Sunday, May 31, 2015

Weekend So Far

When I wake up in the morning, one of my first tasks is to feed the cats. I feed Emma downstairs, and yesterday morning I noticed her looking at the wall on the other side of our basement refrigerator. I looked to see what she was staring at, and saw a raccoon peering out from this hole. The house used to have a coal furnace in the basement, and the hole is where the stovepipe once connected to the chimney. Apparently, the beast came in through the chimney.
He quickly disappeared back into the chimney behind the wall, and we called city animal control. I spoke to a nice officer who told me I could come to the city animal shelter and pick up this trap, which he directed me to set last night and bait with canned tuna. Unfortunately, the raccoon did not take the bait. Later this morning I will call again for further instructions.

My sister Leslie took our niece Grace up to Pigeon Forge Friday night, and they stayed at the Margaritaville Island Hotel. The pool sure looks inviting.
We attended a wedding yesterday evening at our friends' farm on Montvale Road. We arrived several hours early to assist in preparation, which included gathering wildflowers.
Sherry poses with one of the dozen or so baby chicks they are nurturing to one day live in the henhouse outside.
They decorated their barn to serve supper after the ceremony. It was very nice, and a fun gathering.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Camping on Abrams Creek

We camped out at Abrams Creek campground in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park this weekend. We were there when they opened the campground for the season, which was a good thing because the whole campground filled up immediately. Fortunately, we were still able to get one of the spaces on the river.
Sherry, Sarah and I went up early, and my friend Mike and his family did not arrive until supper time, so we spent the day enjoying the campsite and playing in the river.

With hemlock woody adelgid killing hemlocks all over Tennessee, I was pleased to see plenty of new growth on the hemlocks we saw at the campground.

Sike brought his 1965 Dodge camper van, which his parents used to haul him and his two brothers all over the United States when they were kids. It still chugs along pretty good after all these years.
My friend and I don't exactly look lawyerly in this photograph, but lawyers like to get out in the woods every now and then, too. A business suit is not appropriate attire up in the mountains, although there are plenty of photos that show it was several decades ago.
The kids, as you'd expect, viewed the van as a wonderful fort or clubhouse. Sarah said it was luxury compared to our tent camping.
Our plan was to camp at the campground the first night, and then Mike and I were planning to hike our daughters in to the backcountry for their first overnight hiking trip, so I brought two small tents rather than our big family tent. They accommodated us well, but the hike fell through. we did not realize that all backcountry campsites are now rationed. It turned out that when we visited the ranger station to get permits the entire backcountry was filled up, and we couldn't get a site. It was quite disappointing, but at least we had a good night in the woods in the frontcountry.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Dr. Livingstone, I Presume

On October 27, 1871, Henry Morton Stanley found Dr. David Livingstone after months of searching for the explorer in Africa. Upon their meeting, Stanley famously said, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume." Smithsonian Magazine has an interesting article about the meeting.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

School's Out

Sarah's last day of fifth grade was Thursday, and during the last week of school they had a series of fun events for the kids, including movies, year book signing and Decade Day. For the latter, kids were to dress for a particular decade and be prepared to discuss it. Sarah chose the 1980's at her mother's behest. Fortunately, the child went out of the house with a 1982 World's Fair T-shirt instead of a Duran Duran T-shirt. Horrors!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day in the United States, a day on which we honor our war dead. It began after the Civil War as Decoration Day, a day to place flowers on the graves of soldiers killed in the Civil War, but over the years it became a day to honor all of those who have died during our history in service to their country.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Spring at the Camp 2015

