Where the Fire Falls

Way back when I completed my freshman year of college I went and lived in Yosemite for the summer. I was a roomskeeper at the Wawona Hotel and worked with A Christian Ministry in the National Parks (ACMNP). While being a roomskeeper was not my favorite thing, hiking and exploring definitely were my favorite things. I worked Tuesday through Saturday and had Sunday and Monday off. My ministry partners and I would spend Sunday leading services in the campgrounds and Monday hiking various trails. Some of my favorites were Cathedral Lake, Clouds Rest, Mount Dana, and of course Half Dome. There is something about Yosemite. It digs into your soul and does not let go in the very best way possible.

Where the Fire Falls by Karen Barnett is set in Yosemite in the late 1920’s. Olivia, our protagonist, is hired to create watercolor scenes of Yosemite which is the last place in the world she wants to go. Something happened concerning a family member and Yosemite Falls. This story line in the book was the most frustrating for me. There was not really an explanation of what actually happened and when the family member reenters the picture there is no resolution.

Yosemite Falls 1994

Aside from that I really loved this book. There was love, intrigue, and beautiful scenery I could see in my head. One place that is described in the book is the Glacier Point Hotel. This hotel actually burned down but you can still find photos of it on the internet.

Half Dome from Glacier Point 1994

Where the Fire Falls includes the camp workers pushing burning flames off of the falls and the calling between Curry Village and the top of the falls. What a spectacle that must have been! You can still see this wonder at Horsetail Falls in February. Of course, last year people destroyed vegetation and left trash everywhere. You can see a video here of the Firefall.

In the valley there is a little chapel. Karen Barnett describes it in great detail and it is a lovely little church. Our group got together several times with the pastor and his wife. I remember her telling me specifically that there was something about the water in the park that would make your hair grow like crazy. Apparently, when they first moved to the valley her hair was short and had very tight curls. Her hair was still curly but had grown so much and was so healthy. Imagine a little chapel and the backdrop is Half Dome. The majesty of the park is staggering.

On the Diving Board on Half Dome 1994

I have read many popular books that use profanity as a plot device. Is was a nice change to read a sweet story, set in an incredible place, that also included some characters looking for God’s lead in their lives. I highly recommend this book and will definitely check out other books in her “Vintage National Park” series.

Last of the Bunch Banana Bundt Cake

Way back in 2010 my friend Melissa asked several of us ladies to be part of a cooking club. We started the Spam and Anchovies cooking club with a ginger themed night. At the beginning the host would create the menu and each person would bring ingredients so we could cook together and learn new techniques. After awhile we decided to switch to a potluck style where the host still chose the menu and each person brought dishes from the selected recipes. Eventually our cooking club morphed into a going out to dinner club which was fine but can get expensive. Unfortunately our little group got busier and busier as life does and we rarely get to meet up anymore.

In January we had one of those rare kismet nights were the stars aligned and we got to get together. My friend Anne opened her home and welcomed us for a lovely dinner. Melissa brought a squash soup, Anne had several delicious appetizers, Kenna brought some amazing cheese and I took Last of the Bunch Banana Bundt cake. I had actually been planning to take that to our church small group but I am glad I didn’t as several people despise coconut.

I kind of love bundt cakes because they are not that difficult to put together and they come out looking so pretty because of the pans. This cake was no exception. I rounded up my lovely cake taker and schelpped it over to Anne’s. One of the reasons we don’t get to meet as much anymore is because we all live fairly far apart and with the increase in Nashville traffic it makes it more difficult to get places around dinner time. As you can see my frosting was a little bit runny but it was still tasty.

If you despise coconut like Tallahassee in Zombieland (it’s not the taste, it’s the consistancy) you might not be a fan of this cake.

But, if like Columbus, you like a good SnoBall, you might want to dig right in. I for one loved this and my Spam and Anchovies ladies liked it as well. I did leave some for Anne’s son and made sure to bring some home for my crew. They loved it but I have to admit my family has a bit of a sweet tooth.

