Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!

We are expecting a rainy evening for trick or treating here in Maryville, but are hoping we can dodge the rain enough for Sarah to have a decent Halloween haul.  It should come as a surprise to no one that the child requested a cat Jack o' Lantern.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Dracula From Book to the Screen

Max Schreck played this character, Count Orlock, in Nosferatu, an early, unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker's DraculaMiss Cellania has the interesting story of how the novel came to the stage and screen.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Pumpkins from Butler's Farm

We bought our Halloween pumpkins last weekend at Butler's Farm Market.  They also had honey crisp apples, which Sherry has been buying a lot of.  At the grocery store they run $2.00 to $2.50 a pound.  At Butler's they were $1.00 a pound, and you are buying from local farmers James and Donna Butler.  I was happy to see them both at the market at this visit as I had not seen them in a couple of years.  It was fun catching up with them, and they had a market cat, which entertained Sherry and Sarah.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Monday, October 27, 2014

Kooky Spookys

When I was a little kid, I was into ghosts and things that glow in the dark.  Imagine my delight when in 1968 Hasbro introduced toy ghost finger puppets called Kooky Spookys that glowed in the dark.  I was five when they came out, and I liked to charge them under a lamp and crawl into the hall closet until the glowing started to wane.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Last Night at Aloha Cottage

On our last night at Aloha Cottage, we had our Beach Mice cousins come over for a supper of John's Mac and Cheese, chicken and shrimp.  Pictured above are the second cousins, John and Cara, Andrea, me and Sherry, our common ancestor being Francis Marion Powell, my mother's grandfather.
These are the third cousins, Sarah, Samantha (Andrea's daughter) and Megan (John's daughter), and the two older girls' boyfriends.

Cara supervises the Mac and Cheese operation.

It was a fun evening, but ended early inasmuch as we had an all-day drive home ahead of us the next morning.  We intended to hit the road at 6:00 a.m., but beat that by an hour and departed at 5:00 a.m.
I took a picture of this jiffy store for Laura.  When I was little, before I could properly pronounce their names, I called Laura and Leslie "Wa Wa" and "Ya Ya."  We got on the interstate shortly after I snapped this picture, and as we were driving I-75 through Tampa another driver to the right of us had a flat tire and almost hit the front driver side of our car trying to get to the shoulder.  Sherry was at the wheel, and only her skillful driving prevented a collision.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Fall Saturday

We've had a busy week and are happy to have a weekend ahead of us.  Sarah's theater group has started rehearsals for their next production, which puts the girls out until after 8:00 p.m. a couple of nights a week.  Sarah is finishing up the medicines the doctor prescribed her for her pneumonia.  Thankfully, she is finished with the steroid they put her on.  It made her face red and made her weepy.  When I picked her up from school Wednesday she said she'd felt like crying for no reason all day. She just has three more days of her liquid antibiotic, and she's through with her prescriptions.

We have a busy morning and fun family afternoon planned.  While Sherry and Sarah sleep in, I am going to slip out and do our grocery shopping, as well as to stop by the office to drop off some paperwork I don't want in my car all weekend.  Once the girls are up, we are going out to breakfast and to run the rest of our errands and get back to the house in time to get ready for Mom and Leslie and Laura and Grace to come over for a cookout.  With the cold weather upon us, it may be the last time we can enjoy our deck and grill until spring.  I haven't seen them in a couple of weeks, which is unusual for us, and I'm looking forward to catching up.

UPDATE:  I've had a cough for a couple of days and felt like I might have a bit of a fever this morning as we were out running our morning errands.  I came home and checked, and the thermometer reading was 99 degrees, so we cancelled our cookout, much to my disappointment.

