Nostalgia, DVDs, old movies, television, OTR, fandom, good news and bad, picks, pans,
cute budgie stories, cute terrier stories, and anything else I can think of.
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» Sunday, December 01, 2013The Advent of Something New
Ah, well. Read somewhere that one should say "rabbit-rabbit" first thing in the morning on the first day of the month to bring good luck. Missed it today. It was very hard awakening, then it was time for the usual Sunday things, collecting the towels for the laundry, apportioning this week's pills, basically getting ready for another week.
Then it was time for grocery shopping. One thing we needed to do was get me a new Kroger Plus card; mine has been coming separated from itself for months and now won't scan at all. Well, the Smyrna Kroger had no cards at all. Seriously? Someone comes in your store and says "I want to be a Kroger Plus customer" and you tell 'em you can't do it? Not very good business sense.
So when we went out we went up Dallas Highway and hit their Kroger. I got a new card and it was "connected" to James' account so we could continue to build up points. We also stopped at Lowes, since my beloved ginger jar lamp with the autumn leaves scattered on it gave up the ghost several months ago. It's too dark in the living room without it, so we bought a lamp rewiring kit. We also strolled out to look at the Christmas lights, as we blew a string of lights on the tree last year and are now going to have to endure the ordeal of putting more lights on the tree. (I love most Christmas decorating, but putting lights on the tree ranks right up with toothaches.) We then had to decide what to do about outside, as about half of our strings of blue lights (including two new ones) died last year. We decided to invest a little money and bought two nets of solar powered lights, but they don't come in blue. Since we added multicolor net lights last year anyway, I thought we might go multicolor on the outside lights, too. Unfortunately we bought one set of whites. It will have to go back, and we need at least three more. But we left them in the foyer to charge and they do look quite nice when they are on. Maybe the expense will be worth it.
Before we can put net lights over the bushes, they need to have a crew cut, so after we got home from Lowes I dashed outside and used the hedge clipper to flatten them out and trim some stragglers. Came out of it covered in twigs and leaves, and itching like the dickens. Ugh.
James had a trick up his sleeve for supper. Some weeks ago he had cooked some delicious sausage he got at the Buford Highway Farmer's Market. Well, it was delicious, and full of so much salt we couldn't eat it. It tasted like the Atlantic! So he immediately froze it. Now we know if you have something that is too salty, you can put a potato into it and it will soak up the salt. So he hunted up a potato soup recipe and made it with no salt at all, and then cut the sausage into small bits and cooked it thoroughly in the soup. It came out quite well.
This afternoon I did start the Christmas decorating by pulling out the indoor door wreaths and the window candles. I had to order new five-candle candoliers from the Vermont Country Store earlier this year because they are the only place left that carries them. The two are in the front window with clear blue bulbs, and the two three-bulb candoliers are in the library windows with frosted blue bulbs. James' man cave has two timed flickering candles, and in the dining room windows we have single color-changing candles. Each of the indoor doors has a small wreath that is usually just a candle ring, but some are small wreaths, like the bottle-brush wreath on the library door. Have the Christmas stuffed animals unpacked to distribute around the house when the time comes, and the Christmas pillows and blanket in the rocker downstairs.
Been watching "kringly" things this evening: All Creatures Great and Small, "Merry Gentlemen"; To the Manor Born Christmas; and The Good Life, "Silly, But It's Fun."
» Saturday, November 30, 2013Not Nice to Not Have a Husband Around the House
James' first day back to work since vacation and the cough from Hell was yesterday. He immediately found out that he had to work today. Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it means it's off to the vet I go. (Hopefully, after this visit, she won't have to go again until the end of February.) So I had to get up and give her her pill at 6 a.m., which wasn't hard, since the very last antibiotic I had to take had the usual effect; I'd been up since 4:45. However, I was able to get back to sleep until 8:45. Then James dressed and prepped for work and he loaded Willow into the car for me and off we went to Dunwoody.
I had some oatmeal and a bagel with milk at Panera and finished reading "Mental Floss," going on to "Birds and Blooms." Once I was finished, I drove over to the Barnes & Noble to spend the rest of the time waiting to be called back. I checked out a couple of magazines, looked over the Black Friday weekend specials, and, after vacillating between a young adult book about a woman who writes fanfiction and a linguistics book, I ended up spending my other coupon on a book called Eccentric London, since my Anglophilia knows no bounds. I was just heading for the incredibly long line when the vet called.
Willow and I drove home via Petco, where I needed to pick up a couple of things, and she immediately ran upstairs and took possession of the recliner again. But me—I need to start Christmas decorating soon! and this mess has to be cleaned up. I gathered up all the loose papers in the library, tossed away a bunch of things that just needed to be thrown away, and rearranged the room. Also folded, packed away, and put at least one box in the garage.
It was time for lunch, but I didn't know what to have. I took some chicken broth concentrate from Trader Joe's, and made a cup of it with vegetable flakes in it, and ate it with oyster crackers. Watched the remainder of part 1 of "JFK" as I did. Then I knew I was going to have to do something with all the cardboard boxes I've been stashing since summer. This meant pulling out all the collected gifts from the closet to see which gifts will fit into what box for shipping. I'm missing a couple small things, which is irritating, especially a small item I intended to include with Jen's gift. It's one of those things I was seeing monthly earlier in the year and now it's disappeared! But they're all sorted out now, and I can break down and toss the rest away.
Now I'm watching part 2 of "JFK."
[James brought home pork fried rice from Dragon—proper fried rice without peas and carrots. <g>]
» Friday, November 29, 2013Shop Till You Snooze
If I'd been scheduled to go in to work today, I would have been up at six anyway.
I was actually going out to get something we needed: a new home telephone/answering machine. The one we have, with the three extensions, actually works okay, but the base unit with the answering machine in it doesn't charge the handset any longer. This means to actually answer the phone instead of letting the answering machine get it, we had to go into one of the bedrooms or the kitchen to pick up. Annoying. A similar setup usually costs about $70-$80; Office Max had them for $40. So off I went, with the moon still shining over the parking lot at Akers Mill.
There was a complication to the shopping: I still had to do the fasting blood test. I was hungry from the moment I got out of bed. But could I make it until Kaiser opened after eight? I had a single-serve Fig Newton and a granola bar in my pocket if I couldn't.
