Friday, September 29, 2017

A Real Neighborhood Restaurant…

We’d noticed a couple of positive comments on our local neighborhood Facebook site regarding a local restaurant that had been closed for quite a while after a death in the family.  We decided to give it a try…

This truly is a neighborhood restaurant.  Donna’s Diner is located at the intersection of a couple of moderately busy side streets in Lenoir City Tennessee.  It is quite a few blocks away from the main city thoroughfares of US Hwy 11 and US Hwy 321.

How many restaurants have you been to that have refrigerators and freezers in the dining area?  Add in the mismatched chairs and table coverings and you have a real neighborhood feeling…

My bride patiently waited while I took a couple of photos.  Note the outlets high on the wall… (Why?) Our only problem was that the room was so cold that even I kept my jacket on.  You could have hung meat in this room!  It wasn’t hot outside so we didn’t understand why the air conditioners were on at full blast…

The small dining area with the counter was warmer but those curved booth style seats play havoc with my lower back…so we opted to dine in the ‘Artic Room’.  Note: We arrived well before 5 PM so the restaurant wasn't very busy.

Our waitress was helpful and friendly… As was expected, most patrons in Donna’s Diner were regulars.  Everybody knew everyone else and the waitress even knew what some folks wanted to eat without being told.

I forgot to take a photo of my big House Salad before I chopped it up and mixed in the dressing. ($3.50) It included lettuce, carrots, shredded cheese, tomato, cucumber and chopped egg.  All the ingredients were fresh…

Laurie and I each ordered 8 oz. Double Cheeseburgers with Bacon. ($8.50) She added grilled onions to hers and she asked for a side of Homemade Potato Salad. ($2.00) She told me that the potato salad was very good…

When we asked for our hamburgers to be cooked medium rare, our waitress let us know that the cook (owner) won’t cook any hamburgers less than medium.  While that is usually not a positive thing, in this case because of the size of the hand-formed hamburgers, they were still juicy when they were served.  The flavor of our burgers right off the grill was excellent!

Donna’s offers a wide variety of sandwiches as well as daily specials for lunch and dinner.  All sandwiches come with potato chips.  Bread of choice can be grilled, toasted or plain.  Your sandwich can be plain, ‘dressed’ or ‘all the way’.  With the exception of our 8 oz. double cheeseburgers, all sandwiches are priced at $5.00 or less.

In addition to a number of salad entrees, Donna’s offers the normal meat and side plates so common in the south.  Plate dinners, with such items as grilled chicken, codfish or ‘city ham’, cost $5.50 with one side, $6.50 with 2 sides and its $8.50 for the hamburger steak with 2 sides and bread.  There are 12 sides to choose from…

For dessert, one can order banana pudding, the daily special, ice cream or a milk shake. 

Donna’s Diner is a downhome place to have a good burger.  It’s located at 101 Kingston Street in Lenoir City Tennessee.  Phone: 865-816-6035.  Donna’s Diner is a downhome place to have a good burger. Donna’s is on Facebook at

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Paintings by Beth Thomson #3

Moving on from my mom’s country primitives, this series of paintings are all oil based, either on boards or canvas. 

This is one of the earliest oil paintings that we have from my mother… She was still perfecting her skills and style.

This large painting of a mother and daughter with a cat is in a style reminiscent of her primitive paintings.

She really liked painting floral still life scenes and as you’ll see we have several of them.  This one hangs in our guest bedroom.

This is a self-portrait of my mom at a young age probably from the late 1940s or early 1950s.  She watches me as I write my posts for the blog site…

I’m guessing that she painted this portrait of Nathan Weed Jr., her brother, sometime around the time that she created her self-portrait.

This little still-life was painted on a block of wood and it’s in our kitchen dining area.

Mom always had cats!  I believe that this was a portrait of a big old all black tomcat that we had.  His name was Clinker…

This still-life portrays a view from one of her windows when she lived near Concord Michigan.

This still-life is a bit more impressionistic…less defined and more exaggerated forms.  We still have that table and the chairs too.

Another muted but colorful impressionistic still-life…

You never knew what she was going to do next with her paintings…or other art related efforts.  This floral painting just pops with vibrant colors!

Change of pace… This small painting featuring these bright colorful roosters in action is one of my favorite small paintings.

Now I will admit that I’m not really into most impressionistic paintings as they wander toward abstract.  The good news is that my son David and his wife Amy are fans of this style and they have many of mom's paintings of this style in their home.

This forest scene resides in David II’s home in Omaha.  It is one of my favorite impressionistic paintings…

This is a very large abstract painting…another phase that my mother went through during her life.  It occupies a prominent place in the family room at our son’s home.  It is an oil painting with debris such as twigs and small pebbles added to provide dimension.  It's one of our son's favorites.

This whimsical little painting is fun and cheery…with the children playing in the autumn leafs. 

This is another large abstract painting… I have no idea what it represents or means, but it is on display in the family home in Omaha. 

When she painted most of her abstract works, they tended to be large with lots of action… This one is signed ‘beth’.  She also used Elizabeth Thomson (my stepfather’s surname), as well as Sibbald (her mother’s maiden name) and Weed (my mother’s maiden name) to sign some of her works.

