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» REVIEW: Ring Video Doorbell Pro
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» How to host a clothing swap
3
» Lead me to the Rock
4
Double Digits: Lola’s 10th Birthday
5
» Rejoice Always
6
» Touring D.C. in the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
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» REVIEW: Nashville’s Nutcracker 2017
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» 2017 Christmas Gift Guide
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» Leading our families during the holidays
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» Christmas in Nashville 2017

» REVIEW: Ring Video Doorbell Pro

A little over a year ago, we had the opportunity to review and install a Ring Video Doorbell and loved it. This version can run on battery power which is a great alternative if you don’t have an existing hard-wired doorbell to connect to your video doorbell. However, since we did have an existing doorbell, we never ended up needing to recharge our doorbell’s battery.

When we moved last September, we knew a Ring Doorbell was a must have security device. When Ring asked us to test out the Pro version, we were already looking forward to the narrower, sleeker look than the original Ring doorbell. In addition, the higher resolution video footage (1080p vs 720p) is one of the other main differences that set the Pro apart. Just like our older model, the unit came with interchangeable face plates to match our wall color/preferences (white in our case), and customized alert zones in the app help a ton. Without setting up the zones, the Ring Pro picked up lots of unwanted (for us at least) car traffic, but the customized alert zones and motion sensitivity were able to correct false notifications. The Ring Pro can only be hardwired to the existing doorbell wiring but we knew that wouldn’t be an issue for us.
Even with the smaller profile, we had to cut out a piece of our door trim, which added about 10 minutes to the installation. Without having do to that, it took about 15 minutes to connect the necessary wires and mount the doorbell. Just like the original Ring, the Pro uses our home’s wifi to alert us and record a video anytime there is motion detected or someone rings the doorbell. The 160-degree range of view helps catch most activity that happens in the front yard and for us, even the street.
The videos are good quality, include sound, and are generally about 30 seconds long (from the beginning of the detected motion until the motion ends, which is usually about 30 seconds for someone crossing our yard or approaching our front door). We now know exactly when our mail or packages are delivered each day! The videos are stored via Ring’s cloud servers for $30 per year.
Some of the other existing features from the original Ring Doorbell are not lost. The Ring Pro still has doorbell functionality and rings our existing doorbell in the house, as well as alerting us on our iPhones that someone has rung the doorbell. From our iPhones, we have the capability to “answer” the doorbell by seeing a live view of the person on our porch and the option to speak to them if we choose to. This allows us to answer the doorbell whether we are in our house (and just don’t want to open the front door / get out off the couch) or away from home.

Conclusion

With four kiddos and a dog running around, a few more eyes and ears outside never hurts. We saw this peace of mind as a huge benefit in our last house so getting another was a no brainer. I have found the Pro to be a little more reliable than the first version and definitely notice the better video quality. The cloud video recording is optional but anyone should just plan on adding that service. We love the additional security of knowing who is entering our yard or approaching our house and when packages are delivered. If you don’t have the wiring infrastructure, I would still recommend the original Ring Doorbell (or Doorbell 2) but if you do have wiring, definitely splurge for the Ring Video Doorbell Pro.

Ring website

Buy Ring Video Doorbell Pro on Amazon

» How to host a clothing swap

It’s still winter in the Nashville area and we are all getting a little stir crazy! Cue some mom time that costs nothing but time and maybe a few dollars on snacks. This weekend I hosted a clothing swap and invited moms from the school my children attend. We all have a desire to know each other better and an active event like a clothing swap is a perfect way to accomplish that!

Today I want to share a basic structure so that you can organize your own clothing swap! There is no better way to make use of what you already have and enjoy a great ladies night out.

  • 3 weeks out: Choose a date, or provide date options, and create a FB event page to send out invitations, guidelines and reminders.
  • 2 weeks out: Remind participants of date and time with a message and ask them to start dropping off items at your house for organization. It’s best to ask your friends to hang their items on metal or throw away hangers to make the process more streamlined.
  • 1 week out: Send a second reminder for friends to drop off clothes and remind them of parameters again in case it’s not still fresh in their mind.
  • 2 days out: Send one last reminder if items still need to be dropped off and give tips for making the night a smooth experience.

