Thursday, February 25, 2021

A “Jab” or “Needle” for Freedom

Finally!!  After registering on-line back on January 12th for my first Covid-19 vaccine ‘jab’ and not hearing back for a month, at Laurie’s urging, I called our county health department and managed to get through and talk to a real person!  She promptly set us both up for our first doses of much needed vaccine!  We never have heard back from the on-line registry…

So only 10 days later, here we were, in a line for our first doses of the vaccine.  The police car viewed through the rear window of our car was responsible for ensuring that people lined up correctly and that they had appointments.

This drive-thru vaccination site is located at the Loudon Municipal Park.  We hadn’t been to the park before and the recreation facilities looked quite impressive and up to date.  Sports related features include 4 baseball diamonds, a soccer field, an 18 hole disc ‘golf course’ and a sand volleyball court.

We correctly guessed that this structure was some kind of amphitheater.  The Performing Arts Amphitheater can accommodate up to 7,500 attendees for concerts, plays or other events. 

We also learned that the Municipal Park also has a half-mile walking track, a nature hiking trail, a 50+ picnic shelter, a dog park and a Lions Club pavilion. 

This was Laurie’s view down the line of vehicles waiting for their vaccinations.  We arrived 10 minutes before the operation was open for the first ‘jabs’ of the day.  You can just see the drive-thru tent down the line...

These members of the National Guard look like they were checking their phones just before going to work.  They were assisting the county health department personnel and nurses operating the site.

Our anticipation rose as we neared our goal and the first glimmer of eventual Covid-19 freedom!

Almost there!!

We didn’t take any photos once we were inside the tents.  There was verification that we had appointments, a check of our IDs and a form for each of us to sign.  There was also a handout to take with us.

Most importantly after getting the needles with our vaccine, we were given Covid-19 Vaccination Record Cards like the one pictured above.  They verified that we’d received the shots, listed the type of vaccine and its batch number.  On the back it listed our follow-up appointment for our second doses in the not too distant future!

I took this less than perfect photo after we’d received our vaccinations.  The tent to the right was the tent we first entered where they screened us and we signed the paperwork.  The tent with the ‘windows’ to the left is where the nurses actually gave us our initial doses of vaccine…and our first real promise of freedom from self-isolation!

One final photo.  Since this vaccination site operates based on appointments only, the line of vehicles waiting for their vaccine was never very long.  Also, this is yet another advantage of living in a small, relatively lightly populated county.

Not only was this a hopeful day, it was also a beautiful sunny day and we discovered a park that has a lot to offer! 

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, February 22, 2021

Food! Take Out and Homemade…

This time my focus is totally on food… Meals are a highlight for me during the pandemic.  Laurie isn’t food focused so I will admit that this ‘addiction’ is mine and mine alone.  The good news is that we’re only eating 2 meals a day during self-isolation so I haven’t gained any weight.

So let’s start with the least healthy but most satisfying take-out food!

We were both in the mood for fresh donuts.  So we stopped at our local Master Donuts store in Lenoir City Tennessee.  It was our second visit in the last 5 weeks or so. 

During our previous visit, we had asked the owner how their business was during the Covid-19 pandemic.  Basically, she told us that they were just hanging on hoping for a return to normal.  They’d been producing less than half of their pre-pandemic output… Laurie had posted the need to support Master Donut on when we got home and the feedback had been amazing.  

This time we’d decided to stock up and freeze a supply for future breakfast and/or dessert treats.  So we bought 2 dozen assorted goodies.  They included apple fritters, cinnamon rolls, blueberry glazed donuts, glazed croissants, glazed buttermilk donuts and more!  The owner/operator also gave us a bag of glazed donut holes for the ride home…

After we completed our purchase we asked if business had improved.  The answer was in the affirmative, with a significant increase in sales…

This was one of the apple fritters.  They are the best ever!  Laurie had this one for breakfast a few days later.  We had frozen it but a quick zap in the microwave and it was fresh and tasted as great as if we’d just bought it.  The only items that we didn’t try to freeze were the 3 Danish that we’d selected.