There was no one at Office Max. I got a choice parking space and a big crescent moon was hung in the blue-black sky. Three employees descended upon me in an effort to have something to do. I did get the phone system and also a wireless mouse. Next went to Bed, Bath & Beyond, where they handed you a 20 percent off everything coupon as you walked in the store. I bought only what we needed, two Soda Stream refills, and more pads for the dog potty. By the time I emerged from here, the sun was up high enough to be a wretched pain. For some reason, no matter which way I drive, the sun is always in my eyes.
Next to Best Buy. I don't think there were thirty cars in the parking lot. Most folks were checking out phones or tablets. I went directly to the DVDs and picked up sixth season of Big Bang Theory for $8. There was a big bin of Blu-ray films, "former hits," as they say, all for less than $5, but anything we would have wanted we already had. Still holding out from the food, so waiting behind the guy buying headphones as a gift and getting the blah-blah-blah spiel about gift returns and warranties was hard to take.
Still too early for Kaiser, so skipped into the next parking lot and went into Cost Plus World Market. No free movie tickets this year as in the past two years; guess we will actually have to pay to see Saving Mr. Banks and The Desolation of Smaug. :-) I did get the free Downtown Abbey cup and bought enough goodies for a gift to get the shopping bag as well.
By this time my head was starting to spin, but it still wasn't time yet to go to Kaiser, so I ducked into Michaels and used the 25 percent off everything coupon on some sale items for the craft stash. And then finally it was time to go to Kaiser. I would have preferred eating a good breakfast, but I had to have something the moment I was finished, so first went the two Newtons and then went the granola bar.
I made one more stop, Barnes & Noble to use one of two coupons expiring tomorrow to buy an Entertainment Book, and then headed home. And then I was sick to my stomach again, but did manage to get some oatmeal, yogurt, and milk down me before I gave up and retreated to the futon for a series of absurd or scary nightmares until after 12:30, when I woke feeling cold.
By the time James came home I was feeling a little better. We had a simple pork chop dinner at Ken's Hometown Grill and then used a final coupon at Walgreen's (25 percent off total) to stock up the medicine cabinet: Breathe Rights, gauze pads, other meds.
Tonight we finally watched Despicable Me, which I've had on the DVR for...ages, from a long ago free HBO weekend. This was cute and had some definitely funny scenes, and the minions are cute, but I can't see why all the fuss was made of it. It's the usual "stern adult undone by cute kids" plot, kinda Pollyanna crossed with The Incredibles. Now I'm watching part one of American Experience's "JFK."
» Thursday, November 28, 2013Missing Thanksgivukkah
Because of what happened yesterday, we basically stayed in today. Instead of me, it was James who got up early, urged out of a warm bed by the dog alarm, and went out to get a newspaper. I tried to go back to sleep, but nature screamed. Had breakfast and read the paper using the DVR to zip through the commercials during the Macy's Parade, only to stop for a few of the cute ones, including the wonderful Wells Fargo stagecoach commercial (too bad they're such an ass as a bank!) and yet another new Sprint ad with James Earl Jones and Malcolm McDowall.
Skipped through the National Dog Show in a similar manner, and was arrested by one of the new dogs, the Portuguese Podengo Pequeno. This little dog was almost a dead ringer for Willow! It is actually a sight hound, but runs around 14-15 pounds, and has the fuzz face, brown and white and all. The coat is a little different, though. Amazing.
Had the rest of the chicken and rice soup that I was supposed to have for supper last night for lunch. (Chicken soup with rice is my very favorite comfort food, which shows you how sick I was feeling yesterday.) Then at some point during the rebroadcast of the parade I just fell flat to sleep and awoke only to find a Timmy episode of Lassie running on Angel2. If only this was a good omen!
James had put the chocolate cobbler in to cook, so I took over doing the turkey thighs that we'd fished out of the freezer. I cooked them with onion powder and a bit of salt, with white wine over all. James made maple-glazed carrots and I chopped up celery so he could make stuffing. I cleared part of the table off (really, we didn't need the whole thing) and we used my stoneware with the Royal Mail motif and the fall goblets.
Still, we were really sorry to miss Thanksgiving dinner at the Lucyshyn's, especially because Phyllis and Mel brought two of their Hanukkiahs and lit the second candle at sundown in what must have been a nice ceremony.
The chocolate cobbler, incidentally, was very chocolate, almost too rich. It had a chocolaty crust and then a liquid bottom, like a lava cake. There is enough for several desserts.
And then came a Christmas rerun of Big Bang Theory and this year's Punkin Chunkin, and Thanksgiving is over for another year.
» Wednesday, November 27, 2013Let's Say This Isn't the Way...
...I had planned to spend Thanksgiving week!
Here's the original plan:
Tuesday we slept, and slept. James got up after eleven, but I was only able to escape the clutch of Morpheus after one o'clock, and still felt exhausted for what was left of the day; not really steady on my feet and barely hungry (hey, in my case that's always good). All the mail the post awful has been holding came in today, including my two shipments from Amazon Vine, a very nice, heavyweight aluminum "Racheal Ray" fry pan, and a super set of headphones. Spent the evening watching Robin Hood: Men In Tights and Spaceballs.
Surely after two days of antibiotics, feeling better I should be. Maybe today...
James had already gone off to take the truck to the mechanic, as the slow-start of the engine indicated a low battery. Plus he wanted an oil change and needed his inspection certificate because the license tax is due on my birthday. I was supposed to follow him, and then the two of us were supposed to have fasting blood tests at Kaiser before we could eat breakfast.
Instead, I found myself down for the count with severe nausea, and finally told James to get them to give him a ride back and perhaps by then I'd be on my feet. Sadly, thirty minutes later he was on his way to Kaiser alone in my car. I asked him only to give me something to throw up in. He did, and I did, which means in the last ten days I've lost my cookies more than I have in the past ten years. Didn't even do this when I had the flu.
