Saturday, December 18, 2010

Yummy Guest Post on GOODEness Gracious

Cris, my big sister, asked me to do a post for her blog over at GOODEness Gracious. She has been blogging a LOT longer than I have and has an AWESOME blog. I was obviously honored at this request. Cris has a cooking project going with Gooseberry Patch Cookbooks called the Goode & Gooseberry Project.

When she saw the Sweet Potato Crunch recipe was almost the same recipe I used for my Sweet Potato Casserole, she knew I had to do this post. Trust me on this want this recipe. It is so good that even sweet potato skeptics, like my Michael, will be won over! So head on over to GOODEness Gracious and check out my latest post and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Perfect Weekend: Part 2

So here we are in Cherokee. I’m a little bit worried that Michael might be perturbed that I took him down the wrong road. Was he at all? Nope. We even stopped to get some pictures with the beautiful scenery in the background. :)

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As we drove up higher in the mountains, we were back in the clouds. We get up to this one sharp curve and Michael goes straight. I am pretty sure I died right there, at that moment. God sent me back though. :) I was following the road with my eyes and did not see the parking area ahead of us. Michael DID see the parking area ahead of us, but thought that was the road and was quite startled at my scream and then the realization that he was indeed not on the road anymore.

As we go to leave this parking area, we see the Tenessee/North Carolina State line sign. I told Michael we needed to get a picture. He was skeptical of how exactly we would be able to fit us and the sign in a self taken picture. I told him to trust me. So he took the picture.

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HA! I was right!  *Note the “she’s crazy, but I’ll go along with it” look on Michael’s face. haha :)

This is also about the time that we found out that we needed to take the road that goes toward Cades Cove NOT the road that goes toward Cherokee to get to Laurel Falls.
Still, Michael was a trooper. And together, we enjoyed the beauty of the drive.

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We get to the bottom of the mountain and turn where we should have turned a couple hours earlier. We drive approximately 3 or so miles and TADA! There is the Laurel Falls trailhead.

It is has been raining off and on all day at this point and misting when we get there, so we put on some rain gear and head up the path.

The hike up there is an easy, but dangerous one. There are no railings and steep drop offs. Silly me didn’t get a picture of the morbid sign cautioning parents. It warned that falling deaths have occurred and to keep a tight reign on your kids. The scenery is gorgeous…I highly recommend it. Then at the end of the trail, you are rewarded with this natural beauty.

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There were some nice people to take our picture there and we did the same for them….then there were some more nice people, so we were more than happy to get some more pictures. :)

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As you can tell from the pictures, it was raining and creeping ever closer to dark. We were in our own little world though and were there after everyone left.

Michael and I had been standing near the falls just enjoying it and talking and holding each other close. Then my life changed.

Michael: I love you so very much.
Me: I love you too hunny.
Michael: I adore you.
Me: (big smile…I love it when he says that) I adore you
Pause…kiss…pause…tight hug
Michael: I want to spend the rest of my life with you

He pulled back, unzipped his coat, pulled out a box, opened it…and this is what I saw.
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Then he got down on one knee ( in the rain and all) and said, “Sara Lynn Benefiel,will you marry me?”

By this point, I was smiling so big and the tears were streaming from joy. So I TECHINICALLY did not say yes. I just nodded yes VERY enthusiastically. :)

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And that is how my amazing, wonderful boyfriend became my amazing, wonderful fiancĂ©.  :)

The Perfect Weekend: Part 1

This past weekend was the most amazing weekend. Michael and I left work early on Friday and headed down to Tennessee.  We always have fun on the drive…just talking, laughing, singing and taking pictures (of course).

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There was a BEAUTIFUL sunset that my poor timing did not allow me to capture completely. Between interstate speeds, trees and mountains, this was the best picture I could get. Just trust me…it was a breathtaking sunset. :)

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We made it safe and sound to our hotel, unloaded, changed and headed over to the home of my lifelong best friend, Heather.

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Heather and I were pleasantly surprised that our Michaels (her hubby’s name is Michael) get along fabulously. They were strangers before we walked through the door that night and had almost as hard of a time wrapping up the visit as we did. Almost. :)We finally pried ourselves away somewhere around 1:00 am and headed back to the hotel.

The next morning we went to Smoky Mountain Breakfast House…of course….for our traditional breakfast of WAY too much food. Then we headed to the mountains in search of the Laurel Falls trailhead.

We headed out on the road to Cherokee, NC and saw over and over again how the Smokies got their name. It was amazing.

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We could see the clouds rolling around the mountains. It was like they were doing a slow, fluid dance. Breathtaking.

We went further down the road and we were IN the clouds….they were so dense you could barely see the road at some points. I did not get those particular times on film digital (?) though. I was more concerned about helping Michael figure out exactly where the road was and where the edge of the mountain was!

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As we reached the top of the mountain…it dawned on me. We hadn’t seen a single sign of the Laurel Falls trailhead. Had we missed it in the fog? I thought it was only a few miles out of Gatlinburg. Hmmm. Maybe I was wrong.  And down we go the other side of the mountain. Nope. It was not on the other side of the mountain.

Cherokee is on the other side of the mountain. Since we were already there, we HAD to stop and get the traditional photo in front of the teepee. Gramma Knight started this tradition (I think) and it is one I always keep if I am in Cherokee.

So, this one is in memory of Gramma Knight. She definitely would have approved.

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To be continued… (soon) :)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mamaw Strauss

This is Mary….aka Michael’s Mamaw Strauss.

Mary was the 1st person in Michael’s family that I met. She and my
Gramma were both residents of Paoli Health and Living Community, so I introduced myself to Mary one day while there visiting my Gramma. Michael adores his Mamaw, so I couldn’t help but meet her. She has him wrapped around her finger…as he should be. :)
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She was instantly warm and welcoming to me. We had a nice visit that first day with a promise for another soon. Little did I know how much she would become a part of my life…as well as her brother, Uncle Harley.

