Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Spring is Here - Plus Food and Family

We sure are glad that spring is here…although we do have 3 mornings in a row coming up where temperatures are predicted to come in at freezing or just below freezing.  Of course the best news for us is that this coming Monday we will mark the prescribed two weeks after receiving our second Covid-19 vaccine dose.  Semi-freedom and just in time for spring!

So, everything around us in East Tennessee is turning green and many flowering plants and trees are in bloom!

We love redbud trees!  They are so bright and cheery and they are scattered everywhere around our area.  These examples are right across the street from us and right behind our house. 

The eastern redbud is a large shrub or small tree that is native to eastern North America.  They can be found from southern Michigan to central Mexico, east to New Jersey and as far west as California.  The redbud is the state tree of Oklahoma.

I’ve never tried them, but the flowers can be eaten fresh or fried.  In some parts of southern Appalachia, green twigs from these trees are used as seasoning for wild game such a venison.  Due to this use, the redbud is sometimes referred to as the spicewood tree.

Laurie really loves her flowering quince bush… It is so bright and colorful when it’s in bloom.  In the instance of this variety of quince, it is a cultivar that blooms but without the unwanted fruits.  They are also smaller than the fruited variety…topping out at about 4 feet.  Our quince usually blooms twice a year…spring and late fall.  Many refer to this bush as a Japonica…

This early blooming Pieris Japonica “Mountain Fire” drove our local bee population into a frenzy!  They buzzed anyone that came near…they ‘owned’ these flowers…  Following this profuse floral display, these bushes then produce fiery red growth, tempering the white flowers but nonetheless still eye catching.  These shrubs are great for planting around foundations and they are a great companion for azaleas.  

Laurie was out in the yard when a neighbor came by walking his dogs, a cute pair of West Highland White terriers.  Sherry, who lives next door, was chatting with Laurie…accompanied with her dog and Laurie’s friend, Fiona.   Both humans and dogs had a chance to visit in this Covid-19 environment, and my wife got her dog fix!

And now for some food…take out or prepared as has been our practice about 3 times a week during the pandemic.

In this case, we went to Kentucky Fried Chicken and decided to try their version of the spicy fried chicken sandwich.  We had already sampled fried chicken sandwiches from Chick-Fil-a, Freddy’s, Hardee’s and Popeye’s.  We both agreed that KFC’s version was almost as good as Popeye’s…with both of them edging out Chick-Fil-a.  The others aren’t in the same league.

Time for breakfast!  In this case, we had some leftover Chicken Florentine.  I heated it in a frying pan, added some shredded sharp cheddar cheese to the mix and then topped it with a couple of easy over eggs.  Very satisfying!

In this case, I had some leftover Mac n Cheese (Kraft Deluxe) that we’d amped up with some quality hot dogs from Fresh Market as well as more cheese…sharp cheddar to be exact.  Of course I had to top it with my over easy eggs.  I did add Tabasco… This was an excellent breakfast!

You win some and you lose some…especially when trying out prepared foods.  This Boston Market Country Fried Beefsteak with signature home-style mashed potatoes and country-style gravy was a complete loser.  Well, after adding some butter to the potatoes, they were ok.  The whole thing looks unappetizing and the ‘beefsteak’ lacked flavor and it was tough too.  A horrible piece of meat…if that’s what it was…

On the other hand, this frozen Edward’s Key Lime Pie that we’d picked up at our Food Lion Store was really quite tasty…almost as good as the one that the store’s bakery produces from time to time.  We’d serve this pie to guests…

…and now onto some family time!

We haven’t seen our son and his family since Thanksgiving in 2019!  We’re really looking forward to a summer trip and spending time with them soon. 

Dad, David II and mom, Amy, recently hit the road with our youngest grandson, Emmett Lee.  The search is on for this high school junior’s college destination!  I can’t imagine it, but for at least one full year, David and Amy will have two sons in college at the same time… Time flies and so do the dollars… David III, our oldest grandson is currently a sophomore at New York University. 

