Grassy Creek I

We got our film prints back from our morning shoot on the way to Grassy Creek. There were a lot more pictures from this batch that I liked than from yesterday's. At the Cherokee Reservation, I was focusing on techniques like the starburst, alternating depth of field in bracketed images, and some closeups. At Grassy Creek, I focused more on creating silhouettes.

We were forewarned that we could encounter all kinds of dangerous things like copperhead snakes, poison ivy and poison oak, and ticks. I really wasn't in the mood for all of that so I stayed in and around the cabins. Actually I didn't go very far and I used up a 36-exposure roll of film. Like I mentioned earlier, my focus was entirely different from that of the Cherokee Reservation. Since I knew that we would be coming back to Grassy Creek tomorrow morning, I wanted to capture the effects of the light on the inside of the buildings.

For one shot I had to wait for almost 15 minutes until someone out in the field would move because I could see that pink shirt in the background of the image I was creating on the inside of the house. I hope that picture turns out great. In case it doesn't, I'll let you in on what I was trying to do. I created a vertical image with a panel of the curtain on the left side of the image and a portion of a table lamp on the right. I metered the light outside the window, so the items in the house would appear in silhouette form. We'll see on tomorrow morning when I get my film if it worked. Let's cross our fingers.

Dinner at Grassy Creek was pretty good. The folks that live in the western part of NC were raving about the barbecue; I thought it was okay, but I like the way those in eastern NC fix theirs. The Vidalia onion casserole was outstanding. I give it 5 stars! There was also barbecued chicken, baked beans, and apple cobbler. We sure won't starve out here.

I did take some images with my digital camera, but I'll upload them later. Tomorrow is another early shoot. We go back to Grassy Creek and then later in the day, we have to analyze all of our images and choose the best one for a slide presentation. That should be fun. I want to see what other people thought were interesting and what I possibly overlooked.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Cherokee "Reservation"


This morning we all had to get up bright and early, have breakfast by 6:30, and then head out to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park - Cherokee "Reservation" area. (I put reservation in quotes because that's really not the term that is used today.)
I have been fighting my sinuses since I've been out here and today they really were a nuisance, but I pushed through the best I could, tried to speak to those "morning people" before loading the van, and made the best of my morning.

The purpose of this morning photography shoot was to capture elements light fog and dewdrops in pictures and just to see the difference the light plays on nature. We also left so early so that we could beat the tourists who were destined to get in the way of our shots.

I enjoyed being out there this morning. I learned how to create a starburst with the sunlight and how to create this "cotton candy" look on the water. I used my digital camera intermitently because I wanted some instant gratification. I have got to find another tripod release plate because unscrewing it to put it on a different camera is truly a pain.

While at the reservation area, I met a retired teacher from Kansas who asked me questions about all these "photographers" out there. After chatting with her for a little while, she gave me a wealth of information on how I can see the world on someone else's dime. She even gave me her email address so that if I decide to write a grant for travel purposes, she could edit it for me. I really believe that people do not meet by chance, but rather by design.

Lunch was at a nearby park and it was wonderful. I was too tired to photograph that, but I'll tell you what I had: tuna salad with lettuce and baby swiss cheese on pita bread and hummus with corn chips. For dessert, I ate a cookie made by one of the photographers. It was an oatmeal cookie with butterscotch chips and nuts. All of it was really good.

As promised, here are a couple of shots from this morning's shoot:

Did I Reach My Goal?

Last night I completed Day 2 of Week 5 of my jogging plan. According to the guidelines, I was supposed to walk briskly for 5 minutes, jog 8 minutes, walk 5 minutes, and jog 8 minutes. I decided since I wasn't going to the track at WCU alone, I would jog on the half paved/half gravel circular drive at our facility.

It felt good to walk and jog on the smooth pavement, but I could soon tell that this was a different type of workout. I was focusing on my form and my breathing, however, I could tell that both areas needed a lot of work. Was it the mountain area, the higher elevation, the terrain that made this workout more difficult or just me? Who's to say. I perservered even though one of the guys in my photography class, who happens to work in the Athletic Department at his high school, was trying desperately to photograph me running. That was a shot that spelled disaster!

At some point, as the sweat was pouring down my face, I realized that my stopwatch had paused itself and I had been jogging for who knows how long! I don't know if I met the requirements for Day 2 or not, but after all I went through I'm going to call it a success and move Day 3 (jogging for 20 minutes). I think I'll try that one at home at a lower elevation and a level terrain.

Best Picture of the Day

I shot a roll of film and many of them were not what I had imagined in my head, but I did learn a lot - which is the purpose, right? Anyways, this is my best picture of the day. I call it "Rock Drain."

f/32, 1/8 sec.

