Whitetop Mountain

At the end of July, Guitar Dude and I headed up to Damascus, Virginia to see my dad and uncle. I’m sure I’ve mentioned it here before, but some of my fondest childhood memories are as a result of time spent at my Grandma and Grandpa Hamm’s place in Damascus. Really, there’s not much to the town itself, other than a pretty kickass breakfast biscuit at Cowboy’s and, of course, Trail Days, but there’s just something I love about it all the same. Since we weren’t able to make it up to Trail Days the last couple years, we decided to make a visit one quiet weekend.

Whitetop Mountain

The view from just below the summit of Whitetop Mountain Virginia

Saturday morning, after my dad made us a delicious breakfast of biscuits and gravy, we decided to head up Whitetop Mountain. We took the “back way,” which means we went via dirt road instead of paved, and the ride was really breathtaking. When I say I love the mountains, I don’t just mean I enjoy spending time in them. No, I mean something about the Appalachian Mountains moves my soul. I feel something deep in my being that I simply don’t feel anywhere else. The deeper in the mountains, the better. So, as we ascended Whitetop, I could feel the peacefulness rising up inside me.  By the time we reached the summit and I opened my door to get out (because we drove, not hiked – we might be crazy, but we ain’t dumb), the crisp, clean air made me damn near euphoric. Now, for Guitar Dude that feeling might have been altitude sickness.  He’s a lowlander straight out of South Florida. Me? The thinner the air, the better I breathe. Of course, I say that having never been higher than 6,000 feet.

Whitetop Mountain

A butterfly came to visit us on Whitetop Mountain

As we puttered around on top of Whitetop for a little while, me taking photos galore, I was recalling in my mind the times I came there with my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and/or cousins at various times in my childhood. One time in particular, I seem to recall there being a mountain lion somewhere nearby that caused us to promptly vacate the area. My dad doesn’t recall that story, so I can’t tell you if I made it up in my imagination or if it really happened, but I think it adds to the allure of the area now (mainly because we did not get eaten by a mountain lion while we were there).  One thing I know for sure, though, the mountains around Damascus, Taylor’s Valley, and Whitetop are very special to me, and I hope I can always return to this area that calls to my heart.

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How We Do Sundays

I’ve always loved Sundays. Back in Virginia, I used to get together with my friends nearly every single Sunday for food, sports, and general camaraderie (or drinkin’, if you want to get all technical). Well, in just a couple weeks, it’ll be six whole years since I left that sweet hometown of mine but I still love Sundays.  Here’s a glimpse at how we do Sundays now.

I bought a new (to me) rug off a local yard sale sight, and while Guitar Dude ran to the store I swapped it out and changed the direction of the kitchen table 90 degrees. Guitar Dude doesn’t like people to move his cheese. When he walked in, I said (real proud of myself), “I changed the direction of the table. What do you think?” to which he replied, “It’s different.” and I knew there was hope.

How We Do Sundays

A little carpet swapping.

I also swapped out the big rooster center piece (I like to keep it classy) on the kitchen table for this funky little bowl Guitar Dude bought me for my birthday on a trip to the Smoky Mountains last year. The pottery shop is right across the street from a place that serves the best breakfast in Pigeon Forge; The Old Mill. I highly recommend a visit to the restaurant followed by a stroll around the shops right around the restaurant. You’ll need to stretch your legs and let all that scrumptious food find a place to settle into. Sorry, got a little sidetracked… biscuits will do that to me.

How We Do Sundays

I instantly fell in love with this piece of local art.

Once Guitar Dude got back, I grabbed my camera and opened my first Sam Adams Oktoberfest beer of the season. God bless fall beers. They make my heart happy.

How We Do Sundays

Oktoberfest and a camera… what more could a girl want?

Properly hydrated and satisfied with the new arrangement of my kitchen, we got to cooking. We bought a Boston Butt at a local farmer’s market and were excited to smoke it to tender goodness. I know the neighbors have to hate us when Guitar Dude fires up the smoker because you know their suppers that night suck in comparison (sorry, neighbors). We’re in the post-smoke, pre-rest and pull phase here. Mmm mmm….

How We Do Sundays

Sings, “Thissss is how we doooo it…”

While Guitar Dude was finishing with the meat, I cooked up a mess of squash, zucchini, vidalias, and minced garlic.

