weekend tradition

Family traditions.  There is something so special and magical about traditions.  The smells, the sounds, the tastes – they hold powerful memories that can always carry back in time to when you knew them the most; where they belong.  Traditions help create strong memories and bonds for all who are involved.  One tradition my parents have created for our family every year is to go on a weekend getaway to the JW Marriot Hill Country every year.  I love it.  I love that I know at least one weekend of the Summer is devoted to bringing my family together.  I love watching cousins play, I love watching my parents spend time with all of their grand-kids in one spot, I love making memories with my kids, I love everything about it.  This year was no exception.  One of my highlights of every trip is Saturday after dinner gathering on the lawn and trying to get family pictures of everybody.  It is fun and hilarious and always makes us laugh.  Thank you mom and dad for making this tradition happen.

XO,

j

A Christmas Roadtrip -Nashville, TN

Stop number two on our Christmas roadtrip trip was Nashville. Nashville was the bee’s knees for me. The city just made my heart flutter. I LOVE me some history and Nashville is a beautiful mess of history and music heaven. LOVE. AND it is beautiful and had some awesome hiking. Double LOVE. AND the food is in-describable good {especially El Rey – ;)}. Triple LOVE. But is all seriousness if you do nothing else while you are in Nashville go to Hattie B’s Hot Chicken. Wait in line, no matter how long, and then send me a thank you note. Hattie B’s we will be back, until then I’ll see you in my dreams!

Nashville did induce a bit of anxiety on my soul. There was just SO much to see and do in so little time (and we didn’t make it through half of my list!). Our first full day there started out as a bust as I tried to navigate us to some of the “hot spots” and must eat at places for lunch. After 3 failed attempts {thank you Hattie B’s, Pharmacia, and Mas tacos} due to lines wrapped around the block, we ended up driving in circles, parking in downtown and walking into the first restaurant we crossed – insert El Rey, a little Mexican restaurant painted bright yellow and blue on the out skirts of downtown. The food was a 2/5 but the memories and laughs we eventually had were a 5/5. El Rey was the turning point for us in Nashville.

After El Rey we walked Downtown and showed Andrew’s parents some of our favorite bars from the night before (more on that to come) and then walked to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Awesome. I didn’t really know what to expect but it was on Andrew’s bucket list for Nashville and I am SO happy we went. It was one of my favorite spots. SO MUCH HISTORY. Nerd alert. I LOVE it all. It was a completely amazing place and I am so happy I got to experience it {even if I was wearing a 30+ pound kid the whole time}. A few of my favorite exhibits were Alabama, Elvis, and the Hall of Fame Rotunda. The museum was also decorated so beautiful for Christmas and the staff was so friendly! I hope to back here either kid free or once they are old enough to appreciate it at all of its worth.

We topped off this day with the Grand Ole Opry performance at the Ryman Auditorium.  It is was so much fun guys – such a neat experience. Considering our show was starting about 30 minutes after bedtime the kids did amazing!  I was wearing Wyatt and I did stand in the back the majority of the time so i could bounce him to keep him asleep.  Corbin took advantage of my empty seat and stretched out and slept through the show.  We could not have asked for better out of them.  We really pushed their limits this trip and all I can say is we have some pretty awesome and flexible kids.  Charles Esteen was one of the headliners performing the night we went.  Who is Charles Esten you ask?  Good question – I wondered the same thing until I did a little google search and discovered this.  I have always been horrible with names (so embarrassing) but I can remember a face anywhere and HELLO, Charles Esten, AKA DEACON FROM NASHVILLE.  Nashville is only one of favorite shows.  (it was secretly one of the reasons I wanted to visit Nashville so badly!)  So at this point, I am giddy with excitement AND then I find out he’s doing a meet and greet before our show (insert giddy school girl scream here).  I was excited.  I got to meet Charles Esten.  As crazy as the day was leading up to it – it was fantastic.  Andrew took the kids back to the camper to run off some energy before the show and my MIL and I stood in line and got to meet Mr. Esten.  He’s a classy guy and taller than I imagined.  This must mean that Rayna (Connie Britton) is much taller in real life too!

Let’s back track to our arrival day in Nashville. The drive from Branson to Nashville was a beautiful one. We stayed at the Grand Ole’ RV Park and had a grand ole’ time. The folks running this place were wonderful and again so friendly and helpful! The resort is large and right off the highway so it has easy access in to Nashville. With that said, however, our GPS guided us through the teeniest small winding back roads to our arrival at the RV Park. I LOVED the back road tour and enjoyed all the houses and different architecture. Andrew did not. Hauling an 18 wheeler through a 2 lane winding road with low hanging trees and steep climbs had him sweating bullets. We just had to laugh when we pulled up in one piece and saw the park was right off the highway. We settled in and did a quick wardrobe change and hit the town KID FREE {thanks nana and pa}. We made Tootsies our first stop and it was crowded. Like shoulder to shoulder packed. It brought me right back to my college days of navigating though overly packed bars. We did our duty went to the rooftop snapped some pictures and headed on to the next stop. We popped across the street and put our name on the wait list to eat the Mercantile (a must) and then headed into a few more bars until we got the text that our table was ready. The Mercantile was such a fun and YUMMY experience. We ate at the top-level which is more of the chef’s choice style menu. I look forward to going back and eating from the southern comfort lower level menu. From there we walked to Painter’s Ally, which has tons of history in itself that you can read about here and ventured into Skulls. Skulls was recommended to us by another couple who are full-time RVers that recently left Nashville. I reached out to them after their trip to see some of their favorite spots. Skulls topped one of our favorite spots as well. It was a fun back alley bar with great drinks, great food, and great music. We had fun learning about the history of skulls when we were there and had the pleasure of watching an artist who was an original performer when the bar and restaurant first opened.

