Our Honeymoon in Tennessee

This post is back-dated, I wrote this in December 2018 when I realized I had never finished my first draft. Whoops!

G and I spent our honeymoon in the beautiful State of Tennessee. Leaving early Monday morning (June 18, 2018), we drove the twelve hours South to a quaint cabin high in the Smoky Mountains overlooking Gatlinburg. We took advantage of the fresh air and active town for four days before moving onto Music City — Nashville. During our vacation we ate some amazing food, saw even-more-amazing sights, and spent countless hours reveling that the wedding was over and we were finally husband and wife.

We absolutely loved our entire trip, and will cherish the memories for the rest of our lives. The following is a little glimpse into our vacation as well as recommendations for anyone traveling to this area of the United States.

Gatlinburg, TN

Accommodations: Stay in a mountain cabin.

I will not directly say which cabin we stayed in — because we’re going to keep this precious gem a secret so it isn’t packed with reservations when we want to return. Yep. Selfish reason. ūüôā However, I will say we chose a cabin that was about a mile and a half of winding roads up in the mountains overlooking the town of Gatlinburg. Our “driveway” way a single parking space on such a steep incline that I worried even the emergency brake wouldn’t prevent my car from rolling to its doom.

The cabin was bear-themed, and was an open concept with cozy kitchen, sitting area, corner heart-shaped Jacuzzi and king-sized bed. The bed faced large windows and a back door which let out onto a deck. The deck was built on stilts and the tree tops were cut back to allow a view of the Smokies. A hot tub and diner table rested on the deck, and may have been our favorite spot the entire trip. Every evening ended with a glass of wine while relaxing in the hot tub, and each morning began with breakfast and coffee at the table looking out into God’s beautiful nature.

I’m sure hotels in Gatlinburg are nice and all, but if you’re going to spend a week in Tennessee, I highly recommend staying in a cabin. We actually found our cabin to be cheaper than hotel rates in the area. This was partly due to the lack of daily cleaning services and continental breakfasts, but we didn’t much mind. G and I made the bed each morning and were able to make a few meals at the cabin, including a steak dinner. It was perfectly US.

Restaurant Recommendations

We pulled into Gatlinburg relatively late on Monday. After the typical travel stops, we were set to arrive at our cabin on-time, but then we hit the main stretch of Sevierville which led into Gatlinburg. It took nearly an hour and a half to travel through the shopping district of Sevierville which is only about 18 miles. The traffic was horrendous. Stop, go. Stop, go. By the time we navigated the winding highway to Gatlinburg and the mountain roads to our cabin, it was nearly 7’o’clock and we were hungry. Choosing not to go into the actual town of Gatlinburg (we were over the crowds by this point), we instead headed to the outskirts and wandered.

This is a nice way of saying we got lost.

We took a nice little drive around a local high school. We turned around at a closed drive-in diner. Twice. And we noted a little grocery store where we planned to purchase some bottles of wine and whiskey after dinner — we needed a drink or two. After discovering there was no Taco Bell nearby (and a grumbling husband’s retort at this news), it was growing dark. Then we both noticed a glittering tree down the road. As we approached, we saw numerous LED icicles hanging from the tree’s branches, and an OPEN sign flashed beneath it on a bridge. Behind the bridge sat a restaurant with a waterfall flowing over the roof — it was simply spectacular.

Crystelle Creek was our favorite restaurant the entire trip. Sitting behind the bridge along a creek, the dining area was rustic and cozy. Though we arrived only an hour before they closed, our waiter was welcoming and sat us near a live soloist. He provided us recommendations on wine and food, and we ordered: G had a Cajun shrimp Alfredo and I chose a chopped steak. Splitting a bottle of Malbec, we sat back and took a deep breath. We had made it. The soloist was personable, telling us he had visited our hometown several times as he once lived in Michigan. His easy music was beautifully paired with our meals. We were blown away! So much that we debated revisiting Crystelle Creek during our stay.

