August 31, 2016

Fun & Simple Football Tailgating Ideas


There are five words that bring a certain excitement to the air in Knoxville...it's Football time in Tennessee! When the Vols take the field tonight for their home opener against Appalachian State, it will be an historic event. 

1898 University of Tennessee Football Team
Not only is this the first time the Tennessee Volunteers take on the Mountaineers, it's been nearly 80 years since they hosted a game on a Thursday. That was a Thanksgiving Day game against Kentucky (according to UTSports.com). What's more, the last time the Vols played a home season opener on a Thursday was in 1896. I wonder what tailgating was like back then? 

1956 University of Tennessee Football Team 
Don't you love these vintage images? They are from the UT Volunteer Yearbook digital archives. It's so fun to think about what things used to be like! 


If you love tailgating, no matter what team you're rooting for, you might want to try this tasty appetizer this football season - pimento cheese stuffed peppers. I was inspired by the blog Magnolia Days and it's such an easy snack to make. Here's the full recipe.

If you're using jalapeno peppers, don't forget to wear gloves for the prep. Or at the very least don't touch your eyes! Since the seeds and the oil the contain are what bring the heat, you may want to remove them before adding your pimento cheese. A small ice cream scoop or melon baller is a great tool for this. You can also use peppers of a sweeter variety, such as the red, yellow and orange ones. I have found these pre-packaged in the produce section of my local Aldi and other grocery stores. Once assembled, eat 'em up! 

Depending on your tailgate, you can serve these cold from the cooler or pop them on the grill to get the cheese all melted. So delicious! If you want a great homemade pimento cheese recipe, try mine. If you are pressed for time, choose a great store-bought version like Palmetto Cheese. 


If you're a UT fan and need a great drink recipe for your tailgate, I highly recommend this simple concoction, the Orange Creamsicle Cocktail. I've made my version kid friendly, but you could follow the original recipe (via Homemade Hooplah) and use vodka. 

What to Bring to Neyland Stadium - 

If you haven't heard, there are new rules on what you can and cannot bring into the stadium for a UT game. 

From UTSports.com: Beginning in August 2016, fans will be allowed to bring only one clear plastic bag no larger than 12 inches by 6 inches by 12 inches or a one-gallon, clear, resealable plastic storage bag per person inside Neyland Stadium.

Fans will also be allowed a small clutch purse not to exceed 4.5 inches by 6.5 inches.

No other bags will be allowed inside Neyland Stadium. 

I found some great options that meet the clear bag requirement at Linda's Hallmark in Knoxville. There are two locations (one in Farragut & one in The Gallery shopping center near West Town). 

Make sure you are ready for the 2016 season! 





Dolly Parton Announces New Parade to Debut during Dollywood's Smoky Mountain Christmas Fest


PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (August 31, 2016) — Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas presented by Humana has long been known as one of the world’s best holiday theme park events. Dolly Parton today unveiled plans for an awe-inspiring new parade—dreamed up as only she can—which will add even more excitement to this family-favorite festival.

Named The Parade of Many Colors, the new $2.5 million addition helps make this year’s event the best and brightest in the park’s history. The parade perfectly complements Dollywood’s spectacular Christmas offerings which include four million festive lights, the remastered Christmas in the Smokies, the all-new It’s a Wonderful Life, and the joyous holiday atmosphere guests have come to enjoy during this lively festival.

Like her new NBC holiday movie, Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love, Parton’s new parade celebrates the fun, faith, family and harmony of the holidays. Vibrant floats, interactive characters and a few other surprises help spread cheer throughout Dollywood this holiday season.

“The joy I feel during the Christmas season makes my heart sing because of the love and sweet Christmas memories I have of family and friends from when I was a child,” Parton said with a smile. “Christmas is the time of year when traditions, faith and family come together to create experiences we all remember forever. That is why my new movie and this parade are so important for me. I truly believe The Parade of Many Colors will inspire some of those same lifelong memories for the families who see it.”

The Parade of Many Colors represents another significant investment made by The Dollywood Company as part of the $300 million investment strategy announced in 2013. The company also recently announced the addition of TailSpin Racer to Dollywood’s Splash Country for 2017.