The family was focused on Texas this time.  First there was a stop at the University of Texas at Austin.  That was followed up by a stop at Rice University in Houston.  Only time and admissions screening will tell where Emmett goes to college…but he is getting to see a lot of options in the meantime.  There weren't any photos of Emmett at Rice without a mask...good boy!

That’s all 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

Friday, March 26, 2021

Art – Hidden in Plain Sight!

In America, the Great Depression began in September of 1929 and although parts of the economy had improved by 1940, the country really didn’t recover until the start of World War II.  By 1932 unemployment had reached 23.6% and it peaked at 25% in early 1933.  None of the safety nets that exist today were in place at that time…so President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Congress initiated many sweeping actions under the President’s “New Deal” Program and the Works Progress Administration.

One of the myriad of programs that was initiated involved the Procurement Division of the United States Department of the Treasury.  That Department’s Section of Painting and Sculpture was funded as part of the planned construction of new post offices.  Of the funding set aside for construction, 1% was designated for artwork that met high artistic standards for public buildings.  This artwork was intended to boost the morale of the people by depicting positive subjects that the populace knew and loved.  Of course, the construction of new post offices, as well as the artistic creations, were intended to provide work for unemployed Americans…

Have you ever noticed a mural or painting in a local post office?  Many are high up on the walls and patrons just don’t see them.  Murals/paintings were commissioned through competitions open to all artists in the USA.  Almost 850 artists were chosen to paint 1,371 murals.  162 of the artists were women and 3 were African Americans.  WPA murals were created in all 48 states as well as in Alaska and Hawaii. 

A total of 22 of these works of art are still extant in Tennessee alone… What follows is a selection of murals from around the USA.

This is just one of 4 large murals and 9 lunettes on display at the US Post Office in Port Chester New York.  Domenico Mortellito created these works in 1936.  Between them they depict dock workers, mill owners, tool and die workers and the historic Life Savers Building in Port Chester.  To see 2 more of the murals as well as 2 of the lunettes, just go to,_New_York).

Domenico Mortellito was born in 1906 in Newark NJ.  He died in 1994.  Domenico operated his own studio in New York City from 1927 until 1942.  During that period he produced murals for the World’s Fair pavilions, churches, luxury liner ships and trains.  From 1942 to 1945 he worked for the military at the Pentagon in Washington DC, where he designed exhibits, supervised graphic presentations and designed booklets and brochures.  From 1945 until 1979, he worked as a director of design for the DuPont Company.

Note: A lunette is a half-moon shaped or semi-circular arch space.

You'll need to expand the this mural as well as the next 3 paintings to appreciate their full impact.  

This mural was completed for the ‘new’ post office in Dixon Tennessee.  This fresco entitled “People of the Soil” was created in 1939 by artist Edwin Boyd Johnson.  Unfortunately, the post office moved to a new building more than 20 years ago.  So at this point the old post office building with the fresco is now privately owned and most folks who’ve seen this piece of art end up taking a photo through the window.

Edwin Boyd Johnson (1904 – 1968) was an American painter, designer, muralist and photographer.  He studied fresco painting in Vienna Austria, Paris France and Alexandria Egypt.  Johnson is best known for his murals which were funded by the WPA Federal Art Project.

This second work by Edwin Johnson is entitled “Airmail” and it was on display in the Melrose Illinois Post office from 1937 until 1971.  When the post office was closed, it was renovated to become the public library and the fresco was presumed to be lost and destroyed.  In 2007 a librarian discovered the damaged fresco behind a drop ceiling.  After 6 months and a $50,000 restoration project, the fresco is now on display in the library.  Johnson also painted murals for the Tuscola Illinois Post Office and the City Hall mural in Sioux Falls South Dakota.

