spontaneously planned (nashville)

This past weekend Husband and I packed up and headed to Nashville, TN. It was not a long trip by any stretch (drive down Saturday, drive back up Tuesday). But it was something that we were both looking forward to, because we hadn’t been on a vacation in over a year. I especially knew that I was going to love this getaway after an overnight in Ohio back in March felt luxurious.

Since we’ve been head over heels for Montana, our trip to Nashville had come without much planning on our part. Husband had been there before, so he knew a few sights we might want to check out.

Before we get started, can I please once again expound on the virtues of booking with Priceline? We spent $65/night for a $200/night room with a KING sized bed. OMG, YES. We both slept for a knocked out, uninterrupted 9-10 hours every night.


Saturday night we grabbed some amazing BBQ at Rippy’s, watched part of the Hawks game, wandered around downtown, and then finished off the night with drinks and UFC at a college bar. It was a great combo of seeing the downtown area, going somewhere a little touristy, yet also experiencing local flavor. And while I appreciate everyone trying to make it big, can I just say that it was quite uncomfortable to have someone shaking an empty beer bucket at you, trying to get tips, while you’re eating? I mean seriously. If you’re good, I will go up and tip you, please don’t beg.


There’s something cheesy, and yet appropriate about all these lighted signs downtown. I could feel the touristy schtick, and yet it was okay, it was fun. We went to Broadway Saturday and Sunday night, and whoa. Completely different experiences. One night was crazy and lots of groups and bachelorette parties, and the other night Honky Tonk Central closed the top floor early because of the lacking crowd.

Sunday night we didn’t do dinner because of a late lunch, but we did get an appetizer and drinks at Bosco’s. Then we went over to HTC for more drinks and the Spurs/Heat game. I think we watched more sports and drank more this past weekend than we ever have as a couple. When in Rome, I suppose?2013-06-17_1371429568

About 45 minutes after this picture at Bosco’s, I was standing next to a gutter drain staring down at our car keys while Husband went back to the restaurant for help. Oh yes, there was panicking and trying to not panic and dialing 311 only to find they don’t rescue people on Sundays. Thanks to the restaurant manager and a passing jogger (who’d just moved from Schaumburg!), we retrieved the keys in under fifteen minutes. Oh, and Husband isn’t allowed to hold anything of importance ever again. Remember how he dropped the camera in the lake at Disney World? Yeah. NEVER AGAIN.

Our daytime activities were a bit scattered. We planned our Sunday activities during breakfast that morning. Oh, it’s supposed to rain on Monday? Oh, the horse back riding is actually a trail and you have to supply the horses? (I still haven’t learned that when Husband wants to do something, I need to verify that it’s actually the real deal.) The zoo and Belle Meade plantation in one day it is!


This is our third time feeding lorakeets, mainly because it’s cheap and it never gets old having a bird alight on you to eat out of your hand. Even if he does starting nipping your fingers because all the nectar’s gone. The Nashville Zoo was nice, if sparse on animals and long on walking. We got to pet armadillos, see a birds of prey show, and their meerkat exhibit was top notch. I love meerkats, and I always appreciate when a zoo gives them exactly what they need (plenty of space and freedom to dig their homes).


The Belle Meade plantation was beautiful. It’s worth the money to get the tour inside the house, otherwise you can only wander around the property and while there are ‘exhibits’, it’s not as much fun. I found the reviews of the place funny, because so many people complained that there was too much family history in the tour. Ummmm … that’s why you’re there! To hear the story of the family that lived on the plantation and the horses they bred! I really liked it.

Monday we woke up to a cloudy, humid day where we … had no plan of what to do. We didn’t want to go to the  Opry or Hall of Fame because they were both really expensive, and since it was supposed to storm we didn’t want to go to the Parthenon. So we stared at each other for a few minutes, and then I looked up the Tennessee website. I found an aquarium in Chattanooga two hours away. It was a really big drive, and I was afraid Husband was going to veto it because we had to drive home the next day. But happily, he agreed to it (mostly because we didn’t really have a lot of options).


The scenery was beautiful on our THREE HOUR DRIVE. Yeah, apparently people in Tennessee freak out super bad at everything and drive with a lot of caution on the highway. We got stopped in traffic because there was an accident clear on the other side of the highway, and then about a half hour from Chattanooga everyone decided they needed to slow down to 20 mph at every turn. But finally, we got there!


