Deerlick Creek

After much research, my husband found that the Army Corp of Engineers run campgrounds. Wow, who knew? The Federal Government really does a good job with parks. We decided that we would take our first trip to Deerlick Creek, about 3 and 1/2 hours away. Now we probably should have had a dry run in a closer campground, but we both wanted a remote location, without other campers on top of us. Here is the description of the campground from Recreation.gov

Overview

Deerlick Creek Campground is located on Holt Lake on the Black Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway northeast of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The facility is in a beautiful forest along the shoreline, providing campers and day-use visitors with access to water sports, boating, fishing, swimming, hiking and biking.

Holt Lake was created by the damming of the Black Warrior River. The campground is situated amidst a mixed pine and hardwood forest, which displays colorful foliage along the riverbanks each fall. Deer, squirrel, wild turkey, migratory birds and blue birds, all live in the Holt Lake area. Black Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway consists of six lakes with a total length of 457 miles and 39,800 surface acres of water.

And so, we set off. We left on Saturday, the 4th, my birthday. What a wonderful birthday present. My husband was fighting off a sinus infection, but like the trooper he is, he pushed through it and didn’t let it change our plans. I think he would chew off his own hand, rather than disappoint me. He’s an amazing guy!

We decided to stop in a Walmart on the way, to load up on supplies. We stopped in Lake, Ms. First we shopped, then ate and fed the dogs while in the parking lot. Here is a picture of me walking all three. I am way at the top of the hill. Climbing this hill was a foretelling of what the camping trip would be like. Lots of hills and climbing. Boy, do I need to exercise!

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After everyone was fed, walked and the groceries were packed, we hit the road again. My husband has taken to driving this 34 foot monster like it’s his car. He actually drives it better than his car! I have only done one test drive, and don’t really feel the need to drive it unless I have to. I would rather be in charge of navigation, dog control and food preparation.

Here we are going down the road. Everyone has their favorite spot.

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We arrived at the campground right before dark which was really not ideal since this was our first time. Our site #37 was beautiful and very easy to pull into with a circular drive. The only problem was lining up the slides between the trees. We only have two slides, but there were a lot of trees. After a few adjustment, we were all set. It was a nice level concrete pad, with water, 50 amp electricity, but no sewer. When we tried to set the water up, there was a major overflow underneath which freaked us out a little. Since it was dark by now, and my husband’s illness that he had been fighting off, came back, we decided just to use the bathhouse and worry about the water in the morning.

We didn’t realize before arriving, but most of the spots were taken up by the University of Alabama fans, watching the football game against the University of Mississippi. There were huge motorcoaches with big tv’s on the outside with tons of fans watching the game. The amazing thing was how quiet it was, even with all of that. I guess it helped that Alabama lost the game, there was no wild celebrating that night.

While hubby took a well deserved napDSC_2389 I made the beds, and unpacked. DSC_2388  Then, I decided to walk up to the bathhouse for a shower. It was pitch black, no moon or stars. The only light was when you would pass another camper, but a few steps past them, and it would be total darkness again. I had forgotten what being in the deep woods was like. The sounds are so unique, the frogs, and crickets and owls, it’s very restful. However,  I wish I had not been listening to a very scarey Audible book about vampires the night before, it made me walk a little faster and check the trees with my light frequently for owls (or vampires). There was  a hill going to the bathhouse that felt like it was on a 90 degree incline so I was too winded to be worry about creatures of the night.

After a great shower in a very clean bathhouse, I walked back down the hill to our site. We all settled in for the night which turned cold, 42 degrees. I love to sleep with the windows open, so I almost froze my poor sick husband to death.

Sunday morning 7am

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I think I’m checking the weather, trying to warm up. I slept in the living room so that I didn’t keep my husband up all night and then wake him up early. I succeeding in letting him sleep all night, but didn’t manage to keep it quiet enough for him to sleep late.

