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The Admiration Project ~ 2015 Issue #2 ~ Coach Campbell

Mr. Campbell

Mr. Campbell

The second person I will recognize in my Admiration Project passed away in February of 2014.  (I did not realize that the anniversary of his passing would coincide so closely with my post – just another one of those coincidental moments that seem to follow me around.)  This admirable man was one of my favorite high school teachers.  He primarily taught me numerous levels of mathematics, but he also taught me the arts of patience, compromise and giving.

Mr. Campbell was my Algebra II and Geometry teacher during my sophomore year of high school.  Coach Campbell, as he was also known, coached every sport available at the time, basketball — both girls and boys, football and baseball.

Patience… I am of the opinion that to be a teacher, especially a high school teacher, one must be blessed with more than an average share of the trait.  Aside from my own father, I’ve not met many people with such an abundance of the stuff.  Mr. Campbell was the epitome of patience; he had me in 2 of the 6 classes he taught a day back in 1977-78.  He taught me patience by exhibiting his own never-ending poise, restraint, self-control and fortitude for EVERY student in the class.  He miraculously enabled each of us to learn at our own pace.  He taught us to be patient with ourselves while we were learning and how to be patient with one another as he devoted time to each “best method” of learning to the students in the class.  He was a champion of being able to engage the full room on all levels.

Compromise… He taught us all a lesson on not only how to compromise, but when.  I was ten years out of high school and twelve years past the teachings of Coach Campbell when I came upon this Far Side cartoon.  It remains one of my favorites and immediately brought the memories of this man to mind.  He had quite the dry wit.  math phoebicIt was our Geometry class that was in need of some compromise – those “proof” exercises were going to be make or break for several students in the class.  Coach Campbell made a compromise with those students… it allowed them to still be successful and pass the class, it allowed the rest of the class to have the benefit of extended learning, and it allowed him to fill everyone’s needs.  A definite master of compromise.

 Giving... There were a handful of us math aficionado’s, for lack of a better word, (like geek), who couldn’t get enough of the stuff.  Mr. Campbell recognized that, and in turn, gave of himself to us.  He gave up half of his lunch hour to hold a “private” class for less than 5 people!  I think it ended up being only two of us, but as long as anyone showed up, he gave his time and knowledge.  I’m sure he could have used that time to prepare for the afternoon classes, grade papers, work on “things” that coaches do for his team, or just simply take a break.  But he didn’t, he gave as long as anyone was there to receive.

Mr. Campbell was a man who made a difference in this girl’s life.  He was an amazing example of many things, but selflessness is what comes to mind.  I am disappointed in myself for never telling him how much I admired him, but I hope that he somehow knew, since I kept showing up for “lunch-time math.”

He continued to give after his teaching career ended, and in his honor I am making a donation to Blount County Community Action Agency’s Meals on Wheels.

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The Admiration Project

This entry is just over a year in the making.  In November 2013 a friend of mine from high school lost her daughter suddenly and unexpectedly.  I had a daughter the exact same age and could not begin to imagine that kind of loss.  I drove the three hours to be there for my friend, give her a hug and try to say something comforting.  However, it was her who was there for all of those in attendance; it was my friend who comforted those who came to be with her; it was a strong and admirable woman standing before us, honoring her daughter.

In what I should no longer continue to see as odd or ironic, I saw in that service something I never expected, a reference from a recent dream that became what was the spark to this year long project I have committed to begin, and more importantly, finish… The Admiration Project.