These are really blurry photos of a very awesome penguin exhibit. They had a variety of penguins, and they had the glass set up so you could go ‘eye to eye’ with the penguins as they swam around. TN Aquarium also had a multilevel tank with mucho SHARKS, a butterfly exhibit, and opportunities to pet sting rays and sturgeon. The aquarium is actually two buildings, so you go into one for all the ocean and exotic animals, and another for river animals. The river part sounded boring, but actually had a lot of giant, unique fish as well as an ability to see both sides of the tanks. I wish I had taken a picture of the set up because it was very cool.


Even though I love the Shedd Aquarium (beluga whales FTW!), I really loved this aquarium as well. They had a great selection of animals, the layout was good and easy to follow, and they had a high number of interactive displays. My only negative takeaway was at the stingray tank; they were not educating people on how to best pet the stingrays. Stingrays, like all animals, can get nervous by sudden splashes of water and the random appearance of things in the water. Unlike the rays at the Brookfield Zoo, who love to be petted because they are used to it and people are taught are to do it right, I felt like the rays at TN Aquarium didn’t want to be petted because there were so many kids splashing and plunging their hands in the water. The worker overseeing the tank actually said The stingrays don’t really want you to pet them. Then WHY do you have this exhibit? So there was that, but overall I would definitely go back again.


After the aquarium, we were kind of at a loss of what to do. The trip up so long that we didn’t want to go back after just a couple hours, and downtown Chattanooga has the aquarium and not much else. Luckily we found a bike share, and so we rented a couple bikes and pedaled around downtown, including their pedestrian bridge, and just took in the amazing scenery surrounding this town. I wish I had taken a picture on the bridge, but at the time I was like, ‘I’m in the moment! No pictures!’ so … yeah. Ha. But it was really great to get that exercise in, even HILLS! Oh, hills. I don’t think I’ve gone up a hill on a bike in so long.


Our last night in the hotel, we talked about the ride home. It was going to be a rough ride home — almost seven and a half hours in the car is no picnic, especially after spending five hours in the car the day before. I knew I had seen a couple zoos on the way down on Saturday, and so I looked them both up to see their value. One was mostly about Australian animals and looked more like a tourist trap than a zoo. The other was Louisville Zoo. We agreed that since it’s on the border of Kentucky and Indiana, it was serve as a good ‘rest stop’ for our drive home. And so we went.


It was probably one of the best zoos I have ever been to. They had amazing, large exhibits for the animals to roam through. Their bear exhibit rivals Great Bear Wilderness, but a lot of their other attractions (train, lorakeet and giraffe feeding) were either closed or only once a day, which was weird. They did have a super nice splash park in the zoo, though, that was free with admission. It was pretty fancy and had a lot of spouting sprinklers and such. We spent about three hours there and it was the perfect exercise break for long driving day.

Even though our trip was short, we had a really great time. I’m extremely lucky to have Husband, someone who will take an unexpected adventure, even if it means an extra drive or an unplanned detour. He is always willing (after a few questions are answered).





Game of Thrones

Oh, hey. Yeah, I am super, super late to this party, but I actually found a (free) way to watch it online thanks to Husband’s  friend at work. I’m only half way through season two, but I really like it. Although I can only watch two or three episodes at a time, otherwise too much gore creeps me out and makes me nauseous.


The Summer We Read Gatsby by Danielle Ganek

This book was such a good writing study, and I loved it. The story was interesting and the characters good, but the writing was just the kind that you read and think, ‘I want to write like this. How can I do that?’ and commence rereading everything to figure out the secrets.


Renee’s Special at The Cheesecake Factory

I never go to The Cheesecake Factory. The name alone makes me feel stuffed and like I’ve gained five pounds. But last Saturday we were having a mother/daughter day and we all went there. I found on the menu this delicious lunch special of a chicken salad sandwich, a cup of soup and small salad (I got Caesar). It was delicious, even though I only ended up eating the soup and a few bites of the sandwich and salad. But — leftovers!! (Which I left at my mom’s and she got to enjoy. Womp womp.)



Simon and Garfunkel Radio  by Pandora

I have mixed feelings about this radio station. I listened to it for about two hours while I was drafting a post, and it seemed to be amazing and pick a flawless set of music. Then about halfway through the second hour, I realized it had been quite some time since I heard an actual Simon and Garfunkel song. WHICH WAS THE WHOLE REASON I MADE THE STATION IN THE FIRST PLACE. Ugh, nothing is sweeter to me than Bridge Over Troubled Water or America.


The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman

One of the best books (it’s non-fiction!) I’ve read about the Holocaust. The end.


