Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010.... the last in Louisiana?

While I can't imagine the Christmas stockings hanging anywhere other than from our mantel, I don't feel a strong need to be here in Louisiana cooking a turkey at Thanksgiving.  I suppose that's because we've had relatively few Thanksgiving holidays at the house.  Our early years as a couple and family were spent at my parents and then we began our years at Petit Jean Mountain State Park in Arkansas.

Beginning in 1992 shortly after buying the travel trailer, we spent seven years at Petit Jean camping and hiking the trails for the week of the school holiday.  Though it's been 11 years since our last visit, when I  picture a traditional Thanksgiving day for our family, it involves hiking in the Arkansas mountains.  

On that first Thanksgiving morning hike in 1992, Clark was only 3 1/2 years old and we were very proud (and relieved) that even on the steep parts of the Cedar Falls trail, he didn't need any help being lifted or carried.  

We began the 2 mile trail at the stone Mather Lodge built by the CCC back in the 30's.  Steps and bridges along the way were also CCC construction.

The trail descends quickly to the floor of the canyon and then follows along Cedar Creek until it reaches the 95 foot waterfall.  We would snap photos, sit on the rocks, hope that no one fell in the cold water and then begin the hike back up.  

For some reason on that first Thanksgiving morning there, we brought only 7 month old Mercy along for the hike and left Nanny and Aravis at the travel trailer.  

What a Technicolor crew!  

After the hike, we put Mercy in the Suburban and went into the Lodge for a home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner overlooking the canyon through the big glass windows in the dining room of the old CCC lodge.  I baked a pecan pie later at the trailer but that was the extent of Thanksgiving day cooking.  

Thus 7 years of tradition was born:  the Cedar Falls trail was reserved for the Thanksgiving morning hike, Mercy was the lone dog that we brought along, we ate in the Lodge immediately after the hike and pecan pie was baked to be eaten later around the campfire.

Each year I came home refreshed and ready for Christmas.  

All things change and when Carter was a Sr in high school, the trips to Petit Jean stopped.  That year was his 18th birthday, which he wanted to celebrate in Baton Rouge, and there was also a swim team state meet that went into the holidays. Then we began the college years when everyone understandably wanted to be home for the holidays and not crammed in the travel trailer on their break from the dorms!   

The 2000's have been a hodgepodge of years with no real "traditions".  Mostly being a time and place for the college age sons to come home,  relax and do laundry for a week with the added bonus of a huge feast of a meal on Thursday.  

With only four mouths to feed this year I gave some thought to eating out, but in the end decided that relaxing at home in our jeans was preferable! 

The "traditional" star cutter (a bread tube) that we use at Thanksgiving and Christmas for the canned cranberry sauce was packed away in the storage pod in Lexington.  What to do??  

Clark dug around in the cookie cutters bin and found a star shaped cutter... this seemed like a good solution until he realized that there was a reason that the long tube was such a good device.... after one inch, the cookie cutter was stuck.  Nevertheless he persevered.  

Notice Raeanna staying well out of the cranberry sauce cutting drama..... despite the fact that she appears not to care about the need for star shaped discs of cranberry sauce, she has been indoctrinated into and seems to be fully onboard with the family Wizard card game tradition!

We toasted the day (and hopes for the future) with a bottle of sparkling hard cider from Albermarle Ciderworks in Virginia.  

I'm still searching for that crystal ball that can tell the future.  Will we still be here next year with the house under construction in Virginia?  In a rental in Lexington?  Eating with new friends in Lexington?  We might be closer to NYC; California would be a fun change; Arkansas would be a drive, but we could go to Petit Jean for the day; who knows where Clark will be next year? 

But the constant is that I have a family that I love... and for that I'm thankful.    Very thankful.....

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Hooray for the Winner

After the first elimination announcement on tonight's Dancing with the Stars finale, a sigh of relief was heard from the living room couch when Bristol was the first to go.

Perhaps even the Tea Party/Palin lovers were afraid that she might actually win. What else can explain her sudden lack of viewer support? Voting her into the finals might be one thing, but actually voting for her to win the whole shebang is entirely another matter. A refreshing new face with no dance experience is fun to see for a change, but do you really want her holding the mirror ball trophy? Thank heavens America woke up in the final moments and voted......