If you would like to make this you can find it on page 251 of Everyday Dorie. And if you would like to see how the other bakers in Cook the Book Fridays did you can click here. Since we are stuck at home and you probably have a few bananas hanging out ready for baking anyway give it a shot! 🙂

March Books

What dear friends have you been reading this month? Since we are all quarantined I hope you have found some engaging reads!

I just finished An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. It made me feel very melancholy but it also had a satisfying resolution. This one was part of Oprah’s Book Club and I picked it up because it was on our library suggested reads shelf and looked interesting.

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom was fascinating, challenging, tear jerking, and filled with hope. This was probably the best book I have read so far this year. I feel like I should know far more about Corrie Ten Boom than I do so I will likely read more by her soon.

Reese Witherspoon placed Conviction by Denise Mina in her book club a couple of months ago. I had it on my library wait list and finally got to read it. If you like true crime podcasts and Scotland you may like this book. It had some interesting twists and turns and in a couple of spots, especially on the road to Fort William, I could see Scotland in my head.

I read Crying Laughing by Lance Rubin because he was on Good Mythical Morning. This was a pretty quick read. It was pretty sad but had some good laugh out loud moments as well. If you know someone with ALS this would be a good read about a kid dealing with a parent’s diagnosis.

One book that I wasn’t as fond of was Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid. I loved the relationship between the babysitter and the little girl but everyone else was terrible.

Good Mythical Morning strikes again. I read The Lost Causes of Bleak Creek because we are fans of Rhett and Link. It was a weird book and I mean that in a good way. The main characters are Rex and Leif so I read it in their voices. It was a little Steven King meets fictional autobiography.

I just started a book that is set in Yosemite which is one of my favorite places on Earth. I am hoping it is fantastic. I would love to hear from you below about what books you have been reading!


How are you feeling these days? I have to be honest up until this morning I have been doing just fine with “Staying safer at home”. I have been to the grocery store, I took a meal to a family, and have taken some short walks with my dog. I have my family in the nest and everyone is working on what they need to do. This morning though I woke up and just feel blah. I’m sure, like every other day this week I could get dressed but today I just don’t wanna. I don’t know if it is because it just won’t stop freaking raining or that I am feeling rather useless. My kids are working on school, my husband is working from home. I don’t particularly want to clean anything. I just feel down.

Perhaps, I will get dressed and find something to do. Bible study is done, breakfast has been consumed, making sure my kiddos are on track will commence. I am praying the sun comes out today. Maybe later I will feel better.

How do you deal with feeling blah on a day like today?

Adventures with Coq A Vin

Last night I made Ina Garten’s Coq A Vin. It was the recipe from Food Network and the first one that popped up on Google. I have actually been planning to make this for awhile now and had all of the ingredients on hand. I am not a drinker. Alcohol hurts my stomach and red wine typically gives me a migraine with just a couple of sips. But, as a baker and cook I have some alcohol on hand for different recipes. Brandy, Ameretto, Grand Marnier, but I don’t usually have wine. A couple of months ago when I started thinking about making this I was at Walmart and decided to buy a bottle of wine for this dish. This is big folks because I know it has been a couple of years since we could buy wine in grocery stores (not before noon on Sunday though) but I really hadn’t done that before. I took my bottle of wine proudly to the front of the store with the rest of my groceries to the one checkstand that was open.The girl checking my groceries was very sweet but she was not 18 so she had to call a manager…who was stuck at the self checkout and could not come over. We waited as the line got longer and the person behind me got more annoyed. So to save the sweet checker some hassle from the frustrated people behind me I decided not to get the wine. Was it a sign?

The plan for Coq A Vin was shoved to the back burner for a bit until one day my daughter and I ran into Aldi for a few things. Aldi sells wine! And Aldi and Trader Joes have the same owner so their wine is probably the same Two Buck Chuck as the wine friends in California would buy. I picked up a bottle of Winking Owl because it was red, it was cute, and it was five bucks. The plans for Coq A Vin were back on.

