Thursday, April 30, 2015

Throwback Thursday

For a throwback Thursday picture, I give you Sarah, Jake and Joey, perhaps seven years ago.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Restaurant Review -- Southern Comforts, Blowing Rock, North Carolina

During our recent visit to Blowing Rock, North Carolina, we dined for breakfast at Southern Comforts restaurant at 870 Main Street, which was a short walk from where we stayed at Meadowbrook Inn. Meadowbrook, by the way, has a good complementary breakfast, but I had a hankering that morning for eggs Benedict, which was satisfied nicely. The service was good, and the restaurant is very colorful and interesting inside. It is in the location of Knight's on Main, a local favorite until it closed, but it seems Southern Comforts is filling seats in there.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Book Review -- Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens


In my continuing effort to branch into reading fiction, especially some of the classics I've never read, I recently read Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens. It is in the public domain and therefor available for free online via the Gutenburg Project.

The story was first published in serial form in the late 1830's, and it is set in the London of that day, so there were a lot of geographical references I didn't understand. The language is also a bit archaic to a modern reader, and I kept my dictionary handy to look up a lot of words we just don't use anymore.

In the beginning of the book, Oliver is one of those characters that is beset with one bad occurrence after another, and his circumstances get worse and worse, even when it seems they may be about to get better. Finally, however, justice prevails, and the bad guys are outsmarted and punished. Oliver and his friends, of course, live happily ever after. It was a good story, and it has been adapted to movies many times over. I'll have to check one of them out at our library sometime.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Explosion of SS Sultana

On April 27, 1865, SS Sultana exploded and sank near Memphis in the Mississippi River. An estimated 1,800 people died, many of them Union troops who had survived the Civil War and were returning home.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sunday Gardening and Barbecue

We just got back to the house after having lunch over in Knoxville with our friend Johnny who was in town this weekend from Atlanta. He was craving Buddy's Bar-B-Q, and we were happy to accommodate him. We both went to Bearden High, so we ate at the Buddy's down the street from our former school. On the home front, the girls and I went to Lowe's this morning, and Sherry found us proper liners for our window boxes, which are now full of red flowers.
We still  have a few empty containers, but we bought enough flowers to fill several of them. I may yet plant some tomatoes and/or herbs later this spring.
Sarah wanted a cactus, and selected this one, which she promptly named Sandy. Behold Sandy the cactus.
My Grandmother Ogle always grew begonias along the back of her home on North Jefferson Street in Winchester, and so we bought a few in her honor.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

At Home on Saturday

I took this photograph yesterday afternoon, and you can see our irises are in full bloom. They smell delightful, but some of the first blooms are already spent.
This morning we've attended to spring chores. After grocery shopping, Target, the library and an auto parts store, Sherry rearranged Sarah's room while Sarah used the pruning clippers to trim our decorative cherry tree. I told her I'd give her five bucks, which in retrospect was way too much for the job. It only took her ten or fifteen minutes, but I honored my word.
Usually when I find Molly up on the rail like this I also find the neighbor's big grey cat stalking her. On this occasion she was just hanging out.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Glad Winter is Over

With spring in full flower here in East Tennessee, it is easy to forget our wretched winter this year. Further north, in Finnish Lapland, winters get a bit worse. While these things may look like some giant ice worms from Hoth, they are in reality trees brutalized by winter's wrath in the frozen north. Brrr! (Via NASA.)

I'm glad I live in the South.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Restaurant Review -- Ledo Pizza, Washington, D.C.

When we visited with our cousins in Washington, D.C., for Sarah's spring break, they introduced us to Ledo Pizza, a local favorite. We arrived via Megabus at around 8:00 p.m., so pizza seemed like a good, quick option to get everyone fed at that hour, and David and Margaret suggested Ledo's. The store at 1721 Wisconsin Avenue is nearest to their house, but there are several locations in the area. We were not disappointed.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Audiobook Review -- The Beatles: The Biography, by Bob Spitz


I recently finished the audiobook version of The Beatles: The Biography, by Bob Spitz. I knew some of the story, but it was interesting learning about how some of their songs and albums came to be. I came away with the impression that John Lennon was an angry jerk, and the book confirms the idea long cherished by fans that Yoko Ono played an important role in the break up of the band. I knew the story had a sad ending, and this book pretty much ends with the disintegration of the Beatles as a band, although it summarizes what has happened since then like the deaths of John and George.