If it hadn’t been for our desire to try a few other selections in town, we would have gone back for another dinner. However, we enjoyed our other options as well. One night we visited¬†The Peddler Steakhouse¬†and indulged. A peddler comes to each table with a selection of meat cuts and you choose your steak. It was an engaging experience and the food was superb. We also went to a Mexican cuisine restaurant,¬†No Way Jose’s Cantina, and split a burrito beside some margaritas. It was your typical Tex-Mex sort of atmosphere, but we still enjoyed ourselves and the Jose’s we ate at was an ideal locale in Downtown Gatlinburg. So after-dinner activities in town were easy to navigate.

Attractions We Loved

Our first full day in Gatlinburg was a scorcher, but the high temps didn’t deter us from walking the crowded streets downtown and partaking in the local wine and whiskey scene. G fancies whiskey and I, obviously, love me some wine, so tasting the town was a no-brainer for us. After the first distillery (Doc Collier Moonshine Distillery) I decided to tap-out and only do wine tastings, but G and I had a blast. Each distillery offers a $5 tasting of over 10 different whiskies or moonshines, and the wineries offered free tastings. We managed to bounce through four additional stops:¬†Sugarland Cellars,¬†Ole Smoky Whiskey Distillery,¬†Tennessee Homemade Wines, and¬†Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery. I found a few fruit wines as perfect souvenirs for our mothers, and G bought a pint of 128 proof Blue Flame Moonshine.¬†In his words, it’s clear, clean and exactly what¬†moonshine¬†should be.

Getting out of town and away from the crowds was a big reason we loved Gatlinburg as well — you had the option to be a tourist or be alone. On two separate days we ventured into the¬†Great Smoky Mountains National Park. First, we chose to hike the Grotto Falls trail. This was a¬†3-mile trail running through the forested mountains and took us behind a 25-foot waterfall. It was a beautiful trail, and we ended up hiking a bit past the falls until we found a llama “dumping zone.” (I mean that very literally.) Nonetheless, this hiking experience was the best way to get into the Smoky Mountains and see the pristine back-country of Tennessee. I has hoped to catch a glimpse of a black bear — from afar — but unfortunately the heat and daylight seemed to play against us.

Our second outing to the Smokies was to take a driving tour to Cades Cove. It took about an hour of winding roadway to get to this 11-mile, one-way loop that circles the cove. However, once inside the loop, we were able to sight-see at our leisure. Traffic was heavy, so our speeds never went over 20 miles per hour, but this enabled us to enjoy the forests, wildflower-covered meadows, and even a close encounter with a bear! The silly little thing wandered across the road only three cars before us, and then lost its balance on a log and somersaulted out of view. It was a cute interaction while watching nature. One of my favorite parts of this drive was seeing the awe-inspiring mountain views. Michigan is a beautiful state and offers some elevation in terms of dunes and hills, but the Smoky Mountains are simply amazing. If you take the trip to Tennessee, be sure to visit the Smokies — you are¬†guaranteed to find an adventure.

Gatlinburg has a ton of tourist attractions aside from the nature surrounding it. G and I debated purchasing tickets to the¬†Gatlinburg Sky Lift¬†or the¬†Gatlinburg Ziplines, but chose to visit the¬†Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies¬†instead. A favorite from G’s childhood, the aquarium boasts a penguin playground (who doesn’t love penguins?!) as well as a shark tank tunnel. There is a moving conveyor-belt where guests can stand and be transported through the tunnel as a variety of sharks swim beside and above them. It was a fun experience! Plus, we opted to go to the aquarium after dinner one night, so it was not nearly as crowded as if we had gone during the day.

We did not spend all our time in town or hiking though. There was numerous hours spent at the cabin playing games and drinking wine on the back porch. We brought a new game we received as a wedding gift, Hogwarts Battle, and had it set up on our dining table inside throughout the whole week. We also brought cards which we played on the porch as we sipped our drinks.

This secluded time together was the best part of the entire trip.

Unfortunately, all good things come to an end. We packed our belongings and said goodbye to the cabin on Friday. As we exited Sevierville, Gatlinburg’s sister city, we stopped by the¬†Smoky Mountain Knife Works¬†and picked up a few things. Most notably was a hatchet for our future camping adventures. Then we left that little area of Tennessee behind us as we traveled to our next stop…

Nashville, TN

We stayed at a cute little AirBnB in Nashville. After we dropped our bags off at the cottage, we headed to Opry Mills where we hoped to find somewhere to eat. This giant mall rests beside the Grand Ole Opry which we had tickets to attend that evening. So we ate dinner inside the mall, wandered a bit, and then headed over to the Opry with our tickets in-hand.

