Friday, April 30, 2021

Time Passes Quickly – A Celebration!

It seems like just yesterday…or perhaps just a few years ago that Laurie and I got married.  But as April 2021 rolled around, so did our wedding anniversary.  Looking at the calendar and then looking back at our wedding photos provides proof that many years have actually passed since we tied the knot!

We were married in April 1979, a mere 42 years ago!  It all started with a ‘blind date’ that my admin had arranged at my behest.  I’d guess that putting that pressure on Debbie these days would be inappropriate behavior… In any case, Laurie and I met in April of 1978 and we got married exactly a year later.  Dang, I even had hair back then! 

Our wedding party was very small indeed.  We were pretty much broke at the time and didn’t want to roll up a big debt.  After the wedding, the group reassembled at a local restaurant.  Our wedding party consisted of our mothers, David II, Laurie’s maid of honor, my best man, the minister and his wife.  Our honeymoon consisted of a night at the Marriott Hotel at the St. Louis-Lambert Airport and, after a drive across Missouri to Kansas City, a night at the Regency Hyatt Hotel.  On Monday, it was back to work for both of us…

For our celebratory dinner this year…after skipping anniversary dinner out in 2020…we returned to the restaurant where we’d celebrated our 4oth anniversary, an Outback Steakhouse in Knoxville Tennessee.  It’s not a particularly romantic restaurant but, as you’ll see, it was perfect for the occasion. 

It would have appeared more romantic if we sat next to each other but sitting across from each other allows for a better conversation and reminiscing.  Time for a toast with our adult beverages!  While Laurie had a fancy special cocktail, blackberry and lemon vodka martini, as usual I went for a Miller Lite.

Our pleasant and eager to please waitress snapped this photo… We sure look a little different than we did 42 years ago.  Laurie sure did marry an old guy!  It’s hard to imagine where the time has gone…but our memories are strong and we’ve had a lot of great adventures, as well as a few mishaps, along the way.  Right now we’re looking forward to visits later this year with family and friends as well as continuing our explorations along the back roads of the USA and Canada.

My choice for dinner was a 12 oz. ribeye steak grilled medium rare.  It was accompanied by a baked potato stuffed with butter, cheese and crumbled bacon.  We’d started the meal with some bread and very flavorful matching Caesar salads.  My steak was good if not great…but it was very satisfying. 

One of the reasons that Outback Steakhouse fitted our needs…or at least our wants…was that I could order a steak and Laurie could order her favorite food…lobster tails with drawn butter!  They were sided with some nice home style mashed potatoes.  She was a happy wife for sure, especially after a year in self-imposed quarantine and zero lobster.  It was just great to get out and about!  FYI, the other reason for our choice…we had 3 gift cards for Bloomin’ Brands that we’d been unable to use for almost a year!

Only 8 more years and we’ll be able to celebrate our 50th! 

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Stay Safe and Take Care, Big Daddy Dave and Laurie 

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Not Quite Back to Normal…but Better than Before

Both vaccine shots in our arms equals less risk from Covid-19 and we are out and about more now.  However, given the millions of Americans that haven’t been vaccinated, caution is needed.  Vaccine hesitancy, resistance or fear is one issue but the Johnson and Johnson vaccine blood clot issue and related publicity has exacerbated the problem.  Of course, while it is possible for vaccinated folks to still be infected with the coronavirus, we at least have a much improved chance of avoiding hospitalization.

In any case, we’ve been getting out more, visiting with friends and neighbors and even eating in local restaurants.  Being able to get out and about more safely is certainly a positive feeling!

Local farmer’s markets in the area are beginning to open.  One of our first stops was a couple of weeks ago at the Mennonite Farmer’s Market in Tellico Plains Tennessee.  We actually have 3 of these markets in our area, with the other two being located near Englewood and Delano.  From the outside, they all look pretty much alike.  This conservative religious order seems to have a loyal and eager clientele at all their markets!

This plant building is right next to the market itself.  As you can see, it was loaded inside and  out with all types of starter plants for vegetables, herbs as well as flowers and some trees.  Laurie picked up replacements for her parsley and basil plants that didn’t make it through our winter. 

As I wandered through the main store, I spotted this horse and wagon tethered at the back of the store.  It’s like going back in time just seeing something like this.