How We Do Sundays

Love fresh summer veggies…

Along with roasted corn on the cob, we ate like kings and queens on Sunday. Which is good because I forgot Sam Adams Oktoberfest has a slightly higher alcohol content. Heh…

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See Rock City

Anyone who’s been through North Georgia and East Tennessee has seen the signs. “See Rock City” is on every other billboard from Atlanta to Knoxville. We’ve been living outside Chattanooga for about a year now and, until last weekend, I had not, in fact, seen Rock City. Last weekend was so much fun. I kicked Guitar Dude out and had four of the most awesome girlfriends a chick could want for a little visit. We debated what to do on Saturday over an amazing brunch at Foodworks and it was determined that we would see Rock City.

See Rock City

We found our way there, finally found a parking spot and got our tickets. As we headed into the Enchanted Forest, I had no idea what to expect. Soon we came to this point…

See Rock City

Needle’s Eye in Rock City

(By the way, sorry for the watermark but people are real jerks and keep stealing my photos without the kindness of a please, thank you, link back, credit, whathaveyou.)

Now, on with my story. You see, I’m a little claustrophobic. It’s an irrational thing. I’ve never been trapped anywhere. I have no reason to fear small spaces. But. I. Do. So, the girls all went ahead and I stood there looking at this slice in the rocks thinking to myself, “I’ll just turn around and wait for them at the other end.” I no sooner thought it than a guy who’d also been standing there went in. I told him I was going with him and apologized in advance if I latched a hold of him midway. Thankfully, I did not. I made it through. Go me. Moving on…

Rock City is full of really beautiful scenery. I was truly enchanted as we wound our way down mossy rock-lined paths and through caves such as this one.

See Rock City

Thankfully, a not-so-small cave.

I’m not too proud to admit that once we got to the Fairyland Caverns portion of the Rock City walking tour, I pretty much turned into a kid. I mean, fairytales, black lights and air conditioning on one of the hottest days of the year? Yep, I dig. Or dug, if you’re keeping track of tenses.

See Rock City

The cow jumped over the moon…

See Rock City

Jack be nimble, jack be quick…

See Rock City

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall….

Other than the coolness of the a/c, really the best parts of Rock City are most definitely outside. Lover’s Leap was particularly interesting to me because it claims to continue a tale I first heard when living in North Georgia; the tale of Sautee, a Chicasaw Indian Chief’s son, and Nacoochee, a Cherokee Chief’s daughter. I’d always heard that Sautee and Nacoochee died at the base of Yonah Mountain between Cleveland and Helen, GA, where there’s an actual village called Sautee-Nacoochee. Rock City claims they died jumping off Lover’s Leap.

See Rock City

Did Sautee and Nacoochee leap to their deaths from Lover’s Leap?

I have to say, I normally avoid tourist traps like the plague, but I enjoyed Rock City so much I’m going to take Guitar Dude back. I can see how they sell so many season passes now. It’s a beautiful place, and if you’re ever in Chattanooga I highly recommend a visit!

 

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Love Yourself

Today’s topic is simple – love yourself. It sounds like such an easy thing, and it should be, but it’s something that I struggle with at times. So, today, your marching orders are simply to love yourself. Be kind to yourself. Speak words of encouragement to yourself. When you mess something up, and lawdy can I ever mess stuff up, don’t criticize yourself. Just laugh. Laugh out loud if you need to. Laugh hysterically. Make people wonder what the hell is wrong with you which should just make you laugh even harder. Life’s too short to hate on yourself and fill your head with a bunch of negative self-talk. Tell yourself how awesome you are because you, my friends -all three of y’all reading this post, are truly awesome.

Love Yourself

Love Yourself. Yep.

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Origami Owl Living Lockets

So, a few weeks ago I was minding my little business while browsing through Facebook. Hmm…. ok, fine, I wasn’t minding my business. If I was, I wouldn’t have been on Facebook. Let me start over…

A few weeks ago, my friend, who was the best dang MOH a girl could ask for, invited me to an Origami Owl party. For those of you saying, “What the heck is an Origami Owl?” let me explain. It’s just about the cutest jewelry I’ve ever seen. That’s all you really need to know, but I’ll tell you a little about how it works. The concept is to tell your story – whatever it may be – by building your own Living Locket®. The idea is that no two lockets will ever really be the same; much like all of our own stories.

My Origami Owl Living Locket®

My story…. all I really need is a beer charm. ;)

Intrigued by the concept, I ordered a locket (pictured above) from my friend. I fell so in love with it, that I decided I needed to become an Independent Designer for them. If nothing else, I figured I would get a discount for myself. What I found in hosting my very first event was an overwhelming response to this sweet stuff! I was truly blown away.

