Explore Where You Live.

When you travel, it is not just the sights that you take in, but the sounds, smells and tastes of a place. I will forever remember the smells of the Market in Charleston, the sounds of the call to prayer in Cairo and the tastes of Italy which seem to hang permanently in the air.

It is interesting how we spend years in a town and sometimes do not explore it as we do other places when we travel. We don’t try the local recommended dive-y spots for food, or visit our local museums en masse. We tend to frequent spots we know well, find favorites and become regulars there.

The other day on a beautiful hike through the Great Smoky Mountain Park, a friend and I decided that we needed to explore where we live. We decided to pull up Trip Advisor and see the Top 10 Places to visit in Knoxville. As adventurers and long time residents of Knoxville, we had been many of the top places as suggested on Trip Advisor. However, there were a few places that we had missed.lakeshorepark

As a part of the Artist’s Way journey, I am asked by the author to take myself on an artist ‘date’ every week. It is a part of the journey of exploring creativity and being an artist. This week, I went to Lakeshore Park, a park that friends of mine go to regularly, but I had never been to until today. I circumvented the two miles of concrete trail among construction, twice. The skies were gray and the wind blew heavily, but it was a refreshing wind and a renewing wind. As I walked, I read a book the entire time. It was a little dizzying, but fun to walk and read, something that I love to do and used to do in college. It was a small new exploration, but an exploration none the less. It is a simple park, but I felt a renewal nonetheless.

I hope to attend the Museum of East Tennessee History soon and write about it, as it is a part of my current culture and where I currently dwell. For years, I only wanted to explore places in foreign countries or big cities. I loved tossing out how many places I had traveled, foods I had tried and countries I know well. While all the while, there were new places to explore right at my feet.


Yoga, Mountain Biking and Nutrition.


18010699_1313078538779572_5901946677605887716_nA couple of weeks ago, I was asked by my friend and fellow shredder, Lisa Gifford Mueller of ALM Photography to participate in the Trek Women’s Advocate/Cedar Bluff Cycle event, Women’s Night: Fitness, Injury Prevention and Nutrition. She asked me to sit on the panel as a resource for women mountain bikers for nutrition, injury and prevention.  The topics that were discussed were centered around the following questions:

1.What Can Riders do to Increase Strength For Riding (especially those newer to mountain biking)? As far as yoga is concerned, yoga is strength training, some of the most easily accessible yoga poses for strengthening your body are:

  • Plank, Side Plank, Boat Pose (core strength and arm strength)
  • Chair and Chair with Twists
  • Locust Pose
  • Bridge Pose, Wheel Pose

2. What Can I Do To Increase Endurance For Riding?

  • hydrate properly (it is recommended to drink 18-24oz of water per hour of activity, in addition to your normal daily amount {drink your weight, divided in half in oz. of water})
  • eat properly (I recommend whole, natural foods, limiting “treats”)
  • increase time on saddle slowly (this applies to other exercise venues as well)

3. Preparing for Longer Rides (and taking time for Recovery)

  • know your body, practice the longer distance and food/water intake before a race, event or long day

4. What Are The Benefits of A Structured Fitness Program?

  • this is where endurance and strength are built
  • conditions are not always keen to ride, but the yoga studio and gym are open
  • mentally preps you for race day-training is a commitment-as is race day

5. Why Is Stretching Important?

  • reduces injury risk and able to bounce back from injuries quicker
  • lengthens muscles
  • ease of movement
  • longevity of being able to work out as we age
  • connective tissue (fascia) is restored and aids in recovery/healing process


There were two other panelists, Susan Finney of KyBRa Athletics and Michelle Kenick of Health First Fitness who had a wealth of knowledge and information to share with all involved. I learned so much from these ladies!

Prior to this panel, I upped my research with several articles and podcasts.

…with any cycling event over 90 minutes, aim to drink 18 to 24 ounces of liquid per hour containing 250 to 300 milligrams of sodium (with an additional 100 milligrams coming from food), says Kelli Jennings, a registered dietitian with Apex Nutrition. If you weigh more than 180 pounds, aim for 24 to 32 ounces.

As for food:

an athlete can burn 1,000 calories per hour or more, the body can’t process that much nutrition while exercising. For efforts over five hours, Jennings suggests between 300 and 400 calories per hour that includes a mix of carbohydrate sources (glucose, fructose, and maltodextrin), but experiment to see how much food your body can handle.