Master Donut’s products are far superior to those offered by a certain national chain!  The Lenoir City Tennessee Master Donuts store is located just a mile or so off of I-75 from the US 321 exit.  Address: 507 East Broadway, also known as US Hwy 11.  Phone Number: 865-816-6058.  They are on Facebook at

Our next takeout experience wasn’t as positive.  We had gone months without Mexican food, with the thought that it would be truly messy as take out unless we stuck to burritos or similar offerings.  We finally ordered food to go from Cielito Lindo in Vonore Tennessee.  We had eaten in this restaurant many times previously so we were optimistic.

We decided to order a half dozen chicken wings just because we had never had them from Cielito Lindo before.  They were competent and quite meaty.  One positive is that they weren't heavily breaded...  

As side items we had corn chips and salsa and Laurie ordered some guacamole.  When I took the photo, we'd already eaten some of the chips, but they were the worst for wear from being packaged for take-out…too many were broken.  I don’t care from guacamole and Laurie thought that this version was just OK.

I think that this side of beans, chorizo sausage and rice came with Laurie’s entrée.  She didn’t eat it but I tried the beans and sausage.  Again, it was just OK...

Laurie’s Tacos de Pescado, i.e. fish tacos were a disappointment.  She’d never previously ordered them from Cielito Lindo.  They didn’t look that good and she just didn’t care for them despite the fact that tilapia was the fish they used… We really like their Tilapia dinner but it didn’t translate to the tacos.

My entrée was the Chile Colorado, grilled steak tips in a special house sauce served with rice, refried beans and flour tortillas.  It was exactly as I expected and I was happy with my meal.  Put those steak tips with some sauce on a tortilla, add a smear of refried beans and I was content!

Since we already knew that we’ve had plenty of positive experiences at Cielito Lindo, we decided that part of the problem was that we missed the presentation and happy atmosphere that folks enjoy while dining in the restaurant.  When the plague is under control we will return for a sit down dining experience.

Cielito Lindo was very busy when we picked up our food.  Too many customers showed up without masks although the staff was wearing theirs.  Proper distancing was just not possible with the crowd on a Friday night.  Cielito Lindo is located at 1265 US Hwy 411 in Vonore Tennessee.  Phone: 423-884-2885.            

Time to cook something at home…

We had a family size container of Bob Evan’s Mashed Potatoes and a pound and a half of ground beef, a few carrot sticks and a small can of baby peas…so what to make?  We decided to make something that we’d never actually made since we’d been married, but which we’d both eaten as family meals during our youth.

This was our version of Shepherd’s Pie.  Brown up the ground beef, add the carrot bits and baby peas, season it with onion flakes, garlic powder, fresh ground pepper and dried red pepper flakes… Then Laurie put the mix in a large casserole dish and topped it with those mashed potatoes.  Finally, she topped the ready to bake casserole with some hot paprika and then it went into the oven.

When the Shepherd’s Pie was bubbling and a little browned on top, it was time to eat!  It was very satisfying!  Perfect cold weather food.  Another plus was that we got two meals out of this creation…

Now, if you are a food purist, technically we didn’t make a shepherd’s pie.  Shepherd’s pie should only be named as such if it contains lamb!  If beef is used, it should be called a “Cottage Pie”.  I did learn something new!

Last but certainly not least!  Usually, when we’re in a ‘cookie mood’ we purchase the ready to eat cookies or the ready to bake type from grocery stores.  However, in this case Laurie decided to make chocolate chip cookies from scratch!  They were so much better…but of course they were also so much more tempting too… This is why we don’t do baked goods!  Our neighbor Mike, who is a chocoholic, was quite happy though when Laurie showed up on his doorstep with a cookie care package.

Just click on any of the photos that you would like to enlarge…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Stay Safe and Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Monday, February 15, 2021

We Were Out and About!

Muddling along through the pandemic… Boredom is the word, so we decided to take a drive in the area, exploring roads that we’d never driven for the most part.  We used our Hyundai’s navigation system as well as our DeLorme Tennessee State Road Atlas to chart our route…

En route heading west to my initial starting point for our backcountry exploration, Laurie asked me to turn down a road near our home that we’d never been on before.  It was a dead end but much to our delight, we encountered these friendly and curious donkeys along the road. 

We love donkeys!  Next to horses, they are Laurie’s favorite domestic animal and they are #1 in my book, just ahead of horses.  Of course, donkeys are members of the horse family, Equidae.  Donkeys are very smart and have been used as working animals for at least 5,000 years.  Today there are more than 40,000,000 donkeys in the world.  In the USA donkeys are frequently used as guard animals…as they will attack wild dogs or coyotes harassing ‘their herd’ of sheep and goats, etc.

