Friday, December 31, 2010

Top 10 List from 2010


2010 started out as a rough year. In January, Cheree stated on her blog that FORTITUDE would be a word to sustain us in the coming year and she was right. 

In January we knew that Daniel would {hopefully} start working with TVA, based out of Chattanooga, TN, but we didn’t know when. He spent the first of the year working to finish our {5-year} house renovation so that we could sell our first home.

We held our breath as he endured psychological testing to receive his nuclear clearance and then we experienced a physical separation as Daniel moved to Chattanooga and Cheree stayed in Charlotte until the house sold.

We managed to get the house on the market at the beginning of April and had a lot of initial interest but then the real estate market depressed after the First-Time Home Buyers Credit ended. At the end of June, we were elated to finally receive an offer for our asking price.

In mid July, after 5 months of separation, Cheree quit her job to join Daniel in Tennessee. The first of August found us moving into a170-square foot camper at the Raccoon Mountain Campground in Chattanooga. We were unsure of where Daniel would be stationed long-term so we lived in the camper for 3 months.

In September we discovered that Daniel would be officially relocated to Hollywood, Alabama on the first of October so we started our house hunt.

After viewing 4 houses, we were ready to make a decision. We bought our second home and moved in right before Halloween.

In November, we hosted the Moore family Thanksgiving.

We find that we are continuing to adjust to rural living. It is quite different from living in Charlotte or even Chattanooga for that matter.

We are hopeful for 2011. Cheree is working to establish freelance clients and we are thankful to be together again and also living closer to family.

We hope that 2011 is a blessed year for you and your family.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from the Moore’s!



10) There were no trips to the ER (two years in a row, we're on a roll!)

9) Daniel started a new job with TVA after 1 year of unemployment.
8) We lived in 2 different states {Daniel in Tennessee and Cheree in North Carolina} for 6 months... and survived!

7) We sold our house in Charlotte, NC.

6) We lived in a camper for 3 months.

5) We purchased a new house in Hollywood {Alabama that is}. How many people can say they bought a house for its garage?

4) We hosted our first Thanksgiving.

3) We feel blessed to live closer to both of our families.

2) We are thankful to be making new friends {though we miss our old ones}. 
1) We are looking forward to 2011 and all that it has to offer. We hope that you are your family are blessed in the coming year!
*This is the first year we didn't send out an actual card and we received a lot of flack -- so we are bringing back our printed card and Top 10 List for future years.

If you are interested, here are our Top 10 List from Years Past 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | We skipped 2007 | 2008 | 2009   

Thursday, December 30, 2010

52 Books in 52 Weeks: Book 52


To finish out the year, I chose The Giver by Lois Lowry – a science fiction novel where a society in a future time lives in a seeming utopia. On the surface they are a happy lot, but as you read further you discover that everything is not as it seems. 

The people have given up colors and choices and love and happiness in favor of the Sameness that allows them to live lives in which everyone works for the good of the community and all are taken care of. That is unless you are too weak or too old or too rebellious. In that case, you are "released" from the community. This release comes in the form of euthanasia – though most of the people in the community have no understanding of what this actually means. The people seem to believe that it is a time of celebration when someone is released.

The main character of the book, Jonas, is assigned the special honor of becoming a "Receiver." He is to receive the memories of the world from the "Giver." He learns that the memories of the world are often painful {like war, loneliness or hunger}, but there are also memories that are filled with joy, happiness and love. Jonas realizes that his community has chosen to miss out on the good by choosing to avoid the bad. 

In the end, Jonas chooses to escape from the community in order to find Elsewhere where the memories still exist.

Excerpts from the book:
"We relinquished color when we relinquished Sunshine and did away with differences. We gained control of many things. But we had to let go of others." – The Giver


"We don't dare to let people make choices on their own...What if they were allowed to choose... and chose wrong? ...We really have to protect people from wrong choices." – Jonas

"Sometimes I wish they'd ask me for my wisdom more often – there are so many things I could tell them; things I wish they would change. But they don't want change. Life here is so orderly, so predictable – so painless. It's what they've chosen." – The Giver

After a life of Sameness and predictability, he was awed by the surprises that lay beyond each curve of the road... he had never felt such simple moments of exquisite happiness.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Project 52 Date Nights: The End


It is hard to believe that we have made it through a year of intentional dating. I am a firm believer that doing anything intentionally adds value to your life and in this case to our relationship.

I have discovered that Daniel and I date quite a bit. We have gone on far more dates than I have taken the time to write about. I am so thankful to have a husband who still loves to hang out with me after 10 years together.

This final date was not anything special. We spent part of Christmas Eve making scarves together for Daniel's sisters. Then we wrapped all of the goodies that we had made or bought.

