Sunday, December 30, 2012

Movie Review -- The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Sherry, Sarah and I saw The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey yesterday.  I should preface my remarks here with an observation and a disclaimer.  I understand that having a blog doesn't make one a critic, and I have read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings countless times, the former most recently a couple of months ago in anticipation of the movie's release.  Also, I loved Peter Jackson's three Lord of the Rings films, so I was predisposed to like the new film.

With that aside, all of the reviews of the movie I have read so far have been negative, although most of them acknowledged that there would be a group of Tolkien fans who would go to and enjoy the movie despite poor reviews.  As I expected, I am among that group.

The negative reviews complained about the length, three hours, but the story, which I've read over and over and over again, held my interest, and that of my wife and nine-year-old daughter, neither of which knew much about the story, though they were somewhat familiar with Middle Earth from watching the Lord of the Rings movies with me.  Both of them peppered me with questions on the way home, so they apparently found it interesting.

The movie did not exactly follow the storyline of the book.  For example, Radagast the Brown, one of Gandalf's fellow wizards is not mentioned at all in the book, but he is a delightful character in the movie.  Unfortunately, Tom Bombadil did not appear in Jackson's Fellowship of the Ring, but I figure you have to give a guy some dramatic license when he's trying to capture something as expansive as Tolkien's Middle Earth.  Jackson captures the feel of what Tolkien wrote in a modern movie format.  Tolkien would have no doubt been disgusted by the idea, inasmuch as he was a serious man of letters, but for those of us who grew up reading the stories of Middle Earth, the movies are something fun to share with our kids in the hope that they may one day turn the pages of the books we loved so much as kids.

Critics be damned.  I liked the movie, and I suspect that if you liked the Lord of the Rings flicks you'll like this one, too.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Grumpy Apocalyptic Cat

Sherry has been recently entertained by the Grumpy Cat meme.  I liked his take on the Mayan Apocalypse.  (Didn't we do that last year?  It is as silly as the Millerites.)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Canadian Christmas

La and Stew and Grace are in Edmonton, Alberta, celebrating Christmas with Stewart's family.  They were concerned that they might have a brown Christmas up there (i.e. without snow), but it looks like they needn't have worried.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Sarah was already awake when I got out of the shower a few minutes ago, and she has already prowled around the living room to inspect the trail of loot Santa spread all over it.  Sherry and the boys are still asleep, and we await Mom, who is supposed to be here at 8:00 this morning for the opening of presents.

We were visited this year by an elf of the shelf variety.  I refused to pay $40.00 for the official version and found a $15.00 elf instead that pleased my child quite effectively.  She named him Buddy after the Will Farrell movie, and she has enjoyed the game of finding him in a different spot each morning.  He apparently departed with Santa Claus overnight.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve

This is a composite picture of Earth at night from Astronomy Picture of the Day.  If you're curious where old Saint Nick is about now, check out the official NORAD Santa Tracker via the wonder of the Internet.

Peace on Earth.

UPDATE:  Mental Floss has the story of Colonel Harry Shoup, who took a call from a little girl who thought she was calling Santa Claus.  He was the first Santa tracker.  What a cool story!

Nashville Christmas

We just got back from Nashville, where we celebrated Christmas with Sherry's family.  We brought the boys back with us, and we await the arrival of Saint Nicholas later this evening.  We had a nice luncheon at Grams' house and supper with Papa John and Grand Jan at the Loveless Cafe.  I've had breakfast there many times, but yesterday was the first time I had a meal other than breakfast at the Loveless.  Sherry and I split a serving of meatloaf, which was delightful.

We encountered some fog and drizzle on the way home this morning, and Sherry and the kids slept most of the way home.  The weather here is still rather dreary, so we are enjoying comfortable clothes and leftover ham and cheesy potatoes from Christmas with my family on Saturday. There's no place like home for the holidays!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Resignation of George Washington

On December 23, 1783, General George Washington resigned his commission as the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army.  This painting, by John Trumbull, hangs in the rotunda of the United States Capitol.  According to the State of Maryland, where the resignation took place,

At the end of the Revolutionary War, many people in America and Europe thought Washington would retain the reins of power to become the leader of the new nation, or even king. When told by the American artist Benjamin West that Washington was going to resign, King George III of England said "If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world."

