Friday, November 30, 2012

Field Trip #2

Last weekend a group of students that are taking historical geology got to go on a field trip to Petit Jean State Park, located just outside of Little Rock.  I went along so that next semester I can run the field trip.  We saw some really beautiful rocks, especially the one below with Liesegang banding (the red/brown circular layers in the rock).  These bands are made of iron that coalesces when water (in this case seawater) passes through the rocks.  It's so beautiful to see.

This is an old waterfall at Petit Jean State Park.  I just love the bedding layers in this waterfall.  There are people at the top center for scale.

Could not have asked for a more gorgeous day.  Nothing beats a good day in the field!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Field Trip!

One of the perks of my job is getting to go on field trips.  I tell people all the time that a day in the field is so much more fulfilling than a day in the classroom.  Students learn more by having an opportunity to look at the rocks first hand and having time to evaluate what is going here.  Here are a couple of pictures that one of my students took while I was teaching about the formation of the Ouachita Mountains.  In the first picture students almost had heart failure when I put a piece of kaolinite clay on my tongue (the clay absorbs water and sticks to your tongue.  They couldn't believe I would put a rock in my mouth...haha).

In this next picture I am teaching students about the different rock layers and describing how Little Rock used to be under very deep ocean water.  By looking at the rocks we can see how sea level changed over millions of years.  The students could not believe we were standing where a very deep ocean used to be.

Love my days in the field!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


One of my most favorite foods is soup.  I can eat it all year round, and very often do.  My favorite lunch is a half of a sandwich and a cup of soup.  There's nothing quite like it.

I received some ham steaks in my meat-share a couple of weeks ago and decided to try this recipe that I found on allrecipes.  The soup was so easy to make, and the flavor was absolutely delicious.  Definitely one of my most favorite soups ever.  I highly recommend you try this on the next chilly night.  Pair it with a bit of warm buttered bread and it's a perfect combination to warm up your insides.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My 2-Year Project...DONE!

As most people know, I love maps...and travel.  In fact, I collect globes and have a room in my house dedicated to places I've been.  I first saw this project here, and purchase the supplies almost immediately.  I have been trying to complete this project for a year and a half...yes, seriously.  I purchases all of the supplies before I left Knoxville.  Then I had to put everything in storage when I moved to Connecticut.  I decided this would be one of my first projects to complete now that I have moved to Little Rock.

Overall, I like the artwork.  However, there are a few things I'd change.  First - buy a map that isn't shiny!!  I don't really like the shine at all.  Next - figure out a way to glue the map down without causing bubbles between the canvas and map.  These bubbles are really irritating me and there is no way to get rid of them...grrr.  Mod Podge is not my friend....nor is the spray adhesive I bought.  Finally, I think I'd hang the pieces a little further apart from each other in the future, maybe an inch apart.  Maybe you wouldn't notice the slight errors in spacing so much.

All in all, I like it.  Hope you do too!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving Weekend...

This Thanksgiving weekend has been really nice.  I've been working very hard at work with no real break time.  I'd had a couple of offers to spend the holiday with friends, but I just decided I'd really like to have the four days off to myself, to do things I've wanted to do.  I can't even begin to tell you how much this has rejuvenated me!  I feel like a completely new person.

On the night before Thanksgiving I put together the dough for these Soft Almond Sugar Cookies.  I couldn't wait to try these after finding the recipe online here.  Almond is one of my most favorite flavors!  Anyway, the next morning I pulled the dough out of the fridge and got to baking.  According to the recipe you should not bake for more than 8 minutes.  I tried that, really I did.  But the cookies came out completely undercooked.  My oven temperature is right on so I know it wasn't that.  I decided to bake for a bit longer and found that 10 minutes did the trick.  These cookies are really flavorful.  You should give them a try!


Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Just a feel for what's going on...

Here's a view of about half of the posters from one day of GSA.  There are five days of posters, so you can imagine how many I visit.  Don't forget, there are thousands of talks going on as well.  Anyway,  I am usually one of those standing in front of a poster, presenting my new research.  This time I decided I just wanted to attend GSA and not present - boy was that a mistake!  I really felt disconnected from this meeting.  I won't do that again, unless I truly have nothing to present.

I am, however, recharged when it comes to my research and my teaching!  I purchased a new volume entitled "Teaching Paleontology" and am finding a lot of motivation.  It's one of those books of individual papers that I will read completely through.

