Day 10

Today was a glorious day full of new sites, new sounds, and new adventures!

I think all four of us learned something today that we never knew before. I think we may have learned dozen things we didn’t know!

It is day 10 and I am learning that having my girls with me 24 hours a day, with no other obligations, and being completely free with our time and choices of what to do, gives me a clear glimpse of what they find fascinating and what they don’t. I see what lights them up and what they pretend to appreciate just because they know mommy does. It is sweet when they do that.

We started our day at the “Best breakfast café in Branson.“

Let me just say that it is very well named!

The pancakes are ridiculously sized.

And Mimi finally found a place that makes a large enough serving of hashbrowns.

Nina ordered pigs in a blanket. The blankets were large.

See how big her kids meal is but she still insisted on eating my bacon.

They have an antique train that circles the restaurant that the kids really liked.

After breakfast we headed to the National Tiger Sanctuary.

This most definitely was a highlight for us. If you are an animal lover or a cat lover this place does not disappoint.

We saw some incredibly powerful animals with some heart touching stories of how they came to the sanctuary.

The White Bengal Tiger

Did you know that tigers prefer to be left alone but lions have to have community?

And I found it fascinating to learn that their eyes are most brilliant blue when they’re young and lighten up to a clear white as they age.

This is the Siberian tiger, the largest breed.

He weighs about 650 pounds and eats 13 pounds of meat in one meal.

He takes getting that chicken leg every 2-3 hours, even on his fasting days, seriously!

A Lioness. The girls loved how she crosses her arms when she lays down.

They thrive in Community

The Alpha Male

The Black Leopard

Not the cute little sandpaper tongue on your house kitten here.

You haven’t heard the power of a voice until you hear a lions growl. It’s incredible. Glad we got to hear about 90 seconds of a lions carol between all of them in the sanctuary today. It was mesmerizing. Here is a short clip of it.

We really enjoyed our time at the tiger sanctuary.

Off to lunch.

We wanted to try Lambert’s because they are famous for their Throwed Rolls.

We didn’t really know what that was until we saw them start throwing rolls to the guests.

Here is a clip of me catching a roll one handed while holding a camera!

Their cup sizes are crazy.

Their meal sizes are ridiculous too

Best barbecue sauce ever!

We’ll be back.

The girls wanted to go Antiquing again. They are becoming regular Pickers!

We browsed a quilt shop and a few “Antique style” boutiques. boy do they know the difference!

Nina liked watching the quilt machine in action.

We had a ball and hit six of the eleven antique stores in this vicinity. We found treasures and great people in each shop.

I found a pocket knife just like the one my dad used to carry.

I found the EXACT washtub I had described to the girls on our trip to Missouri that we used to heat our bath water in growing up .

They were much more fascinated with their finds of antique lockets and tiny perfume bottles.

And this old school desk

I was fascinated with all the kitchen stuff, including this noodle cutter. We made homemade pasta few weeks ago and it took absolutely forever to cut the noodles with a knife. The girls say they are NOT eating noodles made with this old thing! Tee hee, they won’t know.

I put this little video collage together of the old coffee making essentials.

We arrived home to a beautiful sunset.

We ate Tiger paws (bear claws) for dinner.

The girls watched a quiet movie and I took a quiet bubble bath. Looking forward to one final day in Branson tomorrow.

Day 9

Left Lake of the Ozarks this morning for a two hour drive that took six. Cause that’s how we roll, tee hee.

Nina had to switch from her pink cowboy boots to her black ones for the trip. 😉

It was a beautiful drive through a lot of farm country in Missouri with many, many cows.

It was a gorgeous, warm 68 degree day. Warmest we have felt in a long, long time. So we stopped to explore Busieks State Park

Becca and Nina braved the creek. Mimi and I took the bridge across.

Stumbled across an old Cemetery from 1896

We found a little frozen pond and built our safety chain to test the thickness of the ice.

Mimi is the practical one.

“ Well, if we do fall through the pond is only four inches deep.” 🤣

We hiked 1.2 miles in and almost a mile out. There were some pretty views.

