Saturday, August 19, 2017

Melting Basket 104

Tarts from the last basket I enjoyed enough to procure again include: TBG Sleepy, Ever Night and Happy Un-Birthday, MooScents Carnival Cakes (if they every open again), LSC Southern Belle and Sinful, CFTKR Sugared Strawberry Spruce, Ultimate Sugar Cookie, Mistletoe and Fig, Smoked Applewood and Apples and Acorns and Apple Balsam Pine. 

Super Tarts- Maleficent <3 gift
Super Tarts- Hades <3 gift
Rosegirls- Americana Wafers
Ten Digit Creations- Pumpkin Lavender
Ten Digit Creations- Nag Champa <3 gift
Ten Digit Creations- Dragon's Blood <3 gift
Ten Digit Creations- Wood You?
Ten Digit Creations- Cherry Wood and Gypsy Magic
Bohemienne Life- Besos del Sol
The Bathing Garden- Spring Fling <3 gift
Bento Wax- Death of a Bachelor <3 gift
Tiffany's- Get Naked <3 gift
Candy Panda- Meet Me in The Woods <3 gift
Bonjour Wax- I'm Not A Dalek <3 gift
Starry Skies- Bay Rum <3 gift
Wonderberry Wax- Lavender Blackberry Ice Cream <3 gift
UNKNOWN vendor- Promise? Promise. and You're Not Alone (side note rant, Vendors! at the very least please put your company name somewhere on the tart. There is a strong likelihood your wax will get destashed or gifted and then the next person has no idea where to buy more if they love it.)

Most of these were recently gifted to me through a couple of swaps or acts of kindness. I am thrilled to dive into more newish-to-me vendors. If you would like any reviewed, please drop me a line. 

It has slowly been a touch more quiet around these parts and on my social media. Mid August whipped my tail and I am just now starting to feel some semblance of equilibrium restored. Thank you for sticking with me. 

I saw this sign while we were walking around the mountainside neighborhood where we vacationed in Tennessee this summer and it made me smile every time I read it. Serenity now.... insanity later. I am thinking and hoping my bout with temporary insanity has passed for at least this little while. Headed back to teaching, lesson planning, conferences, IEPs, 504s, steps to getting my certification back, headed back to school for Montessori training, health issues for myself and my daughter, big life decision disagreements with my husband all fell on me like so many rocks and boulders. I was fighting to get through one day without crying or feeling sick to my stomach. 

The rocks have been pushed aside, one by one, still close by and things I have to deal with but I am just sitting on one and catching my breath. One day at a time. Once decision at a time. Each day is sufficient. I will take any prayers one wishes to put forth for Savanna and her upcoming surgery. It isn't a life threatening issue but surgery is surgery and all the blood works, x-rays and pre-op appointments signal the realness of it. 

Despite the stressors and worries, I have still been able to maintain my momentum in regards to my health improvements. Now, my exercising has not been the best but at least I am still watching my foods. I am down 22 pounds now and holding firm. I feel like my food choices at restaurants comes more easier (looking for those healthier light entrees, simple meat and veggies or fresh salads). That is a definite NSV (non-scale victory). I had my second ultrasound in regards to my ovarian cysts. Apparently I have tons of follicles flooding my ovaries and this could be an indicator (among many other symptoms I have) that I may have PCOS. My doctor and I are going to talk further about it. There isn't a cure and pretty much diet and exercise are the only things that could help. Which I am doing anyway. This is just another motivator. Things will get bette.r 

How have you been doing? How is work? Your day to day? How do you deal with stress?

Friday, August 18, 2017

Arcana: Alec D'Uberville

Alec D'Uberville by Arcana Wildcraft- Notes: The profligate essence of an aristocratic libertine. Amber resin, charred Madagascar vanilla, French cognac, clove, sandalwood and dark musk.

