Saturday, December 31, 2011

Restaurant Review -- Dancing Bear Lodge, Townsend, Tennessee

Our friends Mike and Julie invited us to dine with them at Dancing Bear Lodge, 137 Apple Valley Way, Townsend, Tennessee, for Mike's birthday. We met them there Wednesday night, and had a wonderful time. The lodge is up a hill and in the woods and is very bright and welcoming when you drive up there after dark as we did. Because it caters to tourists, it is a good place to have a fancy meal without the formality of many fine dining establishments. The entrees were in the $20.00 to $30.00 range, so a couple can have a very nice meal there for under $100.00, which is well worth it for the high level of food and service.

New Years Eve 2012

According to this website, Nashville is one of the top ten places to be for New Years Eve this year.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

When I was a kid I was very interested in ghost stories, and in vampires in particular. I read Stoker's Dracula at a young age, and borrowed the Lugosi movies from the local library. They even had Nosferatu, with Max Schreck as a creepy Dracula knock-off, Count Orlok. If a vampire were to have appeared in our neighborhood, like in the movie Fright Night, I was the kid on the block who knew how to lay one to rest. I identified with Van Helsing.

I've been a bit perplexed by the Twilight vampire phenomenon. Who knew sparkling vampires would draw such a following, and what is to be done? Enter Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

A Visit to Oak Ridge

My friend, Johnny, and his kids, Natalie and Teddy, were in town this week to visit family for the holidays, and while they were here we took the kids to the Children's Museum of Oak Ridge. Sarah and I visited the museum the first time in fall of 2010, and we liked it. Also, a trip to Oak Ridge for me means an inevitable stop at Big Ed's Pizza. Though Big Ed has passed, his pizza lives on.

When Sarah was two or three, she had a velveteen dress she called "Party Day." (She wore it to a party, and it was festive to her thereafter.) Sherry bought her this similar dress as a Christmas present, and Sarah is quite pleased with it. She also got the boots for Christmas.

This photograph shows the children in the upstairs part of a kid-sized doll house within the museum. In the same area is a display of toys from the 1900's to the present and a doll-sized doll house.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Word Of the Day: Mondegreen

There is an automobile commercial on the air that has various misinterpretations of the lyrics of Elton John's "Rocket Man." The word for that was coined in 1954, and it is "mondegreen."

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Artifact From World War Two

One of my great uncles, Earl Carroll, served in Iceland during World War II as a military policeman. He returned to Tennessee to become sheriff of Coffee County. Uncle Earl was the husband of my paternal grandmother's sister, who was born Vesta Spencer. He died when I was a child, but I remember him as a great bear of a man. He could grill a mean burger, and he liked to smoke cigars.

Uncle Earl gave Aunt Vesta the letter opener pictured above. It is engraved with Aunt Vesta's first name, "Iceland" and the years 1943, '44 and '45. As you can see, the handle is a large caliber shell. I use the thing almost every day. I trust Uncle Earl would not give his wife a letter opener made out of a live shell.

OLDER POST: Vesta Rocks!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Kazakhstan's Sunsphere

I recently learned that Kazakstan has a building, the Bayterek, that bears a striking resemblance to Knoxville's Sunsphere.

Monday, December 26, 2011

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

As I reported earlier, a secretary for one of our local law firms was kind enough to share her recipe for white chocolate macadamia nut cookies with our office. I sought her permission to further share it, and she generously agreed. These cookies rock!


½ cup softened butter
½ cup butter flavor Crisco
¾ cup packed brown sugar
¾ cup white sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. almond extract
2 ½ cup self-rising flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 ½ cup coarsely chopped macadamia nuts
1 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl cream together butter, Crisco, brown sugar and white sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in vanilla and almond extracts. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in separate bowl, then gradually cream into wet mixture. Mix in macadamia nuts and white chocolate. Drop dough by the heaping tablespoonful onto ungreased cookie sheet and bake for ten minutes.

For chewy cookies, do not over-bake. The cookies should appear soft with a slight golden top when you take them out of the oven. Fan them for thirty seconds or so, then transfer to paper towels to rest. They will darken as they cool.

More Productive Than I Thought

Sherry and Sarah indeed made it to Target, and Sarah has occupied herself since their return with a new Nintendo DS game she acquired there. As they left I started taking down our exterior Christmas lights, and after they returned Sherry and I took everything else down. I just hauled the tree up to the street for the city to pick up, and our Christmas paraphernalia is nicely packed away down in the basement. Sherry and I like to deck our halls, but once Christmas is over we like to get everything back in boxes and get the house back to normal.

X-Ray Christmas Tree

By Rick Veasey (via Gizmodo)

Quiet Christmas Day

We spent a quiet Christmas day at home yesterday. We had pancakes and venison sausage for breakfast and dined on our copious leftovers for lunch and supper. We all got movies for Christmas, which provided most of the day's entertainment. I was able to convince Sherry and Sarah to watch The Princess Bride with me, and they seemed to enjoy it. Much like the character Fred Savage played in the movie, Sarah started out complaining, but became interested in the story as it progressed.