Dollywood has added two days to its calendar, December 6 and 13, to provide guests more time to experience the eight-time winner for Best Christmas Event. One of Dollywood’s greatest entertainment offerings is remastered in 2016, as Christmas in the Smokies,returns to its traditional home at D.P.’s Celebrity Theater. Guests can celebrate the joy of the season while a cast of singers and dancers performs hometown holiday favorites while accompanied by a band of live musicians!

Dollywood’s entertainment team brings a Christmas classic to life with the debut of It’s a Wonderful Life. Based on the timeless holiday story of love and generosity, small town businessman George Bailey discovers the true value of life, family and friends with a little help from his guardian angel, Clarence. 

For more information about Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas or The Parade of Many Colors, please visit www.dollywood.comor call 1-800-DOLLYWOOD.

August 10, 2016

Tips for Making Back-to-School Lunches More Fun


As a kid, lunch was one of my favorite things about school. What can I say...I have always been a foodie. Usually I ate cafeteria food, but sometimes (depending on which friends I happened to be influenced by at the time) I wanted to bring my lunch to school.

My mom really tried to make good lunches, but they were always a little out of the ordinary. This was before anyone in my small southern town had ever heard of bento and it would be many years before Pinterest was available for inspiration. Plus, our family tupperware collection was mostly made up of containers missing their lids.

On more than one occasion, by the time lunch rolled around my brown paper lunch sack would be soaked through with whatever my lunch happened to contain...including pickle juice.

Lunch is important for students. It helps them have the energy they need to stay focused and learn. I'm channeling my inner elementary school student and sharing some tips for making lunches more fun!

1) Think Outside the Lunchbox


Get creative with containers to maximize options for lunch. You don't have to limit lunch to traditional lunchboxes. Small tote bags can also make a fun way to bring a lunch. When I was in high school, I saved small shopping bags from fancy department stores so I could use them to carry my lunch to school. I thought I was so sophisticated with my little brown bag from bloomingdales. 

Who says you have to carry the same bag every day? Dollar Tree and the Target Dollar Zone often have different cute bags for cheap. Keep it interesting by changing up your lunch bag to match your mood. 

Also, get creative with food containers too. I found some adorable plastic food storage options in the baby section of Dollar Tree, complete with cute animal faces. I also picked up some great plastic bins from the office supplies section. Just be sure to check for BPA and wash everything thoroughly before using it. 

2) Go Beyond the Sandwich


Sandwiches are great, but sometimes it's fun to switch things up. And who says lunch has to include a sandwich anyway? Wraps are a good option, especially because they hold up pretty well for several hours. Hard boiled eggs make another great lunch, paired with other healthy options like nuts, fruit and veggies. 


Here are some other possible lunch options:

  • Pimento cheese or pesto on a spinach wrap
  • Ham or turkey and cheese wrapped around pretzel rods
  • Hummus and sprouts in a mini pita
  • Tuna or chicken salad on Triscuits 

3) Make Lunch Fun 


Take sheets from an activity book and turn them into napkin rings. Include a couple of crayons and your child has a fun activity to look forward to each day. Draw silly pictures or leave little encouraging notes in your child's lunchbox. It will make lunch something to look forward to for sure!

I found some great alphabet cookies that would make a fun lunchtime game. A blogger named Allison created some neat free printables that use alphabet cookies to encourage learning. Check them out here.


Or you could also download and print an image that would make a fun background for animal crackers to romp and play in. There are lots of free options online, or for a small fee you could get something from a stock photo site (above).

Lunch doesn't have to be a chore...make it fun with these simple tips! 

August 8, 2016

Don't Hate Your body

Nobody's born hating her body. No baby finds her toes for the first time and, before popping them into her mouth, thinks "Ugh, my thighs are so squishy in the middle." Just like everything else we learn in life, we are taught to hate our bodies. Lesson by lesson. Inch by inch, follicle by follicle, and cell by cell. We are taught by well-meaning people who were taught to hate their bodies by other well-meaning people.

Meaning well and doing well are two very different things.

I guess what makes me the saddest about this is it doesn't have to be this way. 



I can vividly remember a time in my childhood when I didn't hate my body. When I didn't feel the need to judge or critique it or cover it up under layers of bulky clothing. When I didn't feel judged or critiqued by others. When all was right (or at least as far as I knew it). I rocked my baby bikini with a vintage fur stole and never once considered the need to suck in my stomach. I pranced around in my white fringed cowgirl boots and never thought for one second about whether they made my ankles look fat.