Friday, October 24, 2014

A Visit to Tarpon Springs, Florida

While in Florida for Sarah's fall break, we took in the Tarpon Springs sponge docks.  The town has been a center of the sponge trade since the early 1900's, and is home to many Americans of Greek ancestry.
A boat is tied up at the dock, with a few sponges netted up on top of the cabin.
Sarah poses as a sponge diver.
This colorful boat appeared to be a shrimper.  We don't see many of those on the Tennessee River.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Breakfast Wraps Recipe

We do not typically buy link sausage for breakfast, but this quick and easy recipe from the Nobel Pig might be an excuse to.  Yum!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Restaurant Review -- Sharky's on the Pier, Venice, Florida

Cara had to work the week we were visiting the Tampa Bay area for fall break, but John was able to take some days off and generously showed us around the area.  One of our outings was to Venice, Florida, where he took us hunting for shark teeth, after which we dined at Sharky's on the Pier.  I like the fins on the roof.
Here John and Sherry are shown sifting shells, and hopefully shark teeth, out of the sand.  John says he can pull out a hundred or more at a time on some days.  We got twenty or so, and the girls were also collecting cat's paw shells, so we came home with enough beach treasure to fill a hurricane glass.
Sharky's is at the land end of the Venice fishing pier, and there were plenty of anglers trying their luck all along the pier.
We ate outside with the ocean and pier in view from our table.  I had some huge crab stuffed mushrooms covered with cheese, and John had a lobster roll he let us try.  It is a lobster salad sandwich, and was quite tasty.  We also had an appetizer sampler that included deep-fried grouper bits, fried shrimp and boiled shrimp.  We did not leave hungry.

John told us the story of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge disaster in 1980 when a ship hit a support column on the bridge as it existed then.  Part of the bridge fell in the water, and in the bad weather people drove off into the abyss.  Six cars, a truck and a bus went over.  This is a view of it as it exists now.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Cousin John's Mac & Cheese

Our Beach Mice cousins, Cara and John, were wonderful hosts while we visited their coastal home.  Early in the week, we cooked lasagna for them at the Aloha Cottage.  It got us talking about recipes, and John described his mother's mac and cheese recipe.  He was kind enough to show me how to cook it on our last night at the beach, and it was delicious!  We had a houseful of cousins, including Cara's sister Andrea, who came to the reunion last year, and no one went away hungry since we also had plenty of chicken and shrimp to go with the mac and cheese.  Here's John's recipe:


2 lbs. Ziti pasta (Mueller's)
1 tbsp. salt
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. pepper
4 tbsp. parsley
corn starch
2 lbs. white American cheese (Land o' Lakes or Boar's Head)
1/2 gal. whole milk
1.5 to 1.75 sticks butter
Bread crumbs (Vigo)

Cook pasta al dente and let rest at least 15 minutes in casserole dish(es).  The disposable aluminum ones from the grocery store work nicely. 

Heat milk on low (between 2 and 3) in large sauce pan on the stove.  Do not scald milk.  Begin adding cheese a slice or two at a time once milk is hot.  Once you add cheese stir continually with slotted spoon so cheese will not stick to bottom of pan.  When it starts to melt more quickly, you can increase the amount of cheese you add.

Make a solution of starch and water.  You will use two cups or so, and it should be a thin paste.  It will look like milk, only thicker.  Turn heat above medium as you add starch to evaporate liquid and help thicken cheese sauce.  When thickness is achieved so that it will not run quickly through slotted spoon, pour over ziti noodles so that they are covered.  Add about 4 oz. bread crumbs, which should be enough to thinly cover the casserole(s).  Cook at 350 degrees until brown and bubbling.  Let sit another 15 minutes before serving.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Restaurant Review -- P.J.'s Oyster Bar and Seafood Restaurant, Indian Rocks Beach, Florida

Another fun restaurant we dined at in Florida on fall break was P.J.'s Oyster Bar and Seafood Restaurant, 415 Second Street, Indian Rocks Beach, Florida.  The place is named for its resident parrot, and it featured Jake and Elwood in front of the building.  It was very festive inside as well, as you can see below.  I arrived in my beach hat boasting Skippy the rat on my shoulder, which got a few bemused looks.  Cara's mom asked her, "Where do you come up with these people?"
We had a variety of fried seafood, including alligator bites, which I ordered in retaliation for the Florida Gators having beaten our Tennessee Volunteers the Saturday that we arrived in town. 
 P.J.'s was pretty crowded when we were there, but it was a fun crowd.  Nevertheless, the service was good, and the food was excellent.  It was touristy but fun.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Manning the Pneumonia Ward

Sarah developed a cough over fall break.  She coughed a lot, but did not feel bad or have a temperature, so we just went along with our vacation.  When she got home after her first day back at school, which was on Tuesday, she fell asleep before supper, and when we took her temperature it was 100.4 degrees, so we scheduled an appointment with her pediatrician for the next morning.