We spent last weekend at our cabin in Estill Springs, known among family as the Camp. I had clerks conference that week in Nashville, and I drove down to Franklin County from there. Sherry and Sarah hitched a ride with Laura and Grace after Grace got out of school, so I had a few hours out there by myself to tidy things up.
Jake, Joey and their friend Austin drove down from Kingston Springs, and they camped down beside the creek. Jake brought a gas-powered weed eater and cleared us out a nice spot down there. As you can see, we kept a fire going most of the weekend.
I was surprised to find trillium still growing this late. This is a new one I found near the fire ring.
As usual, we spent a lot of time in the creek. They boys walked out to Tims Ford Reservoir to fish.
It is our custom to cool a melon in the creek until everyone is ready to cut it. This one disappeared pretty quick once we cut it up.
We took care of some cabin business by having four contractors come out to look at the place and give us bids on the roofing and structural work that needs to be done out there. We also discovered we have an electric issue that will take more than changing a fuse to fix. The living room lights were out last time I was out there, and we were out of fuses. I brought new fuses, but they burned out immediately after being screwed in. One of the contractors also knew electricity, and he suspected we'd had an animal gnaw on the line. Last spring we had a raccoon invasion, so we have a likely suspect.
I found this crawdad under the first rock I looked under, and we put him in this metal bowl for observation before releasing him back into the creek.
Card games inside after a day at the creek is common at the Camp. This visit was no exception.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Restaurant Review -- Grill 73, Newport, Tennessee

I drove up to Newport, Tennessee, last week on court business, and I worked it out so I could have lunch up there. I was expecting to find country cooking at a local diner, but one of the first results that came up on a quick computer search was Grill 73 at 616 State Highway 73 in Newport on beautiful English Creek. What caught my eye was that they serve American and Russian food.

I had three years of Russian in undergrad, and with the hope and expectation that I would actually be able to speak the language with a native speaker, I set forth to find the aforesaid grill after fulfilling my duties at the courthouse annex in Newport. It was maybe a ten minute drive from there, if that. I ordered the scalloped potato pie, which the menu describes as scalloped potatoes, pork chop, onion, mayonnaise, mozzarella cheese and their spice blend. The mayo was homemade, not Hellman's, and it was very tangy and about the consistency of ranch dressing. I could cut the pork chop with my fork it was so tender. It was a delicious meal, with good, quick service and it cost me $12.00, some change and a tip. I also note that they have a variety of good, ol' American items on their menu as well, including burgers, hot dogs, and a variety of sandwiches. If their pork loin sub has meat on it anything near as tender as what I had, it must be wonderful.

I did get to speak a bit of Russian, although not much more than to inquire whether the lady that served me did and to then say that I don't speak much Russian. I then quickly went back to my native East Tennessee English.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Incivility in Washington is Nothing New

On May 22, 1856, Senator Preston Brooks of South Carolina delivered a vicious beating to Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts on the floor of the United States Senate two days after Sumner gave a speech highly critical of slavery in the height of the Bloody Kansas crisis. Wikipedia describes the scene,

Two days later, on the afternoon of May 22, Brooks confronted Sumner as he sat writing at his desk in the almost empty Senate chamber: "Mr. Sumner, I have read your speech twice over carefully. It is a libel on South Carolina, and Mr. Butler, who is a relative of mine." As Sumner began to stand up, Brooks beat Sumner severely on the head before he could reach his feet, using a thick gutta-percha cane with a gold head. Sumner was knocked down and trapped under the heavy desk (which was bolted to the floor), but Brooks continued to strike Sumner until Sumner ripped the desk from the floor. By this time, Sumner was blinded by his own blood, and he staggered up the aisle and collapsed, lapsing into unconsciousness. Brooks continued to beat the motionless Sumner until his cane broke, at which point he left the chamber. Several other Senators attempted to help Sumner, but were blocked by Keitt who brandished a pistol and shouted, "Let them be!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Chicken Duxelle with Dijon Cream Sauce


Boneless chicken breasts
Mushrooms, chopped finely
Shallot, chopped finely
2 or 3 cups heavy cream
Dijon mustard
Wild rice
Fontina, Edam or Brie cheese, cut into 3 inch slices

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare wild rice and spread in bottom of casserole dish. Pound chicken breast as thin as possible between two pieces of wax paper. Saute mushrooms and shallot in two to four tablespoons of butter. Lay out flat chicken breast and spoon in a few tablespoons worth of mushroom and shallot mixture and a slice of cheese and roll or fold chicken breast. Use baking string or toothpick to hold it together. Season to taste. Put a generous amount of flour onto a platter and season to taste. Heat about a half stick of butter in saute pan, coat chicken with flour and brown. Place on top of rice in casserole dish.

