Thursday, April 28, 2011

Smoky Mountain Rain

Our spring break was spent in the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. Each time I go back to the Smokies, I find that I love it even more than the last. This time was no exception.

We camped right on the banks of the Little River and were lulled to sleep every night by its rushing flow. And by rushing, I really mean rushing. The water in the Smokies is very high right now. All of you living in the Tennessee area are saying, "Yes, we know. It won't stop raining." But all that rain you've been having worked for me. In all the years I lived in Tennessee and all the years I have been visiting Tennessee, I have not seen the rivers this high. And they are beautiful. These pictures don't do justice to the beauty but I tried.

This is just one amazing view of the Middle Prong of the Little River situated near the former logging town of Tremont. We hiked far and away into the hills, following the Middle Prong and saw nothing but this...

And this...

There were waterfalls everywhere not so sneakily sliding down the moutainside to join up with Middle Prong.

We were alone on the trail for most of our hike but did come upon one nice couple who took our picture.

Notice our custom whittled hiking sticks. They are works of art, each one proportionally sized to match our height. We receive many comments from passing hikers about our sticks. Hubby and sons whittled them on one of our camping trips last summer. Whittling is not something I bet you do very often. If you camped, you would.

Another thing you would do if you camped or hiked would be to relax more. As with all vacations, it takes a few days in the woods to get fully relaxed and let go of all the things going on at home. Here's an example. On one of the early days in the week, we visited the Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center in Townsend, a museum focused on preserving and presenting the history of the East Tennessee mountain communities.

While passing through the Pioneer and Mountain Culture exhibit, my youngest said, "Mom, there are too many irons in the fire." Or at least that's what I heard him say as visions of the ongoing home remodeling project, pending doctor visits and school commitments swirled in my not-yet-relaxed brain.

What he really said was, "Mom, there are two mini irons in the fire," as he pointed to this exhibit.

It may have been my unrelaxed state of mind that made me misinterpret what my son said. Or it could have been that my ears had re-acclimated to the East Tennessee twang where "many" sounds like "mini" as in "How mini mini muffins will you eat for breakfast, hon?"

I just love East Tennessee. How mini days til we can go back agin?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Behind the Music

Bo Weevil (a.k.a. my husband) performed yesterday on a live webcast. Eleven O'Clock Rock, an internet video show based in Knoxville, Tennessee, graciously hosted Bo during their Tuesday spot this week.

This was a first for Bo Weevil, performing live streaming on the web. You can watch the whole hour show on (say Nox-Ivy). 

Look for the 4/19/2011 performance of Bo Weevil. Eleven O'Clock Rock show airs live on the web weekdays at 11:00 a.m. and they archive past shows for your future viewing pleasure. So you can watch Bo as many times as you want. And I know you will.

The boys and I tagged along and watched the production. I, of course, had my camera and got some cool, behind the scenes shots. The webcast hosts are Brent Thompson and Lauren Lazarus. They are funny, entertaining and have a nice banter. And look how cute they are.

As guests of the talent, we got to see the show as it was being made. Well, really anybody can see the show being made. The studio is located in the busy Market Square downtown district in Knoxville surrounded by a thriving lunch crowd. Anyone can walk in and peek inside the studio windows and see the magic unfold.

You won't see this on the actual show. But from my behind the scenes view, I caught the cameraman counting down the start of the show...5, 4, (then silently 3, 2, 1)...just like they do on TV!

The show format is music, local interest news, music, interview, music.

There is a monitor for onlookers to watch the show as it is recorded. On the monitor you can see the hosts bantering with the guest...

...and two views of  the interview.

And of course there was some more music.

Notice the "seasoned" couple standing by the studio window. They were dancing arm in arm to the music. I overheard the gentleman say to his lady, "We sure are lucky," and they continued their singular sway. Just proves that Bo Weevil music makes you feel good.