A few days before that dream, I was having a conversation with a co-worker who said that she “admired” me.  That word stayed with me for several days because in my mind, “admiring” someone is not something I have ever done frivolously.  An admiration of someone came from a place of deep respect.  That compliment given to me days earlier, while sincere, I processed as undeserved.  Or maybe I was uncomfortable with it simply because I felt it was an honor I had not yet earned with this person.  Anyway, back to the spark…  Just days before I made the drive to the celebration of life for my friend’s daughter, I had a dream.  In this dream I was going to South Africa on a trip and this person in my dream was “admiring” my adventurous opportunity.  (Noteworthy here is that I have never thought / wished / mentioned traveling to South Africa.)  As I often have very vivid dreams, I try to put the pieces together and figure out how they apply to something going on in my waking hours, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.  Then on November 18, 2013, as I sat in the church watching a slideshow of the exciting life this young girl had lived, a photo came up of her sky diving in South Africa!  My mouth dropped open for an uncontrolled instant, then I leaned over to my mom and said, “I just had a dream about being in South Africa!”

The service began and I listened to this young lady’s parents and others give an account of her life, her accomplishments, and her dreams for the future.  My admiration grew that evening.  It grew for my friend and former classmate, a person I had only seen a handful of times since we graduated 30+ years ago, as she stood before us so strong in her grief… to extend to the daughter she raised, a person I will never know.

And so the “admiration” compliment I had received a few days earlier along with the random reference in a dream to a place I had never been before became connected, just as suddenly and unexpectedly as the death of this young woman.

As I drove home that next morning with only my thoughts to keep me company, The Admiration Project was born.  This project is a challenge to myself to take time and write a letter, (handwritten) to the twelve people I admire most.  Along with that letter I will give a donation to a charity or project in their name that is inspired by the way they have had an impact on my life.  That letter will also challenge them to send just one similar letter to a person they admire within the next year.

If you are reading this, I challenge you to do the same, send just ONE letter of admiration to a deserving recipient who may or may not know the impact they have had on you.

Part of my waiting a year to start was I wanted a way to track how far this spreads – I wanted to know where these “admirable” people live and what organizations or projects they inspired people to contribute to.  Reality is, I’m not going to be able to program an interactive map on a blog – and it’s just an excuse to not take a risk and follow through, so instead, I’ll just ask that you leave a comment and tell me where you are, where the other person is and any organization you may be contributing to as a part of your admiration for that person.

“I am in Nashville, TN; my admirable person is in Maryville, TN and I have contributed to the Abbie Jane Harper Memorial Scholarship Fund.”

P.S.  If you are reading this and recognize yourself, your letter is in the mail.

Can you believe it’s almost here?

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No, I’m not thinking about Christmas!  Although that is just around the corner, but I’m one of those people who like to celebrate my holidays one at a time, so no lights, decorations or stockings at my house until Thanksgiving has been thoroughly enjoyed with family and dear friends.

The “IT”  I am referring to is tax season.  That dreaded time of year when dear Uncle Sam decides it is time to “settle up.”

I have spent the last eight months working towards being ready to take on this tax season with the launch of a new business.  I am taking on clients and will work with you to make this tax season pain-free.

There is no one size fits all in the tax preparation business.  I will only work with clients for whom I can provide quality service specifically for their needs.  There are several keys to finding a perfect fit; ask these questions of any potential tax preparer.

  • Do you have a PTIN?  (A tax preparer must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number issued by the IRS.)
  • What records or documentation will you need from me?  (A qualified preparer will insist that you provide your W-2, 1098, 1099 and other verification of income and expenses.)
  • Can I file electronically?  (It is the fastest way to get your refund.)
  • Who will sign my return?  (Don’t trust a preparer who will not (or cannot) sign your return.)
  • When will I receive a copy of my return?  (You should receive a complete copy of your return within a reasonable amount of time following your submission of documents.  You should ALWAYS receive a copy for your own records.)
  • How do I find you if I have a question after tax season is over?  (My business is not confined to tax preparation; I am available all year.)

You want to end up creating a relationship with your tax professional, just as you would with your hair dresser or doctor.  Do your research and ask questions; it will be worth it.

If you are interested in tax preparation or other money management services, please submit the contact form below.

