Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Happier Story From Citico Creek

The News Sentinel reports this morning that the United States Forest Service offers a program in the Cherokee National Forest on Citico Creek that teaches children to snorkel so that they can observe the abundant life in the river. A similar program has been available on the Conasauga River on the southern end of the National Forest since 2000.

The program at Citico Creek offers the opportunity to see three rare fish, the eponymous Citico Darter, and the Smoky Madtom and Yellowfin Madtom. Of course, if you don't want to drive to Monroe County to look for these fish, then you can drive up to Abrams Creek here in Blount County to see them.

Girl Dies In the Smokies At the Sinks

According to the Daily Times a seventeen-year-old girl vacationing with her family from Florida died yesterday after being swept by swift current over the waterfall at the Sinks in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. The report says she became pinned between the rocks underwater, where the tremendous pressure of the falls kept her submerged for around three hours, when rescue workers from the Blount County Sheriff's Office and Townsend Volunteer Fire Department were finally able to free her body.

I've been on countless outings to the Sinks since I was a lad, and I can vouch for the strength of the current coming over those falls. Frankly, the guy in the photo just below the falls is pushing his luck. There's a nice, deep swimming hole there once you get a bit downstream from the falls, but this poor girl isn't the first person to drown at the foot of them. As peaceful and beautiful as the mountains are, it is important to remember that they can be dangerous as well.

Chicken in Coconut Milk (Murgi Malai)

While the gals enjoyed visiting kittens at the Nashville Humane Association and swimming in the Rolling River pool in our erstwhile neighborhood yesterday, I tried my hand at a dish from Bengal, India, from a recipe in the Best-Ever Curry Cookbook, by Mridula Baljekar, a cookbook Sherry's mom gave me some years ago. Baljekar describes the dish, Chicken in Coconut Milk as follows,

In Bengal, this dish is known as murgi malai, and in the Bengali language, the word murgi means chicken and malai is cream, either dairy or coconut. Coconut is a favourite ingredient of the region, and it grows in abundant supply in Bengal, Orissa and Assam.

Here is the recipe:

1 tbsp. ground almonds
1 tbsp. dry coconut
2/3 cup coconut milk
2/3 cup ricotta cheese (You can also use more coconut milk, which is what I did.)
1 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. crushed garlic
1 1/2 tsp. grated fresh ginger root (I used dry ginger powder.)
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. vegetable or olive oil
1 pound chicken breast, skinned and cubed
3 green cardamom pods (I used dry cardamom.)
1 bay leaf
1 dried chili, crushed (I used three I dried out from last year's harvest.)
2 tbsp. chopped fresh coriander (cilantro) (I used dry parsley, since this is mainly garnish.)

Dry-roast almonds and coconut in skillet until browned a bit and transfer into a large bowl. Add coconut milk, ricotta, ground coriander, chili powder, garlic, ginger and salt to the bowl and mix. Brown chicken in skillet in oil with cardamom pods (I used dry cardamom.) and bay leaf. Pour in coconut mixture, add crushed chili and fresh coriander, cover and cook ten minutes or so, stirring every so often. Uncover, stir and cook for two more minutes. Serve over Basmati, a long-grained rice common in India and Pakistan and available at the Maryville Kroger.

This is the second time I've made this dish, and I knew from the last batch to go heavier on the spices than set forth in the recipe, which I copied above directly from the book. I doubled the seasonings shown above, which may have been a bit much, and I used maybe three tablespoons of ground almonds and perhaps a third of a cup of coconut. My result reminded me a little of the Panang Curry served at Lemon Grass restaurant in Maryville, though my dish was a Westerner's ham-handed attempt compared to the wonderful food at Lemon Grass.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Audiobook Review -- When Character Was King: A Story of Ronald Reagan

On the road trip to and from Florida I enjoyed the audiobook version of When Character Was King: A Story of Ronald Reagan by Peggy Noonan, who wrote speeches for him during his White House years. Noonan recounts her own transition from a cynical White House staffer rolling her eyes behind the back of "the old man" to someone profoundly grateful to have known one of the great figures of the late twentieth century. Like many Reagan biographers, she depicts Reagan as a kindly, yet powerful and decisive man with a conviction that Communism is an evil force in the world and should be treated accordingly. Toward the end of the story she recalls a sad final meeting with the President as he suffered from Alzheimer's Disease and could not recall who she was when she brought her young son to meet him in California.

