Hen Wallow Falls

Jimmie and I have been somewhat boring lately, so recently we’ve tried to have more “fun.” Meaning, we’re doing actual THINGS and not just going to Costco. Yay, adulting. Since neither of us care about college football – and doing anything in Knoxville on game day is an absolute nightmare – we’ve been hiking a little more. It’s been a while since we hiked, and neither of us are in particularly stellar shape (even though I’ve sorta been running).

For our first “back-in-the-saddle” hiking adventure, we decided to head to Cosby and hike Hen Wallow Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, sorta in our backyard. It’s a roughly 5-mile round-trip hike to a waterfall. (The trail sign says 4.4 miles, but my Fitbit clocked it at 5.) The waterfall is 90 feet tall. It’s listed as a moderate difficulty, and a “pleasant walk through hemlock and rhododendron forest.” The trail is in an active bear habitat, and as with all GSMNP trails, pets aren’t allowed. The trailhead is accessed from the Cosby picnic area. We hiked it in 2.5 hours.

On hike day we grudgingly got up and hit the road before noon. Ok, like 11:50. Whatever. We stopped off a WhichWich for lunch – if you’ve never had WhichWich, you’re absolutely missing out. The bread is the perfect combination of toasty and chewy, the ingredients are fresh, and the meats aren’t salty. Plus you can choose from about 9000 options.

After only one wrong turn, we made it to the picnic area. Just a hint – don’t use Hen Wallow Falls as your Google Maps destination. Put in the Cosby picnic area, or even the Cosby campground (which you get to from the picnic area). Otherwise, you’ll end up down a sketchy gravel road.

We loaded up with our hydration packs, took the requisite trailhead selfie, and off we went.

We were fortunate in that we passed only a handful of other hikers on the trail. It’s a very quiet place, and the trees provide a good amount of shade. It was actually kind of eerie in places. We did see some rather fresh bear droppings about half a mile in, though if the bear was around, we never caught a glimpse. I was ok with that.

Don’t be fooled, friends – this trail is more on the difficult side of moderate. It’s a steady uphill climb, and though it isn’t steep, the majority of the trail is covered with jutting roots and loose rocks. Our legs and ankles were killing us by the time we finished. We didn’t have hiking poles – if you do, I’d definitely recommend taking them. We managed to find some sticks to use on the way back from the falls, and they were a huge help.

Despite the difficulty, the hike itself is quite pleasant. You pass huge trees, several interesting rock formations, and cross over a couple of streams. Those crossings are a smidge nerve-wracking, as they’re on log footbridges, but just hold the railing and you’ll be fine. Again, poles. Since we hiked in fall we didn’t see too many flowers, but I imagine it’s gorgeous in the spring. We did see lots of mushrooms, though, like this one in the middle of the trail.

The last tenth of a mile or so, the trail dips steeply downhill to the falls. We both kept wondering when we’d hear them, since typically waterfalls make noise, right? The answer became clear the moment we turned the bend.

That’s right. We were lucky enough to do this hike at a time when East Tennessee is nearly 4 inches behind in rain. So instead of a waterfall, we got a dribble. Our reactions?

I imagine it’s quite pretty after it’s rained, or in the winter when it’s frozen. We just have impeccable timing. Honestly, we were more interested in the most appropriate sign we’ve ever seen. This sign should be everywhere, not just on hiking trails with dangerous waterfalls and slippery rocks.

We took a few SnapChat videos, turned around, and headed up the now super-steep one-tenth of a mile. And I promptly got stung by something. On my bum. I manage to go 32 years without ever getting stung, and when I do, I don’t even know by what, it’s on my ass, and I’m 2.5 miles from anything. Thankfully, Jimmie had Benadryl, so I popped half a pill, we set off, and I didn’t die. It hurt like hell for most of the hike out.

We rounded out the day with a take-out order from Buffalo Wild Wings, which was a madhouse, pumpkin beer, and binge watching season one of The Americans on Amazon.

While we both felt pretty underwhelmed by Hen Wallow Falls, we agreed the area was nice. Cosby is a much quieter, less frequented side of the park. We actually thought the drive was a lot better too, since you mostly take the Interstate instead of dealing with Gatlinburg and all that mess. There are several hikes in the area, so I’m sure we’ll be back to check them out!


Backyard DIY: Teacup Bird Feeders

Guys, I’m officially an old lady. This morning I sat outside watching the birds for 20 minutes.

For real.

Before you call me totally insane, I’ll have you know I was trying to get a picture for you lovelies. It didn’t happen, I got bored, I went back to bed. Oops.