Come to find out, we had the wrong night! Our tickets were for the next evening. After shrugging our shoulders, we decided to instead head to the famous Honky Tonk Highway in Downtown Nashville. For those who don’t know, a honky tonk is an establishment that contains at least one stage, cold beverages, and a never-ending party. Nashville’s Honky Tonk Highway offers live music from 10am to 3am every. single. day. And the music is free! Either go into the one of many bars and enjoy a single band, or stand on the streets and listen to the musicians’ chords crashing into one another from the open windows. It is truly a thing to behold!

G and I meandered through a few of the bars: Rippy’s Smokin’ Bar and Grill,¬†Bootleggers Inn, and Tin Roof Broadway. We were blown away by the talent of all the bands we watched throughout the night, and had a blast sipping cheap beers while swaying to the music. As the night progressed, the crowds around us become rowdier and rowdier though, and we realized our age. (Yikes…) So we called an Uber and called it a night.

Our second day in Nashville was much more laid back. We visited¬†The Parthenon¬†in Centennial Park, and stopped by¬†Fork’s Drum Closet¬†to the pure joy of my husband. Then, finally, that evening we attended the Grand Ole Opry.

Now, nothing quite says “Nashville” like a night¬†at the Grand Ole Opry. What began as a simple radio broadcast in 1925 is today an entertainment phenomenon showcasing a mix of country music greats– new stars, superstars, and legends. The tickets are ridiculously inexpensive and guests are promised at least 10 musicians and/or bands each performance. G and I were lucky enough to see John Conlee, Mark Wills, Mike Snider, Jeannie Seely, Tenille Townes, The Steel Woods, Bill Anderson, Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press, Chonda Pierce, Ricky Skaggs, The Whites, and Collin Raye. I’m a huge country music fan, and though I didn’t know the majority of these artists, the energy and history of the Opry can be felt deep into your bones.

G and I both expressed a wish to have stayed in Gatlinburg a few days longer, but attending the Opry made our trip to Nashville worth it.

All in all, our honeymoon was the thing dreams are made of. I could not have imagined a better vacation with my favorite person, nor would I change a single aspect of the trip. We were able to explore a new area, experience new adventures, and spend quality time alone. And the best part, every memory was made together.

This is something I will treasure in my memories forever.

Until our next adventure,

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You – G&A

It is crazy to think I have been married for almost two weeks already. As most couples would say, the wedding day itself flew by and there is so many parts I wish I could go back to in order to snap more memory shots of them. Though the day was a humid, sunny day with temperatures into the lower-90’s, our wedding was absolutely perfect. There is not one thing I would change and everything flowed so incredibly well. Plus, we are still hearing from guests on how exceptional the ceremony and reception were. Family and friends have said it was the most meaningful, most beautiful, and best organized wedding they have ever attended. My heart is soaring! Yet there are some very key individuals I would like to thank because without them, the day would not have been half as amazing as it was:

G
First and foremost, I am so thankful for my wonderful husband. How many times have we looked at each other and wished we had just eloped? Far too many, right? Well, the Big Day has finally come and gone and I could not have been more excited at the prospect of walking down the aisle to you, even if it meant I was the center of attention. You have been my rock through this entire experience and I love our partnership in this planning because it has given me a secret look into what our marriage will be like. And I am ecstatic. You gave my dreams wings far before we even started talking about weddings, and you continue to do so every single day. XOXO

My Parents
Following close behind my groom are my parents. Mom and Dad, I cannot express how thankful I am to have you as my parents. I know I can be a handful of emotions and stubbornness, but I love you both so much and am so appreciative of all you have helped me get through up to this point. G and I would also like to thank you for going above and beyond in terms of catering for the wedding. The food was an absolute killer and I know that guests will be talking about this “Wall Party” for years to come. And lastly, I hope I’ve made you proud as a bride-to-be and will make you proud as I move forward as a wife.

