Friday, April 30, 2010

Laura and Leslie's Nashville Lodging

My sisters, Leslie and Laura, are also going to the Jimmy Buffett show in Nashville tomorrow. They have booked lodging at the Vanderbilt Marriott on West End. The hotel has an indoor pool, so we'll be able to go for a swim tomorrow afternoon before the show.


Sarah lost her first baby tooth this morning as she was eating her breakfast. She is very excited about it!

Water on Mars

Questionable humor for Friday from Things I Think are Kinda Cool.

Happy Arbor Day!


Today is Arbor Day, a day on which we are encouraged to plant trees. It has been a while since I've planted a tree, and that's something that would be fun to do with Sarah. When I was a boy, a neighbor gave me a tulip poplar seedling that I planted in our front yard. Unfortunately, I planted it under the power lines, and subsequent owners of the home had to cut the tree down to keep it out of the lines. (We have the same problem with the crape myrtle I discussed yesterday.)
Some pine trees I planted have survived, however. My boy scout troop planted a bunch of pines on the campus of Bearden High School in West Knoxville along Gallaher View Road, and they were still there the last time I drove by my high school alma mater.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Don't Get in the Way of the Television

We have satellite television service, and the reception has been poor recently. We thought this was because of the recent rainy weather we've had. However, yesterday was sunny, and the reception was still bad, which was when we realized that spring vegetation was blocking the signal. (We had the same problem last year.) Sherry took matters into her own hands yesterday after work and put a hurting on the crape myrtle in the corner of our yard. After she reduced the towering shrub to a pile of sticks and leaves, our reception indeed improved. Sarah even helped by stacking the debris on the street for the city to haul away next week.

Woman Reading

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Lake is Up!

I forgot to mention that when Sarah and I went out to Louisville Lake last weekend the lake was up. TVA lowers the lake levels during the winter, and usually they bring the water up around tax day each year. Where I used to live, Louisville Lake became mud flats all winter, and it was always a passage of spring to see the water back up. The lake looks very inviting.

Turtles Don't Make Good Pets

I have only been hospitalized once in my life, when I was about five. We brought home a small turtle, probably a red slider like those pictured above, in a shallow plastic dish that had a little artificial island in the middle of it. I was playing with the turtle before supper one night, and did not wash my hands before eating, which resulted in my catching salmonella. The Knoxville News Sentinel had an article yesterday in which experts from Ijams Nature Center and the Knoxville Zoo urge families not to bring pet turtles home from the beach, where they are sold as souvenirs. The turtles can still carry salmonella, which I can attest is a nasty illness, and moreover, they are illegal to possess in Tennessee.

Full Moon

Yep, tonight is the full moon. Look out for those werewolves.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Audiobook Review--The Universe in a Nutshell by Stephen Hawking

I just finished the audiobook version of The Universe in a Nutshell by Professor Stephen W. Hawking. When I checked it out of the library, I knew it would be over my head, and it was, though I was able to understand enough of it to learn something, I think. I am pretty handy with Tennessee law books, but I hate math. Theoretical physics is way out of my league, but I think it is important to challenge oneself. I am always humbled by how much I just don't know, and never will.
I liked Professor Hawking's sense of humor. He holds the Lucasican Chair of Mathmatics at Cambridge. He noted that it is the same chair Sir Isaac Newton held, but he also pointed out that Newton's chair was not electronic. I am a Star Trek fan. I became a Stephen Hawking fan when he admitted being "a bit of a Star Trek fan myself" and recounted his appearance in a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode in which he, Newton, Einstein and Data played poker. Don't tell me a guy in a wheelchair can't have a cool and fun life.

Latest on Bellevue Center Mall

I continue to follow the sad saga of the Bellevue Center Mall, which we watched slowly die during the five years I lived in Nashville. There were high hopes for the property until the economy took a nose dive. The community was discussing locating a new, larger Bellvue Public Library there, which that area desperately needs, and there was also talk of creating a Bellevue High School there, which would also be cool if it could be worked out. The Nashville City Paper has the latest speculation, which includes locating an IKEA there.

