Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pause and Reflect

I know, it's not like I've been this diligent poster or anything, but I will be taking a mini blog-cation for the next two weeks. It's time to re-think my blogs and what it is I'm doing with them, where I want them to go, what I want them to communicate. I appreciate your patience and I do hope to see you here again, bright and early on Monday 05 October when I plan to be back in action, better than ever! You'll still see me around, though. I'll be reading and commenting so never fear. I won't be too far away!

Have a safe, blessed, and happy two weeks!!

Until October,
Jen

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wednesday Wanderings

I don't know if it's the cooler weather, the promise of changing leaves, or the simple fact I'm cooped up in an office for 8 hours a day, but I've been battling incurable wanderlust for the past few days! Though I can't travel physically (I was denied a week off in October, even though I requested it in early August), I figured I'd ramble around via the Internet. Lo and behold, what did my wandering eyes see this morning but an email in my inbox filled with travel ideas. Coming from Southern Living Magazine, the weekend getaways and road trips were all for the south, which suits me just fine, considering I live in Georgia.

Now this got me to thinking: maybe I'm not able to go away for a week, but why not a weekend? Or, dare I mention it, a day? So I pulled on my boots, logged on to Google, and decided to do a little travel hunting for my area. I honestly didn't expect to find much. I mean, sure, North Georgia has the mountains and South Georgia has Savannah, but what about we poor souls stuck in the middle? Well, lookey what I found:

First off, who knew there were this many fall festivals in Georgia?

It's nothing spectacular, but my new home town of Hampton has the Bear Creek Festival every September.

I grew up going to Callaway Gardens but I've only recently discovered how much fun the rest of Pine Mountain can be!

And of course, what's a trip to Georgia without a trip to Stone Mountain? For the past five years, my husband and I have been going to the Indian Festival and Pow Wow that's held every November in the park. Not that you'd know it by looking at us, but Jon and I both have Native American blood and it's so wonderful to see first hand how these beautiful people are keeping their traditions alive. They are also huge supporters of veterans and since my father was a Vietnam Vet, part Native American, and lost his life thanks to exposure to Agent Orange, this festival is especially dear to my heart.

Up the interstate we go, to the North Georgia mountains! They ain't the Rockies, and I used to bemoan that fact, until I learned that the Smokey and the Appalachian Mountains are much, much older than the West's lofty peaks. Huh...who knew?

This place is gorgeous! Even without a lot of rain fall to get it going, Amicalola Falls is a spectacular site! The hike to the top is strenuous (especially in the snow!) but it's completely worth the sore knees :)

Dahlonega is just another one of those places I grew up going to without truly appreciating the history of small town life.

In the mood for a little wine tasting?

Tiger Mountain Vineyards : "Tiger Mountain Vineyards is nestled on a hillside high up in Rabun County, on the rocky, sunny slopes of the North Georgia mountains. Our vineyard is small, the vines individually tended and the grapes hand-picked for quality. Our red wines are barrel-aged 18 to 24 months. Visit the vineyards and enjoy barrel-room tastings!"

Frogtown Cellars : "Frogtown is a 57 acre wine estate located at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains equal distance between Dahlonega and Cleveland Georgia. Frogtown encompasses 40 acres of vineyards and a tri-level gravity flow winery specifically designed to produce the unique wines made from Frogtown grapes.In 1998, native Atlantans Craig and Cydney Kritzer founded Frogtown in a location carefully selected for quality wine grape production and outstanding mountain views, the Frogtown District of Lumpkin County, Georgia. After researching Frogtowns soil, diverse climates and terrain, Craig divided the land up into separate vineyards. He planted different wine grape varieties based on the characteristics of each vineyard site. Frogtown is now home to 40 acres of vineyards planted to 17 different wine grapes varieties, both red and white."

Three Sisters Vineyards and Winery :"Three Sisters Vineyards & Winery is a small family farm situated on a hundred and eighty acres in the heart of the Frogtown District in historic Lumpkin County, Georgia. Located eight miles northeast of the site of the first major US gold rush, Dahlonega, the farm's name was inspired by the property's spectacular view of Lumpkin County's Three Sisters Mountain. While no one knows the origin of the name of Three Sisters Mountain, local residents refer to its three distinctive peaks as Wild Cat, McBrayer, and Rattlesnake. Established in 1996 and bonded in 2000, Three Sisters Vineyards is Lumpkin County's first vineyard since prohibition and holds the distinction of being 'Dahlonega's First Family Farm Winery'."

