Thursday, December 29, 2011

It Was The Best of Christmases

Distant view of snow-capped Mt. LeConte from Chestnut Top Trail
Great Smoky Mountains National Park - December 28, 2011

It has been a wonderful Christmas season in every sense of the word.  Our past three Christmases have been difficult at best and we decided on Thanksgiving evening that this one would be different.  We have embraced the season and its message of love, peace and joy with everything we have.  We chose to focus on giving, loving, serving, enjoying nature and finding new ways to celebrate what Christmas is all about without giving in to the lure of commercialism, overspending, overindulgence and any other thing that tries to overtake our minds leading us AWAY from the true meaning of Christmas and into sadness, depression and LOTS OF DEBT!!  

We took a short trip to Nashville to celebrate the end of Mr. B's very successful semester.....................

Opryland Hotel, Nashville, TN
December 19, 2011

We entertained MANY times including hosting Christmas dinner for my family.  Each table setting was different, but this was the two themes..................................

We enjoyed time with family......................................

 That's my sister on the left and niece on the right!

A really good picture of everyone EXCEPT me!  My excuse is I didn't have long to get from behind the camera into the photo!!

Link, my niece's dog, enjoyed Christmas from his "throne" where he ISN'T supposed to be!!

I have hiked, and hiked, and HIKED!

 Abrams Falls Trail - GSMNP - December 2, 2011

 Lumber Ridge Trail - GSMNP - December 12, 2011

 Laurel Falls Trail - GSMNP - December 17, 2011

 Gatlinburg and Twin Creek Trails - GSMNP - December 23, 2011

Turkeypen Ridge, SchoolhouseGap, Chestnut Top Trails - GSMNP
December 28, 2011 

Yes, I WILL reach my secondary hiking goal of 350 miles in 2011!

I have no pictures to document it, but I am happy to say that I have navigated this holiday season without straying from the 17-day Diet which I began following on the day after Thanksgiving.  I completed Cycle 2 - Activate yesterday and enter Cycle 3 - Achieve today.  Much more about this in upcoming January posts, but this one has clicked, does not feel like a diet, IS something that can be sustained for a lifetime and just feels right for me.  Obviously, the weight loss slowed during Cycle 2, but I would have been concerned if it hadn't.  The important thing is that I did continue to lose slowly and I remained true to the plan.  

I am looking forward to the new year with great anticipation and excitement.  I'll be back on Monday with more.


Monday, December 19, 2011

On The Sixth Day Before Christmas..............................

Laurel Falls - GSMNP
December 17, 2011

My True Love Gave to Me...................

Six hours of an absolutely gorgeous hike.  Actually, my true love wasn't technically with me, but he didn't mind my going on a Saturday.  Our trek to Laurel Falls, one of the most popular trails in the Smokies, was spectacular following two days of rain and the fact that we were there early enough to NOT share it with anyone else was a gift.  Few people venture beyond the falls, but the trail continues another 1.9 miles and promises complete solitude, beautiful views and a serenity beyond compare.  

Laurel Falls Trail above the falls

Five more days of hiking between now and midnight on December 31st.  Because that will easily allow me to reach my secondary goal of 350 hiking miles in 2011!  When I reached the original 300 mile goal by the end of November, I knew that 350 was doable, but adopted an "if it happens, great - if not, that's o.k. too.  Barring some unforeseen circumstance, it'll be a done deal!  Am I proud??  You better believe it!

 Midway point of a recent solo hike on Lumber Ridge Trail

Four days in Nashville.  We traditionally plan a trip to celebrate Mr. B's completion of another semester and this year, that celebration will take place in Nashville in order for us to attend a concert in which my sister is singing in a locally secured back-up group for a contemporary Christian group.  She is so excited and I'm quite proud of her.  We'll also be having dinner with some friends and doing some shopping.  We're staying in our favorite cabin, Uncle Pete's at Rockhaven Cabins and I CAN'T WAIT!!

Three weeks of 24/7 "me" time with Mr. B.  This could be a gift or a curse depending on how you look at it.  Seriously, he turned in his grades Friday at 3:42 and drove away at 5:50 not to return until the end of the first week in January!  He finished his last concert performance (he had 15 concerts between October 27th and yesterday) at 5 p.m. Sunday afternoon, I picked him up and we headed to Nashville.  For the first time in 9 years, we are NOT going to Florida this year.  No particular reason - we just both felt o.k. staying close to home.  I see some serious "nesting" in the upcoming days! But then who wouldn't enjoy "nesting" when you've got this to look at?

Our Den - this is the "informal" tree.  All decorations were either given to us as gifts or were acquired during our travels. 

Two nights of entertaining guests in our home which we LOVE to do especially during the holidays.  But the gift my true love gave to me was allowing me to supervise and even make changes to the menu so that I could easily stick to my commitment to Cycle 2 of the 17-day Diet!  As you may recall, HE is the gourmet cook who loves to cook for company, but by working together, he selected foods to prepare all of which I could enjoy on that particular evening.  And then (bless his heart!) of his own choosing, he made a dessert that he KNOWS I don't like.  There was no temptation there and I was able to fully enjoy BOTH evenings without dread or fear of messing up and I can assure you that our guests never knew the difference because the meal was superb!!

And ONE very large trunk of a Kia Spectra where Mr. B has stored every single morsel of the unbelievable amounts of "goodies" he receives from his students and other faculty members at Christmas.  He is well-loved by all (including the parents of his students) and you simply would not BELIEVE what he comes home with.  It usually begins the night of the Holiday Spectacular which was on December 8th, so a couple of days ago, I finally asked him if students were bringing him stuff and he got this silly grin on his face.  And then he said, "well, I cannot tell a lie.  Seems there's twice as much this year as usual and it's all either in my office or in the trunk of my car."  

And that is precisely why MY TRUE LOVE is a keeper!

Me and Mr. B the day I reached 300 miles!  As the song said, "we've got a thing goin' on!"
This will probably be my new "fat" picture and I'm happy to say I've lost 10 pounds since it was taken on November 26.  Thank You, 17-Day Diet!!