The Old Saint Barth's

Sarah's favorite Buffett song of the moment is "Autour du Rocher," which is about a island bar that no longer exists. Fortunately, she isn't aware of that part and just likes the beat of the song. Check out these photos that show not only Buffett, but the rock described in the song.

Dutch Oven Recipe

I've been on the lookout for recipes I can use the Dutch oven for, and I found one on The Noble Pig for Root Beer Short Ribs. Yummy!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Who was Max Friedman?

Another Knoxville bridge I traverse when driving to and from Mom's house is the Max Friedman Bridge, and I figured he might be associated with Friedman Jewelers of Knoxville. From what little I could find out about him with a cursory online search, I know he was a jeweler and a Knoxville city councilman in the '50's and '60's, and he may have suggested the catch phrase "New Deal" to President Roosevelt.

Brunch With Terry and Rachel

Our friends Terry and Rachel invited us to meet them for brunch yesterday morning at The Tomato Head restaurant in Maryville. Sherry and I ordered the pizza special of the day, a pie irresistably named Sheik Djerbouti. Instead of red sauce, it had a garlic and oil base, with cheese, a sweet lemon puree, chickpeas and cucumbers. I usually go for something along the lines of Papa John's The Works, but sometimes it's fun to try something different, and this fit that bill.

After brunch, Terry and Rachel came over to our place, and their son Tommy, who is almost two, and Sarah played on the deck and in the yard while we parents visited and enjoyed the sunny afternoon. Terry and I have set aside some weekends for camping. I really want to be sure Sarah sees the fireflies in the Smokies this year, so we set aside a couple of weekends in June, building in a rain weekend. We're also going to try and paddle out to the big island on Louisville Lake and clean up the camping area out there.

Who Was J.E. "Buck" Karnes?

On my way to pick up Sarah from Mom's house on Sunday I crossed the treacherous J.E. "Buck" Karnes Bridge over the Tennessee River. I wondered who is was named for and learned that James Ernest Karnes, who grew up in Knoxville, was a war hero and Medal of Honor recipient in World War I. His company was pinned down by a German machine gun, and Karnes and Private Calvin John Ward decided they "had all they can take" of the situation, fixed bayonets, and captured the machine gun position. Both men were awarded Medals of Honor.

Moons of Saturn

These are Titan, the big one, and Dione, both moons of Saturn, which has a lot. The image, from NASA, was taken recently by the Cassini spacecraft.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

First Loose Tooth!

When I called Mom's this morning to inquire about picking Sarah up, the child got on the telephone to tell me that she has her first loose tooth. Since several of her classmates have lost baby teeth, Sarah has been anticipating her first loose tooth, and so she is quite excited about it. Our family has a special tooth fairy named Mustardseed, who left coins and notes for my sisters and I when we were children, and she later did the same for Jake and Joey. I suspect she will be able to finish paving her driveway with the teeth she will soon be collecting from Sarah over the next few years.

President Visits Asheville

The President and First Lady were in Asheville, North Carolina this weekend. They toured Biltmore House, and no doubt enjoyed the mountains that surround the city, which is just on the other side of the mountains from us.

Hubble Space Telescope Has Been in Orbit Twenty Years

The Hubble Space Telescope has been orbiting Earth for twenty years now, and sending back images that have greatly enhanced our understanding of the universe. This image depicts the Carina nebula, a place where stars are born.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Lunch with Mom

Mom came over for a visit this afternoon and treated us to lunch at Lemon Grass Thai Cuisine and Sushi Bar, one of our favorite local restaurants. I had the Masaman-Kai, a sweet pork curry dish, and Sherry, being a sushi lover, had spicy shrimp and California roll. We shared, and I liked both varieties of sushi and enjoyed some wasabi with the California roll. Mom had beef and basil wrapped in cabbage, and Sarah had copious rice. Sarah has gone to spend the night with her paternal grandmother, which will be a delight for both of them.