The main store didn’t have too much to offer that early in the season.  Mostly root vegetables, jams, pickles, some early leaf lettuce, granola and several bakery items.  We picked up 2 bags of the granola (Laurie’s favorite) as well as a couple loaves of the sourdough bread. 

Before we left, I walked over to the edge of the hill where the market sits and took these two photos of the valley that this group of conservative Mennonites live and grow their crops.  The scene is very bucolic…and quite peaceful.

Early this past week we were off to a party, something that we haven’t done in more than a year!  A new resident had discovered that we had lived in Attleboro Massachusetts for a while…and she invited us to the couple’s 20th anniversary party…a no gift rule was in force. 

As you can see above, the party was held outdoors in their driveway.  Guests brought their own chairs… It was the largest group of people that we’d seen or been around since early 2020!  One person was wearing a mask, probably due to not having his jabs yet.  Two other people attending said that they weren’t going to get the vaccine.  We stayed away from them! 

This was the happy couple.  JoAnn and Tex got married in Hawaii so that was the general theme of the get together.  JoAnn has discovered the joys of quilting since moving into the neighborhood.  They are a lively couple!  Tex is a former heavy metal rocker/guitarist.  When he hit a certain age, he told me that since he wasn’t a ‘Mick Jagger’, it was time to do something else with his life.  So he became a stockbroker.  He told me that 3 out of the 4 members of his band had taking up the same profession…  What are the odds!

Lei’s were furnished to all the party goers and the couple set up this long table loaded with a variety of tasty desserts.  My favorite was the Tres Leche cake from Costco but cheesecake, cookies, chocolate cake, a chocolate torte and much more was available.  It was a nice change after a year of self-isolation!

Looking ahead at a positive development in our area… We already have 2 ice cream parlors in our area.  One is located in Loudon and another is adjacent to Tellico Village but we will soon have a third option.  The La Michoacana Ice Cream Parlor will soon open in Lenoir City!

A little research revealed that La Michoacana is a group of different Mexican ice cream parlors with more than 8,000 locations in Mexico alone.  This loose ‘chain’ is a successful business model network of family-operated businesses. 

No single company operates them as a formal franchise operation.  Training and image related materials are provided through the ‘parent organization’, but the fact is that these stores are truly independent businesses that choose to use the name.  Consequently, the quality of the product, pricing and variety can vary widely between locations.  Hopefully, this outpost for the group will be a winner.  Another location can be found in Knoxville itself.  We’re looking forward to giving this one a try!

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, April 23, 2021

Actually Out and About!

Finally we were out and about with fewer health concerns!  We didn’t really do anything new but having had both jabs of our Covid-19 vaccine, a great deal of our health worries have been ameliorated.  It’s freedom…at least to a degree.

So we revisited a couple of places we last frequented in 2020.

One stop was at a fundraiser for The East Tennessee Miniature Horse and Donkey Rescue in Loudon County Tennessee.  We both love horses and we are especially fond of donkeys!  This organization is totally funded by donations it’s operated by volunteers.  In addition to cash donations, they are glad to receive food for their equine wards and, as you can see they also offered items for sale to help raise money.

FYI, we did wear masks as a courtesy to others as did the volunteers…

This rescue operation is located on 6 acres with paddocks and shelters for the animals they’ve rescued.  Typically they have about 35 miniature horses on the property but they also foster some out to volunteers until new homes are found for them.   

I actually prefer the donkeys.  They are generally more curious and I think they’re smarter too.  Loved the goat in the bucket and that rooster is one handsome devil!  

The East Tennessee Miniature Horse and Donkey Rescue is located at 6545 Calloway Road in Loudon Tennessee.  Note: Unless they’re having a fund raising event like this one, visits are by appointment only.  Phone: 865-266-3396. Their Website can be found at:

It had been more than a year since we visited The Burgers Restaurant in Lenoir City Tennessee.  Yes we wore masks when we entered the restaurant but we didn’t worry too much when our server wasn’t wearing one. 

It was really a pleasure actually sitting down for a meal in a restaurant.  It was a very rare event for us during the past year.  The Burgers’ dining room was fairly empty but we were eating dinner a bit early.

The restaurant has a large outdoor dining area and it was quite a bit busier than the dining room was.  Given the pollen season here in East Tennessee, indoors is our choice.  Otherwise Laurie’s allergies would be miserable.

