Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Road Trip Recap - Day 6 - Cades Cove and Abrams Falls

Ok, I really need to finish recapping the GSM road trip before I forget everything. Today, as I was thinking about this post I started to wonder what we did on the sixth day... was it still Smokies or did we get to Nashville by then.

Day six was our last day in The Great Smoky Mountains. The sky was little overcast and I think there was rain in the forecast. So far we had amazing weather so even little rain wasn't going to ruin what we had planned for the last day.

[Our little friends on a last day in the Smokies]

We followed the drive from Gatlinburg through Little River Road and Laurel Creek Road to Cades Cove Loop. As we drove trough the little River Road, we noticed a congested area with a lot of cars parked on the side of the road and a cluster of people watching something. I was really excited and jumped out of a car with my camera. OMG - it's a BEAR! Super handsome black bear with super shiny fur was roaming the woods near the road. It was an amazing sight! Black bears are so pretty. They are not as big as grizzly bears, adult american black bear weights between 150-300 pounds. I was trying to snap few photos, but I was too excited and I missed most of my shots. The bear was quick, and it seemed like the crowd was little overwhelming for him. Here is one photo I was able to manage:

We got to the gates of Cades Cove Loop, back in 1800's that area was a tiny village with about 700 people living there. Park kept some of the old buildings along the cove loop, preserving them and keeping them open to the public as part of the history.

The highlight of the day was a hike to Abrams Falls. The sky was looking darker and darker by the hour. The beautiful scenery of Cades Cove looked sad and dark, covered with low hanging rain clouds. At this point nothing was going to stop us, we packed the rain coats and umbrellas and followed the 2.5 mile (one way) trail to see the falls. I've heard that people spot black bears in the Cades Cove, so we were on the lookout, but of course we did not see any on the trail.

The hiking to the falls was not difficult. Trail had a slight incline at first, leading us to the top of a mountain, and the second part was getting down the side of that mountain to the valley. Part of the trail was along the mountain stream nesteld in the thick woods of Smokies. It was very relaxing to hear the water running through rocks and boulders as we followed the trail. We arrived to our destination, and I have to say, the water fall was little bit smaller than I expected, but the veiw was beautiful. Surrounded by rocks and autumn trees, two streams of water was hitting the rocks below creating this wonderful and peaceful sight. We took some time to enjoy it before few drops of rain reminded us of another 2.5 mile hike back to the car.

I have to admit - we got really lucky! As it seemed like it was going to pour the whole 4 hours we were hiking, the real rain did not start until we were about 100 yards from the parking lot. The rest of the afternoon we spent in the car, driving in a traffic jam through Cades Cove Loop with 1764 gazillion of other cars in the pouring rain.

 [Great weather for "smooth water" waterfall shots, no ND filter, no tripod, resting the camera on the rock in the middle of a pool of water, I did have a polarizing filter on the lens]

Next morning we were leaving the Smokies. We were sad to leave, but we had an amazing few days filled with sunshine and amazing beauty of southern Appalachian. We decided to end the trip in Nashville, TN, but that's a story for another post.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Blackberries for Breakfast and Beauty Detox Solution Book

Blackberries, delicious black fruit, composed of many little drupelets, each like a small berry with a tiny seed inside. Each drupelet contributes extra skin, seed and pectin with high dietary fiber value, and that makes blackberries one of the highest fiber and antioxidant content plant in the world. Blacberries are low in calories, carbohydrates, and fat, making them one of the best fruits out there for a balanced diet.

Let's stop here for a bit and concentrate on the so popular antioxidants. Why are antioxidants so important? Well, antioxidants are known to protect your cells against the effects of free radicals. Free radicals on the other hand, are molecules produced when your body breaks down food, or by environmental exposures like tobacco smoke and radiation. Free radicals can damage cells, and may play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases. Blackberries have the highest content of fiber and antioxidants out of all the berries, but all other berries like strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and cranberries have super high content of fiber and antioxidants in comparing to apples, bananas and other fruit.

 Just one cup of fresh blackberries contains half of the daily recommendation of the antioxidant vitamin C, which protects the immune system and may lower the risk of developing certain types of cancer.  One cup of blackberries contains over thirty percent of the daily recommended amount of fiber, which promotes healthy digestion and aids in maintaining bowel regularity.