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Verdict Is In - I'm Sold!

Alum Cave Trail - GSMNP
November 25, 2011

Forgive me for the infrequent posting, but between now and the first of the new year, I've come to terms with the fact that weekly is about all I'm going to be able to manage.  Last year was unique in that it was my first year of blogging and our holiday season looked totally different because we were still adjusting to life without my sweet FIL who had died in late August.  We were trying to balance a hectic holiday schedule with caring for MIL compassionately and we did very little entertaining, shopping or socializing.  Such an about face for us as we love having friends into our home at all times of the year, but particularly through the holidays.  I kept wondering why I was finding zero time to write when the ideas were flowing.  And suddenly remembered how this year's schedule is "normal," last year's was not!  We all admit that often less frequent posts are a sign that things are not going well with the journey, but let me assure you that, in this case, nothing could be further from the truth.

Last Monday's post let you in on the fact that I had quite uncharacteristically chosen to follow a DIET!  Something to which I am strongly opposed as my philosophy is healthy calorie intake vs. calorie burn by physical activity equals sustainable weight loss.  Rather than repeat, read that post to learn what I've been up to for the past 17 days.  This morning, I will complete day 16 of the first 17-day cycle and am thrilled to report that I have lost 9.2 pounds during that time.  The book states that a 10-12 pound weight loss during cycle 1 is not out of the question.  I guess it's possible I could lose another .8 in the morning, but I am more than happy with what I've accomplished.  I suspect that has more to do with the fact that I didn't find the plan extremely difficult to follow as much as the actual pounds lost. 

Tuesday morning, I begin the second 17-day cycle also known as the Accelerate Cycle.  (FYI - Cycle 1 was called the Activate Cycle)  Those of you who wondered if the plan included carb cycling, you are very astute.  Cycle 2 still allows unlimited protein and veggies from Cycle 1's list with alternating days of choices from a much expanded list of protein items.  Cycle 2 also adds two healthy starch selections on alternating days.  The cycle 2 lists are quite inclusive and I strongly feel that no one could feel deprived during either cycle 1 or 2 if creative with their meal planning.   

After the first 17 days and a 9.2 pound loss, here are some observations about why this is working for ME!  
  • First and foremost, this plan allows fruit!  Fruit is my candy.  I could never stick with a program that banned fruit completely for even a short length of time.  From day 1, two fruits are permitted each day and that component is a major reason I knew it would work.
  • My personality type (quirky??) works best if I have a beginning and an ending.  I can do anything for a specified period of time.  The 17-day cycles attracted me because it was long enough to expect results, but short enough not to become bored.  
  • It is easy in that the lists include normal everyday foods and no special cooking, shopping or prep skills are needed.   I can't say that preparing dinners for myself and Mr. B have been all that different.  And to my surprise, he has even remarked that his pants feel looser.  
  • I am looking forward to the additional options available during cycle 2 and then even more in cycle 3.  If not at goal by end of cycle 3, recommendation is to follow the sequence again before moving to cycle 4 which is basically maintenance.  I just love the structure of it. 
I can't say that there is anything I don't like about this plan.   If one goes hungry, it is no one's fault but their own.  My body is so carb-sensitive and I am well aware that if I stop gorging on highly processed carbs, success is more highly pronounced by the quick change in my body SHAPE than in the pounds lost.  I am already down one pants/jean size and energy level is soaring.   Sugar cravings are totally gone and other carb cravings are greatly diminished.

Am I cured?  What a joke!!  Have I found something that is working for me right now?  Yes, and I am profoundly grateful because I was desperate for a shot in the arm from somewhere.  And as is often the case, it came out of the blue from a source I'd never have expected.   A DIET of all things!  But humility is and always will be the word of the day.  One bite, lick or taste and every last one of those taste sensations would come roaring back quicker than I can say, "sugar cookie."  This has given me a much needed shot in the arm, but I have a long, long way to go and a lot left to learn.  And you, my friends have and will continue to help me more than words could possibly express.

When you read this (unless you are, like me, a disgustingly early riser), I will be headed towards a hiking trail challenging myself in a different way.  I am hiking solo and although, I have done some solo hiking, this will be my longest.  I am properly prepared and it is a trail I know well, but there are still some inherent dangers in solo hiking.   So, if you are the praying sort, keep me in your prayers today.  This trail has a ready-made meditation spot about 3 1/2 miles in which is where I'm headed to do some thinking and planning for 2012. 

What's the last challenge you faced that was exciting, but uncomfortable?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Call Me Crazy, But Call Me Determined

Abrams Falls - GSMNP
December 2, 2011

It is December and I am DETERMINED to begin 2012 at a lower weight than last January 1.  My hiking bud (who probably doesn't weigh 110 fully layered for a sub-zero hike!!) pronounced me "crazy" when I told her I had started a diet.  But I'm not crazy and if I've learned one thing over the years, it's that when the inspiration hits even if it comes in the strangest way, don't stop to think about what time of year it is.  Don't THINK at all!  JUST DO IT!  And I did!  And here's the story - crazy as it seems!

As you well know, I don't do "diets" so I'm starting out going against the grain of my own philosophy.  I strongly believe that (for me) the proper way to lose weight and keep it off is a balanced eating plan using the simple formula of calories in vs. calories burned = pounds lost.  I have also learned that I am somewhat carb sensitive and heavy carb ingestion even if total calorie intake is correct will still result in slow or no loss plus every one of those carbs attaches itself directly to my thighs and posterior.  

But on a rainy, cold morning, I was perusing the shelves at Barnes and Nobel when a book entitled, "The 17-Day Diet" caught my attention.  Why??   I have NO idea.  It was amongst 10,000 other titles each hoping theirs would catch some ignorant  gullible sucker and rob them of $25.  Maybe it was the pink and blue cover.  Maybe it was the "rapid results" part although normally that turns me off pretty quickly.  That's why the whole thing was so weird.  Usually, this is something I wouldn't have given a second glance.  At any rate, I picked it up, grabbed a cup of coffee, found my favorite window seat and began reading.  And there I sat until I had finished the book.  I wasn't sold, but I was intrigued.  