Old School Moves

Yes, I am enjoying learning about the manual features of my camera, but just when I was leaving the building, I saw a butterfly and I couldn't wait to try all those new tricks so I reached for my handy-dandy small digital camera. Simple point-and-shoot, but here's what I got:

Meet the Camera

This morning we learned about using the manual features of our camera. The participants who didn't bring their own camera are using the one the facility donated. They have to turn the lens to set the f-stops (which we learned about today), the shutter speed (another thing we learned today), as well as focus the image.

My camera is slightly different from that. I have a dial near the shutter button that changes the shutter speed and if I press down on the +/- button and rotate the dial, I can change the f-stops.

I'm just real impressed with how much math is involved in photography. I know we were told we didn't have to memorize f-stops and such, but my mind was just relating what I was learning to a number line. (If you haven't figured it out by now, I'm a teacher.) The closer the f-stop (or aperture) is to 0, the more light is let into the camera. To me it's saying, if on a number line, 0 represents the sun, then the closer you are on the number line to 0 (the sun), the more light you can see; so, the farther you are away you can "see" less light - sort of like how Pluto used to be! And likewise with shutter speed. Now any of your real photographers feel free to comment on this if my analogy isn't quite right. It's better I relearn it correctly now that to try a long time from now.

After we learned how to manipulate our camera and how to "freeze" shots, we were sent out on the yard to practice our techniques. The first assignment dealt with how changing f-stops effects the picture. We metered the first shot and changed the other two by stopping up and stopping down 3 stops. The second assignment dealt with changing the shutter speeds. Again, we metered the first shot and then stopped up and stopped down 3 stops on the other two photos. There were a couple of other assignments, but those required taking 5 shots of the same photo using the criterion set by our instructors. We were out for about 2 hours and I can't speak for anyone else, but it took me that long just to take about 21 shots. There definitely is a lot of critical thinking involved in photography. I guess I'm trying to make photographs after all!

Well, I'm just about ready for an afternoon nap. I turned in my roll of film to be developed and I need to be ready for our 4:00 session. This time, I'm bringing a hat!

Good Eats

So, no one here has officially said anything to me about photographing my food, but I have seen a few eyebrows raised, which is sort of ironic since I'm at a photography retreat! Anyways, I have no shame about some things, so I just keep snapping away.

One of the first things I've learned since I've been here is that there's a difference between taking a picture and making a picture. I'm definitely in the category of taking pictures for the most part. I think that I have some potential in me to make a picture, but I need training and that's why I'm here.

I'm still trying to eat well, as best I can. This place is all about enriching your body, mind, and soul. So, the food here is pretty healthy. For dinner last night, we had a small tossed salad with a light peanut sauce. (I'm not too much a fan for peanuts, but I ate it anyway.) There was this slamming mango chutney or salsa that was great on the salad. I wish I could get that recipe. I'll have to look it up at and find a comparable recipe. For the main course, we were served those steamed green beans that aren't really cooked (I never eat those) and coconut rice with curry chicken on top. That was absolutely the best! Dessert was great too though - some type of lemon sorbet or gelato. I didn't catch the name but it was cold and creamy. I didn't eat the sugar cookies with it, not because I don't like sugar cookies, but because I eat so slowly, I couldn't even finish my dessert.

Today, for breakfast, I had a folded egg, hash (brown), a small piece of country ham, and some fresh fruit - a slice of cantelope and a small bundle of grapes. It was really good too. My table was so proud of me just because I finished it all in the allotted time. I feel like such a kid!

After our photography session, lunch was served. It was also good. We had a tossed salad, but there were such a variety of toppings to choose from. I used the iceberg and romaine lettuce and topped my salad with boiled eggs, raisins, cucumbers, cheddar cheese, a couple of croutons and I used a raspberry vinegarette for the dressing. I also ate a stick of garlic bread and a cookie. You know I drank my water because after being out in that heat, all I could even think about was water. When we go out again, I'll be sure to take a stash of bottled water.

Last Night's Exercise Routine

I feel a little overwhelmed because the server is down on the part of campus where I'm residing so I can't blog as often as I would like. However, I will do my best to keep you informed of some events in my life.

Yesterday was Day 1 of Week 5 of my jogging plan. By the time we were done with our workshop, everyone appeared pooped and I didn't have anyone to jog with and the gym was really isolated, so I improvised. I popped in the DVD "Hitch" in my laptop and started Day 1 in my room! I walked briskly (in place) for 5 minutes and then I alternated between jogging 5 minutes and walking 3 minutes (again, in place). It may not be the best of choices, but it worked and I could still feel the pull in my leg muscles.

