Wednesday, March 14, 2018

I Dream of Dollywood

This cold winter has me dreaming of warmer temperatures and the places that open with them. This Friday, March 16, Dollywood reopens for the season! This season of showstoppers is sure to delight, with festivals, musical performances, new food items, and revisiting all my old favorite rides. Here are the five things I'm most excited for this season at Dollywood!

1. New Rides (and old favorites!)

Well, new to me. Since our kids are two and half years apart, there's a big height difference. We usually hit the 42" height requirement rides with our oldest while our youngest naps in the stroller and take advantage of rider swap. (Have you heard of this? It's magical. You wait in line once, and then each parent can ride with the kid while the other parent waits with the kid who doesn't want to ride/isn't tall enough). I'm crossing my fingers that in the two and half months Dollywood has been closed for the season, my two year old has grown the half-inch he needed to be 36" and able to ride more rides! He's so disappointed when we go up to a ride and he isn't tall enough (he's also too squirmy for central measuring, so praying we're over that too!)

Do you use central measuring? It's a lifesaver with our older son, who actually holds still long enough to be measured. If you go to central measuring, an Dollywood host will measure your child and give them a color coded wrist band. You can use the park map or the Dollywood app to see which rides your child meets the height requirements before, long before you make the trek to the ride and discover they're a hair shy of being allowed to ride.

I also can't wait to hop on some old favorites. The Carousel and Rockin' Rodeway are two of our family favorites, and I am just hopping with excitement to get back on board!

2. Festival of Nations

New entertainment, delicious food, and demonstrations await with the Festival of Nations. I've never experienced it before, but I love learning about other cultures, and especially love all the new food! If you're as excited as I am, you'll want to check out the menu. It tells you what items are available and where you can get them, so you can totally plan your trip around the menu and no one will know but you (well, and now my family will know my park planning strategy!). 

New food is sure to inspire new favorites, and I'm looking forward to indulging in my old favorites, too. Hello, there, Cinnamon Bread! Bring on the funnel cakes! My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

3. Splash Country

Especially when it's cold but sunny, I flash back to the hot summer days we spent at Splash Country. Feeling the sun warm your skin, with kid's laughter as your soundtrack and leaving wet footprints as you walk from the wave pool to your lounge chair... its like medicine on these cold days. I can't wait for Splash Country to open May 19, and I'm counting down the days. Both our boys will (hopefully) be taller this year, which is like unlocking new levels in a video game. We love experiencing these rides with them, and each new ride available to them is a precious memory in the making.

4. Holiday Festivals

I loved both Great Pumpkin LumiNights and Dollywood's Smoky Mountain Christmas so much last year that I went to each one at least twice! Halloween and Christmas are two of my favorite holidays (oh, who am I kidding? I love all the holidays!), and especially when the weather doesn't match the holiday I like experiencing something that reminds me how it's supposed to feel. So even though the hottest day I've experienced at Dollywood was last October, during LumiNights, I loved seeing the pumpkins, hay bales, scarecrows, and Halloween decor. It helped remind me that it was, in fact, fall, and Halloween was just around the corner.

When it was cold but not snowy, the pretend snow at Dollywood and holiday shows helped get me in the Christmas spirit. I fell head over heels in love with Dollywood's shows last year, which brings us to...

5. Dollywood Entertainment

I adore Dollywood's shows. The caliber of talent is incredible, and I can't wait to see what all they're going to do this year. I'm already thrilled with the idea of the Dreamland Drive-In, as I'm all about that retro vibe and my kiddos love singing and dancing on stage. Plus, huge acts are coming during the festivals! Whether you want to see Amy Grant or Ladysmith Black Mambazo, there's something for everyone. 
We loved the Gazillion Bubbles Show last year!

I can't wait to see and experience all that Dollywood has to offer this year! What are you most excited about?

If you want to save $5 off, use coupon code DWInsiders5 and purchase your tickets online!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

New Dollywood Insiders Post

If you're new to Dollywood's season pass process or just looking for a few Insider tips on how to make the most of your season pass from opening day on, check out my latest post over at the Dollywood Insider's Blog!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Greatest Showman Movie Review

I'm predisposed to like certain movies.

After all, I'm obsessed with animation, Disney, and Pixar, so those are usually pretty easy winners for me (we're all ignoring Cars 2 still, right?).

I've always loved musicals (that Disney childhood!), and as a former aerialist, I was constantly being asked if I'd seen The Greatest Showman yet. Until last weekend, the answer was no.

My husband and I got to go on a rare date to see The Greatest Showman. As we settled in our seats and the lights went down, I jokingly leaned over and whispered, "Thanks for coming to see a circus musical with me." He laughed and said, "Wait, this isn't Star Wars?" before he narrowed his eyes and said, "wait, this is a musical?!"

