From the Appalachians to the Outer Banks

Y’all know I love the mountains, but last summer Guitar Dude and I decided to take a little vacation to the Outer Banks (that’s in North Carolina, for those who aren’t fortunate enough to live in the Southeast) with my brother and his girlfriend.  The hubs had never been to the Outer Banks, and I hadn’t been in so long I pretty much forgot what it looked like. If you’ve never been, the Outer Banks is a 200-mile long stretch of barrier islands off the coast of NC. Days before we were to leave, a hurricane blew in as they’re want to do over that’a way. We set out for the coast anyway because we figured someone would’ve called if the house wasn’t still standing. Now, let me pause in my story about this ridiculously beautiful place to tell y’all that if you ever decide to drive from East TN waaaaaaaaaaaaay on over to the Outer Banks, do yourself a favor and stay the night halfway. North Carolina is a wide state. Like, really wide.

Okay, with that out of the way, we got to our house and the only real damage we saw was to the screens on the porch. So, we got a box of thumbtacks, and my brother fixed it right on up.  Our house was beachfront which in the Outer Banks means the ocean is just over a dune. Dunes are very important on barrier islands.

Outer Banks Dunes

Outer Banks dunes are sandy making it hard to carry a cooler with 48 beers in it.

Once we crested the dune, this was the first thing we saw…

Outer Banks

Ocean View at the Outer Banks (as seen through my crappy cell phone camera)

So, we quickly went back to the house and slathered up in sunscreen so we could hit that beautiful beach and ocean. Our crowd included three pasty white folks and a Latina. I’ll let you figure out which sunscreen is whose.

Outer Banks, Sunscreen Required

If you’re pasty and you know it, spray your skin.

My brother has a Jeep so after we were properly sun baked, we decided to head up to Corolla which has wild horses and a 4wd beach that is absolutely breathtaking. It’s supposedly not all that common to see the horses along the shoreline, but we sure got lucky. If you’re a horse lover, or just a nature lover in general, consider giving the fine folks over at Corolla Wild Horse Fund a likey-loo on Facebook. Those folks work long and hard to protect these wild beauties.

Outer Banks Wild Horses

Wild horses couldn’t drag me away….

I love lighthouses. I suppose part of the draw for me is that I’ve always lived in the foothills and mountains, so I’d never seen one up close. We didn’t get to see all the lighthouses in the Outer Banks because part of the roads were closed to the south thanks to that dang hurricane. But, I can tell you the Currituck Lighthouse is really cool from the ground. We got in line that day to climb to the top, but I ain’t even going to lie, y’all. It was hotter’n hades, and there are like 10,857 steps (rough estimate based on absolutely nothing), so we just decided to look from the outside and be on our merry way.

Currituck Lighthouse, Outer Banks

Currituck Lighthouse, Outer Banks

After that adventure, we were starving. So we set out to find some vittles. There’s a great little restaurant in Duck where we sat on the sound side and watched the sunset as we ate supper. I couldn’t remember the name of the restaurant if I had to, and I couldn’t tell you what I had to eat or drink, but I will never forget this view as long as I live.

Outer Banks, North Carolina

Sunset over the sound in the Outer Banks (as seen through my crappy cell phone camera)

Well, that’s been your little beach break in the middle of our cold winter. I hope it warmed you up a tad bit. I know it warmed me up. If you’ve never visited the Outer Banks, please do so. It is a treasure that should be appreciated by all.

’til next time, xoxo

Posted in Ramblings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Appalachian Woman is Back!

I swear, I haven’t dropped off the face of the earth. The thing is, I’ve been licking my wounds. I’m coming to realize that when I lost my mom, I lost a part of myself. One I will never get back. I’m just now, almost two years later, starting to feel like myself again. What does that mean? Well, for starters it means y’all will have to put up with me rambling on and on, again. Didya miss me? If you’re here, I sure hope so! I missed y’all, too.