Before the swap:

Prepare your guests for what they should expect. Encourage them to dress in layers that include a tank and leggings so that they can easily try on clothing without doing a full change. Prepare your home to accommodate movement, try-ons and peeks in the mirror. I suggest having all bathrooms accessible and at least somewhat clean. Additionally, it’s a nice touch to put out a full-length mirror to allow your guests a place to glance at their choices in full view. As a host you will be in charge of collecting all the items and displaying them for the big night. If you can get your hands on a couple of clothing racks that’s awesome! But if not, simply using two chairs and a broom stick to set up clothing racks will work just fine! Accessories, purses and scarves can easily be displayed on a dining tables and chairs. The more you organize the sizes and styles, the smoother the selection process will be the night of the event.

During the swap:

Welcome each guest and invite them to grab a drink, let them know you will be drawing numbers to determine the order of “shopping.” Once the majority have arrived allow each guest to choose a number from a bowl and begin the shopping process. Example, if you have 15 attendees you will place numbers 1-15 in the bowl. The general flow looks like this: Guests 1, 2 and 3 begin to shop, each choosing two pieces. Once they have chosen their 2 pieces they tag the next person/number in line. As a host it’s a good idea to moderate this process or choose another friend to do this. The goal is to keep the process rotating without lag time. Why the number system? Put simply, it keeps everything fair and gives everyone equal time and opportunity to browse items without feeling pressured.

  • Getting started!
  • Browsing the items
  • Encouragement and Conversations
  • 2 borrowed round clothing racks made this event so smooth!

During the swap part 2: 

Don’t forget to encourage each other and shop with each other during the event. Don’t fight the natural inclination to share opinions (That color looks awesome on you!) and give advice on a top that would suit one your guests well. Once you start doing this your guests will follow your example. This makes the experience fun, interactive and uplifting for all of your friends.

Guidelines used for clothing:

10 items per guest in good used condition
tops/shirts/sweaters of any kind
dresses
skirts
accessories such as cute jewelry, bags/purses, scarves, vests… the list goes on
workout clothing
Leggings or yoga pants/workout pants
jackets

NO jeans. Why? Think of the last time your shopped for jeans. It’s an extensive process and jeans do not have potential for universal fit. It’s best to keep jeans and fitted pants out of the mix completely.

Why is it important for guests to drop clothing BEFORE the event? 

My goal with this event was to keep it judgement free, positive and uplifting. Keeping the clothing anonymous and reminding guests NOT to comment on the clothing in a negative way keeps things on the up. Additionally, you don’t want to place additional pressure on someone worrying that they might not like or pick a friends clothing. Put simply: it keeps things uncomplicated by human emotions.

What do we do with leftover clothing?

After four to five rounds the evening will begin to slow down. At that point open the floor up for a “free for all.” Encourage your guests to all run through the racks one more time, taking anything they might like or even think another friend might enjoy. Give guests the opportunity to take back anything they might have brought. This continues to keep the selections anonymous because the free for all period is coupled with the retrieval period. Anything that is left from the night should be donated to a charity or other beneficiary of your choosing.

Have fun! Let me know if you host a clothing swap with your girlfriends! I would love to hear how it goes!

 

Bonus tip:

Door prizes are a fun addition! If you have friends attending that have small businesses (Monat, Rodan and Fields, Doterra… etc. etc.) ask them if they want to throw in a door prize. This gives them a chance to share a product and your guests to receive a fun bonus! My friend Anna from Lightshine Candles provided a delicious candle for our event.

 

» Lead me to the Rock

I do not claim to be dealing with active grief in my life at the present time. Sadness at times, worry at times and a constant urge to control my situation… always. My husband can attest to my “take control of the situation” personality. I’m great in a crisis and I’m annoying when it comes to vitamins and greens consumption. We recently discovered the world of MTHFR gene mutation and how that affects our family, we all have some variation of it. You can get a crash course here and consider adding it to your next blood draw at your yearly check up. Thankfully this knowledge is helping our family make better choices about foods and supplements but I do see its ability to take too much space in daily thoughts and actions.