For the Dijon cream sauce, pour cream in saute pan and season with salt, pepper and garlic and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until it reduces down. You can add flour to thicken. Add two or three tablespoons of Dijon mustard after it thickens.

Serve chicken on top of rice, and spoon Dijon cream sauce over it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Hogs and Hominy

Tennessee was once known as the Hog and Hominy State because of our pig and corn production. I have read accounts of travelers who claimed to have seen countless hogs in Tennessee being driven to market. Atlas Obscura has an interesting article about those days, "The Great Appalachian Hog Drives."

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Monday, May 18, 2015

Book Review -- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

Sarah has been reading A Winkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle, with her class as a school assignment. While I remember the novel's striking cover from my childhood, I never read it, perhaps because English teachers had sentenced my classmates to read it, dooming it in my youthful eyes. I had never read a book at the same time as my child, so I found it online and finished it in a couple of days. It is a really weird science fiction/science fantasy story, but I enjoyed it. It is the first in a five-book series, but I doubt I'll continue reading it unless Sarah wants to this summer.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Restaurant Review -- Lincoln's Waffle Shop, Washington, D.C.

Ford's Theater was at the top of Sherry's list of places to visit in Washington, but we got there at the same time a huge group of high school kids got there. We decided to have breakfast at Lincoln's Waffle Shop, which was just across the street at 504 10th Street NW. The place was packed, but the service was quick. Nothing fancy here, just good, hearty breakfast fare at a reasonable price for downtown Washington. With our bellies full, we tackled Ford's Theater and walked all over the National Mall before the girls started to tucker out.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Book Review -- Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs

I recently read Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs, which is in the public domain and is therefore available online for free. The story was originally published in the fall of  1912, and the character has so pervaded American culture that everyone knows who Tarzan is whether they've read the stories or not. I've been doing the Tarzan yell ever since my voice changed in adolescence, but this is the first time I've read even the first Tarzan story.

The century old story holds up well, though it is very much of its own time and with the sensibilities of that time. Tarzan's parents, Lord and Lady Greystoke, are marooned by mutineers on the coast of Africa. Lady Greystoke gives birth to a son, John, and both parents die when the child is an infant. He is taken in by an ape bereaved of her own dead infant and raised as an ape. The first part of the story focuses on his life in the jungle living with the apes. He eventually encounters an African tribe, causing him to ponder his difference from the apes that have taken him in.

Obviously, a lot of this is pretty far-fetched even for adventure fiction. Tarzan discovers his parents' cabin and teaches himself to read and write, but not speak, English. Amazingly, his cousin, William Clayton, now Lord Greystoke, is also marooned by mutineers near the cabin with a group that includes Tarzan's famous love interest, Jane Porter. The story gets more far-fetched as it goes along and Tarzan, who saves just about every European in the story from begin eaten by lions, apes or other jungle creatures, saves a French soldier who befriends him and teaches him French. He saves Jane, and they fall in love with each other. Eventually, Tarzan's French friend proves to him that Tarzan is in reality, John Clayton, the real Lord Greystoke. Unfortunately, his cousin is in love with Jane, too, and the story concludes with Tarzan in Wisconsin relinquishing Jane so that she can marry William Clayton, although she does not love him.

One is left with the sense that Tarzan should have gotten the girl and the Lordship, but noble and self-sacrificing, Tarzan is a sad character at the end of the story. Fear not, gentle reader, for Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote a bunch of sequels, and a married Tarzan sitting around a manor somewhere in England wouldn't be much fun, now would it?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Throwback Thursday

This is a family portrait done around 2005. I haven't worn khakis since.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Thinking About the Beach

As spring unfolds our minds are turning south to the Florida gulf coast where we spend our annual summer beach vacation. There has been a lot going on down there in recent months. LuLu's Destin restaurant is well under construction, and Bud and Alley's in Seaside now features breakfast. Last month local residents fought off a Hampton Inn on County Road 30-A in our beloved Seagrove Beach, although the fight may not be over.

