5 Fourth of July Items You Need from Amazon Prime

*These are affiliate links, so I do get credit if any purchases are made*

A cute yard flag is decorative and fancy and perfect for any yard! Plus, who doesn’t love gnomes?!

GRAB IT HERE

I’m a huge fan of outdoor lights, and I’ve been meaning to snag some of these because they are seriously so cute but simple and fun!

Grab your stars today!

I don’t know about your neighborhood, but ours is filled with season blowup decorations year round, including this Uncle Sam rendition, riding a motorbike. .

If you like America and bikes, grab it here.

There is no such thing as too many throw pillows, and if you are like me you already have so many small throw pillows (my husband just LOVES them). This grab takes your existing pillows and gives them a much needed patriotic refresh.

Upgrade your look here.

For a more traditional look, with the common pleated half moon American flag, this affordable six pack gives you all the America feels but while featuring fade resistant material.

These banners are available here.

I’ve connected with some amazing bloggers to share some Fourth of July decor! DIY’s, homemade and more! Head to each of their pages to check out what they are sharing!

Kimmy
Occasion Basket – Fourth of July

The Undem Adventures at Wilderness at the Smokies and Soaky Mountain

The smoky mountains are full of adventures and fun activities of a wide variety–no matter your interests, age or thrill level, you will be sure to have a blast. Something that any visitor will need, though, is a great place to stay. There are many accommodations to choose from, but you definitely want to stay at Wilderness at the Smokies. Wilderness at the Smokies features both River Lodge and Stone Hill Lodge to host your family, and both are great options. The two resorts are both located on the property in addition to the Wild WaterDome–the region’s largest indoor water park, two full sized golf courses, three outdoor waterparks–including the all-new Soaky Mountain, a family adventure center with a food court and dozens of fun games and activities, as well as multiple dining options and even a coffee shop. With over 700 available rooms and condos available in 14 different configurations, Wilderness at the Smokies is the ideal family getaway.

In partnership with Wilderness at the Smokies, we were hosted at the River Lodge in the One Bedroom Deluxe Pool View suite for two nights, and it is the PERFECT family accommodation. This two bedroom suite features two bathrooms, which is a must-have for families. The first room features a full-sized kitchen complete with a range, dishwasher, and full fridge. The kitchen also comes stocked with pots and pans, dinnerware, cups, silverware, and small sized cleaning supplies like soap and trash bags, as well as an individually sealed and packaged dishwashing sponges. Directly connected to the kitchen is a sit-down dining area with beautiful wooden chairs and table.

Adjacent to the kitchen and dining area is a living room that converts into a bedroom with a queen sized pull-out couch and a queen murphy bed. The living room includes a fireplace and television to provide you with cozy at-home feel even while traveling on the road. There is a floor-to-ceiling curtain that slides across the threshold of the dining room and living room to provide privacy for the murphy bed and pull-out couch.

The adjoining rooms feature heavy doors that provide good sound insulation so the sound does not easily travel between the two rooms. When traveling with a busy one year old, it was nice to have Carolynn in the adjoining room with her baby monitor, while keeping the doors mostly closed and the curtain drawn but still be able to move around and talk in the second room without disturbing her.

Our room where we slept in had a walk-out patio with a view of one of the seasonal outdoor waterparks. The beautiful Tennessee weather allowed us to enjoy time outside in the evening during our stay. The second room included a small side table with two chairs, and a loveseat beside the queen sized bed. A full height, partial-depth divider wall sat between the queen bed, and a queen-twin bunk set made of logs. The room as previously mentioned included the second bathroom, and an additional small kitchen sink, microwave, coffee pot, and mini-fridge. The two conjoined rooms could sleep up to ten people and provides a good amount of space for everyone. Both rooms also include full sized closets with room to store luggage so everyone is not on top of each other.

Soaky Mountain waterpark, the newest waterpark to the join Wilderness at the Smokies family, is located just down the road from River Lodge, but while it is technically in walking distance you will definitely want to drive over because you will be exhausted from all the fun to be had at Soaky Mountain. There are shops, seven different dining options–definitely try the Oreo funnel cake while you are there–a little’s play area, a bigger kids area, family rides and thrill rides. There is even a HUGE wave pool and lazy river.

The Avalaunch water-coaster was definitely my husbands favorite, not only did he have a blast on the slide/coaster, but he really liked the design and mechanics of how the ride operated. The Blue Mountain Mayhem was a fast-paced multi-person tube ride with a medium thrill level–a little more on the wild side, but not nearly as thrilling as the Avalaunch. The wave pool featured huge thrilling waves that were well monitored by life-guard staff, where I (Mom) and Carolynn spent most of the afternoon. Carolynn was a little played out from the kid area and sun, so we covered ourselves in sunscreen and snuggled up to the soothing sounds of the waves while Carolynn napped and Dad explored the waterpark with a few of Carolynn’s aunties, our sisters.

A few other rides available at Soaky Mountain are the Splash and Furious–which offers a competitive opportunity between four slides in a head-first mat race to see who finishes the ride first and the Holler-a gentle start before a dramatic fall will leave you excited for more.