 

 

 

The Colorado River – Grand Canyon Rafting Trip

Image Ummm — Check

This trip for hubby’s birthday was BEYOND expectations!  I mean, really, how does a high maintenance girl like me spend 4 days and 3 nights without any electricity, running water (well I guess those rapids on the Colorado could be considered running), potty, shower, mirror, and heaven forbid cell phone or internet access???  What was I thinking when I said, “sure honey, I’d LOVE to take this trip of a lifetime with you for your birthday?”  I’ll tell you what I was thinking… I was thinking, “this martini tastes pretty good!”

So we sign up for our little adventure and off we go, just like to summer camp, “2 pair quick dry shorts, 1 long sleeve fleece top, 1 pair socks, sturdy water sandals, hat, sunscreen… you get the picture.

First up is to arrive at a small airport on the outskirts of Las Vegas.  After each person is weighed, separate from their expertly packed duffel bag, we are assigned a seat so that the weight is equally distributed on our little cigar plane… wouldn’t want this baby flying sideways.ImageWe take the 40 minute or so ride to Whitmore International Airport in Arizona, landing oh so carefully on the dry dirt runway, 80 miles from the nearest town.ImageWe arrive at the Bar 10 Ranch for lunch and a debriefing on the activities for the evening, (horseback riding, 4 wheeler tour down to the river, cowboy lasso school, hike over to the original cabin on the ranch for a history lesson, and the evening’s entertainment by the staff at the ranch).  Just a little chef note – dinner included beef from the cattle being raised on the ranch – it was quite tasty.  The evening was relaxing and we all got to mingle and meet our fellow rafters — you know scope out who you think will and won’t “rock the boat” so you can kind of make your way to the right side of the group when they are dividing you up into groups for the rafts.  For me, that’s basically people who want to get their hair wet versus people who don’t.

Our first night’s accommodations.  Image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next morning after a hearty cowboy breakfast prepared by the fine folks at Bar 10, we were again, weighed, measured and grouped for our next transport.  I can’t begin to describe the exhilaration of getting into a helicopter that literally comes to your doorstep and then leaps off the mountaintop as you make your way down through the cabin landing on the banks of the Colorado River.  

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So we meet on the banks of the river for our next debriefing… distribution of our day dry bags, night dry bags, sleeping bags and an introduction to the guides that will be responsible for keeping us alive for the next several days, both on the water and off.  Our existence is literally in their hands… from picking a campsite, to cooking our meals, to helping locate a missing camper the first morning (SCARY), to treating those suffering from dehydration and hyponatremia (the opposite of dehydration).  Luckily, dear hubby and I were spared of any maladies.

Second night accomodations:  Image

And one of the most invigorating showers ever… 

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There are just soooo many great pics, but none can show what it was really like to experience a trip like this first hand.  Here is the group we shared this wonderful adventure with on our last day ImageSo while that hot shower back at the hotel felt REALLY, REALLY good the next day, the four days spent completely enveloped by nature touched all of my senses and gave me and hub memories of a lifetime.  I am so blessed to have someone in my life that makes me push the envelope and get out of my comfort zone… and have a bucket list worth sharing. 

Just a few of those memories… ImageImageImageImageImage

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the Coolest Cabins ever…

We recently rented this very cool cabin on the Toccoa River in Blue Ridge GA for our anniversary.

Toccoa River Cabin

Toccoa River Cabin

While a cabin that sleeps 14 would be considered a bit excessive for a party of 2,  the cool factor was just too much to resist for my architect husband and me.  There were walls of window facing the river… a two story windowed garage door that opened up the dining area to an outside deck… an indoor / outdoor fireplace… a hot tub… and a beautiful kitchen with concrete countertops.

We spent the first afternoon lounging down by the river soaking up some rays, relaxing and reading.  It was some much needed down time for us both and the comfort communing with nature brings doesn’t come often enough.