We made another block long detour off of TN Hwy. 72 at 691 Vonore Road. This is the old Robinson Mill, now renamed the Pond Creek Milling Co.  It was built in 1849 and as of the time it was entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, it was still an operating mill.  It sits astride Clear Branch Creek.  There were signs before the pandemic that the property was undergoing some type of refurbishing…time will tell.  It would be a great property for a brewpub with burgers and other treats.

We took this photo of this old and stately home just because we liked it… Those twin brick chimneys and the windows as well as the design mark it as a truly old. 

On our last drive along the back roads to the east of our home, we’d noted a few hedgerows near Greenback Tennessee.  There were a couple of miles of very well-defined hedgerows along local byways just a little west of I-75. 

Increasingly, hedgerows are valued for the major role they play in preventing soil loss and in reducing pollution as well as for their potential to regulate water supply and reduce flooding.  They serve to increase earthworm diversity and they also play a big role in providing shelter for small mammals, birds and insects.

Speaking of Laurie’s favorite animal!  As we neared the end of our backroads exploration near Sweetwater Tennessee, we came across fields full of horses!  These photos just capture a few out in the pastures.  Our guess is that this area is home to between 70 and 90 horses… They are always beautiful to watch!  This was the biggest assembly of equines we’d seen anywhere in the area.

Back to our home…

Despite the record number of homes being built all around us, we still enjoy the occasional visit by our local deer population.  The other day Laurie saw a small herd hustle through our backyard…too fast for her to grab a camera.  She did capture this photo through our deck railing showing a doe nibbling her way along the backyard.

This broad shouldered hawk has become a regular visitor.  Built to function and hunt in wooded areas, it has decided that our bird feeder provides significant opportunities for its meals.  Just a couple of days ago Laurie and I both witnessed the hawk’s attempt to snare its prey.  It all happened very fast and the hawk’s intended dinner escaped!  We can usually tell when a hawk is nearby…as our feeder is abandoned.

The broad-winged or broad-shouldered hawk is a medium-sized hawk, measuring 13 to 17 inches long and weighing between 9.3 and 19.8 oz.  The migrating subspecies of these hawks tend to overwinter in deciduous and mixed forests…hence our neighborhood!  Females are slightly larger than the males.  To catch their prey, these hawks watch from low branches, hiding in the foliage where possible, until they spot a target.  They are very fast indeed! 

One bit of Covid-19 related positive news!  Laurie and I are scheduled for our first vaccine shots this coming week.  Before too long, after the second ‘jab’, we should be able to begin resuming some sort of semi-normal life style.  Hooray!

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, February 8, 2021

Dining Out - Sort of, and then at Home + Excitement!

Day 332 of self-isolation!  While the plague continues, at least now there is some hope that the end, or some version of the end, is in sight.  Both Laurie and I are now on lists for the vaccine.  In the meantime however, one of Laurie’s sisters and her husband have tested positive for Covid-19.  While her sister is asymptomatic, her sister’s husband is in the hospital.  He seems to be doing better than when he was first admitted…good new is, they both had their first jabs a week earlier.

As for our life here in East Tennessee, we actually went out for dinner the other day! (Sort of)

Perhaps picking up food at the drive-up window is just another form of take-out.  But is it really take-out when you consume the food in the restaurant’s parking lot?

In any case, we decided that it was time to visit Popeye’s to check out their much acclaimed spicy chicken sandwich.  Why haven’t we done this before?  Well, depending on the route taken, it’s a 45 minute (+/-) or about 28 miles one way from our house to the nearest Popeye’s in Maryville Tennessee.

Popeye’s French fries are seasoned and they are at least a touch above average for fast food fries.  This was a large order that we shared…

This is Popeye’s famous and much hyped spicy chicken sandwich… Guess what?!  It lived up to its reputation!  Sorry Chick-fil-a, now you are only #2 when it comes to spicy chicken sandwiches.  Popeye’s sandwich consists of a real hunk of moist fried chicken, large enough that we could have and should have skipped the French fries.  The flavor was excellent and the sandwich wasn’t too spicy…just right for Laurie. 