Origami Owl by Christine Raznoff

I heart this stuff… for real, y’all.

Now, don’t panic! I’m not doing a hard sell here or anything! I just wanted to let y’all know I’m selling it in case you want to get your little paws on one. They make fantastically personalized gifts… to yourself or even another person if you’re generous like that.

Origami Owl by Christine Raznoff

If you’re interested in seeing what this is all about, you can find me on Facebook righ’chere… https://www.facebook.com/origamiowlbychristineraznoff or shop directly on my site by clicking any of the images on this page. See what I did there? Done made it easy on y’all!

And with that, I’m taking the rest of the week off from the blog to go to Virginia to celebrate my mama’s life with my family. Happy Mother’s Day to all you lovely ladies out there!!

See y’all next week, when I’ll announce another fun project that’ll have you asking yourself, “Did people in the 1970s really eat Liver Loaf with Bacon?” *shudder* Stay tuned to find out…

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The Very Best Margarita. EVER.

In honor of Thirsty Thursday, let’s talk adult beverages.  Specifically, margaritas. Here’s the deal. And you’ll want to write this down. Life’s too short to drink cheap booze.

Y’all know I’m a beer girl for the most part but, with the warm weather finally making its appearance here in Tennessee, I recently got a hankering for something frozen and fruity. I think it has something to do with my mind still being in the Florida Keys some 4 months after our bodies came home. Now, the easy thing to do when you want a frozen and fruity adult beverage is to buy one of those buckets. That’s what normal people do.  Me? I like a little more control in the kitchen, even when it comes to drinks. So, off to multiple stores I went.

What I came home with was a crapload (that’s an official unit of measure, by the way) of assorted frozen no-sugar-added-because-I’m-a-good-little-do-bee berries, a bottle of my favorite teh-kill-ya, and a bottle of Cointreau because no one on the face of this earth should have to drink Triple Sec. Refer to the first paragraph of this post, if your memory needs refreshing. What do all these ingredients make? One dang fine margarita, thankyouverymuch. So, take my advice and start your shopping now because this is one refreshing dranky-drank.

Raspberry Margarita

Heeeeeeeeey, Margarita!

The Best Margarita. EVER.

Ingredients

1 c. frozen raspberries
1 1/2 oz. Herradura Anejo tequila
1 oz. Cointreau
A splash or three of water

Put the berries and the booze in a blender and turn that sucker on. Stop the blender (this is important as to not mangle any spoons or fingers) and grab you a little taste with a spoon. Add more liquid, if needed, until it’s the right consistency to drink. Now, if you’re the well-behaved type, this is where you add the splash or three of water. If you’re me, you use this opportunity to add more booze. I have no shame.

Once at the proper consistency, pour it into a margarita glass (or if you’re me, a stemmed water glass because I don’t own margarita glasses) with or without salt on the rim. I don’t like salt on mine. You can also throw in a slice of lime at this point, but that’s just a little more fancy than I tend to get with my adult beverages. 

Now all you have to do is sip it up!  Please don’t try to chug this one. Brain freeze is a terrible condition in which you’ll be left trying to find ways to warm up the inside of your head while everyone else mocks you.  Not that I know anything about that.

Happy Drinking!

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The Wedding, Part Two

For the sake of my sanity, I hired a wedding planner. I used one recommended by Castle Ladyhawke called Occasions by Emily. Ladies, if you aren’t married yet, I will give you only one piece of advice. Find a wedding planner you love and hire her. Trust me. My wedding was absolutely, 100% stress-free. As an added bonus, she also did all of my floral and decorations, and everything was absolutely stunning! I couldn’t have been happier with how everything looked. Emily really nailed the overall feel I wanted in every single detail. Here are my favorite things…

Our initials on the front door – so adorable. Confession: I still have these in the garage. I love them. I can’t get rid of them. I have a problem.

Castle Ladyhawke

Front doors of Castle Ladyhawke.

The bridal party bouquets were so beautiful, I kept mine (far right) for two weeks after the wedding. True story. I told y’all I have a problem. Guitar Dude finally intervened. The single rose in front was in honor of my mom, which I laid on an empty chair in the front row after I walked down the aisle.

Castle Ladyhawke

The wedding bouquets.

We had the ceremony in the Great Hall which looks out over the mountains. It was such a peaceful room, and it felt so full of love. Michelle was my day-of goddess-of-all-things-wedding-day, and she deserves a medal. How she managed to keep not only me, but Guitar Dude and all of our family and friends on-task without being overly bossy that day is nothing short of a miracle. The girl is good. at. her. job. Here’s proof that we managed to get to the alter wearing our wedding clothes to say our vows with all of our people in the right place.