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(She is pictured above at Michael’s mom’s house for a Labor Day Weekend Cook Out and singing along with Michael and his sister, Misty.)

Michael had always told me that he tried to spend as much time with his Mamaw as he could. I truly appreciated that because I feel the same way about my Gramma. They are special ladies and spending time with them is an honor and a treat. He was true to his word on this. Besides Michael, his Mamaw and Uncle Harley are the two people I saw the most in his family. He is not only an amazing man for me, but an amazing Grandson to Mary.

Every week on Sunday (unless something MAJOR came up), we would stop by PH&L Community and pick up Mary and Harley for their weekly trip to Maple Street (their FAVORITE restaurant). Mary’s eyes would always light up as soon as she would see us….and there was a great big hug accompanied by “I’m so glad to see you! I’m so glad you guys could come today!” She was the first of Michael’s family members to tell me she loved me. She always made me feel welcomed. And you couldn’t leave without a good bye hug…she’s a lady after my own heart on that one. But anyway….each week we load the walkers up in the trunk of the car and off we go. So many memories were made over the last months on these trips and others that I am so very thankful for.

This past Sunday was like any other. We picked Mamaw Strauss and Uncle Harley up. Went to Maple Street. Michael’s mom, Gay, drove up from Mt. Vernon to join us. We enjoyed a good visit and good food.  Gay offered to take Mary and Harley back to PH& L. As we were rearranging things in Gay’s SUV to fit the walkers in, Mary stood outside the car. I wasn’t sure why she hadn’t climbed in yet…but Mary was always strong willed, so you didn’t question the little things. I was making one more trip around to the back of the car and Mary says to me, “You can’t leave yet!” She wanted her hug good bye. She had been standing there waiting patiently for it. I assured her that I would be right back for my hug. I gave her a hug good bye and told her we would be by to pick her up for Thanksgiving Dinner the following Saturday. We said good bye…and waved good bye with smiles. This was the last Sunday dinner at Maple Street we will every have with our beloved Mamaw Strauss. She passed away this early this morning.

Mamaw Strauss…you will be forever loved and forever missed….rest with our wonderful God, Jesus and the angels now. We will see you again someday. We miss you. We love you.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Gramma


I grew up next door to Gramma. Over the last couple years, we have become really close. So I’m very grateful that I get to see her at least a few times every week. I love my Gramma. :)

Linked to: Wordless Wednesday

Friday, October 29, 2010

Bad Day Surprise

So a few weeks ago (I know, I am behind on posting about this!) I was having a REALLY bad day. It was a Monday. I was tired and cranky. My co-workers were tired and cranky. Let’s just say, that is a horrible combination and it had been a bad bad morning. Anyway, I had text my dear, sweet Michael about my bad morning. Just after I returned from lunch….these arrived. :)
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He knew that Gerbera Daisies are my favorite and that the pink and oranges ones are my favorites of the colors. Our 4 month mark was the next day and he had already planned on sending me flowers, but thought he would send them a day in advance since I was having such a rotten morning. I thought it was sweet…until I heard the story of what it took to get these babies in my hands…that made them 100 times more special.

You see….apparently there isn’t a single florist in my town or the surrounding towns that keep these beautiful flowers in stock.

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Apparently every single florist in the county requires a 2-3 day advance notice to be able to provide you with a bouquet of Gerbera Daisies.

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So after calling each and every florist in the county and being told the same thing, he remembers the one that said she MIGHT be able to catch her truck delivering that day, but she doubted it. He frantically calls her back and she hangs up before he can put in his specific request on colors. You see, he did not want them unless they would be the perfect ones for me. (Yea…he’s sweet like that. :) ) So dear Michael was a tidbit worried.

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Luckily, when she called back and he asked which colors she would be getting in, she had the right answer and these beautiful flowers were on my desk shortly thereafter. :)

I don’t like surprises for one reason: It is almost impossible to surprise me. I hate figuring it out before it happens when it is actually supposed to be a surprise. Unfortunately, that is what happens 99.9% of the time. However, Michael did an amazing job…he completely caught me off guard on this. THIS was a surprise I enjoyed.

I think I’ll keep him. :)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: My Love

Michael and I 
He’s amazing…I am happy…life is wonderful :)
Linked to: Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Perfect Fall Day – Spring Mill State Park

Saturday was one of those wonderful, rare days.  It was sunny and the perfect temperature with a slight breeze.  SO, Michael and I decided to head on over to Spring Mill State Park
It was the perfect day for a hike…but we couldn’t decide which trail to take.  We ended up deciding on heading down the trail to Donaldson Cave…


….which is closed to save the bats (I think) or something along those lines.   Thankfully, Trail 4 is right down the same way as the cave…otherwise, it would have been an extremely short hike for nothing.  Boo on that.

Along the way we found one of the old water fountains and decided it was a photo op…


Then there was the fun wooden bridge…just past one of the monuments…


Next up…was the beautiful stone bridge closer to the village…


Doesn’t this look like a senior picture? (For all you people from my hometown…I think Don Stands would be proud!)


Then we strayed off the path and climbed on some rocks…it was so much fun just walking through nature…taking it all in and enjoying God’s creation…plus I love to climb on rocks…so it works for me. :)

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After going around most of the park on Trail 4, we decided to take a little drive…and of course, Michael had to take me to my favorite road so that I could get a picture with the fall leaves…I am seriously in love with this scenery!  I could sit there and look at it for hours.


There was so much to do and see and take in. I heart Spring Mill. This goes down as another one of those amazing weekends that I’ll always cherish. :)

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