Y'all, I showed him the trailer. I honestly don't know how he didn't realize it was a musical! But thankfully he enjoyed it too, though I spent the entire two hours glancing sideways to try and gauge if he was having a good time.

The whole film was lovely. The music was just wonderful, with songs providing exposition and condensing a long story into a reasonable length for a film. I keep finding myself singing random songs throughout the day today, and I'm buying the soundtrack as soon as I'm able. There isn't a single song I'd skip! The music is truly exceptional, with songs making you want to dance, sing along, and with heartfelt lyrics. It was also kind of special to see Zac Efron singing and dancing again.

After seeing the movie, of course I wondered if it stayed true to the life its based on. The short answer is no. Although Barnum did begin with a museum, had a wife named Charity, and ultimately crafted a traveling tent-based circus, the details in the film are almost entirely fictional. Carlyle and Anne don't have real life counterparts, and Barnum's personal history teeters perilously towards him being a con man who degraded others. His actions towards people in general, and especially those who performed in his circus, is patently wrong. The only way I can reconcile the truth with the film is to view them independently, and view the film as a fictionalized account. So this review is entirely representative of the film with no ties to the man who shared the same name.

The story was surprising; there were several twists I didn't see coming. The characters were well developed; they felt real, and they had real flaws, but were overall likable. I especially loved the childhood love story between Phineas and Charity and the story between investor Carlyle and trapeze artist Anne. The story was engaging and moved at a nice pace.

One of my favorite underrated characters is the theater critic, who has a wonderful character arc as he discovers his own prejudice and privilege coloring his reviews. I liked seeing Anne and Carlyle grow beyond their limited mindsets, and thought the protesters spoke not only to issues during the time the film is set in (after the Civil War but before 1900 is my best guess) but also spoke to current issues without being overbearing.

How we treat people is deeply important. The outcasts and forgotten treat the young Barnum with kindness, and he later finds a way to not only give them a platform and help light their way out of the darkness, but also tests his own character and how far he's willing to push reality and societal limits.

Additionally, as someone who has belonged to a circus, the feeling of belonging and family is well portrayed. The nature of living a whimsical and magical life is encouraging to those dreamers who have maybe gotten caught up in making a living instead of a life. I left the theater encouraged, inspired, and ready to dance. In the week since I've seen it, I'm looking for ways to bring a little magic back into our lives. Whether it's random dance parties in the kitchen with my little boys, or playing shadow puppets, or bursting into song randomly, I'm trying to move beyond just living day to day and move into thriving.

Overall, I loved the movie. It was visually stunning, with a great plot, interesting characters, and music I have yet to tire of. I definitely recommend it, and I know I'll be seeing it again when it releases to Blu-ray and digital.

Have you seen The Greatest Showman yet? What did you think? Has it inspired you?

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Spring Fever, Disney Style

Every year, I'm ready for Spring the day after Valentine's Day. I love winter, and I enjoy it- right up until February 15, when I switch out hearts for bunnies and flowers. This year, the Tennessee weather listened the secret hopes of my spring loving heart, and we've had sunny days in the 70s after weeks and weeks of dreary winter rain and cloudy skies. I am loving it, and my Disney preferences reflect it. So whether you're enjoying this early spring like me, or if you're further North and still drudging through grey days, give your eyes a break with these beautiful Disney films and it'll at least be spring in your living room.

Ten Disney Movies That Scream Spring

  1. The Lion King- summer rains, African plains, the most heartbreaking Disney death on record.

  2. Tangled- Best-Day-Ever! If Rapunzel can walk barefoot throughout the entire kingdom, it's a place I want to be.

  3. Enchanted- No lie, Giselle is living my best life. I don't want to battle an evil queen, but a princess has to do what a princess has to do! And that includes singing and dancing through Central Park in floral dresses in perfect spring weather. Bonus- Amy Adams!

  4. The Little Mermaid- Seashell bra under the sea means warm climates to me! I dream of beaches this time of year, and Ariel helps.

  5. Moana- Why yes, I would like to set sail with a sarcastic demigod, a gorgeous future chief, and a not-so-smart chicken. Wouldn't you?!

  6. Winnie the Pooh- his animated world is so beautiful, and green. I sure do love that silly old bear.

  7. Disney Short Films- Okay, so skip Little Match Girl or you'll cry for days and it will feel like the longest winter ever. But John Henry, Paperman, Frozen Fever, and John Henry are all spring time beautiful. 

  8. The Princess and the Frog- New Orleans, frogs, swamps, and spring rain. 

  9. Pocahontas- Running through golden fields, canoeing down rivers. Sigh.

  10. Hercules- Oh Greece, I love you. Blooming trees, sunny days, bare shoulders. Love it all.

    What are your favorite springtime Disney movies?

