Tuesday, January 3, 2023

2023 Goals.

 A few weeks ago we reviewed our family goals from last year - we met some and we didn't meet others - and we began making a list of new ones for this year. I listened to a podcast recently about helping your kids set goals for themselves - spiritual, educational, physical, etc. - and have been talking to both boys, but especially James, about that recently. The podcast basically said that if you help your kids learn to set their own goals, THEY have invested in what's important to them and then you won't nag them to do things that YOU want them to do, but encourage them to work toward what THEY wanted to do. This one hit home because there's been a lot of nagging at our house. I'm not going to share theirs this year, because as they get older I feel like a lot more of what they tell me is just meant to be for us, but I am going to share mine. These aren't resolutions (or "revolutions" as Will has been accidentally calling them - and I haven't corrected), but goals and things I'd like to work toward this year. If I work toward them but don't hit them, ok! But I'm still making forward progress!

Read 100 Books

This seems to ALWAYS be my goal and I have yet to hit it, but I am so determined to do that at some point. I've actually already finished one book today! WOOHOO! James and I were discussing grades last night with another friend and I encouraged both of them to do hard work at the beginning of the semester rather than doing mediocre work until the midterm and then having to really work hard to pull out whatever grade they were hoping for. So I'm using that same advice for myself and I'm planning to REALLY work hard to read as much as I can in the early months of the year so that when the busyness of October, November, and December hits I'm not having to scurry OR face the impossible task of finishing. I keep up with all of my books on Goodreads and hit 63 for 2022. Nowhere near 100, but WAY more than the 10 I read in 2017! Wow! (I count all paper books, e-books, and audiobooks and also include anything I read to/with my boys that is over 100 pages.)

Move my body more!

Shouldn't we all strive to do this each day? 

Learn a new hobby.

Unsure what this one looks like. I'll keep you posted on what new hobby I find...

Travel more.

I'm so interested in finding new adventures, whether it's close by or hitting the road somewhere. We have a trip planned in a few weeks and then nothing on the horizon but a few ideas. I can't wait to see where this year takes us, though. Last year I visited two new states (a total of 9 states in the year) and I'm hoping to see more new states this year!

Spend more time with my boys.

They're growing up so fast!!! (The traveling also forces them to hang out with me!)

Grow my PaperPie business.

What's PaperPie, you ask? Usborne Books and More, of which I've been a consultant for a few years now, has rebranded into PaperPie. I LOVE books and selling these books has been a no brainer for sure. We've really enjoyed them and I've enjoyed pairing them with activities to share with families looking for a way to connect. I'd love to share it with you! Visit my website here or ask me anything!

Read the Bible in a year.

Again, this one I try every year. I need to stick with it!!!

So there you have it! My goals for the upcoming year! Let's do this!

What's Cooking?

 One of my 2023 goals is to eat at HOME more often than out. With that in mind, I'm going to be back to regular meal planning around here! I'm so excited about this! So here's What's Cooking this week at our house!

Sunday, January 1, 2023:

Hoppin' John - there are MILLIONS of recipes for this out in the world, but this is the way we generally do it.

3-5 cans of black eyed peas (drained)
1 diced onion
1 can Rotel
smoked sausage, sliced
1 can chicken broth
1 can beef broth

Combine ingredients in crockpot and cook over low 3-5 hours.


1 head of cabbage, chopped
smoked sausage, sliced
1 can chicken broth
1 onion, diced

Combine in pan and cook over low heat for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cabbage is tender.


Any favorite rice will do! We serve our Hoppin John over the rice.


I cheated and used Jiffy! 

Monday, January 2, 2023:

Boston Butt - We had a gift certificate for a butt from a local store that we used today!

Leftovers from yesterday for sides

Tuesday, January 3, 2023:

Boston Butt tacos/nachos/burritos

Chop up leftover Boston Butt and serve as taco meat. You can chop it and combine with taco seasoning, but I think we will just add flavor with salsa and hot sauce! You'll just need whatever regular toppings you like for Taco Tuesday!

Wednesday, January 4, 2023:

Homemade Hamburger Helper

Confession: I made Hamburger Helper twice in the month of December. For some reason, we had two boxes of it and the boys thought it was the greatest meal EVER. SO I'm hoping to find a few CopyCats that aren't quite so unhealthy!

Green Beans - olive oil, seasonings, roast in the oven!