Needless to say, I didn't get blood taken today. However, when we went to fetch the truck, I did actually get out for a while. We stopped in Aldi to get milk and a few things, and I stopped by Kroger on the way home to get an Annie Chun noodle bowl for lunch. Later the mail came and we watched our Thanksgiving gift, The Right Stuff on Blu-Ray. The picture is stunning and wonderfully clear, and the soundtrack held sounds we had forgotten were on the soundtrack—an echo as the astronauts walk en masse under the tail of a rocket, for instance. Very much enjoyed! Now we're watching Thanksgiving-themed programming.
» Monday, November 25, 2013Today's Tally
Oh, yeah, and we watched An Adventure in Space and Time between waiting for it to be time to go to the doctor.
» Sunday, November 24, 2013The Neverending Litany
Since I wrote Saturday's post just a few minutes ago, I lied.
Well, we did get to sleep initially, until I woke up screaming. As always, I was under a low ceiling (I could never survive in a ship's berth), couldn't breath, and didn't realize I was home—didn't even know where I was. James had to turn on the light to keep me from hyperventilating. I should be used to this by now; I've done it since I was a kid. Following that came a fit of coughing, ended by the cough syrup. Then we slept in, at least until the dog started barking sometime after nine.
Breakfast was nice: hot oatmeal and yogurt after an absence of nine days. About eleven we decided to go to Costco to see if they had Planes and perhaps The Right Stuff. Stopped for a newspaper and hot cocoa on the way. The place was mobbed. We did find Planes after searching through almost every Blu-Ray in the place, but the other was nowhere to be found. We did buy a collection of all of Mel Brooks' comedies on Blu-Ray for only $25. And James got some Jamaican meat patties to eat on the way to work.
So, I suggested, how about we go up to CD Warehouse? They've performed miracles before. So we went up to Town Center. Went in Barnes & Noble to check out the paperbacks and use the facilities, and...oh, this isn't good...massive stomachache and nausea. We did make it to the Warehouse, but no luck. I'll just get it on Amazon. Hmmm. More pain, more nausea. Made tracks for home. Pain. Long ride. Too many traffic lights.
Made it home in time to barf. Well, there's a new wrinkle. Basically put some bread and milk on my stomach to keep it on an even keel and later on we watched Planes, which is a cute film about believing in one's self, even if the characters are familiar: plucky protagonist, unsportsmanlike competitor, wise old mentor, alluring young love interest, humorous sidekicks, amusing ethnic supporting characters. We quite enjoyed the documentary on the disk about the producer who took his two teenage sons to an airfield in Chino, California, to look at some vintage aircraft. He got to fly in a Mustang and the boys in a bomber, and they talked about how they tried to make the cartoon planes fly as realistically as possible, including talking to Naval officers about "Dusty" landing on an aircraft carrier.
Had a plain beefsteak and a baked potato for supper with a slice of pumpkin bread for dessert. Watched the very funny Peter-Davison-produced The Fiveish Doctors Reboot, about Peter's, Colin Baker's, and Sylvester McCoy's attempt to be involved in "The Day of the Doctor." Lots of cameos by Companions, spouses, and even children of Doctors (Sean Pertwee and David Troughton, Peter's sons and daughter, Colin's daughters, etc.). And, oh, look, there's Paul McGann! Had another coughing fit. At some point drifted in the bathroom, took my temperature, and discovered I had a low-grade fever. Well, that explains a lot of things.
Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, so it's off to the doctor both of us go, and I don't mean the real Doctor. :-)
» Saturday, November 23, 2013Snatching Victory From the Jaws of Defeat (Sort Of)
Ah, time to go home! Surely this would be a no-brainer of a day, except for fitting all the stuff back in the car.
Sometime during the night the toilet clogged up. I had another coughing fit. The dog decided to go walkabout and finally had to be locked in her crate. At six thirty we were up since we couldn't sleep, and still we didn't get going until after nine because I was sick.
Nothing much to talk about the ride. We hit the interstate for a while, and then had to cut through to I-85 via US25—thought it was funny that we saw the monument to the Dixie Highway yesterday and today here we were driving it, through some small towns that happily did not have a lot of traffic lights.
We stopped twice to change drivers, and listened (finally) to the second part of Light at the End, the 50th anniversary Doctor Who audio drama with Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, and Paul McGann, plus Geoffrey Beevers as the Master. Nice to have a sinister Master again rather than a raving looney one (although I think John Sim could have done a good job as the sinister version).
Meanwhile I kept checking my watch. Supposedly Electronics Recycling Day was today and lasted until 3 p.m. So I wanted to get home to do that, and still be in time for "Day of the Doctor" live. But we still had to stop and pick up Willow's medication. I called them up from Greenville, and they had it ready when I got in the door, but I had to use the bathroom.
My keys fell in the john. [eyes roll] Of course I had to rinse them off. Killed the garage door opener completely. At least my electronic car key still works.
Zipped home, threw the two boxes of dead lamps and fans, etc. in the truck and zipped out to Jim Miller Park. No one there. Blast, now it has to sit in the garage for another year. The Cobb County online calendar's always wrong or missing something anyway, which is why I didn't make the Mistletoe Mart this year. So we swung by Wendy's just to get something to eat, and were perched in front of the television when the 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who aired live from Great Britain. Loved it: great in-jokes, Tennant and Smith squabbling like Steve and Danny on Hawaii Five-0, bits of things tossed in or included, like Ian Chesterton's name on the Coal Hill School signboard, the Brigadier's daughter and "Greyhound" making an appearance, the brief shot of Peter Capadi's eyes, and, oh, the Caretaker! Better than Christmas!
Now that the sublime was over, the mundane took over. We went to Kroger and Publix—I had milk withdrawal symptoms—and got some Tyson prepared teriyaki chicken thighs for supper. James made some into a sandwich for me. Oh, yeah, and I sanitized all my keys and my keyring cards in rubbing alcohol. And did a load of the dog's towels. (Two loads of laundry left.)
And at 7 p.m. we watched it all over again, idled for an hour, during which I talked to Rodney on chat (that's a fan for ya; he got a new car and that was the last news I got from him—all the rest was about Doctor Who (which, of course, is how it should be), and then Graham Norton was on, with David Tennant (and his hair braid) and Matt Smith as guests in the last half.
And then I crawled off to my hot shower with removable showerhead and beautiful not-foam-rock feather pillows and warm comforter and...got some sleep.
