Sometimes the sky speaks for me

October sky
Above: Sky heading back to Athens at the end of October after an interesting early Sunday morning drive into Sandy Springs

To say the past few months have been intense would be a severe understatement. Let’s just say it has something to do with reproduction and the clouds that constantly swirl in that sector for us.

So, this song by Gungor kind of sums up where I am right now:

Out on the farthest edge
There in the silence
You were there

My faith was torn to shreds
Heart in the balance
And You were there

Always faithful, always good
You still have me
You still have my heart

I thought I had seen the end
Everything broken
But You were there

I’ve wandered at heaven’s gates
I’ve made my bed in hell
You were there still

Always faithful, always good
You still have me
You still have my heart

A great live video of the “You Have Me” is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrbgelwcoPk

The watermelon cake

We had quite a July (yeah, I know. It’s almost September). J and I took our longest vacation ever (five whole nights, baby!) and the next weekend, my nephew turned 3, my mom turned a most beautiful age – 60 – and my niece was baptized. She’s .5 years old, for the record.

And I made a cake for Mom.

In case you can’t tell, I loved playdough as a kid.

Every year when I was growing up, Mom made my brothers and I a homemade cake for our birthdays. She still does. I guess the grownup years haven’t totally overtaken me yet. πŸ˜‰

Somewhere in my teen years, I decided I would start making her a cake. And being creative of mind, I would usually choose the weirdest most interesting recipe I could find. One of them was for a watermelon cake – bright, bright red on the inside with a slight chocolate flavor, with raisins as seeds (I substituted chocolate chips for the raisins in the one above. Much tastier). The original recipe calls for a goo-green glaze. It’s a very interesting color. I went with fondant this year instead.

The pink is raspberry flavored. The green is cherry flavored. Both are marshmallow fondant, which is tastier than the stuff that comes in a plastic container.

My nephew wanted to test the quality

Overall, it was a success. Mom was happy. It got eaten. And, most importantly, we didn’t take any home!

On a rainy drive back from Savannah

I drove to Savannah Monday evening for a work trip (Tybee planning and an interview with the coolest environmental educator John “Crawfish” Crawford). Then I was back on the same route for a drive home Tuesday evening. Boredom + non-stop rain + the same road two days in a row + a good camera = photos of the sky.

Enjoy.

Below was the view on the right side of the road (toward the east):

And this was the other side (on the west), full of amazing, roiling beauty:

Sometimes I miss the busted watermelons

For just over three years, Justin and I lived in a small town in middle Georgia called Cordele. Justin got his first teaching job there. I was night news editor and then managing editor at the Cordele Dispatch. It was hot, flat and beautiful (my heart still yearns a bit for the wide-open fields of south Georgia).

Cordele is known for a few things. There’s a rocket guarding it’s main exit – exit 101 off of I-75. It has one of the largest state-run farmers markets. Farmers grow a lot of turfgrass and cotton and peanuts and, well, watermelons. And, hey, my dad grew up there.

Watermelons. Ah, sweet, juicy, delicious. Just the perfect taste of summer (Dad will disagree. He had to pick them every summer on his daddy’s farm. They snacked on the ones that broke open. He’ll now only eat them when forced). Cordele calls itself the Watermelon Capital of the World. And it is, depending on the year.

There’s a distinct way to tell it’s summer in Cordele. And it’s not by the heat. It’s by this:

Source: ShuttrKing|KT

That’s a busted watermelon. Watermelons are hauled to the farmers market and other distribution points every summer in pickup trucks and hacked up school buses (ever seen an old school bus with its roof and windows missing? I have). And the first sign of summer is when a watermelon plops off a truck/school bus and splats all over the pavement.

This is as close to a busted watermelon as I get now:

A watermelon margarita at Outback Steakhouse. I forget I don’t like all the salt in a margarita, and this one was no exception. The best part was the garnish.

I really need to go to the grocery store and buy a watermelon. If only I could find one with seeds.

Len Foote Hike Inn and a walk in the woods: Part 1

Mom and I hit the trail earlier this week for a two-day hike split in the middle by a stay at Len Foote Hike Inn above Amicalola Falls State Park near Dahlonega in north Georgia. We headed out Monday and came home Tuesday in what was just over a 24-hour trip. It was wonderful. The trails were awesome, the food was so good, the staff was friendly and the composting toilet was an experience.

You have to check in before 2 p.m. at Amicalola, or they don’t let you hike up. Mainly, they do this in case you are super slow and because the Hike Inn also serves dinner promptly at 6 p.m. And you don’t want to miss it.

The trail isn’t that difficult going to Hike Inn β€” just enough to make my calves ache the next day.

Are y’all ready for photos? Here goes!

Mom and I are both camera crazy (it’s a genetic disorder that goes back at least to my grandmama), so we have lots of photos. Speaking of, I LOVE my iPhone. It’s light, it’s super convenient, I get good photos most of the time, and it takes up barely any room.

