A Sweet Wednesday Medley

It's just like the Wednesday Hodgepodge, but with a new name and a new "hostess with the mostess"! Much thanks to Terri for continuing our Wednesday Q&A...I'm looking forward to being reacquainted with old friends and meeting new ones.

1.  Wednesday, December 19, 2018, is National Hard Candy Day! So the first question today is to ask if you enjoy hard candy, especially the kind we usually see during this festive time of year?  What is your favorite?  Which hard candy brings up the best memories for you if any?

I absolutely LOVE hard candy! I just bought some yesterday and am considering going back & stocking up ‘cause it doesn’t stay around forever, ya know! 
I went into a classroom to get a student, and the teacher gave me this:
How's that for timing?
My mom used to make hard candy...cinnamon was my favorite. Seeing the homemade shards of hard candy brings back memories, but a Jolly Rancher really brings back great memories of going to Texas on vacation. My great Uncle Pete was a “candy man”. He had a van full of candy that he delivered (I think). At the end of our vacation, he let Mom go into the van and get candy for us. Watermelon Jolly Ranchers are just the best ever!

2.  Holiday shopping!  Are you finished? If you could spend an entire day in just one store, which one would it be and why?

I’ve done no shopping this year, at least not out in the store. I bought my SIL’s and my MIL’s gifts through SERRV, which is a fair-trade online store.
I have no idea if I’m finished or not. I have no desire to get out in the craziness of shopping areas; it’s bad enough being out in the crazy traffic!
If I could spend an entire day in one store...hmmmmm...Office Depot?

3.  What holiday dessert describes you and why?

Pumpkin Roll: Traditional and just a little nutty.

4.  What is your least favorite holiday side dish?

Cooked vegetables. Unless it has lots of cheese in it, I'll pass.

5.  Now be real!! There is one on almost every tree. What is the ugliest tree ornament you have ever seen?

I gotta tell you: Target had some pretty ugly ones this year! They just looked so cheap and not pretty at all.

6.  Tell us something random about your week!!

We had our family gathering last Sunday: 6 out of 10 of us were there. It’s always a good time seeing everybody; just wish everyone had been there & we had more time to visit. 
Thanks again, Terri, for hosting! Want to get in on the Wednesday Medley? Check her blog Your Friend from Florida on Tuesdays to get the questions, then don't forget to link up on Wednesdays!

Ding-a-Ling-a-Ling Medley

It's just like the Wednesday Hodgepodge, but with a new name and a new "hostess with the mostess"! Much thanks to Terri for continuing our Wednesday Q&A...I'm looking forward to being reacquainted with old friends and meeting new ones.

1.  National Ding-a-Ling Day is observed across the United States each year on December 12.  Ding-a-Lings on this day call the people they haven’t heard from in a while.  It may be an old classmate, co-worker or neighbor from years ago.  Or perhaps a call will go out to the child who used to mow the grass during the summer.  How about that couple who carpooled for soccer. There are all sorts of people in our lives who manage to slip out of our lives who would love to hear the ding-a-ling of a call from you or me.  So tell us who you want to call today!

This is going to sound awful, but absolutely no one. I recently got back in touch with a couple of friends from my college days through FB (we were in the band together), but I can't think of anyone I'd want to pick up the phone and call.

2.  Each year on the 12th day of December, people across the United States recognize National Poinsettia Day.  I am including this "National Day" too because my neighbor's poinsettia from last year is blooming beside their house!!  Have you ever tried to plant a poinsettia outside?

First off: That poinsettia is beautiful! I've never tried to plant one, but early in our marriage, we rented a house out in the country that had a pond beside it. We could sit on the deck and fish (if we wanted to...we never did). Christmas was over & the poinsettia looked dead, so I tossed it into the pond. About a week later we had a beautiful red flower in the middle of the pond!

3.  Do you believe in Bigfoot?  What size shoe do you wear and do you have trouble shoe shopping?

I don't believe in Bigfoot but I definitely have one! I wear a 10 or 11 but my perfect size is a 10 1/2. Do you know how hard it is to find shoes that size?

