Archive | April 2012

Falls Creek Falls State Park

A short day’s drive west of Knoxville is a beautiful, hidden gem. Great for a relaxing weekend on the lake or just an afternoon of hiking to see breathtaking spots, Falls Creek Falls State Park is the place to go. It’s a day trip from Morristown and Knoxville, so consider it another corner in your backyard paradise!

Located on the eastern end of the Cumberland Plateau, this spot is not only rugged, but one of the most beautiful, peaceful places I have been to. There is about 20,000 or more acres sprawled across this section of the Plateau. That means plenty of places to enjoy the outdoors and that includes beautiful waterfalls, gorges, cascades and streams. This is a hickory and oak forest and you’ll find the gorgeous rhododendron, mountain laurel and many other plants and flowers. And in the gorges, there are tulip poplar and hemlock forest, as well as plants and animals that thrive in moist, thick protected areas.

Mtn top View Falls Creek Falls

Getting there was a bit of an adventure, but once we were there, the views were spectacular! As you can tell, we went in the fall and not in the spring. Despite the lack of greenery, the views are breathtaking! Falls Creek Falls is the highest waterfall in the eastern United States at 256 feet. There are other falls and cascades to enjoy as well. They are Piney Falls, Cane Creek Falls and Cane Creek Cascades.

Falls at Falls Creek Falls

Overlook Falls Creek Falls

While driving through the park we came across a golf course. And there were a few friends there that we managed to capture on camera before they darted away. While some of my shots showed white tails, this sweet doe posed for me just feet away! I was so excited I could barely breathe! The moment was magical!

Deer 2 Falls Creek Falls

Deer Falls Creek Falls

Deer 3 Falls Creek Falls 

We found the rental cabins down by the lake and can’t wait until we go back for a weekend of relaxation, grilling and good company with some friends. As you can see from our photo, there is no excuse why anyone couldn’t chill! There are also other areas with cabins, so groups of family and friends could plan a get away weekend to enjoy nature and each other in one of the most serene mountain settings in Tennessee!

Lake Rentals Falls Creek Falls

All in all, the road trip adventure was wonderful and we enjoyed our visit. We’re already making plans with some friends for a weekend get away!

Sunset Falls Creek Falls

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Cheesy Corn Dog Cakes

Is there any one food that takes you back to childhood? Do the memories flood back front and center when you think of certain dishes that mom used to make and everyone gobbled them up like there was no tomorrow?

For me there are many fond memories in the kitchen. Mom started me out at the age of 6, shortly after I learned just how hot a burner was by putting my hand flat on the big red, cool looking swirly thing on the stove. Needless to say, singed, blistered fingers and palm taught me quickly that in the kitchen, red hot means red hot and not to touch! But there are just as many good memories with mom in the kitchen and homemade corn dogs is one of them.

Recently Jeff and I were hungry for these tasty treats but because I am incorporating healthier cooking in our lifestyle, frying them just didn’t seem a good option. Not to mention having to eat them off sticks! The wheels in my head started to turn…..why couldn’t corn dogs be baked AND have no sticks? The solution? A 12-cup muffin pan!

You’ll have to forgive me for not having pictures of the ingredients and preparation because I was so excited about this that I forgot to take any!

Cheesy Corn Dog Cakes Muffin Pan

The feverish search for the best corn dog batter recipe began on Google! I wanted one that enveloped the whole essence of growing up in the 70s and was just good, old’ corn batter.

Here is the recipe I found:

Corn Dog Batter

1-1/4 c. all purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

3/4 c. corn meal – not corn bread mix

4 tbsp. sugar – you can use any substitute like stevia extract-1/4 tsp, etc.

1 tsp. aluminum-free baking powder

2 eggs

1-1/2 c. low fat milk or unsweetened soy or other nut milk

(just take care to select one without strong flavors)

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. This batter will be thick, but make sure it’s not too stiff. Add milk or water by tablespoon if too stiff until you get your batter thick again.

Cheesy Corn Dog Cakes Ramekins

Now to assemble the Cheesy Corn Dogs:

Taking your hot dogs or franks, cut them into thirds

Shred 1 cup Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese

Optional – your favorite chili (This became Jeff’s favorite addition)

Grease muffin pan or ramekins using non-stick spray

Cheesy Corn Dog Cakes

Using a 12-muffin baking pan or 4-ounce ramekins, spoon 2 Tbsp. batter into the bottom of each muffin or ramekin, place 1/3 piece of hot dog or frank on end into the center of the batter. Sprinkle cheese around the hot dog or frank. Add a teaspoon of chili – not too much or you will have a mess! Top off with spooning 2-Tbsp. batter over the top, completely covering the hot dog/frank, cheese and chili.

