Being Mrs. Pierce

Life as a wife, hiker, wanna-be chef, book-lover, traveler, and now, mom-to-be

Colorado Bend State Park: Gorman Falls June 13, 2017

Filed under: Hiking — skpierce12 @ 9:35 PM

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Yesterday morning we ventured out for our second hike of the summer.  The day’s destination was Colorado Bend State Park.  Twice last year we visited the park, but it was this third trip in which we made the hike to the park’s most famous site: Gorman Falls.

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We headed out on the trail at 8:45 AM, as we wanted to beat the heat.  The weather was in the 70s and rather humid but also partly cloudy and breezy, which is about as good as it gets for a hike in Texas in June.

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The first part of the Gorman Falls trail was a combination of open grasslands and oak groves.

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A lovely vista presented itself as we hiked toward the falls.

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James was a little too sleepy to fully enjoy the view.

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The path was rocky, so we had to watch our step as we trekked down the trail.

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Once we passed the 1-mile mark, we could hear the falls in the distance.  Suddenly, we were upon them!

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The trail first led us to a view of the upper part of the falls.

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By then, James was wide awake and very intrigued by the falling water.  We couldn’t get a good picture of him in front of the falls because he kept squirming around in order to look at the water!

After taking in the upper part of the falls, we carefully descended the rocky hill to the base of the falls.  Holding on to the metal railing was necessary to prevent slipping down the rocks.  But what a reward awaited us!

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Taking in the beauty of the falls was especially memorable because we were the only ones there.  What a rare experience that is at a popular hiking spot!  We were able to be still, listen to the water and other nature sounds, and take our pictures without jostling or interruption.

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We also took a family selfie.  Clearly James needs further instructions on smiling for the camera.

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He was more interested in playing with his daddy’s hat strings.

The hike back to the trailhead was mostly uphill, but it was easier than we’d feared on the way in.  We hiked the 3-mile out-and-back trail in an hour and a half.

We then drove to the other side of the park for a picnic lunch in the day use area by the river.

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We spotted a turtle making his way across the picnic area in order to reach the river.

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After eating, we showed James the murky Colorado River up close.

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James was more interested in getting my hat.  James likes hats – unless they are his own.

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Our morning at Colorado Bend could not have gone better.  The falls are well worth the moderate hike it takes to see them!

 

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area: Loop Trail revisited June 11, 2017

Filed under: Hiking — skpierce12 @ 10:22 AM

For our first hike of the summer, John, James, and I made a return visit to Enchanted Rock to hike the Loop Trail.  John and I hiked the trail last year while I was 6 months pregnant, so it was fun to revisit the hike with baby James in tow.

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I carried James in our Ergobaby, which I have loved.  James likes being in the Ergo as long as I keep moving, which means we don’t linger at sights like we used to.

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After some quick pics at the pavilion, we embarked upon the Loop Trail.  Someday we’ll hike the Summit Trail together, but it’s going to be when James is able to hike up it himself.  He’s already weighs 20 pounds, after all.  That’s a lot of baby to carry around!

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We hiked counterclockwise around the loop this year, so we began by crisscrossing Sandy Creek.  Unlike last time, the creek area was deserted.  We would encounter few hikers on the entire trail; it seemed most of the park visitors set their sights on reaching the summit.  The park was the least crowded I had ever seen it in general.  I’m sure the summer temps had something to do with it, although we also were there on a Thursday morning.

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We set out on the trail around 8:30 AM.  The forecast had been partly cloudy, but the morning would be bright and sunny.  We were glad we made the early start, as most of the trail is unshaded.

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James fell asleep early in the hike, so he missed seeing the rear view of Enchanted Rock with the “slip and slide” rocks.

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We did not divert to Moss Lake or the scenic overlook this year, as the morning was warming up quickly and James was hungry after waking from his nap.

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We briefly paused to take in the rock outcroppings and hill country vistas near the end of the hike, but we all were tired and hot.

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Especially James.

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Overall we thoroughly enjoyed hiking the Loop Trail again, and I’m positive it’ll be one of our go-to hikes in the future.  We decided we prefer to hike the trail clockwise, as it’s a slightly easier hike than the counterclockwise version.  We also decided that we are out of shape and that we have a lot of training to do before hiking the Canadian Rockies next month!