The last 10 days have been full of various visiting with both of our families. We have seen grandparents and parents and siblings and cousins and our niece. We enjoyed a white Christmas {a rarity in the south}. We have been very blessed this year and we are looking forward to next year and all the dates that we will continue to make time for.

52 Books in 52 Weeks: Book 51


Since it is Christmas time, I thought The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis would be a fitting book to read. The Chronicles of Narnia are among my all-time favorite series of books. I don't generally like fantastical books {i.e. I am not a Harry Potter or Twilight fan} but I love the fiction that C.S. Lewis and R.R. Tolkien wrote.

Anyways, even though I have read TLTWTW before, it was worth another read. If you have never read The Chronicles of Narnia {the entire set}, I would highly recommend it.

Excerpts from the book:
"...a charge of lying against someone whom you have always found truthful is a very serious thing; a very serious thing indeed." – the Professor

"Why don't they teach logic at these schools? There are only three possibilities. Either your sister is telling lies, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth. You know she doesn't tell lies and it is obvious that she isn't mad. For the moment then and unless any further evidence turns up, we must assume that she is telling the truth." – the Professor

"Though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and darkness before Time dawned, she would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward..." – Aslan

Monday, December 27, 2010

To Me, Christmas Is...

Daniel and I have never been big on Christmas in terms of the grandiose gift giving. My brother would tell you that we are too cheap and my sister would probably be nicer and say that we are just frugal. The truth is I have always had a hard time buying into the "buying" that seems to follow Christmas.


So instead of expensive gifts, we give our time; we give our love; and generally we give homemade cookies. 


This year I narrowed down the baking to three recipes: Brownie-Covered Oreos {found at Picky Palate}; Peanut Butter-Pretzel Treats {based on this recipe found at Simply Modern Mom}; and finally Mexican Wedding Cookies {also called Russian Tea Cakes by some, from the Joy of Baking}. 


I had seriously considered adding a fourth recipe of Chocolate Gingerbread cookies from Goodlife Eats, but I decided to nix it at the last moment. I'm glad I did because 10 hours of baking was ENOUGH.


After it was all said and done, I was tired. 
I think Sophie was worn out from watching me bake all day.



52 Books in 52 Weeks: Book 50

I should have posted this book last week, but Christmas took over my life briefly. I have 5 days to read my last 2 books – hope I make it.


Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez was an interesting book. My initial reaction was that I disliked it. But having had time to think about it and digest it, I have come to the conclusion that there are parts of it that I like.

This is a love story that takes place in South America during a cholera epidemic. The cholera is not the central part of the story. The story is about a young girl and boy that fall in love. They pledge to be married and then the girl changes her mind. She ends up marrying a rich doctor and the boy grows up vowing never to lose his love for the girl. In fact he decides to wait until her husband dies. He waits for more than 50 years. In the meantime she has seemingly forgotten him.

During his 50 year wait, he becomes very promiscuous as a way to remove the pain of rejection from his life. The book follows his many trysts and there some funny moments throughout.

At the end, the doctor dies and the boy and girl {now old} are able to reconnect. The "boy" is able to convince the "girl" to love him even though she once scorned him.

I am not sure if I would recommend this book, but it was an interesting story.

Excerpts from the book:
She prayed to God to give him at least a moment so that he would not go without knowing how much she had loved him despite all their doubts, and she felt an irresistible longing to begin life with him over again so that they could say what they had left unsaid and do everything right that they had done badly in the past.

...the heart's memory eliminates the bad and magnifies the good, and thanks to this artifice we manage to endure the burden of the past.

...his heart revealed to him that he and this man, whom he had always considered his personal enemy, were victims of the same fate and shared the hazards of a common passion; they were two animals yoked together. For the first time in the interminable twenty-seven years that he had been waiting, Florentino Arizo could not endure the pangs of grief at the thought that this admirable man would have to die in order for him to be happy.

It was as if they had leapt over the arduous calvary of conjugal life and gone straight to the hearts of love. They were together in silence like an old married couple wary of life, beyond the pitfalls of passion, beyond the brutal mockery of hope and the phantoms of disillusion: beyond love. For they had lived together long enough to know that love was always love, anytime and anyplace, but it was more solid the closer it came to death.

...he looked at Florentino Arizo, his invincible power, his intrepid love, and he was overwhelmed by the belated suspicion that it is life, more than death, that has no limits.
 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Project 52 Date Nights: 8th Anniversary

On Thursday night – our actual anniversary – we celebrated Christmas with several of Daniel's co-workers by eating at the local Mexican restaurant {one of a handful of places we frequent in Scottsboro}.

