The Great Smoky Mountains National Park Before Sunrise

Taken from Gooseberry Knob, Waynesville, NC

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an amazing array of ever changing views that take your breath away. This was an early morning sunrise walk (we did see some sun) – I thought this was a magical hour – so much BLUE. What you see one minute will be gone and replaced with something totally different. Each view so beautiful – where we stayed there was no TV. Absolutely didn’t miss it, didn’t even think about it once. Matter-of-fact once we arrived home we didn’t turn a TV on for over a week.

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Model 1800 House Plan by GO LOGIC!

Model 1800 House Plan by GO LOGIC!

Makes a statement, right? I LOVE a black house – the shape, and design of this particular plan lends itself well to a black (or other very dark) exterior. It’s stunning. Very cool lines, and check out GO LOGIC’s image from winter – whoa! (Click to see the PDF via the link below).

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Favorite Things: Jeni’s Ice Cream!

The first two flavors of Jeni’s Ice Cream that we’ve tried. #wow

I have seen Jeni’s Ice Cream at grocery stores, and remember driving by a Jeni’s in Charleston, SC (always with a long line of customers), but I never tried it. After talking with a neighbor (ALMD, you are responsible for this, ha ha) – and after recuperating after a cold, where nothing seems to taste good – Jeni’s sounded fabulous!

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Starry, Starry Night…

View from Annie’s Room at The Swag

Do you have Labor Day off today? If so, woohoo! If not, celebrate it on your next day off! We don’t have big plans, hanging around the house – haven’t even thought about what to make today… we’ll see what sounds good and work from there! #stressfree Sometimes, it’s worth it to get up early (work or no work), as proven in this incredible nighttime photo in North Carolina.

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Recipe thought for Labor Day…!

A Dahlia and a very happy bee!

Labor Day is almost upon us! Do you have a special recipe you like to make this time of year – especially for Labor Day, or are you just chilling and not worrying about it? I’m in dire need of a good recipe to make to celebrate a day off for my husband, ha ha… I’ve been out of the loop cooking-wise for the past few weeks… But I found a recipe for something that sounds perfect and extra tasty!

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The Swag, Waynesville, SC – My Trip Advisor Review!

The Swag, Waynesville, NC

“I never want to leave”

“It’s our first visit, but it won’t be our last”

I heard these sentiments expressed time and time again – along with those who shared the number of years they have been visiting The Swag, making friends, and sharing their experiences – which was so insightful! I loved hearing other people’s stories.

This was our first visit – I had no idea, really, what to expect – I can tell you, what we experienced was over-the-top and beyond our wildest expectations. It all began at the Welcome Center with Hannah, who greeted us with a warm towel, cold drink and big smile at the Welcome Station. The Swag is a magical place with a sense of community, caring, loyalty and luxury. Where the staff truly like their jobs and don’t just “show up” for a paycheck. There is a sense of family among them that is enviable.

Do you remember the excitement of summer camp as a kid? All the unknowns, and how you would experience new and different things that were so much fun. There was a great sense of camaraderie and adventure. The way I would describe The Swag to a newcomer, would be eerily similar to summer camp as a kid but on a much grander, sophisticated, elegant and luxurious level. Did I mention that this special place is at 5,000′ elevation? You are literally perched at the top of the mountain!

It was exciting to receive the itinerary on our door each morning. So many wonderful choices of things to do (or do none at all, there is absolutely no pressure!) – They have what is called an Expert in Residence: each does their own thing, and wow, I cannot encourage you to participate enough. Our EIR was Steven Reinhold of Appalachian Adventure Company – he shared so much information and made it so interesting. He encouraged questions. Some groups were younger, some were older and he balanced and made it comfortable for everyone. We learned so much through his hikes, the sunrise hike to Gooseberry Knob was amazing. The Forest Bathing hike, I will never forget. (You don’t realize how often your shoulders reach your ears and how a walk in the woods, coupled with some deep breaths can really help!) – and our last hike to Hemp Hill Bald – his route, which took us to the Hog Hilton after a stop at the top, where the scenery was over the top gorgeous – a place for memories to be made (and where my husband proposed to me for another 30 years!) 💗

From morning breakfast (to die for, the best grits ever! and ooooh, the yogurt, berries and granola!) to a wonderful packed lunch, with everything included. They will pack it in a picnic basket, a backpack or a paper bag to go. 3PM brings warm cookies and tea (I don’t think we ever made it to this.) 6PM is time to snack on their (to die for) hors d’oeuvres. The dinner bell rings at 7PM (another summer camp nod). There is always a beef, a seafood, another and a vegetarian option on the menu. Each was outstanding. You will hear people say if you’re at the Swag and you’re hungry, you’re doing something wrong. No kidding! Meals and snacks are included in the room price. There are always two coolers available in the dog trot (common outdoor area) – one has bottled waters and sodas, both fancy and regular – They had some really wonderful choices right from Waynesville, NC – so interesting and delicious. Then the other, white, magical cooler held the house made ice cream. I kid you not. In all my years, I have NEVER run across ice cream this delicious. I’m not even a big ice cream eater – but this was over the top, out of this world – award winning! There was ice cream, frozen yogurt, and sorbet all different flavors and interesting combinations. My eyes never went past the peanut butter ice cream. Kudos to the ice cream chef!