Eating blackberries, along with other berries and other antioxidant rich fruit first thing in the morning, on empty stomach, ensures quick digestion and maximizes absorption of all the nutrients. After reading Kimberly Snider's book, The Beauty Detox Solution, I have been trying to maximize my energy during the day by eating light to heavy meals during the day. And by heavy I don't mean McDonalds!

Every morning I have a good size bowl of fresh fruit with a 8 oz. glass of organic carrot juice. That keeps me from being hungry until lunch. By eating light in the morning, my body doesn't spend all it's energy on digestion, I don't feel tired or sleepy. I don't drink coffee or tea or any other energy drinks. I have enough energy to concentrate on my day and by lunch I am ready to inhale a huge, also light lunch. Kimberly Snider's book made me realize how important it is for your body to eat in right order. Heavy breakfast will slow you down, your body will concentrate all its energy on digestion right from the morning, then you add lunch on top of it, and you create a intestinal jam. Doesn't sound good, does it? If you're interested in learning more about your beauty energy and eating right check out Kimberly's website here and purchase her book here. I am not affiliated with Kimberly Snider in any way.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Yoga Intentions

Recently I took on yoga, again. I have done some yoga before, but I was never consistent with it. Partially because it's hard to find a good yoga teacher that would suit you. I used to go to yoga class at my gym, but instructors would change and it was hard to get a good flow. I'm not sure if it makes any sense, but I like to have one teacher, develop a relationship, and feel more motivated because there is always something new to look forward. Another important part for me is being able to actually understand what the teacher is saying, and their ability to explain everything I need to without me ever looking up to see what to do. I think that's the art of teaching yoga, especially on the beginner level.

Recently Julie, my yoga teacher, started mentioning something about setting up an intention for your class, and I know I've heard that before, but never really fully understood what that meant. So as she said the magic words "now, try to set the intention for your class" my brain literally started spinning, and after about 30 seconds of a mambo jumbo of random thoughts, I came out with completely NOTHING! And at that point I promised myself that this will be the last time this will happen. That evening I went home and did my homework on yoga intentions. 

It's pretty simple. Intentions are about how you live in the presence, it’s not about setting up a longtime goals. You should set your intentions based on what's most important to you and commit to aligning your outer actions with inner values, according to Phillip Moffitt, who teaches meditation at Turtle Island Yoga Center in California. 

The best way (works for me) is to try to come out with one or two word intentions that means something to you, it’s a lot easier to remember those intentions and repeat them during your practice. Here are few easy to remember intentions inspired by Yoga Journal that helped me:

  • Breathe! Just taking time to breath and appreciate your body as it’s flowing the energy from the practice.
  • Peace. Sending out good vibes to all of the living things on the planet.
  • Chill out! Life isn’t stressful unless you let it stress you out. So, my intention is to just chill out for the next hour and a half and RELAX for a change.
  • Be OK with where I am right now, and realize it’s the perfect place for me. My best is good enough!
  • Self-love. Focusing on me and getting as much as I can out of the practice.
  • Fill up, take care of myself, and emerge refreshed and energetic. No more running on fumes.
  • Take the lessons I learn on the yoga mat and apply them into all the other areas of my life.
  • Ambition. Pushing myself a little harder (but not too hard!) to reach that next level.
  • Release. Letting go of all the negative and stressful things in  life and melting into a calm, relaxing bit of yoga.
  • Slow down. Sometimes life just goes to fast, so slow down and enjoy every bit of your life as you enjoy this yoga practice.

Check out below links from other blogs and websites that you might find helpful in the process of learning and setting up your intentions:

[Image source: internet]

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Road Trip Recap - Day 5 - GSM, Chimney Tops and Horses

Day five of our Great Smoky Mountains trip. We are hiking the Chimney Tops Trail, which climbs up to a height of 4,840 feet and 360 degrees views of the park. Short, only 2 miles but somewhat strenuous hike leads up to a huge metamorphic rock that characterizes the capstones of the Chimney Tops.

[I was able to take that photo without ND filter and without the tripod, it was an early morning in the woods, not too much sunlight, camera was set on the floor of the bridge]

The trail starts somewhat easy, crossing three bridges on the boulder filled river, and then it becomes little bit more difficult, until you get to the point where you see the tops and wonder if it's worth the risk to try to go all the way up. Well, I stayed, I didn't feel like I could do it, and didn't want to risk my life climbing the rocky top.