For our actual celebration we headed to Chattanooga on Friday where we saw a matinee of RED at the dollar theater and then stopped a J Alexanders for dinner.


Daniel had trout and I tried the fish tacos. Both were amazing. We used to stop at the J Alexanders in Germantown {Memphis} whenever we were passing through. We really love their salads. The atmosphere was perfect for reminiscing about the past and dreaming about the future.

J Alexander's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thankfully we aren't too far from the city and it is easy to make a quick day trip. It is hard to believe that it has been 8 years since we were married.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

We Tied The Knot


Eight years ago, Daniel and I took the plunge into matrimony. We had a shoestring budget of $2500, Daniel was still in school and my first post-college job paid $7 an hour. We had no idea what we were in for, but being married to my best friend has been a tremendous blessing.


We have made it through a {5-year} house renovation, a job layoff, two big moves {first to Charlotte, NC and then to Hollywood, AL via Chattanooga, TN}, three months of living in a camper and countless little things. Having Daniel around to share the good and the bad has enriched my life. 


We laugh at life a lot. Occasionally we cry. Sometimes there are fights, but through it all, I wouldn't change anything. Happy Anniversary Daniel! I am looking forward to the rest of our lives together. ILYM.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Project 52 Date Nights: All Work and No Play

Last week we didn't have time for an actual date. Friday we ran errands in Chattanooga. 

I ordered 11 pairs of tennis shoes from Zappos 
{yay for free shipping for delivery AND returns}.
One of our errands included going to UPS to ship back
the 10 pairs of shoes that didn't fit.

Saturday we hung peg board in the garage so that Daniel can finally finish unpacking all of his tools. And so that we can start using the garage to park in!

 Putting my carpentry skills to use.


Then Sunday we turned the power off for 5 hours {on our first snow day this winter} in order for Daniel to work on a project. Unfortunately the temp in the house dropped to 55 before we could turn the power back on. I read a book by candle light when Daniel didn't need my help. 

Daniel cutting one {of several} holes in the wall.

Even though, we didn't have a typical date, we did spend lots of time together.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Everything but the Kitchen Sink Cookies

Our first snow in Hollywood, Alabama {December 12, 2010}

With all of the cold weather over the last couple of days, I got a hankering for some warm cookies. After looking through my pantry and surfing the internet, I decided to modify this Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies recipe that I found on Annie's Eats. The end product was excellent, though craisins would have been a good addition.

Here is my modified version of the recipe:

Ingredients: 
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. grated nutmeg

Dash of allspice
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 cups old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup shredded coconut


Directions:
  • Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, spices and salt. 
  • Whisk to blend.  
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugars on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  
  • Blend in the egg and vanilla.  
  • Beat in the pumpkin puree until well incorporated.  
  • With the mixer on low speed, mix in the dry ingredients just until incorporated.  
  • Beat in the oats until combined.  
  • With a rubber spatula, fold in the chocolate chips, shredded coconut and chopped pecans until evenly mixed.
  • Drop in small scoops (about 1½-2 tablespoons) onto prepared baking sheets, spaced 2-3 inches apart.
  • Bake 12-14 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly browned.  
  • Allow to cool on the sheets about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  
  • Store in an airtight container {AND send the extras to work with your husband so you don't eat 2 dozen cookies by yourself}.


Makes about 24 cookies

52 Books in 52 Weeks: Book 49


The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann is a non-fiction narrative of the mysterious disappearance of legendary British explorer, Percy Fawcett.
 
In the early 1900s, Fawcett was a leading explorer in the Amazon, helping to map and chart borders between countries in South America and unknown parts of the Amazon for the Royal Geographical Society. With the start of WWI, Fawcett gave up the jungle in order to help fight the war. The entire time he was at war, he dreamed of returning to the Amazon and finding a lost city hidden in the jungle – a city that he believed existed based on accounts of an El Dorado {the fabled city of gold}.
 
In 1925, Fawcett returned to the jungle with his son and his son's best friend. The party disappeared and were never heard from again. Many attempts were made to find them, but most perished while searching. David Grann picks up the trail in an effort to discover what happened to Fawcett.

This was a very intriguing story. Fawcett was among the last great explorers and he clung to the idea that an advanced civilization existed in the Amazon. I found this story to be exceedingly interesting, but the book was a little difficult to follow at times {it jumped back and forth between Grann's research in the present and a narrative of the past}.
 
Excerpts from the book:
In the wake of the technological horrors of World War I, and amid the spread of urbanization and industrialization, few events so captivated the public {as Fawcett's expedition to find the Lost City of Z}. One reporter exulted, "Not since the days when Ponce de Leon crossed unknown Florida in search of the Waters of Perpetual Youth... has a more alluring adventure been planned."

