Holiday Roadtrip, Part 3b: From Florida thru Atlanta and Nashville


It’s hard to believe that Sunday we woke up on a 10,000 acre ranch in Florida with the windows open, birds chirping, and a gentle warm wind to bid us good morning. Seems like a dream, especially in January! We wanted to make good time while heading back to Indiana, so I didn’t plan many stopping places–only one special place, really. But that was enough. Lance thought the above car was cool because it had his full name on it.


We stopped for dinner in Atlanta, Georgia at YEAH! Burger and IT. WAS. FABULOUS. The interior of the restaurant was awesome –I love their branding and graphics. The place was packed on a Sunday night. And the menu was even better, featuring organic or natural ingredients. You start by picking out your patty from a selection of natural meats, sourced right on the menu!

Next comes the buns, which you’ll quickly see why I chose this place. Sometimes it comes down to the bread, right? Well they offer gluten-free buns!! YEAH! They use all organic flours, even source it to H&F Bread Co. So cool. Then things get real fun with sauces, another offering that sets YEAH! Burger apart. The sauces menu includes fun creations like Hot Alabama Relish and the one I had, Bacon Jam, a combo of crumbled bacon and molasses. The cherry on the cake was the gluten-free onion rings and fries. Then you choose a sauce for dipping. My gluten-free onion rings were beyond delish dipped in the Bacon Jam. YUM-O! My final burger: all-natural chicken breast on a gluten-free white bun with grilled onions, lettuce, tomato, and turkey bacon, smothered with Bacon Jam. I ate myself sick after adding the onion rings. We will ALWAYS stop at this place each time in Atlanta, and you should too. Just a warning though that it was a little pricey but definitely worth it.


We stopped across the Tennesse border to stay the night. It was a mean joke to wake up to 16 degrees when just the day before we woke up to 75 degrees in a quiet country bedroom with the windows open. At least we had a fabulous breakfast. The last leg of our trip spared no quality in the restaurant department. We stopped at a quaint bakery and coffee house in Nashville, Tennessee called FiddleCakes. Cute name, huh?


FiddleCakes was located in a business-turned house very close to the interstate. They make fresh baked goods each day, with a small selection of gluten-free yummies (holla!). I grabbed two pastries–a GF chocolate chip muffin and a brownie. I drank a soy latte with a pump of mocha and it was the best one I’ve had in a very long time. My husband had a cup of locally roasted coffee with a chocolate chip scone. He said it was the best scone he’s ever had.


To top it off, the barista was super personable; they had the neatest hand-stamped jewelry ($40 necklace that said “Will trade husband in for cupcakes”); and one room featured tables and chairs made from recycled shutters and doors. AWESOME. It was a fun end to our trip home.


Miss some of our travel memoirs? Check out other posts from our New Year’s Eve roadtrip here:

Holiday Roadtrip, Part 1: Gatlinburg

Holiday Roadtrip, Part 1b: South Carolina

Holiday Roadtrip, Part 2: Savannah

Holiday Roadtrip, Part 2b: Crossing Florida’s State Lines

Holiday Roadtrip, Part 3: St. Cloud, Florida


Holiday Roadtrip, Part 3: Partin Cattle Ranch, St. Cloud, Florida


Words can’t even describe how peaceful it was to stay on our friend’s family ranch for their wedding. Located in St. Cloud, Florida, the ranch we stayed on was 10,000 acres yet part of the bigger Partin Cattle Ranch. Our friends, Anna and Jarrod Cowell, live on the ranch, which is home to multiple houses of their families.


I’ve never spent time in Florida’s “country”, and it’s a little different than the country scene I’m used to at home. Their “forest” includes tropical ground cover and the occasional palm tree. It also includes critters like armadillos, deer, gators, bald eagles, and they’ve even spotted the occasional bears and a panther. Anna also kept talking about some “skunkape” but I’m not so sure about that one.


We spent our New Year’s Eve here with our friends around a campfire after taking a late night drive around the ranch spottin’ gators. Except each time we spotted eyes they belonged to cows. Bummer. As the ball dropped at midnight, our friend Nick popped the big question to his girlfriend Stacy, so that was really exciting. Hopefully another fun wedding around the corner?


