Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Slow Recovery…plus Dining at Home

I had knee replacement surgery about 2 weeks ago…and when you add that temporary disability to Covid-19 self-isolation, not much is going on at our household…at least not much worth writing about!

A couple of days after returning home from the hospital, (a one night stay), Laurie took this photo of me with my post-surgery walker slowly moving along the street in front of our house.  Things were looking up!  But then the hospital related surgical anesthesia wore off…and the ‘real’ healing process began.  I’ll spare my readers by not sharing the details…

So…going back in time before the surgery.   

As I’ve mentioned previously, we have 3 Mennonite operated farmer’s markets within easy driving range of our home.  This assortment of fresh vegetables and baked goods resulted from a recent visit to the market located in the countryside near Englewood Tennessee.  We scored a couple of zucchini, some heirloom tomatoes and an amazing bunch of radishes along with a loaf of whole wheat bread as well as a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread. 

I almost forgot!  We also picked up this luscious blackberry crumb pie… It was excellent on its own but when heated and paired with vanilla bean ice cream on the side, it was perfection.

This was part of one of those heirloom tomatoes…sliced and slathered with blue cheese dressing.  Laurie used a healthier vinaigrette dressing.  The next time we purchase some top notch tomatoes, I’ll have to try making a tomato sandwich…

We’re staying simple when it comes to meals.  Minimal prep, minimal cooking, minimal effort!  In this instance our entrĂ©e consisted of a ‘value size’ box of TGI Friday’s Crispy Buffalo Style Chicken Wings.  I think that there were about 13 wing segments for each of us.  We did enjoy them!

On this particular morning, I found a leftover Italian Breaded Veal Patty in the refrigerator.  It had been part of one of our gift packages YTD from Omaha Steaks.  I reheated the patty, placed it on a slice of toasted buttered bread and then topped it with an over easy fried egg.  Very fine indeed…

Another evening and a simple and yet one of our favorite meals.  There is nothing like a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich…especially when it’s constructed with some decent bread and it includes slices of fresh picked heirloom tomato and Benton’s bacon. (Benton’s hickory smoked bacon makes the very best BLT!)

Note: The potato chips were a Lay's variety that we hadn't tried before.  They're the Nashville Hot.  We didn't care for them...

Laurie had spotted a recipe for Cheesy Scalloped Zucchini on Pinterest that was from, and she wanted to give it a try.  So she sliced up 4 zucchini and made a rue with butter, 2 cloves of garlic, onion flakes, pepper and thyme...with a couple of tablespoons of all-purpose flour.  Then we added in 1.5 cups of half and half milk, 2 cups of Gruyere cheese and a half cup of Parmesan.  The mixture was poured evenly over the zucchini and then it went into the oven.

The photo above shows the finished product.  Laurie enjoyed the results but despite all of her work and as well as the fact that I really like zucchini, I wasn’t a real fan.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained...

Here was yet another ‘gift dinner’…chicken fried steaks courtesy of Omaha Steaks!  First they went in the oven and then we topped them with some sausage gravy.  Minimum effort easy and tasty comfort food was the result!

One last evening meal…but this time it was take out from a local bar-b-que restaurant.  We purchased 2 racks of nice meaty pork ribs from Taste ‘O Texas.   We each had half a rack to start and then I had a couple more ribs to top off my meal.  The ribs were almost ‘falling off the bone’ while we prefer our ribs a bit more attached…thereby requiring a little effort on our part.  In any case, these ribs were nicely seasoned and they are better than any other restaurants in the area.   Best yet, I ‘had’ to eat the leftovers for 2 lunches!

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Stay Safe and Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Friday, September 25, 2020

We Had a House Guest!

With the Coronavirus pandemic, contact with others has been very limited.  Given our vulnerabilities (age and, in my case, pre-existing conditions), we had to consider just how many ‘safe’ people could pay a visit.  People with active school age kids, people who still work away from home, grandparents who baby sit, folks who don’t regularly wear masks or who take risks by dining out or partying… Of course, a 2 week self-quarantine by potential visitors would work for some.  Otherwise, there is a risk of infection for us and others like us!

So, we were happy to have Dawn Marie visit us for a few days!  She is as at risk as we are, works at home, avoids going out except if necessary and she always wears a mask.  The couple of contacts she has had with others were also folks who were very Covid-19 cautious…and even those contacts took place a couple of weeks before her visit.

