Island Smilin’ // Honeymooning in the Dominican

Scavenging for coconuts on the beach, kayaking out to the reef, swimming alongside colorful sea critters and swooning hundreds of foreigners with the sweet melodies of Garth Brooks on karaoke night made for an unforgettable honeymoon and Daniel’s first time out of the country!

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We enjoyed eating all of our meals by the pool!

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I wouldn’t have minded a bigger cup 😉

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My knight in shining orange!

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How can you be mad about frizzy beach hair when you’re in paradise?

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We had some luck at the casino a couple nights in a row and then it went all downhill after that…

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We’re all a little coconutty.

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We found the Magic Conch!img_4994img_4991img_4795img_4796img_4797img_4808img_4810img_4811img_4812img_4815img_4816img_4817img_4818img_4820img_4821img_4822img_4997img_4998img_4995img_5004img_5008img_5007

I felt it was only appropriate to eat my daily pound of pineapple while wearing my pineapple romper.17820917_10155268008196600_1575792020_n

Setting out on our Snuba / Snorkeling / Speedboat adventure!img_5011img_5010img_5012img_5013

It’s really hard to look cool when you’ve got a huge snorkel mask attached to your face!img_501417813921_10155268008226600_578108862_nDSC_1523

They strapped weights around our waists to keep us from floating to the surface!DSC_1513DSC_1510img_5017img_5016img_5015img_5025img_5024img_4910

Looking forward to many more trips with my favorite travel partner & this little book.img_5023

Our wedding photographer gave us this leather bound travel journal with lots of cool stamps to mark each place we’ve visited together and included several Polaroid pictures  he took of us at our wedding.17797866_10155268008216600_2001390343_oWe’ll be back, Punta Cana!

Great Smoky Mountain Engagement Shoot

When your photographer hikes 8 miles in the cold, wind and rain while carrying all of his equipment and climbs up cliffs just to get the perfect shot of you and your fiancé, you know you picked the right person to share this sweet season of life with.

He not only conquered his fear of heights on our trip, but he also woke up at 4a.m. so we could start our hike by sunrise for good lighting. From the very beginning, he kept us laughing and made Daniel and I feel so at ease in front of the camera. He brought our vision to life and related our engagement photos back to something that is a huge part of Daniel’s and my relationship. We are absolutely blown away by the moments he captured and we cannot say enough good things about our talented friend and photographer, Derek Couts.

Here are just a few of our very favorite photos from this shoot. After scrolling through, please take some time to check out Derek’s work on his website and contact him for your wedding photography needs. I guarantee that he will exceed all of your expectations!

Photos: Derek Couts Nashville Wedding Photographer

Derek’s Website:  http://derekcouts.com/

Derek’s Blog: Charlie’s Bunion Engagement: Jill & Daniel

Engagement Shoot Video: Charlie’s Bunion: Jill and Daniel

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Mountain Top Engagement

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We cannot put our gratitude to Derek into words and we are still marveling over how he perfectly captured our relationship with each click of the shutter.

The Company You Keep

It’s hard to think that just a few weeks ago I was line dancing at sunset on the beach with two of the greatest friends I’ve ever had just days after we all graduated from the University of Tennessee. This week I’m working full time in the hustle and bustle of Nashville and I can’t help but reminisce on the simpler times of that last-minute beach trip of ours.

The day before we drove 8 hours down to Panama City Beach in Florida, we had no idea where we were going to stay or what we were going to do–something that I was completely not used to, being the big planner that I am. But everything went surprisingly smooth and we kept commenting on how easy the trip had been even though we hadn’t planned anything before we left!

We hunted for crabs and screamed when they fought back with their tiny pinchers, inhaled countless scoops of homemade ice cream, snorkeled around the jettys at St. Andrews State Park, took a ferry over to Shell Island and caught starfish, fed a crazy raccoon on the beach, marveled at hermit crabs who tried to escape us by burying themselves beneath the sand, snuck onto the back porch and dipped our toes into the pool of an uninhabited beachfront mansion, watched dolphins and ate home cooked meals from our balcony, made Southern Momma and Spongebob jokes while crashing into the waves, sang along to the same CD for the entire trip with our favorite country crooners, drove along Front Beach Road searching for the perfect seafood joint to get our shrimp fix, bought tacky matching shirts to wear on our way back home and made a pit stop in Alabama to take pictures with a giant peanut.

But even if our trip hadn’t gone quite as smooth as it had or if we hadn’t been able to do half of the things we got to do, the experience would have been more than worth it because of the company that was kept.

In the words of the Waters sisters, “You never forget who you go to the beach with”.

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Mom & Makers & Market Square

Everything good begins with a donut. Or four.

That’s what mom and I will keep telling ourselves in order to justify scarfing down those warm, doughy circles one after another.