I was in college during the Reagan years, and it is interesting now to read in more detail about what was going on in the world during that time. I was studying Russian then and was interested in the changes that were coming about in what was then the Soviet Union under Mikail Gorbachev. I especially enjoyed Noonan's account of Reagan's negotiations and interaction with Gorbachev which set in motion events that would ultimately bring an end to the Soviet Union.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Sarah Aces First Spelling Test of Second Grade

Sherry and Sarah called me at work while en route to Nashville this afternoon. Sarah wanted to tell me that she made a 100 on her first spelling test of second grade. She's her own harshest critic, and worried all week about missing one or two words out of the fifteen. She missed one on her last practice quiz this morning, but pulled out a perfect score on the real thing at school. I'm glad that she's proud of her accomplishment, and I complimented her on how hard she worked for it this week.

A Quiescently Frozen Confection

We have some Popsicles in our freezer with advertising on the box describing the product as "a quiescently frozen confection." I wondered what that meant and pulled out my Webster's Collegiate Dictionary.

Quiescent is defined first as "being at rest" or "inactive." Since the product is frozen, this seems accurate. Quiescent is secondarily defined as "causing no trouble or symptoms." Hmmmmm. I would hope so.

Confection is defined as "the act or process of confecting." Confect is defined as "to put together from varied material," or "to prepare" or "to preserve." Confection is further defined as "a fancy dish or sweetmeat" or "a sweet food."

I would characterize this advertising as truthful, yet baffling.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Subs & Such Moves

My favorite local sandwich shop, Subs & Such, has moved. The buzz at the justice center says that despite the larger quarters in Midland Plaza, the restaurant continues to have people lining up at the door to get in come lunch time. I'm glad that business is good and look forward to going there for a sandwich soon and checking out their new digs.

Second Week of Second Grade

Sarah is winding up her second week of second grade, and this is the first week she's had homework. At Fort Craig, her school, students spend first and second grades, which the school designates "B-1-2," with the same teacher in a class that includes both first graders ("youngers") and second graders ("olders"). As strange as it seems for me to hear it, Sarah is now an "older."

As a second grader, she has a bit more on her homework plate. She now has fifteen weekly spelling words instead of ten. We did quite a bit of homework over the summer (66 pages), but did not practice spelling tests, as we do during the school year. She was apprehensive about her first practice quiz at home Tuesday evening, but only missed two of the fifteen words on her first try. She's already memorized the two she missed, so she should be well prepared for her first spelling test this Friday.

We usually pack Sarah's lunch, but we let her buy lunch at the school cafeteria once a week. She usually buys her lunch on Fridays, when the cafeteria serves pizza or bread sticks. This week, she decided to buy her lunch today, when the cafeteria is serving steak and gravy, mashed potatoes and peas. Maybe she is becoming an "older."

Knoxville's Kern's Bread

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

'Mater Pie

Laura and Grace met us for supper last night at Sullivan's after attending a meeting about HOPE Academy, which she is exploring for Grace. Yesterday morning La sent me a recipe for a tomato pie. I posted another recipe for tomato pie last summer, and it adds garlic, Parmesan cheese and sour cream to the ingredients in this recipe.

UPDATE: La and Grace made the WBIR story on HOPE Academy. That's them seated at the table.

Tomato Pie

1 - 9" pie shell
3 or 4 - home grown tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
1.5 Tbs. of fresh basil chopped
1/2 thinly sliced sweet onion
1/2 cup Mayonnaise
2 cups grated cheese, the sharper the better for my taste but mild works fine too

Bake pie shell according to directions. Cool. Place thickly sliced tomatoes on paper towels to absorb some of the moisture. Cover bottom of pie crust with tomato slices and onions. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Combine mayonnaise, cheese and basil in a bowl and stir together. Carefully dot the mixture over the tomatoes. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes, cut and enjoy.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Book Review -- John Sevier as a Commonwealth-Builder: A Sequel to The Rearguard of the Revolution

While we were at the beach I finished reading John Sevier as a Commonwealth-Builder: A Sequel to The Rearguard of the Revolution by James R. Gilmore (Edmund Kirke), which was first published in 1898. I was in a hurry at the library and wanted to quickly select a couple of books on John Sevier to take on vacation, and I did not learn until I got the book home that it was a sequel, so I may go back and read The Rearguard of the Revolution. The sequel tells of Sevier's activities in the attempt to establish the State of Franklin, which died in infancy, his role in successfully establishing the State of Tennessee and his leadership of Tennessee until his retirement and death.

