Thursday, December 31, 2009

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

On the Telephone With Grace

I just got off of the telephone with my sister Laura, and she put my niece Grace on the telephone. Grace said, "Hi, Uncle Steve." Then she asked about Sarah. It is the first time I have talked to my niece on the telephone.

Girl Scout Cookies

Since Sarah is a Daisy Scout, Sherry volunteered to assist with the Girl Scout Cookie sale this year, and she has a training event for it on Monday. Frankly, I'm a bit worried about having an unending supply of Girl Scout Cookies in the house. We usually buy a few boxes each year, and I like to hide a couple of boxes away to take on camping trips. I'm used to having to seek out someone who has a daughter selling the cookies. This year, we will have our own scout selling cookies.

Sarah and the Camera

Part of our Christmas included a gift Sherry and I gave ourselves, a new digital camera to replace the one Sarah and I killed at the beach by dropping it in the sand. I didn't know sand would kill a digital camera, but it killed ours. Sherry picked out a Nikon Coolpix camera, and it produces good snapshots, which is mainly what we will use it for. Sherry took these two pictures of Sarah with it. (I'm not sure whether the smile or the scary face was taken first.)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Movie Review: Star Trek

Among my Christmas gifts this year was the new Star Trek movie, featuring the original Enterprise crew on their first mission. I don't go to conventions, but I suppose I could be readily categorized as a Star Trek geek, so I loved the movie and have watched it numerous times already. They took some artistic license with the story, but there was a time warp involved, so that doesn't create a problem in the Trekker universe.

I liked how the actors captured the personalities of the characters as portrayed in the original series, and they did a good job of working in all the obligatory Star Trek cliches. Spock used the nerve pinch. Bones said, "Dammit, I'm a doctor not an astrophysicist." The Enterprise was getting sucked into a black hole, and Scotty said, "I'm giving it all she's got!" It is a fun flick.

Sprucing Up Graceland

There is a plan afoot to redevelop the property that Elvis Presley's Graceland sits on in Memphis. Among other things, they plan to rebuild the visitor center and the Heartbreak Hotel.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Back to Work and School

Sherry and I go back to work today for a work week shortened by the New Year holiday. Sarah's school doesn't start its next session until January 4, so she will be attending their Adventure Club after school program for the next several days. All things considered, we have had a wonderful 2009, but at this point in the year it is nice to start thinking about 2010. In fact, I just put up my 2010 Jimmy Buffett calendar here in my home office.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Tribute to the Kids' Table

Here's a tribute to the Kids' Table (We've all been there.), from the 1000 Awesome Things blog.

Back at Home

We got home from Nashville yesterday around lunch time, and spent the afternoon relaxing after the frenzied activity of Christmas. The house still needs a lot of attention before it will be back to normal, but we at least put a few things away yesterday. Sarah, of course, came home and started exploring all of her new toys and games, some of which she'd been away from for more than twenty-four hours! She got a new game, Crazy Cat Lady, and I guarantee that will be the first thing she wants to play when she drags herself out of bed this morning.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Boxing Day

Today is Boxing Day, which began as a philanthropic movement in Victorian England, and it occurs on Saint Stephen's Day. His martyrdom is described in Acts.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Morning 2009

Sarah awoke this morning to a living room full of presents that had appeared overnight after yesterday's bounty of presents from family. She and Joey and Jake tore through Santa's offerings, and we are in the process of getting our act together to drive to Nashville. Sherry made sausage balls for breakfast, so I'm going to go get a few before they become scarce.

Adoration of the Magi

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Snow at Cozy Creek

We were up at Laura and Stewart's Cozy Creek Cabin yesterday, and Joey (left) and Jake (right) managed to find a snowy hill to ride down. The sun doesn't get into the hollow in which the cabin sits, and so there was still a bit of snow to play in.

This barn, which is on the way up the hill to Cozy Creek, was festive with its Christmas wreath.

Olive, the Other Reindeer

We have only recently discovered the cartoon Olive, the Other Reindeer, which was released in 1999. It is a cute cartoon, and I love the bad pun in the title (and story).