WAIT!!!! Is this television or politics? Bristol or Sarah? Analogies abound!

Mr. Biggs and Atta were both sleeping through the excitement. It's important that Mr. Biggs gets his rest so that he can wake up at both 1AM and 3AM in order to be let outside.

Noel who was recuperating from yet another visit to the vet today (her fourth in 2 months) was just glad to be inside on a comfy wing chair and not in a crate, cage or moving vehicle.

All in all, it was a good day. In addition to watching a 50 year old slaughter the teenagers on reality tv, I got in another walk this morning, helped the profit margin at Albertson's with my purchases for Thanksgiving and made a delicious chicken Caesar salad for dinner.

I was going to close this enriching, illuminative and edifying post with a photo taken last week at the Covington Arts Festival.  Unfortunately, Blogger has decided that I can't add any photos to my blog and apparently I'm not the only one that this happens to on a regular basis.  Oh well!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sliding into Mediocrity

I like to think that since I watch very little TV, belong to two book groups and read the daily newspaper (...Okay, I skim the paper most days) this means that I'm not quite as TV obsessed as many Americans.

I've never seen an episode of American Idol, Survivor, Big Brother, Real Housewives of Anywhere, or almost any other reality show.

Disclaimer:  Except for my old favorite The Amazing Race.  I blame my current lack of 1 million dollars on Owen and Asher neither of whom were willing to go to Amazing Race tryouts in Baton Rouge with me four years ago.  I haven't had the heart to watch Amazing Race since.  Seriously!

Despite being a near reality show virgin, having two left feet and possessing absolutely no interest in ballroom dancing, somehow we began watching Dancing With the Stars this fall.  And then on Monday, I crossed over to the dark side and went from casual occasional watcher to involved participant.  I voted!

Hopefully I'm not spiralling down a rabbit hole that will have me watching the Kardashians (who are they btw?) and Jersey Shore, but I sat and texted in my votes because I just couldn't understand why Bristol Palin was still stomping around on the dance floor after all these weeks.

There is no justice in the world.  Last night Brandy got voted off and Bristol Palin stayed on.   I feel somewhat responsible since I cast two of my four votes for leader Jennifer Grey and the other two for underdog Kyle Massey.  Poor Brandy lost because I didn't think she needed my votes.

She was robbed by the Tea Party vote.  I think Hilary needs to take action and declare this another "right wing conspiracy".

Does this mean that I need to get a life?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Veterinarian or Dentist?

Noel went to the vet on Tuesday for a routine tooth cleaning.  I dropped her off at 9 AM and went back for her at 3:30.  No x-rays but she did have some sedation.  No complications and nothing too special.

I went to the dentist on Thursday for a routine tooth cleaning.  I had 7 x-rays taken and the usual cleaning with no complications.

Here are two bills........  Which of us had the most expensive morning?

Yes..... it's good to be queen.

Or at the very least, it's better to be a veterinarian than a dentist.  

And such tiny little teeth!  Surely they couldn't have needed much polishing compound!

It's an understatement to say that our pets are living the good life.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Veterans Day, Grace Episcopal Church

Photos today from the cemetery of our peaceful little church....

Yesterday, November 10, 2010 was the 235th anniversary of the founding of the Marine Corps.
Our fellow Grace Church parishioner, General Robert Barrow was the 27th Commandant of the Marine Corps.

And to date he is the only Commandant to reject the right to be buried at Arlington.  He was buried in the church cemetery alongside Patsy his wife in November 2008.  Everyone who attended Grace Church will remember his erect posture, gentle kind ways and his slow steady walk up the aisle at church even as he grew weaker in his final months of life.

The Marine Corps birthday tradition includes laying a wreath on the grave of each of the former commandants on November 10th.  Though General Barrow's final resting place is far from Arlington, a military detail is sent to Louisiana for his wreath laying; there was no advance notice last year (the first since his funeral).... they just appeared.  This year, we knew to expect htem and so a few Barrow family members and about 25 friends were present for the ceremony.

The ceremony included a wreath laying,
firing a 21 gun salute and Taps.

I doubt if the Arlington Marine details had crying children!  