Headed back home today.  Can't wait to pick up my little Honor Pookie Lewis.  I miss her so much!!


Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Charlotte GSA

I'm having a great time in Charlotte with my group of friends from UT.  We've been listening to tons of great talks and doing all kinds of fun things.  Once a year is not enough to be able to get together.


Friday, November 02, 2012

My New Favorite Thing...

 A couple of weeks ago I joined a farmshare/meatshare.  Each week I pick up this huge bag of fresh veggies straight from the farm and picked that very morning.  One of the items I've received every week is kale.  A lot of kale.  I am so lucky in that I work with someone who also joined the farmshare and said "hey, want to try my kale chips?"  Instantaneously I was in love.  They are so easy to make, too. 
First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (175 C).  Clean your kale by rinsing it under some cool water.  Strip the leaves off the stems and dry.  I use a salad spinner for this.  Cut or tear the veggies into bite-sized pieces and place on a cookie sheet.

Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over the top and sprinkle with seasoning of your choice.  I quite like the spice blend above.  Bake for 10-15 minutes until chips are crisp.

Remove from baking sheet and place in airtight container.  They are delicious, and so healthy for you too.


Thursday, November 01, 2012

Outside the Office Window...

I was witness to a standoff the other day outside my office window.  This hawk landed in one of the trees.  Two squirrels were running up and down the tree, chattering away and calling to each other.  The hawk moved from limb to limb.  We thought it was trying to catch one of the squirrels, but we're not so sure because the squirrels kept running past the hawk on the other side of the tree trunk, and the hawk did nothing.  Finally, the hawk flew upwards near a nest.  We don't know if the nest belonged to the squirrels or the hawk.  It isn't a very large nest.  The hawk did not remove anything from the nest though.  So now we've got two possibilities...was the hawk going into the squirrels nest for food, or does the nest belong to the hawk and the squirrels were trying to get an egg.  We're just not sure, but we tend to think the nest must belong to the squirrels because the hawk hasn't been back around, nor is it time for egg laying.

Such excitement...right outside my office window!!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Scared Nearly to Death!

Was driving down to the dog park the other day and passed this halloween decoration.  It is suspended by the head and turns in the breeze.  As I was driving past it was like it was following me with it's eyes.  Scared the hell out of me!!  I nearly lost control of my car as I took a double take.  Yea, it is that creepy!

Hope you have a happy halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Spooky, Spooky!

I bought these cute hand towels a couple of year ago at Target and I just love them.  I think they are adorably cute and they look so nice in my guest bathroom.  They are really the only decorating I do now that the boys are grown and have moved away from home.  Franky, in the middle, is my favorite.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Field Trip Day!

I say it all the time..."there's nothing quite like a day in the field" and this day was no exception.  The weather was beautiful, although a bit chilly as we started off.  My friend, Mike, led the field trip for some of our introductory physical geology students.  The purpose is to help put all of the topics they've been learning (in both lecture and lab) into real-world situations.  I also think it makes the students look at the Earth entirely differently.  Here we see Mike showing students ripple marks in the sandstone layers.  This area used to be covered by ocean.


This picture is a zenolith at one of the sites we stop at.  This is a chunk of shale (sedimentary rock characteristic of deep sea) that broke off and got caught up in molten magma.  As it tumbled around, the shale folded, probably as a response to high temperatures and banging around in the magma before solidification.

A day in the field beats any day in the classroom!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Birthday Presents!

I got the best package from William and Tiffany for my birthday!  William knows how much I love British candy, so he sent me a package with some of my favorites.  I still have one package of the buttons left.  I am hoarding those!  Tiffany picked out the bacon candy.  It's a little different.  Reminds me of a mint candy without the mint but with a bit of smokieness.  It's not half bad.

I laughed, I got sad, when I read "All my friends are dead"....such a cool book.
They also bought me a mini dinosaur dig present.  I'll post pictures of my adventures soon.
Love, love my presents!!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Who doesn't love banana bread?

I have had a long-standing rule for myself - except in times when it's not possible, I only allow myself to eat sweets that I have baked.  I figure it this way, I know what's going into the baked goods and I also have to do some work for the rewards.  Now, I've never been good at baking banana bread.  Not sure why but I can never get the center to set.  That was, until I found the following recipe in one of my old Pillsbury cookbooks.  I share the recipe with you here.  It seems to come out perfect every time.