» Friday, November 22, 2013Like It Was Yesterday
November 22, 1963, is always in black and white: black as in the color of Dad's Chevrolet parked in the almost white concrete driveway, home early from work on a weekday afternoon; white in the pale faces stained with tears on the television over black suits that turned into black mourning; and the black-and-white irrevocable images on the screen: Walter Cronkite and Chet Huntley and David Brinkley and Ron Cochran telling us that John F. Kennedy had been assassinated.
Fifty years later I can remember it still, and can answer the inevitable question to those my age, "Where were you?"
The classic coverage by Walter Cronkite on CBS (the first bulletin was issued during an episode of the serial drama As the World Turns. Part 1 of this coverage is all As the World Turns; if you want to get directly to the coverage, start with Part 2).
Edwin Newman doing the news on November 26, 1963 (dig the Chase and Sanborn commercial).
A tribute to John F. Kennedy one year later, hosted by Frank McGee and broadcast on NBC's Monitor weekend radio program, November 22, 1964.
David Wolper's 1964 Film Four Days in November
Snatching Victory From the Jaws of Defeat
I'd like to say "the less said about last night, the better," but since it colored the entire day and almost ended the vacation, I must. So...this is a list of things that kept us awake last night:
I saw listed under "hobby" a "Kress Emporium." Kress used to be a chain of five-and-ten cent stores, and I wondered if it was a restored one or a historical site. We bumbled through the GPS directions and ended up in downtown Asheville (so nice to see a flourishing downtown) and found out that, though the facade still exists, the interior has been turned over to booths for local artists. We paid for a parking meter, so I did walk around and there was some nice stuff, including silk kimonos. Nothing that called my name. I also walked up to a tall monument contained in a traffic circle; it was for a Zebulon Vance who was twice a governor of the state. There was also a smaller monument with a pig and a piglet and a turkey and a poult walking a path, celebrating the establishment of the Dixie Highway.
We were both fading fast, so by another circuitous route created by the demented GPS on my phone, we got to a Panera Bread and had a big lunch, since I didn't know when we'd be having supper. Then I drove back to the hotel posthaste, turned off the lights, and we both had a nap for an hour. Better than lunch.
The GPS on my phone is apparently having a nervous breakdown; we headed to Biltmore House by the shortest route and ended up there all right, but at a back gate that wasn't open to the public. So we had to backtrack, but did find the real gate nearby. (According to the ticket-taker, that happens with the GPS a lot.)
If you've seen pictures of Biltmore House, you know it's an enormous baronial-like home, and you might know it's surrounded by formal gardens and rambles. However, it's also surrounded by acres of land, and it took quite a while just to get to the parking lot near the house, and then we had to get a shuttle to the house. We did make it, but I know why they give you that get-here-an-hour-before advisory! (They also want you to visit the gift shop; it's a state law. <g>)
I can't describe Biltmore House any more than I could adequately describe any of the Newport mansions or the Mark Twain house. Have you ever read the description of Mistlethwaite Manor in The Secret Garden, the huge manor house with the dozens of rooms? That's what I thought of as we walked through the big public rooms downstairs and the hallways to the guest rooms and the Vanderbilts' rooms upstairs, with the stairs and turns and going up and down. The entire place has mellow woodwork and while the house is opulent, there's nothing really overboard about it, like the gold ballroom at the Marble House. For a "stately home," it's remarkably comfortable.
The tour takes you almost everywhere (and what you don't see you can buy extra tours of, like the Butler's Tour of belowstairs). You visit a tapestry room where the tapestries are from the 16th century and one of them is the only one in existence. There's a big medieval banquet hall with a giant pipe organ, and here they had up a towering Christmas tree that reached into the organ loft. (The reason I wanted to come at this time of year is that the whole house is decorated for Christmas, elegant trees full of glass ornaments in color themes--like bronze and gold in Vanderbilt's den, and rose and pink in Mrs. Vanderbilt's bedroom--pine garlands, cedar swags, holly looped around fixtures, kissing balls, even little knots of fir and glitter in corners and tiny Christmas trees in the servants' quarters, based on actual records.) This big tree was so fresh you could smell it not only standing next to it in the banquet room, but going up the stairs behind the tree, and going into a room next to the tree. Downstairs there's a two-lane bowling alley, a swimming pool that was filled only when someone wanted to take a swim and then emptied (!!!!), a gymnasium, a long row of stall-like changing rooms for the pool. Each of the guest floors has a central "parlor" area where the guests could gather after supper or while waiting for breakfast. The tour even takes you through the servants' quarters: kitchen, pantry, dining room, food storage, freezers, the laundry, the works.
The immenseness of place was fabulous enough, but there were such little details that I loved: at one point you could walk out on the loggia just as the family use to do and stare out at the rolling North Carolina countryside overlooking Mount Pisgah; they had a little door open under one of the staircases in the guest wing and you could not only see the structure of the stairs, but a little box that was from the original electrical system in the house (Asheville didn't have electricity when Vanderbilt built his home there, so electricity was generated on a gasoline dynamo in the sub-basement via a direct current system); some of the trees had unique glass ornaments I've never seen anywhere else (in proper vintage colors, thank-you-very-much, and none of that nasty lime green); and finally, I was enchanted by the window shades. I remember window shades like this; I'm pretty sure they were in my Papa's house. Not the white vinyl like the roller shades today, but a dark forest green, and the pull cords ended in a doughnut shape large enough to put a man's finger through and looking like it was tatted.
By the time we finished it was quite dark and the attendants were already lighting up the candles (battery-powered these days) for the Candlelight Tour. We turned in our little audio guides--which told us such inside stories like why a room in the basement is called the Halloween room (it was painted on New Year's Eve by the Vanderbilts' daughter Cornelia and her friends, but has bats in it) and why there's a wooden gate as you approach the kitchen (the cook had two pet dogs which Mrs. Vanderbilt didn't want to banish, so she had the gate installed to keep the dogs out of the kitchen)--and walked into the stableyard, which is now a collection of small eating places. The former horses' stalls are now seating "booths" in a classy restaurant, but it was too expensive for us. Instead we checked out the bookstore (I got a Biltmore book, postcards of the place at Christmas, and a refrigerator magnet, of course; James got a cute little book about odd dishes fashionable over the year) and the Christmas shop (I got a CD of Christmas music performed at the House). Sadly, the only place we could afford to eat (a hot dog shop) had just closed. So instead we waited for the shuttle while I took some evening photos of the house, and the big white-lighted tree out front.