Nina falls behind on trails because she stops to pick up treasures along the way, but she thinks she is just slow.

“I’m not as fast as Mimi and Becca, but I’m just as fast as God made me to be.” ♥️

Some beautiful miss covered rocks in the woods where we meandered off the trail.

Can’t even believe the warm, sunny day we had after all the snow and ice we have had across the country so far!

We decided to stop at a food truck for burritos snd street tacos next.

And we had a picnic in the grass.

We checked in our room snd the girls passed out for 14 seconds.

Then they were ready to explore.

And then swim

They played in the pool until dark.

We found a cute, little, well off the beaten path Italian restaurant that was open. Mr. Gilberti’s

It’s authentic and good. The salad dressings are all homemade and they play Italian Jazz music. I learned tonight that there was such a thing.

Becca learned how to pump gas all by herself on the way home since our gas light was on from getting lost looking for spaghetti. We made it home and the condo is now buzzing with the sweet sound of quiet.

Day 8

You guys said you wanted to hear about normal, everyday life stuff on our trip. I hope it doesn’t take anything away from the adventure you are going on with us. I guess if it does, you can stop reading, so I’ll keep on sharing and keeping it real.

Woke up beside this cutie



It was a cereal day.

And a dip in the hot tub

And then off to Bridal Cave

The frozen lake was immense outside the cave.

It was cold and we looked forward to the year round temperature of 60 degrees inside the cave.

Here is the “pipe organ”

The Calcium deposits here are incredible.

There is a little wishing well they collect about $1500 a year in pennies from. They donate it for scholarships.

This is the longest piece of cave drapery in the US. It’s 1/4 mile long.

It took a full crew working 24 hours a day in 12 hour shifts, four years to lay the concrete walkway we walked on using two gallon buckets to haul in the concrete.

The Hidden Lake is beautiful. 18 feet deep and 50 degree water temp.

The lake where we are standing is 200 feet underground. It’s at the end of the cave and there is only one way out, the way we came in.

Our tour guide has been working here 30 years. I think he likes exploring this cave, and so did we!

On the way out the girls reminded me of the free kittens we saw on the way in and wanted to stop.

Becca: “We can act like we’re looking into it, and go see what they’ve got.” 🤣

Do we did

No one was home…. thankfully.

We checkout out the Lake of the Ozarks State Park. We were making a support chain link cause I’m so leary of frozen ice.

Until a park ranger yelled at us not to walk on the lake. I did not argue a second!

It was cold!

Besides, the girls wanted to go Antiquing again.

So we did.

Nina. Love trying in tiny ok’d glasses

And hats

And shoes, and everything.

The big girls found the attic and tried on everything.

And we learned about some interesting female customs of Victorian women and about Chatelaine.

These girls wanted to hit every antique shop in town and explore for hours.

We hit Panera for dinner snd Nina said she was getting her veggies in with this drink.

Our part of the lake had thawed a bit from the beautiful sunny day.

We explored the dock a bit and tried to crack the ice with rocks, but to no avail.

It was hot tub time again

And grapes. Mimi can’t decide which kind she wants. Nina has been head dunking in 100 degree water a while. 🤣

She’s happy about her grapes

I get some great progress made on my cardigan.

I knit and do a little work (at the same time).

The girls play until I drag them out limb by limb.

Mimi made lemon bars

No white cheddar biscuits.

We eat dinner and watched When Calls the Heart.

I hunker down on the floor of my closet, where there is carpet and ironing board to absorb sound, and record the first episode of a radio drama I’m in.

You wonder what writing this blog each night looks like?

It sometimes looks like this. Me tired, us snuggled up, me typing on my iPhone with one hand, and lots of reflection and gratitude that we were given another day on this adventure.

Day 7

Awoke to a nice sunrise over the frozen lake.

And this morning buddy.

The girls made their way into the hot tub before breakfast.

Nice and warm on a cold morning

The lake is gorgeous covered in ice.