The good thing about doing Day 1 in place was that I could focus on my form a little more. I made a conscious effort to straighten my back and "walk on those eggshells", as my aunt would say. I think when I actually go out, I will be a little more diligent about jogging correctly.

Western Carolina is across the way and I hope to be able to go out on their track. It's been quite some time since I've been on a track and I love that cushiony feel of the track against your feet. So springy! Ahhhhh.....

Get the Picture: The Math, Science, and Art of Photography


I'm in the mountains of NC in what I already believe will be an extremely amazing photography workshop. It's a 5 day session and our instructors will be two freelance photographers: Cub and Pat. Cub's specialty is nature photography and he even has a book out that we get to keep! Pat specializes in agriculture in the piedmont region of NC.

We basically had a meet-and-greet session and explored the grounds at this facility which was originally Cherokee winter grounds. (From what I understand, the Cherokee people used to come here on this little plot of land during the winter because it actually doesn't snow in this spot. Later they donated this land to NC as a place for professional development for teachers. Each building has a Cherokee name.)

After dinner tonight, we'll begin our first real session and it's about the use of tripods in nature photography and probably some more. In the morning will be the real grunt work in learning about the manual features of the camera. I'm really pleased about that.

Although we'll be working with film cameras, we're supposed to get digital images of our prints as well. I would be disappointed if I couldn't share at least some of what I'm learning here at this place.

Until then....

A bit about form...

Again, while at my aunt's house this weekend, I mentioned to her how I needed to improve my form while running. And she, a runner and physical therapist, was overjoyed to show me how I needed to make corrections in my posture and my steps. It's a good thing no unannounced visitors were peeking through the glass panes at the front of their house, because they may have been a bit confused with two women "walking/running on eggshells" (as my aunt would say) across the foyer! She walked/ran with me and then she watched me, like a caring instructor should, and gave me pointers along the way.

Now, my aunt wants me to think about training with her for a half-marathon sponsored by the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society at the end of the year. I know I'm not ready now...but I'll give it some thought. It is for a good cause....

Photographic Awakening


I went to my aunt's house this weekend to take photographs of her amazing pottery collection. She's trying to get some of her pieces on display at a local art gallery and needed to submit 5 digital images of the pieces of her choice. When I saw all that she had worked on this year, I was in awe! She is such a talented woman and I have so much respect for her humility about her gift from God.

We spent the late evening playing around with different angles and trying to catch the waning light, but when the clock struck around 10 P.M., it seemed like we had discovered something new. We used one of her lamps from her studio to cast light on the various subjects and they just gleamed in their beauty.

In the morning, I had my third wind and was ready to capture some more images. We set up a miniature studio with some white foam board and snapped, snapped away. I learned a lot about how the light from the sun changes so quickly and its effect on the camera. A lot of other interesting discoveries were made. I hope that I'm able to take this knowledge with me on my Photography retreat next week.

Anyways, I know over 200 photographs were taken with a 24 hour period. We categorized all the good prints in folders based on the type of glaze or technique that was used. Finally we were able to narrow down to the 5 images for her art gallery membership application. I hope that she is able to display her work in a gallery, but even if she doesn't make the cut, I'm so glad to have had the opportunity to work with her and her amazing pieces.

I'm not uploading pictures of the images that were taken this weekend, but if you're interested in seeing some of her other pieces including her paintings, you can view them at Transforming Spirit Art Studio.

* On 7/29/08 in the above left corner, I added one of the images of a piece of pottery my aunt made. Thanks, Duane! :-)

Another Photo Celebration

After I came in from my jog, I checked my email - it's a daily ritual. Anyways, I got a message in my Flickr account that someone wants to use a photo that I took of some fruit on a snack break table to help support a movement that's trying to lift the ban of curved fruit! (There were some bananas in the bowl.) Wow! The article is at I'll check it out, but I was in awe and wanted to share it with you.

On top of that, my aunt, who is an artist, wants me take some photographs of her pottery for this exhibit she wants to get into. I'll do my best, but I was honored that she even thought of me.

Next week I go to my photography retreat, so I hope to learn a whole lot there. Who knows, maybe photography will be my side hustle!

Victory Dance!