In addition to all of this wonderfulness, we celebrated a few big events. My birthday was made extra special – there was a sweet note card on the table, and my husband ordered flowers delivered to the room (and a cake, a stunning, mocha-type cake that came after dinner and after dessert!!!) It was out of this world. 

We also celebrated our 30th anniversary. I did love how they had announcements before dinner each night (another nod to summer camp memories) – highlights of the day – upcoming events for the evening or for early the next day. People who were celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, etc. It brought us all together. The Swag is not a large place. There are 17 rooms – perfection. So when you know it’s someone’s birthday, you truly wish them the best. 

We’ve listened to the history of The Swag several times (watch the video on their website!!) – the new owners carried on with what the previous owners have started. The’ve done an excellent job and their taste is IMPECCABLE. The design features throughout The Swag are overwhelming and when we left we were ready to redecorate! Even my husband was pulling up seat cushions to see what brand comfortable sofa he was sitting on. Elegant touches such as the drapery material were exquisite in every way (I am not a drape person, but now… we want drapes!) I won’t go on about the history of the Swag (but you will want to read it and listen to it), you can hear about that when you watch the (incredible) video. What went into making our room special (oh so special!) from the heated floors in the bathroom (to die for), the stunning steam shower, even the makeup mirror, blowdryer – I’m ready to switch everything out and upgrade, ha ha. Another nice touch (as I’m listening to it now) – in the room, there is an internet radio and ours was set to Escape Radio (I’m playing now via Spotifiy) – it takes you to another world. That too is on the list – luckily I can listen to it on my computer, so in a small way, I haven’t left the Swag yet. #musiciseverything

Thank you to the Swag, to the incredible people we met, to all of you who work so tirelessly to make everyones visit extra special. To mention just a few: Hannah, you welcome visitors in the most perfect way – you made us feel special and excited about what was to come. Thank you Jim, who showed us around, you’re so kind and I really appreciate the heads up about the peanut butter ice cream!  Thank you Connor for your excellence as a sommelier but also for teaching us (unbeknownst to you) how to play croquet (while sitting on our balcony, while you were teaching others). Becky and Jill, you’re both wonderful at the front desk – you are a delight! This is just to name a FEW. Thank you to the Swag for the special touches, the pottery, the walking stick – that really is amazing to walk with. Thank you for the mesmerizing chocolates at turndown, for the smiles, the kindness and for bringing our car to us packed with a lunch for the way home, a few waters and snack mix. You have literally thought of everything.

See you soon!

The Beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains!

Waynesville, NC

I forget what the name of this very cool looking plant… To go from an elevation of around 9′ above sea level to over 5,000′ was amazing – the temperatures were magnificent. We were able to build a fire each morning and evening. We had a balcony off of our room that offered exquisite views. Everything was perfect. I took this photo while out on a hike with a group…

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Places to visit in and around Charleston, SC…

Crossing the Ashley River Bridge | Charleston, SC

Charleston, SC – with so many alluring vistas – from natural parks to oceanfront beaches – marshes and wildlife – stunning flora and wonderful scents wafting through the air – it’s a magical place to be! I feel fortunate to live in such a beautiful place that has so much to offer. I’ll give you a few of my favorites (in case you’ve never visited Charleston before)…

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A Big Birthday + “The Realization”!

Yikes, this one is a biggie…

Let me start by saying – I’ve added another year to my life (thank goodness) – It’s crazy, because I feel like I did in my 20’s with the added bonus of wisdom, earned throughout the years. It’s pretty cool to be an age that seems impossible, yet it is. Yet, this story reads like something on Seinfeld (from those of you who watched that TV series from 1989-1998).

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Featured Artist: Wilfred Spoon – Whimsical Realism at its finest!

Egret with Haliconia 60×48″ Oil/Canvas

Wilfred Spoon. Be still my heart. I would describe his paintings as “whimsical realism” with the perfect amount of creativity. Wilfred’s paintings are happy, different, full of nature and showcase this part of the country so well. This painting can really elevate a space!

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