Thursday, December 31, 2020

A Pre-Christmas Drive in the Country + Christmas Snow!

OK…so I’m backtracking in my search for blogger material!  What would you expect?  We are in a pandemic, which is growing more serious daily.  We are both past that ‘magic high risk age’ for Covid-19 vulnerability and we have been in lock-down except for grocery runs as necessary, take-out food orders as sanity demands, medical appointments if needed and, fortunately we do go on an occasional drive in the country.

The good news is that we live in a beautiful area and there are hundreds of back roads to explore.  The sights along the way don’t care about Covid-19 and they are just there to be enjoyed…

Laurie took this photo of a lovely sunrise a couple of weeks before Christmas.  For those that know us, it was close to a miracle that we were up in time to see such a sight.  We tend to go to bed late and get up late…

So off we went on a drive through the countryside.  We have rivers, lakes, forests, fields, foothills, rocks and mountains as well as a plethora of local roads with plenty of dead-ends and narrow right of ways.

Much to our surprise, we also have ‘hedgerows’.  While they’re common in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, you don’t often see them in the USA.  Also, in the United Kingdom and Ireland, they are planted right up against the road, making driving on narrow roads a real challenge!

Basically, a hedgerow is a fence formed by closely planting a row of scrubs or bushes…in this case of the evergreen variety.  Note: In the United Kingdom, there are still about 500,000 miles of hedgerow but it is only about half the amount that existed before WWII.

We also have alpacas! (Along with their goat friends) The alpaca, like the llama, vicuna and guanaco, are all species of South American camelid mammals.  Alpacas are considerably smaller than the better known llama but like the llama, they have been domesticated.  Alpacas are bred specifically for their fiber.  It’s used to make fine knitted and woven items. The fiber comes in 16 different colors as classified in the USA.

Did you know that there are more than 53,000 alpacas in the USA?  Tennessee currently has just over 4,000 of them.  New York has the largest population of alpacas with about 26,000.  Other states with large numbers of alpacas include Washington, Colorado, Oregon, California and Pennsylvania.

Along the way, as we crossed US Hwy. 411 near Greenback Tennessee, there was this clever reminder of Christmas, a creative haystack ode to Rudolph the red nosed reindeer. 

We stayed off the main roads much of the way…and in one instance we were rewarded with this old single lane bridge over a creek.  Most roads in East Tennessee are well populated with homes and small farms along the way.  Along this road, we encountered no other vehicles and very few homes.

Loved this big old tree with the Smoky Mountains off in the distance!

Relaxing and bucolic views aren't they?  We're always wondering what sights we'll see around the next turn or over the next hill...

Here we have competing tree photos.  Which one do you like best…Laurie’s or my version?  I’m not telling you which photo belongs to who either!

As we headed back toward our home after about 2 hours of exploration, we drove by one of the upper ends of Tellico Lake with its 357 miles of shoreline.  This picture was taken from a lakeside community just east of US Hwy 411.  Nice views of the distant mountains…

…and so ended our drive in the country.

…and then along came Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  I just wanted to share a few photos of a white Christmas in East Tennessee.  The last time we had a white Christmas here was in 2010… Last year we had 2.5 inches of snow in Loudon County all winter.  This year we had that much for Christmas!  It was pretty and we didn’t have to go anywhere.  Actually, when we have even a hint of snow on the roads around here, everything stops and schools close.

On this occasion it did take a couple of days for all the snow to melt.  The high temperature here on New Years Day will be 68F, but it will be raining.  After living in the Chicago area for almost 3 decades, we’ll take rain over a snowstorm any time!

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 and Laurie


Monday, December 28, 2020

A Covid-19 Christmas – Part II

Continuing with our ‘adventures’ and dining experiences during 2020’s Covid-19 Christmas celebration… You will note that dietary limitations were violated, but that is a ‘normal’ holiday attribute, is it not?  It is in our household!

