Still November Hodgepodge

Joyce asks the questions, and we provide the answers. See how others answered at From This Side of the Pond.

1. Does anybody really know what day it is? Last week we skipped the Hodgepodge and I just assumed this week would find us in December, but nope. Still November. Do you wear a watch? Use a paper calendar or strictly electronic? What's your favorite hour of the day? Why? 

I realize that's not exactly what Joyce asked, but it's what came to mind! I absolutely have no idea what day it is. I guess that's what retirement will do for you. I wear a semi-smart watch; it's an off-brand and will notify me of texts/calls but I can't answer through the phone. I use it a lot for the timer. 
When I was working I tried to use an electronic calendar but found I needed a paper one. These days it's strictly Google Calendar. 
I don't have a favorite hour of the day, but Gurl Dogg's is the 2:00 or 3:00 hour...that's when she goes for her teetee-poo walk in the park.

2. Tell us something about how you celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday. 

The boys and their girlfriends were all here, plus one of my son's friends. It was different without CH being here but we managed to have a good time talking and laughing. 

3. What's a sound you hate to hear? 

The squealing of tires. I always wait for a crash at the end. 

4. Where do you not mind waiting? 

At home. While I'm waiting on packages from Amazon.

5. I really wish____________________________________. 

Well, not to be a Debbie Downer, but I wish I had asked CH some things that I realize we didn't talk about. We talked about a LOT but of course, some things were missed.

6. Insert your own random thought here. 

If you've read this far, then you probably have put 2 & 2 together. CH passed away on Veteran's Day from complications from colon cancer. His health declined rapidly over the past couple of months and he was just so tired after almost 3 years of treatments. He prepared us as well as he could have and as I'm doing the paperwork for various things, I'm realizing he's still taking care of me. 

This was taken at the Little Grand Canyon, UT in July. We never imagined that 4 months later he would be gone.


The Hodgepodge Splurge

 
Joyce asks the questions, and we provide the answers. See how others answered at From This Side of the Pond.

1. What does productivity look like to you? 
It looks a lot different now than it did a month ago. I have no idea what retirement productivity is going to look like. I'm assuming it will mean actually getting out of my pj's before 9:00 and doing things around the house.

2. What was your fondest (or one of your fondest) memory of High School? 
My high school life centered around band. That being said, one of the memories I have was when I was a freshman at band practice. I kept getting something wrong, and the director ran over to me and said, "Mary! What are you doing???" I just replied, "I don't know!" Needless to say, I think I got it right after that!

3. What did you do the summer after High School? 
I went to college! The university where I attended switched from the quarter-to-semester system that fall so they gave freshmen the opportunity to take some classes. It was a great introduction to college: we could only take 2-3 classes and only freshmen were in them. I met a future roommate that summer. 

4. June 14th is National Strawberry Shortcake Day...are you a fan, and if so will you celebrate? How do you make yours? Have you been strawberry picking? If so what do you do with all those berries? 
I love strawberries but I'm not a big fan of strawberry shortcake. I don't know that I've ever "made" them: I have bought the sponges shells, thrown some strawberry pie filling in it, and topped with whipped cream. YS planted a strawberry plant that is kicking but has produced very little strawberries that we've seen. I think maybe a bird, squirrel, or rabbit has been getting them.

5. What's something you always splurge on? 
Cherries...when they're on sale. 

6. Insert your own random thought here. 
We still haven't decided where we're going for our big trip. Who knows? We may just get in the van and see where the road takes us!
We did get away this past week but it didn't go as we planned. Stay tuned for a post on that coming up soon!

Exploring East Tennessee: Tsali Notch Vineyard

 
After visiting Grain Bin Commodities, we drove just a few miles to Tsali Notch Vineyard in Madisonville, TN. They are only 2 exits away from each other. The Lost Sea Adventure is very close to the vineyards and would be another good stop. 
Tsali Notch Vineyard is a Muscadine Vineyard but if you're a dry, red wine person, don't let that deter you from visiting. I was skeptical because I don't particularly like sweet wines but during the taste testing I was pleasantly surprised. They have wine for any taste. I was especially surprised by the Rose, so much so that I ended up buying a bottle.
The Tasting Room

Why Tsali?