Banana Bread

3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. margarine or butter, softened
2 eggs
1 cup (2 medium) mashed ripe bananas
1/3 c. milk
2 c. all purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease bottom only of 9x5 or 8x4 inch loaf pan (I now use parchment paper instead of it!)  In large bowl, beat sugar and butter until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs.  Add bananas, milk, and vanilla; blend well.  In small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt; mix well.  Add to banana mixture; stir just until dry ingredients are moistened.  Pour into greased pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool 5 minutes; remove from pan.  Cool completely.  Wrap tightly and store in refrigerator (or you could do like I do...slice it, put the slices in ziploc bags, and store in the freezer.  This way I just have to grab one little packet when I want a slice, and putting it in the freezer helps maintain its freshness).


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Old-Fashioned Pot Roast

My week is always so busy now with teaching five classes at school.  I've been trying to do some cooking on the weekends so that I have lunches and dinners ready for the week.  I was able to get a good deal on a chuck roast the other day and thought I'd make an old-fashioned pot roast.  You know the kind, where it cooks for a few hours over a low stove burner.  My ex-husband's grandmother made one of the best pot roasts I've ever had and I am always trying to recreate it.  She was a lovely lady...probably the only one in his family that understood me.  Broke my heart when I had to tell her we were getting a divorce.  Anyway, I digress...

The pot roast came out lovely.  Here's what I did.

Make a dredge of flour, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Dredge your pot roast in that.
Put a few tablespoons of oil in the bottom of a heavy duty dutch oven and heat.
Put roast in the dutch oven and allow to brown on both sides.
Pour in a can of Progresso French Onion Soup.
Add one chopped onion and 2 stalks of celery, chopped.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for one hour over the low flame.
Add 3 medium potatoes and 3 carrots, chopped.
Cover and allow to simmer again over the low flame for about an hour and a half to two hours.
Allow to cool so you don't burn your mouth on its deliciousness.
There's nothing like old fashioned cooking.

 After eating dinner I divided up the roast and veggies into 5 individual containers.  Lunch for the week!  This also freezes well, but I don't like the texture of frozen potatoes so I just refrigerate mine.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Pet Palace...

Honor is going to be staying at a Pet Palace while I am gone to GSA in a few weeks.  This will be her first time there.  Before your pet can be boarded, he/she must show proof of shots and fill out some basic paperwork.  I stopped by with Honor the other day to turn in the paperwork and they had the whole place decorated for Halloween!  I simple could not pass up the opportunity to have Honor pose in front of this decorated dog house outside of the Pet Palace.  It's okay, I made up for forcing her to have her picture taken by taking her to Petco to get some fresh Greenies.  They are one of her favorites.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Ode to a Diner...

 I was headed home after the NWS open house and saw this little place, called Hunka Pie (yes, I do realize it says Starlite Diner, but there is a little sign that says it's now called Hunka Pie...go figure..haha).  Anyone that knows me knows that I have a thing for diners and also for supporting independent businesses.  It was lunchtime so I figured I'd stop for a bite.  I was not disappointed.

 I always seem to order a hotdog when I stop in to a diner.  I love, LOVE hotdogs but I rarely make them at home.  Today I tried a bacon wrapped hotdog and an order of hand-dipped onion rings.  The hotdog was okay (the bacon was too crispy because it had been deep fried and I thought I was going to lose a tooth on one piece), but the onion rings were unbelievably good!  I could have eaten a whole order of just those.  And then it was time for dessert.  What to have...what to have....hmmm...

Which one shall I choose...which one shall I choose....they all looked so delicious in the pie cabinet, and the waitress told me that they were fresh baked every day.  So I decided to go with my favorite pie flavor...Key Lime.

This pie was great!  I think the baker puts some brown sugar in the graham cracker crust because it had a caramel taste to it.  There was also just the right amount of butter to hold it all together.  I also liked that he didn't color the key lime green!  After 2 bites I had to ask for a to-go box because I was so full.  All in all, a pretty darn delicious stop.  I love having days where I feed both my mind and my tummy.

What's your favorite pie flavor?  Can you pick just one?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

National Weather Service Open House...

Took today off to just have some fun.  The Little Rock NWS was having an open house for the first time in 20 years.  Because I am such a science nerd, I went and had a wonderful time.  The crew was so kind and really explained everything that was going on.  We didn't have any severe weather, but I bet this place gets humming when we do.  Above is a picture of one of the many arrays of computers, all keeping an eye on the skies for us.