I doubt today will be much more productive, though the womenfolk may go to the animal shelter to help out this morning. Sarah has Christmas money burning a hole in her pocket and a game to return, so it wouldn't surprise me if they also make their way to Target before the day is over.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

On Christmas morning I give you Sarah and Grace seated at the kids' table at Mom's on Friday, and yet another picture of Molly 'neath the Christmas tree.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Cheese Peas


I was unable to find a post on this blog dedicated solely to cheese peas, a delight my sisters and I enjoyed again and again at our Grandmother and Granddaddy Ogle's holiday table, though I have mentioned the dish here before. I state as a disclaimer that my lovely wife disdains the humble pea, and would not willingly be in the same room with one except for her dedicated love to her strange husband. I like peas straight out of the can, heated with butter, salt and pepper. Alas, even Grandmother's addition of copious cheese fails to sway my beloved to give peas a chance. Our love is true, yet we remain unreconciled as to this one culinary issue. Thus with trust I do not offend my spouse, I submit Grandmother's simple recipe for this Ogle family favorite.


Two cans of green peas

Velveeta or American cheese slices


You can also add:

Sliced onion

Chopped boiled egg (one or two to preference)

Saltine crackers (for topping)

Drain about half of the water from each can of peas and convey peas to medium sauce pan. Your goal is to just cover the peas and whatever other ingredients you add with cheese sauce. I like the Velveeta method. You just add Velveeta until enough is melted to cover the peas. You can achieve the same thing with American cheese slices and milk or cream.

Sometimes Grandmother would add boiled eggs and/or cover the top with crushed saltine crackers. She almost always added the pimientos for color.

Ogle Family Christmas

We had our Christmas dinner, consisting of standing rib roast, deviled eggs, mashed potatoes, brocolli and cheese peas, at Mom's place in Knoxville yesterday as a late lunch. We opened gifts with Mom, La, Stewart, Andrew and Grace and Leslie, who had to come solo inasmuch as Fraz is unwell this holiday season. We missed Uncle Fuzzy, as Sarah named Fraz when she was a toddler. However, the kids had a good time opening presents, and we all enjoyed the family time together.

Santa visited our place on Everett Hill here in Maryville the morning of Christmas Eve rather than Christmas morning because Jake and Joey are heading out from Nashville tomorrow morning to Destin for a Floridian Christmas with their stepmom's family. Sherry and the boys are presently en route to Cookeville to meet the boys' dad, and they will have another round or two of gift opening with his family before they all head south.

Tacky Christmas

The best part about Christmas is that it is an officially sanctioned occasion on which to be tacky, something at which I excel. Behold the festive, if tacky, Christmas lights upon our shrubbery and our tacky cat beneath our tacky tree.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Beatles Christmas

I recently learned that the Beatles did a series of Christmas shows, beginning in 1963, which was my first Christmas. (I was born in August that year.) The shows included skits in which John, as the evil Sir Jasper, tied George, playing the damsel in distress, to railroad tracks. "Fearless Paul" was the good guy, and Ringo provided special effects. Mental Floss has more.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Survive An Avalanche

The Art of Manliness tells us how to Survive An Avalanche.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Vesta Rocks

These images, from NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day, are from thin slices of meteorite from the asteroid Vesta as viewed through a polarizing microscope. I had a great aunt named Vesta Spencer Carroll, so this caught my eye. I didn't know she had her own asteroid.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Eighties Cakes

If you've never visited the Cake Wrecks blog, it usually features really terrible cakes. Today, however, it has '80's cakes.

Candy Kitchen

Sherry and the kids are in Nashville for Christmas with Grams, and it is my understanding that they are going to make candy today. Jake has an appointment Monday morning with the doctor who operated on his eye last week, and then they will head back to Maryville. Joey and Jake will be here for the week, and then they're heading to Sandestin with their dad.

Gluten-Free Fig Recipes

With the exception of Fig Newtons, I don't give a fig for figs, but my mom likes them. I found some gluten-free fig recipes for her on Foodista.