Now that we had daylight, the water problem was sorted out. Yea, no more late night bathroom visits in the great outdoors! I still wanted to use the bathhouse shower, because they had great water pressure, and really hot water. Plus, I need an excuse to move my body, pant, gasp!

Our site is great, I really don’t think that any of the sites are bad. They all have decks,large picnic tables,fire rings, lantern poles, grills, water, electricity and concrete pads. IMG_2985

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And what a view! With no bugs! Very weird! I did not use bug spray the entire trip, and we were outside at night.

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We spent the next two days hiking,

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taking pictures of the changing leaves,

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cooking on the grill,

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watching the sunset,

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sitting in front of the fire,

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Even though it was a short trip, it was a very successful one. All of our stress and worries just melted away.

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Our RV Adventures Begin

It has always been my dream to have an RV. I love the idea of camping, being in nature, roughing it, leaving all of your daily worries behind. Unfortunately, having three unruly dogs, two of which are large, and a husband whose idea of roughing it is a 4 star hotel instead of a 5 star, tent camping was obviously not an option for me. And, in reality, it’s probably a lot like my dream of having a goat farm, more fun in fantasy than in reality.

A motorhome, now that’s something my husband could get his head around; lots of room for the pups, a real bathroom and shower, tv, all the amenities. The only problem was that the ones my hubby liked, cost as much as our house, if not more, which is crazy if you don’t even know if you will enjoy it. So, I put my dream on the back burner.

About a month ago, I spent the day with a girlfriend. We were looking for a repossessed mobile home for her son, another long story. It was an incredibly hot day, and I was drained from walking all around. When we were headed home, I spotted an RV lot, I was almost too hot and tired to pull in, but my friend was enthusiastic, so in we went.

My husband is tall, 6’3, so I knew that I needed something that would not cause him to stoop over. All the motorhomes on the lot were too short. A nice guy named Bo (pronounced Beau) who was boiling peanuts on an outside propane burner, came out to help us. He said that all of their RV’s were on consignment, and that he had just gotten a Class A that had been very gently used. When we looked at it, it took my breath away. It was pristine, and perfect. It was very reasonably priced, less than some used cars. Even though it was a 2006, there were very few miles on the odometer or on the generator. I called my husband, and we set up an appointment with Bo for the next day. The rest is history.

CAM00320DSC_2386Here we go, the adventure begins.

Next post; taking our first trip.

Bad Blogger, Bad Blogger! or More About Cheesecakes!

Does everyone do this? Start off really strong and enthusiastic, only to get waylaid by life’s many chores and distractions. I am really going to attempt to be better. Having grown up in a fairly unstructured environment, it’s often a challenge for me. I have a friend who often says that I would have been a good hippie. Probably so, though I do like my luxuries (like way too many cookie cutters).

After being sick for almost a month right around Thanksgiving, I completely missed getting into the holiday spirit. Maybe next year, I should start in the spring when the urge is strong and the days are long. Obviously, the method I am using every year is not working. Or, maybe I should consider going to New England for November and December and let nature do the decorating for me. Ah, if only that were possible, but then the grass is always greener…

For years, I have been making a cheesecake from a recipe in The Frugal Gourmet’s cookbook. I have detailed it in earlier blogs. It’s a New York style cheesecake, so easy, you can throw it together really quickly. I have modified it somewhat over the years, not the ingredients, but the cooking technique. I now use a water bath with the cheesecake sitting in a protective aluminum foil wrap, turn the oven off before it finishes cooking and let it sit in the cooling oven for an hour.  I recently learned that convection ovens have a drying effect that can cause the cheesecake to crack, so I went back to using the regular oven setting. I have modified the recipe to make it a chocolate swirl cheesecake, as you have seen in earlier blogs.