This large painting of a black man headed off to work is one of our all time favorites.  We feel that it’s very expressive…

That’s it for this edition of arts and crafts by my mom, Beth (Myers) Thomson.  The last posting of her works include multi-media creations ranging from carving to weaving and many others in between…

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by to check out part of our family art collection!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Monday, September 25, 2017

Casa Fiesta Mexican Restaurant – Lenoir City Tennessee

On this evening, we had plans to drive down to Knoxville’s ‘Old Town’ area to sample a Scottish themed pub and restaurant.  But, as it goes, the best of plans often go astray…

As you can see, it was a very rainy, stormy nasty evening.  We decided to avoid the weather related traffic issues and dine closer to home.  Our friends Norm and Linda planned to go with us and when we suggested Casa Fiesta Mexican Restaurant and Grill for dinner, they gave it their enthusiastic endorsement.  It turned out that this is their favorite local Mexican restaurant…

We arrived early, at about 5 PM so Casa Fiesta wasn’t busy yet.  This is the main dining area.  By the time we finished and were ready to leave, the restaurant was packed!  Not bad considering it was the Tuesday after Labor Day…

The other side of Casa Fiesta has a smaller dining area and a small bar.  As with most Mexican restaurants, the décor is colorful and upbeat.

Of course the server automatically started us out with the usual basket of tortilla chips and salsa.  A small dish of bean and cheese dip was also served with the chips.  Except for myself, everyone else at the table loves guacamole so Norm ordered this big bowl of Guacamole Dip for the table. ($4.75) It was enthusiastically consumed down to the last bits…

As usual in a Mexican Restaurant, the menu was huge…with 4 pages loaded with a wide variety of selections.  Linda chose her dinner from the section of new dinner offerings. 

This is the Burrito Texano. ($11.99) It consists of shrimp, steak, chicken and onions with cheese over the top and it was served with lettuce, tomatoes and more guacamole.  A ‘to go’ box was requested so that none of her meal would be wasted…

Norm also picked his entrée from the new dinner selection.  This is the Burrito Norteno. ($8.99) In this instance, we have a flour tortilla filled with eggs, shredded chicken (or beef) and covered with cheese sauce.  As you can see, lettuce, sour cream and rice completed Norm’s meal. 

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts about Mexican restaurants, Laurie loves quesadillas.  She was very happy to spot the Quesadilla Loca on the menu. ($6.99) This tortilla was filled with melted cheese, spinach and mushrooms…and then it was grilled.  She really liked it and said that she’d definitely order it again!

I was happy to note that Casa Fiesta has a ‘sauce’ bar, stocked with everything from a green sauce all the way up to a couple of very hot spicy versions.  I got a cup of one of the hotter versions plus a few jalapeno slices in preparation for my dinner…

My entrée was the Chili Colorado. ($10.99) It included broiled sliced strips of steak in a red chili sauce and it was served with Mexican rice and beans along with 4 soft tortillas on the side.  I’ve had Chili Colorado in at least 4 other area Mexican restaurants…and this was easily the best of them all!

After those big meals plus the chips, salsa and guacamole, sensible folks would have called it a day… We just aren’t sensible folks.  It was dessert time!  Norm ordered the Sopapilla. ($1.99) These deep fried tortillas were topped with honey, whipped cream and chocolate sauce.

Laurie ordered the Flan. ($3.49) The traditional Mexico City style crème caramel was buried under this mound of whipped cream, caramel, chocolate sauce and as you can see, it was topped by a cherry.  Although this seemed to be an unusual way to serve flan, Laurie said that it was very good…

Linda decided to try the Fried Chimichanga. ($3.99) This dessert comes with a mixture of apple or bananas with nuts, butter, cinnamon and sugar rolled into a flour tortilla and fried, then covered with whipped cream, caramel and chocolate sauce.  She cleaned her plate... 

My choice was easy… I love top quality Churros!  Casa Fiesta’s version of this deep fried Mexican treat was especially tasty… They were filled with apples, and then coated with cinnamon and sugar.  Casa Fiesta must have overbought whipped cream, chocolate sauce and caramel…but it all worked well with the churros…

Service was fine, the restaurant was clean and the food was superior.  We will have to visit again to try other items on the menu but my feeling is that Casa Fiesta will become our favorite area Mexican Restaurant!

Casa Fiesta Mexican Restaurant is located at 455 US Hwy. 321 in Lenoir City Tennessee. (Near the Big Lots Store and across from the Ingles Supermarket) Phone: 865-816-1041.  This restaurant doesn’t appear to have a website but you can find them on Facebook at  Note: The menu shown on Facebook is definitely incomplete…

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by to see what was for dinner!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Wagon Train/Caravan 'Rally'

On the Labor Day weekend, we’d driven out to Tellico Plains Tennessee for dinner… As it turned out, we were also treated to something that we’d never seen before!