Friday, January 12, 2018

When Home Depot Ruins Your Car

Once upon a time, Home Depot ruined my sister-in-law's car.

So my sister-in-law Molly has this gorgeous home, which she regularly changes up with new paint colors and accessories. She easily could've been an interior designer, because everything is unique yet somehow blends perfectly into her overall design scheme. It's masterful. She's an experienced painter, knows what she's doing, and has bought paint many times.

Not too long ago, she decided her house was almost exactly how she wanted it. All she had left was one room- her bathroom. All she needed to do was paint the walls with her chosen color, Chocolate Froth. She went by Home Depot to buy the paint, and planned on finishing her project that day. She was excited to have her whole house exactly how she wanted it.

Molly went to Home Depot, and they mixed the paint. They handed it to her, just as they always had when she had previously purchased paint there. She checked out and headed home.

She wasn't quite a mile down the road when she reached into her passenger seat to get something, and her hand came back wet. It was paint. Chocolate Froth paint, to be exact.

She pulled over, and discovered the paint can had tipped. It hadn't fallen over, she hadn't slammed on her breaks, she was just driving normally and it had leaned to one side.  Had it been shut properly, what happened next would be inconsequential. But it hadn't been closed properly. So when the paint can tipped, paint leaked out of it. All over her seat. All over her belongings in the seat. Through the seat foam, and onto the floor and vinyl of her car. Because it got on her hand, it also got on her clothes.


She turned around and went right back to Home Depot, where the manager was extremely apologetic and had several staff members take rags and wipe up as much as they could. They filled a trash bag with paint soaked rags. Then they had her fill out a claim for their insurance, assuring her it would be taken care of.


Fast forward several weeks. Corporate has been giving her the run around. The person she contacted about cleaning it said cleaning won't remove it all, and recommended reupholstering the seat and replacing the carpet (which is only $50 more than the cleaning fee). Home Depot corporate refused, saying they would pay for the cleaning of the seat but nothing else. Her car will have significantly decreased in value if this isn't resolved, all because the person at the paint counter didn't properly close the lid with a mallet like they're supposed to. Corporate's reasoning? She should've bagged it.

Let's pause on that. Home Depot doesn't allow you to bag your own items. When you check out, the cashier bags your items. So if their theory for not paying is that the paint should've been bagged, it's still their fault. It's a moot point- either way, they're responsible for making sure you can get your supplies home without destroying your car.


My hope is that by sharing Molly's story, and Home Depot's reaction, we can get Home Depot to step up and make this right. The local store was wonderful- they tried to help her in the moment and in the long term, and now it's out of their hands. Corporate should be as responsible as their store, and fix it properly once and for all. They need to take responsibility; their employee should have properly closed the paint can lid with a rubber mallet so that even if tipped over, it would't spill.

If Home Depot does do the right thing, I'll update this post. I'm also posting a Twitter thread you can follow to see how they'll handle it. I hope they'll fix this #HomeDepotFail and right this retail injustice.

In the meantime, I recommend heading to Lowe's for your paint needs.

After this post, Home Depot did step up and do the right thing! They've paid for the damages and the new person to contact Molly was much nicer than all the previous people she'd been dealing with. Thank you for your support!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

2017: The Year of 75 Books

I'm obsessed with reading. It's true. I'd say I'm on the road to recovery, but I'd probably stop by the library first.

I've gotten a lot of questions recently about how I find the time to read. For me, it's about making time. Reading is my self-care. I shared many ideas on how to make time for yourself in this post over at the Knoxville Moms Blog.

My reading goal for 2017 was originally to simply read more than I did in 2016. I met that goal towards the end of the summer! Since I finished so early, I set what I considered a high number: 75.

I did it! I read 76 books by year's end, and finished what would've been the 77th on January 1, so instead it became book 1 of 2018.

Without further ado, here's the full list of what I read in 2017 (let's just ignore the stack of magazines I totally abandoned and am way behind on!)