Hello Apparel

Look it up. Pricing’s a little much, but if you follow them on social media they have good deals every month. Shirts are incredibly soft and wear well, and are adorable. Also they ship super fast; got mine within four days of ordering. Finally, every time I put my shirt on I want to sing “YOU SAY GOOD-BYE, BUT I SAY HELLO!”



Warm Essentials by Cuddl Duds

I received a pair of these long underwear from my aunt after she realized I was still taking the bus even though the weather had gotten into the single digits. They’re black and fit like a second skin (I wear a Medium). I’ve worn them under khaki pants, jeans, yoga pants, and skinny jeans. They fit comfortably under everything and I’m able to wear them all day during work without any bunching or overheating. I definitely can tell a difference when I don’t wear them in the cold, because they keep me warm no matter what the temperature! I even paired them with a skirt and boots last night to dinner, and they kept me much warmer than tights yet looked just as cute! They are reasonably priced at 16.99 at Target and I definitely recommend them for the winter!


Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I haven’t read too many books so far this year (need to change that ASAP!), but what I have read so far have been really great, and that especially includes this book. I knew I was getting a great thriller when I picked it up, yet was still surprised by how amazing it was. It was a book that I could not predicate while reading, which I love. I am excited to read Flynn’s other books!


All That Echoes by Josh Groban

This album is a lot like his last one in that it took a few listens for me to enjoy it. I really, really loved his album Awake more than anything, and personally I feel like everything he’s done since then has been a little anti-climatic. But I’m glad that he’s still making music, because there are good songs on Echoes, particularly Brave, Below the Line, and I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever).




What can I say about this movie? The actors alone — Daniel Day Lewis, Sally Field, Joseph Gordon Levitt — allow this movie to shine. Then there’s the writing, the subtle yet heart wrenching music, and the fact that history is given its due. I loved it, was so excited to see it on the big screen, and it amped my already high passion for Abraham Lincoln.


Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

I had seen this book before, but didn’t really think about reading yet. Then I saw it at Goodwill the other weekend, read the back cover, and was intrigued. IT WAS SO GOOD. Sad, heartbreaking, and a bit of a dropped off ending, but I really liked it. I had heard stories about how badly the Chinese were treated in America during World War II, but this book really opened my eyes. And I love that … I love when I learn about real history from an enjoyable book.


Hunter Hayes by Hunter Hayes.

Storm Warning. Wanted. LOVE LOVE LOVE this. Oh country, multiple instrument playing Aaron Carter. You are amazing.



My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic

I know! How old am I, five? But it’s actually funny and kind of crazy and Stepson totally watched it with me and loved it which I love because I’m all about gender equality!


The Lorax

Great voice actors, good plot, cute characters, awesome message, and I LOVED the soundtrack! Surprisingly good music, especially the song ‘How Bad Can I Be?’


Jessica Darling series by Megan McCafferty

I know, that name totally evokes thoughts of bodice ripping covers, but it’s actually about a deep thinking, sarcastic teenage girl trying to get more out of life. It’s funny, it’s full of 2000 pop culture references, and I love it. I’m only on book 2 of 5, but there are actually books of her tales in college (unheard of in YA), so I’m excited to keep going.

recommend (country)

The older I get, the more aversion I feel towards spending money on music and listening to music all the time. When I was in my teens, I used to do nothing without music accompaniment — whether it was sitting down to homework or taking the trash out.

I don’t listen to a lot of music now. Before I got married I was on this kick where I would only listen to Christian music radio in my car, but then the talking in between got a little too much for me. So I just flipped around stations. Then, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I started getting back into country music.

Now I’m really into it. I’m blaming it on the summer — on hot hot days, long trips, rolled down windows, and driving on the forever highway. Nothing really captures those moments for me, nothing really makes me want to start singing, grab Husband’s hand with a sly smile, or hang my arm out the window like country music. I feel it deep down, I feel it pulse in my heart, in my veins, begging me to close my eyes and just live in the moment.

I normally recommend a song, tv show/movie, and book. But I’m using this post to focus strictly on country music. Here are the top ten country songs (no particular order) that, when they come on the radio, you can bet I’m turning up the dial and belting it out.

Home– Dierks Bentley
Little Bit Stronger– Sara Evans
Fly Over States– Jason Aldean
Springsteen– Eric Church
Even If It Breaks Your Heart– Eli Young Band
Blown Away– Carrie Underwood
Mama’s Broken Heart– Miranda Lambert
Ours– Taylor Swift
Time Is Love– Josh Turner
We Owned the Night– Lady Antebellum