Aristocratic libertine, indeed. In the bottle, deep whiffs reveal a strong intoxicating brandy blended with fuzzy amber vanilla and that dark musk slinking around the edges and underbelly. Once on the skin the cognac fumes weave into the flesh, alternating with resin and woody clove that flashes a warm piquant attitude that bites then kisses. 
Clove spiked cognac, a bulbous glass full, cupped in the palm of a charming rogue in a tailcoat who casually engages in high stakes gambling at White's Gentlemen's Club in London. As Alec D'Uberville ages on the skin the cognac vanishes little by little (one must keep his wits when doing a proper swindle) but never completely disappears. The deep musk of gentrified men warming to schemes and intrigue thickens the air. Their breath and laughter exhaling a thin haze of that spiced amber cognac. Deep into the fragrance a touch of White's wooden halls ghosts the scent in the form of sandalwood, sweetly spicy and vanillic. 

I love this fragrance. I will be getting my milage out of this one. Julia posted on Facebook about reopening pretty soon here. And possibly something about a Peaches Crave Forests? Eh? Sign me up. What are you wearing? Have any particular Arcana quests you would like to achieve when she reopens? 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Mermaid Treasure: Candice Vostrejs

Candice Vostrejs is a silversmith out of Colorado and runs an Etsy shop that sells my all-time favorite micro stud earrings. I purchased a set of three in the past, one silver, one copper and one brass pair to wear in my ears but with my earring negligence I have misplaced one here or there. 

I recently placed an order for my second pair of tiny silver studs for $13 and they arrived in a cute package with care instructions and a patch of sunshine cloth to polish them with in the future. 

I enjoy the handmade appearance of these studs, rather than the traditional ball earrings. Plus, Candice allows you to choose form two different posts sizes. I always select the shorter length since I sleep in my earrings and my daughters do too. 

These tiny studs are perfect for my second and third holes, but a bit small for my first ones and could probably get lost in there. Candice does offer a variety of other tiny stud shapes. Her geometric designs really appeal to me. 

Do you wear earrings? Do you enjoy studs or stud-muffins? 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Dan's Market Shop: Jardins D'Ecrivains Candle

This candle was sent free from Dan's Market Shop for reviewing purposes.

Dan's Market Shop reached out earlier in the month about doing a candle review and offering a coupon code to readers. Being an amber woods lover I chose the Jardins D'Ecrivains candle scented in Le Jardin de Blixen. This 100% vegetable wax candle is scented in three notes: amber, musk and cedar. The candle is named for Karen Von Blixen-Finecke, a Danish writer who wrote Out of Africa. I found it interesting that the instructions were for this candle to be burned while reading and writing. 

This candle burned with a stout hearty flame and pooled to the edges quickly. The wax feels soft and is nicely scented. An airy veil of golden amber woods wafts about the bedroom when I burn this scent. Fresh, realistic and ethereal, this fragrance does not hold any sweetness or vanilla within the amber. It pairs well with The Enchantress of Florence, a book I am currently reading. I have not tested its powers for influencing writing but I remain hopeful that the lovely scent alone will inspire future tales.

I believe this 6 ounce candle was around $40 and made in Paris, but it looks like it has since sold out. There are other candles that range from $13.99 up to just over $20. 

Dan from Dan's Market Shop has generously gifted my readers with a 10% off coupon code that can be used until September 15th: DANS10. Dan's Market Shop also looks to have perfumes and home decor, cute gift shop types of items. 

What candle is burning on your nightstand?

Monday, August 14, 2017

Nocturne Alchemy: Tarrie Cats with Clive Barker

Nocturne Alchemy is a perfume oil house that I have recently become enamored with and I have many scents to share and review in the coming months. They have a rather large catalog of permanent and limited scents  that I am exploring one by one. However, in true Julie fashion I leapt into the brand by going straight for the jugular and ordered a set of five vanillas that Nocturne Alchemy created in collaboration with Clive Barker, the British renaissance man who writes horror, directs horror (Candyman, Hellraiser), creates visual art and comics. Through his website you can purchase this limited run of Tarrie cats perfumes which as based on the Tarrie cats in his The Abarat Quintet book series. Even though it states "sold out" at the bottom, you can see in green text "in stock." The complete set of 5 ml bottles runs $150. I did use a 20% off coupon that was available through the Clive Barker Facebook page. 