Note: We have also tried both Wendy’s and Hardee’s spicy chicken sandwiches.  Wendy’s was the better of these two but neither version can come close to measuring up to Chick-fil-a’s product, much less the great sandwich that Popeye’s offers.

As long as we’d made the 1.5 hour round trip to Popeye’s, we’d decided to pick up some spicy chicken and some coleslaw for another meal.  We also reheated a few leftover fries.  The pieces of chicken aren’t as large as those from KFC but on the positive side, they are much less heavily breaded than KFC’s.  I would have liked the chicken better if they were a bit spicier but they were still very tasty…  Laurie liked the coleslaw, but me not so much.

Perhaps it is our imagination but the Popeye’s chicken from Maryville Tennessee isn’t close to as spicy as the version we used to buy at a Popeye’s store in Skokie Illinois.  It’s possible that it’s been toned down for this market…

In the pandemic, we’re always looking for some new prepared or frozen food item to try… In this case it was P.F. Chang’s Kung Pao Cauliflower – described as crispy tempura-battered cauliflower with spicy Kung Pao Sauce.  We both like cauliflower and we like spicy Kung Pao sauce…

We have given this appetizer a 6 out of 10…ok but not great.  We followed the instructions but the cauliflower was a little too soft for us when it was done in the oven.  Laurie thought that it had decent flavor but I was on the fence in that regard.  The biggest problem was the size of the hunks of cauliflower.  Note how nice and similar the cauliflower pieces are on the box.  In reality, the pieces varied from tiny to very large.  That probably impacted both the texture and the flavor of the finished product.

I really like pancakes.  On the other hand, Laurie really doesn’t like pancakes!  So, pancakes are a rarity at our house… However, recently Laurie’s sister Bonnie told her about a great pancake recipe that she found that makes “The Best-Ever Fluffy Pancakes”.  Laurie got the recipe and determined to give pancakes another try…

As you can see, the pancake batter was really thick.  The recipe is as follows:

2 cups of all-purpose flour, ¼ cup of sugar, 1 tbs. of baking powder, 2 tsp of baking soda, 1 tsp. of kosher salt, 2 cups of buttermilk, 1.25 sticks of melted butter plus vegetable oil for the skillet, 2 large eggs and pure maple syrup.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt, then set it aside.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, melted butter and the eggs.  Then pour the liquid ingredients into the flour mixture and stir together until well combined.  Let the batter stand for 20 to 30 minutes.  It will begin to get fluffy.

So all that batter turned into this luscious stack of pancakes!  We made a lot and kept them warm in the oven until we had used up all of the batter.  I did freeze some for a future breakfast or two...

To cook the pancakes, we heated our skillet over medium-high heat until it was hot.  When it was hot enough, we poured a ¼ cup of batter per pancake on the pan…ensuring that they didn’t touch.  As instructed, we cooked them until lightly browned on both sides.  A couple of them were a bit darker than called for but that was due to my lack of practice in cooking pancakes after many, many years.

Can you guess whose plate of pancakes was mine and which one was Laurie’s?  We both have our quirks when it comes to eating pancakes. 

Have you guessed which plate was mine vs. Laurie’s?  Hers was the neat plate with the sausage, the pancakes with syrup and the blueberries on the side.  She doesn’t like her fruit on top of her pancakes.  On the other hand, I do like my blueberries on top but you might have noticed that there isn’t any syrup on my pancakes.  That was because, I don’t like syrup mixed with my sausage and I wanted to take a photo before moving my sausage to another plate.  Humans’ are strange aren’t we!

In conclusion, Laurie did like these fluffy pancakes and has said that she’d do it again!  It’s a win for yours truly…

…and now for some excitement!  Well, at least it was excitement for us.  As we cruised along US Hwy. 321 through nearby Lenoir City a few days ago, Laurie spotted a sign by a construction site that really grabbed our attention.  It announced that Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers was coming to town!  Of all the fast food or fast casual burger joints, Freddy’s is far and away our favorite, even beating out our old favorite, Steak n’ Shake.

We first discovered Freddy’s when we were visiting our family in Omaha Nebraska.  To show readers what a Freddy’s looks like, I borrowed the photo of a Freddy's location from the Internet.  At the end of 2020, Freddy’s had grown to over 380 stores across 30 States.