Tsali was a Cherokee Indian Chief who refused to leave his NC home after they ceded their lands to the US Government. There is folklore and then history as to what happened to Tsali: legend says that he surrendered to the US Infantry Division but documents indicate he did not. The result is the same: Tsali was killed by another Cherokee, one of his neighbors. Euchella hunted down Tsali and killed him so that he could stay in the area, as promised by the US Government. If you've ever heard of the outdoor drama Unto These Hills, you would know the story which is about Tsali. The play has been open for over 60 years in Cherokee, NC.

Back to the Vineyard!

With over 6000 vines, Tsali Vineyards covers 35 acres. With the Appalachian Mountains as its backdrop, the scenery is absolutely gorgeous. It's quiet, with the wind blowing around the valley as its only sound. There is a Tasting Room where you can test 4 of the wines plus the juice (which is only juice...no sweeteners added) for $10. You also receive the small glass you used for the testing. The wines included when I tested were Chatsworth (dry red), French Broad (Rose), Atala (sparkling wine similar to Prosecco), and Tallulah (dessert wine similar to a Port). I ended up buying a Chatsworth, French Broad, and a bottle of juice (for CH). There is plenty of seating around the Tasting Room to take a bottle of wine and enjoy the view.


There's more to the Vineyard than just Vines

Also on the property is an event barn. When we drove in, JD was prepping for an event. We were parked on the other side of the Tasting Room (up the hill from the barn) so we didn't get in their way or vice versa. Since we were using our Harvest Hosts Membership, we spent the rainy afternoon hanging out in Maeve Anne. It was incredibly peaceful.





View from the side window during the rain

Clouds hanging over the vineyards after the rain

View from the front during the rain
Honestly, I had no idea there were places like this within an hour from my house. There's so much to explore in this area. 





Have you heard about Harvest Hosts? It's an RV camping membership that has opened up exciting and new overnight experiences for my road trips! Use it to unlock unlimited overnight stays at locations such as farms, wineries, museums and so much more. The network has over 4000 locations and is expanding daily - and it's so much fun! I think that you'd really enjoy it. Here is the link to join with a special discount: ​Flyin' the Coop Harvest Hosts Invitation. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Ageless Wednesday Hodgepodge

 
Joyce asks the questions, and we provide the answers. See how others answered at From This Side of the Pond.

1. Tell me something you remember (or if you're not there yet, something you look forward to) about being 35.
I don't remember a whole lot about being 35. I had an 8, 5, and 2-year-old so I was pretty busy with them. CH & I laugh because he'll bring up something we did or saw from waaaaay back and I usually don't remember them. I tell him it's because I had more important things on my mind...like surviving with 3 little boys.

2. Last time you 'burned the candle at both ends'? 
I've learned through the years to say "no". I've really cut back on "extracurricular" activities to focus on home life (and camping!). I try not to stress myself out anymore. So, to answer the question: I really can't remember! 

3. Are you someone with the 'gift of gab'? Elaborate (which shouldn't be a problem if you answered yes teehee).  
This question is a little trickier than you'd think. I can hold my own in a conversation and I definitely will give my opinion on things, but when you first meet me I may appear on the quiet side. (CH and my siblings-if they read this-are probably doubled over with laughter!) When I met a group of online friends at a convention a few years back, one of them said that I was a lot quieter than she thought I would be. 
Splitcoast Speechies: New Orleans, 2017 (minus our Ohio girl!)
States represented: Texas, Oregon, Washington, Tennessee, California, New Hampshire, Louisiana

4. Do you request a special meal on your birthday, and if so tell us what that meal is? Do you want the same kind of cake year after year or will any flavor work? Do you want cake at all? Growing up were birthdays a big deal in your house? Are they a big deal now? 
We usually have a family birthday dinner with the birthday boy/girl picking the restaurant. I love birthday cake but haven't had one in a long time. Give me chocolate and I'm a happy birthday girl. Growing up with 9 siblings, we were allowed 1 birthday party. I had mine when I turned 7. On birthdays, mama would fix us what we requested for that day. Other than that, no big deal. They aren't a big deal now, either. Just another day!
Pictures of my first 4 birthday cakes that my mom made:



5. 'Age is just a number.'..agree or disagree? Tell us why. 
I definitely agree. I just hit 61 a few months ago and really don't feel any older than 35. You're as old as you feel and I'm just not there yet!

6. Insert your own random thought here.
We're getting ready to plan a big trip! We don't have to be home until mid-August so we can take our time and just enjoy seeing new sights (for me, anyway) and the beauty of North America. We'll definitely be heading north since it's summer, but how far north will we go? Any guesses?