Did I buy the book?   Of course not - I'm far too cheap!  But I went straight to my public library, checked it out, then headed home where I ordered it from at half the price it was in Barnes and Noble.  I won't go into detail explaining the plan - that's not the point here and you can read plenty for youself online.   Basically, it follows three 17-day cycles with a fourth cycle that is "maintenance" if one stint through the first three cycles gets you there.  It's high protein and very low carb.  But you do have a variety of choices from the protein list and probably a primary reason the plan attracted me is that you are allowed two fruits (from the list) each day plus two servings from a list of probiotic items i.e. yogurt, kefir, Breakstone LivAction Cottage Cheese (which I was not familiar with and LOVE), and a few other selections.  In Cycles 2 and 3, your choices become much wider.  In fact, I could probably LIVE on Cycle 3.

Let me repeat that I have no idea why this drew me in when I've struggled so for the entire past year just to find ANY momentum to lose this weight I've regained.   Why now?   Why one more book when I've probably got 50 diet books stored away?   Whatever it was, the intuitive sensation that said, "try this" was very, very strong.

I am happy to report that all this happened on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  I began the first 17-day cycle on the Friday following Thanksgiving (coincidentally, the same day I reached my 300 mile hiking goal) which means I have successfully completed the 10th day.   Other than a slight slip-up when Mr. B put a tiny bit of butter in some asparagus, I believe I have toed the line all ten days.  As of this morning, I have lost 7.4 pounds.  The two daily fruit and probiotic servings are wonderful as those are both items I consider "treats" at any time.  The Cycle 1 list of fruit servings includes most of my favorites, so doesn't feel restrictive at all.  In retrospect, perhaps that's the reason I was drawn to this plan.

With the exception of a total "bonk" on the third evening, it has not been difficult.  There is plenty to eat and one need not go hungry.  I suspect the "bonk" was when the carb/sugar withdrawal kicked in.  I spent a couple of miserable hours biting Mr. B's head off alternating with sobbing on his shoulder.  Doesn't sound pretty, does it??  Believe me, it wasn't.  But he handled it well as I'd tried to prepare him that SOMETHING would happen.  I just wasn't sure exactly what!   Once I was past that, my energy level has soared and I feel great.  Cravings are pretty much gone.

And as Forrest Gump would say, until one week from today when I reach the end of the first 17-day cycle, "that's all I'm going to say about that!"

I'm happy to report that I did reach my 300 mile 2011 hiking goal and am now up to 309 miles.  In my head, I'm kind of playing with trying to get to 350 before December 31st, but that all depends on our weather and the availability of hiking partners.  I'm becoming increasingly comfortable with solo hiking and am certain the snake phobia factor is no longer present, but there are still those big black things known as bears and as you recall, I've had more than my share of encounters with them this year!!  In another couple of weeks, they'll be warmly hibernated doing whatever it is bears do in their dens that cause MORE bears next spring.  LOL!!

 SHE DID IT! - 300 mile 2011 hiking goal REACHED!
At Arch Rock on the Alum Cave Trail - GSMNP
November 25th, 2011

Have you heard of the 17 Day Diet?  How difficult would it be for you to follow it?  Is it something you would ever consider?

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Goal Achieved

Albright Grove Trail - GSMNP
November 18, 2011

It is just after 5 a.m. and as you can see, I am sitting comfortably in my nice warm den not anywhere close to a retail establishment of any sort!  As one who intensely dislikes shopping and even more intensely dislikes large crowds, Black Friday isn't, not has it ever been, something about which I get excited.  

But I will tell you that today, I am VERY excited because it is a red letter day and is going to be a stunningly beautiful one here in East Tennessee.  Somewhere around noon, I will meet my goal of hiking 300 miles during 2011.  And I will do it with Mr. B as my hiking partner of the day which makes it even more special.  It will not be a lengthy hike since he is not the avid hiker that I am, but will be along one of my favorite trails in the Smokies, the Alum Cave Trail.  We will only hike the first half of the trail, but IMHO, this is one of the most beautiful trail sections in the park and with clear skies predicted, it will be perfect.  I only lack 2.8 miles so will technically reach my goal just after we start the return trip from the cave!  

I set this particular goal last December while we were in Florida, but if you remember, I spent much of January and February in doctor's offices trying to figure out why I was so sick.  In fact, I did not hike one single time until the end of February.   At that time, not only was I skeptical that I would meet the goal at all, I certainly would've never predicted meeting it before the end of November.  

So as I sit here pondering all this, I am reminded once again that we never, ever give up!  When the task before us seems so daunting, we don't quit, we simply take the first step.  The first hike I took towards my 300 mile goal was only 3.1 miles, but today, I realize how important that 3.1 miles really was.  I remember that day well.  I did not feel good and it was cold.  But I wanted to be in my mountains and I wanted to be on a trail.  At that point, 300 miles wasn't even on my radar.  I just wanted to enjoy the beauty of THAT day and those 3.1 miles.  But TODAY, I see how those miles fit perfectly into the whole 300 mile picture and those 3.1 miles breathed life back into a tired, sick, frustrated me who wasn't certain I'd do much hiking at all in 2011, much less reach an ambitious goal.  

I can also tell you that on that same day last December, I set the goal to be at goal weight by the end of 2011.  A goal which was probably more doable than the hiking goal.  But on this one, I never took that first "3.1" miles.  The end seemed so daunting, I never started.  And so here I sit pondering that as well knowing that I'm exactly where I was this time last year and knowing that the next five weeks is a minefield of opportunities to make matters worse.  

The difference between a goal achieved and a goal with which I've done a lot of blathering about, but not taken that first 3.1 miles to reach???  Hiking is a passion.  I cannot describe that euphoric feeling that starts when I pull my backpack out of the closet and doesn't end until I pull off the boots and stick 'em back in the trunk at the end of the day.  I'll do ANYTHING to get to hike!  I'll hike in the rain or snow and I'll hike when I feel like crap.  