The New York Times has a review here, and there's a post alleging the book is riddled with factual errors here.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Spring Flowers

We have fog in our neighborhood this morning, but the forecast is for dry conditions today, which is a nice change after the rainy week we're had. Spring flowers, of course, need the water, and as of Thursday afternoon two of our irises had bloomed.
This picture was taken a few minutes ago, and it shows how many more have opened up since the first picture was taken.
Our azalea is in full bloom, and the flowers have held up better than they did last year, when they were all dashed off by the rain in a couple of days. The cats also appreciate the warmer conditions, and Molly in particular has been wanting out a lot.

I'm solo this weekend inasmuch as the gals are away in Nashville visiting Joey, Jake and Grams. I had considered camping, but rain is supposed to move back in tonight. I decided to settle for accomplishing some chores around the house until my womenfolk return tomorrow.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Gift List


Put this on my gift list. I don't ask for much but a castle with a moat. I hope there's a moat monster! Also, I'd like to situate it over the Lost Sea cave so that my dungeon opens into the cavern complex.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Few More Snapshots from Blowing Rock

Here are a few more photographs from our road trip to Blowing Rock, North Carolina, the weekend before last. We paid another visit to Canyons for food and the view.
We dined outside, but learned after our meal that there was live music in the person of a guitar player doing Jimmy Buffett tunes. We dallied a bit inside before departing to our rooms.
The kids went for an after dinner swim, and everyone eventually made their way back to the rooms for some quiet time.

Meadowbrook Inn has a pond with ducks on the grounds.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Assassination of President Lincoln


On April 15, 1865, one-hundred and fifty years ago today, President Abraham Lincoln died after being assassinated at Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C., by actor John Wilkes Booth. When we visited Ford's Theater in March, they were renovating part of the museum area in the basement for the arrival of several artifacts connected to that fateful night, including the pistol Booth used to shoot Lincoln. The Smithsonian has quite a collection of Lincoln artifacts as well.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Robots on Mars

We live in a remarkable time in history. It is a time when I can truthfully say that Mars is inhabited by robots, and those little guys have given us a lot of science. This image is the shadow of the Opportunity rover on the surface of Mars. The rover has been up there since 2004.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Restaurant Review -- Lauriol Plaza, Washington, D.C.

During the day that my cousin Andrew was chauffeuring us around Washington, Sherry requested Mexican food, and Andrew took us to Lauriol Plaza, 1835 18th Street NW, Washington, D.C., in the Adams Morgan neighborhood. To say this was an upscale Mexican restaurant does not do it justice, but the white tablecloths let you know right away that this isn't your everyday Mexican restaurant.

All of the food was very fresh, and even the salsa and the cheese dip were a cut above what you expect. The salsa had a roasted flavor that was delightful, and the fish tacos Sherry ordered, tilapia, I think, were delicious. The service was prompt and courteous, and the menu was extensive. If we were Washingtonians, I suspect this place would be one of our regular spots.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Lunch at Mom's House

We gathered at Mom's yesterday for a lunch of Honey Baked ham, mashed potatoes and green beans in late celebration of her birthday.
Les made it, but Uncle Fuzzy was under the weather.
Sarah and Grace pretty much have the run of their grandmother's house, so they headed straight for the computer. I note that Sarah has never been to New York.
Mom is delighted by the opening of the new Whole Foods on Papermill Drive in Knoxville. According to Mom, they have a wide variety of gluten-free foods, including this Schmoo Cake, which was delicious.
The girls decided to soak up some sun.
Grace and Sarah burned off some lunch playing ball in the yard. One of Mom's neighbors keeps pigeons, and they were out of their coop and flying around. A hawk tried to pick one of them off, but he scared it away. They are interesting to watch. I wonder what got him started.
Mom basks in the warmth of her granddaughters' love.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