We stayed in “Pa’s House” and it was like a dream to stay in a country ranch home overlooking pastures of cattle with the windows open and the breeze a blowin’. By the way, on a 10,000 acre cattle ranch, I guess you fence your houses in and let the cows roam free. Our favorite afternoon was the day of the wedding, because the groom’s party was spread out through the house chilling out. We had cooked a big breakfast together, ate it on the front porch while soaking up the rays of the 78 degree sun. This made us all sleepy, so some of us took naps. It delighted me to lay down in Pa’s room atop a hand-sewn quilt, windows open, reading a book until I fell asleep.


It was tough leaving this place, but the good news is that we can always go back to visit our friends. Jarrod kept saying that we all needed to go get a cabin somewhere together  like the movie “Grown Ups,” but I was like “What the heck do you think we’re doing now?” Haha. We grabbed a few ripe oranges off a tree for the road and reluctantly began our journey back to Indiana.


Congrats to the newly weds, Anna and Jarrod Cowell. Ain’t she purdy?


Miss some of our travel memoirs? Check out other posts from our New Year’s Eve roadtrip here:

Holiday Roadtrip, Part 1: Gatlinburg

Holiday Roadtrip, Part 1b: South Carolina

Holiday Roadtrip, Part 2: Savannah

Holiday Roadtrip, Part 2b: Crossing Florida’s State Lines

Holiday Roadtrip, Part 3b: From Florida thru Nashville and Atlanta


Holiday Roadtrip, Part 2b: Crossing Florida’s State Lines


Once we drove into the Florida state lines, I was insistent that we stop at a beach before spending the rest of our trip land-locked. So we stopped by St. Augustine beach for a few minutes. The town looked pretty cute and plenty crowded. There’s a historical fort as well as a cute downtown and plenty of beaches. It was only 54 degrees but I promised my momma that I’d put my big toe in the ocean, no matter how cold. But man was it cold.



I was happy to get to Orlando because there are several vegan and vegetarian restaurants. The only issue is that my husband (who likes more meat and less veggies) wasn’t seeing much he could enjoy for dinner, so we only made it to one of the restaurants I had mapped out. But, you can see where else we had looked up here.



I stopped at the Dandelion Communitea Cafe in Winter Park when we arrived in Orlando that evening. It was incredibly healthy and incredibly yummy (a great last meal before arriving on the ranch). My favorite was their teas. I love my teas iced though, and they were willing to ice any. But I just got their prepared iced pick of the day, a strawberry black tea. I also got the spring rolls with a thai nut dipping sauce and chips with very garlicky hummus. Not only did it make me happy, but I kept the hummus, chips, and dipping veggies and snacked on them over the next few days.

Orlando also has tons of farmers markets. I didn’t make it to any, but it would be so easy for someone who likes the organic, vegan, or vegetarian seen to visit Orlando. Be sure to check out some of the other places I found here on our travel Google map.

Now onward to the Partin Cattle Ranch for our southern weddin’! (And yes, we’ve been talking with our southern accents this whooole time!)


Holiday Roadtrip, Part 2: Savannah


We made our way to Savannah, Georgia for the night and stayed in the Historical Downtown District. Although we were only there less than 24 hours, I had a blast shopping. There are blocks upon blocks of shopping downtown. I’m really picky about my “downtowns” and always have high hopes, and Savannah certainly delivered. Besides shopping, there’s some serious historical sites in Savannah. Many of the buildings date back to the 1700s, including the brick-paved roads that were reused from ships from all over the world. We didn’t make time for any historical tours but heard high reviews of the “hearse ghost tours” and Paula Deen’s historical tours.


And of course we stopped by her restaurant, Lady and Sons. We didn’t eat there (I obviously would be allergic to everything they serve) though we wouldn’t have made it through the line anyway. Looks like they’ve redone the setup a bit because it appeared to be by reservation only, filtering through their gift shop.


There were several boutiques I would recommend–so many that I can’t write about them all. I was good and didn’t buy much, but our favorite place was the Savannah Bee Company. Seriously, it was like we were in a trance from the moment we walked it. The store was setup to make it simple for you to choose some honey of your liking. They had a bar featuring sample honeys, beverages like a honey latte, and best of all a cool dude that was talking about the honey. It was weird because such a large group had gathered watching him talk and move around, and everyone was silent and glued to him like under some spell. He broke out a honey comb, sliced up a fresh green apple, and explained how traditionally the honey comb is best-eaten sandwiched between two apple slices. Then we got to taste. Yummy! Everyone was buying honey combs, including us, and after we walked out of the store I asked my husband how much it cost. When he told me $23 I couldn’t believe that he did it, and neither could he! I guess we were under some kind of honey spell.