Worry, sadness and fear for the future. There are constant openings for these enemies to creep in. For me personally my energy is spent less on actual fear and more on consistent, aggressive steps to control the thing that threatens me. Action becomes a place to stumble when I fail to root my anchor in the One who already knows the number of my days.

In the past few weeks I’ve noted several internal struggles that I had to make an internal, spiritual effort to redirect: sadness over my community that I’ve moved farther from, efforts to redirect my family’s health and a natural inclination to cynicism about the condition of our world. As I reflected on how much I had allowed these things to take space in my mind and heart an old hymn came to mind.

Then near to the Rock let me keep
If blessings or sorrows prevail,
Or climbing the mountain way steep,
Or walking the shadowy vale.

Near to the Rock let me keep. Friends, my bones cry out this phrase! I’m desperate to keep my eyes on Jesus. Anything else just drives me batty. B12 vitamins might help my body function better but Jesus healed my heart for good.

Hear my cry, O God,
    listen to my prayer;
 from the end of the earth I call to you
    when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
    that is higher than I,
for you have been my refuge,
    a strong tower against the enemy.
Let me dwell in your tent forever!

    Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! Selah
For you, O God, have heard my vows;
    you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.

Psalm 61: 1-5

My heart is often faint. I’ve seen the hurt of our country and the world. I’ve lost those close to me and I’ve witnessed the aftermath of tragedy but I can still stand and say God is good. He offers a safe place, a shelter and He is unchanging in a world that shakes. He knows the story from beginning to end and with knowledge of that, I can rest.

Double Digits: Lola’s 10th Birthday

Today we celebrate ten whole years of Lola. That’s a lot of life when you’re less than four feet tall. I’ve been Lola’s mom for four years now and it almost seems unfair to celebrate ten when I’m missing six of them.

Four years ago, in January, she was a picture on a screen. I saw her just before her 5th birthday. A beautiful little girl with eyes the color of the sea. Our paperwork was approved for a child no more than four and so we set about the task of completing more training and more addendums because of all the children in the whole wide world God spoke her name into my heart. It would be awhile before she would come home to us, approaching six years old and carrying an entire life we didn’t know or understand.

The first couple of years were more than our hands and hearts could carry and our family stretched and grew and even crumbled at times. Thankfully there are greater and bigger hands that held us and continue to hold us as we learn day by day to say goodbye to “normal” and yes to being the family God created us to be.

As we suspected, blindness, although unfamiliar to us, was not a disability but rather a different way of doing life. Lola has accomplished a tremendous amount in the time she’s been home. She is on-grade level in her third grade studies and has mastered braille and is working steadily on grade level Nemeth, which is the code she uses for math. Her social skills are growing daily and she’s becoming more self-aware. She delights in sharing the scripture passages she’s memorized and listens at least 75% of the time when we have family Bible time.

  • Lola celebrating her 5th birthday in China. We were able to send a cake and a new outfit.
  • Daddy and Lola meeting for the first time.
  • Finalizing in China.
  • Lola dominating.
  • Lola taking on a massive, high level ropes course.
  • Lola's 9th birthday.

Taking a step back is immensely important in our journey with Lola. In the thick of it there are times I despair over difficult days but with a bird’s eye view I see the flower blossoming. On paper, when we look at Lola’s background and experiences, there is a lot to fear for the future. But our hope for Lola isn’t in scientific or psychiatric journals and studies… our hope is in the Lord and in his word that says:

Psalm 103:2-5

Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with loving kindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Lola,
Daughter of my heart… we have loss between us. At times that loss seeks to divide us and turn our hearts against each other. But we also have promises that tell us nothing is beyond the hand of God. I promise to seek him even more in this 10th year of your life. I promise to look beyond your actions and watch for motivations behind them so that I can bind up your wounds. I promise to watch for your successes so that I can give you praise and remind you of your triumphs. May this be the year we call the year of fastening… the year of connection… and a time we rejoice over because it was the year our hearts were entwined in deep commitment to walk as mother and daughter.

