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!