In Illinois alone, under this New Deal Program, the United States Post Office commissioned approximately 100 pieces of art of which over 60 are still on display in that state’s post offices…   

This eye-pleasing oil on canvas painting is simply titled “Early US Post Village”.  It was completed by Karl Oberteuffer in 1938 and it’s on display in the US Post Office in McKenzie Tennessee.  Karl was born in France in 1908 to parents’ American painter George Oberteuffer and French artist Henriette Amiard.  At the age of 10, the family moved to the United States, settling in Chicago.  After graduating from the Art Institute of Chicago, Karl became an art instructor at schools in Memphis Tennessee and later, in Boston Massachusetts.  He died in 1958.

John Oliver Sharp (1911 – 1966) painted this oil on canvas mural entitled “Summer” in 1941.  He also called this mural “Imaginary Farm”.  He was known for his floral still life paintings as well as of regional scenes.  His works frequently come up for auction at various art galleries.

While he was a student at the Art Students’ League in New York, Sharp met fellow artist Paul Crosthwaite and the two became lifelong companions.  They settled in New Hope Pennsylvania, a town which was home to many artists.  Sharp was one of the founders of the Bucks County Playhouse…and as evidenced by the mural shown above, he took part in the Federal Works Progress Administration Program.  One of John Sharp’s paintings was used as a cover for the Saturday Evening Post, a magazine I remember fondly.  

This mural entitled “Grist for the Mill” was completed in 1939 by Charles Malcolm Campbell. (1905 – 1985) It hangs in the post office in Kenedy Texas.  Charles was a quiet man who tended to make strong social statements in his paintings…some satirical and others full of fantasy and humor.  He is considered as one of the more distinctive and imaginative contemporary American painters of our time. 

Charles was a perfectionist, who is reputed to have destroyed over two-thirds of his work during his career.  He painted every day until his eyes gave out…with his stated aim to “Express my vision of the world in the purest possible terms.”  Like many artists during the Depression, Charles produced several murals under the WPA program.  When he got enough money together, he bought a beat-up automobile and bummed around the country for a year, looking at the people and the land during a very rough period of our history. 

Campbell moved back to Cleveland and produced easel paintings for the Treasury Art Project until 1942.  His early work was exhibited in traveling shows in most of the major museums across the country.  The Cleveland Museum and the Whitney Museum own examples of his work from that period.  He later moved to Los Angeles, followed by the French Quarter in New Orleans and finally to Phoenix Arizona.

This mural was completed in 1939 by Ludwig Mactarian.  It was installed in the Dardanelle Agriculture and Post Office in Dardanelle Arkansas.  Its title is “Cotton Growing, Manufacture, and Export”.  By today’s standards, it could be considered controversial but it was a product of the times.

Ludwig was born in 1908 and died in 1955.  US Army induction records list his birthplace as Syria or the Ottoman Empire.  Ethnically he was an Armenian.  He was only 13 when he immigrated to the USA.  He studied painting at the National Academy of Design and learned printmaking and lithography at the Art Students League.  Early in his career, he painted, made prints and provided illustrations for popular magazines and books.

He was paid $660 by the WPA for “Cotton Growing, Manufacture, and Export”.  That’s the equivalent to about $12,500 today.  That was a big deal when you consider that the minimum hourly wage in 1939 was 30 cents an hour and the average annual income was $1,368!  However, when he was working on this project, he was unable to afford travel to Dardanelle so he researched ideas for the mural by studying the region at the library and via telephone conversations with Dardanelle’s postmaster.

This striking painting was also painted by Ludwig Mactarian.  When WWII began, he joined the army.  While at Fort Dix New Jersey, his art work caught the attention of the War Art Advisory Committee and he was assigned to the 337th Engineer General Services Regiment, part of the US Fifth Army in Italy.  His series of Contemporary Realist paintings made in Italy in 1944/1945 drew considerable attention.  This painting, titled “Factory at Piombino” was completed in 1944.

This mural entitled “Hauling in the Net” was created between 1939 and 1940 by Michigan artist Zoltan Sepeshy in his studio at the Cranbrook Academy of Art.  This tempera mural measures 5 feet by almost 14 feet and it was installed above the entrance to the postmaster’s office at the Lincoln Park Michigan post office. 