Here we are several weeks later and I, along with everyone else in the world, have all the time I need for a recipe that doesn’t take twenty minutes start to finish. I pulled out all of my ingredients, I chopped bacon and onions. I measured out brandy and chicken stock…I tried to open the wine. I am positive I have a wine bottle opener in my house somewhere. I have used it. I am pretty sure I bought it at Publix several years ago. Do you think I can find it? Nope. The first time I tried to open wine it was with a corn cob nob. It didn’t go well. My son has a multi tool though with a corkscrew included. Yay! I thought I was saved! I could not get that cork out to save my life. I gave it to my hubs who yanked and pulled and could not free the cork. I ended up getting a spatula and shoving the cork down into the bottle. I may or may not have discovered wine on my forehead later that evening…

I think the most difficult part of this was browning the chicken..and opening the wine. I didn’t let the chicken brown all of the way so it wasn’t crispy but that didn’t seem to matter to my family. They actually really liked it . The flavor was acceptable to everyone and the chicken was cooked perfectly…if not crispy. I threw some Birdseye steamed veggies in the microwave to finish off the meal. Overall a delicious meal that I will probably make again!

Homeschooling in a Pandemic

Two days before spring break the schools in our area shut down for the Coronavirus pandemic. March 16th we got the notification that our district would be closed through at least April 3rd. Yesterday our Mayor gave the “Safer at Home” order meaning we are supposed to stay at home as much as possible. So today is supposed to be our first day (in a different world) back at school. My daughter is a senior in a public school so education is taking a turn for her at the moment. She expected to be back in her routine today. The last week she has been meeting up with her school friends through Google Duo and being creative. Actually she and my son did their first Youtube video together. It is called Tiny Food Fight.

Since we were already homeschooling our son the major difference for him is that his tutorial class is taking place on Zoom instead of in person. Last week he only did Spanish and Science since those are his tutorial classes. This week we are back on track with the rest of his subjects.

My daughter has always been very self directed and very organized. She has excellent study habits which she must have gotten from her daddy. She has heard from three of her teachers so far. Her AP English teacher is actually really organized and has a schedule all ready for the kids. Her AP Econ teacher from last semester has loaded information to the library so they can study. And her band director has posted some good resources and has been in touch. At the moment my daughter is working on AP Lit homework and will work on AP Spanish weekly work in a little while. She is also planning to help my son with his Spanish vocab later today. Then she has some reading to do.

I am really thankful for technology as that has been a lifesaver. It is pretty amazing that the kids can stay connected with everything they need to do!

For us and homeschooling, our district requires so many specific types of classes to graduate. For my son we have our curriculum for the year and have been happy with that. I have already started looking at curriculum for next school year and only have a couple to choose as he will take Health, Spanish 2, Biology, and Drawing through his tutorial. That leaves English, Geometry, and Bible.

For younger kids things are much more flexible as far as what you teach goes. Here are a few resources that we like:

Brave Writer for writing skills
Cathy Duffy for reviews on curriculum
Virtual Field Trips
Museum Tours
Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems
We always love Rhett and Link
Of course there are a billion documentaries on Netflix, and you can never go wrong with just reading a book and letting imaginations run wild.

I hope those resources are helpful and that things go well for you as you homeschool your kiddos!

Nosy Rosy

Yesterday my grandparents were on my mind. My Grandma has been gone two years and my Grandpa almost two. They lived out in Amish country in Michigan and we would try to visit and stay with them out on their farm. My Grandpa was an extrovert. He would talk your ear off if you let him and he and my Grandma knew everyone in their little town. One of the things we thought was so funny was that each morning they would open their blinds and sit together at their little dining room table and watch up the road. As soon as a car or wagon came into view the excitement began. They had all of the questions. Who was that? What kind of car? Where are they going? If they knew the person they could tell us a bit about them. We always thought that was so funny but also endearing.

One of the last times my daughter and Grandpa walked up the driveway together.

Yesterday when I opened my blinds I thought “Ooh! Who could be out there?” I wondered what people were doing and who I would see. We often don’t open our front blinds because it causes a glare on the photos and television but since we have been avoiding people I just want to see what is happening in the world. If I know the person going past I can tell you a little bit about them. If I don’t I have all of the questions.