This is the tricky part. My body is different from the next rider. I have learned on long trail rides (and road rides) that my I need more protein and fat and that my typical grab of a bar does not always do the trick, making me sluggish immediately, as my body works  harder to process the food (there can be a lot of hidden sugars in bars, goo and electrolyte supplements).

Today on a long ride, I took an orange and gluten free crackers. I have been playing around with nutrients in my own body, using my self as a test facility. This week has been fun watching my metabolism increase in large amounts and feeling my body rejuvenate at a cellular level.


Some of my personal perspectives:

Food is fuel.

FUEL = food uniting energy + longevity

In research for top athletes, a LOT of technology is used to calculate caloric export vs. input. Even to the cellular levels. It’s kind of like your FitBit on steroids. However, without having lots of money to pay for this type of technology that can even show your mineral bone density, we have to rely on our mental awareness and wisdom from science. This is where yoga is beautiful and perfect. Yoga is not just the poses that you do to stretch, tone and strengthen your body. The practice of yoga actually has 8 limbs-meaning 8 parts total, including the poses, they are: Poses, Breath Control, Concentration, Meditation, Keys to Living with Self and Others, Enlightenment, Removal of Senses/Distraction.

Training mentally has become one of the newest and increasingly fundamental aspects of athletic training. Perhaps your mind even has more control over your body than you think. For example, the Spartan diet/races have included mental training into their regime.

As a yogi, this is one of the 8 Limbs, or foundational cores, of yoga, as mentioned above. In dharana, we work on focusing our attention on a single point. This single-pointedness is what clears your mind, and keeps you in-tune with how your body is functioning and even noticing the lack of nutrients. What are you craving? (Besides beer, pizza and ice cream?) Once I was at work and noticed that I felt really odd, like I was vibrating. I realized my electrolytes were dangerously low. After a quick gatorade (not my favorite choice, but what was available) fix, I could feel my body sorting itself out.  How I knew that, it was intuitive to me. What I credit the intuition to: constant attention to my physical, mental and emotional body. Meditation has been increasingly prevalent in the news. This limb of yoga, dyana, is where we focus singularly on one point, then add being aware but not focused. It’s focusing on breath, something that is automatic. Or the sound of your tennis shoes hitting the trail on a run, or the rhythm of your pedaling on your bike. I truly believe the repetitive motion of cycling (or running, swimming, etc) can be a meditative practice. One where dharana and dyana (single pointed focus and awareness) combine to create a beautiful harmony for your training.

A breath practice is a huge key. It keeps your organs flowing. Keeps you grounded, cleans the mind, and body. In Ayurveda, clear breath assists in all organ functions. The lungs are the wise judge. Liver has to do with emotion of anger, but also the free flow of the body, liver is general. Spleen is mind. Finding ease in life, rest, recovery days, meditation can actually increase the longevity of your athleticism. Pause and check in, slow your breath.

Food is performance and recovery. It is meant to have function. Look at your urine: completely clear is not the best. You want your urine to look like lemonade. You can actually deplete your electrolyte supply. Look at your poop, too. Eat with the seasons, eat clean.

In Summary:

  • Learn to listen attention to your body.
  • Hydrate (one ounce per 1/2 your body weight: i.e. 150lbs = 75oz. H20 per day-without exercise. With exercise, add with any workout over 90 minutes, aim to drink 18 to 24 ounces of liquid per hour containing 250 to 300 milligrams of sodium (with an additional 100 milligrams coming from food).



  • Resource: Outside Online
  • Physical Preparation, Condition and Recovery for Elite MMA Athletes, Sigma Nutrition Podcast.
  • Sports Nutrition 237: How Much Fat Can We Absorb Per Meal?, Endurance Planet.
  • Sports Nutrition, The McCarthy Project.
  • The Mystical Powers of Your Inner Organs A Chinese Medicine Perspective, Brodie Welch. The YogaHealer Podcast.

when your dog…

when your puppy climbs into your lap at 6 weeks old and trembles 45 minutes to Petsmart for food, dog bowls and a collar in your Volkswagen beetle.


