Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Recent Travels


Jonathan and I have traveled for each of the past two weekends and we're just a bit tired now.


Two weeks ago we drove up to Davis, West Virginia for a romantic 12th anniversary celebration. We stayed in a cozy bed and breakfast - the Meyer House- and had a great time. The home was appointed with lovely antiques and our hosts made sure our suite was just perfect with a welcome basket of cheeses, chocolates, and sparkling beverages. Each morning a delicious breakfast awaited us downstairs. Saturday morning we were presented with eggs benedict served alongside seasoned skillet potatoes and grilled asparagus. Sunday we were served stuffed french toast with fresh fruit. Our hosts have an extensive DVD library so we took the opportunity to watch a movie during our stay. We chose Little Miss Sunshine and laughed the whole way through. It's a zany yet touching comedy about family life that we both enjoyed. I highly recommend it to you.


When we weren't enjoying our suite at the Meyer House, we were exploring the West VA countryside. We spent Saturday inside Blackwater Falls State park, walking some of the trails and taking in the beautiful scenery. Just as when I visited the park last fall with friends, Jon and I trekked down to the main falls. The falls are really gushing now that it is spring and the view is incredible. Sunday we did some sightseeing around town and some more trail walking on a mountainside before heading back home.


Last weekend, over the Memorial day holiday, we visited the Great Smoky National Forest in TN. It was a 7 hour drive down to Gatlinburg and rather uneventful. We stayed at the Smoky Bear Campground, just outside of the park and enjoyed the amenities there. It was the first time we stayed at a camp that offered a pool and jacuzzi. Very nice. We were only of only 3 campers in the campground; it is mostly popular among the RV crowd. The RV folks we met were very nice, allowing us to use their water hookups to wash dishes and chatted us up whenever they saw us. I'm starting to see the appeal of owning an RV when we get older and taking a few years off to travel the country. We left on Thursday for TN and did not arrive back in Manassas until Monday evening.


Each day we spent time in the park. Friday we walked up Clingman's Dome (highest peak in the park and 3rd highest east of the Mississippi) to see a 360 degree view of the surrounding wilderness. After lunch that day we also drove through the Cherokee Nation in North Carolina, stopping to watch a Cherokee dance performance and pick up some souvenirs on the way to more hiking in another section of the park to see a few allegedly beautiful waterfalls. I write allegedly because they were pretty dinky and unimpressive, especially compared to Blackwater Falls from the week before in West VA.


Saturday morning we biked through Cades Cove- a scenic farming area of the park with wide open meadows and a lot of wildlife. The ride was 8 miles for me (I took a shortcut) and 11 for Jon (he did the full loop) and tiring for both of us. The road was a series of hills that challenged our legs. There were no cars competing for the road though as each Sat morning from sunrise until 10am the park closes the Cades Cove Loop to motor vehicles to give bikers and hikers priority. We saw 2 bears, dear, and numerous birds on our ride. Once we finished the loop we checked our rented bicycles in and headed to Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN for the rest of the day. Jon was such a trooper at the park, sitting with me to listen to a bluegrass performance (he doesn't care much for bluegrass). After we saw a glassblowing demonstration in the craft alley area of the amusement park we decided to purchase a piece created by the resident artist. I was surprised Jon was interested in accumulating glass items that serve no other purpose other than decorative fashion, but I wasn't about to complain. We settled on a purple and gold bowl that compliments nicely with the purple and gold vase his parents brought us back from Italy last year and decided that, maybe, we are going to begin collecting purple glass. Why not, right? After leaving Dollywood we dropped in on downtown Gatlinburg and immersed ourselves in the tourist crush. The place is a zoo at night, a mini Vegas but with a family and decidedly Christian orientation. This trip was the first time we've spent any appreciable moments in the bible belt and it was an interesting experience. It was comforting to be surrounded by the faithful seemingly everywhere we went not only in Gatlinburg, but also when we were in Pigeon Forge, in Dollywood, at the campground, etc. We saw lots of Christian t-shirts, bumper stickers, jewelry, etc and it was understood to be the norm that God is real and active no matter what group of people you were encircled by. A very different experience than living in NY as a Christian.


Sunday we did a 5.5 mile hike inside the park along tall old growth hardwoods. Like the other trails we visited in the park, the views were pretty but nothing extraordinary. I think we were both a little disappointed in the park by this third day of exploration. Maybe we've just been spoiled by our trips to natural wonders in the Western USA that truly take one's breath away- like the Redwood forest in California or the view at the base of the Grand Tetons or even Niagara Falls. The Smoky Mountains are just run of the mill peaks that look much like those in VA and not even as beautiful (in our opinion) as the Adirondacks. We both agreed the park is highly overrated. Anyway, after the hike on Sunday we spent the remainder of our day at the campground relaxing in the pool, jacuzzi, or our campsite. We left early Monday morning, stopping at the Lodge Factory Outlet in Sevierville, TN to shop for some kitchen items.