I loved you before I knew you,

Mommy

» Rejoice Always

It’s New Years Eve morning. Calvin and Elliott are with our church family this morning and I’m playing nurse at home for the remaining family members. Strep made a last minute stop at our house before the completion of 2017. (have to admit… it was nice getting that last ounce out of our deductible!)

Like everyone else we’ve been reflecting on 2017 this week: looking back at pictures, remarking on the physical and emotional growth in our kids and imaging what next year will look like. There have certainly been years when I welcomed the New Year heartily, grasping for some kind of marker to signal a fresh start. There were years that held disappointments, sickness or difficult trials. 2016 fell into that category as I dealt with illness and surgery, and as I’ve shared before I’m abundantly thankful for the growth that came out of that season. I’ve also developed a deep appreciation for the days I’m given. A day might be good, bad, extraordinary or ugly… but it’s still a God-given day that shouldn’t be wasted.

As we enter 2018 I have few resolutions to speak of… minus the usual clean-eating after baking a bit too much in December… but I AM resolved to remember that each day has great purpose. I’m convinced that if we watch and search for God’s purposes in each day, mundane or extraordinary, we will certainly find them. When our eyes are focused on finding our best life in His plan the surrounding battles and discomforts of life will pale in comparison.

1 Thesselonians 5:16-18

Rejoice always,
pray continually,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

» Touring D.C. in the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Earlier this month, Calvin and I decided to spend our joint birthday present on a quick trip to D.C. Our last experience with the (2016) Outlander Sport in Houston was excellent, so I was excited when we were afforded the opportunity to test the 2018 model. The driving atmosphere is way different than Nashville with pedestrians and more cars at every turn but the 2018 Outlander Sport handled things nicely. We had an enjoyable trip, thanks to this fun small SUV.

all photos © Goodbye Normal

We thoroughly enjoyed both the vehicle and visiting places such as Georgetown Park, the grand opening for the Museum for the Bible (among all the other museums), Chinatown and tons of places to eat.

We stayed about 15 minutes away from the Monument so we had to drive into the museum district each day to enjoy the sights and sounds D.C. has to offer. The Outlander Sport provided a smooth ride into town then responded well to the multiple turns and stop-and-go traffic that pedestrians often cause. We even enjoyed testing the vehicle with a longer 45-minute trip to Baltimore which also proved to be a comfortable ride. Here are a few things I especially liked:

Panoramic Moonroof – We were fortunate to visit during a mild, rain-free winter where we could enjoy this awesome addition. The moonroof spans across the front and back seats so all the passengers can enjoy the view. I love how this feature can make a car feel bigger than it actually is.

Folding Side Mirrors – The side mirrors on this Mitsubishi fold in automatically once the engine is off in park. This feature is especially useful in cities like D.C. where parallel parking is a necessity. In Nashville, it’s not as common to parallel park but even standard parking spots could spare the car from large purses and shopping carts. 

24/30 MPG – We have always tried to be conscious of our consumption for the planet and our wallet. This compact sport utility vehicle gets great mpg without compromising it’s size and speed.

Conclusion

We have had a small SUV as a second vehicle for a while now and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. I enjoyed the 2018 Outlander Sport and could definitely see us considering one when we’re due for a new vehicle. Whenever you’re in the market, give Mitsubishi a test drive!

 

 

 

Special thanks to Mitsubishi of North America for allowing us to test drive the 2018 Outlander Sport. As always, these opinions are my own.

 

 

» REVIEW: Nashville’s Nutcracker 2017

December, as usual, is already flying by. Both Calvin and I have birthdays in December and it’s also a very busy time of year where I work. Thankfully, by the second week of December we were ready to dive deep into time with family and friends. This year we planned to attend the Nutcracker as usual but decided to allow Char to invite a couple of special friends, the boys were more interested in watching a little football and vegging out. This was an added bonus for me because their sweet mommas attended as well! 