The Grace Church preschoolers who were present broke into a long chorus of terrified bawls and wails upon the firing of the salutes.  I think that General Barrow would have loved the contrast.

After the ceremony, there were photographs in the parking lot......

Still remembering the earlier gunfire, the kids took some convincing to get close enough for photos.

Here's another Veteran's gravestone..... he served in the late 1800's.

Look at the detail and the lichen growing on it...

Sword, gun, ammunition bag, belt, hat on top etc....

The top part of the fallen tree has the text of his letter of commendation from the War Department.

And finally a veteran's gravestone, that's more personal....

I brought along some flowers from the garden to put on Daddy/Grandaddy and Mama/Grandma's grave for Veterans Day..... (and yes to those of you with eagle eyes, I still haven't had the date put under Grandma's name)

Though my father rarely spoke of the details of his military service as a pilot in WWII, we all knew how important it was to him.  This is one of the last photos that I have of him where he wasn't so frail that it is hard for me to look back at them.  

This was taken on Christmas Day the year before he died.  He was nauseous and tired but still managed to put on a a coat and tie and come spend the day with us.  Though he normally wouldn't have worn a ball cap indoors, he proudly wore his Fly Navy hat to keep his head warm because of the chemo.

Thanks for serving, Daddy. ..... We all miss you.  

Monday, November 8, 2010

Second Thoughts about Moving? Yes, But Only Briefly

Thursday was a gray drizzly day in Lexington.  The Comfort Inn had declined since our last stay there two years ago.... thin sheets, dingy pitiful towels... and since I'm not too picky about hotels, this is saying something.  Adding to the gloomy feel, Clark was still stuck in Denver and so wasn't yet in town for Parent's Weekend.  We didn't want to go out to the land in the rain.  We browsed in a few shops, took a drive, had some coffee and then were at a loss for what to do with ourselves.  We were not really "Parents" since we had no son and not townsfolk either..... betwixt and between.

When we went back to the hotel after supper, I was feeling a little blue.... "Were we making the right decision?" was definitely circulating around in my brain.

Late that evening, we heard from Clark who had just gotten in from the airport.  He was frazzled but wanted to come by the hotel room for a quick visit.  I do love that young man!

Friday morning dawned and it was a new day!  Our last Parent's Weekend.... at various universities, we've had 16 of them!!!

We stayed awake during Chemistry on Friday where I relearned about gas laws and equations that I once knew 35 years ago.  Of the 25 students in Chemistry, most of them had parents tagging along for class.  We never went to class at Vandy or Hendrix, but it's a quirky W&L thing that I've loved doing.

While in town and on campus, I had a bit of fun with the people-watching game "Parent or Grandparent?"  I suppose because of the cost of the university, many W&L's parents are older..... some MUCH older..... more than a few would be pushing the limits of biological possibility if it weren't for that younger second wife!

After lunch at Wood's Creek Grocery, we happily bid farewell to the Comfort Inn and drove to the home of our host couple for the next two nights.  Last week I had contacted the local Habitat for Humanity group which runs a program through the University to host parents at private homes in exchange for a donation.   Over 40 rooms were filled and the Habitat chapter made over 10K for the weekend!

We were matched with Thom and Lornie who were absolutely delightful.  I could write pages and still not clearly express how much we enjoyed both their company and the chance to stay in their beautiful home!  Coincidentally (I think it's a small-town conspiracy!) our number one choice for contractor was the builder of their home and so we grilled them incessantly about construction details.   Their property was also a treasure:  views, woods, a path down to the river, close to town yet quiet.

I was heartened that the house had been built while they were living out of state with Lornie making only sporadic visits during construction.    Get busy St. Joseph!!   I'm ready to start building!!!!

It was a strange Parents Weekend as Clark was busy trying to get caught up with schoolwork after being away for a week.  We decided not to go to the football game by ourselves (Clark was making up a Chemistry lab I think) and instead went out to the property to fight the second battle of the Cedar Wars!

Joe tackled the bigger trees with the chainsaw and I took care of anything less than about 2" in diameter with the big loppers.  The pine saplings are thanking us for giving them room to breathe.
Liberated baby pine saplings on the right!

