Project 52

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Happy New Year! I've been working on my list of 52 things I want to accomplish in 2011. I'm more of a goal oriented person rather than a resolution person. I'm also a big fan of to-do lists. So here's my 2011 to-do list:


1. Organize my home
2. Organize my office
3. Buy a new t.v. for my living room (my 12 year old t.v.just bit the dust)
4. Get my hair cut on a regular basis
5. Go to the dentist
6. Catch up on my Bible reading (working on read the Bible in a year plan)
7. Haul my garbage off at least twice a week (I HATE hauling my garbage off and wait as long as possible)
8. Journal regularly
9. Put my makeup on at home rather than in my car while I'm driving
10. Wash my face before going to bed
11. Brush my teeth and floss before going to bed
12. Get new contacts
13. Do some type of physical activity at least four times a week
14. Lose 15 lbs.
15. Work with my friend Teresa on beginning a Christian writing group
16. Start using the envelope system for my money
17. Lay out my and Brenn's clothes the night before
18. Make my lunch instead of eating out
19. Try at least one new recipe a week
20. Make a home cooked meal at least twice a week
21. Wear more stylish clothing
22. Do at least one act of kindness each day
23. Write our Compassion child at least three different times
24. Call every one of my long distance friends just to talk
25. Spend more time studying my Sunday School lesson
26. Turn in my homework assignments one day early
27. Put $10 a week in savings
28. Plan a single mom's conference
29. Do a single mom Bible study
30. Get my laptop fixed
31. Clean out my car once a month
32. Do a Bible study with Brenn
33. Spend more time with Brenn
34. Eat at least one salad a day
35. Put $5 a week in my Christmas Club account
36. Send out at least five cards (birthday, thinking of you, etc.)
37. Hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail
38. Do at least two backpacking/camping trips
39. Go hiking at least once a month
40. Buy the Sunday paper every week
41. Blog at least four times a week
42. Start a Scrapbook
43. Read at least 5 nonfiction books
44. Plan a vacation
45. Start a prayer journal
46. Go to a play
47. Give a speech
48. Get at least seven hours of sleep every night
49. Pick out Brenn's glasses
50. Cut Brenn's hair every other month
51. Start my freelance website
52. Work on one freelance writing project a month

There it is. I'm excited to see how many things I can cross off my
to-do list by the end of the year!

What are your New Year's resolutions? Or, for my goal oriented friends, what is on your to-do list for 2011?

Thrifty Thursday: Two Websites to Get You Ready for 2011

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Thanks to a fellow blogger named Karen and her Project 52, I'm currently working on a list of 52 things I want to accomplish in 2011. I thought it would be hard to come up with 52 things, but I've learned pretty quick that it's not hard at all.

Two of the goals on my list ( these goals will stay on my list until the day I leave this earth) include getting organized and sticking to a budget. Here are a couple websites I've found in past years that have made my thriftyness just a little easier.

flylady.net
I found flylady.net several years ago while trying to find some way to get control of my daily life. If you think that getting control of your life is not thrifty, think again. How many times have you had to go and buy multiple of something because you can't find what you're looking for in your cluttered house? How many times have you picked fast food over a home cooked meal because you forgot to take something out of the freezer (or you haven't done the dishes)? This was (and still is at times) me. Flylady helped me to discover that because I am a perfectionist, if I can't do something perfectly then I just won't do it at all. It sounds crazy, I know, BUT it's true. At flylady.com, you begin by taking baby steps. You will learn to love a shiny kitchen sink and your timer. There's a lot of information on her website and it will cause information overload if you try to take everything in at one time, so begin here. If you sign up for emails, you will receive a daily email telling you what baby step you're on and what items you need to accomplish for the day.




mint.com
I've been using this website for about five months now. I have a love/hate relationship with mint.com. I love that I can set a budget and set personal financial goals for myself. I also love that I can link my bank account to mint.com so that my spending habits can be tracked (it's totally secure). I love that the cost to use the services of this website is FREE. What do I hate about this website? I hate those emails I get from mint.com telling me when I've overspent in a certain area of my budget.