When my passion to reach goal weight matches my passion to hike, I guarantee it'll happen.  And that's what I'm going to think about as I start those remaining 2.8 miles in a couple of hours.  Because today, it seems as if the passion is there! What encourages me is that the passion flared yesterday about noon when I looked at the feast spread of gloppy (not sure that's a word!), gooey, sugary choices on the Thanksgiving buffet at MIL's house and the light bulb came on.  Because in that moment, I realized that the only thing on that table that truly looked good to me was the pure, unaltered beautiful breast meat of that turkey!  And I did o.k. throughout the day because that feeling stayed.  I simply did not want all of that other stuff.   

Could it be that this last 2.8 miles to reach a goal in 2011 will also be the FIRST miles toward reaching another goal that would simply enhance my chances of reaching even more ambitious hiking goals in 2012.   It's that circle of life thing and for me, I want to participate in ALL of it at my very best level with a passion that burns red hot and spreads to everyone around me.  

I hope each of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving day surrounded by those you love and with little stress and/or drama!  I count each of you as friends and took time to give thanks for the gift of friendship and the miracle that it can occur in different forms.  I am thankful for the gift of writing and the many moments of pleasure you have brought to me!  

Come on friends, these next five weeks are NOT a time to play with our weight!  Much, much damage can be done!   Find the passion and reach higher!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

My Kitchen

 This little "cutie" greets me when I walk into my dining room to open the draperies!
 She brings me flowers every morning and always makes me smile?

I had planned to be headed towards a new hiking trail this morning, but a 6 a.m. conversation with my hiking bud got it postponed until tomorrow.  Our choices were leftover rainshowers, muddy trail, cloudy and windy (today) or drier, sunny, but VERY cold (tomorrow).  She chose tomorrow.

As a result of having a bit of extra time this morning, I'm going to introduce you to my kitchen!  Doesn't that sound like fun?  First, a tiny bit of history.  We purchased our home in May, 1999 and it was a dream come true for me.  The house is next door to Mr. B's first cousin and we'd had our eye on it for years.  It was a gorgeous Cape Cod still occupied by its ORIGINAL owner.  The lady was already old and we certainly didn't want her to die, but we sure wanted her house!!  As it turned out, she made the decision to move into an assisted living facility and with one look inside the house, we said YES!  The home in which we were living sold pretty quickly giving us just the right amount of time to do some minor updating before moving in.  

The house was built in 1940 and even beyond the fact that it was a Cape Cod design which I'd always wanted, what totally sold me was that the builders had filled this house all the way around with HUGE windows.  There are windows EVERYWHERE!!  The moment I first walked into the den, I was hooked.  There were so many windows, it felt like you were outside.  But here's the interesting thing about my house and specifically, my kitchen.  Yes, my home was built in 1940, but many of the characteristics found in typical homes of that era are not present in mine.  You see, Mrs. Guinn was a Home Ec teacher.  Her home and specifically, her kitchen, were HER domain.  Her pride and joy!  She thought out of the box and way beyond her time!

So although my kitchen isn't huge by most standards, it is considerably larger than most found in homes built in the 40's!  I have lots of LARGE cabinets, plenty of counter space, two HUGE windows over the sink and (prepare to be envious) not one, but TWO giant pantry's.  It is wide, long and easily accessed by both the den and the formal living/dining room.  We can entertain large groups of people by using the kitchen as a "buffet" line as it flows beautifully into the larger rooms.  She was a genius in her designing, but then what do you expect from a Home Ec teacher?  Such a shame they don't even call it that anymore.  Mrs. Guinn would be SHOCKED!   BTW,  Mrs. Guinn has since died, but not before we were able to have her back into her old home for "tea," and to show her the updating we had done.  We received her hearty approval!  

Nothing can replace a picture, so without further words, allow me to show you my kitchen:

Coming into our house from the garage, you walk through the den and the breakfast nook into this picture.   Remember, I'm no photographer!!   It isn't as WHITE as it looks.  The countertops (original) are tan and the walls are a seafoam green.  She had layer upon layer of wallpaper which took us forever to remove.  Note the 36" stove which at the time of her purchase was a top of the line model.  And yes, those are double ovens, BOTH of which work.  I've had no problems with the stove in the 12 years we've lived here, but am well aware that when it goes, it'll be a major expense as these are no longer made and have to be special ordered!!

Standing in the dining room door looking back in the direction from which the first picture was taken.  Note my pink water pitcher beside the sink (have to drink all of that and more EVERY day) and my brand new, but very old and outdated dedicated kitchen computer back by the coffee pot.  Becca was afraid I'd spill something in my computer so that's to put her mind at ease.  I'd thought of that, so it's way back in a corner out of harm's way, but still very easy to view and follow recipes.

 A wider shot from the same vantage point back through the breakfast nook and den. 

From the breakfast nook.  One of my large pantry's is behind the door you see on the left.  The other is just out of sight to the left of the fridge.  That is also the hallway leading to the remainder of the house. Not sure what was cooking in the crockpot.  I think it was black beans for soup I was going to prepare.

Unfortunately, no matter how much I love my kitchen, it is not immune to an epic fail and I had my first one this week.  It looked like this:

 It was my first adventure into using almond flour and was a Pumpkin Bread recipe from  I added a few fresh cranberries I had on hand, but otherwise made the recipe as directed.  I had trouble getting it done despite having read all I could about almond flour and then it totally stuck to the bottom of the baking dish coming out in chunks.  It is edible, but not all that good.  I'm eating it in chunks topped with yogurt or applesauce.

Not to be outdone, I also had an epic keeper this week.

This is Whole Wheat Oat Banana Bread and is delicious!!