Because the postmaster didn’t like the painting, in 1967 this big mural was removed from the post office.  A businessman across the street from the post office liked the painting and saved it from potential destruction by relocating it to an old net shed owned by the Beaver Island Historical Society.  That building was part of the Marine Museum on Beaver Island in Lake Michigan.  The businessman’s thought was that a mural honoring fishermen, in any case an odd theme in industrial Detroit, would be appreciated on the island. 

This mural was pretty much forgotten by everyone in the outside world, even the Smithsonian Institution, which tracks public art in government buildings.  They had officially declared this painting as ‘missing’. 

A former art director from Escanaba Michigan was on the island helping the executive director with display work, when she stumbled into the mural!  She knew that it was important and that it needed to be preserved.  With no humidity control at the Museum, combined with an earlier botched effort to restore it, it was in bad shape.  So the painting was removed and sent to a restoration studio.  When the restoration was completed, this big mural was returned to the Beaver Island Historical Society where it is now displayed in a new climate controlled facility.  Interestingly, the mural in the museum differs considerably from the one pictured above...

For more information about the Beaver Island Museum, just go to Beaver Island Historical Society – Making Beaver Island History Come Alive

This is yet another work by Zoltan Sepeshy.  It was completed by the artist in 1942.  This tempera on wallboard painting is entitled “Barnyard Critters” and it’s on display in the US Post Office in Nashville Illinois. 

Zoltan Sepeshy (1898 – 1974) was born in Hungary to an aristocratic family that possessed land, money and status.  Zoltan studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest and also the Academy of Fine Art in Vienna Austria, earning degrees in art and art education.  His father urged him to immigrate to the United States where he settled in Michigan, eventually working and teaching at the Cranbrook Academy of Art.  Zoltan’s works are exhibited in many private and public art collections, including at the St. Louis Art Museum in St. Louis Missouri. 

And so ends Part I of “Art – Hidden in Plain Sight”.  Part II will follow in a couple of weeks with murals/paintings from Florida, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, New York, Tennessee and Texas.

Just click on any of these murals to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Stay Safe and Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Nothing But Food!!

Continuing with my usual or at least most frequent pandemic theme, this post, as noted in the title, is all about food.  Some made at home, some pre-prepped and bought ready to heat or cook and some take-out too…

I’m really looking forward to the not too distant future where most of my food related posts are actually based on sit-down meals in restaurants!  Dining out will be like a new experience…

I put together most of the salads that we have with our dinners.  This was my side salad when we recently had quiche for dinner.  The salad consisted of sliced carrots, celery, broccoli florets, crumbled blue cheese and a balsamic dressing.

This was a slice of our spinach quiche.  We’d purchased it at Fresh Market.  Laurie thought that it was very good…and I thought that it was OK considering that I’m not a big fan of quiche in general.

For another evening meal, we once again did take-out from Thai Bistro.  We started with our usual Crab Rangoon for Laurie and the Spring Rolls for me…but I didn’t include them in the photos because I’d featured them in a previous post on my blog site.

Laurie ordered the Tom Yum Goong Soup, shown above, as her entrée.  This hot and sour soup contains shrimp, mushrooms, chili, lemon-grass and chili tomatoes.  Laurie enjoyed the soup, eating all of the mushrooms and most of the shrimp…but I got to finish off half of that luscious broth, truly a good deal for me!

I also tried a new entrée.  This was my order of Param Chicken.  It consisted of steamed chicken with lightly braised carrots, broccoli, baby corn, cabbage and snow peas…all topped with “Thai Hot” peanut sauce.  It was accompanied with sticky rice and it was perfect for me. 