So, there you go. Two websites to get you ready for 2011. Ready. Set. Go!

The Jesse Tree - Brennifer Style

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I hope everyone had a wonderful Christ-filled Christmas!

Back in November, I had written a post about Advent. Unfortunately, the weeks from Thanksgiving to Christmas flew by and in-between Christmas parties, Christmas plays, and Brenn being at his dad's, we did not get too far on our Jesse Tree. Yesterday, I decided we would still do the Jesse Tree even though Christmas has come and gone. 

I call this project The Jesse Tree - Brennifer style (Brenn and Jennifer) because once again we're doing things backwards, which happens quite a lot in our household ;)

I don't have pictures to all the Jesse Tree devotions because we haven't done them all, but I wanted to share the website we used to find the devotions and ornaments for the tree. I also wanted to share some photos from our first two devotions.

It's not too late to celebrate Advent! The birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus shouldn't only be celebrated at certain times of the year, it should be celebrated all year long!

The website I used for the devotions and the ornaments can be found here.

Some pictures from our first two devotions:








Our Jesse Tree without any ornaments




                  


         Blurry picture of one of the ornaments







Brenn reading the first devotion
 


Me reading the second devotion (pay no attention to the girl with the greasy hair wearing no makeup). Not my finest photo for sure.

Christmas Card

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Merry Christmas from Jennifer, Brenn, and Scratch!


Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJab!

Blessings

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No Thrifty Thursday today since it's the eve of Christmas Eve...I'm sure by now most of us aren't feeling very thrifty. ;)

Today, I felt the pang of sadness that normally happens at some point during the holiday season. The weeks leading up to Christmas are full of parties, shopping, wrapping, etc. so I stay busy enough not to think about my single mommyness. But, as the activities slow down, that sad feeling finds a way to creep in. Anything can trigger it - pictures of other families, couples holding hands in the store...it can be any little thing. 

I have a great family, but unfortunately they live 300 miles away and sometimes I just don't have the energy to travel. I have great friends too. Some of my best friends invited us to eat Christmas Dinner with them and I'm truly looking forward to it. So, when I feel down and lonely, I also feel so selfish because I truly am blessed.

Today, the sadness came in a different form. I gave Brenn an early Christmas present. Every year, I give him money so that he can buy me something for Christmas. The past two years he's wanted to wander the store by himself to look for my gift. I creep close by so that I can watch him while trying not to see what he's picked out for me. This year, I bought him a cell phone. I gave him the phone last night so that he could use it today when he went shopping for me. I knew that I could text him every 2 seconds to make sure he was ok ;) So, by this evening, he was texting at least five of his friends at the same time. Apparently he was storing up all these phone numbers until he got a cell phone because I have no idea how he knew all these numbers. As we were driving to the store, I looked back and he was busy texting away. 

Immediately, that pang of sadness hit me.

He has grown up so fast. In just a blink of an eye he will be driving, graduating high school and going off to college. He has been my main focus for ten years, and in another ten years (give or take a few years) he will start a life of his own. 
So, as the pang of sadness came, I thought of all the blessings God has given me through my son. I am thankful for each and every moment-good or bad.

Maybe you're feeling that pang of sadness or loneliness in your life right now. Maybe it's time to look around and take notice of your blessings.

Brenn and I wish you and your family a very Merry CHRISTmas!

And the Winner is...

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Wow, ya'll (I can say this word because I live in the south) are just awesome! I never expected this many people to enter to win a $15 Amazon gift card. I've even gained some friends in the process!

I've loved reading your comments... some made me laugh, some reminded me of my favorite Christmas memories, and some even brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing your special memories. 

I randomly used some of the comments to make a collage. 



I will have giveaways periodically throughout the year, so make sure to follow me using Facebook or Google Friend (or both!). You will have to endure my posts between these periodic giveaways, but I promise they won't be too bad ;)

Ok, now for the winner....

Congrats to chlorinebrain! You are the winner of a $15 Amazon gift card!