In the very near future, we’ll be able to treat ourselves to Freddy’s via the drive-thru window and it will be only about 15 miles and 25 minutes from home.  Previously, we had to drive 43 miles/53 minutes to Oak Ridge or 50 miles to Chapman Highway in south Knoxville!  Winner, Winner, Burger Dinner! 

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, February 1, 2021

February 2021! Marking Time and Waiting for Our “Jabs”

Not too much excitement going on around our home… The current rate of vaccinations in our county is an average of 93 per day.  At that rate, despite my age and given my place in line, it would be over 4 weeks from now before I receive my first ‘jab’!  Oh, one other factor.  The County doesn't expect any more vaccine until February 8th.  We can only hope that the current efforts to speed up the process really come to pass…

I have noted that Tennessee is 29th in the number of vaccinations given as compared to the number distributed.  As per a New York Times article dated 1/29/2021, 5.9% of Tennessee’s population has received their first shot/jab and 2.1% have had the second shot.  We have a long way to go!

 So what’s going on around our home?  Not much, but here it is…

This little thrush has been a frequent visitor.  It’s a bird that Laurie hadn’t seen at our feeder before.  This is a hermit thrush.  This thrush is more compact than other North American thrushes and they have relatively longer wings.  They breed in coniferous or mixed woods across Canada, southern Alaska, and the northeastern and western USA.  They make a cup nest on the ground or relatively low in a tree. 

Most hermit thrushes migrate to wintering grounds in the southern USA and even as far south as Central America.  With a ready food source, our visitor appears to be staying around.  The hermit thrush is Vermont’s state bird.


Now onto a couple of food items… In this case I had a leftover quarter pound hamburger patty.  I split it length-wise, creating 2 slim patties.  I heated them in the frying pan and then placed them on a slice of toasted and buttered bakery bread.  Finally, I topped the whole thing with a slice of melted cheddar cheese and a couple of easy-over eggs.  It was a satisfying if not a very creative breakfast…

Multiple gifts of shipments from Omaha Steakhouse resulted in our having as many as 16 4 oz. boneless pork chops at one point.  We’d already consumed 8 of them when I decided to try frying the next 4 instead of baking them.  Laurie dredged them in seasoned bread crumbs and egg wash before I fried them. 

The results was quite satisfactory!  The pork chops were cooked just right…still juicy.  I’d been a bit worried that they’d be dry…a definite ‘no-no’ for pork!  We paired them with creamed spinach.  Laurie added apple slices to her plate and I added a slice of buttered bread.   

We like to have some popcorn when we’re watching football.  However I’m willing to bet that you don’t know anyone other than yours truly that sprinkles Tabasco on his serving and then mixes it in.  It’s a real treat for me!

This new home is located very close to our home…about the equivalent of a short block away on the other side of the street.  It looks like they’re starting to finish it up.  They did encounter a big problem though. 

We are on a waste system that involves a big in ground tank that breaks down waste before flushing it out.  The builder spent well over a week just trying to break up enough rock to make a hole that would hold the tank.  It had to be very expensive.  The lots directly across from our home are rife with solid rock and big boulders, which we think has kept builders away up until now…

This lot in on a nearby lane that dead ends at the top of a hill.  We walk up the hill on a frequent basis.  Just recently they began clearing the lot in preparation for a new home.  The views are spectacular…amazing even!  We were stunned to learn that the lot cost the builder/new home owner $199,000!  Wow!  We are looking forward to seeing what the home looks like… Will it match this lot’s scenic view?

Bertolli’s Chicken Florentine and Farfalli is one of Laurie’s favorite semi-prepared ready-to-cook meals.  I say semi-prepared because she does kick it up a notch or two! 

I like to have it when we have some leftover chicken so it’s a bit more ‘protein heavy’.  In this case we added a bit of leftover roasted chicken from Fresh Market.  Usually we add extra spinach but Laurie had a great idea…and we added cut up fresh asparagus spears.  Then Laurie added a bit more Alfredo sauce, some garlic powder, and fresh ground black pepper plus cracked red pepper flakes.

Laurie’s plate always looks more photogenic than mine.  Laurie’s is quite pristine.  In my case I loaded my serving with lots of Parmesan-Romano cheese and, of course, Tabasco.  Adding the asparagus was a great idea as it added texture and flavor to our entrées. 

That’s it for now… 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