No matter how old you are. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Boys to Men

My boys aged years before my eyes on Sunday. I took a step back at their annual Cub Scout Blue & Gold Banquet and saw that they had grown up without me noticing. I know they are still young boys but I could see the men forming inside. I could see it... Colors were presented. pledges were made. anthems were sung. words of gratitude were spoken. symbols of courage and focus were eaten. new ranks were attained. parents beamed. milestones were reached. final salutes were given and bridges were crossed. new colors were donned. new oaths were taken.

...and as my mother cried.
No wait, that's me. She and I just share the same crying face.

...Also as little brother's made a video for posterity and time with the ladies simultaneously.

...and as brothers shared in each other's success.

Congratulations boys men!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Education Is...

Education is empowering. That was the message imparted today by Greg Mortenson of Three Cups of Tea fame. He was here speaking as the Frederick Reads author of 2011. I heard him speak this morning at his Frederick Community College engagement.

It has been some time since I read Three Cups, so many of the details were fuzzy to me. But I do recall the book painting the picture of Mortenson as a large but unassuming character, driven but not pushy, focused but not single-minded. He lived up to that image in person today. He has accomplished great things but with an air of humility credits the people he has helped and those around him for the success of his vision.

He has committed his life over the past many years to establishing schools in Afganistan and Pakistan. While there are complex issues surrounding those geographical, religious and political areas, the underlying truth is that education does empower those needing empowerment, controversial issues aside.

Mortenson started off his talk with a call to those in the audience who in their family are a first-generation high school or college graduate. Several people stood up. Mortenson and the rest of us through applause congratulated those standing on their achievements. Mortenson commented on the difficulty to overcome obstacles for those standing to get where they are without family role models.

I don't know how hard that is and I won't pretend to. I am a third-generation (or possibly fourth-) college graduate. It was engrained in me from birth that I was going to college. It was a given, not optional. But don't misunderstand, I am not a silver-spoon girl. My parents did not have all the money to send me to college. They contributed what they could. But I, and my three brothers before me, made it through college with a mix of scholarships, loans, minimum wage pay and the kindness of strangers and friends.

The most important thing my parents did was to place value on education. I thank them for that. Some aren't so lucky. Some don't have the luxury of placing value on education; they are concerned about things like feeding their families. Things many of us really don't know about. Really.

Mortenson's work focuses on Central Asia. I am thankful there are people like Mortenson in the world who can wrap their heads around issues like he does. I must honestly say I can't get my head around issues that far from home right now. My world is here. And I am concerned about making sure that my kids continue our generational streak of college graduation. And like it wasn't for me, college won't be optional for them. But not because my husband and I say so. It will be because just graduating high school and college won't be enough when their time comes. Heck, it isn't enough now to guarantee a secure future. My kids will likely need to be first generation PhDs and still that's a gamble with security.

But who's gonna pay for all that? Have you checked a college tuition calculator lately? Shocking. So while education is empowering another truth exists: Education is expensive.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Mushy Bananas & Prunes - Not Just For Babies Anymore

I like to feed my family well. I try to avoid overly processed foods with long ingredient lists. We do live in this world so we can't completely avoid the bad stuff. But I can make good choices and with a little extra effort make some very healthy and tasty dishes. What I give up in convenience, we all gain in better food.

My latest concoction is this yummy oatmeal. I take old-fashioned oatmeal (not the quick cook kind) and cook as directed. Then I add a couple of spoonfuls of light brown sugar.

Next I mash a banana. I thought when my last son sprouted a few teeth I would never be mashing bananas again. I was wrong. They make a great addition to my oatmeal.

I mix in the mushy banana and then top it all with something a bit surprising even to me. Dried plums.

We all know that they are really prunes but the SunSweet people think dried plums sound more appetizing. This is apparently a food that somehow makes it into your grocery cart after a certain age. They actually are good and don't make me gag like something called a prune might. And look how good this looks.

And no partially hydrogenated anything, no high fructose corn syrup. I have a thing about those items showing up in almost every grocery item and like to control it when I can.