When mom comes to town, you know we are going to eat good, and eat good we did! We savored our last “Girl’s Weekend” in Knoxville with good food, long talks, a movie, hanging out by the pool, touring gardens, enjoying live music downtown and sunsets from the Sunsphere!

First stop was Makers Donuts. This place is basically a donut museum where the pastry Picassos of the world come to create their masterpieces except their canvases are donuts and their art is edible. Sounds like my kind of museum.

Next on our list was the Dogwood Arts Festival. Many wealthy people who live in Knoxville participate in this festival by prepping their gardens throughout the year and then opening them up to the public each weekend in April.

After touring several gardens, we made our way downtown to the Rossini Festival and enjoyed some live music and pizza at Dazzo’s.

After dinner, we went up to the Sunsphere observation deck to catch the sunset and peer out over this great city I’ve called home for the past four years.

Remember to spend time with your loved ones and have fun while doing it. Show them the ropes of your city and experience something together that neither of you have done before.

And always be good to your momma.

Sunny AZ Is The Place For Me

A week of hiking in the sunny Arizona desert was exactly what I wanted to do for my last spring break trip, and having my best friend with me only made it that much more fun!

A HUGE thank you goes out to my aunt and uncle who let us stay with them for the duration of our trip and also to my aunt for taking us hiking all around the area. We hiked six different mountains, buttes and bluffs and over 20 miles. We also got to tag along to a Cubs game and visit Hayley’s horse that she had sold to a lady who lives only minutes from my aunt and uncle.

Day 1: Mom and Grandma drove Hayley and I out to the airport around noon so that we could get to our gate early. Our plane was scheduled to leave at 2:30 and arrive in Arizona three hours later. This was my first time flying without my parents and Hayley’s second time flying in general. The flight went by quick and the next thing we knew, we were landing in sunny Phoenix. We picked up our luggage and then my aunt and uncle picked us up and we were off to Portillo’s, a Chicago-based restaurant that served up a delicious slice of chocolate cake.

Later, Hayley and I got settled and then went to the hot tub for an hour or so.


Day 2: Hayley and I ate breakfast on the balcony overlooking the pool and then went to the grocery store to get our lunch and snack supplies for the week. We came back to the condo and lay in the sun and swam a bit. After lunch on the balcony, we went to the Cubs versus Oakland As game at Hohokam Field, just a short walk from the condo. Later, we went to Nello’s for pizza and then drove up South Mountain to see the sunset!


Day 3: After breakfast, Aunt Dorothy, Hayley and I made our way to the Lost Dutchman State Park in the Tonto National Forest to hike in the Superstition Mountains. We decided to hike the Siphon Draw trail to the Flatiron.

We got to hike up the scenic mountain base, scattered with bright yellow blooms, saguaros and other cacti before coming to a steep uphill climb. We were climbing on our hands and knees and some parts of the trail got our adrenaline pumping. We got to our destination, a spot 4,300 feet up on the mountain, but the official Flatiron was another good two hour hike, so we decided to save it for another day since we were watching our time. Overall, this hike was a fun challenge and beauty was found all around. Easily my new favorite! The Smokies are special all on their own, but I have never hiked in anything like the Arizona desert before, so it was a treat for both Hayley and me.

Day 4: We explored Papago Park on this day. First, we hit up Hole-in-the-Rock and then made our way over to some other bigger buttes. We hiked about a mile back to get to the base of a big butte and had a steep uphill climb for the last quarter mile to reach our lookout point that overlooks Phoenix. To get to the lookout point, we had to scramble along a narrow ridge on the butte, which gave us butterflies if we looked anywhere other than straight down at the rock we were climbing! But we have discovered that parts of the trail always look worse than they actually are and we made it safely to the top.

Day 5: We took a trip out to Usery Park in the Usery Mountain range in search of wild horses. We had heard that they could be seen around a small campground where the Salt River and the Verde River converge. We followed wild horse trails up to Coon Bluff and found lots of horse poop, but no horses.

We left Usery Park to head back to the Superstition Mountains to hike a trail called “Hieroglyphics Trail” to Gold Canyon. However, we learned that ‘hieroglyphics’ is the wrong term for these Indian drawings. They are rightly called the Hohokam petroglyphs and are over 600 years old! This trail was four miles total and wound back to the basin of a mountain where we came to a dry waterfall and a small pool, which were very dry from the lack of rain. We saw several rocks with the petroglyphs drawn on them. Some looked like mountain goats, centipedes and birds.

After we saw the petroglyphs, we went to see the new owner of Hayley’s horse whom she hadn’t seen in almost five years! She knew that the lady who bought her horse lived in Arizona, but it just so happened that she lived about 40 minutes away from my aunt and uncle’s condo! Hayley and Immi were reunited and we even got in a quick ride.


Day 6: This was probably the busiest day we had since we had arrived. We wanted to do it big our last day, so we decided to hike two shorter, but steeper hikes. Squaw Peak was first and then we hit up Camelback Mountain.