Music/Movie Monday: My Top Five Christmas Songs

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Christmas Eve is almost knocking on our door! Are you finished with all the last minute shopping? I'm not!

I would love to list my top ten Christmas songs, but I've been polishing up on procrastinating skills. I'm trying to finish a 1,000 word paper that's due in a few hours (and I just started it a few hours ago). So, I only have time to share my top five songs...

1) "Do You Hear What I Hear" by Third Day

2) "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo" by Trans-Siberian Orchestra
This video is pretty cool too

3) "Dominick the Italian Christmas Donkey" by Lou Monte
I know this is probably the most annoying song ever. 
I can't help my musical taste...don't judge me

4) "Little Drummer Boy" by Jars of Clay
This band is just awesome

5) "Christmas in Dixie" by Kenny Chesney & Alabama

Alright, now it's your turn to tell me your favorite Christmas songs!

As you can see "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" is not on my list ;)

Don't forget to leave a comment here for a chance to win a $15 Amazon gift card. The deadline is tomorrow!

23 New Facebook Friends in Two Days!

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Wow! I'm so happy to have many new friends on My Single Mom Adventure Facebook Page! I think this calls for a celebration.

I love everything about Christmas-the lights, the trees, the songs, the movies. I especially love celebrating Christ's birth. 

 So, here's my gift to you. Leave a comment under this blog post (not on Facebook) sharing your favorite Christmas memory or your favorite part about Christmas. Everyone who leaves a comment will have the chance to win a $15 Amazon gift card. The gift card will be emailed to the winner, so you'll have it immediately. You must enter by Tuesday, December 21 at 11:59 pm (CST) to be eligible.

If you leave a comment as anonymous, make sure to put your name in your message so I know who you are.

Thank you again!

Thrifty Thursday: Five Cool Deals

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I've searched some of my favorite sites to bring you five cool deals. Here they are!


1. Coby MP3 Player for $21.99


Right now (and I'm sure not for long), at Amazon you can get the Coby 4 GB Video MP 3 Player with FM Radio for $21.99 (priced $44 at Wal-Mart). Need another incentive? When you purchase this MP3 Player you'll receive a $15 worth of Amazon downloads. 

You can get free shipping if you purchase $25 or more and sign up for Super Saver Shipping (you get a free one-month trial and can cancel at any time before the trial is up). I just signed up for the Super Saver Shipping this week and received the items I ordered the next day!
 





2. Free Photo Canvas (just pay $14.99 shipping)



 You can order an 8 x 10 photo canvas for free ($55 value) or you can get $55 off a larger canvas photo.









3. Crocs Deal of the Day: Mary Janes for $9.99 with free shipping (regular $24.99)


 In addition, use code FABULOUS10 when you checkout and you will receive 10% off. Several different colors are offered, but these are going quick! Many sizes are already gone...so hurry!





4. Toy Story 3 Ker Plunk Game for $5 and $.97 Shipping





 This is a great deal! The game sells for $17.81 on Amazon. Select free site to store shipping or have it shipped to your house for $.97!



 I am all for free samples! Going to my mailbox is like Christmas morning every day. I never know what I'm going to find in my box...I do know that I'm not too popular with my mailman since he has to shove stuff in my box on a regular basis.

Thanks hip2save!

A Great Gift...Snow Day!

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There are times when people unknowingly give me great gifts.

We live in middle Tennessee and it's a big deal when snow is in the forecast. It had begun snowing Sunday and by Sunday night the accumulation was enough for schools to be called out. As I was washing dishes Sunday night, I received a great gift...an email from my boss letting me know that I could take a snow day on Monday if I wanted to.

The past few weeks have been extremely busy, to the point where I had not even thought about putting Christmas decorations up. My house was looking neglected and my lack of sleep was beginning to show in the form of bags under my eyes.

So, a snow day was a great gift...

I slept for eleven, I repeat ELEVEN hours

I ate cereal (I never have the time to eat cereal)

I caught up on some house cleaning. I know this doesn't sound exciting to others, but to me it was pretty exciting.