Fawcett explained that only a small expedition would have any chance of survival. It would be able to live off the land and not pose a threat to hostile Indians. The expedition, he stated, "will be no pampered exploration party, with an army of bearers, guides and cargo animals... where the real wild starts, bearers are not to be had anyway, for fear of the savages. Animals cannot be taken because of lack of pasture and the attack of insects and bats. There are no guides, for no one knows the country. It's a matter of cutting equipment to the absolute minimum, carrying it all oneself, and trusting that one will be able to exist by making friends with the various tribes one meets. We will have to suffer from every exposure... we will have to achieve nervous and mental resistance, as well as physical, as men under these conditions are often broken by their minds succumbing before their bodies."

While looking into Z, I discovered that a group of revisionist anthropologists and archaeologists have begun to challenge these long-standing views, believing that an advanced civilization could have in fact emerged in the Amazon. In essence, they argue that the traditionalists have underestimated the power of cultures and societies to transform and transcend their natural environments, much the way humans are now creating stations in space and growing crops in the Israeli desert.

While the Society would serve as the handmaiden of the British Empire, what it was out for represented a departure from the previous age of discovery, when conquistadors, like Columbus, were dispatched strictly in the pursuit of God, gold and glory. In contrast, the Royal Geographical Society wanted to explore for the sake of exploration...

...these accounts made me aware of how much of the discovery of the world was based on failure rather than success – on tactical errors and pipe dreams. The Society may have conquered the world, but not before the world had conquered its members.

Financial ruin, destitution, starvation, cannibalism, murder, death: these seemed to be the only real manifestations of El Dorado.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Sweetest Thing

Last night I received a call from my sister saying that my niece {Izzy} had perched herself in front of their blank computer screen and was saying "Hi" and "Pup Pup" and that if we were up to it, we should log on to Skype for a quick chat.

So I logged on and got comfortable on the couch. Sophie sat between me and Daniel and we pointed the camera at her. Then through the wonder of video chatting, we were able see Izzy say "Hi" over and over to us and try to hug Pup Pup via the screen.

Melt my heart. I am so glad Angela called to share that with us. Prior to skyping, Izzy had been going through photo albums. It is so sweet to know that she recognizes and remembers us. I guess it doesn't hurt that she loves puppies and we happen to have one!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

52 Books in 52 Weeks: Book 48


One of my goals for 2011 is to compete in a Sprint Triathlon {#20 on my life list}. As motivation to meet this goal, I purchased the book Triathlons For Women by Sally Edwards. I found it to be very informative and full of great advice for women looking to participate in their first triathlon. From what type of gear you need, to training programs and suggestions on what to eat, this book covers just about everything there is to know about triathlons.

I hope to find a spring race to participate in, but if not, I have my eye on the Mountain Lakes Triathlon that will be held in Guntersville, Alabama on August 13, 2011.

Excerpts from the book:
"A generation ago you would have been labeled tomboys. You know, women who want to be like men, or girls who want to be like boys. But, you also know that girls love sports the same way that boys do. You are each athletes, not tomboys." – Greg Rorke (1990 President of Danskin)

Acknowledge that there will be pain. Exhaustion and discomfort are part of the entry fee that's paid to reach the finish line, so go ahead and pay the price, but only to a point. When you reach a point where pain is verging on bodily over extension and breakdown, back off. It's better to finish upright than to practice the "triathloid crawl."

Somewhere between being feminine and athletic there still seems to be a problem: We feel we can't be both, because the two are such opposites that one must suffer for the other. We want to be athletes, which requires that we be tough, aggressive, and forceful, even dominant. But we must submerge our athletic side when we want to be feminine, a role that is understood to be supportive, passive, tender, emotional. What is a woman to do?

Remember the 20-degree rule – add 20 degrees (Fahrenheit) to the ambient temperature, and that's how how it will be during your run. You should dress for the 20-degree rule.

The woman who starts the race is not the same as the woman who finishes.

Project 52 Date Nights: Can't Get Enough

Coming off of the Thanksgiving holiday we have been eating a lot of leftovers. We have also had intermittent company which meant I didn't have a chance to get to the grocery store until Wednesday of last week. By Monday, we were both getting tired of turkey... though I did use some of it to make a pretty good Turkey and Dumpling Stew {incorporating leftover stuffing for the dumplings}.


On Monday night we opted to go out for a post-racquetball meal at Buenavista Mexican Restaurant with one of Daniel's co-workers. Daniel and I split the Mex Tex Fajitas {one of our faves}.