So why was I watching the birds, you ask? Because I made bird feeders, and they love them (and me), and there was a pretty little lady Cardinal having breakfast.

Can we just stop here and rant about the ridiculous cost of bird feeders???? Seriously. I’ve wanted one for like…I don’t know, 3 years. But I’m cheap (as we all know) and refused to spend more than $20 on a bird feeder. Unfortunately, that meant that my choices were also cheap. Like this.


Not my style. And frankly, kind of a waste of money, really.

We always had bird feeders when I was a kid, and tons of birds in the yard. As an adult – and an adult with her own dog-sledding team – the bird population seems to give the house a fairly wide berth. However, this summer I kept seeing this same male Cardinal in the yard, and he was always yammering about something. Olga and I decided he might like some food, and then he might bring his buddies, and then we might have birds. (I’m fairly confident we have totally different reasons for wanting birds in the yard.)

Besides, I had a bazillion pins for teacup bird feeders on Pinterest, and a free weekend. So, I took myself over to Goodwill, found a couple cute teacups with matching saucers, and after a trip to Home Depot for adhesive, something to hang them with, and some bird seed, got to work.

teacup-and-saucerMy teacups and saucers cost me about $2 for both of them, though granted, I was shopping during the half-off sale. I wasn’t really picky about what they looked like, though I did want the cups and saucers to somewhat work together. Lucky me when I found these matching sets. All you really need is a cup with a handle, and a saucer large enough to provide a perch for the birdies.

There are a couple different ways to make teacup feeders, but since the dogs are insane, I knew I needed to hang them. (Versus staking them or something else that was likely to get eaten.) So, I turned my teacups on their sides, like so.

teacup-feeders-in-progressTo be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure how this would work. I went back and forth for a good 10 minutes on where to put the teacup. I ended up putting it smack in the middle of the saucer because I figured it’d be more balanced that way when it was hanging from the tree. I worried a little that it’d mean the birds wouldn’t have enough room to perch -if the cup was farther back on the saucer, that’d be a lot more room – but it hasn’t been an issue. It’s possible the feeders would hold more seed with the cups farther back, but it’s also possible they’d hang at a weird angle. Try it, and let me know.

I used E6000 silicone adhesive, because when I was standing lost in Home Depot, the five or six websites I looked at all said that was the best. It was around $5. (If you’re keeping track, we’re up to $7.)

Love the viagra ad in the newspaper.

Love the Viagra ad, don’t you?

Sticking the teacups to the saucers wasn’t difficult. I didn’t sand them – in hindsight, that might have been helpful. As it was, I got incredibly frustrated because my stupid cups kept falling over. I finally wedged a piece of wood behind each of them, because I got tired of holding them after about 30 minutes. E6000 says on the package that it takes 24 hours to fully cure, and it was at least 4 hours before my cups didn’t slide around when I wiggled them.

teacup-feeder-closeupI left them outside since it was sunny and I was out there, but brought them in overnight to fully dry. I didn’t notice any kind of smell with the adhesive, so you could probably do the whole thing inside if you needed to. The next evening I took my two 36″ chains ($2 each) and looped them around a couple tree branches and through the teacup handle. I chose two spots that are fairly “secluded” – one of them is almost completely hidden from view. Birds like privacy and greenery. I placed the second feeder where I could see it from the porch, but it’s still nice and nestled. Filled them up with bird seed designed to attract Southeastern birds, and then watched it like a hawk for days.

teacup-bird-feeder It took a few days for the birds to go for it, but after about a week the feeder was completely empty. I trudged outside with the bird seed bag, climbed my way through the tree branches to the feeders, and filled them back up. As I turned to go inside, I heard one little twitter, way up in the trees.

I came inside, stood at the door, and waited. About 3 minutes later, here comes Mr. Cardinal, hopping along under the feeder. It was another 10 minutes before he finally flew up to the feeder, and even then, he didn’t actually get on it. He sat on a nearby branch and leaned in. Took a bite, then another, then flew off. I was ecstatic.

I’ve had the feeders up for a little over a month now, and I refill them about twice a week. We have more birds than before, though I’m still waiting for the finches. Each time I go out there, they tweet and chatter. I like to think they’re saying thank you, though sometimes it’s probably more like, “What took you so long?! We’re STARVING!” And maybe they’re even spreading the word.

All told, this project took me about an hour, and cost me $20 for TWO feeders…and half of that cost was for the bag of bird seed. I love the feeders, and I love that we have birds in the yard again. I keep telling Jimmie I’m going to fill all the trees with teacup feeders. He thinks I’m joking.