Tarrie #1 (wrapped tail)- Crystalline vanilla, Indian sandalwood, white clove, ho wood.
In the bottle, vanilla, woody and a touch smoky, lifts up. On the skin, ho wood exhibits airy cedar characteristics and the woods shimmer in a pool of vanilla sweetness. There is still a whiff of smoky warmth, and paired with the refined and mellow clove, the coziness lingers. The drydown sings of vanilla sandalwood, velvety rich and fat with cashmere and cream. I can see why this particular Tarrie is robust on the label. The woods in this one really steal my heart. 

Tarrie #2 ( arched body)- Tahitian vanilla, coconut milk, nutmeg, galbanum.
Sharp green tropical leaves and fronds sway lush and dewy on a faraway island once the lid is removed and the first inhale takes place. Layered on the flesh, sugary coconut and clear vanilla unfold. The nutmeg paints in strokes of brown coconut husks while the galbanum lingers as green sticky sap, giving life and definition to the coconut palms. As it settles into the skin and ages a dark coconut emerges, silky sweet. 

Tarrie #3 (big horn ears)- Kobalt vanilla, Indian oudh, black patchouli, vetiver, clove stem.
Edgy black patchouli and dried hay vetiver pour from the vial. Spread on the skin, shadows and forebodings creep in on the brimstone patchouli laced breath of the devil. Smoky vetiver and oudh contribute to the blackness, slinking in tendrils of inky incensed woods. A kiss of vanilla keeps the creosote and ebony shades from falling into the abyss of melancholy. The base whispers of herbal patchouli and arid vanilla. An incredibly noir scent that would be apt for Halloween or dark moonless nights.

Tarrie #4 (curve out ear tips)- French vanilla, vanilla ice cream accord, vanilla bean, vanilla infused white amber.
Uncapping the amber glass reveals rich homemade vanilla ice cream and caramel candies. Dabbed on the wrists and crooks of the arm, the ice cream accord flashes white hot with a bit of ozone then sinks into a toothsome vanilla creme. Those vanilla amber sprinkles glimmer on the decadent treat. Primarily this is a vanilla cream scent and though perhaps a bit fleeting and light, I may douse myself in a healthier amount next wear. A delicious vanilla gourmand.

Tarrie #5 (whole group)- Crystal vanilla musk, vanilla absolute, armoise mugwort, French origanum, black cardamom, white sandalwood. 
Held in the bottle, my nose pulls out grain and woods and an herbal potion. Once rubbed into the flesh, the scent of oregano and marjoram, fresh with pine and lemony zesty citrus speaks of wild rambling herb gardens in a quaint forest, verdant and alive. With time it sweetens and smoothes through a deep cardamom and sandalwood mixture that is swirled with fluffy vanilla. A surprising favorite!

Of all the Tarries, at the moment I am loving #1 and #5 the most but will happily wear them all as they all smell unique. What are your favorite NAVA (Nocturne Alchemy/VApothecary) favorites? Did you order anything once NAVA reopened back at the end of June? I am looking forward to slowly sharing and reviewing some of my NAVA purchases. I did get an ICONS III Copal bottle, a few dinos, and limiteds and some permanent collection scents. I am also eyeing a few of the new summer limited releases.  What about you?

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Ten Digit Creations: July Order

Naughty Amber at Ten Digit Creations taunted me again with new blends featuring some of my favorite notes. So I had to show her just what she could do with all those blends... send them to me. I bought two 1oz scent shots ($1 each) in the following scents:

Pink Coconut Sandalwood and Marshmallow- I really enjoy this one. More soft pillowy vanilla sandalwood than pink sugar, but just enough of that candied sweetness to leave an impression. Great scent. And I love this greyed out dusky pink color of wax. 

Blue Me Away- Blue Sugar, Blackberry Frankincense and Peppermint.
Another magical blend that literally... are you ready for this????? BLUE ME AWAY!!! Ahahhahahhaha! Mom jokes. Seriously, though, it smells amazing to me. The blue sugar is more subdued and fresh, tempered by the dark blackberry frankincense and the peppermint sends in some arctic chill vibes. Another fast favorite. More poundage of this scent will be obtained. 