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice

Today is the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere of the planet Earth. Our days will start becoming longer again.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Snow in the Mountains

We didn't get anything but a dusting of snow overnight here in Maryville. We had breakfast at Hot Rods Diner this morning, and then we drove up into the Smokies, hoping to drive up to Cades Cove for some snow. We saw a big flock of turkey in Townsend on our way, and we also drove up to Bradley Mountain Lodge, where we've had several fun family gatherings, including Leslie and Frazier's wedding. The place was occupied, and the folks there had a huge fire in the great outdoor fireplace on the back patio. What a fun place to enjoy Christmas!

The rangers had the road blocked in both directions after the Wye so that you couldn't drive to the Cove or to Gatlinburg. We parked at the Wye, where the grassy area was covered with snow, and the kids played in the snow until their hands started turning blue from throwing snowballs. We quickly retreated to the house, and have been enjoying the warmth and the fireplace since we returned.

Sarah and Santa

Sherry couldn't persuade Joey and Jake to have their photograph taken with Santa Claus this year, so Sarah went solo.


I found a recipe on the Nosh and Tell blog that I'll have to try. They call it Duchess Potatoes and describe it as being like twice-baked mashed potatoes.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Bit of Snow

We had a bit of snow at our house yesterday evening, and with it a decent snowball fight once Sherry and the boys arrived. We may have more snow tonight.

Friday, December 18, 2009

No Wal-Mart in South Walton

Apparently there is a movement afoot to locate a Wal-Mart between the Donut Hole and Sandestin in south Walton County, Florida, where my family frequently stays during vacation. I agree with the author of this piece in the Destin Log. Why would you want to build a Wal-Mart there?


The Amazon Car Lust blog has a post up about the Thunderbird, a very cool car. The author of the post had only recently heard the Marc Cohn song, "Silver Thunderbird."


We have a fax machine, but on occasion I find it convenient to use FaxZero, which allows one to send free fax transmissions of one to three pages up to two times a day. I appreciate the service, so I thought I'd give them a plug.

Elephant Dies at Nashville Zoo

Kiba, a twenty-six year old African elephant was euthanized yesterday morning at the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere due to health problems resulting from degenerative disc disease. Kiba came to the Nashville Zoo in 1995, the year the boys were born, and she has been cared for by the same couple for some seventeen years.

Winter Vacation Begins

Yesterday was Sarah's last day of the fall session at her school, so she is officially on her winter vacation. The meteorologists are calling for rain turning to snow this afternoon into this evening. Sherry plans on meeting Mark in Cookeville after work to pick up Jake and Joey, so we're hoping the snow holds off until they are back here in Maryville.

Fish Feeling Fine

Sherry brought home two new goldfish last weekend, bringing our tank to a population of four, including one of these with the weird bubble eyes. They all seem to be doing fine in their new environment, though the cats are quite interested in them.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Festival Sausage Cups

My sister Laura asked me for the recipe for Festival Sausage Cups, which we served at a family event several months ago. I'm surprised I did not post the recipe before, but here it is:

1 pound spicy sausage – cook and drain well

6 green onions
½ cup mushrooms
¼ cup green olives

2 tbsp. butter Рmelt butter and saut̩ finely chopped onion, mushrooms and olives

4 tbsp. flour Рsprinkle into saut̩ mixture and mix, then add sausage

2 cups heavy cream – add to mixture and simmer ten minutes until thickened

Spoon into Fillo pastry cups (45 cups -- in the frozen section of the grocery store)
Sprinkle with fresh grated Parmesan cheese
Bake at 350 degrees for ten minutes
Serve warm

Pajama Day for Sarah

Today is Sarah's last day of school for the fall session, and she will not return or almost three weeks, except for the Adventure Club child care program for a few days. Today they are having Pajama Day, so we are to send the child to school in her sleepwear. She has already selected her favorite Tinkerbell nightgown to wear today. The image is from this cool website.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas in Iraq

I just got an e-mail from my friend Barry, who is serving with the National Guard in Iraq. I inquired about his address, meaning to send him and his fellow soldiers a care package with some items from home. His response:

Things are pretty quiet around here, so that's a good thing. As far as care packages for the soldiers, we've been pretty swamped with candy and food. About the only thing we are short on is soccer balls to hand out at the schools.You guys have a Great Christmas and a Happy New Year.