4.  What is one thing you refuse to share?


5.  Are you finding that this Christmas is stressful? More or less than last year?  

Nope. Not at all. I'm not baking or making candy this year. I'm just relaxing and taking it 
as it comes. My last blog post was on how I'm getting over my Grinch-Styled Pity Party. I refuse to be stressed by Christmas any more!

6.  Tell us something random about your week so far!

We had our kitchen painted last weekend...finally! NOW I feel like I have a new kitchen! When we bought the house 14 years ago, the kitchen was incredibly dark. To counteract the darkness, we painted it yellow. Then I painted it again a more vibrant yellow. On  a couple of sisters' suggestion (they had the same one without knowing it!), here it is before & after:

When the sage started going on the wall I freaked just a bit because it looked so dark, but she assured me it would look fine after she covered up the yellow and after it dried. We are really pleased with the result!

Thanks again, Terri, for hosting! Want to get in on the Wednesday Medley? Check her blog Your Friend from Florida on Tuesdays to get the questions, then don't forget to link up on Wednesdays!

Getting Over a Grinch-Styled Pity Party

large gold ball ornament on the left side with title words on the right.
I think I am officially over my Grinch-Styled Pity Party. This was such a special time in my family. Mama (who was the organist at church) would be busy getting the music and choir ready for Midnight Mass while making oodles of candy and cookies for us. And then making sure we all had a few presents under the tree on top of that. I honestly have no idea how in the world she did it, and how she did it for so long.
I've mentioned before that even after most of us were married and had our own families, Mama would make candy & cookies and would spread them out on the table. We'd bring our tins and line up, cafeteria style, to fill them up. Then came the Christmas when she gave us our own copies of her recipes, followed by her announcement that she wasn't going to make anything anymore. The end of an era. It hit me a few weeks ago that I'm surprised she did it as long as she did. I kept up the tradition with my boys, but as they've gotten older I've cut back. Last year I asked them what their favorites were and then I made those. Of course, they said chocolate covered cherries which is the most time consuming and hardest thing to make! This year I may not even do that. OS is across the country (again) and MS said he didn't want anything. YS again said chocolate covered cherries but he added that he knew they were hard to make so he didn't need them. (I think it's time to teach him how to make them and pass the molds on to him!)

When Will it Ease Up?

Right around Thanksgiving, I started feeling a little down. After Mama passed away I made sure I was at Mass with Daddy, especially if none of my siblings were able to be there. I knew the Midnight Mass in 2016 would be my last one with him. I couldn't bring myself to go last year; it was all I could do to make it through an earlier Mass. I keep wondering, "When will it ease up?" We had so many traditions growing up, most of which I passed on to my boys. That is what makes Christmas so special to me.

Snapping Out of It

So, yeah, I was a little down the couple of weeks following Thanksgiving. I finally snapped out of it on December 8th, which is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on the Catholic Liturgical Calendar. (I won't go into exactly what that is here, but if you're interested click here to read a post on my Catholic Blog.) I will say that this is a "Holy Day of Obligation", or a day when we're required to attend Mass. I was sitting there in the pew and I see a dad and his son walk in. This dad lost his wife very suddenly about a year ago (I think it was), and left him with 2 kids (they aren't yet in high school). I sat there thinking, "What is wrong with me? Waa, waa. I'm 56 years old and my parents are gone. I was lucky to have them as long as I did since Mama was 33 when she had me. I have my spouse and my boys. I should be thankful that I have them." Then, after Mass, a lady who lost her husband this past year came up to me and told me she sees my mom every time she looks at my face. This is her first Christmas without her husband, and I'm down because I don't have my parents??? That pretty much snapped me out of it pretty quickly. Then this happened the next day:
If that doesn't get you in the holiday mood, nothing will! It started coming down during Mass, which was a little distracting. Since I play the flute in the choir, I'm facing the back of the church which has a huge glass front. In the reflection (with the heavy snow falling outside), I can see the advent candles and the stained glass in the back of the altar, which represents "The Day the Sun Danced":
NOW I'm ready to put my tree up (and decorate it!) and do a little more decorating for Christmas. Will I bake or make candy? Probably not. CH & I definitely don't need it and the boys haven't expressed an interest. Christmas is going to look different for us this year: MS won't be home until Christmas Day so we won't have the traditional Christmas Eve Dinner; I'll save that until Christmas Day. He said all he wants is a french toast casserole that I make every year for brunch. Like I said, OS is across the country so he obviously won't be home. YS still lives here, so he'll be here.