UPDATE: Mom reminded me that she recently found out she is allergic to figs.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Courthouse Christmas

Here are two more photographs of Christmas in Maryville. I took the above photograph from the breezeway of the courthouse, near the county mayor's office, and I took the one below in the purchasing department.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas At Everett Senior Center

We recently attended a very nice breakfast at the Everett Senior Center, which is walking distance from our house. Sarah posed for this photograph with the center's Christmas tree as we were leaving that morning.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Battle Of Nashville

On December 15, 1864, the Battle of Nashville began. The Confederate Army of Tennessee under Lieutenant General John Bell Hood was routed by Union forces commanded by Major General George H. Thomas the next day. According to Wikipedia,

Casualties from the two-day battle were 3,061 Union (387 killed, 2,558 wounded, and 112 missing or captured) and approximately 6,000 Confederate (1,500 killed or wounded, 4,500 missing or captured). The Battle of Nashville was one of the most stunning tactical victories achieved by either side in a major engagement in the war. The formidable Army of Tennessee, the second largest Confederate force, was effectively destroyed as a fighting force. Hood's army entered Tennessee with over 30,000 men but left with 15–20,000.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Post Op

Jake had corrective surgery on his eye yesterday afternoon in Nashville, and Sherry drove there Monday after work to be with him. He's fine, and they are heading to Maryville this morning so Sherry can get back to work. He had a similar surgery when he was six or seven. The muscles that move his eye are slightly out of kilter, and the surgery is to adjust them so that they work the way they are supposed to. We're all glad to have him on the other side of it. They will go back Saturday to have Christmas with Grams and for a post op appointment with Jake's doctor Monday morning, and then Sherry is bringing both Jake and Joey here to spend the rest of the week.

The Cheese, It Must Be Preserved

Mental Floss has an interesting story about a 1,400 pound block of cheese that someone gave President Andrew Jackson. It filled the White House with stinky cheese odor, and Jackson ended up feeding it to the public so he wouldn't have to haul it home to the Hermitage in Nashville when his Presidency ended. According to Mental Floss,

The people loved Jackson. Jackson loved cheese. What better way to celebrate Jacksonian democracy than by sending Old Hickory himself an enormous wheel of cheese? Dairy farmer Colonel Thomas S. Meacham of Sandy Creek, NY, hit on this notion in 1835, and he had the know-how to craft a titanic cheddar. The fruit of Meacham’s labor was a wheel that was four feet in diameter and two feet thick, weighed nearly 1400 pounds, and was wrapped in a giant belt that bore patriotic inscriptions like, “The Union, it must be Preserved.”

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

More Justice Center Christmas

Here are a couple more photographs of some of the Christmas decorations in the Blount County Justice Center. The Christmas tree greets visitors as they come into the main hallway after passing through security, and the wreath is on the door to the Clerk and Master's office.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Laura and Grace Perform In Nutcracker On Ice

My sister, Laura, and my niece, Grace, performed in the Nutcracker On Ice at the Ice Chalet in Knoxville this weekend. Laura works full-time at the University of Tennessee, and is a very involved mother. She manages, however, to carve out some time for herself to skate, which is something she's loved since we were kids. I'm proud of her not only for carving out that time, but also for being so dedicated to the sport she loves. It is also cool that she has Gracie involved, too.

I'm especially impressed by La's contrail.

Fruit Loops Anyone?

This toucan, from an 1806 publication, is from Neatorama, where there is a link to a lot more like it, but alas no Fruit Loops.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


We got busy yesterday afternoon in the kitchen, and Sherry and Sarah went into baking mode. A really nice secretary at a law firm in town gave the ladies in my office a recipe for white chocolate Macadamia nut cookies, one of my favorites, and we tried out the recipe for the first time yesterday. We were not disappointed.

Mom recently bought us some homemade tamales from a lady who sells them from the side of the road near Mom's house in Knoxville. We used some of them to make a casserole for supper last night. We lined a casserole dish with tamales and covered them with picante' sauce. Then we added and layer of frijolis refritos (refried beans), covered it with shredded cheddar and served it with sour cream. It was quick, easy and good.

The Landing of the Pilgrims

This lithograph depicts the landing of the pilgrims at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts on December 11, 1620. More here.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Bakers Creek Tree Farm, Greenback, Tennessee

This morning after breakfast we drove to Greenback to buy a Christmas tree from Bakers Creek Tree Farm, located about six miles out Highway 411 South from the Maryville Wal-Mart at 409 Henry Lane. Look for a sign with a Christmas tree on it on 411, and when you take a right on Henry Lane look for their red barn with a Christmas tree painted on it.

We selected this Norway Spruce. It is a bit big at the bottom, but it is a good, straight tree. Sarah had a big time running between the trees while the fellow from the farm cut the tree for us. I came prepared to cut my own tree clothed in my Liberty overalls. I also brought my Sven backpacking saw and some twine to tie the tree to the car. The guys at the farm do all that for you, and they haul the tree to your car as well. You pay forty dollars a tree, no matter what the size. They also had some nice white pines, but we went for the spruce this year.

We decorated our tree once we got it home, and Sherry and Sarah also decorated Sarah's little tree in her room. They've been resting, but we've got some baking to do before the afternoon is over.

Winter Wonderland

The first and second graders at Sarah's school performed a production called Winter Wonderland Thursday evening and Friday morning. Sarah portrayed Olive the Other Reindeer, who laughed at Rudolph.