The guy is in a foreign desert risking life and limb, and when you try to send him some of the comforts of home he asks you to send soccer balls to hand out to Iraqi schoolchildren. Wow.

Christmas Decorations

We bought and decorated our Christmas tree over the weekend. Sarah also has a small Christmas tree in her room, and she added some decorations to it. I am in the process of putting up our outdoor lights on the front of the house. I've already hung lights in our sun room, so our place is should be pretty festive for Jake and Joey's arrival on Friday.

Saturn's North Pole

This is a view of the North Pole of Saturn. It features a hexagonal cloud formation that no one really understands. For more information, see NASA.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tea Party and Pajama Day

Sarah went to a Daisy Scout tea party yesterday after school. She even remembered to take her Daisy Scout vest with her when she left for class this morning. Later this week, they are having Pajama Day at her school, and she's counting down the days.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Young Eula

My maternal grandmother, who was born Eula Powell, lived in an apartment in the two-storied building shown here when she was married to her first husband, Ernest Cloniger. She worked at a nearby glove factory at the time, which her son, my Uncle Mack, estimates to be some eighty years ago. This is between Newton and Conover, North Carolina.

Sunday Cooking

With the boys coming for a week's visit beginning this Friday, I cranked up our kitchen yesterday and made cheesy potato casserole and lasanga, both family favorites. We're going to bake a ham for our Christmas dinner, which we'll have here at our house on Christmas Eve, but I figure we'll need to do some cooking next weekend to keep us all fed next week. At fourteen, Jake and Joey have pretty hearty appetites, and we like to cook for them when they're here.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Nutcracker on Ice

Sarah absolutely loved seeing Nutcracker on Ice, which my sister Laura performed in yesterday at the Ice Chalet in Knoxville, where we used to go ice skating as kids. Sarah was on her feet for the entire performance, and fortunately so was Laura. The Ice Chalet is just as cold as I remember it. I am once again thankful for my wonderful North Face goose down coat. We also had hot chocolate to ward of the chill.

Afterward Sherry and Sarah and I had a late lunch at Stir Fry Cafe, an old Knoxville favorite since my college days. I had a basil curry that was a lot different than any curry I have ever tried. The dish had fresh basil leaves that had been only slightly cooked so that the leaves were wilted, which makes it taste like fennel, which to me means it tastes like licorice. Licorice is not one of my favorite flavors, but the taste of it was mild so that it was okay in this particular curry. Sherry had a hot noodle dish that I sampled and liked. It got pretty spicy for Sherry by the time she finished her meal because of the cumulative effect of the spices, but she enjoyed it, especially after being in an ice rink for an hour and a half.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Busy Weekend

Yesterday's class was more interesting than I'd hoped, though I missed having lunch with Laura, who is preparing for a skating performance in the Nutcracker this weekend. Sarah had her Daisy Scout meeting after school yesterday, and Sherry picked her up after work.

We plan to see Laura's performance tomorrow. We're hoping Sarah can spend the night with Mom tomorrow so that we can attend Sherry's office Christmas party Saturday night. To complete a busy weekend, we'll also put our tree up, probably on Sunday.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Back to School

I am to attend a class today at the University of Tennessee Conference Center in downtown Knoxville. My parents and both of my sisters and I are all alumni of the university, and I grew up in West Knoxville, so I always enjoy visiting my old hometown and college. Even though Knoxville is only thirty minutes away, we don't get across the river very often unless we're visiting family in their homes.

My sister Laura and I are going to try and have lunch together today at an old UT favorite, the Old College Inn on the Cumberland Avenue strip, which hasn't changed much since my college days. I took Joey and Jake and their friend Graham and Sarah there last summer, and I enjoyed sharing a bit of my UT experience with them. My dad certainly took me there plenty of times when I was younger.


Our recently acquired aquarium came with several artifacts, which included two representations of what I assume to be Horus, an Egyptian falcon-deity. The image, a gold mask for a mummified falcon is from the linked website.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Dunder and Blixem?

Last week I happened across an article that said that Santa's reindeer Donner was originally "Donder." I had never heard of this before, but I found an article on that explains how over the years the reindeer "Dunder and Blixem" became "Donner and Blitzen."