I accidentally left a whole load of clothes, including the girls bathing suits, in the dryer at our last resort, do we had to do a store run.

We needed groceries anyway.

And hair masks.

After our necessities run, the girls wanted Mexican.

We ate at Vista Grande

Then we did some fun shopping.

The Landing on Main Street is an adorable little shopping Village with a General Store, Antique Shop, boutiques, and a Tea room.

We spent the longest time Antiquing. Talk about a history lesson over every tiny item. Mimi said she could have stayed in there ALL DAY!

We found the tiniest little things.

Non breakable Tea Cup set for Nina

A tiny Bible for me

Tiny bottles

Tiny iron

Tiny scissors

Tiny tea cups

And the most adorable tiny phone

We also found some neat vintage toys and games.

I planned on teaching the girls how to play Rummy on this trip anyway, so now they get to learn with vintage cards!

Nina enjoyed pretend to type on this antique typewriter .

And we found hair dye from the 1960’s. More on the fun we had with that later….

Yeah, never have I ever been ready to leave a store before the kids. That was fun.

So this is where we are. The Lake is everywhere!

Lake People

This is a new place to fall in love with.

This may become our new “Lake House“

I think the girls are on board with that.

Remember that vintage hair dye we got today?

The girls wanted to try it on us.

So, we did

Here is my BEFORE pic

And DURING

Interesting…

It smells like a hair salon

It’s a very old bottle of product.

The girls wanted to put some in their hair too, so we made a test strip on Mimi and Becca.

Then we used those hair masks

Cutie in a shower cap

You wouldn’t believe how good she smells after letting that sit for 30 minutes.

Girls started prepping dinner to make a spread for the Season premier of When Calls the Heart.

They wouldn’t let me in the kitchen.

It turned out delicious!

Shredded Rotisserie chicken, provolone, and Muenster cheese

Grapes blueberries and soft cheese kabobs

Broccoli with ranch dip, chips and guacamole

And Margarita with fresh mozzarella, basil, grape tomatoes, and balsamic glaze.

I think they did a great job.

The show was definitely a hit.

And hanging with my girls is definitely a special treat.

I nice day to round out our first week away from home.

Day 6

Today was a very very very long day of driving. The full eight hours.

We drove halfway across Tennessee and then Kentucky, Illinois, and well into Missouri.

We sold my house in piles of beautiful farm land as far as the eye could see.

Acres and acres of farms lined both sides of the highway through Kentucky.

When you were in farm country you can expect to see big farm truck wheels.

I have never seen anything like this before in my life!

We had the most gorgeous sunset across the fields and glowing on the snow.

We finally arrived in the Ozarks

Here is a cute coffee mug I refrained from buying.

We checked into a Resort. Everyone ran to clean their rooms, discovered the giant hot tub on the deck, and we chilled out from my trip for a few minutes before deciding on dinner.

The kids also checked out all of the tools of use in the kitchen.

Then we headed out to dinner.

Long day of driving and I look soooo forward to sleeping tonight and waking up to see what the view from our room looks like in the daytime.

Day 5

Our last day in Nashville was fun. I decided since we were in Music City USA we should spend the day on Honky Tonk Hwy

Y’all, I straighten my hair about 10 times a year, but never, ever have I had such a captive audience as I had this morning. The girls were just fascinated at the process for some reason and they watched the whole time. I guess it was a show! 🤣

Anyway….we headed out in the snow again, yeah, I’m getting brave, to downtown.

Didn’t even kick it in 4wD. I am getting really brave guys.

We reached downtown and I’m so mesmerized by the buildings, modern high rises and very old historical buildings, that I forgot all about the girls online French class on Fridays at 11:00 EST.

“What day us it Mom?” Mimi asks.

“Um…. I think it’s Friday” I reply.

“And… we’re missing French.”

😳

Good thing the Art museum is closed today so we just stop right in the middle of this snowy parking lot and hop on Zoom from my iPhone, 10 minutes late, and the kids do their French class.

Then we look for a free parking space in town and find this cool 100 year old hotel that used to be Union Station.