Castle Ladyhawke

The Great Hall

I brought a wish jar with little pieces of paper for people to write their wishes for us. It was fun to read them all on our honeymoon. I think our favorite was from a friend, “Jim, Do what she says. -Brad” Wise words. Wise words, indeed.

Castle Ladyhawke

Wish jar…

We had a buffet-style dinner in the Great Hall where people had their choice of seats. We had our own sweetheart’s table up by the fireplace which was awesome. Even though we got married somewhere grand, I wanted to have a laid back feel so I decided not to go with the whole assigned seating thing. It was fun to see who sat where and to see people I love who previously didn’t know each other chatting it up on such a special occasion.

Castle Ladyhawke

Great Hall set for dinner

The centerpieces for the tables were gorgeous. I loved the use of the bouquets in some, such as on our table.

Castle Ladyhawke

The bridal bouquet as the centerpiece on the sweetheart’s table.

While I obviously loved my bouquet enough to keep it after it was dead (sad), I think the lantern was my favorite centerpiece in the room.

Castle Ladyhawke

Lantern centerpiece.

These tall ones added a little height to the whole scene.

Castle Ladyhawke

Tall centerpiece.

I had catering estimates that ranged from “oh, that’s not bad” to “holy s!#$, is everything sprinkled in gold?” I went with someone towards the top end, and I’m here to tell you it was worth every penny. All bajillion of them. Plus they had a cool bartender. He saved me the last Sam Adams Winter Lager.

Anyway, the food… oh man, it was something special.

Like the prime rib. Oh my damn. ‘Scuse my language.

Castle Ladyhawke

Prime rib…. *drool*

The grits bar was a personal favorite, and it was a huge hit with our guests, too.

Castle Ladyhawke

Grits Bar

I could’ve eaten nothing but grits; going back time and again to get different flavor combinations. Oh, and prime rib. Grits and prime rib.

Castle Ladyhawke

All kinds of delicious toppings…

Bacon, green onions, and roasted garlic… say wha?????

Grits Bar

And more toppings…

And biscuits… uh-huh. Any good Southern meal has to have biscuits.

Castle Ladyhawke

Cheddar biscuits…

Oh, and we had some green stuff for those who like that kind of thing.

Castle Ladyhawke

Salad

Gotta have some green beans.

Castle Ladyhawke

Fresh green beans.

Oh yeah, what about the cake? Well, it was extra special so I’ll share it on a separate post dedicated to nothing but sweets. For right now, I’m hungry. How ’bout y’all??

Venue: Castle Ladyhawke
Floral, Design, Planning, Coordination: Occasions by Emily
Catering: Black Eyed Susan Catering
Photography: Colby @ Blue Bend Photography

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The Wedding, Part One

A lot of little girls grow up dreaming of what kind of wedding they want to have when they meet Prince Charming. Some women dang near obsess over it. Me? I’m kind of a tomboy, so anything that involved me putting on a dress was far, far from my mind. Then Guitar Dude proposed. It was dreamy. My ring is dreamy; a family heirloom that’s over 100 years old and belonged to his Great Grandmother. I really think if Guitar Dude hand designed a ring specifically with me in mind, he couldn’t have possibly come up with anything more perfect. After he proposed, I don’t think either of us was prepared for what came next. I turned into a girly-girl. Me. The girl who drinks beer from a can and whose favorite article of clothing is pajama pants.

Castle Ladyhawke

Could there be a dreamier wedding venue? (photo by Blue Bend Photography)

As I started thinking about what kind of wedding I wanted to have (because let’s be real, the wedding is mostly about the bride), my list of requirements was short. I wanted to be surrounded by family and friends; I wanted it to be somewhere unique; and I was wearing purple crushed velvet Doc Martens no matter what. I’d been eyeballing those things for months. What better excuse to buy them than my own wedding? I started out looking for a barn. There’s something about a barn wedding that’s always appealed to me. Every one I found was already booked. As I sat browsing a list of wedding venues in the mountains, I came across a place called Castle Ladyhawke in Tuckasegee, NC. I told Guitar Dude we were getting married in a castle. I called the castle and put down a deposit before we’d even seen it. That’s how sure I was that this was the place. And it was. Oh it was.

