barrel just outside of Atlanta, & then our big girls drove away to South Carolina & the rest of us drove back to Florida.  From the reports I've heard, I think Uncle Glen & Aunt Cindy made some great memories with my big girls & may have spoiled them just a little. ;)  Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I mean RV, I spent most of the week purging, sorting, organizing, & being amazed at how different the dynamics are without my big girls around!  Jake & Genna got into an argument about which one of them missed Shanan & Alyssa more. :)   And I know Shanan & Alyssa were shocked to hear that I survived without having them around to do their chores. ;) Somehow, I managed! :)

Jake and Genna had fun playing with the goats
The next weekend, Steve & I drove back all the way to South Carolina with the littles to visit.  We got a chance to stay in Glen & Cindy's new cabin, which was awesome!  The weather for the majority of the visit was pretty rotten, but before it got too bad, the littles enjoyed helping to feed the goats & horses on "the farm."  We enjoyed yummy South Carolina bbq chicken from Maurice's, a visit to Shealy's, & Cindy's hot, buttery french toast & pancakes.  Somewhere in there, Alyssa made homemade rolls twice, & Shanan made cookie dough truffles dipped in chocolate. I think we might've all gained weight. ;)

We also got a chance to attend my extended family's annual eve of Christmas Eve dinner.  I enjoyed the chance to see my aunts & uncles & many of my cousins.  Time keeps marching on, & no one is getting any younger, so it is good to take advantage of the chance to visit!

Katie had a blast at the family reunion
Katie and Linda's cousin Marty had some bonding time together
One of the best parts of our visit was watching my mom pass on her passions/hobbies to her granddaughters.  My mom can crochet better than anyone I know, & she worked with Shanan, Alyssa, and Genna, teaching all of them to crochet!  It was priceless to see Genna so enthralled with the chance to learn to do something that her big sisters were also learning to do!  She was focused & determined!  My mom also taught Alyssa to embroider, something she'd expressed interest in learning.  Knowing we'd be visiting, I asked my mom to teach her since I remember her embroidering all the time when I was a kid!  When my mom found out that Alyssa's current favorite pastime is drawing women's faces, she provided her magazines with lots of face shots to study & attempt to duplicate.  It was truly a treat to watch my mom & my girls bond over something my mom is passionate about!  I think she's definitely passed on the creative, crafty gene!

Of course a visit to Shealy's BBQ is a must 
I also really enjoyed watching my littles enjoy & roughhouse with Grandpa & Uncle Glen! I think my brother enjoyed them, too, although after we left, he also probably enjoyed the ability to sit in peace & quiet without being attacked by the littles. :)

All in all, it was a great visit!  Thanks so much for the hospitality & allowing us to add much chaos & noise to your lives, Glen & Cindy, Mama & Daddy!

There was lots of roughhousing with Uncle Glen and lots of Jake nosepicking, this shows both
Time to say goodbye
Until next time...

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Ponce De Leon Spring State Park

As the weather has cooled down, we've had to get a bit more creative in finding things to do together as a family on the weekends.  It's still super important to do something, as we've found quite a bit of cabin fever setting in otherwise!  We heard about Ponce de Leon Spring State Park, just a bit over an hour's drive away from us, and decided it was worth the trek.  The weather looked good for the weekend, with the lingering days of Indian summer, 70s & mostly sunny. After everyone having been sick, we were all itching for a chance to get out!

We found this delightful hole in the wall
Nothing like thick, hand-formed, never-frozen burgers
We arrived in the area & scoped out Sally's Restaurant.  Alyssa had requested that we eat out as a family, and Steve's online research netted this gem of a hole-in-the-wall.  Don't go to Sally's if you're in the mood for gourmet offerings or health-conscious choices. However, if you're in the mood for a simple *really* good burger made from fresh, never frozen, meat, with hand-formed patties, you won't be disappointed!  The sides were nothing special (though the kids were pretty enchanted with the corn fritters), honestly, but the burger is worth going back for if you're ever in the area.  The fish sandwich got rave reviews from the kids, too.  The doll displays & the clocks on the walls provided lots of interest factor for the littles.

It took a while to get these two in the water
But they did finally jump, the splash on the right is Linda
Guess I can't walk on water
Just one of the ten times or so that we made the plunge into the 68 degree water
There's not a whole lot do at Ponce de Leon--a nature walk, fishing if you remember your gear (we didn't), and a dip in some pretty chilly water--68 degrees always.  We worked up the nerve to all go for a dip, even those of us who are a little less adventure-seeking than others.  It was an example of how sometimes the difference between having an ordinary time & having an extraordinary, memorable time is being willing to stretch yourself & act a little silly! :)  I'm happy to say that everyone chose to make memories. :)  Good times were had by all!

The spring lets out into a creek, on the left is the path to the nature trail