It's All About the Traditions

I love Christmas; I always have. It's not about the presents (that's one thing I don't like about it) but it's about family and tradition. I still don't think the boys "get it" but hopefully when they start having kids they will. I hope that when CH & I are gone they will remember Christmas with fond memories and won't let the Grinch get a hold of them!
Pinterest picture with a gold ball ornament on the top and the title words on the bottom

When you Wish Upon a Star Wednesday Medley

It's just like the Wednesday Hodgepodge, but with a new name and a new "hostess with the mostess"! Much thanks to Terri for continuing our Wednesday Q&A...I'm looking forward to being reacquainted with old friends and meeting new ones.

1. On December 5, 1901, Walt Disney was born.  Have you been to Disneyland or Disney World?  Can you share a favorite Disney memory?

We took the boys to Disney World in 2000; their ages: 11, 8, and 5. When we went to “Honey I Shrunk the Audience” (which is in 3D) everything was fine. Then the snake appeared to come toward us and we hear, “MAMA! MAMA!” I look next to me to see MS with his feet in his chair screaming for me. We laugh about that to this day!

I’m pretty sure that’s not what Terri had in mind, but that’s a favorite memory!
I also marched in my high school band during the Disney World parade a couple of times (I think it was 2 times, anyway). Very cool!
I’ve never been to Disney Land and really have no desire. I also have no desire to go back to Disney World. I’d love to give Harry Potter a try, though.

2.The first roller coaster attraction at Walt Disney World was Space Mountain.  Do you/did you like roller coasters?

Space Mountain isn’t like it used to be. It’s not pitch-dark like it was when it first opened; I’m sure it’s because of liability.
I’m not into roller coasters & really never was. I just rode it because that’s what you do in high school, and what you’re obligated to do with your kids.

3. The very first fairy tale that Walt Disney made a cartoon about was Little Red Riding Hood.  Did you enjoy fairy tales when you were a youngster or did they scare you?  Did you have a favorite?

I loved fairy tales when I was young. I don’t think I have a fave, though.

4. In Lady & the Tramp, Tramp’s real name was Butch!  Do you have nicknames for your fur-babies and/or for your children?

I always have nicknames for my furbabies! Laika’s is “Cuddle bug” and Gurl Dogg is “Crazy dog”. I mean, really, should Gurl Dogg even have a nickname?

For my "2 footed babies", I call OS "my sunshine", MS "Tater Bug", and YS "Russell Bear".

5. I can’t let this day go by without respecting George H.W. Bush, as he lays in state in the Rotunda of our Capital today.  He was our 41st President and only the second father to have a son follow him as President of the United States.  President Bush loved his colorful socks.  I bought Joe a pair of George H.W. Bush socks for Christmas one year.  I know Myra has a pair… any other bloggers checking in today who have a pair of the Presidential socks in a drawer at home?  How do you feel about colorful socks?

No Presidential socks here; I didn’t even know there was such a thing.
I bought a 4-pack of Bombas a few weeks ago, only there were 3 in it and the pair that didn’t come was marked out with no explanation. I tried calling the 800 number only to get a message that they were only responding to emails due to the high amount of traffic. (Wonder how many other people they stiffed?) I emailed a week ago and finally received a response. The other pair of socks is out of stock so they are going to send me another pair of my choice. They are very comfortable (just as advertised) and I like that for every pair that is bought they donate a pair.

6. Please tell us something random about your week!
Well, the Small Town Football Team did it again: they won their 17th overall state championship last weekend. This team went undefeated. It's rare when they are undefeated, even if they win the championship because they play another powerhouse every year & the other school is about 3 times bigger than Small Town High. MS' team went undefeated his senior year (2009) and I think they were undefeated 1 other time since then. That's about the most exciting thing that happened this week!