 

The Forgotten Garden January 2, 2017

Filed under: Reading — skpierce12 @ 11:53 AM

For my 11th book of my 2016 reading challenge, I chose The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton.  It was my mom’s recommendation for my list, and she picked it for me after enjoying the audiobook version.

 

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I was supposed to have read this in November in order to stay on track for completion of the challenge by the end of 2016, but I was in the midst of Ron Chernow’s George Washington biography when November started.  The plan was to wrap up Washington: A Life by mid-November, but my reading pace is at a crawl these days with Mr. Baby being in the picture and me being back at work.  I ended up setting aside the biography and picking up The Forgotten Garden at Thanksgiving break.  It then took me until Christmas to read Morton’s novel, which is fairly lengthy at over 500 pages.  I’m tackling my final book of the challenge, The Captured: A True Story of Abduction by Indians on the Texas Frontier, here at the start of 2017.  After that, I’ll finally finish the Washington bio.

 

The Forgotten Garden is centered around a core question: Why was 4-year-old Nell put on a ship bound for Australia from England in 1913 by herself, with no paperwork identifying her or her parentage?  Many other mysterious questions revolve around this main one, and Morton, as the novel progresses, slowly reveals the answers.  For most of the book, I thought Morton’s revelations were well paced and her shifts in point of view and time well plotted.  The characters span 4 generations of women, and each in turn has her own secrets to reveal.  My one qualm with the novel was Morton’s execution of the big reveal.  She had given so many hints in the 100 pages ahead of the big revelation that it was no revelation at all.  Instead, her characters come across as either blind or incompetent to the truth that is so apparent to the reader.

 

This slight annoyance, however, was not enough to severely dim my enjoyment of the book.  I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking to lose oneself in a solid fictional tale.

 

 

The Mystic Way of Evangelism October 30, 2016

Filed under: Reading — skpierce12 @ 7:25 AM

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My brother-in-law BJ selected The Mystic Way of Evangelism: A Contemplative Vision for Christian Outreach by Elaine Heath for me to read as part of my 2016 reading challenge, and I selected it to be my pick for October.  BJ completed his Doctor of Ministry degree last year, and he read The Mystic Way of Evangelism in one of his classes.

 

I’ll be honest.  I was intimidated to read this book.  Despite regular church attendance for much of my life, I have little background knowledge on theology.  Apart from one class on the Old Testament that I took as an undergrad, the depth of my theological understanding ends at the Sunday School level.  The introduction only confirmed my uneasiness.  Apophatic?  Kataphatic?  I was indeed out of my comfort zone.

 

Yet the further I read in Heath’s book, the more interested I became.  She spotlights several mystics from history, some of whom I knew (Julian of Norwich, for example) and many of whom I did not (Thomas R. Kelly and Father Arseny to name just two).  I was a history major, so I enjoyed learning about these historical religious figures.

 

The Mystic Way of Evangelism is primarily aimed at pastors and those training pastors, but I found plenty of material with which to connect.  Heath promotes a missional view of evangelism grounded in love.  Rather than preaching fire and brimstone, evangelism in the mystic way is about showing the love of Christ through caring, giving actions.  This is something all Christians, not just their pastors, should aim to do.

 

Heath criticizes the modern church in America, and the more I read, the more I agreed with her.  We’ve largely lost the missional aspect of our faith.  Many churches are more concerned with building massive complexes for themselves than with serving the neighborhoods around them.  Having lived in DFW for most of my life, I have observed this for myself over and over.  How much does it say about our country that missionaries from some of the poorest nations in the world are now coming HERE, the most prosperous nation on earth, to conduct their mission work?

 

In the final part of the book, Heath offers a number of strategies for pastors and churches to take to correct the path of Christianity in America.  They sound wonderful on paper (bivocational pastors, smaller churches, eco-evangelism, etc.), but even as I read I was doubtful about the reality of a nationwide change.   In this, I was struck by the similarity of my cynical reaction to education books I’ve read over the past 8 years.  Yes, churches and schools need overhauling, but how in the world do you get everyone on board?  The answer, of course, is that you don’t; you start small with yourself and your specific church or school.  It’s certainly better to try than to say nothing will ever change.  I pray that I will put some of what I read in Heath’s book into action myself.

 

So despite my initial uneasiness, I ended up giving The Mystic Way of Evangelism 4 stars on Goodreads.  It’s very much a worthy, thought-provoking, action-inducing read.