We came straight back to the hotel to "relieve" the dog, then lucked out in finding a Firehouse Subs nearby. We brought the meal back to the room and watched Unwrapped tell us about Thanksgiving foods, then Hawaii Five-0.
» Thursday, November 21, 2013A Day of Mostly Nothing, and a Temperature Dip
So since we didn't have to rush to leave, we didn't have to get up early. Of course this means I was awake at 8:30 anyway, and the dog alarm went off at nine. The weather report said it was supposed to be in the high fifties today, but it was getting too warm for long sleeves already, with a pretty blue sky, when we headed out for breakfast. We ate at Trish's for the last time, then went back to the cabin to hang about. I took some photos from the deck, and then we started packing things up, arranging things so we would only have to bring the small suitcase and the toiletries case (and whatever small things, like the tablets) into the motel in Asheville. We both had noodle bowls for lunch with the last of the toast. Once again we tried to coax Willow up to the loft, but she wouldn't climb the stairs. It's as if to her once we got to the third step we disappeared.
About 1:30 we started loading the car and this took a bit long, fitting all the bags in like puzzle pieces. I had changed into short sleeves because it was so warm, and when we finally loaded Willow up and were able to leave, it was a great relief. We headed east on 321, toward the "back road" that we had used to get to Sevierville on Saturday, but instead of turning left, we turned right. For a couple of miles we though the GPS might have had a fit again, because we were directed to turn down a narrow paved lane called "Ground Hog Road," and it was evident that this was where the real country people lived, in old homes and mobile homes and cottages. But soon we were back on a two-lane road that turned to parallel I-40 and then we were ramped up to that same freeway at Hartford Road.
We were over the North Carolina border in minutes, and from there it was only an hour's drive to Asheville, the freeway in deep cuts between the mountainsides that must have been gorgeous at peak color, and in that short hour's drive, the temperature and sky went from a balmy 65 and blue and white to 50 and misty, damp rain--in short, much like last Friday driving up to Gatlinburg! Our hotel, the Best Western Biltmore East, was right off the freeway and in a trice we had Willow "aired" and what we needed for the evening inside the room. Wil was sorely puzzled, and we had to take her out at least one more time before we went out for supper. The Asheville Mall was on the other side of the freeway from us, and we figured we'd find a bunch of restaurants around it, like chicks around a hen, like at Town Center, but we only got detoured instead, and ended up eating at the IHOP. Neither of us wanted pancakes, but neither of us was quite happy with the entrees we got.
There was big Barnes & Noble across the way at the mall, so we went there for a few minutes, but didn't see any new books out and headed back to the motel to watch Big Bang Theory. Nothing much else on, so we are watching The Hobbit (part the first) on one of the HBOs.
If Willow is still with us next year, we need to find someone to take care of her. She's never traveled well, but usually when we got somewhere she would get comfortable. Now she just seems confused. Poor little girl.
» Wednesday, November 20, 2013From Country to Christmas to Chocolate
Yay! The cough syrup worked. Yeah, I had to take it, too. At least it has no alcohol in it. Still tastes wretched, but that's any cough syrup. At least I got some sleep, and James did as well.
We had breakfast in again, and shared one whopper of an apple; it looked like a professional-sized softball. Outside it was chilly, but warming rapidly--it jumped ten degrees while we were eating--so I just wore a long-sleeved sweatshirt and tossed my pashmina over my shoulders and across my chest, and carried my light hat, and that was discarded pretty quickly. (Did bring my jacket, and I did need it later on.)
Today we were just going to bum around and check out places we hadn't gotten to yet. When we'd asked the people at the bird store if they knew what hours the hobby store on Winfield Dunn Parkway was open, we heard different things: James heard 10-5, I heard 2-5 (which I thought was weird; open three hours a day?). So we drove out to the needlework place in Wears Valley first.
I am just in love with this place! You leave "Glitter Gulch" and in a mile have even left the trolley stop and the Winterfest decorations behind. Then there is along the road a dotting of antique stores and even more occasional country stores, and even a place on the river where you can have weddings, but mostly it turns into country, with fields covered by round hay bales, divided off by fencing, with the soft peaks of the Smokies in the distance looking like dark blankets laid in folds, occasionally interrupted by a little knot of businesses. The needlework shop is between fields laid in hay bales, with an old barn and a farmhouse across the street. It's a lovely little shop, too, seemingly larger on the inside, mostly cross-stitch. I found "Stony Creek" magazines; I haven't seen them in years! They are quarterly now, and I got three of the four issues for this year. Picked up a pattern of state birds/flowers/trees for five of the six New England States, and a small holly heart pattern, and some plastic buttons that you can put cross-stitch into (never seen those at all), and also a piece of photographic artwork they were selling in the back, a beautiful fall scene (I bought a card of a different scene, with mist on the mountains). I could have bought so many more things: bell pull hardware, boxes with tops made for cross-stitch, scraps of fabric to be used as bookmarks. They alo carried crochet yarn, had a back corner for needlepoint, and when I walked in, there was a display of tatting and tatting equipment. My mom used to tat and it brought back pleasant memories of her metal shuttle snicking in and out as she sat under the floor lamp in the living room. Meanwhile, James had a good read sitting on the comfy porch while waiting for me.
By the time we got back to Pigeon Forge it was lunchtime, so we ate at Mel's Diner, which had great ratings on Trip Advisor. It was a keen diner, all chrome and bright paint on the outside, and someone had painted the big windows with winter scenes: horses and sleighs, drifts of snow, houses with smoking chimneys. Inside there were framed old magazine ads from the 1950s through the 1970s, and tin signs for bread sponsoring The Lone Ranger, radios, motor oil, etc. The waitresses were all peppy and friendly, and we had a great meal: James a big cheeseburger and chili fries, me an open-faced roast beef sandwich and onion rings for me. Everything was delicious, and the crowd at the restaurant seemed to confirm that this was standard. Almost every booth was full, and there were many of them.