Saturday night was the highlight of the trip:  Southern Comfort's performance at the A Capella Concert!!  Clark was the President of the group this year.... have I mentioned that I'm a bit proud of him?  They were GREAT as usual and I was smiling during the whole concert.

Clark is the fourth from the left....listen for the low bass sounds!  

Dinner at the bar at the Southern Inn Two.

Back to our lovely room at Thom and Lornies.

Goodbyes came too soon and we were back on the Interstate Sunday AM.

Fifteen hours later we turned into the driveway at 11pm and were bowled over in the door by a pair of happy dogs and a cat!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Yes, it was boring.

Yep, the previous post was a snoozer. When I pushed the publish button after midnight I thought as much. I'm still feeling my way along on how much of this is a journal and how much I'm writing for others.

The lack of regular commments encourages me to feel that I'm the only one reading what I've written. When I lean that way it's easy to just write a factual daily diary that in the end I'm not even interested in reading.

Oh well on with a shortened version of the rest of the trip....

We stopped just south of Charlottesville at Albemarle Ciderworks, a small family owned business which makes and bottles hard sparking cider. There were no tours of the production area, but we spent a pleasant time in the tasting room. We left with a case of hard cider in an assortment of their varieties which ranged from very dry to slightly sweet.

After years of having access only to grocery store cider purchased in Louisiana, the gallon of fresh cider that we bought was like drinking bright, fresh apple essence.

I hadn't called ahead to our next stop on the way towards Lexington, Alberene Soapstone, so the hour that they spent showing us through the cutting and finishing area was a boon. I plan on using soapstone for the kitchen counters and would prefer to buy a local product rather than Brazilian stone.

The Alberene quarry is the only producing soapstone quarry in the US ..... and it's less than 100 miles from Lexington!

Though we thought we were in the middle of nowhere at Alberene Soapstone, to our surprise we came upon Walton's Mountain about 5 minutes later. Yes, THE Waltons Mountain.  Hmmm... perhaps that means we really were in the middle of nowhere!!

Schuyler VA was probably a more happening place back in the 30's when Ike Godsey had the pool table in the general store. Now it appears to be just a fork in the road clinging to the fading fame brought to it by its only famous citizen, author Earl Hamner.

The house that Earl Hamner grew up in (and presumably said "Good-night" to his many siblings from within.....the Walton's was a semi-autobiographical depiction of his childhood) was there along with a sad "country store" next door. The later was just a place to buy Waltons memorabilia.... Country or general store was a misnomer.

If the rude young store owner would have bothered to speak, we might have learned that just around the bend in the other direction was a Waltons museum that might have been worth a visit. Instead I learned about it hours later on the Internet. Too bad he spent the time talking loudly on the phone about his strategies and troubles trying to score Waltons eBay geegaws.

Who knows, if he had even nodded hello, I might have bought everyone "Goodnight John-boy" coffee mugs for Christmas! Maybe it's for the best that he ignored us!

A beautiful winding drive across the Blue Ridge Mountains from Amherst brought us into Lexington on Wednesday night. A brief text from an obviously annoyed Clark told us that he (and a professor and another student) had missed their flight leaving the Geology symposium in Denver.

It may have been a tossup as to who had a more spartan night ahead of them: Clark at the Denver airport or Joe and I at the Lexington Comfort Inn. I bet Clark had a way bigger TV....but it did pass the bedbug check so all was well! Ah for another night at the Omni!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Charlottesville (Mountain Lumber) Day Three

Day Three (Tuesday) of our trip was a lazy day spent in and around Charlottesville.  We walked down to Albemarle Baking Company on Main St for breakfast pastries and coffee and then strolled down the rest of Main Street to UVA.  It was a beautiful brisk day!

The Lawn at UVA

Though I went into 15-20 shops on the way to campus, I only found one or two small stocking stuffers for Christmas.  ;(  After walking on campus and lunch at Bodo's bagels,  we caught the free trolley to the pedestrian mall.  I had high hopes of finding loads of Christmas gifts there.... but no luck!  It promises to be a difficult shopping year!