Thursday, January 5, 2023:

Leftovers night!

Friday, January 6, 2023:

Pizza and a movie!

Saturday, January 7, 2023:

Out to dinner!

Sunday, November 6, 2022

Halloween 2022

 Y'all know that some of us around here LOVE Halloween. And while I felt like we didn't do it up exactly right this year, we still enjoyed some fun. October FLEW by. I can't even believe we are already in November! Christmas will be here before we know it! Whew!

I wound up getting the boys to coordinate costumes again this year (the trick is to sign up for a Trunk or Treat so that we can have a "family" costume). Will was still wholeheartedly for the whole thing, while James wasn't sure how he felt about the festivities this year. He was swayed by a super fun costume and we pulled the whole thing off! I'm not sure whether we'll participate again next year or not (Eddie is in the "or not" camp because it's not his favorite and I spend too much money to do it).

Halloween being ON a school day also created an interesting day. Poor teachers. Will wanted a costume that wasn't really a costume so he went with Elliot from E.T. James pulled out of his own closet and threw on a wig from a few years back and had a makeshift Napoleon Dynamite costume. (At this point we were post-Homecoming week AND Red Ribbon week and I was decidedly unenthusiastic about trying to find a middle school costume when I really wondered if I would be called to come and get him - he was pretty much on his own here!) He was less Napoleon and more Bob Ross in my opinion - but he went dressed and was happy!

Halloween night was NOT our best yet with exhaustion and high emotions from one kid and just some all around drama. A friend and I are considering paying our kids to stay home next year. LOL!!! Will and three buddies wound up doing a group theme again this year and if they want to dress up until college (and stay home and hand out candy), I will support that endeavor! It was very cute. Will trick or treated with his bunch of friends and Eddie and I went with them. James and a friend decided at the last possible minute in the swim team locker room to go trick or treating! We weren't sure it was going to happen again this year!

It won't be our most remembered or best costumed year, but it's another year of fun! They're growing up! I can't imagine we have many of these years left!!!

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Pigeon Forge - Dollywood

Our original purpose for heading to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, was to go to Dollywood! We've wanted to go for a few years and Fall Break seemed like the perfect time. Boy, was it! The temperature was perfect and the leaves were in prime leaf-turning time!

Dollywood is a theme park in Pigeon Forge that has undergone some facelifts and changes over the years. It's in a pretty big growing season right now, which I'm sure is exciting for the area. They have a new roller coaster coming in 2023 and have a plan to continue expansion after that! It was a gem of a theme park! It was exciting and full of rides, but had a quaint, homey feel as well! My ONLY complaint about it was that for rides it had baby rides or thrill rides and there was nothing in-between.

We decided to do TWO days in the park because looking online we found that two-day tickets were only $30 more than one-day tickets. Perfect! We'd heard that there was a possibility that we'd be able to use our Wild Adventures annual passes if we purchased tickets at the gate so Grandmamma took those and we waited to purchase until we arrived. If you're a member, DO THAT. Will, James, and Grandmamma all have passes and they each received a 50% discount on their tickets PLUS Eddie, Granddaddy, and I also got a 50% discount using their Wild Adventures Bring-a-Friend passes. Woohooo! The second day we went we wound up getting an offer from someone for 3 free passes (we assumed it was Dollywood Bring-A-Friend passes) so our overall cost per person per day wound up being $34! You can't beat that!

Rides! Our boys were tall enough to ride everything AND they could ride alone which was a huge win for us this trip! Their favorites were the Barnstormer (see James standing alone in front of that bizarre-looking swing), Tennessee Tornado, and Wild Eagle. Barnstormer was HORRIBLE looking and reminded me of a ride at the fair. James rode it twice all by himself. Will LOVED Wild Eagle, but I think we only did it once. It was a HUGE roller coaster with a major drop, lots of speed, and several inversions! Once was enough for me!

Because it was October, Dollywood had Harvest Festival happening. It was SO much fun. They had plenty of pumpkin-themed foods (we didn't try any) and lots of photo spots and characters. I'm going to be really honest - the characters were LAME compared to Disney World, but they don't exactly have movies that they can pull from. The owl character was CREEPY.