And one of these days, I’ll get a picture of one of our residents having breakfast.

2016 Reading Challenge Progress Update

A few months ago, we talked about how I was 9 books behind on my Goodreads Reading Challenge, and how it was giving me serious anxiety. I’m happy to report that I’m FINALLY on track…even slightly ahead of schedule.


sept-statusAnd yes, that took a lot of reading, and a few really short books to catch me up, but I’m not at all ashamed of that. A book is a book is a book.

It’s been a while since we talked books, so I thought an update was in order, along with some insight into how I rate and review books. Last week I posted a review of Mhairi McFarlane’s newest, Who’s That Girl, and while I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it either. I just had some major issues with the ending, and frankly, thought the main character was horrid. But I didn’t emphasize enough that I actually did enjoy the book – it kept me entertained, and that’s pretty much all I ask for.

Which brings me to my point about my ratings and reviews. I’m kind of harsh when it comes to books, simply because I read so many of them. There are a lot of good books, a lot of bad books, and just a handful of really great books. That’s why I’m so critical – if I rated every book I enjoyed as 5 stars, how would you know which ones were the cream of the crop?

Let’s revisit my handy-dandy ratings chart, shall we?


So while many people (and probably, many authors) will think a 3-star rating is bad, I don’t. To me, 3 stars means you wrote a decent book that served its purpose – to entertain. I liked it, and if asked, I’d say yes, that was a good book.

But a book I give 5 stars? You’d better believe I’m telling everyone I know to READITRIGHTNOW. And before you get all snooty, let me point out that while I don’t give out 5-star ratings often, there’s no rhyme or reason to them. Yes, many of them have been award-winners, but I’ve also given 5 stars to kids books and cozy mysteries.

But enough about my ratings. Let’s talk about where we are so far, since our last update in May.


I’m at 70 read for the year – which means I’ve read almost 50 books since May – and am only at 3 5-star books. Here are a couple that stand out….As always, you can see all of my ratings on my Goodreads page.

Books I’ve Loved
Maybe in Another Life

No surprise here, another winner from Taylor Jenkins Reid. I like her books because they’re different – and because they’re kinda easy to relate to. I’ve read three of them now, and while they are somewhat similar, I’ve enjoyed them all equally.



Books I Should Have Loved but Couldn’t Stand


Between the World and MeI know. This is another one that makes me feel like a jerk for not liking, but it was so boring. I also think I’m not the right audience, and I’m sure I’d have felt more for this book if I’d discussed it with someone. But I didn’t, so I didn’t enjoy it. Sorry, folks.


Books that Surprised Me

Modern LoversSalvage the Bones

I can’t figure out why Emma Straub gets such bad reviews. I’ve read two of hers, and both of them got 4 stars from me. Her characters are generally difficult to like, but there’s something about her writing that just draws me in. Maybe it’s that everyone is so flawed, and yet, so real. I mean, people aren’t perfect, and we screw up, and we love each other anyway. Emma Straub is one of the few authors where I’ll say ignore the Goodreads ratings – usually they’re pretty spot on, but in my opinion, hers are way too low.

Salvage the Bones….oh man. This book probably deserves 5 stars, honestly, so I may go back and change it. It’s such a dark, gritty, uplifting, horrific story. Yes, I know that doesn’t make sense, but if you read it, you’ll get what I mean. It follows a family in the 11 or so days before Katrina, and the ending is just heartbreaking. It’s another book I never ever want to read again, but one I haven’t been able to forget.


The Shark Grows Up

I’m terribly behind on blogging, friends.

No excuses – and no dwelling on it. Let’s just move forward.

So roughly 7 months ago we brought home Olga the German Shepherd. I gave you puppy pics, and then….nothing. Sorry about that. Figured it was time for an update, so here we are.

Olga – otherwise known as the Shark for all the snapping and biting – is now 9 months old. I promise she’s a dog and not a pony.

She’s a pure-bred German Shepherd, a sweetheart, a handful, and still growing. She’s settled in just fine – though there were a few weeks I wasn’t sure we were both going to make it.

She loves swimming, and watching her learn was hysterical. I’m almost sad she figured it out, because watching her kangaroo bounce through the water was adorable. Big thanks to pal Bella for teaching the shark to swim.

She’s a big fan of water, in general, actually. I can’t use the water hose without this happening.

While she loves all her toys, balls are definitely her favorite.

Or possibly sticks.

She hasn’t quite figured out car rides.