Bake in a 350F pre-heated oven until golden brown. About 14-15 minutes depending on altitude.

Serve with ketchup, your favorite sauces or just alone!

Open Cheesy Corn Dog Cakes

These were an absolute hit with my hubby and the girls at work. I’ve received a special request from my nephew, a very hungry Marine, who has just recently returned home from his 2nd Tour. I’m sure that once you serve these up, there will be requests for them again and again.

I Promise You…

In 2007, I was diagnosed with a very invasive and very aggressive cancer. By that time, I was in my late 30s and had given up any hope of ever getting married. With the confirmed cancer diagnosis, I was absolutely positive that no one would ever want me.

Once surgery and radiation treatments were complete and I was feeling good, my Mom started pushing for me to re-start my social life once again. To be honest, that was the furthest thing from my mind! Everyone I knew was trying to match me up with someone! All I wanted to do was focus solely on getting well and staying well…

After relentless urging by my mom and my dear friend and boss, Linda, I finally agreed to attend and join some single’s events. After about two weeks, I ran into someone I’d not seen in about 30 years. Jeff’s family knew mine way back in the late 70s when we were just kids. His brother and I were in the same class together through the 4th grade! We started emailing which turned into long phone conversations. Lucky for me, he lived just two hours away. We spent every weekend together. It didn’t take long for me to know that I loved him. He and my dad hit it off pretty well, too. And most importantly, he loved me for who I was right then and there. He was not scared off by the recent battle with cancer. All he said to me when I told him about it was all that mattered was that I was ok now and if it ever came back we would fight it together. He said he wasn’t going anywhere as long as I would have him.

After years of failed relationships, it was absolutely wonderful to finally find THE person who fit with my personality…like a glove fits a hand. I had actually met someone who loved me more than himself.

One of our first outings was to the Ocoee River Recreation area in Southeast Tennessee. We spent a lot of time there photographing kayakers. This is the very first photo taken of us as a couple:

Lovey Dovey 2008

POPPING THE QUESTION

After a September business trip to Chicago, instead of heading home to Chattanooga I made a little side trip to see Jeff. I thought it was just dinner and welcome home kind of weekend. It was actually a welcome home, I can’t live without you and “will you marry me?” kind of weekend!

Needless to say, I have not stopped grinning since that day!

THE BIG DAY

On April 18, 2009, we exchanged vows on Bluff Mountain. Rhonda and crew at Bluff Mountain Inn made our day extra special as our families and a few friends came to celebrate our New Beginning. Because we love spending time with family and friends, if anyone came to our wedding 10 minutes late, they missed it! We were only interested in saying our vows and moving on to the reception! So we had a 10 minute ceremony and a 4 hour reception!

Wedding Chapel 2009

 

Wedding Mrs & Mrs Strang

We spend a lot of time laughing and enjoying our little road trips. We create together whether its photography or working on the house or making something in the kitchen. Through the ups and downs of moving me here and then having to face unemployment for a long time, we have created our little heaven on earth. He is my best friend and we enjoy our life together!

These three years have been the best years of my life. Jeff, I promise, all over again, to love and cherish you the rest of my life. Happy Anniversary, my Love.

April Showers Bring May Flowers?

Not this year! May flowers are in full bloom in April! What in the world will May bring? Since Spring started in January this year, our gardening timeline is all confused! However, it allows me more chances for beautiful photos. Especially since the rainy days have gone away and it’s nearly 70-degrees today! The fir tree has become a loft for the choral group that’s been singing away since before dawn and lots of little visitors have stopped by for a snack or a little dip.

This week the peonies bloomed and are going to become a bouquet with some of the lilacs! So a few minutes ago I grabbed the camera and went outside to catch a few shots. I hope you enjoy these!

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My “Baby Girl” Kacey loves to soak up the sun and watch the birds that we encourage to visit us. She is such a thoughtful soul. Sometimes while watching her, it just makes me wonder what goes through her little mind. It’s almost like she’s in deep thought. She gives me some beautiful poses without ever trying. But they are difficult to catch because once she hears the snap and click of the camera, the moment is lost. I was quite lucky with this one….

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One of our little friends who likes to stop by and take a snack with us! He’s such a singer, too. He even brought his lady friend one time and they both took a few moments on our deck. It was so fun to watch them and try to catch as many shots as I could!