The absolute best thing we ate and the best bang-for-our-buck snack was the loaf of cinnamon bread that we bought (three times). It was AMAZING. Our first loaf came from the mill and the second and third ones came from the Starbucks (bakery). The first one was TONS better, but I'm not sure if it was the location or just the batch - they just didn't have nearly the amount of cinnamon as the first. Holy moly these were good! I think 20 people told me before going to be sure to get the cinnamon bread and we were SO glad that we did. (We didn't think the apple butter added anything to it so you can skip that extra!)

It was SUCH a fun trip and I'm sure we will be back again in the future!

Monday, October 17, 2022

Pigeon Forge - The Trip Up & Where We Stayed

 Several months ago, Eddie and I began to talk about the possibility of going to Universal for Fall Break. I really want to take Will while he's still in the "Harry Potter phase," but Eddie wasn't super interested because October in Orlando can still be HOT (and hurricane-y). We started considering Dollywood in Pigeon Forge instead and when his mom also mentioned it, we decided it was a go.

We began looking for a place to stay and initially we thought about trying to get rooms at the Dollywood resort - DreamMore. While we were considering, Eddie's sister and brother-in-law were also trying to decide whether to go with us and I decided with that many people that a cabin might be cheaper than several hotel rooms AND we thought we might like a den area to spread out. We began looking on VRBO instead and at the last minute, found a gem of a place! I'll link our cabin rental below, but we really enjoyed it! It was plenty of room for six of us, very close to all of the touristy spots, but also far enough out that it wasn't loud.

We left out on a Wednesday morning around 9:30AM. We stopped for lunch at Shane's BBQ in Gainesville, GA, before continuing on. We stopped again in Cherokee, NC, for a little while to wander around in the shops and skip rocks in the river. The boys had never seen mountains before and were definitely surprised by how pretty they were. As we left Cherokee and entered Smoky Mountain National Park we saw an ELK! We had no idea we would see any at all. I wish we'd known to be on the lookout. I would definitely stop at the park entrance if we go back again!
We stopped at a lookout area and were surprised by how much cooler it was on top of the mountain! We finally pulled into Gatlinburg around 5PM and stopped to get dinner at The Park Grill. It was very good, but more importantly there was no wait!!!

After supper we went ahead to our cabin and went to bed relatively early - worn out from the trip AND anticipating our first day at Dollywood!

Our cabin can be found HERE.

Sunday, September 18, 2022


I've been trying to write this post since July 4th. It's not complete - all of the pictures are not there - but it's as done as it's going to get! Suffice it to say...life is BUSY right now. 

Labor Day feels like the official end to summer at our house. We've been in school since July, but it's still so darn hot here we just keep summering. We did so much and so little this summer. I feel like it was the fastest one ever. Wowzers. That's all I can say about this summer. We packed everything we could into May and June and we are TIRED.

I feel like we didn't mark nearly as much off the board as I expected! It's been LOTS of fun! We were hardly home at all! In no particular order (except the order of the board...), here's what we have done:


Our trip to Columbus was a good one! We ate at Plucked Up and The Black Cow while we were in town (both excellent but I think I preferred The Black Cow). We started off at the Coca-Cola Space and Science Center and it was a HIT. The boys LOVED the flight simulators. Will wants all museums to "have hands-on stuff" and this one came through. It was small, but there was plenty to do to keep us entertained for over an hour! Next, we made our way over to the Naval Civil War Museum. This housed SO many Civil War artifacts. It was really well-done, but the boys were bored with it. I thought it was very interesting. Finally, we stopped by Auburn's campus for a few quick photo-ops. That was probably James' favorite thing. We spent the night and hit the ground running again the next morning where we started at the National Infantry Museum. Holy cow. This place is phenomenal. Even James said, "This is better than I expected it to be." Starting on the main floor you walk through life-size dioramas that depict one battle from each of the wars the US has been involved in. This was THE COOLEST and very immersive. Downstairs there were galleries (one for each war) with lots of information in each one. Will loved the miniature dioramas the most. It was incredible. Across the street from there is a place called Oxbow Meadows. I didn't really know much about it, but we were pleasantly surprised by it! It had so many reptiles and fish to see! It didn't take us long to go through it, but I think we really only scratched the surface. We had planned to also visit Historic Westville, but the boys were complaining that they were tired of walking and at $10/ticket I decided not to waste our money! We headed home after Oxbow. We had a great time in Columbus and found plenty to do!