In the summer of 2003, I drove an hour from where I was living to look at Great Dane puppies. It was a long curvy road in my black Volkswagen Beetle but it was sunny and my hopes and spirits were high. A puppy! The sheer thought of it brought me tremendous joy. When I arrived the breeder had a skinny, sad looking AKC with papers Great Dane mom, who was a beautiful blue merle color. She looked overworked with breeding and I felt uncomfortable in the situation. I had never been to a breeder before…The breeder had met a guy with an AKC registered Chocolate Lab. I did not think or know much about AKC breeding, nor did I care. I just loved the Blue Merle color and wanted a puppy.

I wanted a Great Dane so badly because about 6 months earlier, while walking on the lawn of the Smithsonian Museums, I met an 178 lbs Great Dane who had the most beautiful eyes, backed up to me and sat in my lap, knocking me completely over and eliciting laughter. He was hilarious, a giant, big, love. I knew from that point on, I was hooked on Great Danes.

I inspected the puppy breed, who mostly were curly haired black puppies romping with each other with fighting and biting. Bared playful teeth and puppy breath were every where in the late summer browning grass. The property the woman lived on was filled with cages of animals, where she was breeding and breeding and breeding. She told me there were several male puppies and two females. I asked her if any of them looked like their mom and she said yes. She started to look around for the female that was not in the mix of the puppy WWE match going on before us. Through her maze of cages and crates she and I peered until a spotty, grey, floppy eared puppy emerged, nose to the ground interested in what was in front of her instead of the puppy wrestling match.

This dog.

I went over to the puppy and squatted. The beautiful Blue Merle markings were evident and this girl was sweet, kissed my face, and then continued to explore, curious about her environment.

“I will take this one,” I said, standing up to stretch my legs from my squatted, observation position. The woman informed me that I would have to pay $250 in cash. I did not have cash, so she knew exactly where to tell me to get it, about 15 minutes away. Slightly annoyed but growing with excitement, I drove to the ATM. Upon pulling back into the gravel driveway, I stopped my Beetle. The female puppy, who I had chosen, was sniffing through the cages. I saw her and she saw me, her floppy ears perking up. We made eye contact and as I got out of the car, she came running towards me.

This is my Anabelle and to this day she runs like this to me.

The remainder of the day was spent prepping for this puppy to come and live with me. I had nothing in my home fit for a dog, so she and I drove to Petsmart. The puppy trembled and sat in my lap the entire way. She was no bigger than a fully grown cat, weighing in at about 8 lbs. I carried the puppy into the store where I showed her collars, toys and dog bowls, as if she was so interested. I drove her home and was so excited to have my very own Blue Merle puppy.

when you dog jumps into the lake at full speed, you laugh and smile, and realize later she is soaking wet and now has to get into your car.


Growing up, Anabelle was not the easiest of puppies. Raising a puppy is always a lot harder than you think. I have heard it said that God makes puppies super cute because they are a hot mess. Anabelle was both.

At night, this puppy would howl and cry and bark like coyotes do, with approximately 16 different barking sounds, all of which I had never heard come out of a dog before. There was an attempt to crate train her ending in perpetual disaster. She literally ate, demolished and Houdini-ed her way out of every crate. The final straw was when she climbed out of a crate she demolished, giving herself a wickedly deep, bloody gash. I decided crate training was not for her. She began to peacefully sleep on the floor in the bedroom. I guess crates do not work for all dogs (or owners, as some might say). She was a perpetual puppy, frolicking beside me and learning new tricks to please me. She was easy to train, and I diligently trained her to sit, stay, heel, lay down, shake and to play dead when I said “Bang, bang.” Ana went everywhere with me – every trip, every errand, every where that I could possibly take her, she came. We played in rivers, oceans, lakes and swimming pools. Being half chocolate lab, she loves the water. Once, while hiking, she ran down the side of a quickly moving stream and jumped full on into it. The stream swept her down and over a small waterfall area. Her entire body disappeared in the current. My family and I gasped and held our breath. As quickly as she had gone under, her little head bobbed back up and she sloppily swam her way to the side of the creek and crawled her way out. We laughed until we cried, as she came flying back to us, grateful as we were, to see her.

when your dog can outrun you…on your mountain bike and your 4-wheeler.

anamtbwoahI have been a mountain biker since high school. I rode my little nothing of a bike on trails before I knew what a mountain bike was. We rode up and down every hill we could find in East Tennessee. For a long time, I was the only girl I knew riding my bike with a pack of boys. The adrenaline, the rush of the woods whizzing past, the smell of the forest – nothing beats this sport for all around happiness in my life.