The author is an unashamed admirer of Sevier, and the book struck me as terribly biased in favor of Sevier and against anyone adverse to him. I recently had a conversation about bias in our modern media and made the point that such bias has been present since the nation was founded, and Commonwealth-Builder certainly shows that such bias was in existence at the time it was published in 1898. I am as big a fan of John Sevier as anyone, but I suspect advocates for his adversaries, John Tipton and Joseph Martin, would present the facts differently.

I learned something about a couple of my favorite campgrounds that I did not know from this book. Apparently Abrams Creek, which flows into the Little Tennessee River just below the campground, was named for a friendly Indian (Native American, if you prefer) called Abraham, who lived in the area. Indians massacred the family of a man named Kirk, who lived on the Little River. Another man, Hubbard, known for his hatred of Indians, arranged through Abraham to assemble the Cherokee chief Old Tassel, of whom I have read before, and several of his lieutenants at a cabin on the south side of the Little Tennessee River just across from where Abrams Creek flows into it. Settlers surrounded the cabin with the Indians inside it and Hubbard allowed Kirk to tomahawk the native to death. I've camped on that side of the river many times without knowing it was the site of such atrocity. I now have a story I can scare the kids with next time we go up there.

Monday, July 25, 2011


While we were in Florida having breakfast at the Donut Hole in Santa Rosa Beach I saw a bottle of Florida Tupelo honey on the table, which struck me as strange since Tupelo is the birthplace of Elvis Presley in Mississippi. It made me wonder if Tupelo might be a flower from which honey is made since clover honey comes from clover and orange blossom honey comes from orange trees. I later learned Tupelo is a flowering tree common on the Gulf coast, so it makes sense that Tupelo honey could be produced in both Mississippi and Florida.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


I tried my hand at making a chicken tajine yesterday afternoon. (The picture isn't my dish. It is an example from the link.) It was my second attempt, and I think it turned out better yesterday than it did the first time I tried it. The dish is named after the pot that it is cooked in, and like a stew what you put in it depends on your taste and what you have on hand. Tajines are served in several areas in North Africa, but I think the recipes I was working from were going for a Moroccan tajine. Many years ago my cousin David and his wife Margaret entertained us at their home in Washington, DC, and they served a wonderful dish they called Moroccan chicken with couscous. I suspect it was a tajine.

One of my first attempts at cooking outside my comfort zone was Daube of Beef Provençal, and I've made it several times now. I find it interesting that like the tajine the French dish takes its name from the daubière, which is the traditional pot it is cooked in.

Here's yesterday's stab at chicken tajine:

8-10 chicken thighs
2-4 tbs. olive oil
medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. coriander (We were out.)
1 tsp. ground ginger (The recipe called for fresh ginger.)
1 tsp. paprika
4 tbs. salt
2 tbs. black pepper
2-4 cups flour
1 cup blanched almonds
1 cup pitted olives
1 cup chicken broth
1 sliced carrot
12 oz. can of apricot nectar (The recipe called for 1 cup dried apricots.)

Travel to North Africa or France and acquire tajine or daubière. Or stay at home in East Tennessee and use your Dutch oven or a big ol' stew pot. Mix flour, salt, pepper and paprika on large plate. Heat olive oil in tajine or other pot. Toss chicken in flour mixture to coat and brown on all sides. Reduce heat to medium and add onion, garlic and ginger. Cook for five minutes, and add and mix coriander and cumin in last minute. Add apricot nectar and chicken broth, increase to boil and reduce by half. Add carrot, olives and almonds and reduce to simmer. Simmer thirty to forty-five minutes. Serve over couscous. (I used leftover Spanish rice I brought home from lunch at Los Amigos.) I might add more seasonings next time.

