Monday, May 16, 2016

Campground Review: Hickory Nut Falls Family Campground - Chimney Rock, NC

For a while now I've been meaning to document each campground we visit because unlike with hotels, the reviews and pictures and sometimes even a website for the campground are really hard to come by. Sometimes I even search for blog posts about a certain campground we are considering, but with blogging being a dying sport and those of us that enjoy camping being a smaller percentage also, those are really hard to come by. So, maybe there are one or two others that will stumble upon this in their searches and find it helpful. If so, hi! Welcome! Here's what we thought about...

Now, let me just start out by saying that we don't often go to the same place twice. There are so many different campgrounds to explore near us so rarely do we choose to go back to the same place twice. Given all of that, let me also tell you that we just recently returned from our second trip to this lovely campground.

We visited this campground from April 14-17, 2016. The weather during this time of year was chillier than I expected, but still beautiful! April is a tricky month in the North Carolina mountains...winter is still trying to hang on but spring is doing its darnedest to push winter out. Just the weekend prior to our visit there was a little snow shower, but luckily we had only clear skies and crisp cool mountain air during our visit. The highs were in the upper 60's, lows in the 40's which meant jeans/tees during the day, and dragging out blankets and jackets around the campfire at night.

Our family has a thing for water - so first we usually only choose campgrounds that have some sort of water in the campground or park. And then, if the water is in the actual campground, we are doing our best to reserve a spot that backs right up to the water. Luckily both times we've stayed in this campground we have had no problems getting a spot next to their body of water - this beautiful (SERIOUSLY - SO BEAUTIFUL!) rocky mountain river.


That is THE ultimate as far as 'body of water we'd like to camp beside' as far as my family is concerned. It is pretty hard to top that. The river is LOUD and muffles out the volume of any possible louder neighbors and (who am I kidding) it muffles out the volume of MY loud family too. Nature's white noise.


We chose the exact same campsite for our second trip as we did for our first trip also - site 67. We stayed in my parent's camper on this trip and this site accommodates a 35' camper very well. One or our favorite parts about this site, though, is that there is a tiny sandy beach right by the rocky stream which was the perfect place for Charley to play. The walk down to the beachy part is over some larger rocks, but Charley is 4 and had no problem getting down there on her own. The water isn't rushing right by that spot so she was even able to put on her rain boots and wade out into the river herself.


Another favorite with any campsite on this river is that you can jump from rock to rock to rock in this river. Of course, this is at your own risk because there will be slippery rocks and the water is rushing downstream, but minus a couple of wet shoes and socks, we all enjoyed this too. There was one large flat(ter) rock in front of our campsite that was very easy to get to which provided a great spot for a family photo. It was also a great spot to lay down and read a book or catch a nap. No napping for me though while watching a 4 year old and an almost one year old, but it was a nice thought of something I may do on a future FUTURE trip. Ha.


The campsites are spacious and flat and are mostly gravel and grass. They do have a nice, large picnic table at every site, and many sites had a ring that helped contain the campfire as well. All sites had a spot for a campfire, but only some had the ring. They have campsites that have water, electric and sewer and also some with just water and electric where most of the tenters stay. They also have some sites that are not near the river if that is what you'd prefer. They are scattered among (what I assume are) permanent sites.

The campground has a playground with swings (two big kid swings, one baby swing) and a big kid slide and a baby slide. There is also a balance beam and a bench swing for parents to sit on while the kids play. Although we did not utilize them this second trip, we did utilize the horseshoe pits the first time we visited. I don't remember who won but I'm sure it was me.


There is a bathhouse too and although we didn't use it often, it was very clean and an easy walk from our campsite. We didn't use the showers though, so can't comment on those. I can't imagine they'd be bad though - the family that runs the campground are very sweet and keep the place in tip top shape! They can be found running the camp store which is in an adorable A-Frame building. The camp store has ice cream in the warmer months, but it wasn't quite warm enough when we were there so we settled for candy bars. Other than the treats, they also have some groceries and other basic camping items you may have forgotten. Next to that is a spot to do laundry if needed (we did use that to dry a wet shoe or two from a misstep in the rocky river) and also a game area that we haven't used yet. There's also a secret staircase behind the store that goes down to the same river, but around the bend from where the campsites are. Just another little spot to explore!


As far as location goes - if you want to go to Chimney Rock Park and hike - you truly can't get much closer. The little downtown area and Chimney Rock Park itself are about a half a mile away. This trip we didn't go to hike at Chimney Rock Park, but found another hike to do at Chimney Rock State Park which was only 2.6 miles away from the campground. On our other trip here that was during fall, there were plenty of orchards close by to visit also. There's tons to do in the area though if hiking isn't your thing.

