Showing posts from 2014


On a sunny winter afternoon, I wandered where a path followed The river, cold and clear, As it descended from sugared mountains Towards the tourist-trap filled town. Some come seeking 'shine and souvenirs in crowded shops and clogged streets. I come seeking solace and solitude among the towering trees and water crashing over rounded rocks. Thirsty pilgrims journeying To the promised land. While promises of dubious worth are fast fleeting, The river remains steadfast -- Flowing through flood or snow Or drought of fall. Eternal water for the soul. And I come.
I have been looking though my photos files for the year and selecting those that speak to me most for a year-in-review feature on my Facebook page. The problem is I'm finding more unedited images that i now have the skills to refine so I'm posting as much new content as previously posted images. Among the hidden treasures for February was this image of the clear water of the West Prong that flows past Park Headquarters and into Gatlinb…

Pixie Memories

A few years ago a lady from Oak Ridge, TN took inspiration from a childhood Christmas tradition in her home and co-authored the now famous "Elf on the Shelf" book. When I first heard about Carol Aebersold's elf book last year I chuckled at it's meteoric rise to fame. "It's not new," I thought, "I've had a red pixie in my Christmas Tree for most of my life." Now a bit battered from decades of affection, it's my most cherished Christmas ornament. Why? Because of what this little pixie represents.

It was in December 50 some odd years ago that my sister, Stephanie, and I were hospitalized in Reno, Nevada to have pesky tonsils removed. Stephanie, the sensitive artist, and yours truly, the grounded realist, reacted to the experience quite differently. For years after my mother delightedly told the story of how her two daughters reacted to the imaginative tales told by the hospital priest. Stephanie was enchanted; I told him he was wrong to …


I was able to make space in my schedule to get away to the Smokies yesterday. My primary purpose was to stop at Sugarlands VC, Park Headquarters, and Oconaluftee VC to meet up with key individuals who have been such a blessing to me this year. I just wanted to say thank you to a dedicated group of GSMNP and GSMA staffers who were there for me when I needed a smile, an encouraging word, a hug, or a great opportunity to do something new. I went bearing gifts of homemade eggnog pound cake and it was so much fun! It just felt good to give back, to be grateful, and to think about someone besides myself.

The highlight of the day was spending time with Coralie, the person responsible for the park Facebook page that I have worked with all year. Coralie is such a great lady. When I was stressed out over my family issues this summer, Coralie gladly listened to me and helped me keep it all in perspective. I especially wanted to say thank you to her and I knew just how to do it -- knitter to kni…

Better Eggnog Pound Cake

It's not often that I love a recipe straight out of the cookbook. Typically I make it the way the recipe says once, then fix it to my satisfaction the next go round. This pound cake is no exception. The first one was good but not quite perfect. This time I nailed it. It's about ingredients, the way I mixed them, and having the perfect pan for the desired result. Here's the finished recipe, modified from the original I found in the November 1990 issue of Southern Living magazine.

Kristina's Eggnog Pound Cake
1 c. unsalted butter, softened 3 c. granulated sugar 6 lg. eggs 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract 1 tsp. lemon extract 1 c. commercial dairy eggnog  3 c. all-purpose flour (spooned into dry measuring cup and carefully leveled off; sift if necessary) 1/8 tsp. grated nutmeg
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan, place on baking sheet and set aside.
Using a heavy duty mixer, beat butter at medium  speed for 1-2 minutes until pale and fluffy. Gra…

Eggnog Pound Cake

Last week I attended a holiday memory event at the hospice where mother spent her last day on earth. The hospice volunteers are clearly experts at hosting finger food receptions. Among the many treats served was an eggnog pound cake that knocked my socks off. I love eggnog and I love pound cake, so the combination was a home run for me. I came home and promptly started looking for a recipe. There were a couple of different ones online, but the best recipe was sitting on my shelf in the 1990 Southern Living Annual Recipes book. Southern Living, of course! I had all the ingredients in the house so I made one up this afternoon. I'm going to post the original recipe, which I did not totally follow, and then tell you what I did.

Eggnog Pound Cake Yield:  one 10-inch cake 1 cup butter or margarine, softened 1/2 cup shortening 3 cups sugar 6 eggs 3 cups all-purpose flour 1 cup commercial dairy eggnog (non-boozy kind) 1 cup flaked coconut 1 tsp. lemon extract 1 tsp. vanilla extract 1/2 tsp. coconut e…

Basket Case

I'm not ashamed to admit that I've felt like a basket case more often than not lately. The demands of the holiday season added upon the demands of daily living in my "new" world are just an awful lot to deal with. Most days I make it through OK and other days, well, not so much. Every weekend there are more things I'd like to do than I have time or energy to do, so I prioritize, pick, and choose from among lots of wonderful options. For some reason I made no commitments for today, knowing I would need a Saturday off. This proved to be useful when I got an email from the volunteer coordinator at Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Thursday reminding me of a training class I had signed up for -- today! My schedule was open so I was able to meet my commitment. Whew!

It's difficult to get into this class so I was thrilled for the opportunity to learn a little about baskets used by the pre-park residents of the Smokies. Each park volunteer/student in the class…


I had great intentions of doing a scripture-based Countdown to Christmas blog all month but, like with other holiday things, I am learning that I need to reduce my expectations and simply my approach to Christmas this year. That means my blog content will be spontaneous -- the things that are on my heart in the moment.

I did something tonight that took much courage on my part, but it was something I needed to do for me -- I attended a holiday memory service at the hospice where my mother died last August. It was the first time I've been anywhere near there since her passing. It was very emotional for me but I think it was also healing. Two large fir trees are a part of the landscaping in front of the hospice. The trees were adorned with golden lights and gold lame bows, the lower branches filled with tags containing the names of persons to be remembered on this occasion. I did not ask to have mother's name placed on a tag, so she wasn't there but in my heart her name was …

Countdown to Christmas Day 2: Everlasting Life

Like many in East Tennessee, I watched in anguish as local TV stations told of the devastating school bus accident that took the lives of one woman and two young girls and injured numerous other small children this afternoon. We saw blood-stained foreheads and scraped chubby cheeks. We saw first responders holding hands with small children as they moved away from the scene of the accident to safety. In the press conference the chief of police choked on his tears and the school superintendent almost couldn't speak he was so emotional about the tragedy that had just occurred. The whole city is stunned.

I thought about the mothers who hurried their backpack laden wee ones onto the bus this morning, never once thinking the kiss goodbye would be their last. Moms and Dads put their little ones on buses every day and think very little of it. Every afternoon the big yellow bus brings their precious children home again, safe and sound. But not today. How many of them already had Christmas…

Countdown to Christmas Day 1: A Great Light

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light:  they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. Isaiah 9:2
Perhaps more than any other time in my life I feel a strong need to focus on Jesus Christ in the days and weeks leading up to Christmas. It's not that Christ hasn't been my focus in the past, rather I need to feel His love and celebrate His birth more consciously in order to get through my first Christmas without my mother. Mom was the bright light in our family and our family's celebration of Christmas. Jesus Christ is the Great Light. Because of His birth, atonement, and death I never have to walk in darkness. There will be shadowed paths, to be sure, but never utter darkness as long as I am faithful and obedient to the commandments of God. His light shines forever and ever.

Gratitude Day 28: Great Aunt

I was pleasantly surprised by a visit from two of my nephews, their wives, and two of my great-nieces today. We had several hours together, just hanging out and talking. Well, you know me, that would be talking and taking pictures of the kids. I love all my nieces and nephews. Being an aunt is the greatest thing ever. Nothing brings me more joy than "auntie time." I'm grateful for wonderful nieces and nephews who generously share their lives and families with me so I have lots of family too. I am so blessed!

Gratitude Day 27: Family photos

I was digging around in the corners of bookcases, old files, and boxes last night in hope of locating my favorite cheesecake recipe. I did not find the recipe but I located many other "lost" things, including a sizable stash of family photos. I had removed these photos from their acid-laden toxic albums, protected them with archival papers, and slipped them into protective sleeves for safe-keeping. I promptly forgot where they were, but they were "safe."

When mother passed away in August I was encouraged to gather photos for a video to be shown during the viewing. Knowing my mother wouldn't like such a display and not having the time nor energy to locate the photos, scan the slides, and give them to the funeral director in a few short days, I didn't do it. I had a few weeks more to gather images to be turned into a photobook, a part of the "package" they assured me, but I just couldn't deal with it. The old photos remained in their scattered…

Gratitude Day 26: Family

Today was a special treat, an opportunity to spend a little time with Jordan (wife of my nephew, Tyler), Sarah (wife of my nephew, Matthew) and two of my great-nieces -- Alina and Isabella. There's nothing I love more than seeing these beautiful young ladies and the girls. All my nephews knocked it out of the park when they fell in love and got married. I love these girls like their were my very own daughters. I don't have to tell you how much I love the kids. Yeah, it's pretty obvious.

Daddy was so pleased to be able to spend time with his great-granddaughters. Really, the greats and grands are his delight and joy. They are what he lives for. He thinks about them all them time, prays for them, and wants only the best for his extended family. Visits don't happen often given the long distances and busy lives we all have, but when family gets together it's very special.

I'm grateful to have so many wonderful people in my extended family. I treasure them all!

Gratitude Day 25: Tenderness

I am a tender-hearted soul. There's no getting around it, my feelings live very close to the surface and I have only a limited ability to keep them in check. I am not, by nature, an angry person so when my feelings come bubbling up at inconvenient times they usually aren't harmful, they just spill out and make it hard to function for a little while. I wish I had better self-control of these things, but I do not.

Since my mother's death last summer my tender soul has shed a lot of tears, many of them at inopportune moments or in places where I'd rather maintain my composure. This afternoon was one of those times. Earlier today I received a phone call from a member of mortuary staff informing me that mother's crypt plate and vase were now in place. I was pleased to get the news, but knew the time had come for me to go back to the cemetery with holiday flowers for mom and Stephanie. Mom and I often went together to choose flowers for Stephanie. Now the task is mine t…

Gratitude Day 24: The Word of God

Today is the "International Day of the Bible," a multifaith celebration of the Holy Bible. I love the Bible because it testifies of Jesus Christ, who atoned for the sins of all and died that we might each have the opportunity to live forever with Him and our Father in Heaven. This is God's greatest gift to us, the gift I am most grateful for in this time of thanksgiving. I also grateful for the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Together these books guide my life, offer insight and understanding to challenging life problems, and help me to know what God wants me to do. I feel very blessed to have the word of God in my life!

Gratitude Day 23: Answered Prayers

I've had this weekend circled on my calendar for many months. It was Stake Conference for the Knoxville Stake, a regional cluster of 10 congregations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in and around Knoxville, TN. It was my responsibility to arrange for music for several large meetings. It takes time, much thought, networking, and a lot of prayer to make the music happen but in previous conferences I was able to do what was needed to without huge issues. I can't say the same this time around, mostly because I have been so overwhelmed with personal & family issues that I haven't had the energy to devote to long-term planning for conference music.

When I'm in a tight spot and need things to get done and done well, I turn to trusted friends. I also smile, beg, and even whine a little. I know -- no whining but I'm pretty sure I've done more than my share lately. The whining increased as my anxiety levels increased and the circled dates drew nea…

Gratitude Day 22: Every Blessing

I got home from a late church meeting tonight feeling very tired and sort of brain-dead. I remembered I had not yet written my daily gratitude posts but, in the moment, couldn't think of anything to acknowledge feeling grateful for. It's not that I'm not grateful for lots of stuff, I am, but sometimes I'm just too tired to think. I reflected back on the evening and could only seem to think about how stressed I was over the music and everything I needed to get done. In the middle of the meeting I had to give myself permission to relax and breathe. I took such a deep breath I'm sure I disturbed my friends in the surrounding pews. Seriously.

Part way through the talks there was a piano solo by Lynette James of the YSA Branch. I had asked Lynette to play this specific number, her own arrangement of Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing, because I had heard her play it before and loved it. Once she started playing, I finally let go of enough tension to feel the spirit. The …

Gratitude Day 21: God's Timing

For the last couple of days I've been trying to lower my stress level and relax a just bit. Normally I go to the Smokies when I need to de-stress but that just wasn't possible this week. Instead, I opted to go back through some of the photos I've taken in the Smokies over the last year or two, re-edit a few using some new skills I've developed, and reflect on my life then and now. This image is great inspiration for reflection. First off, I took this at the end of June this year, when my life was good and I was just having a pleasant day doing photography in Cades Cove as a park volunteer. It was my favorite kind of weather -- low humidity, blue sky, big white puffy clouds. Pretty. Peaceful. I had no idea that my personal peace would be thrown into utter turmoil just a few short weeks later. No idea at all.

I love the golden grasses in this image. They shimmered in the brilliant mid-day light and begged to be photographed. The park staff are letting the grasses grow a…

Gratitude Day 20: Nature's Inspiration

I've been a nature lover for most of my life. When I need a break from whatever stresses life is dishing out at the moment, I grab my camera, maps and guidebooks, fill a cooler with drinks and snacks, and head to the lake or mountains for a little solace and inspiration. My escapes rarely fail to renew my spirit. They help me find the strength to weather the storm and carry on. They provide a peaceful respite where I can pray, listen to the Spirit, and receive guidance.
Sometimes that guidance is found in the beautiful scenes I find myself in. The scenes are simple and often symbolic of what I need to know in the moment. This image from the Chimneys Picnic Area is one of those simple scenes. I could sit on a rock in a river in the Smokies and listen to the water crash all day. In this location on the West Prong the rocks are large and look like they've been in the same location for centuries. Some probably have, while others have been shifted downstream or broken apart in fre…

Gratitude Day 19: Lifetime Learning

One of the things I love most about life is the never-ending opportunity to learn new things. I'm a naturally curious person and am interested in learning about a ridiculously diverse number of things. Yes, the kind of stuff one learns in school, but even better, the stuff one learns simply because it's there and you see it. In knitting it's about combining stitches and manipulating yarn to create something beautiful, or useful, or both! In nature it's about the earth, the critters, the sky, and the water.

For me its started when I was a kid and wanted to understand rock formations and geology. After college it was wildflowers, an obsession to this day. Not only do I want to know what the common name(s) of the wildflower is, I've learned that common names aren't precise or clear enough so I need to know the scientific names too. Yeah, strange Latin words for flowers -- I know a lot of them these days. If I couldn't figure it out from a basic book in the fi…

Growth and Affirmation

Heavenly Father's plan for us, His children, includes time where we can learn, grow, and develop into the men and women He designed us to become. Growth is an essential part of the plan. I can look back on my life and see the times when I have learned and grown a lot. Other times I have been less aware of how I have changed and needed others to thoughtfully share their insights with me. Kind, loving affirmation of growth is one of the greatest gifts a person can give or receive. Let's face it, we all like to be told we've done a good job on things we've worked hard at. It's encouraging to have valued others tell us they are pleased with what we've accomplished.

Atta-boy moments are awesome, in part, because they are uncommon. In the real world you hear a lot more about what you messed up that what you did well. Sometimes people are nice enough to not criticize, but you know you failed by their utter silence. Deafening silence. It's not that we always need …

Gratitude Day 17: Knitting

I was just a kid, 9 or 10 years old, when my mother taught me the basics of knitting. Having been raised in Germany and the Netherlands where almost all women  knit, my mother could whip out warm woolly things with stunning speed. I was OK at knitting but preferred crocheting because it was easier for me and I could produced finished items much faster with a crochet hook than with knitting needles. By the time I went to graduate school at Vanderbilt, I was firmly entrenched as a crocheter. That is until my dearest friend in school, a passionate knitter, made it her personal mission to convert me to the other side. She took me to my first real yarn store and helped me find a sweater pattern and suitable yarn to knit it. I knit my way through the stress of a Master's degree, producing several sweaters and other small items.

I moved to Utah after graduate school and continued to knit and crochet, though my crocheting was far superior to my knitting. When I moved back to Tennessee I …

Gratitude Day 16: No Tears Today

Sundays are always very hectic for me in late fall. It's what happens when you are a church musician who is given the added responsibility of organizing programs for large regional meetings and Christmas. Most of us love Christmas music but making those musical events happen is a huge challenge. Given the changes in my life the last few months I haven't been as effective in meeting those challenges as I would like. I see everything that either needs to be done or that I haven't done well and feel, um, discouraged. I keep giving myself the guilty "should" lecture, listing everything I should have done but haven't. Add Sunday night fatigue to the mix and the results aren't good.

Tonight, just as I was about to cave and have a very nice, personal pity party I got a text from a friend I haven't seen or talked with in months. The last time I saw Carol we found each other, quite by accident, on Hyatt Lane in Cades Cove following a rain storm. It was anothe…

Gratitude Day 15: Polarfleece, Wool, and Longjohns

I was not born loving the wintry season. Darkness, cold, and snow were my sworn enemies all the years I lived in Salt Lake City. Bundling up to go outside is what you did when absolutely necessary. Rejoicing in frigid weather conditions is a new thing for me. Blame Clingmans Dome. Blame my photography addiction. Blame getting older and losing part of my senses. Blame technology which turns used plastic Coke bottles into soft, insulating fuzzy things to wear. Blame knitting, where woolly socks, hats, and scarves are inevitable. Never in a million years did I think I would ever wear longjohns (aka microfiber cuddle-duds) let alone be grateful for them, and polarfleece, and woolly socks, mitts, and hats. But as I was hiking to the top of Clingmans Dome yesterday or stopping to snap photos of cool things like sunrays bursting through rime ice-covered trees I was grateful for everything I was wearing to keep toasty warm. I've even learned to be grateful for snow and long as i…

Gratitude Day 14: Perspective

“Sometimes all it takes is a tiny shift of perspective to see something familiar in a totally new light.”  Dan BrownThe Lost Symbol
I learned a great deal about weather during the years I lived in Salt Lake City. In particular, I learned about temperature inversions -- a situation when atmospheric conditions keep clouds (and smog and pollution and germs) trapped in the valley between mountain ranges and clear, blue skies aloft. It's the one time when it's colder down in the valley than it is at the top of the mountain. After listening to local weather reports, I knew yesterday would be a perfect set-up for an inversion and blue skies at Clingmans Dome. 
Most days the valley fog rises up, swallows the Dome, then lifts to reveal everything below. Even on the clearest days of early spring and autumn, from the observation tower atop Clingmans Dome I can see all the peaks and valleys of the Smokies and Blue Ridge. Yesterday was different. This image was taken late in the afternoon…