Dawn Marie’s birthday was actually back in August but her trip was postponed so we celebrated during her visit.

There were presents…and who doesn’t like to receive presents!

This t-shirt was perfect!  These days there are so many things that can make someone roll their eyes in frustration or disbelief…

There had to be some cake with a candle!  Unfortunately for Dawn, we also sang “Happy Birthday”…no human should have to experience our dulcet voices in ‘harmony’!

Dawn is an officer with a computer security business so we lean on her to provide some tech support whenever she visits.  She helped Laurie with her phone, coached us on TV/Amazon Fire/On Demand operations and helped me with a couple of desktop computer issues.  Thanks again!

It wasn’t all work though… Friends Jodie and Morrie have also been in isolation and virtual lockdown…so they are among the few really coronavirus safe couples we know.  They’d volunteered to take the 3 of us out on their pontoon boat during Dawn’s visit.  So off we went!

We were cruising along Tellico Lake, one of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s reservoirs along the Tennessee River and its tributaries.  Along the way, we passed the historic Bowman House.  This unoccupied structure sitting on either 2.5 acres or 3.63 acres is the oldest house in Loudon County. 

Mr. Bowman built this Federal style home in 1828 and the Bowman family lived here until 1937.  At one point Mr. Bowman owned 7,000 acres in the area.  He was a cooper (barrel maker) and he was a US Indian Agent who worked with the Cherokee Indians. 

From what I could discern, the TVA still owns the property although it was listed for sale in 2006.  One issue is that whoever buys the property cannot tear down the historic home.  Another factor is that the Bowman Family Cemetery (deeded through the family) is located on the property.  There are about 75 graves on the site.  A local homeowner from Tellico Village has been voluntarily caring for the cemetery…   

As I’d recently reported, there is a home building boom in our area.  The count of active construction sites near our home is now at 15.  The same building spree also applies to those who live on the lake and need a dock or who need their dock rebuilt.

Here are a few of the lakeside homes in Tellico Village.  They have some great gently sloping lots although many homes have almost cliff-like shorelines to negotiate to reach their docks.  These homes…actually any home on the water…are, as the saying goes…above my pay grade!

Here is a more typical stretch of homes along the lake…still with the flat lots though.  Cruising up and down this side of the lake is interesting as you get a good look at the homes…but the other side of the lake, which isn’t developed is more restful to the eyes and to the soul.

This is a view of Tellico Lake looking down river (The Little Tennessee) toward the mountains and the Tellico Dam.  The lake is 33 miles long with 357 miles of shoreline.  Better yet, Tellico Lake is connected via a short channel with Fort Loudoun Lake...and that lake stretches for another 55 miles upstream on the Tennessee River.

Morrie loves to entertain and apparently Dawn Marie was truly enjoying his company!

As we neared the apex of our 2 hour cruise, we passed these 2 ‘castle like’ homes being built at Rarity Bay, a high-end gated community that features a golf course and stables for owner’s horses.  These homes are as big as some of the hotels we stay in!

End of the Road… Back home we posed for photos.  Dawn Marie is like a daughter to us.  We first met at Montgomery Ward over 25 years ago then she met Laurie and we’ve been close ever since.  She refers to us as her “Tennessee parents”. is a 12 hour plus drive from Miami to us in Loudon County...and a 12 hour drive back.   Yikes... 

There will be one visit related ‘food’ post to follow…

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Stay Safe and Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Monday, September 21, 2020

When We Could Travel – VII

This is “Chapter 7” (my seventh post) recapping our 2006 road trip to northeastern Arizona, southern Colorado and northern New Mexico.  We really saw a lot on this trip…and the beautiful weather continued throughout.

We’re very hopeful that we’ll be able to resume our exploration of America’s backroads and byways by mid-2021.

The next phase of our backroads wandering in the southwestern USA took us along the “High Road to Taos Scenic Byway.  It’s a winding road from Santa Fe to Taos.  It’s 56 miles along US Hwy 285 and NM Hwy 76, tracing its way through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and then through the high desert to Taos.  The route provides visitors a glimpse of old New Mexico.