But she’s a pro at camping.

And loves the treadmill, though clearly my efforts to teach her to use it have backfired.

She’s my partner in crime.

And best friends with Luka and Lucy. Even Katie playes with her every so often (I knew she’d come around!).

Product Review: New York Biology Sandalwood Oil

New York Biology Sandalwood Oil

About NYB Sandalwood Oil:

  • 100% PURE, NATURAL & AUTHENTIC East Indian Sandalwood Oil (Santalum Album) steam distilled without any fillers or additives.
  • OUR SANDALWOOD ESSENTIAL OIL contains a-santolol 50.28%, b-santalol 28.3%. These two constituents showcase the purity & quality of our oil. We are proud to put this information right on our bottle.
  • EAST INDIAN SANDALWOOD OIL is of the highest quality. Oils that come from Hawaii or Australia are not considered as of the same quality.
  • HIGHEST QUALITY GRADE & PREMIUM QUALITY originating from East India and Bottled in the USA.
  • MENTAL CLARITY One of the primary sandalwood benefits is that it promotes mental clarity when used as an incense or fragrance. This is why it is frequently used for meditation, prayer, or other spiritual rituals.


My Thoughts

By now, I’ve got a pretty impressive essential oil collection. Huge thanks to Tomoson and all the great companies who’ve been willing to let me review their products – I’ve loved every single one of them! Ok, plug over.

Sandalwood oil. OMG guys. This stuff smells like a spa.

I’m sorry I don’t have more exciting oil uses for you, but I’m not a very exciting person. I mostly just diffuse them, because they smell good and that way I get whatever benefits they tout for very little effort. I suppose I could use them in baths, but I don’t take baths because that would require cleaning the bathtub more often.

Focus. Right. (Clearly I need some sandalwood oil right now.) I’ve combined the sandalwood with lavender, and it’s such a relaxing calming scent. Does it actually help me fall asleep? I have no idea, no hard science, but it’s soothing and we’re going to say yes. I really need to get a diffuser that goes all night, on a side note.

I’ve also tried a few drops of sandalwood oil in my hair to make it shiny. I’m going to say it’s operator error that the first time I tried it my hair ended up greasy – no doubt I used too much. Still not brave enough to try any of the essential oils on my face, though next time I get a horrible breakout I might see if sandalwood lives up to its claims as an acne treatment.

The bottle is a little on the small size, sadly, at least compared to some of the others I’ve got in my stash. It’s also a little more expensive at $22, though the Amazon page does say this is the highest quality sandalwood oil. Regardless, it’s still a bigger bottle than you’ll get at health food stores, so if you’re looking to add sandalwood to your collection, I think this one is a decent choice.

I received this product free in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Who’s That Girl

Who’s That Girl?About Who’s That Girl

• Paperback: 544 pages
• Publisher: Harper (September 6, 2016)

A laugh-out-loud romance from the author of the bestselling YOU HAD ME AT HELLO

When Edie is caught in a compromising position at her colleagues’ wedding, all the blame falls on her – turns out that personal popularity in the office is not that different from your schooldays. Shamed online and ostracised by everyone she knows, Edie’s forced to take an extended sabbatical – ghostwriting an autobiography for hot new acting talent, Elliot Owen. Easy, right?

Wrong. Banished back to her home town of Nottingham, Edie is not only dealing with a man who probably hasn’t heard the word ‘no’ in a decade, but also suffering an excruciating regression to her teenage years as she moves back in with her widowed father and judgy, layabout sister.

When the world is asking who you are, it’s hard not to question yourself. Who’s that girl? Edie is ready to find out.


My Thoughts

I read Mhairi McFarlane’s You Had Me At Hello a couple years ago, so when TLC was looking for reviewers for her newest, I jumped. For the most part, I’d really enjoyed YHMAH, though the ending drove me nuts. Seems that’s to be a common theme with McFarlane’s books. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

In Who’s That Girl, Edie is 35 and single and incredibly unsympathetic. She’s just a couple of years older than I am, but I know 25 year olds more mature than she is. Through most of the story, Edie is a whiny, insecure little brat, if we’re being honest. I found myself rolling my eyes more than once.

Her “situation” isn’t all that scandalous – or maybe it is – but the drama that unfolds because of it is really quite entertaining. Unfortunately, it takes a while….nearly 200 pages…before anything ELSE happens. Most of the first half of the book is spent on Edie feeling sorry for herself and hearing about how everyone is bullying her on Facebook. It’s not until she finally starts interviewing Elliot Owen that things get interesting.

