Opryland: A Country Christmas

opryland hotel

After walking through “Ice!” at Opryland we had to make our way over to the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center to walk around and gawk at the 2 million Christmas lights hung around the 9 acres of indoor-gardens in the enormous resort.

country christmas

We met up with our friends Jay and Emily, or Jamily which is how I like to refer to them. The four of us spent the evening walking around, watching families take a million photos with numerous DreamWorks characters spread out around the resort, drooling over every restaurant, exploring the empty convention rooms and getting lost among the many gardens and observatories.

There's even a river boat ride that takes you through the hotel!
There’s even a river boat ride that takes you through the hotel!

three of us water fountain restaurant lights friends

This year marks the 30th anniversary of “A Country Christmas” at Opryland.

This tree is 48 feet tall!
This tree is 48 feet tall!


Opryland does an incredible job turning their entire resort into a magical wonderland. Besides the indoor attractions, there are even more lights outside and a giant free nativity scene. Of course the Radio City Rockettes perform all season at the Grand Ole Opry and too many other performances to list are also happening throughout the holidays.


If it wasn’t so outrageously expensive then we would make a night out of it, get a room and enjoy the lights from our balcony…maybe one day.

Hope you are all having a very Merry Christmas Eve! Xoxo


Ice at Opryland!


Alright, alright, it’s that time of year. That super busy time when it’s so hard to get everything done, and right now I am lacking in the writing and sharing area. Tonight, though, I finally have some time to share a review of our trip to Ice at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville! The very nice people who work for Gaylord were kind enough to have come and check out their show that we just love so much.


Years ago, when we first lived in the Nashville area we went to “Ice!” every year. The Opryland Hotel always puts up an amazing exhibit of Christmas themed scenes all made of ice. This year’s theme is Frosty the Snowman (awesome…one of my all-time favorite Christmas movies). They used over 2 million pounds of ice to create the very colorful and very large scenes! It took over 40 talented artisans from Harbin, China to create the show. It’s very impressive.

Look at Frosty go!
Look at Frosty go!

The master ice carvers actually travel all the way to Tennessee to create their sculptures. They work in 12 hour shifts in the 9-degree freezers to get the job done! The sculptures are then set-up and put together in large rooms for all of us to tour, but these rooms are also kept at 9 degrees. The guests are provided with long hooded warm parkas, but I’d say it is still VERY necessary to dress warm. I had a gloves, close-toed shoes and a scarf and still felt chilly.


The scenes from Frosty were just adorable. The characters were flawless and dialogue from the movie played as you walked from room to room. Even before entering the exhibit we were entertained. The que was lined with big screens TV to entertain us while waiting. We were then ushered into a large room that gave the played a short film on the history of “Ice!” and ended with “snow” falling on us.


wait room


Besides the cute characters and scenes there is also 4 large slides made of ice to enjoy, but beware: lines are long. There are also tons of opportunities for cute photos around all the ice scenes.

slides train

When Frosty’s story ends there is a bonus NYC room this year! Because we are cheesy and sentimental we were especially excited about this section. We are really missing New York this time of year, and all of its holiday glitter and fun. It was nice to walk around a fake New York made of ice. It had all the iconic Christmas in New York attractions…Rockefeller Center’s ice skating rink and giant tree, Broadway, Time Square, 5th Avenue and the Statue of Liberty.


Can you find Husband on the big screen in "time square"?
Can you find Husband on the big screen in “time square”?


The final room in “Ice!” is the traditional and always beautiful Nativity made of ice. This room uses all clear glass (no color) and is always the grand finale.


Afterwards, we defrosted and let our hands regain feeling in the guest shop right outside of “Ice!”. They sell a bazillion souvenirs, hot chocolate, kettle corn and what-not. This year, there was also a special Gingy room. Gingy is a character from Shrek and they had an entire gingerbread house set up where kids can get their photo taken with Gingy, buy a stuffed Gingy and pay to create an entire Gingerbread house. It looked like fun…maybe when Luna is here and a toddler we can actually try this part out!

gingy toy gingy

If you are interested in seeing Frosty and his friends all carved from ice then head over to Opryland by January 1st!  Check their site for prices and times here.


Adults Decorate Cookies Too

To continue our weekend of time with loved ones, we spent Sunday evening at our friends’ house for what will hopefully become an annual Christmas Cookie Party. These particular friends always throw the most beautiful and delicious parties. They seriously know how to host, decorate and prepare the most decadent foods… it’s the same house where we have our annual Second Thanksgiving/Just Dance party.