South Carolina
We visited South Carolina as soon as school was out this year! Eddie's grandparents had a house in Garden City and we have enjoyed our time spent there. We did a little beach playing, some putt putt, some golfing, lots of eating, and some did some work on the house to get it rental-season ready. On our way home we stopped off at the Columbia Zoo. It was good, but we still voted Jacksonville Zoo FAR surperior to it.

Lake Oconee
We came to Lake Oconee on our way home from South Carolina for Memorial Day weekend. Lots of eating, games, skiing, porch gliding, and boat riding! We always enjoy the slower pace of coming here because we don't have to GO anywhere. It's very nice!

FUMC Bingo
Our church hosted Family Bingo night and we had a great time! We ate hamburgers and played several rounds! Each family brought prizes and those were put into white paper bags so we didn't know what we were choosing when we won. Our family wound up taking home almost every prize we brought. Whooops!

Camp Dooly
James went to his first week-long church camp in June and LOVED it. He had the time of his life. He got deeper in his faith, made lots of new friends, and had a lot of fun. 

Pool Day(s)
We've gone to the pool a few times this summer with friends (when we aren't ridiculously busy!!!). It's always more fun to take friends with us. We arrive reaaaaally early and leave when it gets crowded and that's been a good day for us!

Eddie and I drove to Tulsa a few weeks ago for Usborne Books & More Convention. I had a GREAT time at Convention and learned SO MANY THINGS. We drove through six states to get there and saw a LOT! We stopped in Memphis and did a few touristy things on the way there. I wish we'd had more time!

This is always a fun week! Will and I participated this year and James came on the last day when he heard there would be FOOD TRUCKS.

Concert in Jax
We went down to Jacksonville this past weekend to see Joan Jett, Poison, Motley Crue, and Def Leppard. It FLOODED while we were there and we had lightning popping all around us. We wound up missing Joan Jett entirely. Once we got into the stadium we had to stand under the stands for about 30 minutes smooshed in with everyone else. It was NOT a highlight. We did love seeing Poison and Def Leppard, though! Brett Michaels was fresh out of the hospital and rallied to perform. Def Leppard put on an amazing show! I could do without ever seeing Motley Crue again. They were not my thing!

Listen to 5 Audiobooks
1. Among the Hidden
2. The Tower Treasure
3. Number the Stars
4. The Flying Flamingo Sisters
5. Echo

Jurassic World
We saw this the week after it came out and gave it "meh" reviews. It wasn't our favorite for sure. Those first movies (JP1 and JW1) will forever go down as THE BEST.

River Of Life
This was a mission trip that James and Eddie went on. They traveled to Savannah and spent 4 days working on houses and schools over there. Both really enjoyed it and are eager to have it come to our town next year! Eddie returned home and two days later came down with C*vid. It was our first bout with it and we are not hoping for another round...ever! 

We've only visited a handful of times this summer so we need to step it up! :) The boys LOVE getting to stop here.

Palm Coast
We went down to Palm Coast after the concert was over and spent one night. The boys were also supposed to go but stayed with Grandmamma at the last minute! We need another trip to redo this one because it was entirely too quick!

We picked blackberries early in the summer at a local farm. We made ice cream, cobbler, and froze some. They were DELICIOUS!

We made s'mores at Papa and Yaya's lake house for Memorial Day weekend, but we could ALWAYS have them again!

Get Will's Room Organized
Whew! This was a CHORE! I cleaned Will's room out when he and James went back to Lake Oconee without us. It took me the whole time they were gone, but it's done and hopefully won't need another cleaning out for a few months.

Homemade Ice Cream
Ok, BEST berry ice cream EVER. I found the recipe HERE and it was phenomenal! We just finished it up last week!

We went to the arcade in Garden City, South Carolina when we were there in May! This is ALWAYS one of the highlights of the trip! The boys had a BLAST playing. Skee Ball is still my favorite!

Lake Blackshear
And finally, we made it to Lake Blackshear for the first time this summer over the 4th! We've been so busy we haven't had another weekend available to go! The boys went while we were at the concert and then we joined them on Monday. The weather was pretty good on the 4th and it was a relaxed, slower paced day.

Camp Connect at Epworth
I'm not sure why this one didn't make the board, but Will had a GREAT time at his very first sleep-away camp. He was SO anxious when I left him and I worried he would have a rough time, but he rocked it and came home so excited!