Of course, I can't leave out Chateau Elan, North Georgia's Spa, Vineyard and Golf Course getaway. One of these days, I'm going to have to treat myself :)

Once upon a time, Sautee was a dot on the road map and an accidental find on the way to the bustling Alpine town of Helen. It's grown up, just a bit, but the charm I remember from my childhood days rambling the hills with my parents and sister is still there, in overflowing quantities. Just don't drive too fast, or you'll miss it!

Two of my favorite places in the whole world are The Homestead House and Hearts and Flowers. To a less discerning eye, they don't look like much, just old log cabins sitting on the side of the road. But for me, they hold more memories than I can stand of a childhood filled with pumpkin spice candles, running wild in rivers and streams, and painting my face red with lipstick so my sister and I would be real, bonafide Indians! Not to mention my mother frequents them at least once a season and, being the good daughter I am, I certainly can't let her go without a chaperon ;) It's practically impossible to go in either of these shops and leave without at least a spice scented candle in your grasp! Or a stuffed raven. Or a sachet filled with Sweet Annie. Or...

That should be enough to get me started. There's so much more out there than you imagine. Too many times, on the quest for new and exciting, we overlook our own home towns and the surrounding areas. What gems have you discovered on the back roads and byways of your home state?

Happy traveling!
Jen

Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday Musings

"All men dream but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes to make it possible."
~ T.E. Lawrence

Here's to being dangerous!
Jen

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Moment You've All Been Waiting For!

OK, well, maybe not all of you, but I'm sure excited to be posting these!!! It took me a week from moving in to get these babies up, but I finally got them uploaded to my computer (we have Internet access, hoozah!) and re sized (a feat not for the faint of heart) and voila! Welcome, to our new home. Or, as well like to call it, The Manor.

Boxes abound as we begin to slowly move stuff in. We started a week and a half ago on a Friday, but didn't get the U-Haul until that following Sunday.


That's the view from the living area looking into the kitchen. The box you see is our pantry. On top of the box is a spot I intend to turn into a writing/prayer sanctuary. First, I have to find a ladder...

This is the view from the front door, through the boxes and trash and into the kitchen. The sofa acts as a divider between entryway and living space. You can see our dining area just this side of the bar and the kitchen beyond that.

Um, yeah, so I have a thing for books. I'm thinking about going for therapy. But there are worse things I could be addicted to. Drugs, alcohol, shoes...

Things finally started taking shape. My wonderful, awesome husband filled up those bookshelves. Yes. There are still more on the floor, but that's irrelevant. Look at the shelves, look at the shelves :)

The sitting area in full bloom. All our furniture has been given to us so it's quite a hodgepodge of colors and patterns. It's not our taste, but hey, it gets the job done! And I'm very thankful for the gifts :)

Ah, that's better. Neatly stacked books on shelves and floor beneath a map of the world. What better way to spend a rainy afternoon than in the company of books?

Here's our living space. The bookshelf under the window is filled with magazines. Another addiction. I'm not seeking help for that one. My rosemary and burnet plants are thriving in the window. I can't wait to make some vinegar soon!

This is the upstairs "studio" area of the loft. It's a big open room with a small bedroom and second bath adjacent to it (to the right). It will serve as my art studio and the small bedroom will be my husband's office. The closet is going to become a dark room.

This is the master bath. Oooh, I've never said that before in regards to a place I lived. The tub is heaven! I lived without one for four years. In the garage we only had a shower. I never knew what a luxury a bath tub was until I went without. Now I could drown happily beneath scented bubbles and hot water :)

This is the kitchen sans boxes. The red is actually growing on me. It's more of a maroon than a true red and it goes well with the charcoal grey of the cabinets. Which, by the way there are a LOT of! And did I mention I have a gas stove! Ah, the simple pleasures of life.

Another view of the living area. The plain chair is actually going in a nook in our bed room. I had pictures of the bedroom and several others of the rest of the loft but, alas, photo shop ate them!

This is the view from upstairs in the studio. That part to the left is the pantry where I want to make my sanctuary. Funny story! Our loft was actually used to film an HGTV show several years ago. No one recalls the name of the show but the company that filmed it was Loft 5 productions. Anyway, they had a three piece band that stood up on the pantry and played! Three guys and their instruments can get up there, I know little ol' me can!