So we did get some goodies to eat from family and friends, plus Laurie put on her baker’s toque and she whipped up a few dozen for our enjoyment as well.  Family photos also flew across the Internet to keep us all in touch…

In my previous post I’d noted the candied apples and cookies that friends Norm and Linda brought to us.  This tin full of cookies and candy were sent to us from Laurie’s niece Judy and her husband John.  Nothing went to waste, that’s for sure!

Laurie’s sister Bonnie and Bonnie’s husband Bill take a picture of their son Kyle’s 2 boys and daughter Kasey’s 4 girls every year…in their pajamas.  Great photo this year for sure!  From the left at the back are Collin, Delany and Avery.  Keaton is in the center with Elliot Jane and Charley Kate just in front of him.    

Laurie’s Scottish cousin Hazel also sent us photos of she and Scott’s kids posing in front of their tree.  The first photo is of Moir, Della is in the second picture and Maura is in the last one.  Cute kids all!  Laurie and her sisters Bonnie and Karole are planning to visit the family in Scotland as soon as the Covid-19 pandemic allows…

My cousin Nathan and his wife Janice sent us a photo of their nicely decorated home near Fenton Michigan.  Very festive indeed with lots of attention to detail!

Even Ben Campbell, our investment advisor with Edward Jones, got into the Christmas goodies act!  His clients did a drive by at the office and we got this nice package containing honey baked ham, croissants and cookies, along with a photo of Ben’s family and his assistant Shelia.  The ham and croissants provided us with a couple of satisfying meals that required no effort on our part.

As I mentioned at the beginning, Laurie got into a cookie baking mode.  The first photo shows some of her cranberry-orange shortbread cookies.  As usual they were excellent! 

This year Laurie also tried something new.  I’d copied a recipe for ginger-molasses cookies from Pam, a blogger that I follow who lives just outside of Chicago.  We have had molasses on hand for a long time so what a great way to use up some of it!  As you can see, those little balls of dough turned into some great looking cookies.  Not only do they taste good, but they also have great shelf/storage life.  They stay nice and chewy for a long time.  Good thing as the recipe made about 5 dozen! 

For Pam’s ginger-molasses cookie recipe, you can just go to

Then Laurie stepped way outside her comfort zone.  She decided to make “Empire Biscuits”, a recipe that came from her Scottish grandfather’s sister, aka. Laurie’s great Aunt.  It was a challenging task.  Laurie had to translate metrics into US/imperial measurements.  Then we had to figure out what some of ingredients were called here in the USA.  Sugar icing…equaled powdered sugar (we think) and corn meal flour equaled self-rising corn meal (we think).

The recipe calls for 2 biscuits (or cookies) for each completed Empire biscuit.  Strawberry jam was spread between the 2 biscuits and then they were frosted and topped with a cherry.  They were very good if a bit messy to eat.  One thing for sure, the recipe for the individual biscuits themselves yielded the best Scottish shortbread we’ve enjoyed in a long time!  

Then there is the story of our little ‘flat’ Christmas tree.  By flat I mean it is wide across the front and very narrow from front to back.  It fits perfectly into our Christmas closet which is chock full of all things Christmas.  We’d acquired this little pre-lit tree from a local merchant where they were using it for display purposes.

Apparently, our Christmas tree must have absorbed all the negative vibes that flowed out of the year we’d rather forget…2020!  You will note that the lights at the top of the tree stopped functioning.  Given the year, it should have been no surprise!

But the tree (and 2020) wasn't done yet.  A few days later the bottom lights went out too…leaving us with a single group of lights across the middle of the tree.  As I wrote this post, those lights were still glowing but 4 more days still remained in this dismal excuse for a year… Still time to blink out!

Did I mention that our main HVAC heating unit has decided to quit operating?  We’re thankful that the secondary systems are working and that we have a propane fireplace…2020 be gone!

