Persistent (adj): lasting or enduring tenaciously.

Every year at the time I take my camera out to find wildflowers. I look for them everywhere, but I have specific locations where I know I will find the flowers. One of those locations, a nature trail through old growth forest, was one of those places affected by the Chimney tops 2 wildfire last fall. The fire, once small and well-contained, was whipped up by hurricane-force winds to wreak much devastation in the Smokies. All winter wildflower lovers asked themselves, "What about Cove Hardwood, what will happen to the wildflowers?" In my first foray up the trail after it's reopening this week, I found the flowers. They were small and many were a bit bruised and banged up from recent rains and storms, but they were there. Persistent, against the odds, despite fire's wrath -- they rose up. I admired the tiny blossoms, doing what I am afraid to do at times, and said to myself: "Be like the wildflowers -- be persisten…

Crunchy Spinach Casserole

If I had to be a vegetarian I would be in big trouble because I'm not all that keen on eating veggies, especially those nutritionally important leafy green vegetables. I'll pass on plain wilted or steamed spinach over and over again, but I could sit down and eat all of this spinach casserole and smile. Yes, it's that good. Best of all, it's super easy to make. Portion sizes of the ingredients are totally forgiving, so if you use a little more or a little less of something, no worries!

Crunchy Spinach Casserole
1 pkg. (12 oz.) frozen chopped spinach
1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened 1/2 tsp. salt Pinch cayenne pepper (or to taste) 1 stick (1/2 c.) butter, melted 1/2 pkg. (~7 oz.)  Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing Preheat oven to 350 °F. Coat an 8 x 8"ovenproof glass baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.Cook spinach in medium-sized pot according to package directions. Drain well and return to pot.Add cream cheese, salt, and cayenne pepper. Stir until com…

Heavenly Light

This was the featured image on the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Facebook page this morning. It's the perfect image for a Sunday morning, especially on Memorial Day weekend when we remember the lives of those lost in the service of our country. This weekend many of us also choose to remember the lives of family and friends that have passed on. And so the illuminating rays of sunlight over the Missionary Baptist Church in Cades Cove speak to each of us and to those no longer with us. It's not hard to feel the spirit and the peace portrayed.

This morning my friend, Bryan Nowak, noted that the sunlight looked like heavenly beams. I smiled knowing I had titled this image "Heavenly Light" shortly after the photograph was taken last June. The name is inspired by a sacred choral postlude I was introduced to by my nephew, Chris Plaas, who sings with a men's chorus called Brethren. The hymn, featured on the Brethren's CD Prayers and Praises, was written by the …


Life is a rollercoaster of ups and downs, highs and lows. We don't stay in the same place -- physically, emotionally, or spiritually -- for very long before something changes and we must also change. When we arrive at a high place, a low invariably follows. I'm sliding on the downslope tonight after arriving on a big high this morning. To fight the feelings that accompany downslopes, I pause to reflect on the good things of the past few months.

Spring is my favorite season and April is my favorite month of the year. April is dogwoods and redbuds, tulips and daffodils. It's about Easter and Jesus Christ, it's about new life and second chances, it's a celebration of surviving a long, cold winter. April is an explosion of wildflowers that fill me with joy -- trillium, trout lilies, and lady's slippers. As I drove the Loop Road around Cades Cove last Wednesday afternoon and observed the last of the dogwood blossoms fading and falling to the ground, I felt a twinge…

Chocolate Sour Cream Pound Cake

Another Saturday night and it's time for another pound cake! This time I went for a chocolate sour cream pound cake -- something I've not made before. I trust my vintage Southern Living magazine recipes (this one is from 1992) and this one is another winner. I tweaked the recipe just a tiny bit and added a glaze. Here's what I did:

For the cake:
1 c. unsalted butter, softened, plus additional to prepare pan
2 c. granulated sugar
1 c. light brown sugar, firmly packed
6 lg. eggs, at room temperature
2 c. all purpose flour (plus additional to prepare pan)
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 c. cocoa
8 oz. dairy sour cream
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

For the glaze:
2 1/2 c. powdered sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp. cocoa
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1-2 Tbsp. milk

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Butter and flour a 10" Bundt or tube pan and set aside. Sift together flour, cocoa, and baking soda and set aside.

Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. …

Lent Photo-a-Day 3/27: Meditate

A couple of weeks after my mother's death last summer I went for a drive in the Smokies to think about what I was experiencing and let some of my feelings out in a safe place. I parked in a favorite location along the Little River, grabbed my camera, a pencil, and a journal and found a nice rock to sit on at the water's edge. Snippets of verse had been running through my mind as I drove the Little River Road, but they found a home as I meditated on this view. I didn't take time to put this image and poem on my blog then, but I want to remember so I'm doing it now.

Just for today 
I will drive through the Smokies like a tourist,
I will savor every curve in a road I know by heart.
I will listen to water crashing over big rocks
And know that beneath still water lies a strong current.
I will remember that green leaves don't stay on trees forever,
And the yellowed birch leaves floating at my feet are a sign of what is to come.
I will watch clouds float across the sky
And know t…

Lent Photo-a-Day 3/17: Endure

I returned to the "scene of the crime," the place where my healing journey began in 2011. This time I did not turn right after crossing the bridge, taking the "flattest, easiest trail in the park" to Cataract Falls. No, today I went left on the nature trail to the John Ownby cabin, a 1.2 mile loop that involves a little uphill climb heading towards the cabin and again upon leaving the cabin. It's an easy trail, no doubt, but that first climb quickly reminded me of my miserable conditioning. Although my legs were fine, my cardio endurance is sorely lacking.

My body, mind, and spirit took a huge beating over the winter and today it showed big-time. Being cooped up at home caring for Daddy has done no favors for my health and fitness. But I'm still on my healing journey, still growing, still overcoming, still taking big baby steps, still enduring. Things will get better, I'm sure of it. I'm hiking on!