Squaw Peak was a never-ending steep climb to the top and the huge steps we had to hurdle up didn’t make it any easier. Every time we thought we had reached the top, we rounded a bend and saw that our actual destination was still a challenging hike away. We finally reached the top and were rewarded by the view.

After lunch, we headed over to Camelback Mountain and planned to hike the head of the Camel to the top of its hump. This was probably my favorite hike of the entire trip. At first, I was tired from already hiking Squaw Peak and after eating lunch and relaxing in the sun for a bit, so I wasn’t super excited about the immediate and constant incline that lay ahead. However, once we hit the first hand rail section of the trail where you have to pull yourself up by the rail or climb on all fours up a huge slick rock, I was hooked. The majority of the hike included scrambling over big boulders, which we enjoyed much more than the manmade trail of Squaw Peak.

After our full day of hiking, we headed to the Sugar Bowl in Scottsdale to reward ourselves with some ice cream!

Day 7: Our last day, we walked to the corner grocery store and grabbed a couple of donuts, which were only 75 cents each! I could have eaten one of every kind, but I went with the buttercream filled and the coconut cream pie filled. After breakfast, we hung around the pool for a couple of hours before we had to leave for the airport. The cool water soothed my sunburnt shoulders from the previous day of hiking.


Another adventure-packed spring break in the books and we’ve got the tan lines to prove it!

Rocky Top via Bote Mountain

Daniel and I decided to try a new hike in the Smokies this weekend.

While we were huffing and puffing up the never-ending incline of Bote Mountain, we were beginning to regret our decision to do a hike we knew little about. But once we reached Rocky Top on Thunderhead Mountain and were rewarded with 360 views, we were glad we persevered despite the laborious monotony of the 14 mile hike.12788704_10154028107701600_1550369188_oThe Anthony Creek trailhead is located in a picturesque picnic area in Cades Cove, settled  alongside the rolling river.12825617_10154028107886600_1284984492_nMy selfie stick came in handy and helped us to better capture the views on top.12803976_10154028107961600_72985719_n

To reach Rocky Top, we had to first hike up the Bote Mountain Trail and then connect with the Appalachian Trail. From there, it led us to Spence Field and then Rocky Top was another mile and a half past Spence Field.

We had never hiked to Rocky Top before, but when we reached the top, a nice gentleman informed us that the majority of the people who hike it take Lead Cove Trail, which is a mile shorter. If only we had known that beforehand!12823087_10154028108211600_1586057617_o12788195_10154028108461600_261538731_n12834559_10154028108521600_1474436991_nWe got to try out Daniel’s new trekking poles that I got him for Christmas, which helped us along the hike tremendously, especially once we reached the snow.12804264_10154028109386600_369675334_nWe weren’t expecting to see snow on the mountain, but it made for a beautiful hike and it felt good to walk in the cooler temperatures on top once we had taken off some of our sweat-soaked layers. 10609240_10154028109076600_435857968_n12834956_10154028109446600_1345433759_n1418212_10154028109191600_585555705_n1931966_10154028109741600_770497463_n12834593_10154028109866600_246384418_n-1We finally reached Spence Field and had just about a mile and a half left to Rocky Top. 12825158_10154028110716600_1279635968_n12804050_10154028111876600_1585281148_nWe made it! We were greeted on top by other friendly Tennessee fans.

One hiker said it best: “The best part about this view is that you can’t drive to see it. You have to get outside and hike to get here.”1797050_10154028112296600_1684685392_n12822912_10154028111586600_1382121873_o10584494_10154028133511600_1997456603_n12788108_10154028133401600_2146723402_n12804202_10154028133261600_1739785794_n12833488_10154028133756600_883717035_n12825358_10154028133361600_922800079_nWhile we were making our way up the trail, Daniel told me that this hike might be a “one and done”, but after seeing that view from the top, we reconsidered, and agreed that we’d take the shorter route next time!

Round Three in D.C.

This past week I had the opportunity to go on a trip to Washington D.C. with my college to network with UT College of Communication and Information alumni and talk about future jobs opportunities.

This was my third time visiting  D.C. and I always leave the city loving it more than the time before.

The first day was our day to explore the city and do what we wanted, as the rest of the trip would be on a tight schedule. We went to the Holocaust Museum, walked around the city and rented bikes that we rode around the National Mall.

The weather was beautiful and it made for a leisurely afternoon.



Monday, we met with several alums who talked to us about their career journeys and gave us advice on life after graduation.




Also on Monday, we went to the Newseum and got to see a section of the Berlin Wall.

    

Tuesday, we toured the U.S. Capital and that night we had dinner at a cute little Irish pub.

I’m blessed to have been chosen to go on this trip and it certainly ended my senior year as a College of Communication and Information student on a high note! Another trip completed and one step closer to graduation!