 

Fall Baking October 26, 2016

Filed under: Cooking — skpierce12 @ 8:54 PM

We always have a long wait for fall weather to come and stay here in central Texas, but we’ve had enough cooler mornings of late to get me in the mood to turn on my oven and bake.  I’ve also wanted to take advantage of my last few weeks of maternity leave to restock our chest freezer before life really gets crazy.  Marriage, motherhood, work, personal time…I know millions of women out there do this juggling act daily, but I’ll be learning how to do so for the first time as a working mother come October 31.

 

I kicked off my fall-inspired baking spree earlier this month with these Pumpkin Crumb Cake Muffins from Sally’s Baking Addiction.  My friend DM introduced me to this blog a while back, and I finally got around to making one of the enticing recipes from it.  Despite the worry about how long it might take (I never really know when Mr. Baby will awaken and want to eat, after all), I made all three components–muffin, crumb topping, and icing.  I saved time by measuring out the muffin and crumb ingredients at the same time, as there is a lot of overlap on what’s needed.  To make these rich muffins slightly more healthy, I substituted whole wheat pastry flour for some of the all-purpose flour and used unsweetened applesauce in place of the oil.  My icing turned out much thicker than Sally’s, and it definitely ended up looking globular on top as opposed to her more artistic drizzles.  This may have been partly due to the fact that my crumbs spread apart quite a bit during baking, so there were gaps in which the icing pooled.  Appearance-wise, my muffins weren’t the prettiest I’ve ever seen.  Taste-wise, though, they were worth the effort.  These muffins were delicious, even with my substitutions, spreading crumbs, and gloppy icing.  They had just the right amount of pumpkin flavor, and I loved the contrast between the moist muffin and the crumbly bits on top.  I would highly recommend them as a special breakfast treat or afternoon snack.

 

For my next baking project, I stuck with muffins (which freeze well and are already individually portioned) and made the Skinnytaste Maple Pecan Banana Muffins.  I’ve had wonderful luck with Skinnytaste recipes, and I love Gina’s Skinnytaste Cookbook.  I was especially drawn to this recipe because of its lack of refined sugars.  My husband, John, doesn’t like his breakfasts super-sweet, and I’ve been trying to watch my sugar intake a bit more closely lately (easier said than done).  A maple syrup-sweetened muffin seemed perfect.  This time, I followed the recipe exactly.  And this time, my muffins looked exactly like the pictures on Gina’s blog.  I loved these muffins!  While they are not of the BEST MUFFINS EVER caliber, they aren’t trying to be.  They are a healthy-but-tasty, everyday kind of muffin, and I will make them again.

 

Next up were Pumpkin Waffles.  I’m a longtime Ellie Krieger fan and own all of her cookbooks.  I’ve been trying out a few new recipes from her most recent, You Have It Made, and the pumpkin waffles caught my eye.  I rarely make waffles, but every once in a while I get in the mood for them.  I liked the healthy aspects to these waffles, which included whole wheat flour, flaxseed meal, and no sugar.  I followed the recipe exactly, but I ended up finding them to be a disappointment.  There was something off-balance with the pumpkin flavor of these – it was somehow both too much and too little at the same time.  The recipe yielded 8 large waffles, so after John and I ate breakfast, I had 6 for the freezer.  I’ll eat them up so as not to be wasteful, but I’ll look for another recipe next time I get a hankering for a homemade waffle.

 

The waffles called for 1 cup of pumpkin puree, so I went looking for a way to use up the rest of the can.  I didn’t have to look far, as Ellie Krieger’s Pumpkin Spice Overnight Oats in Jars recipe, also from You Have It Made, sounded worth a try.  (I realize this is not a baked goods recipe, but it’s autumnal so I’m writing about it here anyway!)  I prepared the oats around lunchtime one day, and we tried them the next morning.  I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked them!  I’ve had hit-or-miss luck with overnight oatmeal recipes in the past, so I was wary when I first opened up my jar to take my first spoonful.  But it had just the right amount of sweetness to it, the pumpkin spice flavoring was spot-on, and the add-ins (walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and dried cranberries) added texture and flavor.  John wasn’t as big of a fan, as he didn’t like being able to taste the plain yogurt (he hates yogurt on its own unless it’s of the frozen variety).  I, however, would make these for myself again!  Plus, they are just pretty to look at:

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Finally, I made up a batch of The Pioneer Woman’s Maple Oat Nut Scones last week.  My mother-in-law first made these during the holidays one year, and since then they’ve been a favorite among the Pierces.  When I was needing a baked goods thank-you gift for some of John’s students who kindly cleaned up our yard after some other students toilet-papered it (oh the joys of being married to a high school teacher), I almost immediately thought of these scones.  They are decadent and unhealthy, but oh-my-goodness they are delicious.  The only change I ever make to this recipe is to divide the dough into 2 balls, which then yields 16 reasonable-sized scones rather than 8 massive ones.  They were amazing, as always, and the perfect end to my month of autumn baking.