Then Tuesday came and we found ourselves headed back to town and into the parking lot of our favorite Mexican restaurant {I guess that we were really sick of turkey}. I had a Shrimp Chimichanga and Daniel tried a Chicken Nacho dish. I'm just thankful that we have at least one restaurant that we truly love in our little town. We just need to make sure we don't wear it out.

Which we may be on the road to doing since we went BACK to Buenavista on Saturday when friends from Murfreesboro came for a visit! Third time's a charm?!?

Buenavista Mexican Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 05, 2010

52 Books in 52 Weeks: Book 47


My sister-in-law sent me a copy of A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg for my birthday. I was pretty excited to receive this memoir/recipe collection recounting Molly's coming to age and finding love.

It was a sweet book with several passages that felt like they could be describing my own life; especially the ones about the importance that her family placed on eating and cooking together.

I related more to the first portion of the book and was tempted by many of the recipes: Banana Bread with Chocolate and Crystallized Ginger, Dutch Baby Pancakes with Lemon and Sugar, and Rum Cream Pie with Graham Cracker Crust, to name a few.

The later portion shares how she met her husband {through her renowned blog, Orangette}. At this juncture, the recipes shift to a more vegetarian-style with a blend of ingredients that would not be high on my list to combine for a meal. I am sure they are fabulous but she lost me when she started in on the seemingly endless salads. I was not regaled by these recipes which included ingredients like red cabbage and anything pickled. While I love to cook, I guess I am not enough of a foodie to join in on Molly's full repertoire of recipes.

A Homemade Life is a quick read and if you love to make your dinners from scratch, it is definitely worth a look.

A few of the passages that I really liked:
"You know, we eat better at home than most people do in restaurants." ...What was so satisfying, I think, was... the steady rhythm of meeting in the kitchen every night, sitting down at the table, and sharing a meal. Dinner didn't come through a swinging door, balanced on the arm of an anonymous waiter: it was something we made together.

I guess whatever you grow up with seems normal. It's your life, no matter what it is.

In spite of the potato salad, pound cake, and pain au chocolat, I believed deep down that mine was a childhood of tragic deprivation. My parents put a tight cap on processed foods, which meant no toaster pastries, no grape-flavored bubble gum, no cinnamon-flavored cereal, and none of those shiny, single-portion packets of fruit punch with a tiny straw attached.

...It's hard to love someone, I've found, when you're preoccupied with holding your entire world firmly in place. Loving someone requires a certain amount of malleability, a willingness to be pulled along, or at least occasionally, by another person's will.

...if the best day of our lives is our wedding day, we thought, what the hell comes afterward? ...it didn't need to be the best day ever. In fact, we sincerely hoped that, in the long-term scheme of things, it wouldn't be.

"I have learned not to worry about love, but to honor its coming with all my heart."

Only in Rural Alabama

This morning after church we stopped at the local Ruby Tuesday for lunch. While I sipped my coffee, we discussed the pros and cons of the basement apartment we are about to start building. I absentmindedly glanced out the window and almost spit out my coffee when I noticed a rooster wandering around the parking lot. A rooster!!! I was so surprised that it took a minute to gather my thoughts and point out the farmyard animal to Daniel.


Incidentally, the only other place we have noticed chickens wandering around {in a developed place} was on a week-long camping trip in Oahu, Hawaii...

Saturday, December 04, 2010

A Visit From the Taylors

Matt, Zeke, Melissa, Me and Daniel

Now that we are getting settled into our new house, we are finally starting to host company {let us know if you want to come visit, our doors are always open}. Last night, Matt and Melissa and their baby, Zeke, came for a quick overnight stay. Matt was the best man in our wedding and a long-time friend of Daniel's. 


Today we showed them the "sights" of Scottsboro: The Unclaimed Baggage Store and The Catalog Return Store. We also took them to lunch at our favorite Mexican joint. It was fun getting to hang out and I even picked up some books at Unclaimed Baggage.

My First 5K

Laura and I, freezing in the parking lot before running the Jingle Bell Jog 5K
 
As I mentioned earlier this week I spent the last five days training with a friend for my first 5K. Somehow we managed to get in enough training to actually run the race. Our goal was to complete it in under 40 minutes and I ended up finishing in 38 minutes and 47 seconds, while Laura finished in 36 minutes and some change.

At the starting line
 
The course was hillier than I expected and a blister that plagued me all week started to bother me again in the last mile {which was incidentally a long climb uphill}. I succumbed and walked part of that last mile, but still managed to finish in under 40 minutes, so I am proud of that. 
I wouldn't recommend training in five days for a 3-mile run, but Laura and I are proof that it can be done. Next time, I plan to train longer and finish without walking.

What race is complete without a T-shirt?