Hip Hip Hooray!!! Hip Hip Hooray!!! Today I completed Day 3 of Week 4. So that means that I'm halfway through with this jogging program. I tried shifting my weight today so that I can place more on my right side. It feels like my left side really gets a workout. Another thing I've noticed is that my arms feel more firm and oddly enough, I didn't think that little back-and-forth motion while you're jogging would do anything. Who knows, after awhile I just might be something fierce! (imagine a baby growl here)

Better Late than Never

I've been working hard each morning at my job - although off the clock. I'm moving to another location at my job and I don't want to be caught up in the hustle and bustle when all the other employees arrive so that means that I've got to put in some extra time off the clock. But it's worth it.

When I got back home, I had to take a little peek at my garden. We've been having some really terrible thunderstorms for the last couple of days, but the rain that comes with it is much needed, so you won't hear me complaining. I'm just staying away from running water and unplugging my appliances. Anyways, I was pleased that I had to shoo through a couple of bees to see my produce. That's definitely a good sign.

The cucumber leaves have started spreading. A few of them have decided to run up along the backside of the fence (a.k.a. dog pen). Yeah - less bending down for me. The cucumbers have started producing a lot of yellow flowers, so that must mean more cucs than I can imagine. Let me see how many ways I can use cucumbers....tossed salad, cucs sliced in vinegar and black pepper (the Southern American way), cucs sliced in lime juice and salt (the El Salvadorian way), cucs peeled and eaten like carrots....Tons of ways that I'll be sure to explore.

I also noticed that the squash plants are doing a lot better. Some baby squash I see have not made it, but with any gardening process, there's always a portion that's lost. I'll just be thankful for what I can get. Just like with the cucumbers, I've noticed some yellow flowers as well. You know as well as I know what that means....sautéed squash, squash casserole, squash medley... You get the picture!

I'm just glad to see that nature is on course. The bees are doing their jobs, there's good ol' fashioned rain, and the plants have finally starting adjusting to their new homes in the ground. I know many others may have crops that are and have been abounding for weeks now, but like the old adage says, "Better late than never!"

Daddy to the Rescue

This blog will be brief since there is a terrible thunderstorm going on as I write, but I wanted to let you know about my morning jog. We did go out again today and completed Day 2 of Week 4. Half of our jog was completed on the track we normally use, but those workers came out earlier today than they normally do and since we had already begun our program, we shifted to another part of the grounds so that we couldn't be seen. I hate exercising in front of strangers. Anyways, we did complete Day 2 and I felt great.

I have noticed some changes in my lower legs and my arms. Yesterday, my dad was like, "Yep, you're getting there!" One of my concerns is that one leg seems to be getting firmer faster than the other. One feels like it's really working out and the other feels like it's just along for the ride. My dad said that one foot steps down and the other pushes off, which makes it do a little bit of a harder job; therefore making it a stronger leg. Oddly enough, it's my left leg and not my right one that 's doing that. Maybe I should start off on a different foot. Anyways, Dad said that I probably should shift my weight and that might help. One of those mornings, he says he'll come out and watch me jog. Then he can tell me about my form and give me some pointers. Can't you tell I'm a Daddy's Girl?!

Una Fiesta Para Jennifer

My new friend Jennifer turned 32 today. She wanted a Mexican-themed party so my other friends and I made our menu and did the best we could. When Jennifer and her sister arrived, we took Jennifer out to get her pampering on! She got a really nice French pedicure. Then they came to my house for a little lunch. Or maybe I should say a lot of lunch. We couldn't even eat it all.

The dining room table was decorated with these Fiesta garland lanterns. We had "Happy Birthday" banners up too. A multi-colored piñata hung from between the drapes as well. On the buffet, there was a display of a sombrero, a maraca (I don't know why I didn't buy two!), and a Mexican Donald Duck that I purchased on our Epcot trip a few years ago.

The food was buffet style. All the ladies made their own salads: spinach, Iceberg lettuce mix, cucumbers, red onions, bacon bits, and croutons were the choices. Notice we didn't have any tomatoes! The Salmonella scare is enough for us to just say, "No!" After that course, our guests could choose chicken enchiladas or beef soft tacos, El Salvadorian style rice (I'll list the recipe below), and black beans. Our drink was an agua fresca - mango flavored. And for those who could stand dessert, cherry cheesecake.

I always eat extremely slowly so that makes me eat a lot less than everybody else. But I still feel like I need a do-over. I need to do my Day 1 jog plan over!!! I'm just glad this was a lunch and not a dinner. If it was dinner, I probably wouldn't be able to sleep with all that stuff in my tummy. :-) Well, we did have a really great time and that's what matters on someone's birthday!