The Hive is the perfect kids area with tons of waterplay options to wear those kiddos out while they have a blast. We spent time in the Boomer’s Bay which features miniature versions of the larger slides, swings where the babies can drag their toes through the water, and small water features to play in. Our favorite part about this was that each age range was broken into the smaller areas so kids of appropriate ages were able to play and have fun without being on top of each other. Carolynn enjoyed swinging before she was ready for her nap.

Plenty of lockers, changing areas, and cabanas were located through the waterpark. There were tables with umbrellas, in addition to covered and exposed lounge chairs spaced around the varieties of areas in Soaky Mountain. This place is a destination must-see for anyone traveling down to the Smoky Mountains. There is so much more to do at Soak Mountain than what we were able to experience in an afternoon, so you need to book your trip now to experience all the fun for yourself.

After Soaky Mountain closed for the day, we headed back to the resort and spent the rest of the evening in the Wild WaterDome. A smaller wave pool, kids play area and fun waterslides awaited us inside an energy efficient Foil Tech glass roof dome that allowed sunshine in.

Wild WaterDome’s Strom Chaser Thrill-Ride is an exhilarating multi-person tube ride that dropped my husband, two sisters and me into a 55 foot swirling tunnel that lights up at night and cane be seen up to a mile away. There was another multi-person tube right that was a ton of fun, and smaller single and double rider slides that my younger sisters had a blast on.

Body boarding was something that Shane knew he had to do and had a blast trying out. There is an extra waiver to sign before you complete this area. We grabbed a margarita and some snacks from the food court area and had a blast. My sisters and I spent a lot of time in the wave pool here as well, although they did race through the adventure areas. Carolynn decided that she was ready to bed and retired early with grandma and grandpa back to the room.

While we were in the hotel room one of the afternoons, there was a fire alarm that went off and the friendly concierge text service, Monty the Moose, alerted us to be sure we vacated the room and got to safety. While we waited for EMS, the staff was calm and professional, the fire department arrived in a reasonable amount of time and cleared the building for safety, and then Monty let us know that it was safe to enter the building. While of course this may not seem like the ideal thing to happen during a stay, we were glad that everyone was safe and were highly impressed with the organization and communication between the property and their guests.

Our stay at Wilderness at the Smokies went by so fast, but I know that we will be back. An ideal stay would include three days with time for the arcade, both the indoor and your selection of waterparks, and the wide variety of dining opportunities. This family-fun packaged adventure will likely remain one of our favorite places to stay for a long, long time.

The Undem Family Adventures in the Great Smoky Mountains

Our first official family adventure away from home started May 19th, just five days after Carolynn Rose turned one. We traveled to eastern Tennessee and the foothills of the Smoky Mountains for six days.

The Undem Family Adventures in the Great Smoky Mountains

During our stay we visited Knoxville, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, and Gatlinburg. To say that we had the best time would be an understatement. During our stay we partnered up with the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism, The Island in Pigeon Forge, and Mobile Brochure for Ripley’s Adventures including the Ripley’s Aquarium, the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Exhibit, and the Ripley’s Haunted Adventure. I am linking all those separate blogs below for you to travel alongside us and to help convince you to book your next trip down to the Smoky Mountains.

Our last two days we spent time slowing down and enjoying our hosted stay at Wilderness at the Smokies and Soaky Mountain, the new outdoor waterpark and we got lots of sun and even more great memories while there.

A few traveling tips with a one year old:

  • Bring lots of their favorite snacks
  • When possible, travel with others so the one year old can pass from adult-to-adult
  • Schedule flights during nap times or at least calmer times
  • Bring busy books and other small toys that can be clipped with a pacifier clip to keep them entertained
  • Keep the stroller with you and check it AT THE GATE of the flight
  • Bring a blanket to cover the stroller in the airport to help with naps
  • Get to the gate ahead of time and allow time for your child to run and wear themselves out so they feel less cooped up while on the flight
  • Bring a stuffed animal and/or blanket your child likes to cuddle with, this may make them more comfortable on the flight

Things to know about flying with a one year old:

  • Check your airline, but car seats and strollers can check for free
  • Milk can be brought through security but does need to be tested or inspected
  • Children’s snacks can also go through security but will be checked/tested
  • Diaper bags are allowed in addition to carry on and personal items
  • You will need to collapse the stroller when going through security and on the plane
  • The changing tables on the flights are TINY, if the plane even has one, so try to plan diaper changes ahead (if/when possible–obviously on long flights this isn’t feasible and kids of course have minds of their own)
  • You are able to board ahead of your boarding group with kids under the age of two to allow time to get settled

At the end of the day, remember that traveling is exhausting and trying for adults as well as kids, and if your child has a tough day they aren’t acting out to make you frustrated or look bad, but because they have big emotions and haven’t learned how to regulate or express them well, yet.