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

Thursday, December 24, 2020

A Covid-19 Christmas – Part I

It’s fair to say that Christmas in the year 2020 is not the joyous occasion that it usually is.  Given the risks in travel, family gatherings, parties, dining out and shopping, it has been and continues to be prudent to just hunker down and stay safe.  I’m not proud to admit that for most of the past week that Tennessee has become one of leading states in the USA...based on the number of Covid-19 infections… Talk about kill joy!

Given the circumstances, it has become incumbent on each of us to find some rays of hope and joy in this ‘Debby Downer’ of a Holiday Season… We can’t let the Grinch steal Christmas!

Our Christmas cactus knows that it’s time to bloom!  The first photo shows it beginning to show its colors and in the second picture it is in its full glory.

Christmas cactus or ‘Schlumbergera’ consists of 6 to 9 species that are naturally found in the coastal mountains of southeastern Brazil.  In their natural habitat they grow on trees or rocks in habitats that are generally shady with high humidity.  Their popular names generally refer to their flowering season.  In the Northern Hemisphere they are called Christmas cactus, holiday cactus or Thanksgiving cactus.  In Brazil, they are referred to as ‘Flor de Maio’ (May Flower), which reflects the period in which they bloom in the Southern Hemisphere.  

One night this past week we took a drive through one of the Tellico Village neighborhoods in Loudon County Tennessee.  It was all about checking out the Christmas lights that folks have decorated with… We did learn that getting good photos of outdoor Christmas lights can be challenging!  

The first home shown above belongs to our friends Jodie and Morrie.  We'd stopped at their house to chat for a short time from the safety of our car...with masks on.  While we prefer more understated Christmas décor, some of the folks in this neighborhood were really over the top...a scene appreciated by many.

Thanks to a tip from Jodie and Morrie, our nighttime holiday drive ended at this big 40 feet tall Christmas tree that someone had gone all out to ensure that it was a spectacular sight!

Here’s another look at our little Christmas tree.  As shown below, some of the ornaments on the tree are quite special!

This ‘God's eye' is at least 30 – 35 years old… It was made for us by my mom while she was still artistically active.  Hopefully it will catch some truly positive wishes for 2021!

This silver and red beaded angel is our oldest ornament.  It has been passed down through my family…my great grandmother to my grandmother, then my mother and now it’s part of our Christmas décor.  It dates back to somewhere around the American Civil War.

This hand crafted rocking horse was created by our son David II…when he was 9 years old.  It is older than the dream catcher but in order to respect David’s sensitivity regarding his current age…enough revealed!

What?!!  Visitors during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic!  Is it Santa himself?  It’s hard to tell given the masks, but they identified themselves as our friends Linda and Norm.  Norm claimed he was smiling when Laurie took this photo…

It had been quite a long time since we were able to visit with any friends so this was a nice Christmas gift in itself!  We agreed that we are all looking forward to a time in 2021 when we can go out and dine together in a restaurant and visit ‘mask less’ in our homes.

In addition to their welcome presence…Linda and Norm did bring us some Holiday treats.  We gave them a couple dozen homemade molasses – ginger cookies and a coffee cake ring from Wolferman’s Gourmet. 

As for Norm and Linda's treats as shown above, we devoured those Cheryl’s Cookies within 36 hours of receipt!  The gourmet candied apples will be ‘gone’ by the time this post is published on my blog site…

A little more Christmas to follow...Part II...shortly after Christmas.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.


Stay Safe and Take Care, Big Daddy Dave and Laurie

Monday, December 21, 2020

It’s a Pandemic Birthday!

Laurie’s birthday celebrations are traditionally a big deal in our household… The celebration of her December birthday usually begins around the end of October and ends after the first of the New Year.  Not a bad arrangement if you can get it!

Usually we spread out some shopping for things she wants for herself or the house…and we eat out several times so she doesn’t have to cook.  We frequently throw in a little road trip too.  Finally, her actual birthday dinner usually features lobster tails with drawn butter. 