Once Anabelle was old enough she began to go on mountain bike rides with me. She was, and remains horrible on a leash. Pulling, dramatically falling over, dragging her face on the ground until she destroyed the third gentle leader that we bought (at about $25 a piece, I was done with the gentle leader). She chewed through multiple leashes as well while we were sitting somewhere, she would quietly gnaw through the fibers until the leash was in two pieces. If I had not noticed, upon completing her task, she would get up and walk away. However, after time, I began to realize that she would always remain within close distance to me. With this knowledge, Anabelle earned her right to mountain bike, hike and walk most places without a leash.

Ana and I mountain biked on trails from the time she was 3 until the time she was about 10. Seven solid years of mountain biking consisted mostly her and me. Ana would bounce around my bike when I unloaded it from my car and when I would get on my bike, she would take off ahead of me on the trail. She would run ahead of my bike and if she saw a squirrel or heard something in the woods, she would bound after said object, returning with a glimmer in her eye and her tongue hanging out. When we paused for water, I would give her a drink from the stream of my bike water bottle, and then I would take a sip. If ever we encountered a pond, river or lake, she would run uninhibited into the water and I would stop and laugh. The Lab in her always shining through her dominate Great Dane genes.

when your dog remains the reason you get out of bed (oh yeah, i have to at least feed her, and she keeps you going during some dark times in your live)

The 20s and 30s are trulanatouchingmyfooty the grown-up version of the formative years. You graduate from education, get a job, move, maybe buy a home, start paying bills…As you hit your 30s, you start to settle into who you are. You get a sense of contentment and purpose. During the 20s, I battled a lot of demons. Some were self inflicted, some were chemical imbalances in my own body (unbeknownst to me) and some were the poor friend/dating choices that I had made due to the reasons above. Ana patiently stood by my side as I trudged through these darkest of times. The picture above, where her paw wraps around my foot, reminds me of her constant presence, reassurance and love. Last night, even, she took her paw and reached it out to hold my hand, as we did many times, riding together in the car, headed to our next adventure.

when you and your dog meet the man of your dreams and he has a fabulous dog, too, it is a match made in heaven.


In 2011, I was riding my mountain bike with Anabelle around the trails of my new hometown in Tennessee. As I rounded a corner of the trail that we had become accustomed to, Ana ran to another mountain biker to say hello. I saw him out of my peripheral, smiled, said hello, and kept riding. The following evening, he and I met out for drinks. We did not make the connection that we had met prior on the trails, until he met my Anabelle. One evening, Chad came to pick me up on one of our first dates, Ana was barking, signaling the arrival of stranger danger. When I opened the door, Chad knelt down with open arms and started to say her name in a happy voice. This was a sure win for me and her. Although Ana only weighed in at 72lbs (for a Great Dane mix, this is small), she was larger than a lot of dogs and frightened many people. However, Chad openly loved and hugged on Anabelle that evening. As time progressed in our relationship, we introduced our dogs to each other. Chad’s dog Mogul and Anabelle got along quickly, only having two arguments: one over food (Mogul’s first love) and one over me (Anabelle’s first love). Chad and I began to mountain bike together, with Anabelle.

When Chad and I were married in 2014, Anabelle, Mogul and our foster-failure Dane, Phoebe were a part of our day. I had pictures made with each dog, some of which are my favorites of Anabelle today. Chad has grown to love Anabelle as much as I do. Our “pack” has felt happy and complete for quite some time now.

View More: http://woodphotography.pass.us/tracy-and-chad-wedding
Anabelle on my wedding day. Pretty sure Ana thought this was all about her.

when you celebrate your dog at 13.5 years of age with a party, where you both eat too many treats; a dog who has loved you and been your companion through the ups and downs of your life.


10 months ago, Anabelle, at age 12.5, was diagnosed with cancer. I had noticed her bathroom habits change drastically, and took her to the vet. Several trips and many ultrasounds later, we ended up at the university hospital with the news that she had bladder cancer.

It was devastating. I was at work when I got the news. Time slowed as I stood behind my desk at lunch time. I remember the sun filtering through the windows in the building and I proceeded to cry between every class.