The next morning her temperature was down to 98.7, but the doctor diagnosed her with pneumonia and directed us to come back Friday morning.  Yesterday's appointment confirmed a diagnoses of mycoplasma pneumonia, which we all grew up knowing as walking pneumonia.  It is in both lungs, and he prescribed an antibiotic, a steroid and an inhaler.  She can return to school Monday, but must refrain from sports next week.  He said he had it recently and coughed for five months, so she's got a long way to go.  Overall, though, she's doing okay, although I suspect she'll be pretty bored with me by the time her mom gets home from Nashville on Sunday.  Her appetite is back, so that's a good sign.

Friday, October 17, 2014

A Visit to the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary

As we were exploring the area near our beach house on our fall break trip we paid a visit to the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary in Indian Shores, Florida.  It was just down Gulf Boulevard from the house, and admission is free, although they do request donations.  We enjoyed our visit and learned how many waterfowl get injured.  Fishing line and hooks injure some of the birds that wind up in the center.  I like to try and identify sea birds at the beach, and I usually pack my Audubon field guide when we go on vacation.  The sanctuary gave me a chance to view some coastal birds up close.
Pelicans rest in their enclosure.
Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann on Gilligan's Island, donated a bird enclosure in honor of Jim Backus, who played Mr. Howell.
Also not far from our house was a small park with a boardwalk through the mangroves to the intercoastal waterway.  We saw a couple of fiddler crabs as we walked.
We got to the end of the boardwalk in time to see the drawbridge raised for a passing vessel.

We fed seagulls every day, much to the embarrassment of our Florida cousins.  We noticed this bird was missing a foot, but he seemed to be getting along well enough.  I wondered if he might have been treated and released from the sanctuary.

UPDATE:  I forgot to mention the remarkable blue jay we saw at the seabird sanctuary.  Blue jays are quite common here in East Tennessee, and they basically screech.  The one at the seabird sanctuary sounded like a cat meowing.  It was surreal.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Caladesi Island State Park

One of our first outings in Florida was a ferry boat ride from Honeymoon Island State Park to Caladesi Island State Park.  As we waited to board the ferry we were entertained by drum and flute music emanating from a nearby houseboat.

There were several gopher tortoise holes on Caladesi Island, and we were disappointed not to get to see one.  Sarah and I attempted the nature trail, but it was too wet from recent rains for the wimpy sneakers I was wearing.  We spent most of our time on the island's beach.
I took this picture because this kind of cactus grew in Grandmother and Grandpa Isenhour's neighborhood in Hickory, North Carolina, when I was a kid.  Sherry made the mistake of touching one and picked up some of the tiny spines it deploys for protection.  There were sea shells in piles on the Caladesi Island beach.  You could scoop them up by the double handful.  Jellyfish were plentiful that day, so we didn't spend much time in the water.
This is a view looking into the island from the beach.
The ferry navigates a canal through mangroves to get to the dock at the island.  We saw osprey on the way in and out.

When we got back to Honeymoon Island we encountered this armadillo on the lawn.  I was surprised at how fast he could move, once he made a break for the bushes.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Aloha Cottage

At our family reunion in August we started discussing the idea of traveling to see our Beach Mice cousins, Cara and John, where they live in Indian Rocks Beach, Florida, for fall break.  They were in New York when we arrived, so we had a couple of days to rest up at our beach house and explore the immediate neighborhood.
We rented this two-bedroom beach house known as the Aloha Cottage.  It was only $710.00 for the week, which was better than any of the one-bedroom condos we looked at.  It was a short walk to the beach out the back door, and the intercoastal waterway, seen below, was right across the street.  We were just outside the city limits of Indian Rocks Beach in its neighbor municipality of Indian Shores.

There were wooden docks all along the waterway there, and we spent some time enjoying the sun and observing the wildlife.  We spotted one dolphin, and a lot of seabirds, like this heron.

I had never visited the western side of the Florida peninsula before last week.  Because we customarily vacation on the panhandle, I am used to watching the sun set down the beach toward Destin from where we stay in Seagrove Beach.  The sun setting beyond the horizon on the Gulf of Mexico is a marvel to behold!