At that point, I got hooked on the book, and found myself enjoying it much like I had YHMAH. It’s formulaic chick lit, and I’m ok with that. It’s a super quick read, and while Edie doesn’t really grow much as a character, the supporting cast does – and that helps. Margot, Meg, Hannah, and Elliot really shore up the story.

Unfortunately, the closer I got to the end, the more I started to suspect we were heading down the same road as YHMAH….that is, a neatly tied-up ending. In one way, I get it – I doubt chick lit sells if the girl doesn’t get the guy in the end. (Spoiler alert? Nah.) That said, McFarlane really needs to work on her endings. It’s not that they’re bad – in fact, she’s actually quite skilled at it, since there were three separate chapters that should have been the end of the book. But no. Once again, McFarlane creates drama where it isn’t needed, gives us a resolution that – while not necessarily a “happy” one, is one that fits with the story – and then comes back in an afterthought and ties a pretty bow around it. Fairytale ending in one.

At well over 500 pages, Who’s That Girl doesn’t quite fit my description of a fluff read, but story-wise, it’s got everything you need for a perfect escape. Cheesy dialogue, flat characters, just enough romantic tension to keep it interesting, and plenty of mention of pubs, Who’s That Girl is definitely one to toss in the beach bag. Read it for what it is, enjoy it, and skip the last chapter.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the chance to review this book! 

Fruit Pop Adventures

Summer is almost over, which is both something of a relief and hard to believe. It’s been a long one – I think because we took our vacation early (end of May) this year, it’s just felt like summer has gone on forever. That’s not a bad thing…I love summer. But, we haven’t really had anything to look forward to until Fall, so in a way it’s been a bit…long? I don’t know. I can’t explain it. Let’s just say I have mixed feelings about it being September already.Finished Fruit Pop

This summer has been pretty uneventful – we didn’t camp much, we didn’t boat much, and I’ve already lost my Mexico tan. We did do the whole 4th of July thing, but otherwise, it’s been a pretty unsummery summer. I mean, we didn’t even have a barbecue.

So in a last ditch effort to capture some summer spirit, I made popsicles.

Ahem. Fruit pops. Since popsicle is a trademarked name an all.

Whatever. I made popsicles.

I used my nifty new molds courtesy of IceWabanga (how fun is that name?!) and some frozen fruit I had in the freezer. I’d pulled out a recipe from Better Homes and Gardens – which I now get, for free, because I
bought a patio table FINALLY.IceWabanga MoldsSide note – I love this table. It’s the perfect size, and it’s metal so it’s easy to clean. Now I just need a deck box for the pillows, but so far everything I’ve seen is super ugly. Feel free to send recommendations my way.
Patio SetAnyway, I’d pulled out this recipe, and it was for kiwi watermelon pops, both of which I had frozen, so I thought, why not? How hard can it be? (Spoiler alert – not hard at all.) But of course, I don’t follow directions, so I just did my own thing using the recipe for inspiration.

Actually, I was super lazy. All I did was puree some watermelon and drop in a kiwi.Before FreezingOh. And I made them boozy. Because duh.

I had a good helper.

I had a good helper.

So watermelon, vodka, a little water to get the blender going, and voila. I had fruit pop slush. I carefully spooned the slush into the molds, dropped in a few kiwis, and then stuck them in the freezer. The whole operation – taking pictures and everything – took maybe 20 minutes?

It was really easy. And I have nothing to compare the molds to, but they worked perfectly fine for me. They are a tad on the small size, though – not really an issue in our house, but it might be for people who love popsicles. The little stand was really nice, because all I had to do was pour the pops and push the lids on, leaving a little room at the top. When it was time to eat them, the pops popped (hehe) out with just a little wiggle.Ice Pop Mold Size

I should pause here and mention that those weird red and blue tubes didn’t work so well. I won’t be using those again. But the normal molds, heck yes I will. If you’re a popsicle fan, they’re like $9 on Amazon. Personally, I like that they’re individual molds and not just a giant ice-cube tray in the shape of popsicles. I know you know what I’m talking about. I have enough trouble with ice cubes. Let’s not add popsicles to the mix of things that make me insane.Popsicles

Some of you might be wondering where the popsicle recipe is…..and I’m not giving it to you, because A) I already did (booze, fruit), and B) because they were TERRIBLE. Seriously. Jimmie and I took one bite each and gave them to the dogs. Luka was quite the fan.

So the moral of this story is that making popsicles is easy, but follow a recipe. Speaking of….anyone have any good ones?