Washington, of course, went on to become the first President under the United States Constitution.  After serving two terms, he returned to his beloved Mount Vernon, once again relinquishing the reins of power.  The peaceful surrender of power is something of which we Americans are quite proud.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Oreo, Brownie and Cookie Treats

I'm not big on sweets for the most part, but Smoky Mountain Cafe has an easy recipe for those with a sweet tooth.  The first layer is chocolate chip cookie dough.  The next layer is Oreo cookies, and then you cover both with brownie mix.  My wife would at this point remind me of my tendency to eat such a dessert with Mayfield's vanilla ice cream.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Courthouse Christmas

The front lawn of the Blount County Courthouse is decorated with Christmas trees from the Hometown Christmas celebration, and many offices are decked out with Christmas decorations as well.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

France Hands Over New Orleans

On December 20, 1803, as part of the consumation of the Louisiana Purchase, the French turned New Orleans over to the United States at the Cabildo, which we visited last year when we spent fall break in New Orleans.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Kitty

Molly the cat loves to hang out under the bushes along the front of our house.  She is very happy that we brought a big, fragrant bush into the house for her to rest under.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Grandmother and Granddaddy Ogle's Creche

This table top creche has been a part of my family's Christmas my entire life.  Grandmother Ogle used to set it up each year on an old-fashioned marble top wash stand that she kept in her living room.  For the last thirty years or so it has been stored in an old Pringles potato chip can with paper cushioning consisting of small wads from the Tennessean's classified section.  The figurines are paper mache, and they've held up well over the years, though they are obviously old.

Sarah's play this year had a Nativity scene, and so she set ours up this year on Grandmother's side board.  We have various household artifacts from Grandmother and Granddaddy's house that have become a part of our day to day life and help me feel connected to them, though they have been gone for many years.  This humble little creche is a nice way to remember them each Christmas.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Red

Sarah poses with some poinsettias in the lobby of a Nashville hotel during our recent visit to Sherry's hometown.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Lights, Camera, Action!

Grams, Jake and Joey rode in from Nashville Friday evening on the Megabus to see Sarah and the Primary Players perform The Best Christmas Pageant Ever on the main stage at the Clayton Center for the Arts on the Maryville College Campus.  Here is our little actress backstage in the dressing room.  Sherry and Sarah have devoted a lot of time to the performance, and both enjoyed the experience.  I saw the matinee show yesterday, and it was very well done.  The whole family said Sarah looked angelic, which makes sense inasmuch as she was portraying an angel.

Today is rainy here on Everett Hill.  Sherry has taken Grams and the boys to meet the Megabus in Knoxville, and Sarah and I are hanging out here at the house.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Thursday, December 13, 2012

O Cyclops Tree

Sarah put a single googly eye on this painting of a Christmas tree.  She is her father's child.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I Never Met a Casserole I Didn't Like

I'm always on the lookout for new casserole recipes, although I tend to stick to a few favorites.  This one from Nobel Pig has chicken, rice, Gruyere cheese and Alfredo sauce.  I may try it with leftover turkey.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Cumberland River

Sherry's mother's home in Nashville is atop a bluff overlooking the Cumberland River.  This is the view looking upstream, toward downtown, from the bottom of the steps down to the river at Grams' house.
Sarah accompanied me part of the way down the stairs to the river, but bailed out when she decided she didn't want to hear me deliver the story of Nashville's founding.

This is the view from Grams' deck, on top of the bluff, looking downstream.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Exercise Bike

Mom bought me an exercise bike for my birthday, and I've been riding 45 minutes each morning since the week before Thanksgiving.  I started getting about seven miles out of 45 minutes, but I'm up closer to eight miles now.  As you can see, I'm not the only member of the family using the new cycle, which resides in our basement.

I used to get my daily exercise by walking three miles daily, which I can also do in about 45 minutes.  As my family and friends will attest, I am a morning person, so I take my exercise as soon as I wake up.  I find it an invigorating way to begin my day, and it keeps me busy while I wait for the rest of the world to wake up.