Once I found the venue, everything clicked into place. Family and friends all gathered at the guest accommodations, and we had ourselves a party on Friday night complete with live music courtesy of the many pickers, grinners, and singers in our clan. It was the perfect kickoff to the most important weekend of my life. Nearly everyone we love gathered in the same place having a good ol’ time. Check out this video of my Grandma singing what, in hindsight, might not have been the best song selection for her Granddaughter’s pre-wedding party. She said it was the only one she could think of the words to on the spot, and I think it sounds absolutely perfect.

 
How ’bout a shoutout for my Grandma belting out some Hank while my hubby-to-be and my dad play guitar?

Check back later this week for pictures from our big day!

 

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One From the Heart…

Well, hey there! It’s been a while, huh? I promise there’s good reason. Maybe not good, but a reason anyway. The past ten months have been some of the very best and some of the very worst of my entire life.

Appalachian Woman

My beautiful mama at one of Guitar Dude’s shows.

On May 9, 2013, my family and I did the unthinkable and said our goodbyes to my mom. Just a few days before, she’d been the picture of a vibrant, young-at-heart mid-50s woman finally hitting her stride in life. Next thing I knew, I got a call from my baby brother that would change my life forever. I spent a couple of weeks in Virginia with my family, and then I headed to a job interview in Chattanooga bound and determined to make my mom proud of me. I got the job. I lived in a hotel. Totally alone in a new city. Within weeks of losing Mom. I was happy. I was incredibly sad. I was devastated. I was full of hope. Soon, we bought a house. We moved. We have a lot of stuff, by the way. Get rid of your stuff. Right. Now. Just stop here and go get rid of stuff. I’ll wait……………… trust me, you’ll thank me later.

Fast forward to today and I am writing you from our basement in our house in Chattanooga. In the last couple of weeks, we’ve finally gotten really settled in and started a few home improvement projects. There are still a few boxes scattered around the basement, but for the most part we’re moved in. 8 1/2 months later. Hey, we are ahead of a lot of other people, right?!? Ha! I’m also no longer working for the company that moved us to Chattanooga. The only reason I can give for leaving is that I have decided to live happy, and that’s all I have to say about that.

So why am I here resurrecting this blog after so many months of dormancy? Well, here’s the thing… I just couldn’t make myself keep up with Chattown Girl. It didn’t feel right. I’ve kicked around several other blog ideas, all the while thinking, “But it’s not Appalachian Woman.” I don’t care where I live, this is who I am. This is my heart. I love this blog, and the people who read it! And so, if I’m lucky enough that you’re still reading, kindly put this site back into your internet reading repertoire, if you don’t mind! I’ll be here rambling about finding my way as a nature photographer, a Southern cook, and a brand new housewife. WHAT??! Yep, that’s right! Guitar Dude made an honest woman out of me last November. You’ll just have to come back later to read all the juicy details of where he proposed, where we were married, and how, at least in our minds, we never really came home from our honeymoon.

See y’all soon! xoxo

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Ch-ch-ch-changes….

I’m sure by now y’all have noticed my prolonged absence.  Since my last post, I very unexpectedly lost my dear, sweet, beautiful mama to a surgery gone seriously wrong.  It is the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through in my life.  On top of that huge, life-altering change, I also got a really awesome new  job in a new state.  I’ve been woefully underemployed for two and a half years now, and this new job is very exciting!  It will take Guitar Dude and I a couple of hours up the road to Chattanooga, TN.  I am leaving on Sunday the 16th and will be living out of a hotel for the first few weeks until we can get into our very own home.  Yep, we’re buying our first house!  So many changes in such a short amount of time.

I’ve enjoyed posting on Appalachian Woman giving out recipes, talking about North Georgia, sharing random thoughts, etc., but I am just not in the same place anymore.  SO!  As soon as my hosting account is finalized, I will be setting up a new blog where I can share with y’all all of my new adventures (and I’m sure a few misadventures!) in Chattanooga.  Eventually, this website will redirect to the new one, but until then you can go ahead and bookmark the new one now!  ;)

http://chattowngirl.com/

Did I mention you should also “Like” my Facebook page?!?!  Purty please?!

http://www.facebook.com/ChattownGirl

I’ll be on my own in Chattanooga for the first few weeks as we transition between here and there, so the content on Chattown Girl should start rolling in quickly because I’m definitely planning on taking my camera!  I have to do something to keep myself entertained.  There’s only so much room service a girl can eat.  Ahh, who am I kidding?  I can eat a lot of room service!  Still, I’m anxious to get out and explore.

Thank you to each and every one of you who read this blog, and I truly hope you’ll all join me as I embark on the next phase of my life.

Love,
Christine

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