Polar Express Train Ride

I had a blast with the family this past weekend in the picturesque town of Bryson City, North Carolina.  The main event was the Polar Express Train Ride on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad with the grand kids.  It was a perfectly wintry night for a trip to see Santa at the North Pole!

We arrived on Thursday to spend the weekend in a secluded cabin in the woods.  We had purchased our train tickets a couple of weeks ago for the 5:00 PM train ride on Friday night so we had plenty of time for sightseeing, playing cards, pool, foosball and hanging out by the fire pit making s’mores.

The grand kids were over the moon excited as we waited to board the train on Friday evening for the 5:00 PM ride.  And I was impressed at how fast the train was loaded and how very nice the “chefs” were.

Helpful Hint:  If you arrive early, you can tour the train museum (free with purchase of train tickets), have pictures made with Santa (extra cost) and enjoy treats from the snack bar.

Polar Express Train Ride in the Smoky Mountains

When we walked into the Carolina Shine car, I quickly noticed the beautiful Christmas decor and the plush captain’s chairs.  We each had a large bag of assorted candy waiting on our tables.  After the train pulled away from the station, a recording, set to the sounds of the motion picture soundtrack, begin to play as we were all served delicious hot cocoa in a take-home mug (for real mug, non-plastic) and chocolate chip cookies.  The hot cocoa was not overly hot; it was the perfect temperature for the little ones!

Polar Express Train Ride

Special Note:  I was told that the train’s capacity was 700 people and I do believe it was full and there were two more trips that night following ours!  There were 16 (including our 8) in our train car.  Also, lots of kids and adults had on their PJ’s (cute, like the movie).  We didn’t.  I don’t really do PJ’s in public, but that’s just me.

Polar Express Train Ride

After boarding the train, the conductor came by and punched the kids’ golden tickets.  And we were off on an adventure!

Smoky Mountains Railroad featuring the Polar Express

The chef assigned to our car kept the children entertained by dancing and singing at the top of his lungs until it was time for the reading of The Polar Express.  In walked another chef with a great big book so that the children could see the pictures as the recording was piped throughout the cars.

Polar Express Train Ride

Polar Express Train Ride

When we arrived at the North Pole, we saw elves, a hobo and  Santa’s house.  We also saw where Rudolf and Frosty lived!  All of the homes were decorated to the hilt  with lights and greenery.  Santa boarded the train, greeted each child and gave them all a silver sleigh bell.

Santa boarding the train on the Polar Express

On the return trip to the Bryson City train depot, we were all given a brochure of Christmas lyrics.  The chef invited us all to sing along with him and to request our favorite carols.  Then our freshly washed mugs were given back to us, packed in bubble wrap.  We also received a nice bag to carry our candy bags and mugs (one per family).

Riding the Polar Express

We had such a good time riding the Polar Express.  And the next morning our 3-year-old grandson asked if we could do it again.

Polar Express Train Ride to the North Pole

Fun Facts

Over 53,000 passengers rode THE POLAR EXPRESS with the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad in 2013!  The 1 ¼ hour round-trip excursion comes to life as the train departs the Bryson City depot for a journey through the quiet wilderness for a special visit at the North Pole.

You can choose from standard/coach, crown class and first class seating.  We purchased the first class seating.  It included the candy bags and the Polar Express souvenir mug.

THE POLAR EXPRESS began it’s trek to the North Pole on November 7th and operates through Jan 4th of 2015.  You can find the train schedule and purchase tickets here.

What special traditions do you have planned for the holidays?




Low Cost Thanksgiving Tablescape

I have the most fun shopping for my centerpiece . . . in my house and yard!  Ha, ha, fooled you, didn’t I?  It’s fun trying to come up with an easy, low cost Thanksgiving tablescape.

And don’t be hatin’ because I live in the south and have hydrangeas, roses and gardenias in full bloom!  Instant centerpiece.

Last Thanksgiving I went with a traditional pumpkins, gourds and branches theme.  Click here to read about that tablescape and here’s a photo from last year.

Thanksgiving Centerpiece

This year I decided to go with a completely different theme and I’m calling it rustic chic.  Remember the cute little pears I made with light bulbs a while back?  You can find them here!  I knew I wanted to use them in my table decor for Thanksgiving.

And since I have an entire stack of those $1.00 gold chargers that I used for a project years ago, I added some jute rope and used my glue gun to turn them into chic rustic chargers.

Helpful Hint:  You only have to glue the rope to the area that will be seen.  Here’s how it looks before you begin the layering process.  This was before I pulled the glue strands off.  Oops. :)

DIY Rustic Chargers

I always have a large crowd for Thanksgiving dinner and I wouldn’t have it any other way, so I always try to find a way to present the silverware without having to take a lot of time to set the table.  Here’s my tips on setting a formal table!