Sadly, there was a recent drowning off Crab Island, and another incident that could have ended up much worse. Both were related to the strong tide, which I have experienced there firsthand. We haven't been out to Crab Island since Captain Randy took us out there for the last time in 2012. There are several different pontoon boat rental services, but it won't be the same as the trusty sailboat.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Restaurant Review -- Tupelo Honey Cafe, Knoxville, Tennessee

I had to run an errand in downtown Knoxville a couple of weeks ago, and Sherry and I had lunch at Knoxville's new Tupelo Honey Cafe at One Market Square. Asheville has had one for some time, and I've heard good things about it. The menu is expansive and has a lot of variety. I, of course, went for their meatloaf with sides of smashed cheesy cauliflower and fried okra. Usually when you order fried okra out you can pretty clearly tell they are using a packaged product that was breaded in a factory somewhere. This looked like it was made in the kitchen in a skillet. Sherry had a wonderful (She let me have a bite.) chicken club sandwich, and I saw several tables with hamburgers that looked pretty darn good. Our tab was $54.89 including tip.

Downtown Knoxville continues to have the same problem it always has had, which is expensive parking, which added $8.00 to our tab and which is why I usually avoid eating there when I'm on that side of the river.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Moms, Paddles, Legos and Recipes

Sherry is in Nashville for Mothers Day visiting with her mom and Joey and Jake. She just called to deliver an eat-your-heart-out call inasmuch as Jake and she are heading out for several hours of canoeing at the Narrows of the Harpeth River. We've paddled it a few times when the boys were kids, so I know they're going to have a fun day.

Sarah and I went over to Mom's this morning to cook her a Mothers Day breakfast. We visited for a couple of hours while Sarah watched The Lego Movie, and then headed back to the house so I could take care of some weekend chores, which included spraying our house for insects. We've had a couple of small hornet nests, and wanted to get rid of them before they got any larger. While I was at it I figured I'd treat the whole house.

Sherry departed for Nashville yesterday after our moving project, and so Sarah and I spent part of yesterday afternoon cooking. She made sausage balls, and I made my Uncle Mack's spaghetti recipe, which Sherry requested. I cooked the roast for the spaghetti sauce for ninety minutes in the pressure cooker, and the meat just fell apart into the sauce. When I was a hungry, young freshman in college, Uncle Mack and Aunt Nancy fed Mom and Laura and Leslie one night a week as a way of helping out Mom, who was at that time a single mother and full-time psychotherapist in their hometown of Hickory, North Carolina. I got to join the meals when I moved to Carolina for school, and the spaghetti was one we always enjoyed.

Happy Mothers Day

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Muscle Grease at Fort Craig School

We spent this morning at Fort Craig School moving theater props and stage settings that belong to Primary Players Children's Theater Group. As you would expect, a lot of it was plywood, so I was glad I threw my work gloves in the car before we left the house. Fortunately, we had a good group there ready to work, and the job went quickly.
Sarah attended Fort Craig during her first and second grade years, so she really enjoyed walking the halls of her old school, which the city unfortunately closed. The building is still being put to good use, though, by the Boys and Girls Club.
This depiction of Fort Craig is a mural painted on the cinder block walls of the school's cafeteria, and I have always admired it.
This sign was there when Sarah attended Fort Craig, and sets forth some pretty basic elementary school values, which I believe the child has absorbed very well.

Friday, May 8, 2015

70th Anniversary of VE Day

Today is the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day for Americans. (Great Britain and the Commonwealth nations celebrate on May 7.) The holiday celebrates the surrender of Germany to the Allied powers days after Hitler committed suicide. The surrender sparked planetwide celebrations, which were followed that summer by the surrender of Japan.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Another Throwback Thursday Photo

Mom sent this to me a few weeks ago on a rainy day. Sarah is just three in this picture, which was taken shortly after we moved into our present home on the hill in 2008.