My Parents-In-Law
It is only customary to thank my new parents-in-law for raising the man of my dreams which is exactly what G is to me. I am thankful you raised a man passionate for God, strong in his values, and fully invested in his relationships. G would not be who he is today without your nurturing, guidance, and love. Besides G, though, I am grateful for the love you have both shown me since the beginning of our relationship. You were my parents before this wedding, and now the government can attest to that sentiment as well!

My Godparents
What. A . God. Send. Seriously! My godparents were completely open to G and I hosting our reception at their farm from the very first message I sent. Even though I didn’t know much past “we want something rustic” and “we’re paying for this out-of-pocket, so inexpensive would be nice” when I first began researching venues, my godparents were more than happy to assist us. As the wedding grew closer, they also helped us with a number of projects to get the reception set-up which we could not be more grateful. Mowing, being present for the tent vendor, allowing us to barn-dive for decorations, etc. G and I could not have pulled our Big Day off remotely close to how wonderful it turned out without you two!

Luke & Leia
Luke and Leia not only stood up with G and I at the altar, but they were our best worker bees. No matter what new project I brought to the table — be it constructing invitations or building a DIY photo booth — these two never complained and only offered more help. As a couple, they’re amazing and as individuals even more so. Leia was the supportive girl friend I needed to get through all my planning breakdowns and to remind me to have fun during it all. Luke was my comic relief (#typical) and calming voice when the nerves finally hit the week-of the wedding. All in all, I don’t think I could have made it through the past few months without you two, so thank you from the very bottom of my heart. Next DQ visit is on me!

My bridesmaids
All of my girls were amazing. All were willing to give advice, share supplies, and provide support whenever it was necessary. I couldn’t have imagined the day without any of you standing beside me, and I am so thankful for your friendship and love.

Our Day-Of Coordinator
A friend from the Winery, our coordinator offered her services graciously the day she found out I was engaged. G and I were floored by her generosity, and honestly cannot imagine how the day would have flowed without her expertise. I’m a very organized woman and I know weddings, but being the bride at this wedding made for a very different experience. Obviously, I could not be at the reception venue early to be sure everything was set and ready for guests’ arrivals. Our coordinator went above and beyond in making sure the reception was absolutely perfect and that the itinerary for the day moved along at the right pace. When its your day, girl, you know I got your back — wine date soon!

Then there are those who helped in such amazingly large ways, and G and I just want to mention you all and how appreciative we are of you:

  • Aunt Patti for your delicious cupcakes — they were so good and the guests all want your recipes!
  • Saki for my “something borrowed”
  • Roxanne (and Bill) for all your help in and out of the kitchen
  • My House Girls for providing much-needed chatter while working on small (but necessary) projects
  • David and Crystal for your loving support and memorable counseling and mentoring
  • Cindy and Steadfast for all your musical abilities
  • All our guests from far and wide who journeyed into the Michigan heat and showed us your love and support

(I know I’m probably forgetting some very important individuals and I apologize — vacation brain is a real thing and I’m still reeling in how much has happened in less than two weeks.)

However, G and I could not be more thankful for everyone who suffered in the heat to make our day the very best ever. If there is one thing I will forever remember about June 16th it will be how loved and supported I felt being surrounded by those family members and friends who are most dear to us. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your continued encouragement and care as G and I move forward into newlywed life.

YOU are what made our day spectacular. 

xoxo,

A Slow Return

I’m here. Physically, but not really mentally. Mentally I am still in beautiful Tennessee, sitting in a rocking chair with G beside me as we look out over the Smokies from our remote cabin. It has been four days since we left our humble honeymoon abode, and I’m still pining after the memories of that perfect cabin and even more perfect vacation with my husband. (Eek! I cannot get enough of saying that word!)

Luckily, work missed me so much that I have had plenty of projects to keep me grounded in Michigan upon my return. Following work I’ve been getting into the swing of your typical duo-working married life at home: chores, dinner, working out, time together, somewhat early bedtime to start it all over again. I’m finally catching my breath after putting away all our wedding gifts and unpacking from the trip in order to send out a little note to the blogosphere.