2017 Books I’ve Read

  1. Black Heels and Tractor Wheels, Res Drummond
  2. Sweet Water, Christina Baker Kline
  3. Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline
  4. My Not-So-Perfect Life, Sophie Kinsella
  5. The Assistants, Camille Perri
  6. The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris, Jenny Colgan
  7. gods in Alabama, Joshilyn Jackson
  8. The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, Joshilyn Jackson 
  9. Lucky Us, Amy Bloom
  10. Backseat Saints, Joshilyn Jackson
  11. Between, Georgia, Joshilyn Jackson
  12. Magnolia Story, Chip and Joanna Gaines
  13. All the Summer Girls, Meg Donahue 
  14. The Life List,  Lori Nelson Spielman
  15. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, Katarina Bivald
  16. Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee
  17. The Jane Austen Book Club, Karen Joy Fowler
  18. This is your life, Harriet Chance!, Jonathan Evison 
  19. Meet me at Cupcake Cafe, Jenny Colgan
  20. The Guest Cottage, Nancy Thayer
  21. The Bookshop on the corner, Jenny Colgan
  22. The butterfly and the violin, Kristy Cambron 
  23. Present over Perfect, Shauna Niequist
  24. Disconnected, Jennifer Wiener
  25. The Lost Heiress, Roseanna M. White
  26. The Opposite of Everyone, Joshilyn Jackson
  27. The Summer Before the War, Helen Simonson
  28. Windfallen, JoJo Moyes
  29. Someday, Someday, Maybe; Lauren Graham
  30. Daisy Chain, Mary DeMuth
  31. Sweetshop of Dreams, Jenny Colgan
  32. A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty, Joshilyn Jackson
  33. Saints for All Occasions, J. Courtney Sullivan
  34. Blackbird House, Alice Hoffman
  35. The Two-Family House, Lynda Cohen Loigman
  36. Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper by Hilary Lifton
  37. True colors, Kristin Hannah 
  38. A Slow Burn, Mary DeMuth
  39. Life in Defiance, Mary DeMuth
  40. Home Front, Kristin Hannah 
  41. Eleanor and Park, Rainbow Rowell
  42. By the numbers, Jen Lancaster
  43. Looking for Alaska, John Green
  44. The Marble Collector, Cecelia Ahern
  45. Perfect, Cecelia Ahern 
  46. The Art of Neighboring, Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon
  47. The Kitchen Goddesses, Barbara O’Neal
  48. A piece of heaven, Barbara O'Neal
  49. Lady Luck's Map of Vegas, Barbara O'Neal
  50. Claude and Camille, Stephanie Cowell
  51. Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery, Jenny Colgan
  52. Today will be different, Maria Semple
  53. Sloppy Firsts, Megan McCafferty
  54. Close Enough to Touch, Colleen Oakley
  55. How to Start a Fire, Lisa Lutz
  56. To All the Boys I've Loved Before, Jenny Han
  57. Of Mess and Moxie, Jen Hatmaker
  58. The Spectacular Now, Tim Tharp 
  59. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, Beth Hoffman
  60. Three Story House, Courtney Miller Santo
  61. Return to the Isle of the Lost, Melissa de la Cruz
  62. I’ll see you in Paris, Michelle Gable
  63. PS I still love you, Jenny Han
  64. The Right Side, Spencer Quinn
  65. The lake house, Kate Morton 
  66. Out of the Spin Cycle, Jen Hatmaker
  67. Radium Girls, Kate Moore
  68. Always and Forever, Lara Jean; Jenny Han
  69. Harriet Beamer takes the bus, Joyce Magnin
  70. Fates and Furies, Lauren Groff
  71. Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine, Gail Honeyman
  72. The Almost Sisters, Joshilyn Jackson
  73. Lyrebird, Cecelia Ahern
  74. Christmas at the little beach street bakery, Jenny Colgan
  75. The scent of hours, Barbara O’Neal 
  76. Disney Lands: The Return, Ridley Pearson
Best of the Best
I have some definite favorites for this year, but too many to narrow it down to just one. So by category:

Nonfiction- Jen Hatmaker's Of Mess and Moxie made me laugh, and think, and realize I'm not alone in my struggles. Radium Girls came in a close second, because it was riveting, but also heart-wrenching. 

YA- Do I have to pick? I loved the Lara Jean series by Jenny Han, as she perfectly blended average teen struggles with grieving and trying to fit both of your cultures into your life. But Cecelia Ahern's finale to the Flawed series was utterly captivating, and I couldn't put it down. So- it's a tie.

Southern Lit- Joshilyn Jackson's The Almost Sisters stole my heart and mind. It was thoughtfully written, weaving racial tension and family history seamlessly together through quite possibly one of my favorite protagonists. All of Jackson's characters are so thoroughly developed they feel completely real, and I obviously want to be besties with all of them.

Fiction- I can't pick just one. I just can't. I will narrow it down to two authors, who's backlists I've been steadily working my way through. Jenny Colgan and Barbara O'Neal appear numerous times in my list for this year, as their works are enchanting and I can't get enough of them. I now want to visit all of Colorado, the UK, and Paris, where the majority of their respective novels are set. They paint such lovely worlds with their words, and I've loved spending time there.

Most of the books I read had something I loved about them; a character, setting, or even just a sentence that brought me joy. 

If you want to follow my reading journey in 2018, I regularly post about what I'm reading on Instagram (@PawPrintsintheSink). If I'm feeling brave, I tag the author in my #InsaReview, and Barbara O'Neal recently commented and that was a highlight of my year!

What were some of your favorite books of 2017? Do you have a reading goal for 2018?