We retrieved the Xterra from the hotel parking lot and set out for Mountain Lumber north of town.  They deal in reclaimed antique lumber (mostly local) which they make into flooring.  I hadn't called first and so we we didn't expect anyone to be able to spend a lot of time with us.  However, sales associate Debra spent about an hour showing us all of their products and answering our laundry list of questions.  She was professional and helpful.... and I appreciated her followup "thank you" email which she sent the next day.   It was well worth the drive as they had rooms floored with their various products ..... much more helpful than seeing a small 2x3 sample board.

If we purchase from Mountain Lumber (and it might be way out of our price range) we like their Antique Red Oak or the mixed Antique White and Red Oak.  Mountain Lumber Antique Oak

Our next planned stop was Gaston-Wyatt which is a window and door company.  Since no one handles Loewen windows in Baton Rouge, this was a chance to see them in person.  Loved the windows... but again, it will probably be a question of price.  The salesperson was friendly and loaded us down with sample color chips and books.

There is a lot of traffic in Charlottesville!  When we finally made it back downtown, we were in need of a coffee fix.  We were the chaperones of the Starbucks near campus!!!  Old geezers in a young persons world!  

We parked back at the Omni and walked to a little Mexican restaurant called Mono Loco for a relaxing dinner.  Better than even Superior Grill though it was a hole in the wall.

All in all a fun day, but it dispelled any lingering questions I may have had about whether we should have bought land nearer to Charlottesville.  Too busy and impersonal (compared to Rockbridge County at least), too much traffic, a fairly large homeless population and a city feel to the place.  We made the right choice with Lexington.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Off to Virginia! First stop: Vine Brothers in Centreville MS

A photo essay of our first two days on the road.

Leaving the house at noon on Sunday gave us an added perk:  we could drive the back roads and have lunch at Vine Brothers in Centreville, Mississippi!  

From the outside, it looks like any Mobil gas station on the side of the road.  

But in a side room off the quick-stop is home-cooked southern comfort food heaven! 

The daily buffet is just as delicious, but there are a few extras on the Sunday spread.

It had been almost a year since our last trip to Vines so we had to load up on everything.  

Notice Joe opening his Splenda to save a few calories in his iced tea!  And yes, he still went back for seconds!

The corn pudding was so good that I had seconds and I was wishing that I could have fit in more chicken and dumplings.... and more roast and gravy.... and more lima beans.....

For dessert, who can decide between peach or blackberry cobbler?  
So of course, I had both!  Hey, I held back and didn't have banana pudding too!  

One thing about gorging ourselves at a late lunch was that we didn't need to stop for supper during the rest of the days drive.  At almost 11pm, we called it quits and spent the night on the east side of Chattanooga.  

When we pulled into Lexington on Monday afternoon, our first stop was our land on Elliot's Hill Road! 

Still beautiful as ever.

 After walking on the hillside and down along the woods edge for a bit, we dropped off a few more things at the storage pod..... including the mailbox!  So sad to see everything waiting patiently in there!

Next it was off to the Southern Inn II for an early dinner with nearby Lexington neighbors Alec and Linda whom we've enjoyed getting to know over the past year.  

It was our first Southern Inn dinner since the fire that caused them to have to move from the classic old downtown location into temporary digs at the old Hunan Restaurant behind Donny T's.   We knew that it wouldn't have the atmosphere of the old place, but thankfully the food was just as delicious.  I was happy with my choice:  a cashew encrusted sauteed trout filet with local yellow string beans.  Joe went for an old faithful:  Southern Inn Meatloaf.

Great conversation at dinner, then we got back on the Interstate and pointed the Xterra toward Charlottesville.  Linda had mentioned that they had stayed at the Omni located on the pedestrian shopping mall.  So when it came up on my Kayak search as both highly rated and not outrageous in price midweek, we decided to splurge and stay there for two nights.

Our room was lovely and that made it a little hard to do our cursory new "check-in habit."  OK.... laugh if you will, but after hearing and reading about the horrors of bedbugs (especially on the east matter how nice a hotel)  we have agreed to "bring out the Grandma" in ourselves and look over the bed, mattress etc before settling into a room.  

At 10:30 we were happily settled in and asleep in minutes!  Much nicer than the Cleveland TN Comfort Inn from the night before!  And yes, we did the bedbug check there too!  

More adventures to come....