Beach Snapshots

I downloaded these photographs from Sherry's digital camera this morning. She's taking more and more photos with her I-Pod these days so that she can post them directly to Facebook. I'm going to try to take more photos with the digital camera and/or our old 35 mm. In the photograph above, Sarah cools down underneath our umbrella.

Sarah and her cousin Grace spent a lot of time digging in the sand. Sarah has loved to dig since she was tiny.

Jake put down some big bucks for a pair of Ray Ban sunglasses at the beach this year.

Joey was more financially conservative and purchased this chair.

Sarah liked the pool better than the beach this year.

Molly Improving

Molly the cat, pictured above lurking beneath our kitchen table, has been suffering with a stone in her bladder for about a month now. Her veterinarian prescribed some special food meant to dissolve the stone so the poor beast can pass it. I don't know whether she's managed that yet, but it is evident that she feels better. The next step is to cut the stone out, so we're keeping our fingers crossed. It has been a tough summer for Molly.

Sarah and Nessa

Here is Sarah holding Laura's antediluvian cat, Nessa, on La and Stew's deck recently. Nessa is pushing twenty and still hunts more than both of our cats put together. She also weighs more than both of them put together. (Photo by Jane)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Goodbye Space Shuttle Atlantis

With the landing of space shuttle Atlantis on Thursday, July 21, 2011, the shuttle program came to an end. I have had an interest in space exploration since I was child. My parents thought it was important for us to watch the television coverage of the Apollo program, and we've made an effort to encourage Sarah to think about people in space. The Saturn V rocket was the workhorse spacecraft of my childhood, and the space shuttles have served the same purpose thus far in Sarah's. I wonder what type of vehicle will carry humans to space when she's my age.

Chattanooga Choo Choo

Here are a few snapshots Sherry took of the kids while I was in class at my clerks conference at the Chattanooga Choo Choo several weeks ago. We were surprised at how run down the hotel facilities were, especially since the place is a major Chattanooga destination.

Jake, Sarah and Joey pose in front of the famous engine.

The pool for our hotel building was pretty cool.

They are too cool for school.

Elliston Place Soda Shop Survives


Ever since I moved to Nashville in 2002 I've wanted to eat at the Elliston Place Soda Shop, which has been in existence for seven decades, but I never have. Sherry said she's eaten there as a child, but hasn't in recent memory. This week the Tennessean reported that the restaurant would close its doors today because of a rent increase. This inflamed Nashvillians, who flocked to the business for one last meal. This apparently caused both landlord and tenant to reconsider their positions, and both made concessions that resulted in a five-year lease, with options for two additional five-years terms. The lawyer in me is pleased when an impasse like this can be negotiated to resolution, and the foodie in me will be sure to have a hamburger at Elliston Place the next time I visit Nashville.

Bear With Its Head In a Jar

The News Sentinel reported this week that officers from Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency sedated a bear in Newport and relocated it to the Cherokee National Forest. While it is not unusual for bears to come into town looking for food, i.e. garbage, to eat, this story was unusual in that the poor bear had been roving around Cocke County for three weeks with a plastic jar stuck on its head. The poor creature was not able to eat during that time, and weighed only 115 pounds, rather than 200, when captured. The story is yet another example of why houses in the mountains should have bear-proof garbage cans.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Happy Penucke Day!

After recently posting the recipe for my Aunt Lucy's Apple Cake with Penucke Icing, I started wondering what penucke is. According to Wikipedia, it is common in New England and is like fudge. Today is National Penucke Day!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Natchitoches Meat Pie

Louisiana has an official state meat pie that has been served since the late 1700's. Can they add cheese? (Via Al Dente)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Bears on Ski Mountain in Gatlinburg

As I reported earlier, La and Stew recently acquired an A-Frame chalet on Ski Mountain in Gatlinburg. The folks who stayed there over the weekend sent them this photograph and reported, "We had visitors (4 of them). There were 2 on Friday evening, and then we saw a mamma bear with her babies on Sat. morning." Yikes!

To contact La and Stew about their vacation rental cabins, click here.