Brenn and I competed in an intense Wii golf game where he beat me like nobody's business

We slipped on our wool hiking socks, bundled up, and did some hiking at Old Stone Fort...not for long though because it was stinkin' cold!

 
 














And then we put up our Christmas decorations







 (This is one of my favorite ornaments)



 


As a single parent, I constantly feel like I'm running on low fumes, so a day at home definitely constitutes as a great gift!


What do you consider a great gift? The opportunity to soak in a bubble bath? A day out shopping? Curling up with a great book?

Music/Movie Monday: "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer"

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A few days ago, one of my friends shared her issues with a well-known Christmas movie. While she shared her issues, we laughed at the fact that we've probably watched this movie hundreds of times and we never thought of these issues before. I didn't want to embarrass my friend and lay out all her issues with this particular movie in my blog, so I started going through my mental file of well-known Christmas songs. As a result, we're going to talk about the song, "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer." Have you ever wondered where in the world this song came from?

Let's summarize this song first:
  • Grandma and grandpa are hanging out at their family's house on Christmas Eve
  • Grandma drinks too much eggnog and while in the process of becoming tipsy notices she forgot her medication
  • The family begs her not to go out in the snow to get her medication, but she doesn't listen
  • She was found the next day with hoof prints on her forehead and Claus marks on her back
  • Grandpa is so upset about the whole incident that he's drowning himself in football games, playing cards, and drinking beer
  • The family wonders if they should open grandma's presents or just send them back
So, I wonder...Did Santa get arrested for leaving the scene of the crime? If grandpa was so unconcerned about grandma being gone, what kind of person was he, or better yet, what kind of person was she?

"Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" was written by Randy Brooks and was inspired by Merle Haggard's "Grandma's Homemade Christmas Card." Randy wrongly guessed that the third verse to Merle's song would say that one year the Christmas card never arrived and thus the family learned of her death.  (http://www.events-in-music.com/the-history-of-grandma-got-run-over-by-a-reindeer.html)

How would a sweet song about a Christmas card from grandma inspire a song written about a grandma getting run over by a reindeer? That takes one creative mind.


Happy Friday!

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This video is from another blog I follow called Single Dad Laughing

Sometimes, you just need to dance...or just need a good laugh!

Thrifty Thursday: Hip2Save

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So that I can add more corny names to the days of the week, Thursday is now "Thrifty Thursday." As a single parent, I have to watch my dollars and sense (yes, I know it's spelled wrong - I did it on purpose). I try to watch for freebies and find the best deals. I'm no expert, but I try. With it being Christmas season, I'm trying to find good deals on gifts. That probably sounds like I'm cheap....because I am. I still give the gift in love, no matter if it cost $100 or $1. 

One of my favorite blogs is hip2save.com. Hip2Save is run by a lady named Collin. Collin and her husband have three kids and as she states, "We are a typical American family, struggling with finances, budgeting, and the challenges that come with raising children in today's fast-moving world." Collin keeps the blog up-to-date every day and as a result I have found some pretty hot deals. At this very moment, you can get an ESPN Magazine Subscription for $3.99; 50 free prints from Snapfish; and free natural-cut fries with sea salt from Wendy's.


Check it out!

Hope

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I write tonight from a heavy heart. Not because anything is wrong with me, really. My heart is heavy today for those who feel like they have no hope. Those who feel they have no where else turn turn but to drugs, alcohol, or unhealthy relationships in order to feel better. I know this feeling because I have been there. I have tried everything possible to find a way to fill the void, the longing in my heart.  I've seen this happen to the best people and all it took were situations like the loss of a job, the death of a parent, or even a divorce for them to just snap and become a skeleton of who they once were.

I've seen this happen recently with someone I've known for quite a few years. Someone who I once saw as happy, funny, and content with life. Today, this person is sitting in a jail cell waiting to hear where life will lead next. This person is not the same person I knew. This person was hit by life and just broke down. Life happens each day to every single one of us - the car won't start, the washer is broken, we're late for work, we don't have enough money to pay the bills. How much can we take before we just break down?

I don't know the answer to that question. I do know that it hurts my heart to see people I love and care about give up on living.