Exploring East Tennessee: Grain Bin Commodities

Wow. It's been a "hot minute" since I've written one of these posts...2 years (almost to the day) to be exact. I hope to be writing more of these in the near future.

CH & I used our Harvest Hosts membership to stay the night in Maeve Anne at a unique place. Grain Bin Commodities is a bakery in the middle of a farm in Sweetwater, TN. It was just a hop, skip, and jump off of I75. 
Entrance to Grain Bin Commodities
Callie & Craig are a super sweet couple who own the business. Callie started the bakery with her mom in their home, and after the spare bedrooms were used for packaging and storing Craig decided he wanted his home back. They began building but he wasn't happy with the contractor. He fired him and found another one who had the building up in no time. And then COVID hit. Amidst that chaos, they continued to build on to what was already on the farm to add to the charm. 
The Bakery

What they have now is simply amazing. There is the bakery, but there is also a patio with beautiful scenery in the background, a barn for private events, and an outdoor fireplace for those chilly fall/spring East TN nights. 
The Event Barn

The Patio

How relaxing would it be to sit here and look out at the East TN Countryside?
The view!

Outdoor fireplace
They paid very close attention to every little detail. You can even see it in their bathrooms. 
Details!
The bakery is "farm to table". Craig said they are going to try to grow their own grain so it will everything will truly be from the farm.  We went in right at opening time on a Saturday morning, and things were really bustling. Carrot cake muffins were just coming out of the oven right before we left. They have an amazing array of baked goods, from country ham and cheese bite-sized muffins to cupcakes. It was really hard not buying at least one of everything.


Coffee Cake Donut and Cream Cheese Roll

Scone, country ham & cheese muffins, sausage balls
This is definitely a place I'd go back to. It's only about an hour from my house so it could easily be done without spending the night. If you're traveling between Chattanooga and Knoxville, it would be a wonderful detour to stretch your legs and buy some baked goods. And, if you're a member of Harvest Hosts and need a place to stay for the night, this is worth a stay.
They are working on building a few small "cabins" that look quite nice. So, if you don't have an RV or aren't self-contained, this is also a possibility.
View of the field across the street. The camping spots are below the camper in the picture.

Have you heard about Harvest Hosts? It's an RV camping membership that has opened up exciting and new overnight experiences for my road trips! Use it to unlock unlimited overnight stays at locations such as farms, wineries, museums and so much more. The network has over 4000 locations and is expanding daily - and it's so much fun! I think that you'd really enjoy it. Here is the link to join with a special discount: ​Flyin' the Coop Harvest Hosts Invitation. Check it out and let me know what you think!


Queen Mother of All Hodgepodges

 
Joyce asks the questions, and we provide the answers. See how others answered at From This Side of the Pond.

1. Did you watch the coronation of King Charles III? Share some of your thoughts about that, or about the royal family in general. 

I had no interest in the coronation. I find the royal family intriguing but I think it's lost some of its luster without Queen Elizabeth.

2. What are you the uncrowned queen of? 

Nothing comes to mind but I'm sure if I asked CH or my boys, they'd have a few things to say.

3. In a box of chocolates which one do you usually go for? 

All of them. I'm talking double-fisted, shove in my mouth, regardless of which one it is!

4. Something learned at your mother's knee? 

My faith.

5. 'Like mother, like daughter'...in what way is this saying true for you? 

I looked in the mirror the other day and was really taken aback by how much I looked like her at that moment. I definitely have a love of music in church as she did. At a meeting of the women's group the other night the president mentioned my mom as an officer but said she didn't remember which office she held. I said under my breath "Secretary" and everybody laughed because that's the position I held for a term and have had to take over this term. 

6. Insert your own random thought here. 

I keep harping on this, but retirement will be here very soon. I'm thinking about how I'm going to react on that last day...to walk out for that last time. It's actually pretty scary, not knowing what my future is going to look like. Guess that's where my faith comes in. I don't know what's in store, but I know God has a plan and I have to be able to just go with the flow and allow Him to work!

Time for an Update

Photo by Markus Winkler: https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-white-paper-in-a-vintage-typewriter-4052195/

There's been a whole lot of nuttin' going on around our household. I had surgery 2 weeks before Christmas and was limited to only walking around the house for a couple of weeks. Then I was able to walk for 20 minutes but no lifting or bending over. I swear I dropped 50 things a day and had to call CH or MS to pick them up. There was no cooking, which meant no Christmas baking or candy-making. One of my sisters was sweet enough to send a care package with baked goodies for us.