What else can I say? We really love this campground and I know we will be back in the future. We've done an early spring and a late fall trip, so now we need to find a way to get there in the summer when the ice cold mountain river would feel refreshing and not like we may lose a couple of toes to frostbite.

I doubt I'll ever need to comment on campground rates as they are all very reasonable and this place is no exception. A bargain if you ask me! (For those that aren't campers, most campgrounds seem to range from $20-$40 a night.) Pretty amazing considering this view!


I hope someone found this helpful, and if you aren't campers or aren't in this area, then hope you enjoyed the pictures.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Darn Lillian, Biopsies & Backup Cameras, For Short

Another bulleted list type post because I have several short thoughts swirling around in my head that I want to share.


Let's start with Lillian. Remember in school in French or Spanish class you had to pick a French or Spanish name for yourself? I took French in middle and high school and my French name was always Lillian. So, it is pretty ironic that for the last year or two I've periodically gotten phone calls over and over and over asking for Lillian. Mostly seem like telemarketers (and not my previous French class classmates) so my theory is this - there is a Lillian somewhere that has a junk phone number she gives out when filling out surveys or the like. Much like my junk email address I use for the same kind of deal, Lillian's junk phone number is likely one digit different from her regular phone number so it is easy for her to remember. But listen here, Lillian. Unless you purchase a burner phone and use that number to give out instead of your real number, it's not the same as using a junk email address. There is actually a person with that phone number you are giving out getting really annoyed with your brilliant idea!


Recently I had to go get a biopsy of a nodule or two that have developed on my thyroid. They caused me mild discomfort for a few days when they first developed so I went to get them checked out by my general practitioner who sent me for an ultrasound. Ultrasound confirmed they were thyroid nodules that were mostly fluid filled, but also had some cells in them as well. So then they sent me on to an endocrinologist who STABBED ME WITH A NEEDLE TO THE NECK to drain them. But I'm being dramatic. It sounds worse than it was. The needle was smaller than the one they use to do blood draws so I didn't feel the stick at all. I did feel some discomfort while the needle was in my neck, but I wouldn't even call it painful. I think I made one wincing noise and that was it. Much better than I expected. I already got the results back too and there were no signs of malignancy. I really wasn't too concerned though - another family member also has these nodules and has had many biopsied before with no scary results, so I was hoping for the same.

Thinking back to the throat discomfort that caused me to go get them checked out in the first place though - it felt sort of like my throat was constricted a little. It was just something I hadn't felt before and the doctor is so close to my work that I thought "oh why not?" and just scheduled a quick visit during lunch. I'm not one to even go to the doctor often so I was actually surprised at how quickly they knew what it was and how the ball got rolling from there. And had I waited it out - that discomfort that I felt those first few days completely dissipated by the end of that week. So I would have gone on thinking I was healed and never thought about it again. What I'm saying is - I think I may run to the doctor for every mild discomfort from now on! This whole process has me feeling like I'm turning into a hypochondriac. How will I know whether or not I should go to the doctor for the next mild discomfort I feel?


In other biopsy news, I also had a skin thing biopsied earlier this year. I go to the dermatologist twice a year for a full body check (twice a year instead of the usual once a year because I had Basal Cell Carcinoma on my face 10 years ago or so) but that full body check really only covers about 95% of the body. You keep your underwear and bra on, so those portions of the body don't really get checked. Soooo, for the last couple of years there's been this spot on my butt. It wasn't a pimple and it wasn't irritated or anything, but it came out of nowhere and then just stuck around. It really only bothered me after a shower when it would sometimes be itchy. (Isn't that a great visual? Naked Lacey scratching her butt after a shower.) Every appointment I'd chicken out from telling the doctor to take a look at it because the whole pulling your underwear to the side to expose your bare butt cheek makes an already awkward appointment awkwarder. But I finally did it back at an appointment in November. He just took a little piece of it to test it but was feeling pretty certain it wasn't nothing.

But, yay me! It wasn't nothing. He said it was an atypical spitz tumor that they couldn't 100% say was cancerous or non-cancerous, so the recommendation was to take the whole thing off. So I had to go back a second time for him to take the whole thing. And, yay me, again! The tumor went pretty deep so to get it all out he had to cut a large football shaped hole and then give me 5 stitches to close it all back up. It was pretty darn painful for those first couple of days, but I survived. And I have a lovely Frankenstein scar that I'll never show a soul but I'll tell the entire internet about.