River reading chair

River reading chair

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Vintage cookware

We spent the next day taking a scenic train ride into the Copperhill/McCaysville TN/GA area and explored the old mining towns.  While there we enjoyed a burger and onion rings at one of the local establishments, “Roger & Carol’s,” picked up a souvenir train themed necklace for my granddaughter and rummaged through the numerous antique shops, where my amazing hubby threw down some cold hard cash for this beautiful set of vintage enameled cast iron cookware from the 60’s. It was a perfect turquoise color that I just so happen to be using as an accent color throughout the house and it cooks like a dream!  (He conveniently had not already bought me an anniversary present, so this just worked out perfect for everyone!)

The day was finished off with an evening around the fire-pit, eating a delicious homemade pizza from “town,” smoking a cigar (well hubby did, not me) and enjoying a nice bottle of wine.  We completed our long weekend adventure with a two hour rafting trip down the river in a funyak… (basically a kayak shaped blow up inner-tube with room for two).  We started upstream in the Toccoa River and finished 6 miles down, just across the Tennessee state border in the Ocoee River.

The weekend definitely made it an anniversary to remember.

Next up… white rafting down the Colorado River!

“C”olorado River Raft Trip!

I’d like to think that this counts as a “cabin” although the cabin will be a tent on the banks of the Colorado River deep in the Grand Canyon.  First off, I feel very, very lucky – this trip is booked solid throughout 2013!  In fact, back in March when we booked our trip, I think we snagged some of the last slots available and they just so happened to be during DH’s birthday week!  Check out Western River Expeditions here.

photo from www.examiner.com

photo from http://www.examiner.com

So here I am, a self-proclaimed “high maintenance” kind of gal, in a weak moment agreeing to go WAAAYYY out of my comfort zone for several days with what seems to be a trip that will be sans makeup, shower, electricity, running water… you get the picture, to celebrate my husband’s birthday.  (I hope he understands that I like my birthdays to include things like a steam shower, hot tub, wifi, a printed menu… (oh yeah, a food truck — some of you will understand), but I digress  He gets the idea for this birthday adventure from a book I bought him – (I should read the synopsis on Amazon a little more carefully).  He read in the book about an adventure of this kind on the Colorado River, and how the guides do ALL of the work — even preparing your meals, river-side.  Being the foodie/chef that I am, he won me over with the “how will they provide us three (gourmet) meals a day on the banks of the Colorado river?” — if I can’t even take a shower or flat iron my hair!?!?!?

So we make our reservations and get our information packet.  Now I think I’m going to summer camp — 2-3 quick dry shirts, 2 piece rain suit, 1 pair socks… oh and did I mention your suitcase / aka duffle bag can weigh no more than 20 lbs?  WHAT?  This girl needs 3 outfits a day / 4 if there is water involved… day outfit, swimming suit, dinner outfit and sleepwear… multiply that times 4 days and I think that’s in excess of 20 pounds, even without the makeup, hair styling tools and coordinating shoes!  No wonder I never went to summer camp after the year in 6th grade when I spent a week at Treemont in the Great Smokies and broke off my front tooth on the first night!

The countdown has begun – DH and I are both looking to lose a few lbs before the trip to prepare for all of those gourmet meals and so far so good!  He’s down 12+ pounds over the last several weeks and I’m starting on the 5 & 1 plan this week.  And just in case we don’t get those promised gourmet meals on the banks of the Colorado, there’s always the All You Can Eat Buffet’s in every hotel in Las Vegas!