El Salvadorian Rice (courtesy of my friend Carolina)
  • parboiled rice (like Uncle Ben's)
  • diced red onion
  • diced carrots
  • minced clove of garlic
  • diced bell pepper (I used red bell pepper; Next time I'll use red and green)
  • chopped, fresh cilantro
  • can of chicken broth or water and chicken bouillon
  • Sauté the vegetables (not the garlic) in a little margarine or olive oil then add the garlic and continue to sauté
  • Pour the rice in the vegetable mixture and continue to sauté until the rice is translucent
  • Add a can of reduced-sodium chicken broth to the rice mixture
  • Add the cilantro
  • Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer until done

I didn't put any measurements because it really depends on how much you want. This dish is not spicy. It's very much like confetti rice. However, you can make it spicy by adding some diced jalapeño peppers in it. Again, the Salmonella has attacked the peppers too so I opted to leave those out.

1 Down, 2 to Go

Today has been such a busy day that I wasn't able to blog until now. We went out this morning for our jog and I was impressed -with us. We walked briskly for 5 minutes, jogged 3 minutes, walked for 90 seconds, jogged 5 minutes, walked 2 1/2 minutes, jogged 3 minutes, walked 90 seconds, and jogged 5 minutes. Again, I say, I was impressed. Whoever devised this walk-jog program did a good job. Each week requires just enough that I can handle.

Today a few of my friends and I are hosting a birthday party for a new mutual friend. She turned 32 today. I have to get going because it's going to take a lot of preparation. She wants a Mexican-themed party. Olé!

Look What I Have...


Need I say more? :-)

The Week is Done!


Hip Hip Hooray! We just finished Day 3 of Week 3 this morning. Next week the program really steps it up, but I think we'll be ready for the challenge. Week 4 consists of the following sequence: 5-minute brisk walk, 3 minute jog, 90 second walk, 5 minute jog, 2 1/2 minute walk, 3 minute jog, 90 second walk, 5 minute jog. I'll probably have to take around a cheat sheet just to remember that sequence.

When I got back home, I saw 3 rabbits just living the life in my grass. I just hope that they aren't able to squeeze through my fence and nibble on my garden patch that is trying to do a little something by the way. So far I've seen that little zucchini that has grown about 5 inches long and I've seen a few squash beginning to grow. There are signs that they'll be more because I see the yellow flowers. That gives me hope. The tomato plants are producing those little yellow flowers as well, and the cucumbers and starting to run. I even saw two pieces attach themselves to the fence, so I figure they'll try to run up the fence which is fine by me. Maybe that'll keep me from having to bend down and pick them. I'm just glad that it appears that the garden will be productive, even if it's pretty late in the summer.

I brought my oregano and basil indoors and they seem to be fairing pretty well. At some point I'll read up on how to dry the oregano and how to preserve the basil. Anyhoo, I'm off to finally unpack from my trip and go grocery shopping. My friends and I are having a Mexican-themed birthday party for one of our new friends on Monday. Perhaps I'll tell you a little about that when the time comes.

Have a great weekend!

Chef Eddie's Delights

As promised, I will show you a few pictures that I took while on my work session. Chef Eddie is an amazing chef and these are some of his creations. By the way, he's encouraging me to try culinary school. Can you believe that? Anyways, here are some of his dishes:

A New Place to Run

My friend and I went out this morning to complete our Day 2 for Week 3. She had been out of town as well and was only able to complete one of the days, so she decided she was going to run them back-to-back in order to keep on track. What's that saying, "Great minds think alike"? We were running a little late and those workers were out in our running spot so we had to go back to the park with the track. Remember the one with all of the hills? My sentiments exactly! Well, we completed our Day 2 and I actually broke out into a small sweat. Unbelievable. But, we finished, had a chance to catch up and dialog about our workshops and it felt good to have someone to run with. Even though I was glad to have the opportunity to go away for a while, my body was letting me know that it was time to come home. And now that I'm back, my body is saying, "Thank goodness!"

Yeah, I Made It!

Ok, I completed Day 1 of the Week 3 fitness plan which consists of a 5-minute brisk walk and then jogging 90 seconds, walking 90 seconds, jogging 3 minutes, and walking 3 minutes - twice. It may not sound like much, but I'm just a beginner at this. I had to get back into the swing of things at first, but it felt good to be back on track. It excites me when I complete Day 3 of the week's plan because I like to see how much territory I can cover in the same amount of time so although I just completed Day 1, I hope to be able to complete Days 2 and 3 in the next two days so that I don't have to lose ground. It's been a long day, so I'm going to pop in a movie and call it a night! Sweet dreams.

I'm Back on Track

I'm back from my work trip and I am exhausted!!! But, I'm going to push through it and go out to begin the Week 3 portion of my fitness plan. I'm getting my shoes tied and I'm almost out of the door. I'll let you know how I did when I return. See ya....