By then it was after two (we had called up the hobby shop at ten, and no one seemed to be there), so we drove there. No lights, no nothing. We went on, and stopped at the Incredible Christmas Place for a while. James sat and read his tablet while I wandered about. The Incredible Christmas Place isn't anywhere near as large as Bronner's, but you can get lost in there for a while. There are rooms devoted to various themes: children, cooking, old television, German pyramids and smokers, vintage-looking ornaments, a wall of Christopher Radko things, and also some Kurt Adler, a big room with Nativities, a room of Christmas trees and of lights, and, my favorite, the room with all the Christmas villages. I bought a few things: a prim Santa and a vintage-looking bottle brush tree to go with it, an Irish Christmas music CD, a small Jim Shore sculpture of a cute cardinal, a reindeer salt-and-pepper set on discount (it has some paint chipped, something easily fixed with some paint pots), and a [mumble] for [mumble].
It was getting late in the afternoon, but we decided to check out the Books-a-Million that was behind the strip. The GPS on the phone had a weird hiccup, and it tried to direct us up a church driveway that was blocked off, so we used the regular GPS unit and were directed to the correct place (on the other side of the highway from where the phone GPS placed us--wicked bizarre). Wasn't really looking for anything, but checked out the magazine stand--this BAM had an outstanding one that covered almost the entire back wall of the store!--and looked at the Christmas books. Then I sat down with James at the Joe Muggs cafe and we had some of their "intense dark chocolate" hot chocolate. It tasted like someone liquified a Lindt dark chocolate bar! Quite delicious.
By now it was late into sunset, a fading red smudge on the edge of the mountains. Both of us were running "out of gas," so it was a rather quiet ride home, but I was picking out little details of the Winterfest lights: a mare and a colt romping near a restaurant, the pattern of the "snowflakes" falling on the Parkway, bears doing this and that in various scenes, the long view of the initial stretch of lights in Gatlinburg that wouldn't be visible if the trees still had leaves. Took a last look at the antique store with the extraordinary crystal chandeliers in each of the windows before we turned up the East Parkway.
When we emerged from the car, something extraordinary was above: we've had light clouds almost every night, and have missed the Hunter's Moon everyone else has been raving about. But tonight it was clear (and cold! glad for my jacket I was!) and the stars were picked out above like cold white ice on black velvet, and you could see the flurries of the Milky Way faintly (too many lights from the cabins to make it really dark). Lovely!
Not sure what happened after that. I took Willow outside while James started supper; he was using the leftover chicken breast along with leftover KFC potatoes, some mushrooms and onions, to make a kind of hash for dinner. As I waited, I started consolidating our purchases, and as I did, I started feeling queasy. Perhaps it was the onion rings; I really shouldn't eat them, but these were excellent and not greasy at all. James served the hash hot, but I couldn't eat it. I did have some milk, and some bread, and later some peanut butter on gluten-free crackers. Watched a Nova about long-ranging electrical inpulses called "sprites," which pilots first spotted when bolts of lightning struck the canopies of their jets. Didn't listen very well, however, as I was listening to the BBC on the netbook. They are doing two episodes of a series called The Radio Detectives, and the first two were about Paul Temple and about Sherlock Holmes. (I believe I have one downloaded about Lord Peter Wimsey.)
» Tuesday, November 19, 2013Knox on Would
Another night, another coughing fit, in stereo. Sigh. At least it was cool enough to use blankets; it went down into the 30s last night.
I was dressed first again and took Willow outside. I needed a coat and hat today, buttoned up tight; the sky was very blue (but that might be with the cold). We walked down to the little building that houses the laundry room for the cabins on this road, then walked back, breathing out frosty air and crunching on leaves. And the leaves were soon being disposed of, as two men showed up with leaf blowers to arrange them into neat piles.
We ate breakfast in again: I had toast with blackberry jam and a cup of oranges with a glass of milk. Despite the fact that we were up at nine, we still didn't head to Knoxville until eleven, and we had to stop at Walgreens because James remembered not one of the four bags of cough drops we had, and we had to get gasoline at Kroger, not to mention we were stuck behind slow traffic all the way up Winfield Dunn Parkway. However, once on I-40, we made good time.
James sat in the car and read his comics and had cough drops while I stocked up at A.C. Moore. Surely, you say, in a town with Michaels and JoAnn and Hobby Lobby, there can't be anything unique you need at A.C. Moore! Horse hockey! as Colonel Potter would say. They have frames for cross-stitch miniatures, which none of the other three stores had. They actually had Christmas picks that were not covered in garish glitter. They have small wooden shapes that can be included in crafts. They had small bottle-brush trees and a wreath for use in a miniature Christmas display. And they had a collection of new DMC floss, which I've not seen anywhere else (which doesn't strike me as odd, since the new color combination flosses that came out last year didn't arrive here until six months after they were released; I had to buy them off eBay.
While I was thus occupied, James hunted up a Panera Bread and we had lunch there: good hot chicken soup, James a sandwich and me some pasta, and their special hot chocolate, with salted caramel (it's the big thing this year; don't ask) drizzled on top and chocolate marshmallows. It came in a cup so big I barely knew to do with it. :-)
Next we went to the Knoxville branch of McKay's used books/DVDs/CDs. I probably could have been very bad here, but restrained myself. Found eight "Dear America" books (brand new, at a third of their original price at least), copies of The Walnut Tree and May Your Days Be Merry and Bright (Christmas books) for $2 each, the DVD Booky and the Secret Santa (made by the same folks who did the Canadian series Wind at My Back), a video of Trolley: The Cars That Built Our Cities (the neighborhood I grew up in was originally a streetcar community, where the state fairgrounds were originally located), a CD of Celtic Christmas music, Red-Tails in Love which is about "Pale Male" and the other falcons in Central Park, and (ta-da!) a "Seasons of New England" 2014 calendar. All my credit is gone. :-)
Our last stop was a place called "Sci-Fi City," a gaming/comic book shop at the Knoxville Mall. I found the third book in the "Korgi" graphic novel series and James got a Wild Cards roleplaying game and four sets of figures to go with it all for five dollars (it's out of print).