Yes, we know that this isn’t a burger and that the restaurant is named “The Burgers”.  What can I say, we really do enjoy the burgers here but their Fish Basket ($15.00) really sounded great to both of us. 

We’re out of practice re: taking timely photos in restaurants.  I totally forgot to take a photo of our appetizer…one of Laurie’s favorites.  It was a basket of excellent Fried Pickle Slices. ($6.00) FYI, we also didn’t remember to take a picture of a Fried Fish Basket until after Laurie had eaten one of her 3 fish filets and some of the French fries… By that time, I’d already destroyed my basket of goodies.  The fish, fries and the coleslaw were all excellent!

The Burgers also offers chicken, hot dogs, sausages and pulled pork, either in a basket or sandwich format.  This restaurant is located at 540 Highway 321 N in Lenoir City Tennessee.  Phone: 865-816-6900.  Website: THE Burgers - Burgers in Knoxville, TN (

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

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Food – A Bit of This and Some of That

Back to one of my favorite topics…food.  Only travel ranks higher although great scenery and critter photos are also something I enjoy publishing.  Given that some of these ‘prepared’ food items were pandemic related…just looking for simple meals with little or no prep and clean up…I ask that you don’t become too judgmental.

I am our breakfast chef.  Laurie doesn’t fry anything, nor for that matter does she grill.  The other day I made our breakfast…something I do about once a week.  Laurie had bacon, 2 eggs over easy and buttered toast.  I used a leftover brat for my meat and married it with 2 over easy eggs and a slice of buttered rye toast.

I posted this stick to your ribs cool weather breakfast once already this year…but it is one of our favorites.  Quaker Oat Meal…not the instant type…with lots of butter, brown sugar, dried cranberries plus half and half milk.  It’s still heart healthy, isn’t it?

Still sticking with items that we actually cooked…no ready to heat eat items… Laurie slow cooked a beef pot roast with onions and we sided it with fresh steamed asparagus and mashed potatoes.  The potatoes are buried under that Heinz beef gravy. 

Now for some experimentation…a couple of ‘prepared’ food items.

How many of you have ever eaten Dinty Moore Beef Stew?  This canned product has been around for a long time and I remember it fondly from my college days.  I was always broke and looking for simple and cheap meals.  My standard dinners were 5 for a $1.00 pot pies.  I’d heat up two of them…mix them up with a small can of peas and I had a ‘balanced’ and filling meal

Dinty Moore Beef Stew was my special treat back in those days!  I’d have it once every week or two… So a couple of weeks ago I purchased a large can of this beef stew and we had it for dinner.  Laurie didn’t care for it…but I have to admit that I still found it very satisfying!  FYI, Dinty Moore Beef Stew has been around for 80 years!

Another evening and another ‘prepared’ meal experiment.  In our age group most of us have had a frozen chicken dinner, aka “TV dinner” back in the day.  So…on impulse one day, I picked up a couple of Hungry Man Selects Classic Fried Chicken Dinners.  To be honest, the potatoes were OK as was the little brownie.  The chicken was eatable even if the cuts weren’t all recognizable…and the corn was corn… This won’t be a repeat meal.

Once again we gave a prepared meal a try… This time it was Parla Wild Caught Lobster Ravioli that we’d spotted at Fresh Market.  Ingredients were…in this order…lobster knuckle and claw meat, caramelized onions, garlic, sherry and ricotta cheese.  We served it with melted butter, freshly shaved parmesan reggiano and pepper.  It was very good…and this from someone who isn’t a huge lobster fan.  Laurie is a fan and she gave it two thumbs up!

Parla sells some products on line but they also market 12 different products via stores like Fresh Market and Publix.  Based on our first experience, I’d be interested in trying their Italian Sausage Tortellini, Chicken Florentine and the Chicken and Spinach Ravioli.  To learn more about Parla products and places to buy them, go to

Once again we ate food from Thai Bistro, a local restaurant that is only about 5 minutes from our house.  The difference is that for the first time in over a year, and having had our Covid-19 vaccinations, we actually ate in the restaurant!  I’ve written about the restaurant and their food before…but we’d never tried their Salmon Teriyaki. ($16.00) Laurie ordered it and it was excellent!  A nice portion of grilled salmon is served on a bed of cabbage, baby corn, onion, broccoli, carrots and mushrooms…then topped with a homemade teriyaki sauce.  It was very good indeed!

