Spring Break: Part Two

So besides hanging out with my brother’s kids for three days, I also did some grown up stuff while I was on break.  While most of my friends from school were sending me Snaps of their awesome adventures, I was busy at work.  I work for The Home Depot where we are busy gearing up for spring.  It wasn’t the most exciting week at work, but that’s what I did on Spring Break.

I started about 12 different projects around my house, but two days into the week, I chucked my to-do list in the garbage in favor of having some fun.  A week later and I still have a few things to finish up.  Which reminds me–I have 2-dozen stepping stones in the trunk of the Civic that I’ve been hauling around for a week.

I did find time to head over to SoKno Market.  I had heard so much about it, and I had been wanting to swing by there.  I picked up Donna on the way and we easily found the market.  They offer a wide selection of coffee, custom sodas, ice cream, baked goods, and a different lunch item everyday. I don’t even like coffee, but the “Grumpy Grandpa” was amazing.  The owner recommended it to us and explained it was cold brewed with nitrogen then put in a keg.  The owner was really welcoming and told us that on Saturdays they stock Richie Cream Donuts.  SPOILER ALERT: I was there first thing Saturday to get coffee and donuts. SoKno Market will definitely be a staple for me; I can’t function without some caffeine.

 

Spring Break: Part One

So last week was spring break for UTK.  But what do you do to celebrate Spring Break when you’re 30?  Well, you work, and if you’re lucky you are able to squeeze in a couple of days of fun.

My two nieces were also on spring break from Blount County schools, so I planned two days just for them and my 2-year old nephew.  I also made a list of everything I wanted to do around my house, but two days into spring break I tossed it out.  I don’t get to see my nieces as much as I’d like, so I added a third day to our itinerary.

Day One

Macy is nine, and she loves to bake.  She is a girl after my own heart.  I had promised her that if she made good grades on her spelling tests, we would bake her favorite cupcakes. We spent time in the kitchen mixing batter and decorating cupcakes (when it was time for clean-up, Macy magically disappeared).  We also went to Ijams and had a picnic.  I know I’ve mentioned Ijams before, but if you’ve never been you have to check it out.  There really is something for everyone there.

Day Two

Molly is five, and she loves going to the movies.  Zootopia had just come out so we decided to go see it.  Macy and Molly were seemingly mesmerized by the film and they thought it was great.  Conway was the most excited to see the movie, and he promptly fell asleep.  He didn’t even make it past the previews, and he was snoozing.  After the movie, on the ride home, he woke up and asked about going to see the movie.  I couldn’t help but feel bad for the kid.  By the way, the movie was great!

Day Three

Day three was something I was really looking forward to doing with the kids.  The Knoxville Zoo recently went through a re-branding creating a new website, logo, and overall image.  Zoo Knoxville is known as the red panda capital of the world.  The endangered species didn’t disappoint as they romped and played in their enclosure.  Of course, I was most excited about the otters, which played and swam as if they were performing for an audience.  Conway wanted to see the animals, but most of all he wanted to see the “big bad wolf”, but guess what–the kid fell asleep.  Luckily for him, he has two thoughtful big sisters who woke him up when we go to the wolves.  By the time we finally got home, the kids were really tired-but not too tired to get ice cream!

So Spring Break wasn’t a total bust for me.  I got to hang out with my favorite kiddos and we had a really great few days.  Look for my next blog post when I talk about things I did over Spring Break that didn’t involve kids!

 

 

The Best Spaghetti in Town

So despite having lived in east Tennessee for her whole life, my friend Donna had never heard of Louis’.  So we took a trip back out to Fountain City so she could experience one of the most famous eateries in Knoxville.

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It says it right there on the sign!

Louis’ has been a Knoxville staple since 1958.  Several years ago, Louis’ moved to a larger building to make way for an exit ramp from interstate 640.

We went during the lunch rush, but that’s no big deal at Louis’.  The large building can accommodate dozens of diners, and the experienced staff are used to the business.

I recommended that we split the spaghetti, because the serving size is HUGE.  The staff at Louis’ make all of the sauces and dressings in-house.  I’ve eaten nearly everything on the menu at Louis’, and I’ve never been disappointed.  This time was no different.  The food was great and the service was on point.  Another great thing about Louis’ is how inexpensive most of the menu items are.  Unless you’re ordering filet mignon or rib eye, you can eat there relatively cheap.   The eatery also caters and has a banquet room for events.  Louis’ even offers the option of a drive-in, which stays packed during the dinner rush.

You can check out the menu here.  The next time you’re hungry and want great Italian food, check out Louis’!