After turning to drugs, alcohol, and unhealthy relationships I had no where else to turn but to Jesus. My life has not been perfect, I still make MANY mistakes, but I know where to find Hope. A Hope that will never leave me no matter where I am in life. My prayer is that others, including my friend, will find that Hope also.

Music/Movie Monday: Eat Pray Love

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I actually had control of the t.v. Saturday so I finally made time to watch this movie. I am a huge Juliet Roberts fan. I think she's a great actress. I also learned something about Javier Bardem. I thought Javier Bardem played in the movie, "P.S. I Love You" (awesome movie). But, I couldn't find the movie listed in his filmography. I found out that it was actually Jeffrey Dean Morgan who played in "P.S. I Love You." Look at the resemblance between the two actors...wow.

Anyway, I heard some of the reviews for "Eat Pray Love" and they weren't good. I tried not to have preconceived opinions about the movie before seeing it. 

Parts of the movie dragged on forever. I had trouble keeping up with the story line, which should not have been hard since the title is the story line.

The most memorable part of the movie was the beginning. Julia's character is married at the beginning of the movie. She's going through transitions in her life, trying to find herself, blah, blah, blah. So, what does she do? Here, let me quote it:

Husband: "I don't want to go to Aruba"

Liz (Julia Roberts): "I don't want to be married"

She just drops her husband like an old shirt (that's the best analogy I can come up with at 10 p.m.).

Several times I had convinced myself to shut the movie off and find something else to enjoy before I lost control of the t.v. to a ten year old boy.

So, I give "Eat Pray Love" 3 out of 5 starts...and that's being generous.

Have you seen "Eat Pray Love?" What do you think about the movie?

What Do I Want to Be When I Grow Up?

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In between laundry, work, school, housework, and normal everyday grooming, I often stop and ask myself, "What do I want to be when I grow up?"

I recently finished my two year degree and am pursuing my four year degree. Pretty soon, my counselor will want for me to sit down and make a plan for my life after I graduate. The thought of making a long-term plan makes me a bit apprehensive. From the time I was a little girl, I couldn't make up my mind on what I wanted to be when I grew up...pilot, meteorologist, tornado chaser, teacher, geologist, oceanographer, writer, nurse. Setting one career plan just never worked for me. Picking one path meant I had to let go of all the others...at least for a while. So, anyone know of a good professor who writes about nursing while studying meteorology by the ocean? He or she also has to own a plane and be an avid rock collector. If you know of this person, please give me his or her information. I need a good mentor.

Music/Movie Monday: My Top Ten Must See Christmas Movie List (Part 2)

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During Thanksgiving break I was able to watch quite a few Christmas movies, including many on my favorites list! In part one I listed the first five of my top ten Christmas movies. Here are the next five:




Elf

I LO V E this movie! I remember going to see Elf when it first came out. I'm not really a Will Ferrell fan, so I had low expectations. I was pleasantly surprised. I mean, who couldn't love someone that eats their spaghetti with syrup and decorates the house with snow flakes?










The Nativity Story

My favorite part of this movie is the portrayal of the Jewish marriage traditions. What a great picture of Jesus and the Church!













The Santa Clause

I've seen all of these movies, but the first one is my favorite. Little Charlie is just adorable.












Miracle on 34th Street

Another one of those cutsie romantic movies...I have seen the movie done in 1947, but my favorite is the movie done in 1994 staring Dylan McDermott and Elizabeth Perkins. 









I've saved my most favorite movie for last. This movie is a classic and makes me laugh every time I watch it. 


A Christmas Story

Now, I know there are many who don't see this movie as a classic. And, that's ok. Here's the list on why I love this movie:

Leg Lamp
Fra geee leee
A tongue and a pole
Deck the halls with bows of horry...fa ra ra ra ra ra ra ra ra
You'll shoot your eye out!
Be sure to drink or Oveltine






Well, this wraps up my top ten Christmas movies. What are some of your favorite?

Are You Ready for Christmas? Are You Ready for Jesus?