We explore it

It’s got some interesting characters

And artwork

And antiques. Nina learned how an old fashioned scale works.

They liked this stairwell. Dang, that’s a long way down.

Mimi reached the bottom first. Becca, not long after, and Stubby Legs (Nina) eventually.

Honky Tonk Hwy is just about a four block walk away, so we walked the snowy sidewalks there.

There are so many neat buildings with incredible architecture on Broadway.

This one is for sale

And here we are at the edge of Honky Tonk Hwy

We stop and check out the visitors center gift shop, and the Sports Hall of Fame Museum.

“Hey Nina (6) what’s the name of Tennessee’s football team?”

“The Moles?”

🤣😆🤣😆

One thing there is no shortage of in Nashville is guitars.

We have seen every shape, color, size, and design imaginable.

There are giant ones 12 feet tall

And there are miniature ones less than an inch big.

This one is about 4 inches tall and cones with its own leather case.

This one is, well, adorable. 😊

And they are all over the walls and in the arms of everybody on stage.

We ate lunch at Robert’s. Fantastic service and good old fashioned country music tunes. He even has a buzzer go off to remind him it’s time to play another Hank Williams classic.

Burgers and Root beer are the fare here.

Nina country jamming

Also in Nashville, there is no shortage of cowboy boots.

The girls tried on all of them

They found a pair or two they “needed”.

And a pair or two we didn’t.

Do you see the price tag on these?

$1659.99

$5,398.99

If I needed these I might need to get a job.

Guess what else there is no shortage of in Nashville.

Yup

Cowboy hats.

She needed one of those too.

The girls toting their loot

We were going to do Country line dancing at the Wild-horse saloon, but since the bombing at the vote counting site on Christmas morning at 6:30am, it, and most of the venues on 2nd avenue have been shut down or gone out of business.

So after finding just the perfect hoodies and a couple of souvenirs it was time for coffee and dessert.

I love these cuties

But they have THING for animals….

Can’t stay away from them even in the middle of of a city!

So we held dressed up cats for a while

Then walked back on the snowy sidewalk to the car, all the while with me wondering if maybe our car had been towed since we weren’t staying in the hotel where we parked.

Whew. It was still there.

We headed back to our resort for an evening swim.

They brought their mermaid tails for our 4000 mile trip.

Then it was time to shower, dress, and take their new boots out for dinner.

They bought a lot of pink today.

Even Mimi bought pink

The girls ordered a garlic pesto pulled chicken pizza with balsamic glaze.

I ordered the hot chicken salad

I thought the hot meant…not cold .

It meant hot chicken.

We couldn’t spend our last night in Nashville without stopping at Mimi’s for a pic.

Mimi thought it was pretty special to have an ice cream shop with her name on it.

Nashville was a fun place to visit. Time to hit the sack now for a very long drive tomorrow.

Day 3

We were blessed with clear roads to begin our first transition further west.

We decided to find the Lost Sea. So glad we did! What a cool place! Well, it was actually warmer inside the cave than out side, 58 degrees year round!

Really old Stalagtites
Moonshine distillery

Did you know that the body can’t feel the effects of moonshine inside the cave because the air pressure keeps the alcohol in the small intestines? Men had a rude awakening when they surfaced out of the cave after a night in the underground tavern.

Civil War fall out shelter

We had a really great tour guide. Shelby. She was articulate and humorous. Learned that a 13 year old boy discovered the underground lake in 1905. He wasn’t given credit for it until he was the only one to describe the granite at the entrance at age 73.

The sea is spectacular
It is teaming with fish

Beautiful rainbow trout vibrant and thriving in this crystal blue underground lake.

So quiet, calm, and peaceful
The water clean and cool
We are in a boat 150 feet below where our car is parked above.
The Lost Sea with my girls and me

One of the neatest parts of our tour was experiencing totally darkness for a whole minute. Did you know that if you lived in total darkness for 14 days you would go bling? That was a really neat experience.

We got back on the road and headed westward. It wasn’t long before we ran into a winter wonderland.