 

Porter’s Creek

So one thing I may not have mentioned before: I love to hike.  I love the sunshine in my face, and the feeling rocks, mud, and leaves under my feet.  I love the feeling of being so tired after a hike that I collapse on the couch. With that said, I went for another hike last week.

It was my turn to pick a trail, and I searched for one that was going to take longer than Baskin’s Creek, but not as difficult.  I read recommendations for several other trails before I finally picked Porter’s Creek.

Let me get this out there too: I love my car.  It is a tiny Honda Civic, and even though it’s a 2008 model, it’s the newest car I’ve ever owned.  I told you that so I could tell you this: I regret driving my car.  The road to get to the trail head is gravel, which I knew it would be, but there were also huge potholes everywhere.  In a tiny five-speed, this road sucked and I was regretting picking this trail, but the hike made up for the crummy road.

At some point in the gravel road, there is a parking lot, but this isn’t where the trail begins.  We  continued to walk on the road (which is closed to motor vehicles at this point) for one mile.  Finally we had reached the sign indicating the trail head for Porter’s Creek.  We promptly went the opposite direction so we could view the old farm house and cabin located about 200 yards from the trail.

The cabin is no longer in use, but visitors are welcome to walk around it and explore.  It was neat to see how people in the 1930’s liked to come up to the mountains and how they spent their time there.  The barn is even more ancient; it was built sometime around 1875.

We got back to the trail and continued to hike up the gradual incline.  There was a foot bridge we had to cross, and normally, these not bother me.  This one however, was several feet above gushing water and big rocks.  I admit I was a bit on edge walking across.

We continued to walk and then, out of nowhere, we walked upon the waterfall.  It was beautiful, and everything around the water was bright green.  We had the falls to ourselves for a bit, so we took a much needed break to snack on granola bars and of course, take a few selfies.  The view opposite of the falls was just as amazing.   The slight elevation gain gave way to amazing views of the surrounding mountains.

Although I’d never heard of Porter’s Creek before last week, it is definitely  one of my new favorite hikes in the Smokies.  And that is another thing I love about east Tennessee: after living here my whole life, I am still able to find new, beautiful adventures to go on!

 

 

 

Mardi Growl

Saturday was another beautiful day in Knoxville.  At the last minute, the plans I had made for Saturday afternoon were canceled.  Jake and I went wanted to get out and do something fun, but we also didn’t want to spend any money.  Cue a trip to downtown Knoxville…

Mardi Growl was happening Saturday, and if you love dogs as much as I do, it was pure Heaven.  Sadly, I had to work the early shift, so we missed the parade, but we still got to see hundreds of dogs in the pet party at Market Square.  I pet at least 100 different dogs, and there was even a Shetland pony at the pet party (no, it wasn’t Lil’ Sebastian).

The event raises money that goes to help the Young-Williams Animal Center.  In addition to dozens of vendors, there were also rescues and shelters on site trying to find forever homes for dogs.  There are so many animals that need homes, so if you’re thinking of getting a pet, check out local shelters such as Young-Williams or the Blount County Animal Shelter.

Overall it was an awesome event, and we had a blast walking through Market Square with all of the dogs.  Hopefully, next year we will have a dog of our own to take to Mardi Growl!

 

Baskins Creek Falls

It was beautiful on Sunday.  Not a typical day in February, the high was forecast around 64 degrees.  Jake and I will never pass up an opportunity like this to go for a hike.

Baskins Creek Falls is located in Gatlinburg, a few miles from the main drag.  Even though it wasn’t tourist season, it was still crowded.  After battling traffic for half an hour, we finally made it to the turn off to go towards the trail head-and promptly got lost.  After pulling over to collect our bearings, we finally found it (pro-tip: Don’t follow the signs, use your GPS).

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Source: Yelp

We both made the mistake of wearing unnecessary layers.  Even on a warm day in the valley, it can be considerably cooler in the higher elevations.  On Sunday, this was not the case.  I shed my jacket almost immediately, and I was regretting not wearing sunblock.  The fist half of the hike was easy; it was all downhill except the detour we took to get to the Baskins Creek Cemetery.

We reached the falls and had a snack.  It was beautiful, and I loved seeing little green sprouts trying to peek out of the ground.  There were just a couple of other people down at the falls, so we nearly had the place to ourselves.  We stayed at the end of the trail for about an hour before we decided to trudge back up the side of the mountain. The hike back to the car was brutal and uphill the entire way.  We stopped a few times for  quick breaks, but being able to see this view was worth it.

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A panoramic view of the Smokies from the Baskins Creek Falls trail