I am getting rather uncomfortable at 31 weeks pregnant. (Get out of my ribs Luna!) So, I dressed for comfort with a bit of festive flair. Husband, however, decided to outshine me and get all decked out for a night of eating and drinking with friends.

Woah! That's a big belly!
Woah! That’s a big belly!
Holiday Hair!
Holiday Hair!

Because our hosts wanted to make a “simple” dinner (hah!) we had 3 different soups, an entire table of snacks and hors d-oeuvres and another table lined with fancy Russian chocolates.

snacks table sweets chocolates

After we were beyond full we rolled ourselves into the kitchen to make and decorate some cookies. We actually used pre-made cookie dough, because who has time to make dough after preparing a huge dinner? Now, you may remember decorating cookies as a child, and if you really remember than you know they all turned out looking like broken blobs of cookie crumbs and mounds of icing. Well, I apparently never grew out of that stage….

chocolate chip knead star friends

This is the BEST cookie I made...
This is the BEST cookie I made…

Guys, I tried. I seriously tried to make this a cute cookie. It’s my best work. It’s also proof that I will never be that Mother that brings adorable baked goods to classes or parties. Sorry, kid, but you’re taking pre-made baked goods to school.

Whatever, ugly or not, the cookies tasted like cookies.

What are some of your holiday traditions? Do you party with friends? Celebrate with family? Make ugly cookies? Can’t wait to hear about it!


Attempting to Meet Santa

no one looking

Five years ago I found out that Petsmart has a “Santa Claws” photo event. They set aside a few days in December for your pets to come in and take photos with Santa. Adorable! I took Belle that year and the next, with the idea of making it a yearly tradition. However, we then moved to Albania, then NYC and the so-called tradition was forgotten. Until this year…about a week ago my friend Bella informed me that the Green Hills Mall in Nashville was hosting their own “Pet Photos with Santa” event.

We decided it would be fun to go together with ALL of our pets, including our newest addition, Duckie. I texted Bella beforehand to see what she was wearing… I decided to go all out in Christmas colors and elf looking socks and I didn’t want to be the only cheeseball. She responded with a pic of a red sweater bedazzled with sequins. Thank God, I’m not the only one who likes to play dress-up.

The Green Hills Mall set aside two hours at the end of the day for crazy people and their pets to take their photos with Mr. Claus. We arrived a few minutes early to beat the crowd. However, when we arrived there were already about 100 people and their pets of all sized in line and Santa was taking a break. When he returned he took photos with some kids who had waited first, and then took another break! After waiting for 45 minutes, not one pet had its picture taken with Santa and the animals were getting restless. We decided it was not going to be worth our wait (at least another hour) and created our own photo-op in the mall. We grabbed our pets, headed to the big tree behind Santa’s chair and took our own family and friend photos!

Unpacking the cat
Unpacking the cat

christmas2013 allthepets lovetheanimals

I think our photos turned out great. Who needs Santa anyways? We weren’t the only ones with restless animals either. Lots of people started following our lead, taking their own photos and heading home.

My Christmas sweater won’t even cover my big belly!
my babies
All 3 of my babies!

green hills mall

It may have been a failed mission, but it was pretty exciting just to stand in the crazy line and watch the hundreds of pets and owners. There were dogs of all sizes wearing costume of all sorts. It was worth the wait just to watch them. Although, we may still try going to Petsmart next weekend to get an actual Santa photo.

bad kitty
naughty kitty attacking her sister

Anyone else crazy enough to attempt pet pictures with Santa?


P.S. The cat was much better behaved and more calm than our dog… Husband was probably the least happiest to be there, but he’s a good sport when it comes to my ideas of festive fun.

Chopping Down Our Own Tree

country cove

When I was very young we had a real tree at Christmas time, but most of my life we had artificial trees. Husband always had a real tree growing up, and once, before he can remember, they chopped down their own Christmas tree at a tree farm. Now, that we are semi-grown up and able to pick our own tree for our own house we agree that real is the way to go, and why not pick it out at a tree farm?


Over the weekend, we went to Country Cove in Murfreesboro, TN to pick out our tree, chop it down and take it home. I didn’t really know what to expect on a tree farm, but it’s exactly what it sounds like…a big farm of trees. The farm was cute and complete with a souvenir shop, a fire pit, free hayrides and a wreath shop.

souvenier shop fire pit


There were two different types of Christmas-y looking tree to choose from if you want to go the chopping down route, or you can buy a pre-cut tree of a different species.