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Sherry came back from Nashville last weekend with an aquarium that holds fifty gallons of water, and as of last night, two goldfish. To be accurate, I should say that one of them, Sally, is white with a reddish-orange spot on her head. The other, Jake, is jet black with bulging eyes. Sarah named the fish, and we'll let her work it out with her brother about naming the bug-eyed fish after him. At any rate, although the fish are not gold in color, they are of that type of fish and seem to be doing well in their new tank without a heater, which would be required for tropical fish.

What Is a Palmier?

I had never heard of a palmier before I ran across this recipe on a foodie blog called Ezra Pound Cake, which is based in Nashville. The EPC blogger says it is pronounced "palm-YAY," so it must be French. Looks like a great appetizer.

Monday, December 7, 2009


Today is the anniversary of the 1941 attack on United States military forces at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. This is a photograph of the explosion of the U.S.S. Shaw taken during the second wave of Japanese bombing that day. I found it, along with other dramatic photographs and a discussion of what happened that day on a U.S. Navy history website.

The next day President Franklin D. Roosevelt appeared before a joint session of Congress to declare that December 7, 1941, was "a day which will live in infamy" and asked Congress to declare war on the Empire of Japan. Congress promptly complied, and Roosevelt signed the Declaration of War that day.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Eastbound and Down

Sherry and Sarah are on the interstate heading east from Nashville and should be home within the half hour. For a fun video featuring the song "Eastbound and Down" by Jerry Reed from Smokey and the Bandit, click here. (Jackie Gleason says a couple of bad words in it.)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Snowed in with Star Trek

I don't have any need to get out today and decided to let myself remain snowed in at the house. Mom called and told me about a two-hour Star Trek 25th anniversary show on the Biography channel, which is perfect entertainment for being indoors. It's even hosted by Shatner and Nimory.

Blowing Rock, North Carolina

Here's a webcam view of Blowing Rock, North Carolina, where my mom used to live. Blowing Rock is beautiful in the snow.

First Snow

The weather forecasters got one right. When I woke up this morning I found our yard and deck covered with snow, though the road in front of the house is still free of it. Traffic is moving on East Broadway Avenue at the foot of Everett Hill, but snow is still falling. According to our thermometer it is 35 degrees outside, so I doubt the snow will be a big deal, but it sure is pretty!

UPDATE: According to the Weather Channel there's no snow in Nashville, but then there wasn't supposed to be. I wish Sherry and the kids weren't missing it.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Girls Going West

Sherry and Sarah are heading to Nashville after work today to see Grams and Jake and Joey. I'm going to hold down the fort here and will probably get started on our Christmas cards, as well as doing the grocery shopping and other weekend duties.

Sherry wants to have the children photographed with Santa Claus, who used to preside at Bellevue Center Mall during the holidays. I did a quick search for the mall, and Wikipedia discusses the mall in the past tense. Apparently Sears is the only retail business left there; however, there is a developer interested in the property. There is also talk of locating a new, much-needed, branch library at the mall. I suspect Sherry and the kiddoes will track down Saint Nick at Cool Springs Mall, or perhaps the Mall at Green Hills.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cyber Week

We start our Christmas shopping really early, but Sherry has been cybershopping some this week to finish up. I've already wrapped most of the presents, so we're ahead of the game in that department. We have so many birthdays to celebrate in the fall that we usually start shopping for birthdays and Christmas during our summer vacation, which results in a lot less stress at the end of the year.

Christmas Spirit

Our office decorated for Christmas yesterday, and Sarah came home singing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" after school. Her classroom has an Elf on the Shelf, whom they named Rudolph. We've located our Christmas boxes, but we'll wait until we get a bit closer to Christmas before decorating the house.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Sarah in a Play House

We took this photo in Seaside, Florida.

Kobe Steak House

From right to left are Joey, Sarah, Jake, Tara, Mark and Grams, having supper at Kobe Steaks Japanese Restaurant in Nashville for Sherry's birthday after our beach trip.

Roof Repair

Laura called the exterminator service we use out at the cabin, and they recommended a local roofer. The roofer said he would patch the hole in the roof with a metal patch and tar and estimated a cost of about $100.00. That's a relief.