The Sangre de Cristo Mountains (Spanish for “Blood of Christ”) are the southernmost subrange of the Rocky Mountains.  All of the peaks in New Mexico are over 13,000 feet high.

Our first stop was in the small village of Chimayo.  The Santuario de Chimayo was built in 1814.  The story is that a villager saw a light coming from the ground and when he dug away at it, he found a cross.  He brought the cross to a local church where it was placed near the altar.  The next morning it was gone…only to be rediscovered where it had been found in the first place.  This happened 3 times…and it was decided that the Santuario de Chimayo should be constructed on the site.  It is alleged that the location (actually the dirt at the back of the shrine) has mystical powers that cure illness.  Close to 300,000 people visit this shrine each year.  It is sometimes referred to as the “Lourdes” of the USA and it is perhaps the most important Catholic pilgrimage center in the country.

The village’s name is derived from a Tewa (Native American) for a local landmark, the hill of Tsi Mayoh.  The town is unincorporated and consists of many plazas or placitas (neighborhoods), each with its own name.  The total population is about 3,200.  The village is known for the weaving traditions of both the Ortega and Trujillo families.  Their fame and craft is complemented by others who are tinsmiths, wood carvers and who make religious paintings.  Tourism is big business in this little settlement…

To learn more about these famous families of weavers and to view some of their creations, you can go to and/or

Rolling on up NM Hwy 76, we came to the village of Las Trampas.  This church is the San Jose de Gracia de Las Trampas.  This beautiful Spanish colonial church was completed in 1776 and it is a National Historic Landmark.  The church is one of the least-altered examples of a colonial mission church, with its adobe walls rising 34 feet high. 

The village itself is a National Historic District.  Las Trampas itself was founded in 1751 by 12 Spanish families with a Spanish royal land grant.  It was called “Santo Tomas del Rio de las Trampas” or Saint Thomas, Apostle of the River of Traps”.  An adobe wall originally encircled the plaza providing security for the community.  By the time the church was built, 63 families lived here.  At that time, the village’s residents were described as “a ragged lot…as festive as they were poor and very merry”.  They spoke ‘local Spanish’ mingled with the language of the Taos Pueblo and most spoke some words of the Comanche, Ute and Apache languages.  The village remained largely isolated until the 1920s.

This is Taos Plaza which is in the center of the Taos Downtown Historic District.  Once a Spanish fortified walled plaza with homes and businesses, it now has a park with shady trees, park benches and retail operations made of adobe that cater to the tourist trade.  Historic buildings include several art museums as well as Governor Charles Bent’s former home.  He was the first United States Territorial Governor of New Mexico.  Taos was the home of the Taos Society of Artists and the Taos Art Colony and it still attracts many artists to the area.

Spanish settlers began colonizing the Taos Valley in 1616.  The town itself was founded by the Spanish in 1795 to serve as a fortified plaza and trading outpost for the Native American Taos Pueblo and local Hispano communities.  The town and the adjacent Taos Pueblo were the terminus points for the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro…or the King’s Highway from Mexico City.  Today the town has a population of about 6,000 residents.

Moving on from the town of Taos, we were off to explore close by Taos Pueblo…after which the adjacent town was named.  This is the Pueblo’s cemetery.  The ruin is the remnant of the original church of San Geronimo that was destroyed in the 1847 Taos Revolt.  The structure had been originally built in 1619 by forced labor.  Then it was partially destroyed in the 1680 Pueblo Revolt and then later rebuilt only to be destroyed again.

The Taos Pueblo people never turn strangers away from their doors because they place great value on courtesy and hospitality.  However, on All Souls’ Day, they spend a day with their families and close the village to any non-Native American.  Residents of the pueblo are only allowed to visit cemeteries on All Souls’ Day or on the day of someone’s burial.  Visitors are never allowed within cemetery boundaries.


         ·         The Pueblo Revolt of 1680 was an uprising of the Pueblo people against the Spanish Colonizers.  About 400 Spaniards were killed and the remaining 2,000 settlers were driven out of the area.  It was 12 years before the Spaniards reconquered the province.