Anabelle is strong and made it 10 months, without chemotherapy; she was given only 6-8. Sadly, the cancer has now spread into her lungs and around her body. Last week, we made the appointment at the vet. I can no longer bear to watch her suffer trying to use the bathroom or limp around the house. She has done well these last 10 months, but just recently, since the cancer started to spread, she has gone downhill fast.

A month or so ago, one of my closest friends suggested that I throw Ana a party, to celebrate her life. It was a beautiful idea. I started planning immediately. It was a beautiful evening, where family and friends ate pizza and cookie cake, swam in the pool and showered Ana (and myself) with gifts and treats. Ana even got an entire pint of Haagen Dazs, just for herself.

when your dog has been your companion for almost 14 years and you have to say goodbye to her, you do your best to think of the adventures that you had, knowing that death is another kind of adventure.

Anabelle brought me continuous joy for the entire time of her life. She was funny and my sidekick. My entire family has been sending me love and messages, and all of my friends have been the sweetest.

Because a dog does not communicate with words, the companionship breaks forth into the human spirit and the psyche. Bringing with it a profound understanding that there is much more in this life than verbal communication, busyness and material possessions. I will always be impacted with the reminder of the beauty that I shared with this dog. She could never talk to me, and she probably didn’t understand half of what I said, but she knew it and she felt it. The reason a dog becomes your best friend is because of the infectious, unbridled nature of a dog, which causes a human to let go completely-unabashedly free in their own true spirit- beside something as amazing as the spirit of an animal.

I am grateful to God and the Heavens for helping me find my best friend and to be able to remotely capture the companionship I had with her into words. I am grateful that I could have given her an epic adventure, as she has given me.



It has been awhile since I have written.

Our summer was spent hosting a number of people to our home, graciously. It ended with me back to school teaching art, now in a classroom and our decision to foster Great Danes who needed good homes in hopes they would receive forever homes after the foster time.

I was leery at first…as my Anabelle is quite a jealous dog. She is attached to me. She has her eyes on me at all times. I am attached to her. She was my constant companion for more than 10 years. We are bound to each other like Indian Jones was to his dog, thus replacing his name with “Indiana,” the dogs name. (I have oft considered doing this…Anabelle is a beautiful name.)


I digress.

At an event called “Bark in the Park after Dark,” we met the local Great Dane rescue group named Dames for Danes. At my fiance’s request and our decision, we filled out the application to be foster parents to Great Danes. We were accepted instantly and offered to foster Great Dane puppies the very next day.


We were hoping for a nice, older Dane. Slower. Had already chewed everything up in the house. We decided not to accept.

A few days later, we were asked to foster a Great Dane named Phoebe. She had been neglected, left alone outside for a long, long time. She had lost most of her hair and had a severe allergic reaction to flea bites, leaving her red. She was also very emaciated. She looked so, so sad and neglected.phoebebefore

We talked it over and agreed to foster her into our home!

On Wednesday last week, Phoebe entered our home. I excitedly welcomed this beautiful 100 lbs. girl into our home without much thought. If I was excited, surely Mogul and Anabelle would be, as well.

I was severely wrong.

As I brought Phoebe in the back door, up our outside stairs, Mogul got pinned against an outside door and immediately attacked Phoebe. Mogul, weighing in at 26 lbs on a large day, lost.


I feel so guilty even as I write this. I should have known better. I should have let them all get introduced outside. It had been at least 3 years since I had introduced Ana or Mogul to another ‘live in’ dog. Mogul spent the rest of the evening getting expensively stitched and stapled up at a local Vet Emergency Clinic. I spent the evening crying and on the phone with the Dane foster care individuals. They talked with me utilizing their empathy, as all of them had experienced similar situations. I wish I had been reminded.

Then a week later, Ana and Phoebe got into a fight. They were playing around the pool, Phoebe played a bit too much, Anabelle went to put her into her place. Ana came out wounded. Ana weighs in at 30 lbs. less than Phoebe.

So. Fostering. It’s not for the feint of heart. I had friends who warned me. I was concerned. For the majority of the time, it has been good…currently Phoebe lays on the the rug by the outside door, Mogul sleeps on one of our 17 dog beds, and Ana is sleeping on her ‘throne’ (an oversided lounge chair in the hallway in our bedroom. All seems peaceful. Yet, I am reminded of Mogul’s staple in his leg, and Ana with wounds.