Thanks again, Terri, for hosting! Want to get in on the Wednesday Medley? Check her blog Your Friend from Florida on Tuesdays to get the questions, then don't forget to link up on Wednesdays!

Heading Into the Holidays With the Wednesday Medley

It's just like the Wednesday Hodgepodge, but with a new name and a new hostess with the mostess! Much thanks to Terri for continuing our Wednesday Q&A...I'm looking forward to being reacquainted with old friends and meeting new ones!

1.  On November 28th, 1995, President Bill Clinton ended the 55 MPH nationwide speed limit that began in 1974 as an energy saving measure during the Mid-East oil embargo.  If you are old enough to remember this (I sure am) did it make you happy?  Do you have a heavy foot when driving or does 55 MPH sound good to you?

Oh, I was ecstatic! I do have a bit of a lead foot.

2.  You are home alone on a rainy/snowy Sunday afternoon.  What Christmas movie will you watch?

The same Christmas movies I always watch...even in July: The Holiday and/or Family Stone.

3.  What is something you have tried that you will never try again?

Skiing. I tried it when I was a junior in high school on a school trip to Minnesota, and I honestly didn’t care for the feeling of not having control. I really wanted to like it; it’s a really cool sport.

4.  Today is National French Toast Day!!  Will you have some?  Do you like French Toast?

How did I not know this? We love French Toast at my house, but I won’t have any today. CH & I like to fix it for breakfast when we’re camping. Instead of adding milk we add a splash of flavored creamer for a little extra oomph.

5.  The Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center will be lighted today, as will the one at the White House in Washington, D.C.  Do you have your tree up and is it lighted?  Have you ever been in New York City or Washington, D.C. to see the trees all lit up during the holidays?

My tree isn't up yet. I usually wait until mid-December to put it up since I keep it up until Epiphany. I bought a pre-lit tree last year and it was absolutely wonderful! Stress-free, for sure!

I was in NYC a long time ago over Thanksgiving weekend when the high school band I was the guard instructor for marched in the Macy’s Parade & I got to see the tree in Rockefeller.
We spent a couple of Thanksgiving weekends in DC when my BIL & SIL lived there.
It was a bit chilly that day!
6.  Tell us something random about this week of yours.

Last week I managed to clean my entire house, dust bunnies under the bed and all. The only thing I didn’t do was clean the windows. Doesn’t a clean house feel great?
I feel very accomplished with this:


I feel refocused on what’s really important in my life just by rearranging and cleaning this room. 

I can't thank Terri enough for taking on this task of coming up with weekly questions! Want to get in on it? Check her blog Your Friend from Florida on Tuesdays to get the questions, answer them on your blog, and don't forget to link up on Wed. morning!

When I Get Tired of Fixing the Same Thing for Dinner

I don't know how you feel about preparing your dinner menus ahead of time, but I find that it's a time & money saver. I started doing this when my boys were little. I've never been one that could walk into a grocery store, know what I needed for the week/month, and walk out with everything I need minus anything that catches my eye. I prepare a menu biweekly, make my grocery list, and hit the store every 2 weeks for "major groceries". There are times, however, when I get tired of fixing the same thing for dinner and decide to try new recipes.
Unfortunately, almost all of the recipes I've tried lately haven't worked out for me. Let me know if you tried any of these and if you modified them, what you did.

If at first you don't succeed...

The Pioneer Woman's recipes are usually very good, but this one missed the mark. CH wanted a chili recipe to take to a friend's for Halloween (they had a chili cook-off). A friend suggested this recipe and it sounded just like what CH was looking for. The recipe was easy enough, and we were able to fix it on the camp stove while we were camping at a state park near CH's friend's house.
chili cooking on a camp stove
It made a LOT. When we arrived at the friend's house, the MIL came in late (just as the judging was supposed to start) but then she insisted that the judging hold off for a while until she was ready. This recipe has masa in it (used to make tortillas), so when it sits, it thickens. It also has a lot of beans (the original recipe has a total of 8 cans of beans) so that didn't help things either. By the time the judges had any, it was pure mush and not appealing to the eye at all.
Pot of chili on a camp stove
Looks good, doesn't it?
I wanted to give it another try with just a few modifications: I only put in 1 can of both kinds of beans but kept the meat as specified and added a can of Rotel instead of the tomatoes. I also cut down on the masa and prepared in the slow cooker. I browned the meat first, then put all of the ingredients in the slow cooker, except for the masa, which was added an hour before we ate. I was really disappointed in the taste. I'm not a picky eater, but I won't be making this again. I'm going to go back to my old "stand-by" for chili from now on.