I'm still going strong(ish) on the whole Weight Watchers thing. To date I've lost 16 pounds and my ultimate goal is to lose 5.8 more. The deadline I gave myself for the goal is exactly two weeks from today so realistically I could actually make that. Two pounds a week is pretty standard, so that's just being extra good for a mere 14 more days and then I can switch to just maintaining. It sounds so doable, right!?

So doable in fact that I didn't DO it at all today. We had lunch brought in at work today from Firehouse Subs. Their subs are very high points, so I knew before I ordered that I'd get no chips and eat just half of my sub. And then I got it and ate the whole thing. That was all of the points I had remaining for the day.

At dinner, I truly wasn't that hungry (likely because I ate so many points at lunch) so I decided I'd just snack on something if I got hungry. I never got hungry actually, but then as I'm cleaning up dinner (Charley had a leftover piece of pizza as part of her dinner) I see that Charley left about three quarters of her piece of pizza untouched on her plate. It would be a shame to toss that pizza, and it wouldn't make much sense to save the last piece of pizza that had been eaten 1/4 of the way already. So. I ate it. Of course.

But all is not lost! If you eat too many points in the day, just exercise to earn some points back and get out of the hole! Easy peasy! We've got a gym in the basement!

And yet. Here I sit. Blogging.

TOMORROW. TOMORROW I jump back on my wagon for a strict two weeks! I can do this!


A couple weeks ago John got some work done to his truck which took a while and left us with just one car for a week and a half. My mom very graciously allowed us to use her car as often as we needed to, so many days I took her car to work with me. I really loved driving her CR-V except for one thing - no back up camera! Isn't that so ridiculous?! When I bought my Pilot almost 5 years ago now, that feature was a cool-to-have feature, but by no means did I consider it a must-have. But I had no idea how reliant I've become on the feature! I was so confused with just where to look when backing! It sounds so dumb - I know - but it really threw me for a loop. On top of that I've been back-up anxious ever since I backed into that van after dance class so I was doing my best to find pull through spots every time I drove her car.

Speaking of car features though - isn't it funny how with each car you own you develop a new must-have-feature? Maybe it is just me. But I feel like with the six cars I've owned since I started driving at 16, each was an upgrade and each one added something to my must-have list for the next car. I gained a sun-roof from my first car (Civic) to my second (Celica). Then when I got the next one (Scion TC) I gained auto-shut off headlights and boy - definitely cannot go back after that unless I like dead car batteries. With the next (Trailblazer) I gained, well, not sure what I gained there. It was more of a lateral move because we needed a vehicle that could tow a boat. From there I got another Civic and got in-dash navigation and blue tooth capabilities. Thought I couldn't go back on those two things. They were must haves for sure. And then baby came along and compromises had to be made and I lost both of those things. Womp womp. I thought they were must haves, but the must-haviest thing at that point was more space, so I compromised on not having those but I did get leather upholstery! And a back-up camera! And a bigger (coughmoreexpensivecough) car to carry my babies around! So. Yeah. Where was I going with this again?


I mentioned dance above. Charley was trying out dance this year and we were just about through with it. She really wasn't enjoying it much (besides the candy they passed out every single week at the end of class, which coincidentally was right at dinner time. Ugh!) so I was just determined to make her stay and finish it out. I had several things happen over the year (season?) that made me very irritated with the dance school so if we continued on with dance, I knew it wouldn't be at the same place. But, then they announced the recital for the recreational classes and it was on the Saturday of freaking Memorial Day weekend. Ughhh. Noooooooooo. NOooooooooooobody has plans on that weekend. Especially those with parents that both work and like to take advantage of holiday weekends. So, more annoyed.

Then a couple weeks ago the dance teacher calls in the parents after class to tell us about the recital. We'd need to buy new tights ($8) on top of the UGLIEST OUTFIT OF ALL TIME that I'd already purchased ($75), and here are some "optional" things we could buy, but we were strongly encouraged to buy these things because the ones that didn't receive these things on recital day would be very upset when everyone else WAS getting these things. First, was an ad in the program ($40) similar to the senior advertisements placed in year books. My kid can't even read, so no. Then, a message could be purchased ($2) and placed on the chair where they get ready. Again, kid can't read - no thanks. And then there are personalized frog stuffed animals in tutus ($12) available to order. And of course flowers bouquets after the recital was over ($15). And pictures (price TBD)! And the video of the recital of course (another price TBD). That may be it, but I swear it went on and on and on. My head was spinning. So all of that, on top of Charley not enjoying dance, on top of the stinking recital being on a weekend where we had planned to go camping as a family and we decided we were done. It just wasn't for us. We of course let Charley decide and not surprisingly, she chose camping over the recital.