Mr. B left early this morning for an event he was asked to participate in well over a year ago.  It was quite an honor to be asked and needless to say, I am extremely proud of him and what he has accomplished in his work.  He is one of those fortunate few who still loves his work and can't wait to get to school every day.  But what is most important to me (and to him) is that he is loved and respected by his students and peers.  And what opportunities he has every day to impact the life of others.  If interested, here's a link to what he's doing.  Should be pretty easy to pick which one is Mr. B.

So I'm single until Saturday evening.  What should I do???  What should I do??


I realized when drafting this post that I'd love to see YOUR kitchen almost as much as I enjoyed showing you mine!  If interested, please do a post showing us your kitchen.  And for sure, let me now in a comment that you've done so or are planning to do so along with a link back to that post so we can ALL see your kitchens.   Ooohhhh, what fun!  Please, show us your kitchen!

Monday, November 14, 2011

No Scarlett, Let's Think About It TODAY!!

Biltmore Estate - Asheville, North Carolina
November 5, 2011

(In case you are very, very young or have lived your life under a rock and don't get today's post title, it is a reference to one of the most quoted lines in the 1939 movie, "Gone With The Wind," when Scarlett O'Hara says, "I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow.)

Autumn here in East Tennessee just keeps on keeping on!  Much of the foliage is gone from the trees in the mountains and I actually watched some peaks become snow capped one day last week while hiking in one of the remote areas of the park.  But here in the lower elevations, there are still pockets of reds, yellow and oranges that are stunning.  And I am enjoying every moment of it!

Thanks so much for your fun comments on my last post.   I loved reading your personal stories about who taught you to cook.  I could feel that some were full of precious memories and warm, fuzzy feelings.  Those are things to treasure for sure.  I am still in the process of working out my own method for keeping track of the recipes I find.  I'd love to do the copy and put in a binder thing, but being the tree-hugger that I am, can't justify the paper when I have the same thing at my fingertips via a laptop.  And fortunately, we have an old (VERY OLD) laptop that is only used when we travel and now has found a new home in a corner of my kitchen.  It has been stripped of everything except stuff needed to bookmark and store recipes.  Mr. B says we now look like a technology based gourmet kitchen.  That's stretching it a bit since it's hard to make a 1940's kitchen look "modern." 

My kitchen and I have always had a love/hate relationship, but right now we are enjoying true love.  This past week was busy in other ways plus I am making every effort to spend as much time outside as possible since I know those days of being able to do that without bundling up are numbered! But I did manage to get a few "experiments" accomplished and more are planned for this week as we are anticipating a few not so nice weather days.

Yesterday, I was reminded of something in two separate ways both of which affected me profoundly.  Although I would not have told you that I take tomorrow for granted or am particularly guilty of putting things off until tomorrow, since the reminder came to me twice within two hours of each other, it seemed as if it was a double whammy and I should take notice.  During our church worship service yesterday morning, our drama team presented a slightly humorous, but totally serious skit on waiting until "tomorrow" to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves TODAY.  Later, I read Michele's post seen here where she talks about exactly the same thing.  I loved the way Michele summed up the point both she and the drama team were emphasizing which was, "let's make tomorrow TODAY!"   I am grateful that right now is yesterday's tomorrow and looking back, I can truthfully say that I put nothing off that came to my mind as a good thing to do.  But that isn't always the case and every single one of us can recount multiple instances in our lives when we let an opportunity to love ourselves or someone else slip by and then "tomorrow" never came! 

Whether it be loving, serving and ministering to others as was the point our drama team was making or taking control of our health as Michele was emphasizing, please join me in DOING IT NOW!!  Not tomorrow, not January 1, not this afternoon, but NOW!

I am still overwhelmed, but having such fun finding new blogs and websites that are teaching me new things about cooking.  I am so thankful for those of you who focus on the cooking aspect of this journey and post your recipes via separate tab that I can search.

I'd love your help again..........................

I know this will be REALLY difficult for some of you, but please choose ONE cooking BLOG and ONE cooking website (they may be one and the same) which are your current favorites!   I'd love to end up with some new ones to read and play with this week as Mr. B's hectic concert schedule has kicked in and he is gone most of the time, we are expecting some days of ugly weather and I'm going to have lots of time to experiment without any distractions!!  If your personal favorite has already been listed, give me your SECOND favorite.  I just want new stuff!!

Have a FUN Monday and don't put anything off until tomorrow!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Who Are You and Where Is My Wife?

Lunch Break On Flat Creek Trail - Great Smoky Mountains National Park
November 6, 2011

It happened almost one month ago and I'm still afraid that other woman is going to disappear, but decided to write about it anyway.  Perhaps it was the wonderful influence from so many of you.  Perhaps it was the first serious bout of winter like weather.  Perhaps it was the final straw in my desire to know where most, if not all, of my food is REALLY coming from.  Perhaps it was just time!!  

Whatever the reason, it happened suddenly and Mr. B has now realized that the other woman is my kitchen who looks a lot like me really IS me.  On Thursday, October 13, I stepped into the kitchen, started cooking and haven't looked back.  The biggest surprise of all is that I'm having fun and that is a first.  

A bit of background might be in order.  My mother was/is many things, but a domestic individual was NOT one of them.  She worked hard at the same job until she retired and was actively involved in many activities away from our home.  Her mother died when she was two and although always loved, her life until she left for college was unstable at best.  There was no one to teach her any type of domestic skills and believe me, to this day, she STILL possesses NO domestic skills.  It is from her that I inherited my independence and innate love for travel. I am eternally grateful for that, but the downside is that she never taught either my sister or me how to boil an egg mainly because she didn't know how to do that herself.  

It is no surprise that I am not, not have I ever been, comfortable in or even interested in spending much time in the kitchen.  No surprise (or was it a miracle!!  LOL!) that both my sister and I gravitated  towards men who LOVE to cook and like having that responsibility!  

Through the years, I've gone through spurts where I would make an effort to learn basic cooking skills, but I was an upwardly mobile career woman myself and simply didn't have time for anything else in my life, much less something in which I had no interest to start with.  