We headed home right before sundown, reaching a hobby shop we saw from the road about 5:20, but it was already closed. Next door was a bird and exotic pet store, and we ducked in for a few minutes to check out the budgies. There was the cutest little white one there who wasn't an albino. Back on the road, saw a lovely sunset just as we entered Sevierville, a mottled grey and bright pink that faded all too quickly.
Back at the cabin, James took Willow outside while I cleaned off the pad, and then we had dinner: I had my Annie Chun's teriyaki noodle bowl with the leftover KFC chicken thigh meat. Yummy! Been watching HGTV all evening long.
» Monday, November 18, 2013Slowly We Move
I think we actually might have had a fair night's sleep last night, despite waking at 3 a.m. with dual coughing fits. It's just annoying: we so often either have a bad mattress or a bad set of pillows, and now we have good both and we can't sleep.
At least we have a place to sleep, unlike the folks in Washington, Illinois, and Kokomo, Indiana, and other places in the path of last night's horrendous weather. We got some rain drumming on the roof, that's all.
However, the stuffed noses and annoying coughs were just obstacles this morning. Willow started barking frantically, and I rushed to get dressed and take her out. She still hasn't figured the whole thing out, especially the open stairway. We call to her from the loft and she wanders around downstairs, bewildered.
We thought about taking the trolley into Gatlinburg today, and having breakfast there, but by the time we left the cabin, we were both starving. So we ate breakfast at Trish's Place again, and then headed into town. We figured that the different trolleys would cost us pretty much the same as the $5/day parking behind the stores, so we just parked behind one of the Chinese restaurants and then walked around for a while. We checked out a "hobby shop," but it was just radio control stuff, no real models. We stopped at Smoky Mountain Candies and I bought a quarter of a pound of dark-chocolate covered orange creams as a treat (note: there are nine). James said there was a newspaper clipping at the front of the store telling how the store was once invaded by a bear; they caught him in the act eating the candy! We avoided the drummer who kept asking if we were married or if we were happy. We stopped at the kitchen store, but mostly what they had to taste were spicy items. The Vidalia onion/cucumber salad dressing was good, though. We walked all the way down to The Village, which is a little collection of old-world-looking shops, including a sock shop, a doggie boutique, etc. We bought Willow some cookies (we forgot hers) and strolled around the Thomas Kincade gallery, which was featuring Thomas Kincade-ish artists. The Disney stuff leaves me a bit cold, but the nature paintings and nostalgia ones are quite pretty. As always, our last stop is the Celtic store where we first heard Gaelic Storm. I was looking for Christmas albums, but all the ones I would have wanted I already have.
Before heading on, we sat on a bench in the little park just outside the store and each had an orange cream. Excellent! Almost as good as Sweenor's.
On the return trip we stopped at one of my favorite stores, The Maple's Tree, but they've changed their stock and no longer carry the primitive items I used to like. They did have a nice selection of Jim Shore Christmas items, though.
We were feeling a bit peckish, since it was almost 2 p.m., so we had lunch at North China, which we have eaten at previously. The wonton soup hit the spot, and the small lunch entrees didn't make us feel guilty about leftovers. When we finished there, we were going past an "adventure golf" place that was inside; fine with me because, although it was not hot, the sun was quite bright and James was turning scarlet. So we played through: James won. He says it's the first time he's ever won a miniature golf game from me. LOL. Well, I did have a handicap: I was carrying the camera and a shopping bag! Naw, he did two Holes in One and I messed up really badly at one hole where the cup was on top of a cone.
By then we were thirsty, so we had a drink at McDonald's before heading back to the car.
We were pretty much on idle the rest of the afternoon. We stopped at Dixie Darlin, the cross-stitch store in The Old Mill section of Pigeon Forge, where I bought three sale patterns, two packs of apeture cards (I can't find them anywhere in Atlanta), and a little pattern of a winter sheep. Next we went to the Book Warehouse and Moon Pie Market (yeah, strange combination, I know). The books are remainders, and I found one book I'd been wanting: Bully!, a history of Theodore Roosevelt in drawings and editorial cartoons. I also found a book about Italians and their cooking.
Finally, we stopped at the combination Christmas store/china shop to wander about. This is where I got the cute resin Christmas trees, one Scottish, one Italian, that I put up in our room every year. They seem to have cut down on that type of thing, although you can find some unique ornaments to make theme trees: a Delft tree, and a cowboy tree, and a wildlife tree, and a Sesame Street tree, etc. They now have lots of the beautiful glass ornaments from the Olde World ornament people, and, in looking through them, found a gorgeous dragon ornament that I bought for James, plus a small book about the history of Santa Claus as seen in postcards over the years.
It was just sunset as we started back, and finally dark by the time we returned to the cabin. Now, it was in the high fifties when we left this morning, so I didn't even take my jacket, just my pashmina, which kept me nice and warm, and I could carry it when it got warm, and in the 60s this afternoon, and very warm in the sun. It wasn't even that cold when we left Pigeon Forge, but by the time we turned into the driveway, it was in the mid-forties. I was glad for the pashmina when I got through the door...and found Willow on the sofa. She can't figure out where the voices are coming from upstairs, but by God, she can escape. (I did try showing her "upstairs." The fact that the stairs are open really confuse her; she had no trouble coming down on her own.
James did something neat for supper: he took some of the chicken soup we had for supper on Friday and mixed it with some chicken gravy. He then took most of the remains of the rotisserie chicken and chopped it up and warmed it up in the soupy gravy. We had the two biscuits leftover from Cracker Barrel yesterday, and he grilled them over the stove, and then we poured the chicken and gravy over it. It was excellent, except the biscuits were burnt on the corners because the stove is electric (ugh!) and the pan he used thin. I'm with James; I despise electric stoves. Gas is so much more controllable to cook with. Apple pie was the dessert du jour.