I do feel like we have no closure since I never got to see a recital (but did see mini-performances in class a couple of times) but oh well. She's four. She's got plenty of time to find something she likes (or something else she doesn't like) where I can make her stick it out until the end. This wasn't it for us - we are not dance people. Just ask my friends after I've had a few drinks.


We do have a super adorable (lies!) hot pink, zebra print and polka dot dress if anyone wants it! That thing is too ugly even to keep in the dress up box. Bleh!


And a picture from tonight. Laney found a cheerio on the floor from who knows when. (Well, likely from within the last 5 days since the house was pretty clean before her birthday party last weekend.) Anytime she sees food she says "mmmmmmmmmmmm" and I think you can almost hear her saying it by looking at this picture. Love it.


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Laney Bug is ONE!

I have a 1 year old and a 4.5 year old yet it feels like I have a 6 month old and a 3 year old. Time is weird, y'all.

Laney turned one last Friday, and we celebrated with a bug themed party on Saturday. But I'll tell you about that in another post. This is my last monthly post...EVER. While I'm glad, because these things can feel like a chore sometimes, I'm also like "welllllll, at least that was one gimme' prompt a month where I can barely squeak out 2 posts a month lately". 


I chose that picture because I loved that I finally got a picture where you can see her teeth! She has those 4 up front, and then randomly one molar has broken most of the way through too. I thought the molar was a canine, but doesn't seem that way in the 2.8 seconds she allows me to look and feel around in there. She is not following the proper teething order!

She's starting to talk more and more. She can say dog (dah!), more (dah!), that (dah!) and cat (dah!). Ha. But seriously, even though she does say dah! for many many things, she does throw in some actual words/sounds here and there. Mmmmmmmmmmm means she wants to eat, or wants more. She says awwwwwww when she lays her head down on your shoulder or when she cuddles. She makes barking noises for any animals, which as I said are mostly dah, but she will actually say cat sometimes. She says hi and bye bye. She definitely knows yes and no and shakes her head appropriately for those responses. And just today I about melted when she pointed to Charley and said "Char-yah". I mean, close enough, right? A couple other family members had heard it before, but this was the first time I heard it and I melted into a puddle right there on the spot. She also says Mama, Dada, Gaga and sort of Gran-da-da.


She still loves playing in Charley's room whenever she can. She pulls up to stand and cruises still, but is now also standing unassisted for longer and longer periods of time. (nooooooooooo!) I give her a couple weeks before that first step is taken.

She's wearing some 12 month stuff, but moving more into 18 month stuff. Still a size 4 diaper and I've started putting shoes on her more lately and it seems she is a size 3, but she also has some size 3-6 month shoes from Carter's that fit great too. Itty bitty feet for her age I guess. I don't have official weight and height - her 12 month appointment is still a couple weeks out.


She went on her first theme park ride on her birthday and mostly loved it. No tears, but no smiles either. Mostly her face read "what in the world are you guys doing to me?" She was more amazed at the people watching and the lights and sounds. Other firsts this month - whole milk! I ran out of formula a week before her birthday so I made the switch. She also had her first sweets (cookie cake on my birthday) and first ice cream.

Speaking of that first milk though...I know I shouldn't expect the same out of two different children, but when Charley switched to whole milk it went like this: that first time I put some cold whole milk in a bottle where she was used to having warm formula. She immediately pushed the bottle away so I then poured the cold whole milk into a sippy and gave it to her. She took right to it and that was it for bottles with Charley. I mean, could not possibly get any easier than that. So it was some extreme wishful thinking that I thought Laney would do the same. While she has taken her milk in a cup a few times, most times she is pushing the cup away and crying for a bottle instead. Soooo, I may actually have to do something to help this transition along.


But besides all the stats and the things she's up to now, she's just really, really great, y'all. She is full of surprises and full of snuggles and I cannot stop kissing those cheeks and that soft head of hair. She nuzzles her little face right into the crook of my neck and says "awwwwww" and it is in moments like that where I just plead with the universe to freeze, even if just for a couple minutes. Her and Charley are so close to being so close if that makes sense and it just warms my heart. She is just perfect for our family and we are so glad she's ours.


Laney - thank you for the year full of new challenges for us all, but most of all thank you for the additional smiles, giggles and love you brought into our home. And my parent's home. And my sister's home. You share your sweetness with us all and we all soak it up.


Last of all - Laney started out looking pretty similar to Charley but as the months have gone on, the similarities are getting a little harder to see. We are starting to see more and more John in Laney and Charley is more me, we think. I know they change a million more times between now and adulthood, but that's what we are thinking as of now. Both cute & both ours, but looking less alike. What do you think?

Charley, Laney

Happy birthday sweet Laney!