So I was not offended when Mr. B was skeptical the first night he came in and a lovely dinner was waiting for him.  Nor did I flinch when he laughed the second night he came in and dinner was waiting for him.  But on the third night, when he walked in and smelled nice things from the direction of the dining room, he looked at me and said, "who in the heck are you and where is my wife?"  We laughed so hard over that one and are STILL laughing three weeks later.

I should have kept a log of the things I've made so you could be properly impressed just for fun, but I didn't and now, my aged memory is failing me!  I also have tried to remember what triggered the whole thing.  I THINK it was the first true cold snap we had and I decided early that morning I wanted soup for dinner.  I wanted to use my crockpot and I didn't want to go to the store, so I had to have all the ingredients.  

Enter and its"ingredient" search.  I put in my list and up popped 38 choices.  I remember thinking, "ooh, what fun!"  And several hours later, served what must've been good because Mr. B is still raving about it.  We both love soup and he enjoys taking it for lunch, so with that first success behind me, I decided to try a new soup recipe each week this fall/winter.  So far, I've made a Pasta Fagioli (which really did taste just like Olive Garden's), Bean Soup and Chicken Mushroom Soup.  I've also made three different kinds of muffins/breads using fresh cranberries, blueberries and pumpkin I had in the freezer.  I have made applesauce and restocked my freezer with fresh pumpkin.  I truly wish I'd kept that log - you really would be impressed.

But here is the thing of which I'm most proud.  I'm picky about what I eat and it's getting worse!  I think the continuing list of wide-spread food borne illnesses across the US along with the ever increasing list of problems with food items that have been improperly stored and/or transported hundreds/thousands of miles has really made a final impression on me that I cannot overcome.  I want to 1) know where my food has come from, 2) eat it in the purest form that I possibly can without added ingredients I can't pronounce or identify, and 3) support local farms/farmers.  I don't want to eat apples I buy at Sam's that have travelled from Washington state when I can eat apples fresh from the tree that I buy at an orchard 45 minutes from my house.

So, if you'll excuse me..............that orchard is exactly where I'm headed today.  The season is running short and from that orchard, I need enough apples to make more applesauce, more pumpkin and my winter supply of a variety of squash all of which I will purchase in full view of where it was actually grown!   

And then, I've got a delicious dinner to prepare later this afternoon.   Perhaps, we'll continue this subject in the next post.  Mostly because I'm not done talking about it, but the sun has come up and my feet are itching to get to that orchard.

You guys, to whom I give partial credit for this, are going to have to help me.   I am totally overwhelmed by all the resources available on the internet.  How in the world do you choose recipes to try and then store or save them in a way that allows you to find them later?  Right now, there are eight tabs open on my computer, six of which are recipes I'm afraid I'll not be able to find again if I close the tabs.  My computer is about to explode!

Who taught you how to cook and do you enjoy it? 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

November Is For Gratitude

Cooper Road Trail - GSMNP
October 29, 2011

I will have to confess that I am suffering from a serious lack of inspiration with respect to writing the ingenious and creative somewhat interesting posts that come from these fingers.  Well, at least you tell me they are somewhat interesting and I think once, a long time ago, Mr. B used the words "ingenious and creative," but that's kind of like your mother telling you that.  Anyway, it isn't that my life is not interesting.  As a matter of fact, it's incredibly full and busy right now with a variety of activities and relationships that make life fun.  But you and this blog added a whole new dimension to the concept of a full life, so when creativity wanes, I'll just tell you what I've been doing.  Maybe subtitled, "the good, the bad and the ugly."

First, the good.................

We have had and are still in the midst of an unbelievably beautiful autumn.  We've had enough of all the right weather conditions to prolong leaf season and unless something strange happens (like the October snowstom in the northeast),  we should have a few more weeks of gorgeous fall scenery.  I have hiked, hiked and hiked some more.  When I'm not hiking, I'm out walking.  I'm within 20 miles of my 2011 300 mile hiking goal and expect to reach that within a couple of weeks.  Reaching it this early means I should exceed it by quite a bit.  Considering the difficult late winter and spring I had with illness and the horribly hot summer we had, I am quite proud to have reached that goal for the second year in a row. 

A separate post is in the early stages about this, but it is something fun that has surfaced from out of nowhere and is taking a good bit of my time.  Time that once was spent reading and writing blogs, therefore, deserves a mention since it partially explains an absence of more frequent posting.  From somewhere came the inspiration to get in the kitchen and start becoming a better cook.  And the even more surprising part of this was the intense desire to ENJOY it.  Much more later, but a mention had to be made with the "good" because I'm having a blast and according Mr. B, my MIL and several others, I'm turning out some incredibly delicious at least edible items.  

The bad.

I have two friends, who in two very different ways, have left or are leaving.  A close male friend whom I've known for many years and rarely saw, but talked with frequently accepted a new job which took away our "freedom" to talk.  What you need to know about this friend is that this was the person whom I didn't just talk with - we debated, argued, disagreed, agreed, but talked about anything and everything.  The more controversial, the better. The more obscure the question, the better.  I am the rare female sports fanatic.  I can discuss any sport intelligently.  Mr. B, not so much, so this friend was my outlet for any and all sports issues.  I don't have a brother, but this must be what it would be like and I miss the communcation.  The other is the wife of one of our church staff members.  She and I became close friends and they have taken a position in another state far, far away.  They will be leaving in two weeks and I'm already feeling her absence.   I have lots of friends for whom I am very, very grateful, but these two leave unique "holes" that not just anyone can replace. 

My 2001 Toyota Corolla with 180,000 miles on it has decided it no longer feels good and really would like to be driven less.  This car takes me all over town and to remote trailheads on horrid gravel roads. Until three years ago, it was our primary vehicle and has taken us all over the country. It has served me perfectly for ten years, but with an ever increasing array of Christmas lights on the dashboard, it's time to start thinking about a replacement.  Enough said - I get the shivers even thinking about it.  As you can see, we buy good cars, drive them until they have to go to the graveyard and I HATE making decisions about new cars.