Here is my latest project: Cheesecake design. I have really gotten into stencils for cookie making. The Cookie Countess sells some great ones on her Etsy site http://www.etsy.com/shop/TheCookieCountess. For cheesecakes, you have to use powdered sugar or cocoa. I could not get a buttercream icing to adhere to the cake with the stencil, though it worked fine to pipe around the bottom and top. I might try again with royal icing and a frozen cheesecake, or one topped with a nice hard ganache.

Recently, I have been more adventurous with decorating. Before now, I always felt that the cheesecake stood on it’s own merit, but as a beautiful woman is enhanced with makeup, so too is a cheesecake enhanced with a little decorating. It just amps up that “wow” factor.

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This one was my first attempt, the stencil stuck at the end, and so I had black cocoa dusted below the writing. I added the reindeer, but of course, I dusted more cocoa where I didn’t want it (note to self- never bake when you feel yucky). So I just sprinkled cocoa and green sugar around in a hopefully decorative manner. Everyone at the party seemed pleased. It seemed to be a little overdecorated to me, but it’s Christmas, everything is overdecorated.

In doing some research, (what would we do without Google?), I have found that you cannot wrap a cheesecake in fondant, but you can wrap it in modeling chocolate, interesting! Apparently, unknown to those of us who are not familiar with fondant, it does not do well in the refrigerator. So since a cheesecake must be refrigerated, that would not work.

There is a beautiful, custom cheesecake company called Elegant Cheesecakes, http://elegantcheesecakes.com/. They make the most amazing creations (I have not tried one, but they sure look amazing). The picture below is their pecan pie cheesecake, what a work of art. This picture is from their website. I did not make this, as much as I would like to take credit for it.

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They use something they call chocolate paper which sounds like modeling chocolate that has been pressed thin through a commercial size pasta maker. I think that would be fun to try at home on my next cheesecake.  Hopefully one day soon, I will wake up feeling 100%, jump out of bed, and start baking. But right now, just typing this blog seems to be taking all of my fading energy.  Signing off for now to go back to bed!

Fall, How Wonderful!

 

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Isn’t this the best time of the year? We have so much to be excited about; a new grandchild in the spring, a dear friend whom I have known since high school, getting engaged to another of our high school friends, upcoming holidays. When the dog days of summer are over, life just seems sweeter.

My Halloween cookies were a big hit with the grandkids last week. I use the recipe on Karen’sCookies site. She has wonderful tutorials also, I have learned alot. If you roll the cookies out thin, they really do not spread. Also, I made a half recipe of royal icing from Martha Stewart, and it worked out nicely. We have a wonderful cake supply store near us, and they suggested black powder for the color rather than the paste. It did not change the taste of the icing, and it was easy to get a nice black. I did not have any glycerin as the recipe suggested to give the icing a nice shiny appearance. I’m going to try that this week.

Basic Rolled Sugar Cookies
This is my favorite all-around cookie recipe and the one I use most often.
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup superfine sugar, or granulated sugar, processed in blender or food processor for 30 seconds
  • ½ tsp. Salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tsp. Vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp. Almond extract or emulsion, optional
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour.

Cream butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes with mixer set at medium speed (see Dough Preparation and Baking tutorial for more information on creaming times). Add yolk, beat well. Add whole egg, vanilla and optional almond extract and beat until well-incorporated. Add flour; beat at low speed just until flour is mixed in; do not overmix. Divide dough in halves or thirds and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, at least one hour and up to 2 days.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Dust work surface and rolling pin with flour. Roll dough to 1/4″ thick, sprinkling with additional flour as needed to prevent sticking. Cut into desired shapes and place on parchment or silicone-lined pans. Bake in preheated oven until cookies appear dry on the surface and are light golden brown on the edges, about 10 minutes (very large cookies may take up to 12 or 13 minutes

 

Royal Icing

 

For an especially glossy icing, mix in a few drops of glycerin (available at drugstores).