As I've aged, I've found walking on the shoulder of the road in the morning dark and, during this time of year, in the cold, less and less appealing, though I miss the time outdoors.  The exercise bike is part of my effort to get a regular exercise routine back into my life, and so far, I'm enjoying it.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Busy Holiday Saturday

We were busy yesterday, although we were home most of the day.  We had breakfast at Gracie's over on Lincoln Road in Alcoa, where we fueled ourselves for a day of work.  Afterward, we did our weekly grocery shopping, which included buying our Christmas tree.

We spent the rest of the day yesterday cleaning the house for company.  Jake and Joey are visiting next weekend, and Sherry's mom is making the trip with them via Megabus, so we wanted to spruce the place up and deck the halls in anticipation of their arrival.  We got the tree up and decorated, and the house is, for the most part, ready to entertain company.

We were on the go for about five hours yesterday, so we are spending part of today relaxing, as is our wont on the weekends, and especially Sundays, though we still have a cake yet to bake.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Woodpecker's Bad Day

When Sarah and I got home from work and school today we found this injured woodpecker in the driveway.  Luckily, I didn't run over the poor creature with my car, but I figured he was dying because of the blood on the pavement and because he didn't move when we approached.  Fortunately, however, he recovered somewhat and flew away a few minutes later. 

Sherry got home before Sarah and I did, and she said she heard a loud noise on the sun porch just before Sarah and I got home.  I found fresh droppings near the bird blood on the driveway, and there was a spot of droppings on one of the windows on the sun porch, so we figured the poor bird flew into the window.

I consulted my bird books, and my guess is that this is a Red-Bellied Woodpecker, though I am not confident about the guess.

Day of Infamy

On December 7, 1941, the Empire of Japan attacked the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.  This is a view of Battleship Row after the attack.  The U.S. Navy has a lot more here.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

La in Sleigh

My sister Laura, an avid ice skater, has made performing in Nutcracker On Ice at Knoxville's Ice Chalet an important part of her family's Christmas season.  This year is the 25th anniversary of the show, and it runs through December 8th.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sarah Bought a Book

During our last conference with Sarah's teacher, he said he wanted her to work harder on her reading, and her mother and I require her to read for at least fifteen minutes each afternoon after school.  We talked to her about what her teacher said, and she boasted last week that she had brought her scores up, which the teacher confirmed.  She used to constantly ask me each afternoon how many minutes more she has to read, and that is tapering off as she is discovering that reading is actually entertaining.  This weekend she had a bit of birthday money left to spend, and she chose to purchase a book, which I caught her here reading -- voluntarily!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Grams and Company

Sherry and the kids posed with Grams for a Christmas photograph at her home in Nashville this weekend.  It was unseasonably warm, hence the shorts.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Great Escape

This photograph of a shark apparently just missing breakfast was a winner of the annual National Geographic photography contest.  (Via Neatorama)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Back From Nashville

We just got home after a fun weekend in Nashville.  After listening to Christmas music on the road, Sherry was inspired to begin decorating the house for the season.  Though we still have halls yet to be decked, the stockings have been hung by the chimney with care.  I expect that we'll cut a tree next weekend in anticipation of Grams, Joey and Jake coming to town the following weekend for Sarah's performance in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever at the Clayton Center for the Arts at Maryville College.  For us, the busy holiday season has begun!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Friday, November 30, 2012

Jambalya Recipe

I've made jambalaya a couple of times using Zatarain's, but have never made the real thing from the ground up.  This recipe looks like a good way to start, and you get to be fancy and make a roux.  I miss New Orleans just thinking about it.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Skillet Chicken Thighs With Mushroom, Onion and Garlic Sauce

The thigh has been my favorite piece of chicken meat since I was a little kid, and we go through a lot of them at our place.  Ezra Pound Cake has a recipe, courtesy of the blogger's sister, that sounds right up our alley.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Bomb Threats Close Tennessee Courthouses, Including the Blount County Courthouse

The Blount County Courthouse and almost thirty other courthouses across Tennessee were evacuated today due to bomb threats.  The Blount County Justice Center, where I work, remained open inasmuch as the threat here was apparently only directed at the courthouse. 