April Morning on the Hill

Spring continues to spread across East Tennessee. From my observations in Blowing Rock and in the Smokies, we are certainly further along than they are up in the mountains. Last night, we slept with the windows open, and woke up this morning to the sounds of birds chirping. As you can see from this view from our back deck, our maple trees are opening their leaves, and the walnut tree is working on it.
The azalea at our front porch is just starting to bloom, and this is one of the few flowers that has opened. Our neighbor has a couple of them that are just gorgeous.
We have a bumper crop of violets in our yard this year.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Happy Birthday, Mom!

This lovely teenager is my mother, then Wanette Isenhour, posing on the porch of her childhood home in Hickory, North Carolina. Today is her birthday. Happy birthday, Mom!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Spring in the Smokies

My friend Johnny and his kids, Natalie and Teddy, pictured above, were on spring break in Gatlinburg this week. It had been about a year and a half since I'd seen them, so I drove up to hang out with them a bit. I was pleased to also get to see Johnny's mom, stepdad and aunt for the first time in several years.
As you can see, yellow trillium is blooming nicely in the woods behind Sugarlands Visitor Center. I saw a lot of it along the edge of Highway 441 between Gatlinburg and Townsend.
I thought a good easy walk for the kids would be the short hike to Cataract Falls, also in the woods behind Sugarlands. It was very crowded with tourists on spring break, so I climbed the hill to get a decent shot of the falls.
The kiddoes pose with Cataract Falls in the background.
Park Headquarters

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Flat Top Manor

Here are a few pictures I took during our visit to Flat Top Manor, the stately residence built by textile baron Moses H. Cone, who sold denim to Levi Strauss and apparently made a lot of money doing it. Sherry poses with the kids at the home's grand front porch.
Mr. Cone built twenty-five miles of carriage paths on his 3,600 acre mountain estate, and these are preserved today as hiking trails. This is the view from the porch shown at the top of the page. You can see Bass Lake from the front of the house.
Although Sarah has visited Blowing Rock before, this was the first time Joey and Jake have been in this part of North Carolina. We're hoping this experience will convince them to join us for our family reunion at the end of the summer in West Jefferson.
The kids pose in front of the mansion.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Early Spring in Blowing Rock

A couple of months ago Mom suggested we take a trip to Blowing Rock, North Carolina, where she used to live. We had not been in a couple of years, so we planned our trip for Easter weekend. We took Mom by her erstwhile home, which is now the local chamber of commerce. We were the last family to inhabit it and made many happy family memories there. It was built by Grover Robbins, who founded Tweetsie Railroad.
Blowing Rock is small enough so that you can get around downtown easily on foot, and one tends to do a lot of walking there. Joey and Jake were able to make this trip with us, and it was their first time in Blowing Rock, so we suggested they hike the Glen Burney trail to see the waterfalls since the trailhead is very convenient to downtown. They were not disappointed.
We arrived on Good Friday around lunch time, and ate lunch at Woodlands Barbeque, a local favorite.
Saturday morning was a bit chilly in the mountains, so we took a little auto tour to Moses Cone Memorial Park and its Flat Top Manor, pictured above, and to Julian Price Memorial Park, where I used to camp in my youth. Both are convenient to Blowing Rock on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
We stayed at Meadowbrook Inn, which has an indoor pool and hot tub. The kids enjoyed these facilities immensely, and we grown-ups took advantage of them, too. Except for Mom, who is allergic to water.
The best part of the trip for me was hanging out for a few hours with my friends Tracey and Gregg, who came up from nearby Lenoir. We've known each other since we were in our early twenties, and we've had a lot of fun up in those mountains over the years.