Marshmallows by the Fire- A classic Bath & Body Works Marshmallow Fireside dupe that hits really close to home to the original scent. A great mix of fluffy gooey marshmallow vanilla treats toasting by a smoky wood fire. I will get more of this one. 

Falcor- Vanilla Tobacco, Vintage Vanilla and Lord of Misrule.
Being a huge Lush Lord of Misrule fan, adding mounds of creamy vanilla and a pinch of sweet tobacco to a staple like this made my mouth water even more. Dang Amber and her blending genius. So much nose candy. In love.

and four scent shots in...

Fire Witch- Atomic fireball, Gypsy Magic and Witch's Brew.
Knowing I would and do love all three of these, Fire Witch was a no brainer. Another piece of evidence to hammer home that Amber is a fragrance blender that is in tune with the earthy/woodsy/amber and spice lovers. A fiery blend of candy and patchouli, woods and cinnamon. Pure bliss. Another I will require buckets upon buckets of in my home. 

A big bag of dye-free Runts in Wicked Lovely, because it is still that darn good. A large bag of Runts run $8 and have about 8-10 ounces of wax within; you can choose from colored or dye-free.

Two small 3 ounce bags in Wood You? for $2.75. 
Wood You?- Driftwood, beach wood, sandalwood, rosewood and Hundred Acre woods (pine, balsam, cedar with warm spices and fruit). 
Wood I? Why yes, yes I wood. I am thrilled rosewood peeks through the most for my nose, with a summery tint of salty driftwood and beach pines. If you appreciate woodsy scents, this very well might be the best one you could ever lay nose on. I wish I had picked up more as they are sold out. Maybe I can Create Your Own this blend?? Note to self, ask Amber. 

A chunk in Lavender Pumpkin, I forgot how much this was but it was probably only a couple bucks or so. It is an interesting blend of herbal lavender and softly spiced pumpkin puree. I look forward to melting it come fall. 

And my generous free samples included:

Violet Rosewood and Peppermint- All three notes come out beautifully. A calming bedroom scent. 

Falcor's Bride- Orange, lemon and blackberry patchouli blend to make, well, one fruity patchouli! I do love my patch but the fruits throw me off this one a little. I may melt it still to see how it turns out. 

Cherry Tobacco + Gypsy Magic- Oooooo cowboy! This is my kinda blend. I was a'feared of the cherry in the cherry tobacco but it is a true cherry tobacco and not cherries on the stem or candied cherries or black cherries. Just a wonderfully sweet pipe tobacco blend. Add that to some Gypsy Magic (which I love, full of spice and earthy tones) and I am in hog heaven. Probably going to make this in a CYO blend too in the future. 

Honey Gingerbread- A classic spiced and thickly sweet gingerbread aroma. Chewy, thick and definitely drizzled in honey. I always love my honeyed gingerbread scents and it is nice to know TDC makes a strong one.

Amber is on vacation right now but once she comes back I will reorder some of these in bigger amounts. Have you tried Ten Digit Creations recently? If you are a fellow woods/earthy/amber lover, you may just find some new gems to add to your home fragrance collection. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Sixteen92: Grimm, Wicked, A Thousand Times More Fair, Baba Yaga

Baba Yaga- Notes: Fiery dragon's blood incense, sweet woodsmoke, dried herbs, dripping candle wax and forest dirt.
Smoky, earthy tones of incense and resins rise softly sweet and loamy from a hidden alter planted in the hollow of an ancient tree. The scent of minerals coalesce in the night air and a faint creaking of dozens of vague shapes crafted from unknown hands and composed of leaves and twigs and dried bones sway like ornaments in the tree's branches. When examined closely the scent on the air is dragon's blood but when eyes close and the wind is felt, the fleeting dreams of sweet smoke and resin surround the senses. 

Wicked- Notes: Three vanillas, dark aged patchouli and almond buttercream.

Fresh on the flesh, the trio of vanilla, patchouli and almond all mingle and swirl until the vanillas come into focus after a minute or two. These vanillas cast voodoo magic and smell of a gauzy black licorice haze and deep woods, drops of bourbon infused with sweet almond. All the while the patchouli hovers there in the background, the backbone of the spell, lending its ebony silhouette to the brew. Eventually the shadow of patchouli becomes a corporeal being and crawls across the skin, fragranting it with earth and herb, ink and smoke. 