To learn more about Thai Bistro in Loudon Tennessee, just click on this link:

This next item attracted my attention when we were shopping in a local Food Lion Grocery Store.  Kevin’s Natural Food’s one pound container of Thai-style Coconut Chicken seemed to fit our Covid-19 meal rules.  If you’re not cooking at home, or doing take-out, then keep it simple, pre-prepped and ready to go…

We sided the microwavable coconut chicken with Uncle Ben’s 90-second jasmine rice and dinner was ready.  Laurie didn’t really care for it but I thought that it was OK and I’d like to try some other items offered by Kevin’s Natural Foods.

Kevin’s entrees are almost all chicken based.  There is Korean BBQ Style; Lemongrass; Cilantro-Lime; Tikka Masala; Chipotle Lime; Teriyaki-Style and Roasted Garlic.  One new item is the exception to the chicken ‘rule’…Korean BBQ Style Steak Strips.  Kevin’s also offers a number of side dishes including mashed sweet potatoes and 5 different variations of cauliflower…riced and mashed.   

I don’t eat mushrooms…but my lovely wife loves them!  So we recently bought a package of portabello mushrooms and, for dinner one night I seasoned and sautéed them for her.  She was especially happy because I didn’t do so well with our entrées…

I’d pan fried two 6 oz. boneless pork chops after Laurie lightly coated and seasoned them.  It looks good and I was fine with mine…but it was overcooked and my better half doesn’t like overcooked pork!  As I indicated, it was a good thing that I sautéed those mushrooms.

On a positive note, since she didn’t like that pork chop, I had leftovers! 

On another occasion we decided to try a box of TGI Friday’s Potato Skins…loaded with cheddar cheese and Applewood smoked bacon.  We sided them with yet another salad.  They were easy to heat…little effort expended…and they were OK as well as quite filling.

Time for dessert!  In this case we’d picked up a Key Lime Pie from the bakery cooler at our local Food Lion.  We were both pleasantly surprised at the quality.  It was very good, with just enough tartness and a great crust.  We would serve it to company…

A few weeks back we’d decided to visit a grocery store on Northshore Drive in Knoxville.  We wanted to check out their butcher shop.  While we weren’t impressed with the Butler and Baily Market, (Fresh Market has a better butcher shop), on impulse we’d picked up this Praline Peach Pie…they referred to it as a fruit pie.  It was very good and we stretched it out for several days…pairing it with either whipped cream or vanilla bean ice cream.

That’s all for now.  The next post will not be about local flora, fauna, food or construction!  It will be about art and history…

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

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Homes, More Homes and Feathered Visitors

Despite Covid-19 and the damage it’s done to families, with loved ones dying, unemployment and small businesses being crushed by shut downs and necessary pandemic rules, it’s a fact that home building where we live here in East Tennessee is off the charts!  Not only are there lumber and other building product shortages, just finding competent crews to get the job done is a huge problem. 

Buy a home lot…then wait months before a builder can commit to starting construction.  When builders promise a completion date…plan on 3 to 6 extra months beyond that promised date.  But the building boom carries on!

We knew that we were in for more noise, litter and construction when we saw this bulldozer parked alongside our street…just 3 lots to the right of our home.  Another clue was the ubiquitous ‘porta potty’, not pictured.  Our neighborhood is 'resplendent' with these little structures…

Just a week or two after we spotted that bulldozer, we heard the noise and checked it out.  The lot was being cleared with more trees coming down…

A couple of days later, we walked up to the site.  This dog was sitting in a big truck waiting for his human.  Nice that he could go to work with his best buddy!  The truck with its trailer was there to pick up that bulldozer.

This was that new corner lot after they had cleared and leveled it.  No trees left…not one!  Several trucks loaded with lumber and brush had already taken everything away…

Without the foliage that will come soon as spring blooms and the woods thicken, we can see that corner lot through the 2 lots to the right of our house.  Another new house is being completed right across the street from this one…  Our new neighbors who will move in to that home are from New Jersey.  They were supposed to be moving in before Christmas, but now its set for April.