Thai Bistro is located at 222 Lakeside Plaza in Loudon Tennessee.  They are open for lunch and dinner Tuesdays through Sundays.  Phone: 865-657-6440.  Website:

Just click on any of the photos to expand them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Stay Safe and Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Friday, April 16, 2021

Early Spring in Bloom + Unusual Produce

Isn’t spring a wonderful season…one of rebirth and rejuvenation!  It is especially true this year as our ability to move around more safely has finally become reality.  Get those vaccine jabs and we can toss the pandemic…and Covid-19 into the trash can of history.

Not too many words this time…mostly just visions of spring!

This has been our cheery vista as seen through the sliding screen in our front door…

One early view of our redbud and dogwood trees in our back yard.  Love the subtle color contrasts.  We like it when the dogwoods bloom while the redbuds are still in bloom.  One year they even bloomed exactly at the same time.

Laurie planted her ‘crops’ already…in this case sweet basil and Italian parsley.  She also has thyme, mint, Italian basil, sage, germander and rosemary in those same or similar pots on our back deck.  Those last 6 herbs mentioned seem to survive winter after winter.

This is the flower of a Mt. Airy Fothergilla…sometimes called a bottlebrush shrub.  I prefer the close-up just for the delicate detail.  Fothergilla is a deciduous shrub that is native to the Southeastern USA.

All the birds are nesting and/or feeding their young now.  The cardinals live in our front bushes and hang out in our magnolias.  The hermit thrush just seems to have decided that with all the available food, this is a good place to hang out.

This male blue bird has been harassing our front windows.  In this case he’s hanging out, checking out and sometimes attacking his own image in the window over our front door.  We have to keep the blind closed on one of our bedroom windows or he continually attacks himself!  Next year we will move the birdhouse on our front porch to a new location…

As you can see, our bluebird is guarding his nest closely!  He's quite aggressive and he doesn't stray far from his home... Laurie's sister Karole gave us the birdhouse...and she's quite happy that we have nesting bluebirds! 

Walking through our neighborhood, Laurie took a photo of one of several azaleas in bloom…

She also photographed these lovely 'carpets' of ground hugging flowers in a neighbor’s yard.  We just love spring!!

Now for some unusual produce we spotted in a local grocery store.  At least these fruits weren’t familiar to us.

I must say…those spikes on these Kiwano Melons are hard and sharp!  We found this fruit on display in the produce section of our local Ingles Supermarket.  At $4.98 each we wondered about their uses and desirability.  These melons are now grown here in the USA…

The Kiwano melon or African horned cucumber, is an annual vine ripened fruit in the cucumber and melon family.  It is a traditional food plant in Africa.  Along with a couple other members of the cucumber/melon family, this melon is one of the very few sources of water during the dry season in the Kalahari Desert. 

Ripe fruit has this orange skin and lime green, jelly-like flesh.  Some people think that it has a nice fruity taste, perhaps a combination of banana and passionfruit or of banana, cucumber and lime.  It has a texture similar to passionfruit or pomegranate.  FYI, when David Letterman first tasted the Kiwano on-air, he described it as ‘damned near inedible’.  A bit of salt or sugar can reportedly improve the flavor but the seed content increases the difficulty in eating this fruit.

This display of Red Dragon Fruit is what initially caught my attention.  If nothing else, they are spectacular and colorful.  At $5.98 each, I would hope that they taste good and are easy to eat.  Dragon fruit or pitaya/pitahaya is the fruit of several cactus species native to the Americas.  There are both sour and sweet versions…the latter being the pitahaya.

Pitahaya and pitaya are commonly known in English as ‘dragon fruit’, a name used since 1963.  With its leather-like skin and scaly spikes, one can see where the name came from.  This fruits texture is sometimes considered to be like that of the kiwifruit because of its black, crunchy seeds.  Dragon fruit is used to flavor and color juices and alcoholic beverages and the flowers can be eaten or steeped as tea.  The small black seeds inside the fruit are edible.  The fruit itself has been likened to a mix between a pear and a kiwi or a kiwi and a melon.

I’d try both of these fruits…if someone bought them for me!

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