A Thousand Times More Fair- Notes: Honeysuckle nectar, magnolia blossom, passion flower, white peach skin, ripe plum, bright vanilla bean and delicate musk.

Creamy indolic magnolia blossoms, with their heavy ivory petals and jutting column of yellow pollen dusted pistils and stamens rise from the fragrance. The white peach flesh that joins the white blooms still lingers green on the branch, not yet plump with sugars and juice. The fruits almost have a bergamot clarity and greenness. The drydown brings about images of crayon wrapping, papery and yellowed accompanied by grassy tones. This is where the magnolia petals that were pressed into a diary reside, left forgotten on a dusty shelf. 

Grimm- Notes: Cocoa absolute, tonka bean, tobacco, immortelle, wet forest moss and leaves.

The vial of Grimm holds delicious looking dark brown sediment in the bottom of the vial, a few inversions pushes up the yummy fond into the perfume oil like a fragrant lava lamp. Grimm begins its story as an earthy Dutch chocolate treat, shadowy and foreboding of sinister things to come. Once the curling warm tendrils of cocoa and tonka lure you into the haunted glade, a whiff of the decaying leaves underfoot and glowing eyes peering through the spiderweb like moss cause your heart to stutter. Just keep walking. Don't let the sneaking vines catch at your ankles. Up ahead you catch the birdlike trilling of the mandolin and spy an old bearded man slouched by a tiny campfire. He glances up and his kind eyes nestle in the cloud of his pipe smoke. A crook of a smile barely lifts the corner of his mouth there the stem of his pipe is anchored. The sweet vanilla tobacco and soft green smoke welcome you to sit a spell and listen to the stories the mandolin knits together from the fire and stars and haunted clearing near by. 

These were four of the five scents I chose in the Sixteen92 Discovery Sample Set for $20. I did have fun and let Sixteen92 pick my 5th choice. I am certainly glad I did because it ended up being one of my favorites, which I quickly returned and picked up in a full bottle... Mercy Lewis. Review to come soon. Other favorites in this set were Grimm and Baba Yaga. I do find Sixteen92 scents to have a shorter longevity than some of my other indies. But at around 3-4 hours it is still nice.

Sixteen92 recently had their anniversary sale and I ordered a Mystery sample set and two full bottles. Dis you participate in the anniversary sale? Are you in The Circle? Do you recommend it?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Shiro Cosmetics: Harry Potter Lip Glosses

My friend Jean is an excellent enabler. She tagged me in a post that featured these Harry Potter lip balms from Shiro Cosmetics and I simply could not resist their siren song. I did not use any color altering filters so the actual colors could be featured. These were $10 each and shipped lightening fast for a mere $2.95, wrapped in a brown paper bag with a cool black and grey dragon sticker sealing it, tucked snuggly in a padded bubble mailer. Three eyeshadow powders were offered as samples as well. 

Butterbeer showcases a sheer caramel gloss with a golden pearlescent frothy foam at the top of the tube. The scent and flavor is a slightly smoky version of maple and Butterbeer. I love it. It has a nice thick consistency and glassy finish. Very plush and plump. It doesn't dry out the lips after wear. A daily wearer.

Pumpkin Juice houses much more pigment, though can still be sheer if applied lightly. Building the color reveals a coppery burnt caramel shade that shimmers. There is a bit of golden foamy head on this Pumpkin Juice much like the Butterbeer. It imparts the slight scent and flavor of soft pumpkin spice, enjoyable and not distracting. I can see myself wearing this often come fall. 

Fire Whiskey holds a bit more pigment too. This one, applied in one thin layer, imparts the most flattering purply brown shade of soft red I have ever worn. There is a slightly warming cinnamon flavor and sensation, sweetened with caramel tones. Pleasing and a joy to wear.  

I wanted to show the slight tip of a flame that peeks through the tube when the light is allowed to filter in. How fun is that?! 