I decided we were too close to Burgess Falls not to stop and see it in the snow. Just a few miles off I40, we must.

Mimi’s giant icicle

A 3/4 mile hike to the falls brought plenty of icicle licking and kicking.

And snow blowing
Mimi
Becca cleared every inch of snow from the guard rails
It felt like we were in Narnia

The bluffs were impressive

And the falls spectacular

Here is a few seconds of it live

So powerful

Really glad we took the trail even though it said “treacherous”.

3/4 mile hike back to the car was so easy we ran.

Stubby Legs had to catch up with us

Listen to what she said!

🤣😂

What a beautiful and adventurous day with my girls .

Then….

We ran into a snow storm

My heart raced

My palms sweated drivibg

20 miles felt like 100

We finally reach our exit and the car in front of us hits a snow ice patch, spins around TWICE, and keeps going.

I’m dying!

We arrive safely

But then NOBODY is delivering food. Not Door Dash, not Grub Hub. Nobody.

🤪 We find a place close by and venture out again.

I’m shocked…

Scoreboard is absolutely hopping in the middle of a snow storm!

I’m no longer shocked. The food is delicious!

Tacos
Nachos
Spicy chicken Quesadillas
Apple salad

It was definitely time to settle in for the night.

We started a Spades Championship snd played 4 rounds.

Nina has no idea how to play.

But she caught on quickly!

Sleepy time set in and we read the first chapter of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle and called it a night.

Snow is still falling hard outside the window. I wonder what wonders tomorrow will bring.

Day 2

Woke up to snow on the ground, snow coming down, and it snowed all day.

Nina was ready to explore the yard a bit and insisted it wasn’t too cold. Brrrr. 16 degrees. Yeah, that’s too cold.

She found a fort and insisted it was warm inside.

17 degrees is not warm

I talked her into hunkering down by the fire and reading books.

We read The Littles Take a Trip

And the girls worked on their maps and journals for Tennessee.

Did you know that Tennessee was called the Volunteer State because they sent 1500 volunteer soldiers into the War of 1812? I didn’t know that until today. I thought the Tennessee “Vols” mascot was some sort of small rodent. 😂

After lunch we held the Great Cake Bake Off Championship.

It was epic
Mimi’s cake batter
Becca’s Cake batter
Nina’s Fresh raspberry frosting
Becca’s finished cake served with raspberry sorbet
Chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting and Oreo crumble
Mimi’s cake served with chocolate milkshake
Vanilla cake with butter cream frosting and white chocolate Hershey kiss sprinkles
Nina’s cake held together with a steak knife
Super moist yellow cake with raspberry frosting and cookie crumble

It was hard to choose a Champion.

So I declared Becca champion for Presentation, Mimi for taste, and Nina for creativity.

We ended our snow day with hot baths and watching Chopped until bedtime.

Looking forward to getting back on the road tomorrow to continue our treck across Tennessee.

Day 1

It was a cold and rainy drive from NC into the Tennessee mountains today.

Not one auto parts store carried tire chains. (We tried three and called three more) I prefer to not get stuck in ice somewhere on this unknown adventure. Apparently we are driving into the blizzard of the century as we head west.

But the girls enjoyed watching a movie in the back seat and Nina really enjoyed her Ring pop.

First leg of our ride

We made it safely to our unit. The girls let me pick my room.

Me happy

They all claimed their own rooms since they all have to share a room at home.

We played Sleeping Queens ( I won)

They played Server while I ordered Door Dash

After the third attempt of Door Dash and the realization that nobody delivers this far out, we decided to turn on the fireplace and the Food Network and eat popcorn and apples for dinner.

Nina pulled out her kitchen tools for making Homeade soap concoctions tomorrow…

And we all turn in for the night.

This hot bath is going to feel good.

Very, very good.

So thankful that all is well as we say goodnight to our first day. It looks as if every day we will be at the mercy of the weather as to where we go and what we do. So much for months of planning. But that’s ok….it’s all good.