         ·         The Taos Revolt of 1847 was a popular insurrection by Mexican and Pueblo allies against the United States’ occupation of present-day northern New Mexico.  While US troops were victorious the struggle did result in the New Mexico Territory forming with proper representation and recognition for the local citizenry through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

Catholicism was forced on the people of the Taos Pueblo by the Spanish in 1540.  It is the most practiced organized religion of the community.  The current San Geronimo church was built in 1859 and it is still used today for Sunday mass, weddings and other religious ceremonies.  This church is a great example of northern New Mexican architecture.  Its continual use alongside ceremonial kivas marks the continuation of traditional practices along with new ones… It’s said that the majority of Taos Indians still practice their ancient indigenous religion although 90% of them have been baptized in the Catholic Church.

FYI…a kiva is a room used by Pueblo peoples for rites and political meetings.  In most cases kivas are a large room that is circular and underground, and are used for spiritual ceremonies.

This is part of the Taos Pueblo.  This ancient home belongs to a Taos-speaking Native American tribe of Puebloan people.  The pueblo lies about a mile north of the modern city of Taos.  This pueblo is a member of the Eight Northern Pueblos and its one of the most private, secretive and conservative of all the pueblos.  Natives will not discuss their religious customs with outsiders, and since their language has never been written down, much of their culture is a mystery to the outside world. 

Taos Pueblo is an American National Historic Landmark as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Puebloan families have lived here continuously for more than 1,000 years.  The main portions of the structures are thought to have been built between 1000 and 1450 CE or AD, whichever term you prefer. 

The settlement was built on either side of Rio Pueblo de Taos, also referred to as Rio Pueblo or, more commonly, Red Willow Creek.  The creek’s headwaters originate in the nearby mountains.  Red Willow Creek is the direct and only source of water for the community.  All water that’s used for cooking, washing and personal hygiene must be carried by pail from the creek to each home.

Taos Pueblo includes about 95,000 acres of tribal owned land.  More than half of that land had been taken by President Theodore Roosevelt and it was made into a National Forest.  However, in 1970, President Richard Nixon signed a bill that returned the land to the pueblo.  About 4,500 people live in the area. 

Like many tourists, I suspect that I only took photos of the larger ‘North House’ which is named “Hlaauma” and neglected taking a picture of the South House, aka “Hlaukkwima”.  They are on opposite sides of Red Willow Creek…  Both of these apartment style pueblos are quite impressive but the North House is the larger of the two.

Hlaauma is the largest multistoried Pueblo structure still in existence.  Its adobe walls are often several feet thick.  Originally its primary purpose was for defense.  As late as 1900, access to the rooms on lower floors was by ladders on the outside to the roof…and then down an inside ladder.  When attacked, the outside ladders could just be pulled up.

An historic rivalry exists between the people on the South side of Red Willow Creek (summer people) and those on the North side. (winter people) Foot races, which have a significant religious meaning in the tribe, are a common practice by which the two groups express their rivalry. 

This photo is of Garita Ramirez, a Taos woman who was operating a little shop that sold bread, pie and Indian jewelry.  Shops like hers are part of the resident’s homes… Homes in the Pueblo usually consist of 2 rooms, one for general living and sleeping and the second for cooking, eating and storage.  Each home is self-contained as there aren’t any passages between homes. (Photos of tribal members may not be taken without permission)

As I noted previously, the only running water and actual water source in the Taos Pueblo is Red Willow Creek.  In fact, electricity, running water and indoor plumbing are prohibited in the Pueblo. 

Laurie and I both loved the colorful doors that are scattered here and their throughout the Pueblo...and across northern New Mexico.  It is such a big contrast to the adobe color that the windows and doors become an artistic statement.  Blue indicates one of the 4 sacred directions of Pueblo life…the direction of the Southwest.  The general notion is that blue doors keep evil spirits away.  On the other hand, red doors indicate the direction of the Southeast…

There are a variety of shops throughout Taos Pueblo.  Traditional and contemporary art and craft work as well as food items are available for purchase.  Shops are clearly marked with signs and only homes with signs stating that they are open for business can be entered.

Of course, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, both Taos Pueblo as well as the area immediately around it are currently closed to all visitors.  In ‘normal times’, the Pueblo is open 7 days a week.  Adult admission is $16.00.  Tour guides are recommended.  As they are unpaid volunteers, they rely on gratuities from visitors to the Pueblo.  To learn more, you can just go to     

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by and helping us relive one of our most enjoyable road trips!