Giggle Water is a lovely silvery periwinkle sheer lipgloss that gives the lips a wonderful sheen. You can almost see the sky blue shimmer peeping out the bottom of the tube. Blue toned shades make for whiter teeth so that is always a plus. This is very sheer though and won't gift you with death lips. It has a sweet herbal scent of light anise and perhaps absinth. I love it. 

See that plume of shimmer? Pure magic. I will always think of Jacob Kowalski when I apply it to my lips. HA!

Polyjuice was $9 instead of $10 and houses a sheer green, lightly shimmered gloss with a pumpkin and pine scent and no flavor that I can detect. It feels more slippery than the tube glosses but not greasy or sticky. The shade is very sheer and ultra wearable. No zombified lips here. Just glossy goodness. Another great staple. 

These are the glosses swatched: Polyjuice, Fire Whiskey, Butterbeer, Pumpkin Juice and Giggle Water. I didn't pick up the deep purple Every Flavor Beans, golden Felix Felicis or the fuchsia Amortentia. But I am probably going to go back for the Every Flavor Beans, they change the flavor randomly. There are other lip glosses I am eyeing as well, like the Nick Cage collection and a few others. 

Do you have any Shiro Cosmetics favorites? Do you wear glosses? Which of these would you pocket?

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Happy Wax: Evergreen Trees

This product was sent free from Happy Wax for reviewing purposes.

Happy Wax is a new-to-me wax company that is run out of North Carolina and handcrafts soy based wax melts, usually in gummy bear shapes or holiday shapes. I was contacted and offered a free tin. I chose my tin in Evergreen Trees. A tin runs $12.95 and houses 12 tree shapes at about 1/2 an ounce or less each, so about 6 ounces total. (Sorry guys my scale still doesn't work but I did compare it to a standard 1 ounce wax tart and it is easily half that size.) I am not sure how much shipping is in general, but it is free after $20 worth of product, which is fabulous. 

It arrived in a small square box with no padding or cushion and the lid popped upon during transit, so the trees were all in the box, but do damage was done. 

Evergreen Trees- Notes: Apple, pine and cedarwood.

Two tree tarts threw medium-strong to strong in my bedroom and smelled incredibly lovely. Pine needles, thin green fingers waving their camphorous resin in the winter wind join the velvety cedars of the forest. The apple is very soft and subtle and simply adds a touch of sweetness to the woods.  Gorgeous scent and one I would buy again.

- A little pricy for wax/ounce but nothing I have not spent before, so wouldn't be a con for me but very well might for others.
-Lack of packing material, but I did mention that to them via message and they seemed open to fixing it.
- Tin hard to keep closed, something about the air pressure keeps it popping up.

- Cute branding, I love the bear.
-Innovative packaging in the tin, I like that it is not just a clamshell or a scent shot.
- Strong throw.
- Fast shipping.
- Free shipping with purchases over $20.
-Easy to navigate website.
- A concise, well curated selection of scents. Lots of fresh and clean, which can be hard to find in vendor wax at times.

Overall, I am happy with my first Happy Wax experience and would purchase again, especially if there was a sale or promotion. Have you tried or heard of Happy Wax? What scent would you try?

Monday, August 7, 2017

Travel: Sevierville, Tennessee

Our home for a little over a week this summer was this adorable and well appointed three level cabin named Paradise View. Of the three other cabins we have rented in the past, this easily boasted the best views and most entertainment. A hot tub, jacuzzi bath tub, ping pong table, pool table and air hockey table, along with a fireplace, several TVs and wifi came in the cabin for around $185/night for the season we chose. It easily could sleep 8 and is great for splitting with other families. 

I would happily use this exact cabin again if we ever stay in Sevierville in the future.

This was the view each morning, noon and night and the various weather and times of day made for a mercurial illustration of the Smoky Mountain folds. 

Sevierville was a short 5 minute drive into Pigeon Forge, where we shopped at Kroger for groceries and ate a couple of times. We had dinner at the Applewood Farmhouse the first night. The homey decor, complimentary apple punch and apple fritters were pleasant but the food overall was run of the mill. I would not necessarily go back.

The second day brought a trip to Cade's Cove, which I discussed in a previous post. It was well worth the visit. Beautiful countryside.