Being prepared helped so much on the flights down, but on the way back we definitely had a rough day from Carolynn having a sore bottom from a diaper rash, to waking her up at 3am our time, to trying to reign in all of her energy for a three and half hour flight. We had to learn to work well under stress together and push through tears (some from both baby and nearly some from mom and dad) to make the best of a stressful journey home. Having extended family there to help was invaluable, but of course that isn’t always an option for everyone.

Click here to see all the fun things to do at The Island, Pigeon Forge.

Follow this link to check out our partnership with The Department of Tourism in Pigeon Forge and see just a handful of the hundreds of family activities available in Pigeon Forge.

Splash along with our family at Wilderness at the Smokies and Soaky Mountain, here.

Lastly, hop on over to Gatlinburg with us to experience all that Ripley’s has to offer–from the Aquarium, to the Believe it or Not! exhibit, and the Haunted Adventures.

We hope you have almost as much fun following along with us as we did going down there, and you plan your trip to eastern Tennessee with your family as soon as possible.

Lite Snickers Caramel Apple Salad

Is there anything better than a sweet dessert? How about a traditional Midwest favorite, on the lighter side with the same great taste?

Jump to Recipe

For this recipe you can swap out the green apples for red apples, and lite cool whip for whatever variety Cool Whip you would like.

Since I started working with a trainer, I have learned the importance of tracking macros and learning to make foods that I already love with healthier options so I don’t keep bouncing back and forth between healthy food and the junkier, comfort food that is so typical of the Midwest.

This past labor day, I made a single batch of this lite snickers caramel apple salad and it was devoured by all. Its a fan favorite, and could be duplicated in multiple batches for potlucks or big family get-togethers.

Instead of using a whisk, I used my hand held emulsion blender to set the pudding mix quickly before mixing in the Cool Whip.

For a sweeter treat or to make the regular version, add more snickers, but I promise that the Lite tastes nearly as good, if not better, than the original.

To start, I’d like to state that I totally used the lazy mom method and brought pre-sliced and cored green apples. Now for the recipe.

As I mentioned, I used my emulsion blender to set the pudding rapidly, mixed in the Cool Whip Lite and set aside the mixture. To help keep it lighter, I grabbed snack size snickers and cut them up into eight bite-sized pieces and added the snickers to the mix. After the snickers were added, I took my pre-sliced apples and cut them down into smaller pieces and also added to pudding mixture. Chop as many peanuts to add texture and crunch. Lastly, I added a quarter cup of sugar-free caramel syrup and refrigerated overnight.

Be sure not to make the dessert too far ahead of time as the apples may get soggy.

Another version of healthy caramel apple salad involved swapping out the snickers for a homemade bar, but lets be honest I didn’t have time to make that from scratch.

Lite Snickers Caramel Apple Salad

Lexie Noelle Undem
Healthier Spin on a Midwest Potluck Favorite
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 0 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 12 servings
Calories 212 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 container Lite Cool Whip
  • 1 package Sugar Free Fat Free Vanilla Pudding
  • 32 oz Sliced Green Apples chopped
  • 3 cups milk fat free
  • 1/4 cup peanuts chopped
  • 8 bars Snack Size Snickers chopped into 8 pieces
  • 1/4 cup Sugar Free Caramel Syrup

Instructions
 

  • Make pudding according to package instructions
  • Fold Cool Whip and Pudding together
  • Chop apples into bite sized pieces, add to Cool Whip mixture
  • Chop snack sized Snickers into 8 pieces, add to Cool Whip mixture
  • Chop peanuts, add to Cool Whip mixture
  • Add sugar free caramel syrup
  • Refrigerate Lite Snickers Caramel Apple Salad
  • Serve topped with caramel drizzle and chopped peanuts, if desired.

Nutrition

Calories: 212kcal
Keyword Easy Desserts, Easy Side Dish, Midwest Salad, Potluck, Potluck Salad
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

I’ve connected with some amazing bloggers to share some Summer Treat ideas! ☀️🍦🍭🍬 Drinks, desserts, treats and more! Head to each of their blogs to check out what they are sharing

Cheyenne
10 minute Caramel S’mores Rice Krispy Bites!

Kimmy
Dole Whip – Disney Treat at Home

Heather
East & Refreshing Cheesecake Fruit Salad for Hot Summer Days

Grace
Refreshing summer smoothie recipe

Mai
Fro-Yo Pops

Kimberly
Strawberry crumble pie

Breakfast Ideas

I am a breakfast queen.

Day or night, I will eat breakfast for literally any meal. Breakfast for dinner is one of my favorites 😍

Something my husband and I have always tried to do was have a nice sit down meal, usually a Sunday brunch, and slow down together.

Here are five quick and easy breakfast ideas to spend time with your family and eat good food

  • Build your own omelete bar
  • Pancakes or French toast, eggs, and bacon
  • Biscuits and gravy
  • Oatmeal with fruit and toppings
  • Build your own breakfast burrito bar

Some blogger friends and I are teaming up to share all things breakfast! Follow along in our blogs for ideas and recipes!

Allison

Laura

Kimmy

Lexie

Amy

Devin