  • yield: Makes about 2 1/2 cups

Ingredients

  • 2 large egg whites, or more to thin icing
  • 4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar, or more to thicken icing
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 drops glycerin

Cook’s Note

You can substitute 5 tablespoons meringue powder and 1/3 cup water for raw eggs. Raw eggs should not be used in food prepared for pregnant women, babies, young children, or anyone whose health is compromised. ( I used pasteurized eggs)

Directions

  1. Step 1

    Beat the whites until stiff but not dry. Add sugar, lemon juice and glycerin (if using); beat for 1 minute more. If icing is too thick, add more egg whites; if it is too thin, add more sugar. The icing may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Source

Martha Stewart Living, March 1997

 

14 Weeks and Counting, or I’m Still Here

Peach Pie Aug 2013

Hello everyone!

I know it’s been awhile. I just didn’t have anything to say. Life has just been going along at a peaceful clip. I have modified my diet from it’s former monastery-like strictness. While I am enjoying having more options, I do miss the total focus and structure that I had before. The numbers on the scale are still coming down, and I have more energy to take yoga class three times a week. Now that fall is in sight, I plan on being much more active; long dog walks, bike rides, zumba.

Thrifting/resale shopping has been really good lately. I went to Memphis last week, and they have some wonderful resale shops, in addition to the best William Sonoma/Pottery Barn outlet. It was an exhausting day trip between the drive and the heat, but worth the exhaustion. Memphis has everything, Whole Foods, Costco, fabulous couture resale shops. I highly recommend Celery Upscale Resale, they have the largest selection of St John’s Knits that I’ve ever seen outside of a retail store. I found a beautiful Worth cashmere sweater for forty dollars. I also went to the Jr League resale store. They did not have the high fashion selection, but their prices were amazing. My closet has reached the overflowing point, but I just love clothes. And being a size 6-8 is opens up a world of choices.

I have been reading the most wonderful cookbook by Rose Levy Beranbaum, The Pie and Pastry Bible. I used it to make a delicious butter/cream cheese pie crust for a peach pie. Her instructions are so exact and so scientific, it really appeals to me. I scored this cookbook for $4.25. I am now on the hunt for her Cake Bible. This is what Amazon has written about her.

Rose Levy Beranbaum is the award-winning author of nine cookbooks, including The Cake Bible, the International Association of Culinary Professionals Cookbook of the Year for 1988. It was also listed by the James Beard Foundation as one of the top 13 baking books on “the Essential Book List.” Rose also won a James Beard Foundation Award in 1998 for Rose’s Christmas Cookies, and her book, The Bread Bible, was an IACP and James Beard Foundation nominee and was listed as one of the Top Ten Books of 2003 by Publishers Weekly and Food & Wine. Her most recent book, Rose’s Heavenly Cakes, won the International Association of Culinary Professionals Cookbook of the Year for 2010. She is a contributing editor to Food Arts magazine and writes regularly for the Washington Post, Fine Cooking, Reader’s Digest, and Bride’s. Her popular blog, realbakingwithrose.com, has created an international community…

As you can see in the picture, I am still working on making it picture perfect, but the flavor was amazing. I used organic whole wheat pastry flour and organic butter. I am too lazy to go find the recipe right now. I will probably make another pie in a few days and will take pics along the way along with the recipe.

I hope everyone has a  great holiday weekend. Someone asked me what we have planned, and I couldn’t really think of anything to say. We pretty much make our own holidays, and work when we have must. Both my husband and I have almost always been self-employed which after you get things to a certain point, allows you to make your own schedule. I realized a long time ago, that my time was the commodity that I truly valued, and I have always worked to ensure that my schedule, for the most part, is my own. The false security of being an employee never seemed worth the trade off of my time. My early work experiences taught me to always work, first and foremost, to secure my time, and then to strive for  the perks. Of course,  I always have my back up plan of living in my car, hope it never comes to that, I would need a big car for all those resale goodies.

Stay safe out there!