From the parking lot of the Tellicafe Restaurant in Tellico Plains we spotted these horse and mule teams pulling wagons down the road.  I’d heard of a Corvette Rally, or even a Studebaker Rally, but this is apparently the equivalent event featuring wagons or caravans with horses and mules. 

This is an annual event, one that we’d never heard of despite living the next county over and only 35 minutes away from Tellico Plains for the last 8+ years.  A bit of research revealed that nightly entertainment is provided for the participants on Friday and Saturday nights.  Admission for the general public this year was only $5.00 per person.  Featured artists this year were the Moonshine Creek Band and Hunter Grayson. 

To sample Hunter Grayson’s music, just go to

We took a bunch of horse and mule photos because we love horses and think that mules are one of the smartest, most interesting 4-legged creatures around…

…Are you looking at me?!  Mules are so darn smart and they really know how to get us human’s attention too.  

So, the questions were…just why and when did this whole wagon train thing started?  The answers to these questions were partly practical and partly a lobbying effort…

The Tellico Plains Kiwanis Club, as part of their efforts to promote the creation of a Tennessee-North Carolina highway, organized the first wagon train on the 4th of July in 1958.  On that date, 67 covered wagons and 325 horseback riders made the trek through the Smoky Mountains from Tellico Plains to Murphy North Carolina.

Such enthusiasm was generated that 5 years later, the trek was incorporated as a non-profit named the Western North Carolina Wagon Train, headquartered in Andrews North Carolina.  Apparently this annual event or rally had some positive impact, because in 1967 construction began on what is now called the Cherohala Skyway, which now stretches from Tellico Plains Tennessee to Robbinsville North Carolina. 

This annual event was originally known as the Tellico to Murphy Wagon Train.  Apparently to the surprise of most folks, interest grew and people came from all around to participate and witness the spectacle.  The original wagon train left Tellico Plains on an early morning in late June and they were greeted by spectators all along the route.  On July 4th of 1958, they arrived in Murphy where they were welcomed by a cheering crowd of thousands of spectators.  

For the next 5 years, the wagon train used the same route.  Interest has spread so far that various routes have been traveled throughout the mountains, always ending with a parade on the 4th of July in a town to which they’ve been invited. 

Traditionally, every 5 years, the wagon train travels the original route from Tellico Plains to Murphy.  In recent years, due to the difficulty of getting clearance for routes through the mountains and securing campgrounds for the event, the Wagon Train has stayed in Andrews North Carolina and staged their July 4th parade in that town.

…More mules checking out Laurie as she took their picture.

In 1963, the wagon train group was incorporated as a non-profit corporation…the Western North Carolina Wagon Train…with their headquarters in Andrews North Carolina.  The board of directors is made up of members from North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama and North Georgia.  In 2004, the organization officially expanded their original mission to include the encouragement and promotion of fair treatment of equine livestock.

Laurie captured this team of horse pulling a wagon down the street in our direction by shooting the photo through our windshield.  Very cool!

If you would like to view a video of the 2011 July 4th Wagon Train Parade through downtown Tellico Plains, just click on the following link:

This year’s Labor Day Parade, (which we weren’t aware of), formed up at the campgrounds and proceeded through downtown Tellico Plains.  Anyone could participate including floats, wagons, horse, mules, tractors, four-wheelers, antique cars, emergency vehicles, etc.  The William Blount High School Marching Band led the way and local TV coverage was provided by WBIR, Knoxville’s NBC affiliate.

This is one of the 2 free camp grounds being used by the Wagon Train participants.  In this case, it’s the late Charles Hall’s field across from the Hardee’s Restaurant, (and next to Tellicafe, where we ate dinner), in Tellico Plains.  Note the mountains in the background…

This is the other camp ground that was available for the wagon train.  It was also loaned to them free of charge and a local farmer furnished the water needed for the visitors as well as their livestock.

This is one of the longest lived wagon train events in the United States.  This was its 60th anniversary!

While the participants in these photos have trucked their horses, mules and wagons across the mountains to Tellico Plains, many others apparently were on the way via the ‘old fashioned’ method…by wagon across the mountains. 
This event was listed as the Second Annual Tellico Plains Tennessee Labor Day Ride.  The trek wasn’t for sissies.  It began in North Carolina on August 31st.  At the end of the first day, the wagon train had covered 14 miles and spent the night at Charlie’s Mountain.  

On September 2nd, they covered another 13 miles…4 of it paved and 4 on gravel (with a 10 – 12% grade), stopping at Old Furnace.  The 3rd day was along another 13 mile route with 6 miles paved and 7 miles on gravel.  They stopped at Conesaga Falls.  On Labor Day, this group was scheduled to have a short ride into Tellico Plains for the parade at 10 AM.  

We included this photo because we liked the more traditional ‘look’ of this covered wagon…

…and I’m ending this post with another team of mules, one of which is giving Laurie the ‘eye’. 

We will put this event on our calendar for 2018!  Between the 4-legged attractions and the music, it is not to be missed when it comes around again.  To learn more about the Wagon Train as well as future events, you can go to the organization’s website at

That’s about it for now!  Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by to see what we’ve been up to!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave and Laurie