 When I went outside I wandered amongst the booths and look who I ran into!  I just had to have my picture taken with Smokey the Bear.

This is the array of rain gauges behind the NWS office.  Some of them tell how much rain you've had by the weight.  The information is sent electronically into the NWS office so that those that are working there don't have to go outside to check the gauges.
One of the highlights of the day was the release of a weather balloon.  It's quite amazing how quickly it goes up once released.  The meteorologists said that at maximum size, the balloon becomes about 30 feet across due to changes in pressure as it gets higher into the atmosphere.  Then, it pops.  The balloons aren't recovered by anyone at the NWS.  Instead, they are self-proclaimed "litter bugs" and hope that people that come across them will mail them back (there is a postage-paid part on the balloon so that it can just be dropped into the mailbox).

This is the tower that tracks the weather balloon.  I think it's a pretty structure.
All in all, a fabulous day!

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Hillcrest Harvest Festival

Mike and I went to the Harvest Festival on Saturday.  What a great time!!  The weather was absolutely perfect for a day outside.  Hillcrest shuts down all of Kavanaugh Avenue for this event.  There were a lot of vendors selling jewelry - I had to really stop myself from buying anything because I've bought so much jewelry lately.


One of the first things we did was become a part of the Cheese Dip Contest!  For $2 you get to taste and vote on all of these cheese dips.  They were all very different.  My selected winner was #3, the ConcheeZtadors.  It had the perfect blend of cheese and spice for me.  Mike chose #2, the Cheese Dip Team.  What was so awesome about theirs was that they used ghost peppers, which you only feel at the last minute.  It was such a tough decision.  I still need to find out who won.

We also had a hot dog from Hot Dog Mike's and a taco from one of the vending trucks.  The taco was great!  Afterwards we headed to H.A.M. (Hillcrest Artisan Meats) and I picked up some lovely sausages that I'm going to use tonight in a new recipe I am trying.  This little store is awesome!  I really need to go here more often.  I also need to explore all of it's offerings a little bit more.  It was quite busy during the festival so I'll visit another time when there aren't so many people around.

Finally, while at H.A.M. I purchased the last of their mini key lime pies.  I ate the whole thing last night.  The pie crust was definitely homemade with just the right amount of salt.  The filling was delicious!  I am going to have to get another of these sometime soon.  Yea, I think this is one of my new favorite shops.

Hope you've had a great weekend!  Mine's not over yet!!  I have wonderful plans for this evening.  It's theater related.  I love the theater.  So excited!!!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

At the Park...


One of the things we really like about living in Little Rock is the dog park.  This park is huge and extremely well cared for.  Honor and I went by this morning and spent about an hour and a half there.  The cooler fall-like weather make for a thoroughly enjoyable morning.

Honor always has friends to play with.  It doesn't matter if we go first thing in the morning or at 7pm at night, there are other dogs there.  Here we see Honor and a few of her new friends from this morning.

Honor is so funny though.  She tends not to get too far from me.  So what I have to do is walk around the perimeter of the park so that she gets her exercise.  Here you see us on the path.  She's really good about staying right on the worn down spots and only wanders off every so often.  It makes me think she'd do okay hiking without a leash, but then I remember how she acts when she sees a squirrel, and I realize this is only a pipe dream.

The other nice thing about the dog park is the huge concrete pad with big buckets for summer.  The dogs love to climb into the buckets to cool down, and the concrete pad keeps the dogs from getting too muddy and dirty.  There is a nice hose/water source right there on the pad.  Yep, we really like this place.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Run, Rene, Run!

I have not stopped running since school started.  I seem to run from class to class, with a few brief stops in my office every day.  I am an early bird when it comes to starting my day at school, which is great, because it gives me about 2 hours of uninterrupted time in the morning to work.  But then, teaching starts and I end up becoming just a blur in the hallways as I run from class to class.  Don't get me wrong, I love every minute of it, but it can be exhausting.  It's also one of the reasons I've been neglecting my blog.  By the time I get home at night I am just too tired to write.