I’m excited to begin posts again. Next week I’ll be continuing with Savory Sundays as well as beginning Wedding Wednesdays, which will be posts specifically geared towards all things weddings. I’ll catch up on some topics I wasn’t able to capture before June 16th as well as touch on some things I’m starting to realize now that my wedding is complete. Otherwise, Uncorking Peonies is about to begin writing on some new material never before ventured upon by me: newlywed life. Be it a look at how to maneuver this new way of living, budget-friendly do-it-yourself projects, or methods to better my life, I’m looking forward to sharing more Lifestyle posts with you all!

So with all that joining the mess already going on in my brain — those darn mountains are constantly trying to push all other thoughts out — I say cheers to the future and a thank you for continuing to follow me along this journey.

You’re all the best,

Side Note: Sorry For Being MIA

Hey friends,

I just wanted to send out a quick note to apologize in advance for my lack of posting over the next week or two. With being under 10 days to the Big Day, I am on crunch-mode and that means all my evenings are taken with wedding preparation. I have a to-do list that is three pages long with new bullet points being added on an hourly basis — don’t want to forget anything!

Overall, I am not too stressed though. The day most likely will not go off 100% perfectly, but by this time in 9 days I’ll be the new Mrs. G and that’s all I truly care about. If you do wish to pray for sunny weather that Saturday, then I won’t stop you. ūüėČ

Following June 16th, G and I will be heading down to Tennessee for our honeymoon. While in Gatlinburg, we have an amazing cabin overlooking Pigeon Forge (complete with bear accents, full kitchen, and a hot tub on the back porch) and plan to enjoy our first week as newlyweds exploring the beautiful scenery in Tennessee. Then we will continue Nashville for the weekend and celebrate down Broadway and with a show at the Grand Ole Opry.

I cannot believe I’ll be marrying this amazing man in less than ten days; I am truly one blessed girl.

So with that, I say adieu for a few weeks. I’ll be back to posting as soon as I return home and catch my breath. Promise!

xoxo, 

Savory Sundays: Russian Chicken

I am seriously becoming little Susie Homemaker over here. G and I are loving our time spent cooking and grilling at our little abode this summer, and are so excited to begin married life. As we slowly move him into the apartment, we use our time together making dinner and chatting at the dining table. I think we are going to enjoy this whole spouse thing…

Enough with the mushy talk though and onto this week’s recipe! Chicken is our weekly meat-of-choice and do I have a winner for you today: Russian Chicken. YUM! You always need a couple of staple meals to rely on when you have company over for dinner, or just want a easy, hassle-free dish after a long day at work. This Russian Chicken is that recipe for me. It is the dish my mother always makes as a “ministry meal” due to being a huge crowd-pleaser. It even made the team recipe book back when I played volleyball in high school — all the girls on my team loved this on team bonding nights!

Perhaps you‚Äôve already made this before, or maybe you‚Äôve never heard of it ‚Äď but let me tell you, it is SO easy and really good.¬†Four ingredients in a 9√ó13 baking dish, bake for 45 minutes to an hour and serve over instant rice. Easiest. Dinner. Ever. My high school volleyball girls still talk about this chicken when I run into them, and G has become a huge fan. If you‚Äôve never tried it before, give it a shot. You won‚Äôt be sorry!

Russian Chicken

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Having company over? Whip up this 4-ingredient meal to impress!

There’s no wrong or right to the amount of preserves or Russian dressing. The last time I made it, I used the entire bottle of dressing but used about ¬ĺ of the bottle of jam. Do whatever you think tastes good. Either way, you will have plenty of sauce left over to drizzle over rice.

Ingredients

  • 4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 package onion soup mix
  • 1 8oz jar apricot preserves
  • 1 12oz bottle Russian salad dressing

Directions

  1. Place chicken breasts in a 9×13 baking dish
  2. Mix onion soup, preserves, and dressing in a bowl (beware of discoloration)
  3. Pour mixture over chicken
  4. Bake uncovered for 40-50 minutes at 350 degrees, or until chicken is fully cooked
  5. Allow to cool for 5 minutes and then serve over rice

Russian salad dressing is becoming increasingly harder to find here in Southwest Michigan. Ugh! I am only able to find it locally at Meijer. If you’d like to share where you’ve seen bottles for other readers, please do so below. We can start a “Russian Dressing Directory” right here on Uncorking Peonies. ūüėČ

Enjoy, friends!