I think fostering should probably come with a class, or a brochure. It’s difficult to introduce a dog into a pack that is already situated. And, yet, slowly but surely it is working. Phoebe needs a lot of love, food and cleaning (her skin was badly damaged from the flea allergy). Anabelle and Mogul need reminding that they are still our dogs and our pack is still intact (I sat on the floor and read with them tonight on our dog beds.)

However, looking at them now, they are adjusting, four months later. Phoebe looks amazing, has all of her fur back, is hysterical with her largeness. She is a slobbery mess of fun and love, with a great sense of humor…always playful. She has become a part of the pack, in which Anabelle remains queen. 🙂


Have you ever considered fostering? What about a large breed dog, such as a Great Dane? What are your stories?

Day Trip: Amish Country in Ethridge, Tennessee

Amish Country in Ethridge, Tennessee

Ethridge, Tennessee is located about an hour and a half South of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and is home to the largest Amish Community in the Southern United States. The area was populated by the Amish in 1944 and includes approximately 250 families. They are also part of the Swartzentruber Amish, originating around 1913 in Ohio. These families prefer a more traditional Amish outlook in their lives instead of the more progressive Amish thought processes that are emerging. A wonderful reference on the Swartzentruber Amish can be found at this link.



Visiting Amish Country

Before trekking out to Amish Country, in Tennessee or anywhere, it is helpful to know a bit about their lifestyles. The Amish live very simply and many of the families we met appreciate conversation about their produce. Prior to traveling to Amish Country, it is helpful to know that one should dress more conservatively (no tank tops, super short skirts or shorts, heels or makeup are necessary-besides, this would look quite silly in the country) and naturally only bring cash to pay for any purchases. The prices of produce are very reasonable as is the beautiful pine, cypress and cedar furniture we saw (a beautiful cedar adirondack chair was priced at $75). The Amish make their livings from their farms and the hard work that they do daily. Only the smallest children were not working. We had a young girl around the age of 3 helping her mother get tomato boxes for our purchases.

Some things you can purchase while in Amish Country: seasonal produce, eggs, fresh made breads, cookies, peanut brittle, hats, rugs, furniture, molasses, honey. Each home has a white sign with differing handwritten planks for each item that they sell for the day. When they run out of an item, they simply remove the signs.

Amish Community-Ethridge, Tennessee

4001 Highway 43 North, Ethridge, TN 38456, USA

[get directions]

Amish Welcome Center-A local business housing free maps of the Amish Community


Touring the Amish Communities

It is a good idea to start at the ‘Welcome Center,’ as free maps are available. I will note that the welcome center is not an Amish business and is a bit touristy. It also offers guided tours in a buggy of the community for $10/person. We chose to drive the roads and were delighted we did, as the buggy tour did not stop as frequently or often as we would have liked.

Once driving past the Welcome Center there are a few other businesses selling Amish goods as well. However, these are also not Amish run stores. Just a little more down the road and the Amish homes start.

The map from the Welcome Center labels the roads with numbers of the Amish family homes. The map also lists what to expect to typically buy from the Amish homes at each location. We found the map was tricky to follow and the list of items to sell varied from what was listed. It would be quite difficult to keep up with the items seasonally!


A Small Idea of Items for Purchase

Home Goods
tomatoes ($10 a box)
Porch swings
Candles ($2)
potatoes ($2.25/lb)
Chairs ($75)
Soap ($2)
Bell Peppers (2 for $1)
Large Picnic Tables ($175)
Woven hats and baskets
 Our visit to the Amish Community was a 4 hour trip, including stopping for lunch in local Lawrenceburg at Casa Del Sol: (Address: 2017 N Locust Ave, Lawrenceburg, TN 38464 Phone:(931) 244-7500). The food and service was excellent here, we both ordered Mexican Salads and plotted out the rest of time in Amish Country. We both ended up with great stories to share, including drive through the creek bed on Jap Lane (you can make it, trust us), getting teased by one of the Amish men (because I was not paying attention to him showing us his handmade toy) and having a calf suckle our arms! Every person we met was friendly, the kids were so interested in us, and what we were wearing. At one stop, I said, “Excuse me, please,” as I walked past two children to get to our car, and in a minute, I heard both kids repeating me in a singsong voice! It was a beautiful, simple, fun trip. Ethridge is a small, little known gem in Southern Tennessee.