Storm A-Brewin'

This image is from the webcam at Look Rock tower on Foothills Parkway. The storms are heading this way.

Keep Louisville Beautiful Day

Inspired by Earth Day at her school, Sarah lobbied me to take her out to the lake to pick up trash this morning. As I was slipping out the door at dawn to take my morning walk, she came out of her room and said sleepily, "Can we go pick up trash at the lake?" What dad could resist such a request?

We took a couple of the big lawn-sized garbage bags and went out to Louisville Lake to the spot where we went fishing on Good Friday. We used the fishermen's trails along the lake there to fill a bag and a half, and we cleaned up three good fishing spots right across from the marina. As we drove past Louisville Square Market on the way back to Maryville, I noticed a man erecting a sign proclaiming that today is Keep Louisville Beautiful Day and inviting citizens to participate in picking up litter. I wasn't aware that was happening in Louisville today, but I'm glad Sarah and I pitched in to help clean up a lake that has given me much pleasure over the years.

Man, am I aching to put my canoe on the water out there!

Treasure Hunts and Homework

We've had a typically busy week and are ready for some down time this weekend, which is supposed to be stormy and therefore proper for laziness, though I suspect some chores will be done before it is all said and done with. Sarah is back in full swing with her homework after spring break. Usually homework comes with plenty of complaining and whining (some of which is done by Sarah), and I frequently have to remind the child that she spends more time complaining than actually doing the work. Yesterday, she did her homework cheerfully and without complaint, a goal we have been working toward for some time now.

Sarah really enjoyed hunting for Easter eggs on Easter Sunday, and rather than making Easter egg hunting a year-round event, I introduced her to treasure hunting. I make a list of ten things for her to find or do in the yard around our house, and I try to sneak in things that go with her lessons at school for some stealth learning. It is one of her new favorite things to do. The other is a game she plays with her pink ball. This is one of the cheap balls you can buy at the grocery store for a buck or two, the size of a small soccer ball, but very light. She stands at the foot of the stairs to the deck and tries to throw the ball all the way up the stairs and onto the deck, where Sherry or I will kick or throw it back to her. It is a very simple thing, but it delights her and gives her a good workout.

Ron's Spaghetti Sauce and Mom's Lasagna

I am surprised that I have never posted the recipe for my stepfather Ron's spaghetti sauce and Mom's lasagna. Mom's lasagna rocked before she met Ron, but when they joined the two recipes, they made magic. It is one of my favorite recipes.

Ron's spaghetti sauce

4 pounds ground chuck
2 cans 6 oz. tomato paste
2 cans 8 oz. tomato sauce
3 cans 14 oz. tomatoes
3 medium onions
3 tbl. oregano
2 tbl. basil
4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. pepper
2 bay leaves
4 cloves garlic
2 sticks celery
1 cup red wine
Italian sausage
fresh mushrooms

I have rarely added red wine, and I've never tried adding Italian sausage, though I loved it in Ron's spaghetti. He used links about three inches in length.

Mom's lasagna

After preparing Ron's spaghetti sauce, mix 30 oz. Ricotta with two eggs. Cover the bottom of a casserole dish with spaghetti sauce, then layer noodles, another layer of sauce, the Ricotta mixture, shredded mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Bake at 375 for 30-45 minutes, perhaps a bit more if you have a slow oven like we do. This yields about two and a half large Corningware casserole dishes, and should leave you with a little extra (maybe 2 cups) spaghetti sauce.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Solar Prominence

NASA's STEREO spacecraft captured this image of the sun last week. The image depicts a huge solar prominence erupting into space.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

40th Anniversary of Earth Day

Today is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. Our family can celebrate two years of household recycling here at home. The recycling center near the Blount County Justice Center on East Lamar Alexander Parkway takes aluminum, 1 and 2 plastic (milk jugs and plastic soda and water bottles), various colors of glass, paper and cardboard, and we probably take a carload there every four or five weeks. Check out NASA's Earth Observatory for more about our global home.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

More Pictures of the Kids

Sarah displays the new lunchbox and dress that Grams bought her in Nashville Saturday evening.