Thursday, December 02, 2010

52 Books in 52 Weeks: Book 46

I am getting close on finishing my goal of 52 books... 6 books left and 4 weeks to do it.


Hatchet by Gary Paulson is a throw back to my childhood. I read this novel when I was a pre-adolescent and perhaps it had a hand in triggering my passion for the outdoors. 

The story is about Brian Robeson, a 13-year-old boy, who is stuck in the Northern Canadian woods after surviving a plane crash. The pilot is dead and the plane has crashed off course into a small lake. All he has to help him survive are his wits and a hatchet.

I know that it is a work of fiction, but at the time it really intrigued me that this young boy was able to survive. Re-reading it I am still amazed at the story. The author claims that over the years, he has personally experienced everything the boy went through (in one form or another, and certainly not to the same scope). Brian is rescued after 54 days alone in the wilderness. This type of rescue is probably unlikely, but on occasion, miracles do happen. People really do survive against amazing odds to recount their experiences.

It was a quick read that I enjoyed immensely. It has a bit of a Cast Away feel {except he is a boy stranded in the woods and not Tom Hanks stranded on a deserted island}.


Excerpts from the book: 
And he was, at that very moment, almost overcome with self pity. He was dirty and starving and bitten {by mosquitoes} and hurt and lonely and ugly and afraid and so completely miserable that it was like being in a pit, a dark, deep pit with no way out.

He did not know how long it took, but later he looked back on this time of crying in the corner of the dark cave and thought of it was when he learned the most important rule of survival, which was that feeling sorry for yourself didn't work.

...Maybe it was always that way, discoveries happened because they needed to happen.

Early in the new time he learned the most important thing, the truly vital knowledge that drives all creatures in the forest – food is all.

Patience, he thought, so much of this was patience – waiting and thinking and doing things right. So much of all of this, so much of all living was patience and thinking.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

52 Books in 52 Weeks: Book 45


During the summer of 2006, Daniel and I went to Oregon for a 2-week vacation. We spent time visiting one of my college roommates and her family before embarking on a tour of the state. We camped at Mt. Hood, visited Crater Lake, climbed South Sister, toured a lava tube, rode ATVs on 400-ft sand dunes and camped on the coast. We had a blast.


En route to Oregon I browsed books at the airport and picked out A Blistered Kind of Love by Angela and Duffy Ballard. It is the story of one couple's journey hiking the entire Pacific Crest Trail {PCT}. It is a humorous glimpse of life on the trail and the effects that long-distance hiking had on a blossoming romance. 

I reread it as part of my 52 Books experiment. I enjoyed being reminded about our trip out West as well as reading about a through hike. That summer, in Oregon, I was all set to go hike the PCT for our next big adventure. Obviously that didn't happen, but I would like to do a through hike of a long-distance trail sometime in my life {#93 on my life list}.

Excerpts from the book:
Thirst, fear and pain will greet you on the PCT, and like a good ol' pair of leather boots stuffed with callused, hoof-like feet, they'll stay with you until you've been thoroughly broken in.

The symptoms {of being 'mileage crazy'} may lead to obsessively placing more importance on how many miles are traveled than on the real reason for traveling... On foot, in a van, on a fleet motorcycle or on a bicycle, a person must be very careful not to become overly concerned with arriving.

"People believe that if they walk long distances to holy places it purifies the bad deeds they've committed. They believe that the more difficult the journey, the greater the depth of purification." – Heinrich Harrer {Brad Pitt's character in Seven Years in Tibet}
Perhaps this line captured a quiet agenda... of all us aspiring through hikers.

... to many of us trapped in the ethos of a youth-centric culture, thirty comes on like a death sentence. Rational minds recognize that not much changes between twenty-nine and thirty, but it's a turning point none the less. No more excuses – when you hit thirty, it's for real.

Walking for a living gives you a lot of time to think. Take that time, mix it with a little deprivation and physical strain, add a splash of the type of peace one can find in the wilderness, and you get a special perspective on life.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Project 52 Date Nights: Unfinished Basement and Catfish

After all of our Thanksgiving company left, Daniel and I got focused on projects. Namely trying to decide whether or not to start our newest project: We are going to convert our unfinished basement into a furnished apartment to rent out.

You might be wondering who would rent an apartment in rural Alabama. We are betting on other TVA employees. This benefits us with potential renters who 1) we know have stable jobs and 2) who have already passed a myriad of background checks in order to qualify to work at a nuclear facility.

So that is our plan. Ideally we need to get insulation installed and an HVAC system in before the end of the year in order to qualify for a tax credit. So after much discussion, we decided to get a start on the project on Sunday and drove up to Guntersville to attend church and go by Lowes for some needed supplies.