It's a Southern Thang...

How many of you like "Breakfast for Dinner"? We don't have it very often, but it was a last minute decision right before I went to the grocery store, partly because I found a recipe that sounded promising in my Miss Mary Bobo's Boarding House Cookbook: Garlic Cheese Grits Casserole. Even though I'm Southern born and have never lived out of the Southeast U.S., I don't recall ever buying grits. (CH said I did, but I'm not sure I believe him.)
woman in front of grits at the grocery store with a not-so-sure look on her face
I bought the grits and tried out the recipe. I actually thought it was really good and was pleased with how it turned out. In fact, I will probably make this again.
casserole in a white casserole dish
It was a bit much for the 2 of us & I wasn't sure if it was "freezable".  Since the recipe came out of a cookbook and I couldn't find the recipe online by Miss Mary Bobo's, I am not going to share it. BUT...I found this recipe that was very similar; the only difference is that Miss Mary Bobo's uses 4 eggs instead of 1, 1 1/2 cups of processed cheese (I used sharp cheddar instead), and it is baked for 1 hour.

Well, it kinda worked!

The best part about Steak with Beer Sauce and Sweet Potatoes was the sweet potatoes. The steak was way too messy to cook as directed; oil splattered everywhere and there was quite a bit to clean up. Yeah, I probably didn't do something right, but I followed the recipe exactly as it read. I'll definitely keep the recipe for the sweet potatoes but cook the steak some other way. The beer sauce didn't add anything to the steak, but that's my opinion.
Andouille and Chicken Jambalaya was another recipe that I'll save and fix again. I'm not a fan of spicy so I wasn't sure how I would like the andouille. It was just enough spice to give it an "oomph" but not so much that my mouth burned. Just right for me.

Worth another try...or another recipe

The last attempt to find new recipes was Copy Cat Panera Bread Broccoli Cheese Soup. We like to eat soup when it's cold, and I love McAlister's broccoli cheese soup. Maybe that's where I went wrong: I thought it would taste the same. This recipe had way too much cheese in it. If I tried it again I would half the cheese and run the soup through the blender/food processor before I served it. It was very thick and honestly, not that good with all of the cheese in it. Don't get me wrong: I love cheese, but it was just too much.
Along with the soup, I made some bread that is supposed to be perfect for grilled cheese. I tried it and had to add about 2 Tablespoons of milk to the dough because it didn't ball up like it should have. I'm not sure if it was because I used white wheat flour instead of bread flour, but I wouldn't have thought that would have made that much of a difference. The bread just crumbled and tasted like cornmeal. Maybe I'll try it again.
soup in a pot with a ladle in it; grilled cheese sandwich in the top right corner of stove

So tell me: have you tried any of these recipes? Did they work for you or did you modify them? What recipes have you tried lately that were successes?
crumpled paper on countertop with words 2.5 times out of 6 this happened

Exploring East Tennessee: Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary

I haven't written a Discovering East Tennessee post in a long time. I meant to do one in March but never got around to it. I will, eventually, but this post is about Brushy  Mountain State Penitentiary.
When I was growing up, those four words would send chills down my spine: Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary. It's called "The End of the Line" because it's where convicts were sent when other prisons couldn't handle them. They knew if they were sent there that there was no way out. It closed down in 2009 after 122 years of housing bad guys...the worst of the worst.
Sign that reads "Dangerous since 1896"
The State of Tennessee sold the property to Morgan County. Developers had an idea; a way to bring revenue & jobs back to the county. This little community of Petros had many members who worked at the prison. Families had been employed there, kind of like a family business. When the State shut down the prison, the community definitely felt it. But now, new life is breathing into this facility.
Sidewalk leading to the front entrance
If you ask me, the plan is ingenious. Take a run-down, historical prison, fix it up, get a still going, and sell tours & moonshine. All in a beautiful setting.
Prison against a mountain background
There were escapes from the prison, but there are also stories of escapees giving themselves up to get back in the walls because of the terrain around it. One side of the prison didn't have a fence. It had a steep wall of mountain rock instead. (The fence was put up for the tourism.)
Side of mountain that acted as a natural fence
James Earl Ray (who was convicted of assassinating Martin Luther King, Jr.) did time at Brushy Mountain. He escaped in 1977 but was found 50-something hours later. I remember when that happened, and I remember being scared.

The old maintenance building is now a gift shop and restaurant.
picture of gift shop
We ate once we went in, although it was a little pricey for a sandwich and a side. I would recommend stopping in Oak Ridge or Oliver Springs for a quick bite before heading to Petros.
There is a museum where you can watch a 20-minute movie about the prison. The tour is self-guided; however, there were 2 former prisoners and former guard on the grounds when we were there. One of the former prisoners walked around with a group of visitors and told some stories of what it was like to be a prisoner at Brushy Mountain.
2 red doors open in a small area with no windows
The Hole
White brick building with a cross on it
"The damnation of many an evil man,
the salvation of a humble few."
After walking to The Yard, we went back to the Courtyard and listened to the former guard talking to a few people. Someone asked him if he knew if something had happened in the prison, and he said that he only wanted to know what he needed to know, and that was it.
Main building with the gym on the right

Open courtyard with buildings surrounding it
The Courtyard
2 concrete buildings with window slats
Maximum security prison built within the prison. The whole prison was once all maximum security but in the years before its closing housed some prisoners who did not require maximum.

Field with a guardhouse in the background
The Yard

Outdoor stage beside a mountain wall
Stage for concerts in The Yard

Manhole with lock
The manholes had locks on them to deter prisoners from attempting to escape

Outside of cell building in a prison

4 floors of fenced hallways in prison
4 floors of cells
 Picture of a prison cell with door closed

Spider web drawn on a metal desk in a prison cell
Graffiti on a desk
 Prison cell with graffiti including cross on a white wall

Tile half wall with shower heads in a prison
Shower at the end of the cells
 row of cells in a prison

towel taped on a metal stool inside a cell
A towel used as a cushion on the hard stool
The site has already held one concert, and there are plans for a campground. Paranormal tours are also available. At one time there was an electric chair on the premises but it was never used. It was sent to the state pen in Nashville. Even though, there were many prisoners who died at the hands of other prisoners (and guards) as well as disease (especially in the early years).

brick wall with razors above with a guardhouse in the corner
I think the $12 it cost for admission was well worth it. We went on a Sunday, right when it opened for the day. As we were leaving, there was a good crowd. The history was fascinating, and having the former prisoners and guards hanging around was a definite plus.
If you find yourself around the Oak Ridge area, it's definitely worth a visit to the "Alcatraz of the South". I love discovering East Tennessee, and Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary has always been a curiosity, but I certainly didn't want to visit while it was open as a penitentiary! Stop at the Gift Shop for some samples of moonshine. There are 9 different flavors (including "regular"). We were able to chat with the distiller for a couple of minutes...really nice guy!
3 bottles of moonshine with the Brushy Mountain logo on a counter
We left with 3 bottles: 2 are gifts and the other one will probably be in our fridge for a year...at least!
Coming to East Tennessee for a visit and looking for some "off the beaten path" places to explore? You'll want to check out the posts in my Exploring East Tennessee series. Oh, and check back from time to time...we'll do more exploring (which means more posts!).
Pinterest pin for blog post: picture of the penitentiary with the post title under it.

If you found this post interesting, check out the series that a local tv station aired.
Interested in visiting? Click here for information.
Even though he is dead, seeing the headlines for when Jame Earl Ray escaped still gives me chills. Read about it here.

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