The last time we were at my Grandpa’s farm after his funeral.

Do you know your neighbors and the people who come and go on your street? Since you have been cooped up during this pandemic are you more interested in what your neighbors are doing? Is your neighborhood like Italy and singing from the porches or are you hiding away in your house? As for me, I am opening my blinds to see what’s happening and also sitting on the porch in anticipation of the conversations I could possibly have with total strangers.

Cook the Books Fridays

For years I baked through Baking from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. I went to the International Food Blogger Conference in Seattle to meet her, her sweet husband, and the Doristas (the lovely group I had been baking with for years). We baked through Around My French Table and continued with My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz. The most recent book that we are baking through is Everyday Dorie. I started out strong, lost focus and moved blog platforms over here to Adventuring with Karen. You can see my previous baking adventures over at www.ourcrazyblessedlife.blogspot.com. All that to say I have 3 recipes to share with you today!

The most recent recipe everyone cooked was Ginger Fried Rice. To see how the recipe went for the rest of the group you can click here.

Ginger Fried Rice

The most difficult part of this recipe was finding the ingredients. I made a special trip over to Publix to find Gochujang and Ponzu, which my daughter immediately dubbed Gucchi gang and Pikachu. We love rice in our house and fried rice is no exception. I have made fried rice before but it has always been a poor attempt until now. Dorie’s recipes are magic. I didn’t add any protein because we were having pork chops and this was a perfect side. Actually, my family liked the rice far more than the pork chops. I think the next time I will add eggs but other than that I didn’t feel like I needed to tweak anything to make my family happy. This is perfect for a cozy evening or pandemic at home. You can find this on page 239 of Everyday Dorie

Next up is Sheet Pan Chicken. If you are a fan of sheet pan recipes this one if for you. Another lovely easy recipe that you can throw together quickly and throw in the oven. You can check out the recipe on Dorie’s blog. You can also click here to see how the other cooks enjoyed this recipe.

Sheet Pan Chicken

I used chicken thighs for this recipe, made sure to use the fresh herbs, and picked up actual mushrooms. I do not like mushrooms at all but my hubs does and he especially liked them in this recipe.

Last but not least the recipe for Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies was chosen way back in September but I didn’t make them until January. My son had a science fair and we were required to bring a treat for the snack table. These were the perfect choice and I came home with an empty platter. I did save a few for my family and they were so happy about that. Dorie said they would spread so you could freeze the dough to bake later. I did chill the dough but didn’t freeze it and I think these cookies turned out perfectly! If you want to make these they are on page 246 of Everyday Dorie.

While you are self distancing or if you are under quarantine these are all incredible recipes to try out. Based on the empty shelves at the store at the moment, everyone should have the staples to make some fun dishes. Stay Safe, wash your hands, and I’ll see you on the other side of self distancing.

B & K DIY..and We Still Like Each Other

This weekend my kiddos were out of town on a church retreat. You might think my husband I would live it up and party. If your definition of party is fix the shower and install a new vanity you are correct! We did party!

In my last post I talked about the struggle bus we were on when it came to replacing the cartridge in our downstairs shower. Well, the part came in the mail so we made another attempt to fix the leaky situation. Everything went exactly as it was supposed to until I was done and the water continued pouring out of the faucet. I got my flashlight and discovered a tiny piece of rubber blocking the cartridge from being able to sit correctly. Our brilliant idea was to pull everything out, turn the water back on full blast and see if we could get the piece out. IT WORKED!! Not only did that piece come out a second piece flew out as well. Aside from flooding the bathroom due to the shower curtain being out of the tub we were quite pleased. Once it was out everything clicked smoothly into place.

Our next DIY project for the weekend was to install a new vanity. We have had a pedestal sink the entire time we have lived here and it has never been terribly steady. The hot water tap has been leaking for awhile so we MacGuyvered it to make sure the water stayed at the sink. I took it apart a couple of months ago and could not get the tap out. Even the Facebook hive mind generated suggestions didn’t work. Our plumber told us it would be cheaper to install an entire new vanity than to replace the cartridges on a sink that is at least 30 years old.