I scanned online media coverage from around the state, and all three of Tennessee's Grand Divisions were affected, although East Tennessee had almost as many courthouse evacuations as Middle and West Tennessee combined according to the Associated Press.  The Tennessean reports that six Wal-Mart stores in Nashville were also the targets of threats.  At this point, no explosive devices have been found.

Last week courthouses in Oregon were targeted for bomb threats, and threats were made against courthouses in the states of Washington and Nebraska before that.


Baby Face Nelson

On this day in 1934 outlaw Baby Face Nelson died after a gun battle with FBI agents.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Hitting the Books

After school Sarah reads and then completes her homework, which usually consists of a spelling and vocabulary quiz.  In this picture she is writing a story.  The child has a creative streak.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Black Friday

It was a pretty dreary Black Friday here in Maryville, though we didn't get much in the way of rain.  Since we have so many fall birthdays in our family, we learned years ago that we have to begin our shopping for birthdays and Christmas in the summer.  We usually buy our first gifts for the holidays when we're at the beach in June or July, so we already have most of our Christmas gifts bought and wrapped.  We have a few items left to purchase, but no reason to fight crowds of shoppers the day after Thanksgiving.  We stayed put and enjoyed a quiet day, which is much more to my liking than standing in line at a department store.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

We had our Thanksgiving feast at Mom's house in Knoxville yesterday.  It was a beautiful day, and Sarah and Grace spent a lot of time playing in Mom's front yard.
Mom was happy to have all her kids and grandkids together for Thanksgiving.  She bought a fried turkey and made dressing, and Laura made cheese peas, a family favorite that we demanded that Grandmother Ogle serve at any such family feast.  It is basically green peas with melted Velveeta and pimientos.  We brought our cheesy potato casserole, and Sherry made a nice salad with feta, candied pecans and balsamic vinaigrette.

We got back to Maryville in the latter part of the afternoon and spent the rest of Thanksgiving Day thankfully relaxing.  I just put our turkey in the oven about a half hour ago, so it should be ready for the noon meal and thereafter conversion into Turkey Tetrazzini.

Deer Season!

My stepson Jake and his daddy went hunting last weekend, and Jake brought home a nine point buck, his first kill this season.  We just finished up last year's venison, and the season is young.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Americans All

The third-graders at Sarah's school staged a musical performance, Americans All, on Tuesday.  The performance celebrated American diversity, and Sarah danced in a Native American number.

She went and got herself some cheap sunglasses.

Happy Thanksgiving!

On October 3, 1789, at the American capitol of New York, President George Washington proclaimed Thursday, November 26, 1789, as a day of Thanksgiving.  It states, in part,

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be-- That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks--for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation--for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war--for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed--for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted--for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

You can read the rest of the proclamation here.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Everett Hills Baptist Church

Everett Hills Baptist Church is right down the street from our house, and its stained glass windows were very pretty the other night as Wednesday services were ending.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Bacon's Rebellion -- Jamestown Burns

This is another Bacon post, but not in the way you think.  On October 19, 1676, rebels against the colonial government of Virginia burned Jamestown during Bacon's Rebellion.  Pictured above is Nathaniel Bacon's Declaration of Grievances, an indictment of Virginia's colonial governor.  It reads a lot like a declaration drafted by another Virginian a century later. 

Bacon's movement began as an uprising of frontiersmen who did not believe the colonial government was sufficiently responsive in protecting them from Indian attacks and who took matters into their own hands.  This reminds me of the early history of my state, Tennessee, and the military activity of men like John Sevier, who had to rely upon themselves to fight Indians who attacked their settlements because calls for help from the government in the east went unanswered.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sarah's Birthday Party

We rented the pavilion near Sarah's school for her birthday party, which was yesterday.  She asked for a pinata, and Sherry found one in the shape of SpongeBob Squarepants.
Sarah selected a Shrek cake, and in this photograph she extinguishes her nine candles.

The pavilion has a grill, so I cooked hot dogs for the assembled guests.  There is also a playground nearby, and all of the kids enjoyed playing on it.

Here is Sarah surrounded by friends and loot. 

Happy Birthday Sarah, Leslie and Laura!

Today is Sarah's ninth birthday, a birthday she shares with my sisters Laura and Leslie and my former law partner.  Happy birthday to all!