We did go into Gatlinburg early the third morning and ate a big breakfast at Crockett's Breakfast Camp. My brother-in-law had the Black Bear Camp Skillet, which I totally had envy eyes over. The rest of us ate biscuits and gravy and pancakes and what not. The pancakes were cornmeal based, so very different and very huge. We all enjoyed it and would go back. Here is my sister and brother-in-law hamming it up after indulging in the gut busting good breakfast. 

We strolled about Gatlinburg and shopped, browsed and picked up a few things. My sister and I liked the Village area. 

Later in the trip we hiked it out a little way to tour the Tuckaleechee Caverns. A very casual and fun cave experience. We were actually allowed to touch the formations (which you normally aren't but I think this is a privately owned cave system) and were treated to a serenade and a lights-out, total darkness experience. 

The only thing that sometimes sucks about vacations is that I pretty much take the photos and it is very hard to find anyone who can use my old school camera. But this was the only whole group shot we got all trip, so dang it, I am posting it. 

Of all the dining experiences we had in this area of Tennessee, the Dancing Bear, by far, holds the honor of being the most incredible epicurean experience. 

Fine dining but we were all dressed casually. The menu is printed everyday and features produce grown at the foot of the mountain and trout caught in mountain rivers in Sevierville. We shared a domestic cheese board and an Appalachian Lunchable. 

"Appalachian Lunchable Deviled Eggs, Pickled Shrimp, Benne Seed Bacon, Smoked Gouda Poblano Spread, Wheat Crackers, Herb Biscuits, Country Ham, Berry Pineapple Compote, Pickled Vegetables"

I had the Cast Iron Beef Tenderloin and it was mouth melting tender. We even did dessert, the chocolate whiskey ice cream. Yes. Highly, highly recommend eating here. 

A fun, but more traditional approach to food was the Pottery House Cafe in Pigeon Forge in the Old Mill area of town. Great food and a nice shopping area. Darby and I did end up picking up a pottery piece or two next door.

The Smoky Mountain Cat House is located directly behind the Pottery House Cafe and the girls and I made a bee-line for it right after we ate. In fact, we ended up going there twice during our trip. I wasn't sure what to expect but it ended up being a fun store that sold all sorts of cat memorabilia and paraphernalia. There were about 3 or 4 cats lazing about in windows or on the counter top. I purchased Toddles some mouse toys and even picked up a knick knack for Deb there. 

We did go white water rafting down the Little Pigeon using River Rat as our service. They had a rafting/tubing combo where you got a one year pass to go tubing as much as you wanted. It was worth it, as we ended up going tubing twice. Our guide was fantastic and the experience will be cherished for a long time.

We let the girls each pick out an activity during the planning phase, Savanna wanted to go gem mining and Scarlette desired horseback riding. The gem mine was a fluke find as it was the least commercial and most whimsical of our random stops. 

Gnorbert the Gnome had the cutest gem mine I had ever seen, wild chickens, fairies in the trees and gnomes peeking out everywhere greeted us. 

Another fun excursion was hiking up to Clingman's Dome, one of the highest points in the Smoky Mountain range. The view from the top was breathtaking.

The Clingman's Dome hike was very steep and though only a 1/2 mile we all had to stop to take breaks and slurp up any extra oxygen we could find. It was also bracingly chilly, about 58 degrees. The Appalachian Trail intersects the Clingman's Dome trail and I got a kick out of that. 

At one point there was this field of red flowers and tiny flocks of hummingbirds were all a buzz over the flowers and chirping sweetly. The girls, my sister and I were mesmerized to see so many and it was a first seeing a hummingbird in real life for them. 

I chose the Smoky Mountain Riding Stables both because the trails were actually in the Smoky Mountain National Park, crossing streams and climbing mountains and the price was great, only $25 for a 45 minute ride. Each girl got their own horse and we had our own private guide to lead us. We saw a fawn and some turkeys while riding and many beautiful butterflies and views. 

We had a nice trip. The area was beautiful and there were many activities and places to eat. 

We would go back in the future. Do you have any Tennessee or Smoky Mountain recommendations?