For lunch, we stopped at the Top O' The River Restaurant for some catfish. We settled into a window booth with a view of the lake. I am learning that when you go to a catfish place with a view of the water, you almost always get a great view. The food is generally OK {my mom makes better}. I guess the view makes up for the food. 


Around these parts, we are also adapting to a not-so-anonymous lifestyle. If you go to Guntersville, you might run into someone you know. If you stop at Home Depot on the way home, you might run into someone else. Such is life in a small town.

Monday, November 29, 2010

C25K in Five Days

So if you have ever decided to start running and you have the internet, you may have come across the Couch to 5K {in 9 weeks} running plan. Also known as the C25K. It helps you to slowly build up to running a 5K with no running experience necessary. It is great for newbies.

I actually started this plan back in January. Then, with my brother's encouragement, decided to just lose the plan and run as far as I could each day. I gradually added minutes until I had worked my way up to running for 40 minutes pretty comfortably. But then it got hot. And I got lazy and quit.

I briefly started running again in August {when we still lived in the camper}. But the hills in Chattanooga {and again the heat} did me in.

So this time around, I decided I needed motivation. Like an actual race to sign up for. I actually had my sights on participating in a Triathlon {which I still intend to do}, but seeing that it is winter, there are not many to sign up for – besides I have no desire to join a polar bear club.


A few weeks ago, a friend asked if I wanted to run a 5K with her. I told her that I was game. It would be the perfect motivation for me. In my mind, this race {The Jingle Bell Jog} was a week or two before Christmas.

I managed to run one day last week {in preparation} and then Thanksgiving took over my life. I figured I still had about 3 weeks to train, so no worries. Right?

Today Daniel told me that he thought the race was on Saturday. I told him he was wrong. And then I found my registration form and learned that I was wrong. The race is indeed on Saturday {and I skipped my morning workout to focus on a freelance project}...

Since Daniel plays racquetball on Monday nights, I decided to go to the rec center with him to put in some training time. I have 5 days of training available, so I better make the most of it...

I got on the treadmill and set it for 45 minutes and started running at a comfortable pace. If I am going to do this, I needed to see how far I can go. Amazingly I ran 3.2 miles in the allotted time. This is the farthest I have ever run {and I am essentially starting from the couch}.

To be fair, I have been alternating between a yoga and an aerobics class 4x a week for the last month, but I was still surprised that I could run the full 5K with almost no preparation. My brother was right when he told me it is mostly mental. I will probably hurt tomorrow. A lot. But if I keep running, I have no doubt I will finish my little Jingle Bell Jog and then hopefully I will be motivated to keep at it.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving Review

Sophie, Daniel and me

Now that I am well rested and most of our company has gone I feel like I can adequately describe our  Thanksgiving hosting experience {#21 on the life list}.

Riley, Emily, Josh and Zoe

First of all, I will state that no amount of planning and preparation will prevent unexpected things from occurring. It is kind of like getting married – things are bound to go wrong. Most likely these things will be what you will remember for years to come. Our T-Day had several mishaps and I lived  up to my philosophy to laugh and move on.

Regina, Josh, Daniel, Emily and Wesley

Over the last month or so, I have been coordinating with the women in Daniel's family on who would bring what. As expected, we ended up with some extra dishes, but no worries. Initially I had planned on a 2 o'clock eat time {allowing plenty of time for the turkey to cook and all of the dishes to be prepared} but Wednesday night, I found out that we were going to need to bump up the eat time by a couple of hours. I said I would do my best, and we did. 


Thursday started with a nice breakfast of Pioneer Woman's Blueberry Baked French Toast {one of my faves}, sausage pinwheels {a holiday tradition for my family} and lots of coffee. After breakfast, Daniel's mom, sister and I got to work in the kitchen. 

Sausage and Biscuit Pinwheels

A quick confession: 
I NEVER test any recipes before I cook them. Ever. Period. No exceptions. I also don't cook many things more than once. I held to this philosophy even for Thanksgiving Day. In addition, I made a very last minute decision to change turkey recipes – instead of making Real Simple's Roast Turkey, I pulled an audible and went with the recipe from Cook's Country for a Bard Turkey. The only thing I can say about this last-minute decision was that I saw cheesecloth on a last-minute Wal*Mart run and decided {on the spot} that the Bard Turkey sounded too good to pass up.

Bacon-Wrapped Turkey

So after breakfast, we got started on the turkey. This is where my first mishap occurred... there were no giblets inside of the turkey. The neck was there, but no plastic package of giblets. I looked several times, had Daniel and his mom both check and then decided that I couldn't waste my day searching for giblets and I moved on. We covered the turkey with thick-sliced, hickory-smoked bacon, topped it with a wet cheesecloth and tin foil, poured 4 cups of water into the pan and stuck that sucker into the oven.