Last year I placed the silverware in the cutest little envelopes.  You can see them in the first picture.  I found some rustic little burlap bags to use for the cutlery this Thanksgiving.  I can assemble the bags while watching TV a few nights beforehand.

Rustic Glam Thanksgiving Tablescape

I also like to mix and match china!  The green bowl brings out the green in the plate.  It belongs with a set of dishes that was passed down from my grandmother.  The flowered china was given to me by my aunt.  It picks up the purple and blues from the hydrangeas, freshly picked from my flower garden.

Rustic Glam Thanksgiving Day Tablescape

Easy Low Cost Thanksgiving TablescapeTo show you how easy it is to mix and match, here’s another look using the same centerpiece, just using different dishes and a $1.00 pumpkin I glammed up with white spray paint and some gold thumbtacks.  It’s a more traditional Thanksgiving tablescape, staying with the rustic chic vibe.

Easy Thanksgiving Tablescape

Easy Low Cost Thanksgiving Tablescape

I used my hobnail milk glass pitcher and two smaller white bowls for the centerpieces.  The runner is burlap with metallic threads running through it.  The purple tablecloth is an overlay from my daughter’s wedding.  I have lots of those babies hanging around. The napkins are from my linen closet.

Helpful Hint:  It pays to shop your house, your yard and your mom’s house when hosting a dinner party.  Don’t be afraid to mix patterns, dinnerware, etc.  If you do need to shop for china, head to your local thrift store.  You’ll probably find a great bargain!

And don’t be afraid to step away from the traditional Thanksgiving table.  You’ll give um something to talk about!

No flowers in bloom?  Here’s some more great ideas for DIY centerpieces.

And if you missed my kid’s Thanksgiving table, find it here!

Do you host Thanksgiving at your home?

Pretty Pintastic Party #29

Welcome to the Pretty Pintastic Party #29 – where every post gets pinned and the features are pinned by all!  Well, almost all. :) 

Thanks to everyone who repins the features!   It has come to our attention that some participants are not repinning. This is an important key to making the party successful so please don’t skip it.  If this trend continues, we will begin to pick features only from those who repin.


 Welcome, Welcome!!  We are so glad you are joining us for our party!

We think it’s going to be pretty fantastic Pintastic!

Image Map

First, let’s meet the hosts:

Annie from Annie’s Noms Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter

Roberta from Mommy Like Whoa Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter

Deanna from Gloriously Made Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter

Alli from An Alli Event Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter

Sarah from Creative Ramblings Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter

Stephanie from The Tip Toe Fairy Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter

Madison from The Wetherills Say I Do Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter

Manda from Manda Blogs About Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter

Ruth from Captain America & His English Rose Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter

Jamie, Kerry, Lucy from Coffee With Us 3 Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter


Here’s what your hosts have been up to this week!

  dotten-co-host Every week we will have one or two fabulous co-hosts! Every week we will have one or two fabulous co-hosts!   This week it’s Emily from Table + Hearth.  She post recipes and DIY around the house. Check out her delicious looking Cardamom Orange Cookies with Brown Butter Toffee Frosting.  Cardamom is fantastic! orange cardamom cookies Show Emily some love by following on Facebook, Instagram, and/or Pinterest. Our second co-host is Ana from Mommy’s Bundle.  Ana blogs recipes, parenting and being a mom.  Check out her post about How to Groom Baby: Tips for Keeping Clean and Comfy. She has some great tips. grooming-baby-tip Show Ana some love by following on Facebook, Pinterest, and/or Twitter.  

Now on to the Party!!

This is a super relaxed party! You show up with your fabulous posts and we pin every single one!
We only ask one thing from you!


This week’s Features:



Pecan, Pear and Mincemeat Galette from I’d Much Bake Than… Thankful Tree from Three Kids and a Fish Cornbread, Sage and Onion Stuffing from Culinary Ginger Winter Holiday Fonts & Dingbats from Made In A Day If you were featured, grab a featured button!!        

An Alli Event


   Everyone else grab a button and help us spread the word about our party!!

An Alli Event



By linking up, you give anniesnoms.com, mommylikewhoa.com, creativeramblingsblog.com, wetherillssayido.com, mandablogsabout.net, thetiptoefairy.com, coffeewithus3.com, cataldolife.com, gloriouslymade.com, anallievent.com, or any co-host permission to feature your post on social media and our blogs using a photo, title, and link to your site. Proper credit and links will be given to you.