Stay Safe and Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

More Food – Dining during a Pandemic (I)

Yes indeed, yet another food post!  This time it’s about take out, a homemade favorite, breakfast and a new favorite commercial snack food…

This will be a big week for me.  I’ll be getting a knee replacement and then spending a lot of time in therapy and just plain healing.  The plan is that this surgery leads to improved mobility so that when the pandemic eases, I’ll be ready to travel and explore the back roads of the USA and Canada.

I’ll start with some take out from our favorite chicken joint…Gus’s World Famous Hot and Spicy Fried Chicken in Knoxville.  Gus’s isn’t located anywhere close to our house but we were in town on an errand so we picked up dinner to go…plus extra chicken for leftovers.

The photo above shows one of our ‘starters’, the Fried Green Tomatoes with ranch dressing.  I thought that they were above average if not great. 

Laurie wanted one of her favorite starters/appetizers…fried pickles.  She prefers pickle chips but she does like Gus’s fried pickle spears.  I much prefer fried pickle chips too.

No disagreement when it comes to the chicken though!  We love Gus’s chicken… It’s just a little spicy and it’s not overloaded with breading.  Laurie goes for the thighs and I always order the breasts.  A couple of days after our initial dinner, I sliced up a stack of chicken and we feasted on some terrific fried chicken sandwiches…

In Knoxville, Gus’s World Famous Hot and Spicy Chicken is located at 3101 Sutherland Avenue.  Phone: 865-200-5468.  This store’s website is found at

Yet another healthy salad…spinach with tomato and cucumber. (Before adding the salad dressing) Lately we’ve been hooked on Marie’s Salad Dressings.  They may not be all that healthy but they are very satisfying.  I prefer the Chunky Blue Cheese and Laurie likes the Asiago Peppercorn.  To view all of the other choices offered by Marie’s, just go to

We paired that salad with sausage ravioli and marinara sauce with sausage. (Can’t get enough sausage…or parmesan for that matter!)

This refrigerated but not frozen store bought ravioli is one of the many ready to boil and serve pastas marketed under the ‘Rana’ brand.  We’ve had several of them over the past few months and we have enjoyed all of them.  To view your dining options with the Rana brand, just go to

This meatloaf is one of Laurie’s culinary specialties and definitely one of my favorites!  Its beef and pork with lots of seasoning including some Italian style bread crumbs, all topped with a thick layer of Parmesan cheese which makes a superb crust!  In this instance, the meatloaf was sided with Laurie's special butternut squash with brown sugar and butter.

Not only is this one of my favorite meals, it’s also one of my favorite leftovers!  Laurie doesn’t eat most leftovers but she does enjoy a nice meatloaf sandwich.  The rest of it is mine…sandwiches, just by itself or topped with an egg…

I know that this steak looks lonely…but don’t feel sorry for it.  The fact is that it was part of a big container of goodies sent to us as part of an Omaha Steak gift pack.  We’d eaten the others and they were all very good…tender with lots of flavor.  This was a 5 – 6 oz. Omaha Cut Ribeye.  To view what items are available from Omaha Steaks, (much more than steaks), go to

For another pasta based meal, we had another salad and a bowl full of farfalle with meat sauce.  Comfort food for sure…

One night we had breakfast for dinner…fried ham with over-easy eggs and, in my case, buttered rye toast.  Yes, those little red dots are Tabasco sauce!  We both love having breakfast for our evening meal.  Laurie really likes breakfast as I’m the one doing the cooking.  She usually does clean up afterwards because she’s convinced that I don’t do it right…

This is our new favorite snack food…Unique Pretzel Bakery’s Original “Splits”.  As a hard pretzel, they are far superior to anything we’ve ever enjoyed.  The bakery is based in Reading Pennsylvania. 

The Spannuth family first baked a pretzel in Germany back in 1755.  Their first hard pretzel was introduced here in the USA in 1860.  Unique Pretzel’s was trademarked and incorporated in 1921.  These original ‘splits’ were developed in 1960.  The company bakes a variety of pretzels.  To view their products go to  Unique Pretzels are also available on Amazon.

I thought that I’d close with this selfie that Laurie took of us… This should assure those that have doubts that we are still alive and eagerly wishing for a Covid-19 free year as soon as possible!

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Stay Safe and Take Care, Big Daddy Dave