C is for Change

Hugging my best buddy, Tabasco

Hugging my best buddy, Tabasco

I’m sure there’s a reason I happened upon an old posting of mine today which reminded me that I once started a blog and so I went to read it and found that I seem to have been triggered to post in “recent” years when it was a dog-day.  Well, I am sad to say that this big fella just passed last month and so we are empty-nesters in the dog world.  The good news is that now Tabasco is up in doggie-heaven playing with RocksAnne and telling her how much we still miss and love her; the bad news is that Tabasco had to go way too soon due to cancer.  When we lost RocksAnne, we already had Tabasco, so while her loss was painful, we still had someone to greet us when we came home from work, finish our dinner plates (with our without permission and sometimes before we were actually finished, or even started), take our spot on the couch the minute we got up to do something and comfort/protect us by sleeping in our bed at our feet at night… not to mention taking up more and more space in the bed during the night and kicking us when he had those all too familiar “chasing rabbits” dreams.  (I miss those bruises on my legs.)

So here we are… dog-less.  For the first time in 15 years… sad times, but I would not trade one day of this sadness for any of the days of joy these dogs brought us day after day after day… remember, dog is God spelled backwards.

Getting Back in the Swing of Things

Tabasco2

Tabasco

It’s been a rough few weeks – everyone in the house is missing RocksAnne – including our other Chessie, Tabasco.  He’s our 4 year old baby, so hopefully we’ve got a long wait before having to endure this kind of heartbreak again.

I was doing ok until the following Tuesday night when I went to make dinner and RocksAnne’s rug in the kitchen was empty… she loved lying there watching and waiting — watching for me to drop something on the floor, knowing it would be “hers” as soon as I turned my back, and waiting for me to bring her a sample of whatever concoction I was cooking up.  My girl was the best mop on the market – she left not a single crumb on my floor tiles!

So the rest of the time has been filled with lots of neighborhood walks with Tabasco – in fact on the Thursday after we were about 15 minutes into the walk, he dug his heels/paws in and just said, “no, mommy – I can’t do this walk again today.”  Remember, you only “negotiate” with a Chessie, so we promptly headed back home.  I gave him a few days off before starting “occasional” walks after.

In addition to the walking, I’ve been cooking, testing recipes to add to my personal chef client menus.  I’ve had some great inspirations from my fellow chefs at the USPCA (United States Personal Chef Association) as well as looking for recipes to use up the goodies brought in this weeks basket from our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), Delvin Farms.

Amongst the goodies I cooked and stocked in our freezer this week is my first attempt at “raw” cooking.  Sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it?  A raw food diet (or living foods diet) is a dietary regimen consisting of uncooked and unprocessed organic foods.  I made a “raw” Key Lime Pie.  This dessert concoction was made from a host of ingredient, some seemed common, some not so common.  The crust was a mixture of coconut, macadamia nuts, lime zest and agave nectar… the filling ingredients included lime juice and zest, cold-pressed coconut oil, more agave nectar and avocados!  At this point I’m thinking the calorie and fat content must far exceed it’s “processed” counterpart, yet reports are that eating a raw diet is healthy and often results in weight loss.  Healthy — yes, weight loss — I’m not convinced.  However — I’m basing that on this one recipe experience.

The tasting:  I thought it was a great substitute, but obviously not the real thing.  Middle daughter (who is totally interested in this kind of thing) wants no one else to eat any of it.  In fact she scooped up 3/4 of the pie and took it to her vegan friends.  A few days later we went to a gathering at her space, Little Hamilton, and at the door when I said, “I’m Laura’s mom,” three people immediately said, “OH! You’re the one that made the key lime pie!  It was amazing!”  I can’t tell you how good it makes me feel to be known for my food!

In Honor of RocksAnne

RocksAnneI did the hardest thing I have ever done today.  I took my beloved 12 year old Chesapeake Bay Retriever, RocksAnne, to the vet to be put to sleep.  I won’t go into all of the issues she was having that zapped away her doggie joys, but let it suffice to say that my sweet baby girl is resting peacefully with all her doggie-ness restored.

This photo above is from quite a few years ago at one of the cabins in the woods we frequent.  She would hike with us, take a dip in the creeks nearby and chase critters in the woods.