Cheesecloth on turkey – looks like a mummy


After that we started on the recipe for rolls {that needed 3 hours to rise} and a pie crust for the Double Chocolate Pecan Pie

Regina and I prepping the turkey

Note for the future {and to anyone else who ever plans a large dinner party}:
When you set timers for things, you need to KNOW what they are for. In the future, I will write down the times that things should come out. Instead I set the three different alarms on my phone for various recipes and found myself scratching my head a few times, trying to figure out what was supposed to come out of the oven {or go in}. More on this later.


Mr. Ralph, Grandmother and Aunt Trine

So we continued with our cooking. Daniel's aunt, grandmother and her husband showed up at 11AM {thankfully I had time to take a quick shower before they arrived}. Soon we had five women in the kitchen and everyone wanted to know how they could help. I am sometimes a control freak, so I had to slow down and think about what people could do to help {on the fly}.


The cooking aftermath – Regina kept up with washing dishes throughout, 
so it didn't look too terrible!

I soon had Regina chopping things {with a quick instruction on how to use a Chef's knife instead of a Paring knife for the job}. Emily and Grandmother worked on the potatoes, while I worked on the stuffing and Trine filled in with whoever needed help. 

Cooked Bard Turkey

After two hours of cooking, I pulled the turkey out to check the temperature. It was supposed to cook for 2.5-3 hours with it's coverings, then cook for an additional 1 or so without the coverings. When I checked it, the silly thing was already done. 

Me, Daniel, Wesley, Emily and Josh

At least this meant we had the ENTIRE oven for cooking the final dishes. It also put us on the fast track to being finished and eating early {as requested}.


Me, Daniel, Emily and Josh

Things went into the oven, things came out. My alarm clock kept going off and I {mostly} pulled dishes out at the right time.

Me, Daniel, Regina, Emily and Josh

Once the potatoes were cut up and on the stove boiling, Emily asked what she could do next. I had her strain the juices from the turkey so that I could make the gravy. By the time I thought about the gravy again, I asked where the drippings and strained fat were... ooops, they had been tossed out. 

The Grub

Not to worry, I googled how to make gravy without drippings and just winged it. We used the turkey juices and flour but I was having trouble getting the gravy to thicken. After adding 1 cup of flour {as opposed to 1/4 a cup}, the gravy was still runny. I asked Regina to help me out and she added even more flour. Unsure of what to do, we mentioned to Grandmother that the gravy wouldn't thicken and she suggested that we add corn starch. Lo and behold, that did the trick.


Regina and Trine

We finally finished all of the cooking and I asked Daniel to carve the turkey. He said he had no idea how to do it, so I told him to watch a YouTube video. He decided to just wing it. He did a fabulous job and our bacon-covered turkey was incredibly juicy. On a side note, he discovered the giblets while cutting the turkey. It would seem that they were located in the other end of the turkey! At least they were cooked. 


We finally gathered to say grace and sit down at the table. The food was all wonderful and I was thankful for a chance to sit down. Just before we dug in, my alarm clock went off one last time. Daniel's aunt asked me what it was for (see note above about setting alarms). In my mind everything had come out of the oven and I told her that it was nothing and we should go ahead and eat.

 Grandmother, Mr. Ralph, Daniel and Josh

About 30 minutes into the meal, Regina went into the kitchen to get something. I thought she was refilling her tea. Soon she was hollering for me or Daniel to come assist her with something. I got up to go see what the deal was and she very sweetly showed me my blackened pie crust. That alarm that I had told Trine didn't mean anything, well it was for the pie crust I had completely forgotten about. So much for making my Double Chocolate Pecan Pie!!! At this point I just had to laugh. It was so ridiculous. It was the only major catastrophe and considering we had other desserts, it wasn't worth getting upset about. I think I will always retell the story of how I burned my pie crust to a crisp the very first time I ever hosted Thanksgiving dinner!

 Some of the leftovers

As an aside, my parents, brother and grandma came up to visit the day after Thanksgiving. I am so thankful that we were able to see them. It was fun to relive my Thanksgiving stories and they shared theirs with us. This year, my brother, brother-in-law and I all cooked our first turkeys. We all used completely different recipes and they all turned out great! Evidently Robert had the same issue with the giblets and my brother {the least experienced cook} was smart enough to find them before cooking his turkey!

 Sophie napping after everyone left

I am so thankful for all of our family members. I am sad that we missed out on seeing Angela, Robert, Izzy and Amy this year. We are looking forward to Christmas and more time with family and friends.

 Grandma, Dad, Mom, Mark, Me and Daniel

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