What Would Oz Do?

I'm still on my work-related trip and I made an executive decision. It's called "Going with the Flo." I decided not to waste so much valuable mind-space wondering how I was going to keep up with my plan, because it's not possible - at least not for right now. I'm doing what I know to do until someone else suggests something better or I come up with a plan that I can do the next time I go out of town, and believe me, that will be coming around the corner. Anyways, today I made sure that I went to breakfast. Although a little rushed, I ate some grits, cornbeef hash, and scrambled eggs and had apple berry juice to drink. I grabbed a couple of fresh fruit just in case I got hungry and the snacks served were junk food.

My team-leader and I both presented some pretty decent lessons in our 6-hour workshop today. Maybe the brain food helped. (As a former non-breakfast eater, I must say that eating a warm breakfast does me well. Now I'm hooked.) Snack turned out to be pretzels and I got some fancy water - Le Bleu. I felt so French. Lunch was eventful, but I discovered some beef barley soup that was wonderful!!! Oh, I wish I had the recipe, and no, I didn't take a picture.

Dinner was amazing, although everyone at my table was only impressed with the dessert. Chef Eddie is making sure that we get to sample a variety of culinary delights. Tonight's style was Mediterranean. We had this seasoned grilled chicken breast atop what I presumed to be a sweet potato patty cake. I don't know what it was called, but I thought it was delicious. I could tell the dishes had some cumin in there and you know I love that smoky flavor. There was a tossed salad with balsamic vinegerette, but I'm getting kind of tired of salads. I have to agree with the rest of my group that the dessert was pretty good, but I may not be as ecstatic as they were about it - they even got seconds off of another table. It appeared to be a mixed berry pound cake, layered with this lemon filling, similar to the texture of a lemon or key lime pie. It was good, but one slice was enough for me.

I will upload some pictures, I did remember to take them this time, when I'm able to download them from my camera. Until then...

Oh, I wasn't able to complete my fitness plan for today, BUT, my suitemate and I decided to walk between meals from the cafeteria to our next locations. I think Dr. Oz would think that was an adequate accomodation. I can catch up on my fitness plan when I get home. What do you think?

What to Do While Traveling

I have been missing from my blog off and on for a few days because I've been working on a training session for my job which has recently required me to travel from home for about a week. I've been trying to be faithful to my new lifestyle changes, but I'm finding that it is very difficult. When I first arrived in town, I stocked up on some fresh fruit, yogurt, granola and a few healthy snacks, but it's been so difficult with our fast-paced schedule to eat on time. I've discovered that smaller more frequent meals are better for me because I get full fast and when I space my meals out more (which I tend to do when I'm bogged down in work) I either don't eat enough or gravitate towards that junk food. The meals that are provided are tasty, but I only hope that a variety of food choices are present in the future. Believe it or not, I'm about tired of having to choose chicken dishes.

The other downfall is that even though there is a gym onsite, by the time we finish our work, the sun has gone to bed and the moon is just beaming its light. But, I believe that at some point my suitemates and I will be able to at least walk around the site. We heard that one lap around the facility is 1 mile. If the rain subsides a little, I'm going to try my best to get out there and do my mile run/walk.

I wonder what other people do when they travel? I didn't know it would be this hard, or maybe before now I never really thought about it.....

It's the Simple Things

I'm ecstatic! I stopped by my miniature garden to take a peek around to see if anything at all was happening, and guess what I saw.....a baby zucchini growing! I know that may not sound like much, but I've been fighting over this garden for quite a while - transitioning from a container garden to an in-the-ground garden, warding off rabbits and deer, fighting all kinds of bugs that I've never noticed before, and praying for rain. We've been having lots of rain, well severe thunderstorms and rain would be more appropriate, over the last few days, but I'm not complaining because we need it desperately. But I digress. I'm just happy to see that little zucchini growing. It's just enough positive reinforcement that makes me think I just might enjoy this gardening thing! :-)

Lowcountry Eatin'


Last month I went to Charleston, SC for the first time. One of the meals I wanted to try was their version of shrimp and grits, and I finally got the chance. The group I was with ate at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. My bowl of shrimp and grits was delicious! But, you know I couldn't just stop at eating that dish one time; I had to find a way to try it out at home. I've seen many complicated shrimp and grits recipes before, but I wanted some help so while I was at the Open Market, I purchased a sack of Shrimp and Grits manufactured by Gullah Gourmet, Inc. There was a sale on the EZ-Peel jumbo shrimp at the grocery store this week, so I purchased a bag and quickly hurried home to beat the fast-approaching storm.