We arrived a few minutes early and hustled the girls over to snag a few photos with the beautiful ballerinas. If you arrive even earlier (1:15pm for us), your kiddos can even learn one of the dances from the show! After a quick photo session we quickly located our tickets and went to find our seats. For this show we found ourselves in the orchestra section. In past years we have sat in the balcony and I must say the orchestra seats were so special! Sitting closer to the stage area made the center seem smaller and more intimate.


This year the Nashville Nutcracker is celebrating their 10th year. We were curious about this and knew there would be added surprises. If you’ve gone in previous years, you’ll notice a little more surprise and delight… we won’t spoil it for you.

Below is the remaining 2017 schedule:

Friday, December 15 at 7 p.m.
Saturday, December 16 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Sunday, December 17 at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
Thursday, December 21 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Friday, December 22 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Saturday, December 23 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Get your tickets directly from the Nashville Ballet’s website.

(All Photos by Heather Thorne)

The Nutcracker continues to be a special Christmas tradition for us. We love the special Nashville elements that show up in the production and sit spellbound through every moment of this special production year after year. To finish off our girls night, we made a nearby trip to Milk & Honey for dinner and dessert!

 

» 2017 Christmas Gift Guide

Have you made it to December without finding that perfect gift yet? Our list is shorter this year as we continue the year of less. We’ve been looking for non-tech gifts that promote creativity and/or spending time with others and these made the short list.

1. Chippo

Chippo is a fun game for the outdoors or even larger indoor spaces, think corn hole combined with golf. If you love golf, you’ll love Chippo. If you don’t love golf, you’ll still love Chippo. This was intended for dad but our oldest son who has never touched a golf club (other than putt putt) is always wanting to play a round. The game is best played with two wedges (not included), so make sure you grab an extra if needed.

Chippo website

2. KiwiCo Monthly Crates

Kids love getting mail, especially when it’s for them. After having friends try these out and seeing Facebook ads over the last few months, we had to try the Tinker and Doodle Crate for ourselves. KiwiCo makes science & engineering fun for kids of all ages. These boxes can be for an individual child or make it a family group effort to build or create together. Boxes are typically $20 shipped, but you can save a few dollars each month if you commit to 3 or more months at a time. As I’m writing this, your first box is only $7.95!

KiwiCo website

3. Brain Putti

Braini Putti is the perfect stocking stuffer for all kids. You can use Braini Putti similar to Play Doh but you can also make super bouncy balls with it. We’ve had a few nights around the dining table creating and laughing over Braini Putti.

buy on Amazon

Braini Putti website

4. Local Events

For those of you who are completely doing experiences over gifts, December is a great time to enjoy local events as a family. We’ve created many new traditions with this mindset including the Nutcracker for the family, and a date night seeing a Christmas concert (Dave Barnes this year). If you’re in Nashville, check out this post for events we’re most looking forward to.

 

» Leading our families during the holidays

It’s the Saturday after Thanksgiving and many are driving the long hours home on crowded highways. Isn’t it funny how much shorter the drive home seems? On the way to our destination we are full of anticipation or maybe even anxiety. The thoughts over what is to come makes the minutes and hours drag on as we wait to see what this visit will hold.

Maybe today, on your way home, you are scrolling through Facebook or Instagram. Each swipe displays photos of smiling families digging into turkey and stuffing or sisters in matching shirts announcing their Black Friday plans. But what you don’t see in those pictures is the intense fight that just took place over something that happened three years ago or the deep grief for the loved one who isn’t sitting at the table this year.

When families gather… conflict calls. I’m almost 100% certain that every family, no matter how good-looking, suffers from this ailment. Our hearts are bent toward conflict, sin and strife. We are ungrateful for how our lives have turned out, even in the midst of prosperity and plenty. When our families draw close so does the destroyer. It’s no secret that satan wants our families. And the holidays are the prime time for him to prey upon our festive yet distracted minds. I believe he also uses the happy images displayed by others to make us believe the lie that we aren’t all broken. The resulting pursuit of false perfection rather than the pursuit of our perfect savior takes our minds and hearts captive.

Consider Romans 1:21 as a cautionary tale…. in fact take a moment to read the entire chapter.