The ugly.

My weight, my weight, my weight.  Don't get me wrong - I'm maintaining in a way I've NEVER been able to maintain when at goal.  But this is not where I want to be.  Enough said.

Today's picture is not one I would've normally chosen because it isn't the most beautiful picture that was taken on the hike Mr. B and I did last Saturday.  But when scrolling through the options, it caught my eye for this reason.   I had done this trail previously, but Mr. B had not.   We had significant rain the previous day and I knew these water crossings would be wide.  As we came around the bend, Mr. B stopped short and said, "we CAN'T get across THAT."   I said, "sure we can and kept walking."  To his credit, he knew I had been there before and trusted that I knew what I was talking about.  What I knew that he didn't, was that just before you reached the water, there was a side path to the right that goes to a tiny feeder stream easily stepped over.  

November is the month we focus on gratitude.  I am grateful for the good, the bad and even the ugly because all are teaching me new things about life, about gratitude, about giving, about developing NEW relationships and mostly about focusing on something other than myself.  

When things seem too wide to cross or too deep to wade through, please just keep walking.  Trust that someone knows the way and can lead you or better still, have faith that if you keep walking, the path will reveal itself and you'll be better for not having turned around.  

Please join me in my goal of "giving" something to someone in some way (small as it may be) every day during the month of November.   Maybe it will become a habit!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Seasons Come, Seasons Go

My Back Porch - April 2011

My Back Porch - October, 2011

I haven't written much lately about my ongoing quest to reach, stabilize and maintain my weight where my body functions best.  So many periods of renewed enthusiasm followed by times when it simply doesn't seem worth it.  In some ways, I might allow myself to think I'm doing well if you can define "well" as maintaining over a period of time.  There have been lengthy periods of time when that would not have been the case.  I was either losing or gaining - there was no middle ground.  And I am grateful for that lesson which seems to have stuck with me.  I have maintained a stable weight for well over a year now.  But it is not the weight at which I want to stay.

And that most vividly manifests itself when I am on the hiking trail.  Yesterday, my best hiking bud and I enjoyed a beautiful 9.6 mile hike on a trail that is rated easy.  Believe me, those are few and far between in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  You are either on a breath stealing ascent or a knee killing descent.  Three years ago, a 10-mile hike was a piece of cake.  Yesterday, the last mile was a killer and today, I've been worthless!  If you know me at all, you know that to mess with my ability to hike will get my attention quickly!  I began noticing this last spring when longer hikes took a greater toll than I remembered.   I blamed it on all the health problems I was having then and that probably had some merit, but I now believe I was also using it as a method of denying the role that extra pounds play in energy and stamina.  

But spring hiking season came and went.  I don't hike much in the summer, so didn't pay much attention until yesterday.  Autumn hiking season is here.  I have huge goals for covering new trails and completing my 2011 mileage.  I don't like admitting that my lackluster attitude toward achieving my weight and fitness milestones are going to interfere with my hiking season, but they are.  

As I often find here in BlogLand, one of my much-loved blog friends came through with a most timely post this morning.  Cammy at Tippy Toe Diet  wrote about not looking back, but pressing ahead.   I read this just as I was on the couch bemoaning how difficult yesterday's hike was and what a mess I'd made of the fitness level I had achieved three years ago.  But that's looking back and accomplishes nothing.  That was then - this is now.   Seasons come - seasons go!  The flowers that were on my back porch in the spring are gone.  If I continue looking back at them, I'll fail to see the full beauty of the mums on my back porch RIGHT NOW.   As you can see from today's pictures, my back porch didn't change.  What was on it did!  

It may be that I'll not be able to hike 12-15 mile hikes this season.  But you better believe, I'll not fail to enjoy the hikes that I CAN do and be filled with gratitude every day that I can hike at all.  And I'll look forward to next season when those longer trails will be waiting for me.  

Change is good.  I've always been one that enjoyed change rather than fighting it.  I'm learning lots from you and from writing this blog.  Just when I need it most, someone always comes through with the words I need on that particular day.  It's time to quit looking back.  It's time to remind myself that yesterday's goals might not be practical today.  Yesterday's weight might have been achievable for someone five years younger who had not yet been through the deaded "change" or been diagnosed with thyroid disease.  Tomorrow's goals will better serve who I am today and maybe it's time to rethink those.   Maybe it's time to develop new ways of reaching them.  Maybe it's just time to relax, enjoy the present and let the future take care of itself.

Seasons come, seasons go.  The flowers on my back porch in the fall are equally as beautiful as those on my back porch in the spring.  But they are different and they are cared for differently.  Just like me.  And just like you.  

Is there anything you need to rethink? 

Monday, October 24, 2011

29 Gifts

Now I've Said My ABC's.....................

........................Tell me what you think of me!

A is for Apple: What’s your favorite variety?

B is for Bread: Regardless of nutrition, what is your favorite type?

C is for Cereal: What is your favorite kind currently?

D is for Donuts: You might not currently eat them, but what kind do you fancy?

E is for Eggs: How would you like yours prepared?

F is for Fat Free: What is your favorite fat free product?

G is for Groceries: Where do you purchase yours?

H: is for Hot Beverages: What is your favorite hot drink?

I is for Ice Cream: Pick a favorite flavor and add a fun topping.

J is for Jams or Jellies: Do you eat them? If so, what kind and flavor?

K is for Kashi: Name your favorite Kashi product?

L is for Lunch: What was yours today?

M is for microwave: What is your favorite microwave meal/snack?

N is for nutrients: Do you likes carbs, fats, or proteins best?

O is for oil: What kind do you like to use?

P is for protein: How do you get yours?

Q is for Quaker: How do you like your oats?

R is for roasting: What is your favorite thing to roast?

S is for sandwich: What’s your favorite kind?

T is for travel: How do you handle eating while traveling?

U is for unique: What is one of your weirdest food combos?

V is for vitamins: What kind do you take?

X is XRAY: If we xrayed your belly right now, what food would we see?