Then along came 2020 with the pandemic… The entire birthday scenario got bogged down in self-isolation and the surging infection rates.  This resulted in a new approach to this annual celebration.

At the beginning of December I took this photo of the birthday girl posing in front of the fireplace with her new casual jacket that D2, Amy & the grandson's gave her! She loves it! 

By this point, we’d made a couple of on-line purchases but such purchases don’t ever seem to be as satisfying as checking out prospective gifts in person.

We also ‘ate out’ several times during her weeks’ long celebration.  In the last post I’d mentioned dining in our car after securing food from fast food restaurants.  Our Freddy’s Steakburgers outing was also a birthday dinner ‘out’.

The other ‘dining out’ option during Laurie’s pandemic birthday was of course, ‘take out’.  In this case, she’d opted for BBQ ribs from a restaurant in Loudon Tennessee named Taste-O-Texas. 

We each ordered plate dinners…a half rack of ribs with sides.  For my sides, I chose seasoned tater tots and the cilantro-lime coleslaw.  Laurie chose the mustard-dill potato salad and the creamy mac and cheese.

Laurie held up one of the ribs from her half rack for this photo.  We really like Taste-O-Texas’ ribs.  They are better than any other commercial pork ribs that we’ve found in East Tennessee.  We would like them even better if they weren’t so ‘ready to fall off the bone’.  We would rather gnaw the meat from the bones!

The side dishes were nothing special.  I didn’t really detect much ‘seasoning’ on the tater tots and the slaw, while different, was just OK.  Laurie felt that the potato salad was OK as well but the creamy mac and cheese 1) wasn’t creamy, and 2) wasn’t worth eating.

So for her actual birthday, where should we get some takeout for the celebration?  The choices are somewhat limited as there aren’t that many restaurants within 15 – 20 minutes of our home.

She decided on Italian cuisine from Little Italy, a restaurant that’s convenient and close enough that the food we purchase there is always still hot when we get it back to our house. 

Laurie decided to have the Veal Marsala for her home bound ‘dining out’ birthday dinner.  In addition to veal, it included mushrooms, garlic and Marsala butter sauce over a bed of linguine.  She enjoyed her meal…but there is no doubt that she would have preferred lobster!

For my entrée I had a tried and true favorite, the Sausage Alfredo Skillet. (No ‘skillet’ with takeout) Penne pasta, grape tomatoes and Italian sausage are combined with Cajun seasoning with Alfredo sauce.  It was good but it seemed that the chef might have cut back on the Cajun seasoning…

So what did we do about a birthday cake for Laurie’s birthday?  

The answer was Tiramisu with a candle!  Little Italy does serve a very fine version of this Italian classic dessert.  Unfortunately for Laurie, she had to listen to me sing Happy Birthday to her before she could blow out the candle and actually enjoy this sweet treat…

I decided to try something different for my dessert.  This was Little Italy’s Grand Coconut Meringue Pie.  It was very good…but my favorite creamy type pie continues to be banana cream.

So…what about presents?  Laurie tends to buy things for the home for any gift receiving event in her life.  In this case she bought a new rug from “Ruggables” for the laundry room. (

Other miscellaneous items over the past month or so included a new book, a replacement for her old wallet, a forehead thermometer, an invisible belt and some favored snacking items that she loves. (Comfort snacks for the pandemic!  She does share them with me too)

There are still another couple of weeks remaining for her normal 2 month plus birthday celebration, so other items may still be ordered… However, her most recent birthday related acquisitions included the large charcuterie board and the spoon rest pictured above.  They were purchased in a recent foray to Everhart Lumber in Tellico Plains Tennessee.  Even I enjoy browsing through this wood specialty and natural wood furniture store!  Check them out at

That’s it for now.  Hopefully by the latter half of 2021 we’ll all be able to relax a bit and return to normal life…and special birthday celebrations!

Just click on any of the photo to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Stay Safe and Take Care, Big Daddy Dave