Our Savannah fun didn’t end there. Although we went to healthier places to eat, they were still our favorite meals from our whole trip. We drove a little ways to Kasey’s Gourmet Grille, where I had read that they’re friendly to us folks with allergies. They didn’t really have many items clearly labeled as gluten-free, but all we had to do was ask our waiter. He went above and beyond helping me to eat dairy-free and gluten free, but it was because the chef was whipping up special concoctions based on menu items. I felt bad but the waiter simply said, “He’s got nothing better to do.” Ha ha, I guess a true chef enjoys creating a special masterpiece for his guests.


I had the almond-crusted goat cheese served with a cranberry chutney and garlic aioli. I ate the plate clean. Then I had some chipotle shrimp that was the best in my whole life. Wish I could remake it! I also had a salad, but it didn’t compare to the other plates.


We also went to Kayak Kafe for lunch the next day. Again, they’re menu isn’t clearly labeled for food allergies but it was easy to avoid them. I order the tilapia tacos and could’t believe how good they were. They were made with fresh masa corn tortillas and yummy veggies. I tried to remake them our first night home, and didn’t do to bad. I followed this recipe for the tilapia, threw in some fresh veggies and avocado, steamed some corn tortillas and called it a night.




Holiday Roadtrip, Part 1b: South Carolina


On our way south from the Smokey Mountains we stopped at a pizza joint in Columbia, South Carolina. Zpizza is a small franchise that features fresh, organic ingredients including a gluten-free dairy-free pizza. So while my husband got a normal (but organic) personal pizza, I was able to enjoy my allergy-free pizza fresh at a pizza parlor. What a treat! We loved it so much that we considered get two more pizzas for the road, but our better senses finally kicked in knowing that they would be yucky by the time we ate them.


I wanted to find some other activity out of the car and saw lovely photos of Finlay Park a few blocks away. So we drove there and were immediately confused because each parking lot we pulled in to had rows of homeless sleeping around the grounds. My husband said I sure knew how to pick the good spots. So we didn’t get out to look at the gardens. Our whole trip seemed filled with homeless visitors: South Carolina, Savannah, Orlando, Georgia, and Tennessee. It reminds me of a statistic by brother quoted his pastor sharing, that of the top 7% of the whole world’s population is rich, but “rich” is defined as an equivalent of $30K income and up. Just think about it for a second…that means despite our wanting and desiring to buy more and move up the social chain, that we’re already rich. WE’RE RICH. It’s a humbling thought. Want to see where your income stands against the world’s population? Check out the Global Rich List.


Holiday Roadtrip, Part 1: Gatlinburg


We’re roadtrippin’ our way to Florida for the new year and stop one was in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We drove down from Indiana during a snow storm, and I hate to say it but my momma was right–the roads were treacherous. We barely escaped FOUR wrecks! We were happy to make it to our rental that night.


We stayed in downtown Gatlinburg at the Mountain Vista Luxury Rentals in Baskins Creek #311. It’s a two bedroom, very large condominum. Although it was by no means a picture-perfect mountain cabin, it was awesome. We felt like we were at home. I even cooked a few meals there to save us money. I made butternut squash seasoned with thyme, sea salt, and cracked pepper tossed with olive oil and pecans. I threw it in a ziploc and packed some seasoned chicken breasts in another baggie. Served with some Christmas leftovers of rolls and raw veggies made for a fast, easy dinner.


I must say that we were disappointed by Gatlinburg. I’m not even going to talk about Pigeon Forge, other than to say drive around it if you can. But downtown Gatlinburg is a mile of stores selling cheap trinkets like crystal figurines and airbrushed shirts. There were tons of tourist attractions too, but we’re not into that. Also, the food choices are horrendous. There’s hardly anything healthy, fresh, nor whole. We tried to go to their one health food store but found it closed, despite the holiday hours posted on the door stating it should be open. I also tried to visit the local coffee stores in the morning, but apparently no one gets up before noon.