Isn’t my mom beautiful? I love her hair, although when mine gets that color, I have plans to streak it blue. Or green. Depending on the season. πŸ™‚

Just when the afternoon heat was starting to get to me, the trail ended at the Hike Inn. Looks like their spring/summer is about three or four weeks behind ours, so the flowers were just reaching their peak. Talk about timing.

Composting toilets = air conditioning for your butt. They were completely non-smelly β€” it’s basically a seat with a large pipe heading into the ground. I had to remember to flush again when I got home.

To save even more water, they ask you use one mug and one glass your entire stay. Mom took it further and only used this mug.

I used my allotted amount of beverage containment devices.

No photos of dinner because I was too busy eating it.

The inn is very big into no food waste. This meant that whatever you put on your plate, you are expected to eat. Dinner and breakfast are served family-style so that you can take as much or as little as you want. Monday night, we had 0.5 ounces of food left on plates from about 20 people. Go us!

A frog we saw on the inn’s fire break trail.

Flowers outside of the bathhouse. They had lots of native gardens planted.

Morning at the inn. Morning that came too early. Morning that came with a breakfast bell at 8 a.m. Morning that was made better with locally roasted coffee and stone ground grits loaded with butter.

Mom continued with Jeremiah after breakfast. Did I mention that she’s awesome? And an awesome woman of God?

Chairs offered a view of the sunrise β€” and the surrounding mountains. Why no, I did not get up in time to see the sun peak its head up over the trees. Building in the background is a common area with books, games, couches, etc.

Back view of the Star Base. It measures the extremes of the summer and winter solstices, as well as the four main points of the compass, according to the inn’s website.

Tomorrow I’m posting photos from the hike back down to Amicalola. We took the AT approach trail for a little variety.

Delicious doesn’t even begin to describe it: Empire State South

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Strangely enough, it took going to Atlanta for me to experience a Hugh Acheson restaurant at night. I’ve eaten at the Athens-based chef’s The National for lunch (someday I may actually post a photo of the pizzette – a perfectly bright salad-on-a-pizza). I’ve walked by the Five & Ten more than I can remember (mostly on the way to the Royal Peasant, but that’s another post as well). But a conference in Atlanta that didn’t serve dinner plus a few foodie friends drove me to Empire State South this past Friday night.

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It was amazing – from the bread and honey butter to start off with to the spicy ginger phatty cakes. The only downer was a drink my friend and I ordered that was a wee bitter for our sugar-loving taste buds. Our waiter (who was oh-so-nice and patient) solved the problem with this:

Image That is a Pimm’s Cup. I first heard of it on the blog Eating for England, and I’ve wanted to try one ever since. Empire State South mixes theirs with spicy ginger ale. And they’re totally healthy: That green thing poking out of the top is a long slice of cucumber. πŸ˜‰

I decided to go with a vegetarian entree (which was more affordable), so that I could also get what is called a first course. The farm egg made me realize eggs were probably created to be soft boiled, not hard boiled.

ImageI’m not sure if you can tell from the photo, but that egg is pretty jiggly. It breaks open and creates this amazing egg sauce for the rest of the dish, which was spicy lamb sausage, crisp carolina gold rice, shitake mushroom, dandelion and sunchoke. I could eat it every day. It was that good – not too filling, not too heavy, just a little bit weird.

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Dinner was English pea ravioli with goat cheese, beech mushroom, young Vidalia onions, baby spinach and benne (sesame) brittle. I love Vidalias. I’m so glad it’s one of the delicious foods Georgia can claim.

ImageI worked at a company that sold benne wafers (Byrd Cookie Company) when I lived in Savannah. The benne brittle reminded me of those times. The pea ravioli disappeared at a perfect pace – plenty to chew on, but not enough to leave me feeling sluggish. I think that was another favorite about this meal and this restaurant.

My mouth was so happy we made this choice of a restaurant. And I think it’s time J and I check out the National.

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There’s bacon in my yogurt

So far, my newly minted blog has been about foodβ€”and weird food at that. On that note, let’s talk about bacon. In yogurt.

I belong to a cooperative called Athens Locally Grown. Mostly, I cooperate with my membership fee ($25 a year is pretty awesome). Every Sunday, the online market opens, and I choose the breads, veggies, honey, dairy and live plants that I want (we don’t buy every week, but a lot of them). This week, I was craving yogurt. And the amazing Atlanta Fresh had a new flavor: Maple Bacon.

The label says it taste like breakfast. But not if you don’t stir it first. That’s key. The maple syrup concoction lives at the bottom of the container until stirred. And then it kind of tastes like breakfast.

My analysis: Overall, it was okay. I love bacon, so that helped. But the combo is not something I’d want to eat every day. The flavor I would eat daily is the black cherry and port wine. Oh my. I would lick the container shamelessly to get the last bit of its deliciousness. Kind of like that beet soup yesterday.