Black bears are native to the Great Smoky Mountains, and though they are very cute, they are wild animals and will kill you. For information about black bears, click here. The National Park Service has more information. Be safe, and store your garbage securely when you visit the mountains.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Seagrove Beach 2011

Our summer 2011 vacation has come to a close. We mostly sat on the beach and played in the surf and at the pool as is our wont when we visit the Gulf of Mexico each summer. In 2008 Sherry took a picture of the kids all jumping in the pool at the same time when we visited Sandestin, and the above snapshot is this year's version.

Joey and Jake with their toes in the sand.

Mr. Bill always gets into trouble on these trips. Oh nooooooo!

Sarah loves to dig in the sand.

Sherry took this colorful photograph of the children at rest.

Hungry boys contemplate hamburgers.

Clouds hover over the Gulf of Mexico.

Jake caught a feast of fish out of Choctawatchee Bay. At home here in Tennessee, we call him Troutslayer.

First Day of Second Grade

Today is Sarah's first day of second grade, and it is the beginning of the last year before her school, Fort Craig, closes. We expect she will attend nearby John Sevier Elementary School next year, and the new Coulter Grove Intermediate School the year after that.

1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ragtop

Sunday, July 17, 2011

RMS Carpathia

On July 17, 1918, RMS Carpathia, which had rescued the survivors of RMS Titanic four years earlier, was sunk by a torpedo from a German U-Boat during the Great War, which is now known as World War I

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Chowder, the little purple guy, is the central character in the eponymous cartoon. This is another strange show my child, who is seven, enjoys.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Harvard Blue Book

I recently paid homage to the Harbrace Handbook. Another important resource, at least for lawyers, is the Harvard Bluebook. I've had mine since law school in the early '90's, and it is quite worn out.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Restaurant Review: Cheeburger Cheeburger, Chattanooga, Tennessee

While in Chattanooga recently, we discovered Cheeburger Cheeburger, which is at 138 Market Street # A according to the Pig Out Spots blog, which is where the link will lead you. The place has a '50's diner decor, so it is very bright and cheerful. They sell cheeseburgers only, though you can ask them to hold the cheese if you must, and the burgers range in size from 5.5 ounces, which was plenty for me, to the dreaded Pounder, an artery-clogger that would give Adam Richman a run for his money. They have a wide variety of toppings and condiments, including peanut butter if that strikes your fancy, and their onion rings were particularly good.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Courage the Cowardly Dog

Another cartoon we see a lot at our house is Courage the Cowardly Dog, who is pictured above. It is the Twilight Zone of cartoons.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Restaurant Review: Lupi's Pizza Pies, Chattanooga, Tennessee

One of the restaurants I really wanted to visit while were in Chattanooga last month was Lupi's Pizza Pies. I've eaten at the downtown location on the corner of Fourth and Broad Street, just down the street from the Tennessee Aquarium, a couple of times, and they did not disappoint me this time either. We ate there at lunch time on a Wednesday, and consequently had a bit of a wait. We got drinks and two twelve inch pies for $45.00. I ordered a pizza with artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomato and Italian sausage, and Sherry got her usual with pepperoni and green olives. Yummy!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Halley's Comet

This image of Halley's Comet, from the Australian Astronomical Observatory, was taken in 1986.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


I recently read an interesting article in Knoxville's Metro Pulse about The Hodges Harbrace Handbook, which I still consult frequently. I knew that the man who produced the Handbook was a University of Tennessee English professor, but I had never read about the story of how the book came to be.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Book Review -- Young Hickory: The Making of Andrew Jackson

I recently read Young Hickory: The Making of Andrew Jackson by Hendrik Booraem, and I enjoyed the author's description of Jackson's life in North Carolina before Jackson followed his friend John McNairy to Nashville. I was born in Salisbury, North Carolina, where Jackson cut his teeth in the practice of law, and I liked reading about some of Old Hickory's exploits in the town of my birth. One of the tales from Jackson's youth has him responsible for planning a dance and causing a scandal by inviting two women of questionable character. Another involved him and his friends, known as the Inseparables, destroying the interior of a tavern after too much imbibation. I had read about both stories before, but Booraem's account of each story was entertaining nonetheless.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Here's the latest vacation rental La and Stew have acquired. It is a chalet on Ski Mountain in Gatlinburg, and it comes with access to a swimming pool. It looks pretty cozy! We're going to try and plan a family gathering up there after we get back from the beach.