We hit the same road blocks–literally–when trying to visit other areas. I really wanted to take the driving tour through Cades Cove, a historical 11-mile loop with preserved cabins and barns from the 1800s. If you’re looking for some antiques and primitives off the beaten track, we stopped at several along the TN-73 scenic highway along the way to Cades Cove, though we never made it there. That road was closed due to snow. So we went across the county to another road that is known for good photo-ops to find it closed as well. Rats. So my advice is not to go to Gatlinburg in a snow storm. Here’s the photos we did catch.


We did get a couples massage while in Gatlinburg. It was actually back in Pigeon Forge. The idea of it was super fun, but I can’t recommend the place we went to. We also enjoyed some very nice steaks at The Peddler. Our server even had the kitchen make me special vegetables that were butter-free because of my dairy allergy (that was a great treat for me!). And our tip when visiting The Peddler is to avoid the wait by heading straight upstairs to their “Lodge.” It’s first-come-first-serve seating, and the windows stretch floor to ceiling, giving a much better view of the river than their main dining room offers. I’d also recommend visiting the Coffee and Co. Their coffee was locally roasted and yummo, and I drooled over their selection of hand-stamped jewelry, handmade wallets, and natural clothing line.


I just don’t understand the hype over Gatlinburg. It just wasn’t a fit for me – it’s not my type of shops, not my type of food, and not my type of scenery. We must have been spoiled while in Yellowstone National Park when we visited a while back, because the Smokies just didn’t compare in beauty to the mountains in Montana and Utah.

So onward we go, hopefully to warmer weather!


Conner Prairie’s Headless Horseman

Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow

Conner Prairie – Headless Horseman 2009
I spent the last two weeks of October helping Conner Prairie with their annual fundraiser, Headless Horseman. It’s a haunted hayride through the dark, mysterious Prairietown. Trust me–walking around at night in the dark, historical home and barns is plenty scary, so be glad the visitors get to stay in a wagon! My most favorite part? The Headless Horseman, of course. At the end of the night when the volunteers walk back from their posts, it never fails that before you have time to hear the clunks of their hooves, the headless horseman sneaks up on you in the dark night. Creepiest. Thing. Ever. And I love it!

I took these photos during the event and have been meaning to post them. Enjoy!

A wagon full of riders passes by

A wagon full of riders passes by

The school house gives off an eerie green

The school house gives off an eerie green

A scarecrow greets the wagon upon exiting woods

A scarecrow greets the wagon upon exiting woods

Graveyard Shift

Graveyard Shift

A spirit dances on the side of a barn

A spirit dances on the side of a barn


Columbus Turns on the Small-Town Charm

New MacBooks are the greatest, but having a good place to hang out and enjoy wifi is even better. As part of my first week back in Columbus, I sought out a comfortable place to use wifi while spending time on my new MacBook. I first set out to an obvious place – the Bartholomew County Library. But after 45 minutes of fussing, I was unable to log on to their internet.

Off to the next place. I headed downtown, knowing that there’s been so many changes since I last lived here. What an understatement! The feeling and energy of downtown Columbus has completely changed over the past three years. Instead of the uncool place that was dead by 6pm, it breathed life with small-town charm. Since I was excited to check everything out, I decided to walk around a bit. I saw Viewpoint Books’ prime corner spot and walked through. The store was lively and had a great selection of books, but no cozy couch inviting me to stop and open my MacBook, so I kept moving.

I stopped by That Special Touch, a one-stop wedding shop owned by a family friend. We chatted about the changes in both Columbus and the wedding market. I remember how remorseful I was when visiting the store right before my own wedding after seeing how much they have to offer – right there in my hometown! I could have avoided so much tears and pain if I had just stopped by there first! What a cool store.


That Special Touch – Columbus, Ind.

After that, I headed on down to Cooks and Company. My eyes went straight to the latte machine, then to a cool brand of biodegradable cups that my favorite restaurant, Café Patachou also uses. I was sold! A latte machine, wifi, and a cozy but energetic atmosphere was all it took. And the lady behind the counter was super nice. I can’t believe how much the place had transformed since the last time I had visited. From pots and truffles to a wifi cafe and bar. It rocks!

After calling my husband with my excitement, he decided to come over for a late lunch to check it out. We went to the bar side, Fork, and had the butternut squash ravioli and the chipotle mayo grilled chicken sandwich. The food was just as good as the atmosphere. Our new favorite place in downtown Columbus! That was the happiest afternoon I’ve had lately – a new Macbook, free wifi, and a cool place to hangout in a charming downtown. I couldn’t ask for anything else!