We weren't able to go anywhere during my break. I have to say, it was really weird

Having those 2 extra weeks off before Christmas Break made it extremely difficult to go back to work, especially knowing that soon I'll be retired and will get into a brand new routine. I don't know what I'm going to do, but I do have some options.

CH worked on some improvements to the van to get her ready for some adventures. He had the padding done so that we can sleep in the van if we need/want to. I was looking forward to the improvements he's making. But then something incredible happened...

During Spring Break we camped at FDR State Park in Pine Mountain, GA. We knew there was a chance it wasn't going to be warm; the weather the 2 weeks leading up to the break were incredibly nice and warm. We (and by "we" I mean "CH") loaded up the Delica with our tent, gazebo, cots, sleeping bags, and everything else we needed. We figured if it was too cold we could always sleep in the van. Once at the campsite, we unloaded everything and set up camp. Luckily, there was electricity at the campground so we plugged in a space heater. It worked well until 7:00 a.m. the 1st morning. I was walking back to the tent from the bathroom and saw a flash of light from inside the tent. Fortunately, it was only a fuse in the heater, and nothing caught on fire. We were able to find another small heater in town that worked well for us for the next 2 nights. We actually stayed pretty warm with the heater going. CH thought ahead and put a quilted blanket over the top of the tent to keep the warm air in, and he bought some padding for the floor so we weren't walking directly on the cold ground. 

Having the blanket on top of the tent helped keep the warm air inside

Here's the incredible thing that happened: I think that trip convinced CH that if we are going to continue to camp like we want to, and if we are going to travel and camp, we need to make a change. We began our search for a campervan. To make a long story short, we narrowed it down to 2 vans: 1 was a 4-wheel drive and the other was a front-wheel drive. The front wheel had a TON of storage and a lift kit could be added to it so it would have the ground clearance CH wants. But...we wouldn't be able to camp right on the beach or off the beaten path. We would be limited to where we could camp. So we decided to go with the 4-wheel drive. 

How stylish do I look with leggings, socks, and crocs!

To find out more about our journey to find our van, read The Journey to Find Maeve Anne on our camping blog, Flyin' the Coop. The path to find her wasn't filled with roses. We can't wait for our adventures to begin. 

That's our big news. Well, aside from my retirement in just a few short weeks. I've looked through my materials, made a spreadsheet of what I want to sell and give away, and have started boxing some things up. It's unreal to think that it's almost here. But I'm ready. Without a doubt, I'm ready. 

Hopefully I can revive this blog, but if not, catch me over at Flyin' the Coop

Jumping Back Into the Hodgepodge

 
Joyce asks the questions, and we provide the answers. See how others answered at From This Side of the Pond.

1. Tell us anything you want about your January. 

January is over??? It went by like a flash, for sure. I didn't work a full week in Jan. between an "inclement weather expected" day, appointments, and another round of COVID.

2. Lake Superior State University posts a list each year of words they think should be banished from the Queen's English for misuse, overuse, and/or general uselessness. The 2023 list includes GOAT, inflection point, quiet quitting, gaslighting, moving forward, amazing, Does that make sense?, irregardless, absolutely, and it is what it is.

Which of these words/phrases do you use regularly? Which of these words would you most like to see banished from everyday speech and why? Is there a word/phrase not on the list you'd like to add? 

I use 'amazing', 'absolutely', and 'Does that make sense' on a regular basis, but I don't hear them overused. I've never heard of a few of those words/phrases but I  think GOAT and gaslighting should definitely go away.

3. February 2nd is Groundhog Day. What's something that feels repeated in your life right now? 

CH's appointments every other week, asking how his numbers are, and seeing him have a few days of feeling bad.

4. What's a food you love that's named after a place?

Right now it's Dubliner Cheese. It's super good on toasted french bread.

5. What's the best season of the year to visit your city or your part of the country? Tell us why. 

I'd say fall, especially when the colors are at their peak.

Picture in the park next to our house this fall.

6. Insert your own random thought here. 

Retirement is beginning to be a reality. I received my retirement forms to fill out for the school system a few weeks ago. They, along with the State forms have to be turned in by Spring Break, which is mid-March. I've started looking through my school materials and throwing away some things, plus marking some things as giveaways to other people. It's getting real!

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