a thanksgiving to remember

as i sit here, all done for at least today’s work day, i find myself thinking, “man, i wish we could rewind to a week ago.”  that’s right, i’m already sadly missing the thanksgiving holiday celebrated last week, and even though Christmas is on the horizon, i’m sure i’m not the only one feeling this way.

to keep this post from feeling too “down,” i want to share with you, my kind readers, all the fun we had last week up in the great smoky mountains.  it was my first major holiday away from my family (all grown up!), and although i dearly missed mom, dad, kyle, clark, and kari, i felt quite welcomed by phillip and his family on this special occasion.

it started last wednesday morning when mr. davis, mrs. davis, and emily came to pick up phillip and me bright and early for the drive up to gatlinburg.  we were packed in snug as bugs as we trekked up through north georgia in the great smoky mountains.  as you may know, there have been treacherous wildfires in that part of the state, and although they didn’t bother our trip up there too much, please keep in your thoughts the folks of tennesse and georgia around those parts, especially those right in and near gatlinburg for the fires they are suffering through right now.  this town is certainly more than a tourist attraction, and we all hope they can recover in no time.

our first destination was the cabin that cousin tony found and booked for our group.  with ten of us total, a large space was certainly necessary.  well, this three-story cabin (complete with hot tub and bunk beds) was just the ticket for our stay.  after quickly exploring, we kids unloaded the car of the luggage, treats, and drinks (can’t forget the wine!).

phillip and i were a bit famished afterwards, so we took the car into town for a bite to eat.  we parked in a deck towards the north end of downtown and moseyed along the sidewalks, taking in our first sights and sounds of this charming town.  as we walked, it was clear that we weren’t the only ones in gatlinburg for the weekend; the shops and attractions were already bustling with plenty of other visitors.  before we went too far, we spotted the pancake pantry and knew that’s where we’d be eating lunch.  this cozy restaurant is a welcoming combination of cracker barrel and the original pancake house (only helpful if you’ve ever been to either).  the service was amiable and the food was tasty.  phillip’s buckwheat pancakes were irresistible, and my buttermilk pancakes and sausage were hitting the spot also.

after paying we strolled around a little bit more before heading back to the cabin to greet the rest of the family.  once all there, it was mr. davis, mrs. davis, grandma lorraine, uncle steve, aunt pam, cousin tony and his girlfriend priscila, phillip, emily, and myself.  talk about a good group!  we spent the rest of wednesday night and all day thursday eating (constantly), playing card games (how about that euchre!), drinking (of course), and relaxing.  the weather was quite agreeable, especially thanksgiving day, and i couldn’t have asked for a more pleasant setting than the lush colors of the changing trees that surrounded us.  can’t you just picture it!

friday morning arrived and i think it’s safe to say there was a mild case of cabin fever going around.  see what i did there!  but really, we all needed to get out and stretch our legs, so we caravanned into town for some good old fashioned tourism.  while some folks went for breakfast, others of us were immediately interested in checking out the local ole smoky moonshine distillery.  that’s right, not even eleven a.m. and we were throwing back shots!  our friendly bartender briana was patient as we tasted and rated each of the thirteen moonshines they had available.  with no food in our stomachs just yet, you can imagine the hootin’ and hollerin’ time we were kicking up in there!

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phillip and i compared notes and decided (without much hesitation at all) that we needed to buy some moonshine to take home.  it would be our souvenir!  well, when you put it that way it’s hard to say no.  🙂  originally we were just going to get a couple, but with so many tasty flavors it was difficult to only pick one or two.  we ended up deciding on four “brews” we just couldn’t go home without, but at that point it made sense to buy five because then we’d get the sixth one free.  funny how that logic starts to seem agreeable after thirteen moonshine shots, eh?  in the end, we toted home the mountain java (my personal favorite), margarita, hunch punch, shine nog (phillip’s preference), apple pie, and blackberry (best when mixed with lemonade).  the only question now is when are we hosting a party?!

after moonshine tasting, we were easily persuaded by uncle steve to go down and across the street to their whiskey bar.  sure!  thirteen shots of whiskey sounded like a great idea after thirteen shots of moonshine!  well, when in rome, right?  we bellied up to the bar and were highly entertained by close call paul (as he called himself), who was quite generous with his pours.  although we didn’t come out with any whiskey bottles for the drive home, we still had a blast.

cousin tony, mrs. davis, & emily.

cousin tony, mrs. davis, & emily.

after the tastings were done, we all came back together to walk around town for a bit of fresh air.  although chilly out, those of us with whiskey in our bellies felt just right.

i even secretly captured phillip in the middle of an impromptu photo shoot!

the adults eventually wrangled us kids into tgi friday’s for some food since most of us had skipped a true breakfast.  we enjoyed bloody marys between bites of mozzarella sticks, sushi rolls, and greasy double-decker cheeseburgers.  mm, healthy!

after fueling up, the parents headed back to the cabin but the kids were still in the mood to play.  on wednesday phillip and i had passed the gatlinburg sky lift and insisted that we go.  it didn’t take too much to convince priscila and tony to join us, so that’s just what we did.  the men got the tickets, we hopped in line, and off we were!  now, i wouldn’t exactly say i have a fear of heights, moreso i would describe it as a fear of falling.  even though, i very much enjoyed this attraction.  the ride up to the top of the mountain is quite smooth and not too fast at all.  just be sure to wear secure shoes or else you’ll lose them!

once at the top of the lift you have the opportunity to take in a pretty beautiful view of the mountains and downtown.  although i wish it had been a bit sunnier, it’s still a pretty cool shot.  i can also imagine it is just lovely to see at night with all the holiday lights burning bright.

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and i especially liked taking this one with the panorama setting.  neat!

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of course there’s a little gift shop where you can buy all sorts of useless stuff.  you even can buy the picture they take of you right before you get to the top – kind of like on a roller coaster!  the four of us opted out and decided to just take some memorable pictures instead.

after the sky lift we were ready to warm up, so back to the house we went.  some of us napped, others watched tv, and a couple folks had fun playing the simpsons pinball machine upstairs.  it was in no time that the afternoon turned dark into the evening, which meant more games over turkey dinner leftovers.  as i sat cozied up in the deep sofa of the living room that night, i paused to realize how much i have to be thankful for this holiday season.  not many people can spend time off work and on vacation this time of year, and i am grateful for the blessings that allowed us to do so.

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