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The pastor at my mom's church in South Carolina shared a great message this morning. Basically, he asked two questions.

First, are you ready for Christmas?

I'm always ready for the Christmas season; the music, the Christmas trees, the lights, the movies, even the corny Christmas shirts.

The next question he asked is: Are you ready for Jesus?

Today begins Advent, What is Advent you ask? Advent is a season Christians celebrate in preparation for Christmas. It starts the fourth Sunday before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. Advent focuses on preparing us for the coming Christ by remembering the meaning of Christ's birth.

There are different ways to celebrate Advent. This year, our church gave out a family Advent devotional. Also, there are websites that share devotions for families. Here is a website that shares how to make an Advent calendar and lists 25 things to do leading up to Christmas.

This year, my son and I are making a Jesse Tree for Advent. The Jesse tree represents the family tree of Jesus. The tree helps in sharing the story of God's plan for salvation from the very beginning with creation. Isaiah 1:1 says, "A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit."

Here is the website I'm using to get ideas for the Jesse Tree.

As Brenn and I make our Jesse Tree, I will post pictures, information, and devotions.

My challenge to you is to take time not just to celebrate Christmas this year, 

CELEBRATE JESUS.

It's a Contest!

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My sweet friend and author, Teresa is giving away a copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul Tales of Christmas. All you have to do is go to her blog http://serendipiteeblog.com/, subscribe to her blog page, and comment about why you are thankful. The deadline to enter is November 30. This would make a great Christmas present!

How Much Do You Know About Thanksgiving (And Our Feathered Friend)?

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 We celebrate the holiday every year. But, how much do we really know about Thanksgiving? Find out by taking this 10 question quiz:

Music/Movie Monday: My Top Ten Must See Christmas Movie List (Part 1)

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I've decided that Mondays have become music/movie day in my single mom blog world. I will use Mondays to share my opinion on different songs, artists, movies, etc.

Since it is just mere days before the Christmas season begins, I thought I would share the list of my top ten must see Christmas movies. Here are my first five must see movies:




Christmas Child

This movie just made my list a couple years ago. Christmas Child stars Steven Curtis Chapman (one of my favorite singers) and is based on a book by Max Lucado. 



 
              




The Holiday

I would never admit this to everyone, but I am a hopeless romantic. Who would not want to stay in a quaint cottage in England and have a good looking guy like Jude Law burst in?













Home Alone

"Kevin!"















National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

Can I find similarities between the Griswold family and my own family...maaaaybe ;)











Prancer

Reindeer can fly. This movie proves it. I believe it.






What are some of your must see Christmas movies?

A Taste of Fall Part 2

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I know ya'll have been on pins and needles waiting for part 2 of our fall trip :) So, here goes:

Like I said in part 1, our letterboxing adventure was a bust, but the weather and scenery were awesome. We took our time exploring. We would drive for a little while and when we came across a trail we wanted to explore or a certain area where we wanted to take pictures, we would just stop. We spent some time at a picnic area where the boys had fun skipping rocks. 
You know it's all fun and games until someone gets competitive. The rocks kept getting bigger and bigger until they were practically trying to skip boulders...
One of my most favorite parts of the trip was discovering Donley Cabin. We looked for the cabin hoping to find a letterbox, which of course was not there. The hike in just to see the cabin was well worth the trip. Getting to the cabin is an adventure in itself. The drive is mostly on a gravel road. It seemed like we drove for an hour on that road before we reached the pull off. Once we reached the pull off we had to hike about 1/4 of a mile to the cabin.

Donley Cabin is a historic 19th century 2-room log cabin that was home to Jack Donley (1846-1941). From what I can find, a man had built the cabin (1-room at the time) during the 1860s so that he could hide from being asked to be a soldier in the Civil War. Jack Donley purchased the cabin and some of the land after the war. The cabin is available for rent, so if you want the primitive experience this is it. There's no electricity and you have to carry everything in. The best part: when you have to do your business there's an outhouse available for you convenience.


This year's trip to the Cherokee National Forest was great. I'm excited to see where our next trip to the CNF will take us!