Looking back from our front yard on the right side through the woods, we can see the other new home site that is under development…the one mentioned before that has great views of the Tellico Lake and the Smoky mountains…is readily visible as well.  Hopefully, we'll have at least one more year without construction right next door or right across the street.

Laurie has been busy with the camera and she’s captured a number of quality photos of our feathered friends.  In this case, our visitor is a house finch.

Originally, the house finch was only found in the southwestern USA and Mexico.  They were sold illegally in New York City as “Hollywood Finches”.  To avoid prosecution, vendors and owners released the birds and they’ve since adapted to their new home.  It is estimated that there are as many and 1.7 billion of these birds across North America and Hawaii.

In this case, a white-breasted nuthatch visited our feeder.  They seem to prefer feeding upside down, whether it’s on a feeder or when foraging along a tree trunk...or maybe we just spot them easier when they're upside down and moving down a feeder or tree.  

These little birds have large heads, short tails and powerful bills and feet.  Their English name is the result of their habit of wedging a large food item or nut in a tree crevice and then hacking at it with their strong bills.

In our area, it is also possible to see the red-breasted nuthatch as they do live as far south as the Smoky Mountains...but they prefer pine vs. deciduous trees.  Nuthatch diversity is quite amazing.  There are 28 different species of this bird, with the majority of these types being residents of southern Asia. 

In late winter…before spring…we see flocks of American Robins, and Laurie took dozens of photos.  These are a couple of the best… 

The American Robin is one of the most abundant birds in North America with an estimated population of between 320,000,000 and 370,000,000.  It is one of the earliest bird species to lay its eggs, actually beginning to breed shortly after returning to its summer range.  FYI, this species is also a known carrier of West Nile Virus.

We also have plenty of yellow finch visitors, aka the American goldfinch.  This is the only finch in its sub-family that undergoes a complete molt.  The males are a vibrant yellow in the summer and an olive color for the rest of the year.  The females only show a slight seasonal change in color. 

These birds are among the least threatened species of birds as they have actually benefited from deforestation and the proliferation of residential feeders.  This is the state bird in New Jersey and Iowa where it is called the Eastern goldfinch as well as in Washington State where it is called the willow goldfinch.

We don’t see flickers at our feeder too often although we always have a few sightings every year.  This time Laurie photographed this female yellow-shafted northern flicker.  Males of this sub-species have a little beard under their chin.  In the western USA, the red-shafted northern flickers are the dominant variety but in the central plains area they mix and interbreed.

The northern flicker is a medium-sized bird belonging to the woodpecker family.  Over a hundred common names for the northern flicker are known.  They include yellowhammer, clape, gaffer woodpecker, harry-wicket, heigh-ho, wake-up, walk-up, wick-up, yarrup and gawker bird.  Several of these nicknames are the result of people trying to imitate the northern flicker’s calls.

This medium sized member of the woodpecker family is a red-bellied woodpecker.  He is a regular visitor to our feeder.  When a red-bellied woodpecker hits the feeder, it’s with a lot of authority and smaller birds scatter!  This woodpecker’s name is a bit of a misnomer… The bright red cap draws your attention, but if you look closely, you can see a light rose colored patch on its belly.

The red-bellied woodpecker uses its bill to drill into bark or to probe cracks in the trunks of trees, pulling beetles and other insects from the tree with its long tongue.  This helpful behavior is evident in that this bird is a major predator of the invasive ash borer in the Midwestern USA, removing up to 85% of borer larvae in a single infested tree!

Well, what can I say?!  It was breeding season and the neighbor’s roof behind our house is especially active in the late winter/early spring.  Our local flock of black vultures show up on this roof every year… I hope that there is more than one female garnering all this attention!  Normally, pairs are formed following a courtship ritual that is performed on the ground.  I don’t think that our local flock has gotten the message…

Black vultures have a wide range that extends from the northeastern USA down to Peru, Central Chile and Uruguay in South America.  They are protected birds under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.  Generally they feed on carrion but they have been known to attack and kill newborn calves.   

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