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Happy Fall and Happy Baking to you!

 

Calling Me Home September 13, 2016

Filed under: Reading — skpierce12 @ 2:06 PM

Thanks to the arrival of Baby Pierce last month, I got an early start on my September reading challenge book, Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler.  Postpartum recovery and breastfeeding allowed me lots of sitting–aka reading–time.  I chose Calling Me Home to read next because a digital version of it was available for check-out from our local library.  I’m finding it easier to use my iPad to read books while holding and nursing our newborn son.

 

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My sister, Julie, recommended Calling Me Home to me.  As an elementary school teacher and mother of two young girls, Julie reads picture books aplenty but finds reading time for herself difficult to come by.   However, the librarian at her school gave her a copy of Kibler’s novel last year, and she chose it for me to read, also.  In Julie’s words, “It is significant to me because I am actually still reading it. :)”

 

Calling Me Home follows two unlikely friends–89-year-old Isabelle McAllister and her 30-something hair stylist, Dorrie Curtis–as they travel from Texas to Cincinnati for a funeral.  Isabelle is white; Dorrie is black.  On the road, Isabelle tells Dorrie her story, which is illustrated in the novel as a series of flashbacks to 1939.  At seventeen, Isabelle fell in love with Robert Prewitt, a young black man who worked for her family in a small Kentucky town which forbid African Americans from within its boundaries after dark.  Calling Me Home is essentially Isabelle and Robert’s story, although Isabelle’s reflections on the past have a profound influence on Dorrie, a single mother of two with her own romantic difficulties.

 

I was skeptical of the novel at first, as the writing was a bit too colloquial for my taste and the plot appeared to be predictable.  While my opinion of the writing remained unchanged to the end, my initial assessment of the plot did not.  Kibler surprised me, in a good way, with her story arc more than once.  She kept me reading, intrigued about what else she was going to reveal.

 

Calling Me Home also felt timely, despite its focus on the past.  Kibler weaves in some of the modern-day realities of being black in America rather than neatly saying that all is now resolved between blacks and whites.  Just one look at the headlines of today shows that racial divisions remain.  I appreciate that Kibler did not gloss over that fact.

 

In the end, I gave Calling Me Home a solid 3 stars on Goodreads.

 

Living Jesus September 3, 2016

Filed under: Reading — skpierce12 @ 2:10 PM

For my August reading challenge book, I selected Living Jesus: Doing What Jesus Says in the Sermon on the Mount by Randy Harris.  Loveta, my mother-in-law, chose this book for me to read after she had read and studied it in Bible class at church.  Randy Harris is a popular author in the Pierce family, as my husband took a class of his while studying at Abilene Christian University.  Living Jesus was to be my first experience with Harris’s work.

 

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Harris discusses one portion of the Sermon on the Mount in each chapter of the book.  I limited myself to reading just one chapter per night so that I could contemplate Harris’s observations, explanations, and challenges.  Yes, challenges.  Ultimately this book is a challenge to, as the subtitle indicates, do what Jesus says. Oftentimes this means thinking deeply about what Jesus is saying in the Sermon on the Mount.  For example, in chapter 7 Harris examines Matthew 5:33-37 in which Jesus instructs us not to swear oaths.  Harris believes Jesus means this directive to be more about maintaining high integrity–avoiding/correcting lies big or small, confessing wrongs, etc.–than about just avoiding oath swearing.  Harris writes, “The goal here is to examine our hearts and to expose the roots of our dishonesty” (p. 82).  He admits this isn’t easy, but Jesus didn’t care about making things easy for us.

 

I enjoyed taking a slow, in-depth look at the Sermon on the Mount, which in the past I’ve quickly read but never really studied.  I definitely had to stop and examine how I am fulfilling or failing Jesus’s challenges, which was one of Harris’s goals in writing the book.  His writing is very accessible, and I can easily see why he’s popular not just among my family but at ACU and beyond.  I gave the book 4 stars on Goodreads.