Romans 1:21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

The season of togetherness has begun. Let us lead our families to focus first and centrally on the advent during this time. The trimmings, shine and good times come second. All of those things and the expectations that lead up to them will fall flat and leave us disappointed because we were made to honor and give thanks to the one who will never disappoint us.

I can only imagine that our hearts will burst forth with light rather than darkness as we gather in pursuit of Jesus rather than the ideal standard we have created for family gatherings and holiday outings.

 

» Christmas in Nashville 2017

Nashville has a lot to offer when it comes to the year of less. If you haven’t been following along, 2017 for our family has the been the start of attempting to buy less stuff, but instead have more experiences together together. Our family has spent the last few Decembers at home and we’ve found lots to look forward to in doing so. Here are a list of events we are especially making plans to attend in December.

1. SCHERMERHORN SYMPHONY CENTER

The Schermerhorn is a breathtaking venue that feels special no matter what you’re there for. Dave Barnes’ Christmas show has quickly becoming a Christmas tradition for Calvin and I, but there’s definitely some others worth checking out. Make sure you view the Schermerhorn’s upcoming schedule.

We’re most excited about A Johnnyswim Christmas (12/8), Drew and Ellie Holcomb’s Neighborly Christmas (12/10), and a Very Merry Christmas with Dave Barnes (12/18). Also Handel’s Messiah, which has really become an annual holiday tradition for (four performances to choose from) for many families.

Full schedule and tickets available at NashvilleSymphony.org

2. NASHVILLE’S NUTCRACKER
Nashville Ballet is celebrating 10 years of Nashville’s Nutcracker December 2-23, 2017, at TPAC’s Jackson Hall with all-new magical elements to mark the occasion. Our family spent the day in Nashville last year, anchored by this great performance! If this has also become an annual tradition for your family, your kids will be surprised by a few new elements this year in celebration of its 10th year, including snow falling in the audience during the snow scene!

Visit magical lands with the Sugar Plum Fairy, the Mouse King, the Nutcracker, the Dancing Bear and many historic characters from Nashville’s past.

Nashville’s Nutcracker at TPAC’s Jackson Hall has grown to 16 performances:

  • Saturday, December 2, 2017 at 2 p.m.
  • Sunday, December 3, 2017 at 2 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 9, 2017 at 2 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 9, 2017 at 7 p.m.
  • Sunday, December 10, 2017 at 2 p.m.
  • Friday, December 15, 2017 at 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 16, 2017 at 2 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 16, 2017 at 7 p.m.
  • Sunday, December 17, 2017 at 1 p.m.
  • Sunday, December 17, 2017 at 6:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, December 21, 2017 at 2 p.m.
  • Thursday, December 21, 2017 at 7 p.m.
  • Friday, December 22, 2017 at 2 p.m.
  • Friday, December 22, 2017 at 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 23, 2017 at 2 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 23, 2017 at 7 p.m.

Tickets available at NashvilleBallet.com

3. NASHVILLE PREDATORS

IMG_3108

The only cold temperature we enjoy is from the Nashville Predators ice. Our kids love hockey when it comes to the food, the chants, and the crazy fans. Liam still loves singing (and shaking it to) Tim McGraw’s “I like it I love it” every time the home team scores.

There are plenty of home games in December to check out. Tickets available at Ticketmaster.com

4. Gaylord Opryland’s A Country Christmas

Nashville friends, looking to do a staycation? Look no further. In addition to the expected 3 million holiday lights and 48-foot tall Christmas tree, Gaylord Opryland will be hosting a brand new Broadway show for its 34th annual “A Country Christmas.” Cirque Dreams Holidaze will showcase 20 acts and feature original music and seasonal favorites at the Grand Ole Opry.

This year’s theme for the ICE! attraction is “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” The exhibit will include 2 million pounds of ice sculptures completed by 40 master artisans.

Opryland will also host an outdoor snow tubing hill covered in 1.5 million pounds of real snow.

“A Country Christmas” runs from Nov. 10 through Jan. 1. Click here for more information.

 

All Content © Erica Ho, Goodbye Normal