I made this shrimp and grits dish according to the directions: 1) Cook a pot of the yellow stoneground corn grits (supplied in the sack); 2) Simmer the gravy mix (also supplied in the sack); and 3) Sauté the shrimp (not supplied in the sack!). Once the shrimp were done, I added them to the gravy mix then ladled the gravy over a bowl of the grits. As the Gullah people would say, "Dat sure was tasty!" I think I'll venture out and try to make this dish on my own, because I'm not a fan of too many pre-packaged mixes. There are just too many ingredients that can't be pronounced in there!

Here it is up close:

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

My brother flew in from Michigan a couple of days ago and we decided to have dinner together tonight before he flies back out in the morning. I chose to cook because I'm trying to stay away from eating out as much as possible. The dinner menu was simple:
  • Katie Joel's Meatloaf (I saw her make this on Oprah)
  • String beans
  • Fresh, Sweet Yellow Corn (from the local farmer's market)
  • Hawaiian Rolls (straight from Food Lion; I don't know how to bake breads yet)
I tried to wait as long as I could for him to get to my house, but I had to do a little nibbling while I waited. Let me just say, delicious!!! Especially the corn and that's the picture I'll share below. Well, I'm off to eat officially.

What a Wonderful Lunch

Oh, I think I've found a new favorite "burger" - a homemade black bean veggie burger. I found the recipe at last night and knew this would be an easy meal to fix. I love black beans and the spices used are some of my favorites - cumin (I adore that smoky flavor), chili powder, and hot sauce (I opted for the Thai sweet chili sauce instead of the classic Texas Pete hot sauce). Despite the spices used, I don't consider this to be a spicy dish, just a flavorful one. And it took no time to make. The original recipe said you could grill or bake this burger. I'm a baker, not a griller, so you know which one I chose, but I bet this would taste even better grilled! I baked some fries as an accompaniment. A reviewer of this "burger" recipe said she baked some sweet potatoes for her side dish. I've never had that, but it sounds like a good alternative.

The Modest Jogger

When I was younger I was enamored with track-and-field. Maybe because my dad was a former college track star and coached a track team when I was a kid or maybe because I was a daddy's girl. But one of the things that hindered me in pursuing that sport further was the attire. I understand the science of wearing streamlined clothing, etc. I get that, but I never felt comfortable wearing what appeared to be a swimsuit with really short shorts. I ran in a skirt then and still do today. People ask, "How can you run in a skirt?" My response is, "Why not?" One inseam shouldn't hinder your ability to put one foot ahead of the other. Now I find out that I'm not alone.

I was looking online the other day and realized that companies have now designed running and athletic skirts. After all this time; go figure! has a couple of different designs; although the skirt length is fairly short. Mira Clothes has a very modest skirt called the Exerskirt for those who prefer a little length to their garments. There really are no excuses now for not being able to obtain a little physical fitness, but I guess the real lesson is a lesson in not allowing other people's opinions impede your own judgment.

Feel the Burn

My friend and I went out for our morning jog. Since we completed Week 1 of the "The Couch-to-5K Running Plan," we moved on to Week 2. Week 2's routine, which is still a 20 minute program, consists of doing a brisk 5 minute walk and then alternating between a 90 second jog and 2 minute walk. When we got to our usual walking spot, there were a lot of maintenance men working on the site, so we chose a different location - this neighborhood park. I drove around the trail in my car first just to get a feel for the area and to calculate the mileage. Then, off we were.

Oh my goodness was this workout different. I think it was a combination of the extra 30 seconds of jogging and the terrain that did it. The first 90 second jog was entirely uphill! The whole workout I could feel the burn on my legs. If someone is interested in burning off calories, this is definitely the way to go about it. This morning is proof in point that skinny≠ being in shape.

Is This My Home?

I was raised in the country. Dogs are always wandering freely through the neighborhood. My dad and most of my neighbors have a garden every year. Squirrels run rampant. Chickens can often be considered pets. So, I'm no stranger to animals being in the yard. When I moved down the street and around the corner from my parents, I knew to expect almost anything. Deer show up in my yard with no particular warning, and it would be uncommon if I didn't see a rabbit hop by almost daily, but today takes the cake. At the bottom of the driveway, this is what I saw...

So, I have to ask the question, "Is this my home?" or have I invaded the prized animal/reptile hangout spot?