Ideal Protein Journey 9 Weeks and Counting

It does not seem like it has been over 9 weeks ago that I started my diet journey with Ideal Protein. The time has flown by. Though the scale is not quite where I want it to be yet, my body feels like it did 10 years ago. I feel ribs and bones that I have not felt in years. My energy level is much higher, and working out is so much easier. Best of all, I feel in control again, I am not ruled by my appetite.

While all the fresh veggies, soups and shakes have been great, I am craving a little more variety. And more than eating variety, I really miss cooking. I woke up  this morning before dawn, thinking about baking. I got up and made a loaf of my husband’s favorite bread so that when he wakes up, it will be ready and the house will smell wonderful. I miss feeding people. It has taken so much focus to maintain my eating regimen, that I have stopping cooking for  family or friends I miss that more than I miss eating an unrestricted diet.

All that said, a girl still needs her chocolate. I have come up with a delicious chocolate fix, it’s not strictly IP but it is low carb and low calorie.

Hot Chocolate

  • 1/2 cup Unsweetened Almond Milk (I prefer the kind you find in the refrigerated section rather that the boxed kind)
  • 1/2 cup Water
  • 1 Tablespoon Cocoa
  • 1 pinch of Salt
  • 1 pinch of Xanthum Gum (for a slightly thicker feel)
  • 1-2 teaspoons Stevia (I like the powdered Stevia with Fiber)
  • 1/8 teaspoon of vanilla

You can add Protein Powder if you want more protein, but I was trying to keep the calories low.

  • Directions:
  • Add water and almond milk to a shaker.
  • Mix dry ingredients into a small bowl or ramekin and whisk together.
  • Add blended dry ingredients to wet ingredients in the shaker, and shake until blended.
  • Pour mixture into a mug and microwave until warm.
  • You may have to whisk it again, if there are any clumps.
  • This is also good with  various emulsion/extract flavoring. I have tried peppermint and coconut, and both were good.

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THE SOLUTION TO FEELING CRABBY: MORE CHOCOLATE!!!

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(Picture from Martha Stewart’s Website, because I always drink mine too fast to photograph)

 

Windows and a New Computer! Can You Say Learning Curve!

My husband and I broke down and bought two new laptops Saturday. He was the only one that really needed one, but he hates to spend money on himself, even when it is desperately needed. His old laptop is 8 years old, and he has already rebuilt the screen, and added memory, but now the power cable connector isn’t working and it is slowwwww! So, off we went to Best Buy. That place was hopping, everybody was buying laptops. I did not know this, but when someone returns a computer, BB discounts it as an open box. we bought both of ours that way and saved a ton. Mine is an ISUS Ultrabook touch, and I love it. His is a Samsung Ultrabook, and he is as happy as a clam!

I can’t quite figure out why, when I am typing, the cursor jumps up to an earlier part of the screen, I must be hitting something without realizing it. So far, I like Windows 8, and it’s fun to have the touch screen like the Ipad.

Still plugging away at the diet, the scale is stuck again, but the inches are really coming off. I have reached the boredom stage, so I am monkeying around with it a little which is probably why I’m not losing like I should. Last night I really wanted some hot chocolate. I had some unsweetened almond milk which I heated up. to that I added 1 tablespoon of cocoa with about of 1/16 of a teaspoon of xanthium gum and 2 teaspoons of stevia with fiber. I added the dry ingredients to the heated milk, and whisked it up. Pretty good, if I do say so myself. You just have to be careful with the thickener, a little goes a long way.

Also, this weekend, I was able to catch a great bird feeder action shot. We have several ring neck doves that are now visitors to our feeder. I had never seen them before, they are much larger than mourning doves, almost white, with a black ring around their neck. This picture is of one of the ring necks, and his friend, the smaller dove, giving the evil eye to a female cardinal and a sparrow, and off they flew.

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Monday, Monday!