I remember when the number assigned to the size of clothing I wore meant absolutely nothing to me. Searching the racks at our local department store for a Rainbow Brite t-shirt in my size, 6x, had no bearing on how I felt as a person. I was in the first grade.

I remember when getting weighed at the pediatrician was nothing more than a routine part of my check-up and didn't stress me out in the least.

I remember when my favorite food dish consisted of gravy and bread, which my little country granny would fix for me by taking a slice of loaf bread and covering it with brown gravy. I enjoyed every bite and never knew about the existence of carbs and saturated fat.

There was a time when my grandmother would take my face into her hands and trace around the edge of it, saying it was perfectly round like a Moon-pie. "How wonderful," I would think. What a wonderful thing to have someone say about you! I loved Moon-pies.

I remember when my grandpa would let me help him do projects around the house and he called me his "Big little helper," which was a great source of pride for me.

I can't really pinpoint when all that changed. It might be easier to identify if it happened overnight in one fell swoop. But the changes were sneakier than that.

One day, I decided I didn't want to be called a "big little helper" anymore. I couldn't explain why, but it didn't seem like something I wanted to be. Big.

Little by little, I took inventory of my body. And found hardly anything to love about its appearance. Having two strong, working legs was lost to the idea that they might soon be covered in spider veins, my genetic birthright. Two fully functioning arms, complete with a pair of hands that each had five working fingers (of all things!), were deemed too flabby for anything but shirts with sleeves.

And all of a sudden, going swimming with a group of people my own age seemed like torture. I spent way too much time and energy worrying about whether or not my 6th grade gym teacher was going to pinch my flab with the big metal calipers, in front of God and everybody else to see.

Then, there was the incident in junior high when a classmate declared I was fat.

My stomach hasn't seen the light of day since 1990, and I can't imagine it ever will again.

The thing about hating your body is you can't really do it without also hating yourself. You might think you can. You might think, my flabby stomach isn't me. My thighs are not my personality. My jiggly arms are not my sense of humor. 

You might think you can separate your hate for your body, put it in a box and keep some semblance of love for your inner self in a different compartment. But ultimately, it's all going to bleed together.

Because your brain and your heart are still the ones receiving the messages. Your stomach doesn't care if you hate it. Your jiggly arms aren't going to know if you despise them. It's your heart and your soul that will bear the brunt of these feelings. And throw in a good measure of guilt for feeling that way in the first place, especially when you consider all the people who'd love to have working legs, or a strong back, or fingers that can type 90 words per minute.

So what's the solution? Some people think the way to fix this is to change the things you hate about yourself. I'm not so sure. That's not to say having a desire to lose weight or get in better shape is wrong or strange. Anyone (which is everyone) who is on a journey of health and finding out what lifestyle choices work for them should feel loved and supported for by their community.

But what if your hatred for your body fuels you to change it drastically and then you still feel sad? What if this causes you to promptly seek out something else about yourself to hate? Sometimes the things we want to lose are also the things we want to keep. So we snuggle up to the devil we know, and keep right on hating our bodies.

What if, instead of trying to change our bodies, we just stopped hating them? What if we put our foot down and said, "That's it. I'm done. I'm through hating my body. And I'm not going to do it anymore."

Isn't it worth a try?

When I was in high school, I got this wild idea that people who ate blue cheese dressing on their salads were more cosmopolitan and sophisticated than people who ate boring old ranch. Only problem was, I didn't like blue cheese dressing. Hated it, in fact. I thought it was gross. But I so wanted to be more cosmopolitan and sophisticated. One day I came across a bit of research that said you could do something a certain number of times to make it a habit. I think it was like 13 or 17. So I decided right then and there that's what I'd do. I'd eat blue cheese dressing on the next 13 or 17 salads until it felt perfectly natural to me. And that's exactly what I did.

What if I could do the same thing, except with not hating my body? Is it possible to retrain myself and cease the feelings of hate, by just repeating non-hateful behaviors over and over again?

What if you could do it too? What if some of us stopped hating our bodies, and it created a little ripple that caused others around us to stop hating theirs. And what if one day some girl (or boy for that matter) did some amazing thing that impacted all of us for the better, all because s/he had never been taught to hate the things that made her/him strong, capable and able?

I am willing to try. Are you?