We have been watching this extraordinary show called Extreme Cheapskates all night. If you thought the Doomsday Preppers and the Extreme Couponing people were strange, these folks take the cake. I thought Amy Dacyshyn was cheap! I thought we had an inexpensive wedding with Anne making my wedding dress, James just wearing a suit, Charles and Amy donating the venue (their apartment rec center) as a wedding gift, James' uncle the minister performing the service for free, me making the flowers, and Alex doing a bang-up job decorating a standup trellis with artificial vines and white Christmas lights. This lady bought her daughter's wedding dress at a pawn shop and got it at a discount because it had rat pee on it. They had cheese sandwiches for finger food. The mother had her ten-year-old son's birthday party in a seniors' home. (Why not just have it in the back yard? Strange!) I admire some of the frugality, but the woman dumpster diving her prenatal vitamins and painting the baby's room with paint samples she inveigled for free from hardware store owners because she said she'd be coming back to buy paint was a bit much.
Time for Castle.
» Sunday, November 17, 2013Another Rainy Day
That damn dream is back. I've got so many numbered reports and they're done, and I keep being told they're not right, or one is missing, or some other damn fool thing, and it wakes me up, and if I go back to the sleep, the same dream comes back, and then I'm trying to clear my throat for hours afterward. Stupid, stupid, stupid! I did finally get back to sleep, woke at 8:45 long enough to take some ibuprofin, and went back to bed for an hour.
I was dressed before James, so took Willow outside; he's been taking her out off the leash, and I tried the same. She didn't listen to me very well, and even wandered across the narrow gravel road to investigate a big tree with mossy roots. I scuffed through brown leaves behind her and noted the already warm morning (we have a cold front coming in). When I tried to herd her back to the house, she started avoiding me and running back to places where she shouldn't go, and James had to come out and call her sternly.
We ate breakfast in; James had some chicken sandwiches, and I had toast with blackberry spread and an apple and some peanut butter on gluten-free crackers, and by the time we were through it was after eleven. We had talked about going to the Titanic exhibit, but from what I've read about, it's the same exhibit we saw when we went with Jen and Meggan to the aquarium several years back, and it was a cool exhibit, but we don't need to see it again. Instead, we took the same back road we did yesterday; this time it was overhung with slaty grey clouds that grew heavier as we drove. This is a charming road, the type of route where you'll see a mailbox mounted on an old water pump, or quaint country nicknacks on the porch, or tumbledown farm sheds and barns, or even those homes with front porches piled in junk. The cows grazed in far fields, and horses pulled at hay bins, and every few miles we passed small country churches (pretty much 99 percent Baptist) with cars parked out front or to the side.
We got to the Russell Stover outlet store, which is now in a new building across the road from the old, not a short distance from the entrance to I-40, after being stuck in traffic backed up from the weekenders leaving the area and a short stretch where one lane of highway is broken up. The actual outlet is now in the back of the buildng; the front has full price packaged candies, individual candies, and ice cream. We made the rounds so that James can have some sugarless candy for the next few months, and we also bought some Christmas chocolates: dark chocolate caramel Santas and those wonderful peppermint bark snowmen. A great treat if we can wait the entire month!
Next we drove down to the Smoky Mountain Knifeworks, which is the size of a Bass Pro Shop, or maybe even larger, with similar dioramas, but more elaborate: two Native Americans building a canoe, deer and bear in a woodland setting, and even a waterfall. Don't let the name fool you; they do have all sorts of knives, but there is much, much more: kitchen ware and cooking gadgets, meat garnishes and other food spices, housewares, decorative items, toys, backpacks, holsters, other leather items, camping and hunting supplies, grilling items, and they sell science fiction and fantasy weapons, like Lord of the Rings swords and lightsabers. Plus they sell geological specimens (geodes, other mineral specimens, etc.), memorabilia like dinosaur bones and coprolites, arrowheads, Viking relics, items from wars (Mexican, Spanish-American, World Wars I and II), and pop culture. In one case they had the head of a white buffalo, and told the story of why it was so special to the Native Americans; a white buffalo surviving to adulthood is very rare and sign of favor from their gods. Apparently this one was accidentally killed by a Native American tribesman and because of what he had done, he broke his bow and never hunted again. It's really a neat place. We bought a couple of Christmas gifts, then went on to Cracker Barrel to have a very late lunch (it was three o'clock) of chicken and dumplings and vegetables on the side.
Of course we had to check out the Cracker Barrel country store for this year's Christmas things, but I found very little this year that I found appealing. However, like I needed another stuffed animal, I did find one to buy: a Webkinz signature pet, the border terrier, which comes the closest to looking like Willow than I've ever seen. I've named him "Bodie," after James Herriott's pet border terrier (who Herriott named after Lewis Collins' character in the television series The Professionals).
We took a pretty detour while traveling back through "Glitter Gulch," now considerably less crowded since the weekenders have left and due to the rain that started falling as we left Russell Stover; we turned down Wears Valley Road in search of a needlework shop. Alas, it was closed by the time we got there, but it was a nice ride, another pretty country road of farms and sprawling properties and the occasional country store--there's even a "Goats on the Roof" concession like they have in Helen, Georgia, on the route. (The goats, smart creatures, were taking refuge under the big eaves to get away from the spattering rain.) If I had any way of earning a living here, I'd sure think about moving!
On the way home, we stopped at the same Kroger as on Friday night, getting some Chinese food to eat one night when I have my Annie Chun noodle bowl, and we had more peppermint hot chocolate. The barista went really heavy on the peppermint, which was a treat for my lungs!
As it was getting dark quickly, we drove down the main parkway through Gatlinburg to see the Christmas lights. They have what they call Winterfest here, from November through February, with snowflakes and pine sprays liberally on every telephone pole, brightly lit in white. There are also individual figures in Pigeon Forge and in Gatlinburg; the whole twelve days of Christmas items lining the center verge in Pigeon Forge, and bear figures, Native American symbols, wood mills, a train station, along with the classic Christmas items like wooden soldiers. Despite it being Sunday, most of the shops and attractions on the main drag in Gatlinburg were still open although it was after six. We turned around and came through an access road behind the main buildings and saw a Sherlock Holmes Pub. Need to come back here!
Soon we were nosing through the pitch dark, James switching the high-beams off and on, back to the cabin. Willow had escaped from her crate again, but seems to have done nothing untoward. I took her out again, this time on a leash!
We had an easy supper, Hormel beef tips we got at Kroger on Friday over the spaetzle from Aldi that I brought with us. Some apple pie for dessert and we have been watching the end of The Goodbye Girl on TCM, a special on Scotland Yard on PBS, and now Alaska the Last Frontier.