Our final day was one of my favorites!  It was the day we got it together.  We went back to our roots, our comfort zone.  We went to Radnor Lake State Park and did some hiking.  Hiking is your comfort zone you ask?  Yes, yes it is.  Nothing beats walking through the woods with my family and watching my boys run through nature and explore.  This state park was small and oh so perfect.  It was just the refresher our souls needed.

After Radnor Lake State Park is when Hattie B’s happened (yummy).  Andrew’s parents met us there to gorge our souls on food and then we headed to the Opryland Hotel.  I cannot even put into words how grand this hotel was or how beautifully it was decorated.  No picture does it justice.  One of my favorite areas was the giant Nativity outside.  It was so beautiful and I just love any display that highlights the true reason for the season.

We loaded up the next day and headed to Hot Spring, Arkansas.  This was our midway point to break up the trek home.  We stayed at Catherine’s Landing RV park and man we were sad we were only there for one night.  It was such a great park and we are already talking about going back!  We did a quick visit to the Garvan Gardens for the Christmas light display and it was gorgeous!  So happy we ventured out and did that even though we were so tired!

This was such a great trip.  It was kinda our “test run” to see how the kids would handle driving and what not and it went so great.  Hopefully it is the first of many out-of-state adventures for the Hoopers!  Nashville is defiantly on my return to list.  There is just SO much we didn’t get to do {bluebird cafe :(}, but I am so excited to return!

 

xo,

j

A Christmas Roadtrip – Branson, MO

We just returned from our first ever Hooper family road trip and ya’ll – it was good {FREEZING COLD} FUN!  When we first started planning our little winter excursion Nashville was the only stop on the list. Branson somehow made the cut and was our first {kinda first stop} on the way to Nashville. On our truck up to Branson we decided to boondock in the Winstar Casino parking lot and try our luck at the slots (well, Andrew’s parents and I did while he stayed with the kiddos). Well, we weren’t lucky but I did get a chocolate caramel candy bar and free coke out of the deal. It was a fun way to break up the drive. The next day we hit the road and drove uphill (or so it felt) to Branson. Driving {if we want to get technical riding ;)} was one of my favorite parts of the whole trip. I LOVED seeing the country. It is just so beautiful. It never ceases to amaze me how you can be driving through flat farmland one minute and be between mountains the next. I am just in total awe of God’s beautiful country and I have only seen 0.03895473% of it. Once we pulled into Branson city limits we found our quaint little RV Park, Shenanigans, and we were immediately greeted with open arms and welcoming smiles. The owners helped direct us into our spots, got us checked in, and helped us plan out some of our days! Side note: it was like 15 degrees outside when all of this was going on and they were still outside waiting for us to arrive. I cannot speak enough of how friendly and helpful the staff was at Shenanigans. We got settled and cranked up the heat BECAUSE IT WAS SO COLD. Like freezing. BELOW freezing. Abnormally cold for this time of the year was the quote of the trip. OF COURSE it was! We just had to laugh. The Texans venture out and the record cold temps hit. We froze. I didn’t think Corbin even knew what freezing meant but he used the word very appropriately in about every other sentence he spoke the entire trip. I reassured him that we were ALL freezing and it wasn’t just him 😉 Despite the cold we still ventured out and explored. The boys learned how to layer and what gloves and mittens are. The cold didn’t stop them – they were still outside playing in the leaves running around. We went to the Wax Museum and Ripley’s Believe it or Not. They were both fun indoor, kid friendly attractions. The boys especially loved Ripley’s. We had the pleasure of seeing Dolly Parton’s Dinner Show, Dixie Stampede. It was a great experience and we are so happy we chose to go to that show. The Christmas theme was fun and festive and the live nativity was beautiful (my favorite part of the show). We attempted Silver Dollar City, but one hour in and a train ride later we had to call it quits. When Wyatt’s hands started turning purple UNDER his gloves we knew it just wasn’t worth it. As BUMMED as we were to miss the Christmas light parade we can’t wait to bring the kids back there. It seems like the most fun, genuine, clean little theme park that there ever was. It felt like a tiny Disney from the 1800’s( we got to watch a blacksmith at work and watch glass blown be made) with some good ‘ole fashion Jesus loving’ thrown in. Overall, Branson was great. The people of Branson are incredibly friendly and SO welcoming. The town is very faith-based (which totally caught us off guard in the best way possible). It was a bit touristy for my liking BUT I want to go back. Now that we have been I have an agenda. I have “seen it and done it” as far as “Branson” goes and what people envision when they hear Branson. I want to experience the NATURE Branson has to offer. I want to hike and see things. AND go to Silver Dollar City again of course {because let’s face it I am a kid when it comes to rides}. So will we be back Branson? Bet your bottom dollar on it! We will totally stay at Shenanigans again and hit up Table Rock Lake and explore that Beautiful country side that Branson has to offer. See ya soon Missouri – maybe in July this time 🙂

my winnings for the night.
great little park we found to stretch our legs and eat lunch at in Oklahoma
Shenanigans at Shenanigans RV Park
corbin in his cave and goofing off in camper

 

wax museum fun

Ripleys Belive it or Not and IMAX adventure on State Parks. Very inspirational for the travel bug in us 🙂
FREEZING at Silver Dollar City
Dixie Stampede Show
camper life
Billy Bob’s Dairy Land after we left SDC early. These burgers and brownie fudge sundaes made everything better.
Branson won the award for the most adorable fur trees lining the highways. I just wanted to hop out and cut down my own Christmas tree. I worked on addressing our Christmas cards while on the road

up next…..Nashville.

xo,

j