We removed the pedestal sink, scraped off the old paint and wallpaper, filled the holes and sanded everything down. We also primed the area and took measurements. I have to say, my hubs did an incredible job measuring and cutting everything. I am a hands on person who sometimes might skip the directions just to get my hands dirty. He wants to do a project once and he wants to do it right. In this case I was completely on his side. We did need to make another trip to the hardware store so we decided to get lunch while the primer dried. Patrons at the restaurant we went to were robbed later in the evening by a guy who grabbed purses and ran out the door. I’m glad we went for lunch.

Not my best food photography…

Later in the evening we placed the vanity, hooked up the faucet and all of the pipes…and it leaked. After another trip to the hardware store, bruised knees and sore backs my hubs was able to overcome the leak! So far, so good. When our kids got home they were very surprised! My son is not a huge fan because all four of us can’t stand around it and spit toothpaste at the same time…not that we did that anyway. That would be weird.

Yes, I know the floor looks hideous. Refinishing and staining is next on the list in out 102 year old house.

You might think that is the end of our plumbing drama but alas, it is not. The other day I paid off the powervent that was installed on our HVAC. The same day we discovered a leak to the basement from the upstairs bathroom. There is a giant crack in the cast iron pipe that leads from the upstairs bath to the sewer line. We are not even going to attempt a DIY project. While we worked well as a team on our projects this weekend, replacing the cast iron is being left to the pros.

Have you replaced plumbing or done major projects on your home? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Calgon, Take Me Away

Do you remember those old commercials? I pretty much thought when I was a grown up I would get to take baths and all my troubles would melt away. Alas, as an adult I am actually fixing the tub so I can use it at some point.

My sister and her husband recently sold their house and bought a fifth wheel to live in so that they can hit the road and start traveling in a couple of years.They are both quite handy so it didn’t surprise me when she posted on Facebook about all of these things she had fixed on her home after a massive water leak. I was feeling inspired! Yes, little sister, you inspired me to try to fix my leaky bathtub faucet.

I watched a few YouTube videos and was convinced I could take care of the pesky leak myself. So, I stopped at the big orange home improvement store and looked at all of the cartridges for the shower. I chose a Danko that said it was compatible with the Moen 1225 cartridge.

Still feeling like Superwoman I headed into the abyss under our house to turn off the water, came back upstairs and was able to remove the old cartridge without any trouble.

I then placed the new cartridge. It took me far longer than it should have to get it in place. When I finally got it put back together and the water turned back on…..it leaked worse than when I started…plus I hadn’t lined everything up correctly so the hot and cold were in the wrong places.

Back to the spider filled darkness to turn the water back off where I smacked my head on the very short door, and back to the bathroom to remove the cartridge…which I managed to break and could not remove. Are you a person that does crossfit? I am imagining something like pulling a tractor or doing those big rope things or maybe flipping tires. What I attempted in that bathroom to get that cartridge out counts as a crossfit workout. And I couldn’t remove it. Neither could my husband. We called in a local guy who had an actual cartridge remover and it took him about 15 minutes to get it out.

At this point I had gone to another local home improvement store and purchased another of the same exact cartridge which I then managed to place correctly. Unfortunately, it is still leaking but not quite as much. So, I called our regular company to come take a look at that and our upstairs sink to see if he could fix it. I paid him seventy bucks for him to tell me to call Moen and see if I could get a part from them. He said it is still leaking because the knockoff isn’t quite right. As far as our sink goes he suggested getting rid of our pedestal sink and putting in a vanity because the price of fixing the at least 25 year old stems would not be worth it.

Aye, yai, yai…I have called Moen for the part and it is being shipped, we are going to look at vanities soon, and I have learned my lesson. I don’t need to be Superwoman when there are talented, trained people out there who can fix the things that need to be fixed. But, I am still proud of my Superwoman sister and myself for trying.


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connoisseur of fine cake

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