A Chesapeake Bay Retriever is similar to a Labrador, but with curly thick hair.  There is a saying that you train a Labrador, you negotiate with a Chessie!  We have found that to be fact.  When I first got RocksAnne at 4 months old, I had a chain link fence put in my backyard so she would have a safe place to play – within a week she had literally unwound the chain link and escaped.  We repaired the fence and eventually “negotiated” with her to keep the peace and stay inside the fence.  The next summer I put in a flower/herb garden within the chain link fence area… she liked digging in my garden, so I installed an underground electric fence around the garden and put the collar on her.  The collar would give her a warning beep when she got within a certain proximity of the garden, if she proceeded to get closer, she would get a gentle shock… My smart girl took only days to figure out if she just stood there while the collar beeped, the battery would eventually run down and then she could dig up the electric fence wire without getting shocked!  How do you negotiate with your four legged friend when she is secretly reading the dog version of Popular Science?

We had some awesome times – sitting in the closet waiting for the storms to pass, replacing daddy’s favorite shoes that you thought tasted so good, getting the feathers out of your mouth when you caught your first duck, sizing up every stranger the other kids brought home before giving them your approval, swimming in the pond at Maury County, staying in too many cabins to count, and just sitting together in the same room.

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RocksAnne Jan 2, 1997 – Jun 8, 2009

Rest in peace my sweet, sweet girl – you served us well and were a brave girl to the last moment.  We love you!

Pig Candy… aka Bacon Peanut Brittle

Pig Candy

Pig Candy

Being a personal chef and a member of the United States Personal Chef Association comes with its priviledges.  One of them is the access to many, many wonderful (and sometimes quite unique) recipes.  I stumbled across this recipe last week and just couldn’t resist making it for my husband – a HUGE bacon and brittle fan – who knew he could have both together???

Not being known for my great success at baking, except for cheesecakes, I was a little hesitant to try something as delicate as peanut brittle, but it really came together quite easy.  The main trick is having all of your ingredients measured out and ready to go because once the syrup/sugar mixture starts to boil, things go down in a flash!

Pig Candy aka Bacon Peanut Brittle

2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 tablespoon pure ground ancho chili*, or to taste
Pinch of ground Cayenne pepper
1 cup whole salted, roasted peanuts
2 cups cooked, crumbled Applewood bacon, fully rendered and drained well
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 teaspoon baking soda

Butter a baking sheet with about ½ tablespoon of the butter and set aside.

Place sugar and corn syrup in a large, heavy 4 or 5 quart saucepan over medium-high heat, stir the sugar and corn syrup until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is bubbly and is pale golden brown. Add the ground chile and cayenne and cook for 2-3 minutes longer or until the sugar mixture has reached the hard-crack stage, about 300ºF if you are using a candy thermometer.

Take off the heat and working very quickly, stir in the remaining 1 ½ tablespoons of butter and then beat in the baking soda. Add the peanuts and bacon and mix well. Immediately pour onto the prepared baking sheet—it should even itself out, but if it doesn’t, smooth with a spatula and let cool.

Break the brittle into pieces by giving the entire tray a sharp slap on the kitchen counter. If it is made right, that’s all it will take! Store Brittle in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Makes about 1 lb

Recipe Tip*:
The ground ancho chile peppers make a big difference in this recipe so don’t leave them out. If you can’t find them ground in your local store, buy whole dried ancho chiles; they are available every where—I’ve even seen them at convenience stores! I actually prefer grinding them myself and never buy the chile already ground.

Here’s what you do: tear the chile in half and discard the seeds and stem and anything that is hard. The chiles should have a leathery texture, not a brittle one. Put the pieces of chile in a spice grinder, a.k.a. coffee grinder, and process until you have a tablespoon of “ground” ancho chile. Make sure you taste before you put in the brittle. The heat factor varies from chile to chile. Ancho chiles should taste a little fruity with a light heat. Store any extra in a jar with a tight fitting lid for up to 3 months.

Recipe Courtesy of Elizabeth Karmel

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