It was Freezing and I am now unable to button my winter coat, so I was running through the fields trying to find the perfect tree as quickly as possible. I was really surprised at how small most of the trees looked. I wanted a tree that is at least taller than us. Eventually, we found a whole group of tall looking trees, but then they all looked too perfect. I made Husband decide on “the one”. I pretended to cut it down for about 2 seconds, but Husband did all the actual work.


chopping actual chopping

I imagined us using a big ax to chop down our tree…in reality we had to use a little hand saw, but it worked just the same. After the tree fell (aww, sad) it was our Husband’s  job to drag it back to the main house. Once we got it back some young guys quickly scooped it up and got to work. The guys put our tree on some sort of shaking machine to knock off all the loose needles. After it’s turn on t the giant vibrator, it went through a contraption that wrapped it up in netting so it could travel easily on top of our car.

dragging tree shaker tree pooper

While they worked, we enjoyed the free hot cocoa and hot apple cider. Nice touch, Country Cove.


The strapping young men tied the tree on top of our car. We drove home, realized we don’t own a tree stand, stopped at Walmart…and Voila! We now have a tree!



our tree

Our tree turned out to be a 7 foot tree, so I guess they look smaller out in the field.  Now, all that’s left are the decorations.

It took us an hour to get out to the tree farm, but it was cute and fun and I can imagine this being a family tradition with kids, so I think we’ll be back. Any of you have a fun tree-getting tradition?




Christmas Traditions

I love holiday traditions with my family. In Texas, my family has lots of little special traditions I looked forward to each year while growing up. We eat seafood gumbo, say a prayer before opening presents, watch White Christmas, and spend Christmas Eve at my Grandma’s with our extended family every year. When I became serious with Husband we began splitting holidays. At first, it was a big adjustment. I was sad to miss out on my Texas traditions, but I soon realized I was gaining a whole new set of family traditions! Now, I feel lucky to have two families to celebrate with each year.

The year is a Tennessee Christmas. (We swap holidays every year.) Husbands family also spends Christmas Eve at his Grandmothers. His extended family is much smaller than mine, but it is really nice to be able to have a close relationship with everyone.

Me and Zoey
Me and Zoey

One of their Christmas Eve traditions is to decorate the tree together.

Aww aren't they matchy and cute?
Aww aren’t they matchy and cute?
Zoey has put the top on the tree every year since anyone can remember.

Then, the whole family eats chicken cacciatore (and vegetarian cacciatore) together.


Once everyone is stuffed, we go home so Santa can fill the stocking at Grandma’s with goodies. I, of course, went to sleep watching White Christmas.

Best movie ever.
Best movie ever.

On Christmas morning, everyone goes back to Grandma’s for homemade crepes with fresh fruit, chocolate, and homemade whip cream.


The rest of the day is spent opening gifts, playing games, watching TV, eating all day, and spending lots of quality time together.

Some of Grandma's handmade stockings.
Some of Grandma’s handmade stockings.
We found the old Sega game and started a tournament!
We found the old Sega game and started a tournament!


Mom-in-laws modern doll house gift from us.
Mom-in-laws modern doll house gift from us.
We had a nice fire going too.
We had a nice fire going too.

Christmas in Tennessee was wonderful, and I still have a few days left of vacation time! I am thoroughly enjoy the break, and the much needed extra sleep.

And the cuddle time with the cats.
And the cuddle time with the cats.




Best Advent Calendar Ever

I had every intention of keeping up the blog while spending my holiday vacation in Tennessee, but relaxing with our friends and family has taken up a lot more time than I anticipated. So, this post is a teensy bit late. Oh well. It’s time well wasted.

Husband is sometimes too good to me, and Christmas is one of those times. This year he bought me an advent calendar from Vosges Chocolate, my favorite chocolate shop. The box itself is beautiful and enormous. It’s adorned with gold trimming and letters and opens up to tell the story of “The Night Before Christmas”.

The outside of the advent calendar.
The outside of the advent calendar.



Each day offers a new gourmet chocolate, enough to share. These chocolates are so tasty I wish there were a way for me to share bites with you over the Internet.


The chocolate, however; turned out to be only half of my calendar. Husband decided to add a special just-for-me gift to each day. He used Sephora for most of the daily gifts because he knows me so well, but he even ventured to a few other cosmetic/girly stores to find me little goodies.


Some days I got nail polish, other days chap-stick, lotion, perfume, or even a small bottle of liquor. Waking up has never been so fun!

We have had a few advent calendars over the years, but this one is by far the best! Thank you Husband!