Amish Photo Slideshow

The Amish and Technology

The Amish are so simple and I have read that they do not like cell phones, cameras and technology. It is a refreshing mindset to have in our incredibly technology-filled days. It would be impossible to get read of technology in our lives, I believe, but perhaps their lifestyle can slow us down if just a little to appreciate the little things in life–which always seem to be the most important things.

Map from Welcome Center



Blackberries & Summer

I am pretty sure I do not remember a summer in Tennessee without blackberries. Every summer I have grown up, we have picked blackberries and my mom has made blackberry jam, and we have delighted in the beautiful bounty that is inside of a blackberry. The flavor is rich, it pops in your mouth and produces a burst of summertime, pollenated by bees that is unmatched.

We are lucky enough to own some land in Knoxville and to our delight, have rows and rows and rows of blackberry bushes.

Today, I had several friends come over, armed with long sleeves, long pants, and buckets to pick berries. I knew the task was daunting, and I needed assistance. We all traipsed down the hill and into the fields with our three 4 footed friends. (Anabelle and Mogul were accompanied by Allie, my brothers dog.) The weather was surprisingly cool and overcast, gratefully, as the day before it was 90 degrees at 9 a.m.


To our delight, the blackberries were plump, juicy, and as my friend Debra showed evidence from tasting on her purple tongue, they were delicious! We picked these beautiful fruit while catching up on our summers. During this time, our wonderful neighbor showed up ready to help us mow down our fields to access the berries even more…he is a wonderful and amazing soul.

With our buckets full, we climbed back up the muddy slope to the house, dove into the welcoming coolness of the awaiting swimming pool (FIRST-we removed what we hoped to be ALL of the massive tons of poison ivy that accompanied the berry picking). We shared what our big plans were for the berries and felt summer slip into our veins as we settled into our lunches and our afternoons.

Life is such a blessing accompanied by good stories of nature, pets and love…and prickly berries.

The recipe I chose to make a bit of my berries from comes from the following link: http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2013/10/14/sky-high-blackberry-apple-muffins/. I simply wanted a recipe that incorporated blackberries that were fresh. This recipe sounded amazing (and currently is wafting through our kitchen)!

I usually do not follow recipes to a ‘T’, but today, I did, subbing only steel cut oats (I had them on hand) and using plain vanilla yogurt instead of cinnamon, because I used Saigon Cinnamon yogurt in all of my cinnamon spice ingredients (it is a lot more potent than regular cinnamon).



3 cups white whole wheat flour*
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon (or 2 teaspoons for a lighter flavor)
3 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 very large apple, peeled and diced into small pieces
1/2 cup dark brown sugar (or light brown)
1/2 cup Chobani Apple Cinnamon yogurt (I used plain)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce (or vegetable oil)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or any milk you prefer)
1 pint (about 1 cup) fresh or frozen blackberries, chopped
3 Tablespoons dark brown sugar (or light brown)
3 Tablespoons old-fashioned rolled oats (I used steel cut)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (Saigon Cinnamon was used in my recipe)

Preheat oven to 425F degrees. Spray 12-count muffin pan with nonstick spray. Set aside.

Make the muffins: Toss the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and chopped apples together in a large bowl until evenly combined. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the brown sugar, yogurt, applesauce, maple syrup, eggs, vanilla, and milk together vigorously until combined and smooth. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and gently stir with a large spoon or rubber spatula until combined. Do not overmix the batter.

Make the streusel: toss the brown sugar, oats, and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Set aside. Layer 1 Tablespoon of batter into each muffin tin. Top with a couple chopped blackberry pieces, then layer with more muffin batter and a couple more blackberry pieces until you’ve filled the muffin cups all the way to the top. Sprinkle each with streusel.

Bake the muffins at 425F for 5 minutes. Keeping the muffins inside the oven, turn the temperature down to 375F and bake for another 15-16 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean. Muffins stay fresh at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Tomorrow, we host our first Bed and Breakfast ‘folks’ and I cannot wait until tomorrow when I can dig into one of these beautiful muffins!