I've decided to put more attention toward writing and getting published. My main goal is to build a portfolio of travel articles so that I can land some expense reimbursements for future vacations to destinations I'd like to write about for which there is an audience ready to read. I had a small (tiny) personal essay published a couple of weeks ago in a local paper and I'm working on new articles in my spare time. You can read it by going to the website for the Current Newspaper and opening the Vol20 edition. http://currentnewspapers.com/archiveweek.php?n=1&year=2008

I'm starting on a short fiction story this week as well about a saucy character named Endless who changes the world in bizarre and amusing ways.


There seems to be several good movies coming out one after another this spring. We saw Prince Caspian when we returned from our West VA trip, we will see Sex in the City this Friday and hope to see the new Indiana Jones movie soon as well. Prince Caspian was great- much better acted than the first Narnia film.


The rest of life has remained steady with no new developments of interest to report. What's new with you?


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Children ARE a gift

I've been reading the news articles this week on the famous family from Arkansas that has 18 kids, and now a new baby on the way. (Mom is 41). More interesting than the articles are the comment chains on discussion boards and blogs about the news. So many people are so very critical of this family's choice to have a large family, despite the fact that they are debt free, contributing to their community, and have had zero trouble with the law or authorities [i.e. so far all of their kids seem well adjusted and good little citizens]. This family is also not living off govt welfare.

One argument tossed out against chemical birth control during its development was that the widespread use of it would pivot society toward devaluing human life. And this seems to have happened, based on the comments expressed by people on the internet about this family. They are derided viciously for their decision to have so many children. Liberals have tagged them as selfish, mentally ill, oblivious to world overpopulation and hunger, etc etc. I thought liberals stood for a woman's right to choose? That means no babies, 2 babies, 20 babies- it doesn't matter. As many of you know, Jon and I have chosen not to have children, but we don't view them as a curse and we certainly don't resent families that do want to participate with God in conceiving the next generation.

Most of the liberal complaints against the family are without merit, especially the comments that allege its child abuse to have so many children because no family can take care of that many children. Are these commentators completely ignorant as to the average family structure before the advent of the pill? In the early 20th century larger families were common. My mother came from a family of 13. My paternal grandfather was in a family of 12 or so. Even I have 8 brothers and sisters and I was born in the 70s. Granted it takes cooperation among the family to make it work, but it's not impossible rocket science.

What's the point of this long and now rambling post of mine? Simply this: we've gone from a society that received large families with joy to one that derides couples who decide to have more than 4 or 5 children as if children were a curse to society instead of a gift from God. And that makes me very sad and seems to be directly tied to the invention and distribution of chemical birth control.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Amazing, simply amazing

It's not everyday that fantastic artistic talent comes across your desk. Today was a lucky day.

http://www.austinkleon.com/category/newspaper-blackout-poems/

I LOVE this guy!!!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Good Things I've Made This Week in The Kitchen


  1. Greek Vegetarian Sandwiches (for lunch)
    Lay out a slice of lavish bread on a board or plate. Down the center of the bread lay a handful of spring salad mix. Top it with thinly sliced cucumbers, thinly sliced tomatoes, roasted red pepper, fresh ground pepper, feta cheese crumbles, diced fresh basil, and 1 tsp of Greek dressing. Fold the left and right sides of the bread over the middle like an envelope and enjoy. I serve this for lunch with a side of rice that has feta and dill mixed in. Yum!

     
  2. Coconut Cream Fruit Pastries
    Start with frozen puff pastry sheets. Defrost and unroll 1 sheet. Cut into 9 squares and bake according to directions. While that is going in the oven, take a pint of whipping cream/heavy cream and whip it according to the directions (basically you put it in your stand mixer and let it go until stiff peaks form, adding sugar along the way to taste until it is as sweet as you prefer). When its stiff, carefully fold in about 1/4 to 1/2 can coconut milk to taste. Slice berries (I used strawberries and raspberries) and kiwi fruit (peel kiwi first of course). When the pastry puffs are done, layer the pastry, cream and fruit in alternating layers ending with fruit on top. Use 3 puffs per serving you are assembling.

     
  3. Salmon with Corn Salsa - adapted from a Weight Watchers Recipe
    Roast salmon in the oven drizzled with olive oil and topped with Citrus Grill Seasoning (A popular spice mix in the spice aisle and also at Sam's Club). Meanwhile, roast corn in oven or grill outside on bbq until golden brown. Into one bowl dice red, yellow, and/or orange peppers, 1 or 2 green onions, 1/4 of a hot pepper of your choice [Thai or jalapeño works best]. Mix into the diced fruits a handful of finely minced cilantro, a tablespoon each of honey and olive oil, and 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard and 1/2 tsp salt. Mix the golden corn into the diced fruit salsa and stir stir stir. Serve atop the grilled salmon.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Finally I've been sucked in....

...to Facebook. So if you're there, add me:

http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=603259739


NYC last weekend was fabulous. Went with 3 friends and we enjoyed the night life and saw Wicked on Broadway.

This is going to be a wonderful summer.