Jake, Sarah and Joey relax on a bench in Centennial Park in Nashville on Saturday.

Sarah, snow cone in hand, pets a police horse on duty at Centennial Park.

Curse You, Red Baron!

Manfred von Richtofen, the Red Baron of World War I, was shot and killed on this date in 1918, but not by Snoopy. Richtofen was shot during an dogfight, but there is controversy about who fired the fatal bullet. After being hit, Richtofen was able to land his plane, but died shortly after landing.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Busy Rainy Tuesday

It rained most of the day today, at least on and off. I left the house early to attend a class at the UT Conference Center in Knoxville, and we ended our day with a performance by the kindergarten classes at Sarah's school. The Daily Times has a brief online article describing the performance, and a photo gallery that shows a shot with all three classes, including Sarah's, onstage together. Sarah was able to pick herself out in the group shot, which also appeared in today's newspaper. All of the children were excited, and Sarah was bouncing off the walls at home this afternoon before the performance. It was fun to see the kids perform, and it was also nice to look around the audience at the smiles of the parents, grandparents and other relatives and friends who came to see the show.

Bellevue Soccer

Jake, pictured above, and Joey, pictured below, play on the Bellevue Middle School soccer team, and we made it into Nashville last Friday in time to see them play. Before the game Jake told his mom he was going to score a goal for her, and he did! Jake's teammate behind him is his friend, River.

Before the game the team gathers into a revolving huddle to psych themselves up.

The tall guy is the boys' friend Graham.


Earthquake in Maryville

I was getting up this morning to go on my morning walk, and at 5:29 a.m. (at least according to our bedside clock) I felt the ground shake a bit. When we lived on Old Harding Road in Nashville some blasting was being done across the street, and it felt about the same, perhaps not as loud since the earthquake was three miles underground. According to WBIR, the USGS says it was a 3.3 magnitude earthquake centered right down Sevierville Road from us.

Robe Violette et Anemones

Monday, April 19, 2010

Happy Anniversary!

My sister Laura sent me this e-mail today:

Today would have been Grandmother and Grandaddy’s 80th wedding anniversary. Of course Stew and I chose this date to elope because it was their wedding day too, and I thought it would be neat to share that with them. It’s our 8th. I thought it was interesting, “8” and “80.”
She is referring to our Grandmother and Granddaddy Ogle, and our sister, Leslie, and her husband, Frazier, are at Grandmother and Granddaddy Ogle's cabin in Estill Springs, Tennessee, enjoying the spring weather. In fact, I just got off the telephone with Leslie, who says she is going to dunk herself in the creek later this afternoon. Happy anniversary to Grandmother and Granddaddy and La and Stewart!

Pizza Muffins!

The Nobel Pig has a fun and easy recipe for some pizza mini muffins. I suspect Sarah will love these. Often the recipes on The Nobel Pig are beyond my meager abilities, though I still enjoy learning from them and looking at the wonderful photographs. I think I can cook these pizza buddies.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Home on the Hill

We are back at our home on the hill after our busy weekend in Nashville. We could not find Molly, our recently shaved and vaccinated, and formerly long-haired calico cat, when we left town Friday afternoon, and we were happy to have both cats greet us upon our return. After we unpacked the car, Sherry went on a grocery run so that I could work with Sarah and her assignments from school.

We were a whirlwind of activity in the kitchen this afternoon. Sarah has taken a fancy to tacos, so we cooked up some taco meat for her. Sherry bought two large packages of chicken, all thighs and legs, and we baked half of those. Sarah is very helpful in the kitchen, and we try to find ways to include her in food preparation. She was very happy a couple of weekends ago after seasoning some chicken. When she got to try a piece of it, she found that she impressed herself with her culinary talent, and we made sure to let her season this afternoon's yard trotters.