What an amazing morning for the Deep South in July, it was actually cool enough to go for a walk wearing a long sleeve shirt. It helps that I am 23lbs lighter, it’s so nice to feel cold again.
Big Boy and I went for a long walk, interrupted only with several visits with friends in the neighborhood. He gets so much joy out of walking, I really should take him more often. I was motivated this morning by the cool weather, the 3 lady ducks in the backyard and my water retention from too much salt last night.

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This morning, around 6am, when I was trying to decide if I really wanted to get up or not, I started thinking about the pieces of old tin that I had gotten from a salvage place. They had been sitting in my garage for quite awhile, I am always excited to start a new project and then life somehow gets in the way. My sweet little 10year old friend always makes me beautiful artwork, and I don’t really have anywhere to put it. I thought, if magnets would stick to tin, I could prop a piece on my counter in the office and use it to display the painting. I would like to fix it up a little, maybe cover the ends with some kind of twisted burlap, and hang it landscape orientation with a pretty decorative thick cord. But for now, I just leaned it against the wall. What do you think? I may also be able to use my letter punches (another project), and stamp something on it. Does anyone else have a million projects around the house in varying states of completion? I should make myself finish one thing before I buy anything for something else.

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I finally got the right recipe modification for the chocolate swirl cheesecake. I doubled the recipe so that I could make the cake bigger and have enough left over for a small plain one for my husband. That left me with a problem for the crust, I wanted to make a chocolate crust for the party cake and a regular graham cracker crust for my sweetie’s. So I doubled the recipe for the crust, made the small crust and then added cocoa to the left over mix. I used a combination of regular cocoa and black cocoa from King Arthur’s to make the graham cracker/sugar/butter mixture chocolate flavored.
After the crust hardened in the freezer, After pouring in 2/3 of the cheesecake batter (after making the small cheesecake first so I would not run out) into the crust, I then melted in the microwave at 1/2 power, 3ozs of Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips and mixed the melted chips into remaining batter. I poured this on top of the 2/3 batter, and made the swirls with a knife. I decorated the top after it had cooked and cooled, the next day, with cocoa and small chocolate flavored icing stars. It was a big hit. I sure would have like to have eaten a piece. All the food was wonderful at the reunion, but I stuck with grilled hamburger patties and grilled zucchini. At least I went down a size in my swimsuit! Thank you Ideal Protein, but I would have liked some of that bread pudding!

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Rain, Finally!

How wonderful to wake up early, take the dogs for a walk, and make it back in time to avoid getting drenched by this lovely rain we are having. My husband asked me to remind him to turn the sprinklers on last night, and then we both promptly forgot all about it. It’s a good thing, the grass grows so fast now, it certainly did not need a double dose of water.

There are three fat ducks sitting in the middle of our back yard,two boys and one girl. I think the lady duck is the one who had chicks not too long ago. I’m afraid the alligators and turtles must have eaten her babies, and now she’s back in season. Nature can be so unforgiving.

I remember my mother hated to watch the Nature shows on PBS when animals were killing each other. I always laughed at her, I never understood her tender heart. Age must really change your perspective because now I’m the one who has to close her eyes or leave the room during Nature. I wish she were still alive so that I could tell her how much better I understand her now. How she would have loved sitting in our backyard, watching the birds that come up to our feeders, she was constantly battling the huge grey squirrels for equal distribution of the bird food outside her little cabin in the woods. After a lifetime of struggle that she endured, it’s comforting to think that she really enjoyed her later years. She was a brilliant, talented woman that fate seemed to conspire against. At long last, in her sixties, she was able to chart her own path, and it made her very happy.

We are such complicated creatures, a mixed up soup of our parent’s influence, our generation, and most lastingly, our choice of mate. Who can ever tell until it is too late which decisions will be the right ones, and which will lead us down a road that is dark and twisted.

I will end this contemplative post with an old favorite poem by Robert Frost and a photo that we took years ago on Shelter Island. Perhaps the little fox found the right path.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

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