Y is for youth: What food reminds you of your childhood?

Z is for zucchini: How do you prepare it?

Dancing....Of the Not So Dirty Kind

Along the Virginia Creeper Trail
Abingdon, Virginia - October 15,2011

Mr. B and I danced our way through his fall break last week and had "the time of our lives" doing it.  If you haven't detected a theme here, just wait!  We began celebrating his fall break somewhere in Virginia several years ago because it is just enough north of us that the fall color is generally spectacular.  As you can see from today's picture, this year did not disappoint. 

In the absence of any great inspiration for today's post, thought I'd just share some pictures from our week.  Our path went from the peaceful to the silly, but we went places we'd never been, saw things that were stunningly beautiful and by george, I checked one more thing off that silly bucket list!  My Outrageous October just keeps on keeping on and my record of doing something new every day is still very much intact!!

We spent the first part of the week in Abingdon, VA about two hours northeast of us and one of our favorite go-to places.  It is the ending point of the 34-mile Virginia Creeper bike trail and home of the Barter Theatre, one of the most famous Community Theatre Venues in the US.  It is a typical Virginia town with many reminders of it's colonial roots.  There is more beauty around every street corner.

We stayed here in the Mary Connelly Penn House, took long walks on the Creeper trail, visited Abingdon's very busy farmer's market, enjoyed a couple of treats from the Wild Flour Bakery, drove to Damascus, Va (mid-point of the Virginia Creeper trail and famous Appalachian Trail town) and spent LOTS of time rocking in these front porch rocking chairs......................

looking across the street at this..........................

and this..................................

This is what we saw while in Damascus..........................

Ah, but it was time to move on and boy, was I ever excited.  Okay, bear with the silly little teenage girl still very much a part of me who at the ripe old age of 32 (in 1987) along with the rest of the female population fell in love with Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Gray as they Dirty Danced their way through the summer of 1963 at Kellerman's Resort (supposedly in the Catskill's).  Maybe it was the music, maybe it was the dancing (which I absolutely CANNOT do, am way too uncoordinated), maybe it was the forbidden love story.......who knows, but for some reason, I totally fell in love with the movie, have seen it more times than I care to admit and can sing every single word of every single song. 

A few years ago, in my travel research, I stumbled upon the fact that most of Dirty Dancing was filmed at Mountain Lake Resort in Pembroke, VA and Lake Lure, North Carolina.   I made my pilgrimage to Lake Lure a few years ago, but now it was time to visit Mountain Lake Resort.  Less than 150 miles from Abingdon, we headed that way for a few days pretending we were Johnny and Baby.

But my anticipation at seeing Kellerman's (aka Mountain Lake) for the first time did not mean I didn't enjoy the drive there because oh my, just take a look at what we saw on the way.....................

This is one of five original covered bridges in the state of Virginia currently being maintained by VDOT (Virginia Department of Transportation).  This one was in Giles County, VA just a few miles out of our way and well worth the time we took to find it.

Sinking Creek Covered Bridge - Giles County, Virginia

And finally we were there....................

And my word, with very few changes, it looks just like it did in the movie.  

Mountain Lake does a great job (IMHO) maintaining its identity as a resort all on its own while continuing to capitalize on the Dirty Dancing theme.  Most people who arrive there in 2011 come to see where the movie was filmed and the subtle reminders are all around beginning with the Dirty Dancing Walking Tour brochure you are handed at registration.

The place was virtually deserted when we arrived on Sunday afternoon, but the previous weekend had been one of their Octoberfest weekends and the staff was still breathing a sigh of relief to have that behind them.  We noticed that other groups arrived during our stay and the best that we could tell they were there to do some birdwatching and hiking.  We stayed in the Lake Cottage.......................

....................which was just beautiful.  Unfortunately, Mountain Lake has not received some of the best reviews on Trip Advisor, so our expectations were not very high.  We weren't there for a stay in a 5-star hotel and were very aware that the hotel is old.  However, we were pleasantly surprised.  The Lake Cottage was absolutely wonderful - we have no complaints whatsoever and would gladly stay there time and time again.  We experienced no poor service from any staff at any point.  I simply don't know where those complaints originated or what it is that people expect.  We will concede, however, that the food is mediocre at best.  Both dinner and breakfast are provided with your room and it is very much in the older vein of cooking and serving.  But hey, we made do and loved every minute of it.  I mean how can you NOT, when you are sitting at the very table looking out the very window where the Houseman's ate their meals in the movie?????

The one disappointment is a unique geological phenomenon that is very interesting, but does distract from the mystique of being where the movie was filmed.  Thankfully, we were not caught off guard as I had read about the fact that the beautiful mountain lake featured so prominently in so many scenes is GONE!  Read about it here.  Here is what it looks like now...............

This is looking back at the resort across the non-existant lake.  We hiked all the way around the lake while we were there.  Not a very long hike, but a beautiful one.  Mountain Lake Resort is well worth a visit with or without a love for the movie.  When the lake was full, I can't imagine there being a more spectacular setting anywhere!  It would have been stunning.

I cannot end this post without a tribute to Patrick Swayze and a reminder to all of us that cancer takes away those we love and it takes away those we admire, but never knew personally.  Patrick Swayze was a talented actor, singer, dancer who fought a very brave and public battle against pancreatic cancer.  Mountain Lake Resort remembers Patrick's life with this beautiful memorial stone just outside the gazebo that played a prominent role in several scenes from the movie...................

We enjoyed out drive home traveling 263 miles through the mountains of western Virginia and eastern Tennessee without ever getting on an interstate.  We stopped for a lunch break in Tazewell,, VA and a visit to the Historic Crab Orchard Museum which we enjoyed very much.  

Did we have a good time??

Yeah, I'd say we look pretty happy! 
In front of the Martha Washington Inn - Abingdon, VA
October 15, 2011

You would not BELIEVE what I've been up to since we got home!  Stay tuned!

Have you ever visited the place where a movie or TV show was filmed?  What and where?  I'd love to know.