In a cooking frenzy, we also made a large batch (four pounds of ground chuck) of spaghetti sauce. Obviously, we browned a lot of hamburger this afternoon. Sherry did the hard work of the recipe, chopping up onions, celery and mushrooms, and Sarah helped with pouring the cans of tomato products into the cook pot. She also assisted in seasoning the sauce with salt, pepper, basil, oregano, bay leaves and the like.

It has been another busy day, and I shall sleep well tonight.

Nashville Saturday

We had an enjoyable day yesterday, beginning with the obligatory trip to the Nashville Humane Association to visit the impounded kitties. There were several adorable kittens, which Sarah promptly loaded into her lap. The child was in heaven.

We met several of Sherry's friends for lunch at The Cheesecake Factory, which was incredibly expensive. She and I split a huge salad, and Jake and Joey split a meal. Sarah got a child's pizza, and and we bought one piece of cheesecake, which we all shared. The tab was over $100.00. Ouch! Still, it was a fun group, and we had a good time telling jokes and visiting.

Afterward, we went to Centennial Park for Nashville's Earth Day Festival. The place was packed, but we were lucky enough to find parking. Jake and Joey brought a soccer ball and kicked it around while Sherry and Sarah and I strolled among the vendor booths. There were a couple of mounted Metro police officers, and Sarah enjoyed petting their horses. After we were through browsing the booths, we walked around the Parthenon a bit before I belted out a couple of Tarzan yells to round up the boys. This, of course, mortified my lovely wife. It is what I live for.

Grams took everyone out for supper last night at nearby Jim and Nick's Bar-B-Q. I usually don't eat supper, and stayed behind to relax and watch a bit of television before turning in for the evening. Everyone is still asleep at the moment, but Sherry and Sarah and I will need to hit the road as early as we can this morning for the three hour drive to Maryville. Our cupboard is bare, so we'll also have to hit the grocery store on the way into town. I'm going to cook up some more of the sausage I bought yesterday for sausage biscuits as our breakfast before we get underway.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Walking in Nashville

I know the Marc Cohn song is "Walking in Memphis," but I went walking in Nashville this morning in our old neighborhood, River Bend Subdivision, and along the Harpeth River. There is a Great Blue Heron that fishes the retention pond between the river and Morton Mill Road, and he was in his regular spot this morning. I walked by our old home, which was the house we brought Sarah home to when she was born. It is also where we were living when my cat, Bessie, went missing some five years ago. I always have a faint hope that I might see the beast when I'm walking in that neighborhood, though she would be about fourteen years old now.

Last time I was in town I picked up some Purnell's sausage. I intended to buy their smokehouse sausage, which is what they sell at Cracker Barrel, but I bought the wrong kind. I bought eight pounds of the smokehouse variety this morning at the Kroger for about $2.50 a pound. If you buy it by the pound at Cracker Barrel it is about double that cost.

Sarah and Grams are awake, and Sarah is showing off her finger weaving talent to her maternal grandmother. Sarah learned the craft from a child at school, and it is something she really enjoys. The end result of the finger weaving is a tube of webbing, and her longest one is about fifteen feet long. It makes the cats very frisky.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Another Breakfast Casserole

I found a breakfast casserole with bell peppers, Italian sausage and cheese on the Al Dente foodie blog. I'm not sure how it would go over with Sherry, since she isn't a big fan of peppers or fennel, but I might find an occasion to make it one day.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Nashville Margaritaville Marches On

According to the Buffett World website, the proposed Nashville Margaritaville operation appears to have satisfied the Metro Historic Zoning Commission that the plans for refurbishing the former Planet Hollywood building will not detract from the historical value of the property. Buffett World has artist's renderings of how the building will look.

Cats Back from Vet-None the Worse for the Experience

Both Molly and Emma are home from their day at the vet, and Molly is sporting a new, short hairdo. The vet did blood tests on Emma, who throws up a lot, and opined that she had no problems with her kidney, liver and glucose levels. We are to treat her with hairball treatment.