There you have it! That's a brief tour of our loft...er...The Manor! As soon as we get all the boxes and trash out, I'm going to do one more photo shoot of The Manor. Also, the town is so neat. It's chock full of inspiration! I can't wait to start using it in my stories.
I hope you all had a marvelous weekend! Enjoy this four day work week! I know I will!
Cheers!
Jen

Friday, September 4, 2009

Ahhhh...the Three Day Weekend

There's something about Friday that gets my heart singing. Perhaps it's the thought that tomorrow I don't *have* to get out of bed until I'm good and ready. Funny how during the week I groan and moan at stepping out from under my warm covers but come Saturday I'm up with the chickens! (That's southern for really early.)

The Three Day Weekend doesn't come around that often and since I went back to full time work, I hunger and thirst for them. It's come as such a blessing this time, falling closely on the heels of our move. The loft is coming along faster than I'd anticipated. The kitchen is finished and by this evening, our gas will be hooked up and we'll be able to cook on our gas stove! Not only that, but we'll have hot water and can shower. I do hope the gas company shows as planned; the fate of all mankind is at stake...

Pictures, I have not forgotten. Things have been so hectic at home that I have not had a spare moment to upload them. My laptop is itching to get back to work and I'll oblige this weekend by posting some pictures and catching up on my blog reading (apologies to all who haven't seen much of me online in the past week :)

Whatever you choose to do this long weekend, may you have a safe, happy, blessed and FUN Labor Day! See you back here soon, hopefully much more rested than I am now.

Cheers!
Jen

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Beautiful Respite in an Over-Crowded Day

If you have a moment, take a breather, go off by yourself, or sit quietly at your computer and drink deep from the fountain of wisdom that is A Holy Experience. Her post today is about building a house of prayer. Every post is a beautiful refreshment, a gentle reminder to take things slow, the cherish life, and to give praise to the One who made it. Take a peak. Close your eyes and let the music wash over you. Take from it only what you need. Leave behind what's burdening you at the altar of the everyday. Remember: He's always with you. Your desk can be an altar, a confessional, a choir loft. Whatever you need today, I pray you receive it.

Cheers!
Jen

September

Grey and dismal, in came September,
on the heels of an unbidden storm

The clouds they rolled with a grumble of thunder
but the rain refused to fall

Visions of autumn dance in my head,
of fire lit evenings and blazing colored leaves

The taste of orchards on my tongue,
the scent of wood smoke on my sleeve

A walk in the woods under a brilliant azure sky
is a ghost of a memory

Held up against the back drop of a blissful, grey, dismal,
first September day.
Cheers!
Jen
PS: This little ditty is the post for today on my other blog as well :)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cream Pies

*drum roll please*

Ta-da! Here's my published recipe for Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cream Pies. I will warn you that these are very addictive and I've had friends eat themselves sick because they were unable to stop putting hand to mouth. Of course, that may be a lack of self control on their part, but I like to think it's all a part of my plot to take over the world, one cookie at a time!

I've always loved oatmeal cream pies. When I was a kid, my favorite snack cake was those little pies that came wrapped in plastic in a long white box with the words "Little" and "Debbie" written in blue down the side. One day, while perusing through my cookbook collection, I had an idea. What if I took oatmeal cream pies and added a bit of chocolate chips to them? The result? The Queen of cookies!

What you'll need:

1-1/4 c. butter, softened 1-1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. brown sugar, firmly packed 1 t. baking soda
1/2 c. sugar 1/2 t. salt
1 egg 1/4 t. cinnamon (though no one will mind if you put more!)
1 t. vanilla extract 3 c. quick-cooking oats, uncooked
1 t. rum or rum extract 12-oz. package of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Beat butter and sugars together with a hand mixer until creamy. Add your egg, vanilla and rum. Beat until incorporated. Whisk together your flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl. Stir in the oats and chocolate chips. Add your dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until well blended (a wooden spoon works great for this!). Drop dough by rounded tablespoonful (or heaping handful) two inches apart on parchment lined or well greased baking sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for about 8 minutes. I like my cookies gooey. If you like a more crunchy cookie, bake a few minutes longer. Set aside to cool.

While your cookies are cooling, whip up your cream filling!

1/2 c. butter, softened
2 c. powdered sugar
1 to 2 T. whipping cream
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1/2 t. rum or rum extract

With your electric mixer on medium speed, combine all your ingredients until well blended. Increase mixer speed to high and beat until fluffy. Cream will be nice and thick and gooey. Yum!

Start with a tablespoon of cream for each cream pie. You can always add more if there's extra in the bowl. Or, like me, you can just take the bowl and a big spoon and eat any extra. Come on; you've earned it!

Cheers!
Jen

PS: you can find the cookbook version in the Gooseberry Patch cookbook, Christmas with Family and Friends