So, what’s been up? Let’s see, I quit the logistics industry because screw that nonsense. I’m back to copywriting part time (hopefully soon-to-go full time with some added clients) and I’m starting to feel a tiny bit inspired behind the camera, again. Guitar Dude and I celebrated our first anniversary as husband and wife. After reaching my heaviest weight ever just before our wedding (damn you, emotional eating!), I’ve finally turned the page and permanently changed my eating habits. I eat a lot of green stuff. And fruit. It’s ridiculous, really, but I’m loving it. I miss gravy and biscuits, but we’ll meet again some day.  In moderation. At widely spaced intervals of time. Oh biscuits, we had a good run. *sigh* Wait, what was I talking about????

Oh yeah, life. My life will never be the same again, but I’ve finally learned that doesn’t mean life can’t be good, again. So I just wanted to say, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you for enjoying my posts over the years. Thank you for reading this post right here. I mean, it doesn’t even have a dang picture, and y’all know I love me some posts with pictures. Thank you for hanging in there, even if you forgot about me for a minute. And, most importantly, thank you for sticking around and reading what this chick has to say going forward. I truly have missed blogging, and I’m looking forward to hangin’ out with y’all, again.

’til next time…. xoxo

Posted in Ramblings | 2 Comments

Old Barns of the South

I grew up in what was once a rural county filled with dairy and horse farms and all the old barns that go along with that kind of thing. My step-mom was a horse trainer and she and my dad spent most of my childhood living on this farm or that, so I guess that’s where my obsession with barns began. Whether I’m driving or riding down the road, barns never fail to catch my eye. If I can safely get to the side of the road, I usually stop to take a photo. I figure some day this rural slice of American Pie may fade off into a distant memory so I try to preserve them in photos as much as possible.

One of my very first barn photos was shot with a Canon point-and-shoot. This barn was about a mile from where I grew up, and it’s no longer there instead being replaced by over-development a.k.a. city folks invading the country and turning it into another city. Hmph.

Loudoun County Barn

Loudoun County, VA Barn

This old barn is now part of a park in Dahlonega, GA, and it has most definitely seen better days. I guess when there are swing sets and baseball diamonds and soccer fields to maintain, old barns get overlooked. Of course, the often overlooked stuff is always what catches my eye.

Dahlonega Barn

Old Dahlonega Barn

Sometimes it’s not the barn itself that catches my attention but the entire scene. On this particular day, I just got in my car and decided to do a little country exploring here in East Tennessee. I have no idea where I was when I took this shot, but I know the fluffy clouds and shadows caught my eye so I stopped right there in the middle of the road. Thankfully in the country, you can do that sort of thing.

East Tennessee Barn

East Tennessee Barn

These next two are among my favorite barn photos. I was at the tail end of my drive home to Virginia to visit my family, somewhere in the vicinity of Orange. That’s a place, not only a fruit and color. I saw this barn while still on pavement, so I wheeled onto the dirt road running adjacent to the barn, climbed up on the fence and started snapping away. The grass really was that green, no enhancement there.

Virginia Barn

Virginia Barn

Virginia Barn

Close-up of the Virginia Barn

On that same drive, cutting across Virginia, I stopped at a scenic overlook because, well, I like scenic things. You never really know what you’re going to get at a scenic overlook. Sometimes they’re so overgrown, you can’t see a dang thing. This time, I was pleasantly surprised to find this beautiful farm nestled at the base of the mountains. I’m sure there are tons of photos of this thing floating around, but I wanted to share it here because I feel a deep love for my home state and the rural beauty of these rolling hills really represents why I love it so much.

Central Virginia Farm

Central Virginia Farm

I guess you can take the girl outta the country, but you can’t take the country outta the girl, huh? I hope y’all have enjoyed these photos as much as I enjoyed sharing them with y’all.

‘Til next time… xoxo

Posted in Appalachian Life, Photography, Ramblings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Appalachian Life, Ramblings | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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…

Posted in Appalachian Life, Get Cooking, Home and..., Photography, Ramblings | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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!


Posted in Appalachian Life, Photography, Ramblings | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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.

Posted in Ramblings | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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.


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!

Posted in Get Cooking, Home and... | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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


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

Posted in Appalachian Life, Home and..., Ramblings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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!


Posted in Appalachian Life, Home and..., Ramblings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments