Showing posts from December, 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.