Putting Him to Rest

This afternoon the funeral services were held for my cousin John. There were so many people in attendance from high school classmates, college buddies, co-workers, to neighbors and friends. You could tell by the attendance and comments made that he had an impact on their lives. John ate mostly a raw food diet and was very athletic, and so his death was indeed a shock to all of us, but I think it has helped me see more clearly that life and death is really in God's hands.

Happy 4th of July!


Celebrate the Small Stuff

Yeah! I've completed my morning walk/run routine and that is the end of Week 1 of this 8-week program. I'm exciting about that. My neighbor and I noticed this morning how each day we've been finishing further down the track. That must count for something, right? Next week's workout steps it up a little, but I think we'll be able to handle the challenge.

When I got back home, I tended to my small garden. I hope that thing grows. I've done all that I can and I will continue to water it but it sure would be nice to see signs of the fruits of my labor. It's taken a lot of work just to keep the rabbits and deer away. Last night I saw a huge deer in my front yard and this morning there were four rabbits in my yard. I'm determined that they won't have what I believe is rightfully mine - if the garden will produce something.

Well, like I said, I've done what I can and now I'm off to make breakfast and get ready for our family trip. What started out being a 4th of July cookout celebration has now just turned into a family dinner and on Saturday we will have the funeral services for my cousin. So, I'm off to get packed and ready to travel...

Making Up for Lost Time

I can't believe that I actually overslept today. Well, truthfully, that's an on-going battle, especially in the summer when I'm "off" from work. I read somewhere that it's actually better for you to get up at a consistent time. A work in progress, I must admit.

At any rate, I slept right through the typical "breakfast time" but I decided that I was still going to each something for brunch. This afternoon I made a veggie and cheese omelet, using frozen pepper stir fry vegetables and some baby swiss and cheddar cheese. I have never been good at making omelets look pretty, but I sure did enjoy the taste. I accompanied my entrée with a red plum and a few grapes.

I've been charting my food intake on this food diary sheet and checking off the food groups represented by my intake, and I think some areas have greatly improved, but some areas, like milk, are hard for me to get the correct amount. I have a doctor's appointment next week and I'll bring in my food diary and discuss it with her and see what she says about that. Until then....

Morning Surge

Ahhh! I'm back from my morning workout and have watered my little garden this morning. Even though I could tell it was going to be one of those hot summer days, it felt so refreshing to be out in the cool morning air. I don't know why I keep telling myself that I'm not a morning person. Maybe I'm psyching myself out. True, I seem to think with clarity in the wee hours of the night, but that shouldn't have to define me. Maybe it's really just about being disciplined. If so, I could stand to take some private lessons in that class. Maybe today's the day I push the envelope a little and see how productive I can be, even during those spells when I don't feel like doing a thing. Let's see how this goes... Well I'm out for now; time to make breakfast.

Now That's a Wrap

As stated earlier, I was offset some in my nutritional plan for today, but not entirely. Before going out to run my errands, I placed a whole chicken in the crockpot. One of my IT buddies gave me this simple recipe. All you need is a chicken, a crockpot, some aluminum foil, and a seasoning of your choice.

Simple Crockpot Chicken:
  1. Place balls of aluminum foil in the bottom of the crockpot.
  2. Wash chicken and season with the seasoning of choice. (I used Pampered Chef's jerk seasoning rub.)
  3. Place chicken on top of aluminum foil.
  4. Cover and cook on high for 2 1/2 - 3 hours.
I decided to use some of this chicken to make a chicken wrap for a late lunch. I placed slices of chicken on a tomato-basil tortilla wrap; topped it with lettuce, tomatoes, and shredded cheese; finally, I drizzled honey-mustard dressing on top. I wrapped that baby up, gobbled it down (well, not really "gobbled" since I eat fairly slowly), and washed it down with a cool glass of water!

I would have taken more photos, but I wasn't going to deprive Mr. Hunger any longer. Maybe another time.

At a Loss

I haven't forgotten my nutritional plan, but I was offset by the startling news of the death of my cousin. Our family is grieving, but trying to be supportive to my cousin's immediate family as well.

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, How Will Your Garden Grow?

This summer I decided that I wanted a small garden. It started out being a container garden, but as the plants started growing I knew they had to be repotted, so in the ground they went. My dad put up a dog pen to keep the deer and rabbits away from my precious plants. I'm being faithful about watering them in the morning and in the evening to combat this raging heat. Hopefully, I'll get to reap this harvest soon. The economy sure isn't getting better, so having a garden just makes sense.
In my garden are Celebrity tomatoes; Roma tomatoes; Red, Yellow, and Green Bell Peppers; Zucchini; Squash; and Cucumbers. I also have a mini herb garden in the house - oregano, basil, and flat-leaf parsley.