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These two little lovebirds were fun to watch while they picked through the seeds, scarfing down a tasty meal while I tried to stay as still as possible to capture this beautiful scene!

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A wonderful bud beginning to open is just as beautiful as the full bloom! These are so fragrant and fill the air with their scent! And there are many buds! The reds are now coming in and will probably bloom in the next day or so. For now, it’s just the light pinks/white ones. I enjoy making bouquets to bring inside the house every year!

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I just love peonies, don’t you? They are such beautiful flowers!

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I love lilacs, don’t you? We have a large bush in the front and an even larger one in the back. Between the two, the competing scent of lilacs permeates the air and I cannot decide which scent I love most…peonies or lilacs!

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Standing in the middle of the lilacs, bees were buzzing around me and then, this little surprise stopped by…

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Little pockets of color are peeking through all over the place!

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This must be the week for the pinks and purples!

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I am a big fan of Georgia O’Keefe. Can you tell?

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These little beauties are a groundcover that I just love.

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Last season our rosebushes developed the black mold disease and I had to cut every one of them down to the ground. Thinking I had lost all 17, it was a pleasant surprise to see young sprouts peeking through the ground and this is what we have:

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Last, but not least…my favorite aviary couple, Mama & Papa Cardinal!

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Stayed tuned!

Smile, You’re on Jeffery Camera!

Easter Weekend 2012

This weekend Jeff developed a stye in his camera eye, but before it got really bad, he was able to get a few beautiful shots of Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountain National Park. As always, I hope that you enjoy these.

Happy Easter!

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Happy Easter!

This year we decided to spend our Easter at Cades Cove and try to catch the sunrise. Since Jeff has a little bit of a problem with his camera eye (a lovely stye developed yesterday), I was the lucky girl holding the camera.

Enjoy the views – they were breath-taking! And it was about 38-degrees, too!

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We started out as early as we could. The Moon was still out and was so beautiful. Not only because it was a full moon, but because it was so beautifully bright.

I tried to capture this before we hopped in the car and headed out to Cades Cove. Since I never seem to remember the tripod – this is my best version of catching a shot without using one by leaning on the car!

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When the sun finally came peeking through, it was a so warm! The deer were out as well as so many of the turkeys.

We believe it must’ve been a day of celebration for the turkeys since it is probably the holiday where the least amount of turkey is eaten!

The deer quietly grazed while the sun continued to rise and as you’ll soon see, we were fortunate to have a few walk right in front of us! This is something that doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, you hold your breath. 086

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Cades Cove is always a place where we feel that we can leave stress behind087 and find ourselves completely refreshed and revitalized to tackle the next week.

This photo to the right is a view of Sparks Lane. All the recent storms have left all the streams flowing and some spilling over. This section of the Lane hasn’t seen water run across it in a very long time!

And this time of day is absolutely perfect! There is almost no one there, leaving little to disturb and distract the animals.

What a wonderful way to spend Easter! This was the best one we’ve had yet!

I hope that if you are ever in the area, you will take the time to visit Smoky Mountain National Park and Cades Cove. You won’t regret it!

Happy Easter!

 

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Tzatziki with Pita Chips

After making the yogurt cheese, I just had to try the tzatziki! The recipe just looked so good and I was so hungry for something savory and full of garlic!

First start with getting the pita chips ready. Take a pita bread and slice it like a pizza then slice around the edge to separate the pita into two halves. Layer them in a baking sheet and brush with olive oil and lightly season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bake in a 350-degree oven until golden brown.

Tzatziki April 2012d

The recipe that came with the yogurt cheese maker looked so easy, so I decided to just go with it. Here is the recipe:

Tzatziki April 2012a

Tzatziki

1 English cucumber, grated

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp salt

1-1/2 cups yogurt cheese

2 tbsp. parsley, minced

After grating the cucumber, place it in a colander and sprinkle with the sea salt. Let the cucumber drain for 30 minutes. Squeeze the cucumber to remove all the excess liquid. Place the cucumber in a bowl with the yogurt cheese, add minced garlic cloves and parsley. If you like a little extra heat, add 1/4 tsp. hot pepper sauce. Cover and chill for 30 minutes to blend the flavors.

Serve with pita chips or cut vegetables.

Tzatziki April 2012f

These were absolutely delicious and the garlic was a very present scent and flavor! My garlic cloves were quite large, so that will account for the strong flavor. If you are a garlic lover, then, like me, use the largest cloves you can find! If you aren’t, then use smaller cloves to get the flavor a bit more understated! And the pita chips were crispy wonderful!

Enjoy!