I wanted to share a few pictures with you that I took this past week.  I went shopping the other day and in front of the shoe store found this dead hummingbird.  I think he must have run into the plate glass window.  I felt so bad for this little guy.  I knew hummingbirds were small, but I didn't realize they were this small.  The colors on his/her feathers were just beautiful.  I felt so sad.  :(

On Monday morning I headed back to work and discovered that my name plate had been attached to the wall next to my office.  Guess it's official now!!  :)

And finally, today I had a bit of a rough day in class.  None of my videos would play (stupid internet) and I felt like I looked stupid in front of my students.  In both of my classes only about 50% of my students showed up I gave a quiz!  Of course, the quiz was easy:  1.  What is your name.  2. Draw a heart, and 3) Who is the love of my life?  When I got back to my office and started grading the quizzes (5 points EC on their next exam) I discovered this little note.  It was something I really needed to see today.  It nearly brought tears to my eyes.

Hope all is well wherever you are.
I'll try to update a bit more frequently.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The other night I had some leftover italian sausage that I needed to use up.  I originally thought I'd make spaghetti, but I ran across the recipe for Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza as I was looking at my favorite cooking blogs on Saturday morning.  I've never tried making a deep dish pizza before, and I had all of the ingredients, so I figured "why not!"  I put together the dough and let it sit for 6 hours as outlined in the recipe.  I added the leftover sausage (cooked) to the pizza before baking.  It came out delicious!!  Here's a picture after baking:

And a side shot so you can see how thick this pizza is.

As you can see, I baked the pizza in my cast iron skillet.  It really did a great job.  I love my cast iron!!  Anyway, I highly recommend trying this recipe.  I know I'll be making it again.  You can find the recipe here.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Getting Ready for School...

Moving here to Little Rock, I had all my clothes packed in boxes.  Needless to say, everything got wrinkled.  Like seriously wrinkled.  I decided to make a clean start.  So, I took the time to wash every item in my closet.  Afterwards I ironed every single item in my closet.  And yes, I mean every single item.  It took me days.  I have a lot of clothes!  I hung everything nicely and in color order (because I'm OCD like that).  Here's what my closet looks like now.   Pants and scarves:

 Blouses and sweaters on top shelf, t-shirts and tank tops on the bottom shelf:

The best part of the closet redo - I ended up donating 2 large boxes of clothes to the Salvation Army.  It's nice to be free of things that I don't wear anymore.

This reorganization has made me really question all the things I have.  I think I have so much more to donate and get rid of.  Time to tackle another room.  I think I'll start with the garage!


P.S. I'll post more pictures of my new home this week.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Source of Inspiration...

So, I fell in love with this asymmetrical necklace. It's by Kenneth Cole and it costs $55 at Macy's.  Although it's really pretty, I really didn't think it was worth that price, except that you are paying for a name.  I did find the necklace on ebay but I lost in the bidding.  So I thought I'd find a bead shop and see if I could recreate the necklace for myself.  Not only that but I figured it would let me expend some of my creative energy (don't forget, I'm still waiting to get my craft supplies out of the storage area at the end of the month!)

 Today I headed to Argenta Bead Company and started wandering around looking for items that matched or were a close facsimile.  I couldn't find the squarish beads, but I did find round beads!!

Now, I've never made a necklace like this in my life, so the kind ladies at ABC helped me every step of the way.  They showed me how to make all of the pieces that helped tie this necklace together.  I am so pleased with the results!!

Side by side it looks pretty darn nice.  Don't be fooled that the beads on mine are much larger, it's just that the picture is closer up than the original picture.  I quite like my creation and can't wait to wear it to school.

I fear this shop will be getting much of my paycheck in the near future.  I've got many pieces of costume jewelry bookmarked to try to make myself.


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Little Rock Farmers Market

Woke up this morning to some light rain.  Little Rock has been in a drought so I think it's wonderful that we've finally gotten rain.  The Little Rock Farmers Market is downtown on Saturday from 7-2 so I decided to head down and see what they had.  I was so excited to see the wide variety of fruits and vegetables available...and the best part....LOW PRICES!!  The cost of the items are so much lower than they were in Knoxville.  Yes, I do believe this will be a Saturday morning ritual.  The other nice part...because it's outside I can take Honor!!

Here's a picture of the loot I got today.  Those blackberries are unbelievably sweet.  The peaches are perfectly ripe!  The watermelon is delicious.  I will be making crash-hot potatoes to go with my chicken for dinner tonight.  Having corn on the cob for lunch!  I am so very pleased!