More Kite Festival Photos

Here are a few more snapshots from the Kite Festival to benefit Fine Arts Blount at Pearson Springs Park in Maryville Sunday afternoon. During our entire wildflower walk up in the Smokies, Sarah was hurrying us up so she could get to the Kite Festival for a snow cone. Unfortunately, the snow cone vendor was not in attendance, so she settled for a hot dog and a cupcake. The event was even more colorful than last year, and it was a bit more windy, though still not really a high enough wind for real kite flying. Last year kids were dragging their kites across the field at ground level. I do my kite flying at the beach each year.

The Tax Man Cometh

Today is Tax Day here in the United States, and I am pleased that our accountant filed our return electronically a couple of weeks ago. I used to prepare my own return, but it was a chore I did not like, so we've paid an accountant to do ours for several years now. I consider it money well spent.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Over the Hump

I figure at lunch time on Wednesday, I'm officially working on the back end of the work week. I have made arrangements to take our two calico cats, Molly and Emma, to the vet tomorrow for their annual shots. Molly, the long-haired calico, also gets shaved down for the spring. I figure it is better for all that fur to end up on the floor of the vet's office than all over our sofas, and spring has both beasts shedding winter fur.

We plan to visit Nashville this weekend, and our plan is to go fishing on Marrowbone Lake Saturday morning and to meet some friends of Sherry's at the Cheesecake Factory in Green Hills. Sherry's been to the Cheesecake Factory before, but I haven't. I look forward to trying it out, because I've heard good things about it.

Lecture at the Law School

I graduated from the University of Tennessee School of Law, and I recently visited the law school with one of my law school classmates to see a lecture by Fred Bartlit, Jr., the attorney who represented George W. Bush in the litigation involving the 2000 election. He was an engaging speaker, and it was nice to visit the law school and meet the dean, who was very nice and welcoming. After the lecture my friend Brent and I had lunch at the Old College Inn, one of our law school haunts, before I returned him to his law office.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Easter Bunny

My Sarah, what big ears you have.

More Hiking Pictures

Here are some more photographs from our walk up at Look Rock.

Sarah wore her purple faux fur-lined boots, and her feet got too hot, so she took frequent rest stops.

Water is flowing again in the lower part of the campground.

Sherry and Sarah pose underneath the bridge near the entrance to the campground.

Sarah and I rest after descending Look Rock tower.

Greg "Fingers" Taylor

Greg "Fingers" Taylor has returned to Jackson, Mississippi. The former harmonica player for Jimmy Buffett has moved back to the area to be near his mother. I met him once in in the 80's in Charlotte, North Carolina, in a hotel laundrymat, and he was kind enough to give me an autograph.

Let's Go Hiking!

Sherry, Sarah and I took a walk through Look Rock campground and up the trail to the fire tower on Sunday. We were looking for wildflowers. We found a few, but it is still early in the season up there. We saw some people when we were at the parking area at the entrance to the campground, but otherwise had the place all to ourselves. I'm ready to go camping!
We saw a lot of these little white flowers. I think they are wood anemones.

Sherry took this photograph looking off the Cades Cove side of the Look Rock fire tower.

We also saw violets, which are abundant everywhere this year.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Mom's Birthday Party

We had a fun birthday party for Mom at her house Saturday afternoon, and we got out into her yard to enjoy the nice weather. We cooked for the first time in my Dutch oven, and the Daube of Beef Provencal, shown below, turned out good. (I ended up cooking it about another hour on Sunday, but it was good after the two hours it cooked on Saturday.)

Mom has the CMT Crossroads episode featuring Jimmy Buffett and the Zack Brown Band recorded, and we enjoyed watching it to prepare us for the concert in Nashville May 1. Sarah is becoming quite the little Buffett fan, which has me censoring some lyrics.

I swear, if they hadn't already arrested Theodore Kaczynski for being the Unabomber, I would turn Uncle Fuzzy in.

Laura poses with Sarah and Grace above, and Sarah enjoys an appetizer below.