 [My three musketeers coming down the Chimney]

So I guess you can go behind the rock, then climb up to the top and after that of course you have to come down somehow. Well, as you can see on the picture - you literally have to crawl down on your butt and hope that you don't fall down. The pictures actually don't do the justice here. Really. It looks much easier than it really is. 

[Lots of destructing tree branches with an amazing view behind them, and the steep drop]

We started the hike around 10 am, and got back down to the parking area around 3 pm, and we were starved. But, first thing first - the Sugarland's Stables were closing in 2 hours so we rushed over to the next adventure - riding horses in the Smoky's. 

It sounded like fun at first, but we quickly realized that we have to follow a trail and ride in a group of 8 people/horses. My horse seemed little tired and i felt really bad for her. Logging extra 125 pounds on her back! How vegan of me???

Here is a photo taken by a stable photographer: Tim - on the short horse-donkey, no offense Mighty Mouse! Me on the amber colored Ching Ching, Ania and Marcin on ... i can't remember the names...

Starved to death, we headed back to Gatlinburg to have dinner and relax after a fun day. Tomorrow is our last day at the Smoky's, we are driving through Little River Road, Laurel Creek Road going to Cades Cove and hiking to Ambram's Falls.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Well, I Can Eat It. I Just Don't Want To!

So it’s been over a year since I gave up meat and dairy and went vegan, pretty much cold... turkey? tofu? After doing quite some reading and research about vegan lifestyle, one day, to be exact – Valentine’s Day 2011 – I decided to quit eating anything that comes from animals and try to adopt a vegan lifestyle. I didn’t set any goals and I had no expectations. I decided to go one week, at the time and see what happens. Today I am proud to say that I have been vegan for almost 15 months and I am very happy about that. This feels like a huge accomplishment. Born and raised in Poland – the country of meat and potatoes, just few years ago when I met my first vegan ever, I was astounded and I just couldn’t possibly imagine what did she eat. It seemed impossible to live without meat and dairy. Every meal for past twenty, ok, thirty something years evolved around some kind of a meat and I just couldn’t wrap it around my brain how else I could function. This was how I was raised, this is what my family did. That’s how we lived. My uncle had a farm, and the first five years of my life were on that farm. We lived at the farm while my dad was building the new house. My uncle had pigs, cows and chickens at the farm. Ever since I remember before holidays, I would hear them talk about this big weekend when they would kill the pig and make it into a meat and sausages, so we can eat it for few months. And even though this was the more compassionate way of killing, no factory farming, pigs were nice and fat from eating potatoes and greens, not genetically modified corn, I still felt little disturbed about this whole thing. I was a child, and pigs were cute and funny, and I really didn’t like that they had to kill them so we can have pork chops for dinner. As we moved to our new home, and I grow up I stopped thinking about that. Never really imagined a different way of life, never really thought of those poor pigs, cows and chickens that had to be killed just so we can eat them for dinner.

Why is it ok to eat them? Why do we do it? There is always the same answer from people like I used to be, from people that try to tell themselves that it’s ok to eat meat, because that’s how they were raised and this is what humans do, and human needs animal protein to live. Why is it ok to eat a pig but not ok to eat a cat? How is that different? Every time I ask this question, people get confused and just say – it’s not the same. We raise pigs to eat them and cat’s to love them! How is that fair? One deserves to be in your bed, cuddling with you and the other deserves to be on your dinner plate??? How is it different? Just because humans did it for ages, it doesn’t make it right! They are both animals, living and breathing beings that are smart, can feel the pain and have emotions. How are they different?

Since I become vegan I feel stronger connection with other living beings. I feel like we should be more compassionate and closer to nature, to care for others, not just human but other beings. Just because we were raised this way, doesn’t mean that we can’t change and become more sensitive to cruelty and respectful of other lives. I hope that one day we will get to the point where meat will no longer be a staple of American kitchen, and human realize that there are better ways of living, and that we can share the planet with other species without killing and eating them.  People often look at me as I was depriving myself something that is so great, something that they can’t live without. And that is usually is followed with a comment like: “Oh, right, you can’t eat that!” – well, I can eat it, I just don’t want to! I choose not to! I made a choice of cruelty free living, I like what I eat, and like that I no longer wear leather shoes. I will not buy a sweater that has rabbit hair in it, I use cruelty free cosmetics! I changed my life, I choose to be better! I choose to care!  And I love every minute of it! I am proud to be vegan!

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