It Doesn’t Pay to Hurry

The day before Thanksgiving has always been a cooking/baking day for me. We were a little late getting back from our walk because of an 18-wheeler. The big rig, loaded with slabs of stone, came up the steep hill just after we turned into our road. The little state road begins hopefully enough, but it is barely two lanes wide before it degenerates into dirt and gravel. The semi stopped at the top of the hill, waited a bit, then began backing into a driveway. After several tries, the driver pulled further down the hill and stopped again. Every time he moved, we stopped to watch. The next attempt was halfway down, but that didn’t work, either. John sent him telepathic messages to try the farm. We could no longer see, so we walked on. I wondered if we’d see him stuck at the bottom of the hill, but I forgot to look when we got home.

Seeing the time, I went into high gear. Lise and Chris were going to visit family friends, and if I didn’t hustle, they would not have time to eat the pumpkin muffins I planned for breakfast. I aim for one pumpkin dish a day when Lise is here. Just in case anyone wants to know, I wouldn’t mind chocolate once a day if I stay at your house. I was hurrying, but I also had half my mind on the next cooking project, the cranberry mince pie that defines Thanksgiving for John. I stirred the dry ingredients, dumped the wet ones on top, blended as quickly as I could, and slung the batter into muffin cups. I know just the spoon to use, how much to load it with, and presto! The job was done. Into the oven! Oops! Before the pan got hot, I realized I hadn’t added the oil.

“John!” I yelled. “Can you come help me right now?”

Bless his heart, he came on the run. He scooped the batter back into the bowl while I greased the spare muffin tin. It took only seconds more to blend in the oil and fill the cups again. Perhaps it was a blessing in disguise. Lise likes limp bread, and I like crispy. I took the tin out of the oven as Lise and Chris came to the table, three minutes shy of the timer ding. The muffins were a little wobbly. Would the centers be gooey? Thank heavens they were acceptable. I felt like a spectator at a sports event, rooting on the team to beat the clock. They were quite late leaving, for which I’ll take responsibility for at least 15 minutes.

Unless I left out the sugar, the cranberry mince pie will be fine.

It was.

112515 Cranberry mince pie.JPG

A Toothsome Day

 

Daughter Lise had to spend a lot of time in the dentist’s chair, so John, Chris, and I tooled around on the Blue Ridge Parkway. We discovered a new waterfall that we’d never seen before. We hadn’t spotted it, maybe because we were going in a different direction or because leaves had fallen.

112415 Woodfin Cascades

Obviously other people had seen it, because the overlook sign named it Woodfin Cascades. We wondered about the words cascade and waterfall. According to Wikipedia, a waterfall is water flowing over the edge of a cliff, while a cascade is a series of waterfalls. If that’s true, I have been misspeaking all my life. I should have been exclaiming over cascades, the kind of falling water I see most often.

 

When Lise was free, we went in two breweries in Sylva. I had no idea these places existed. We voted the second one the best because their space was more inviting, and the people were eager to please. We also liked the name – Sneak E Squirrel. Lise couldn’t eat because her mouth was numb, but we were hungry. Expecting to have an early dinner, we asked for a club sandwich to be split three ways. Those accommodating people did it! Lise had her reward in due course – a pumpkin cheesecake milkshake. I always thought she came at Thanksgiving to see us, but now I think the lure is pumpkin.

112415 L Chris JC in Sneak E Squirrel.JPG
Lise, Chris, John at Sneak E Squirrel

We shopped at Michael’s and Walmart, which took hours instead of minutes. With all that walking, we were hungry and gobbled down food at my favorite Mexican restaurant in Asheville. Chris was interested in authentic Mexican fare, since he can’t get it in Manchester. I was more than willing to go along with him.

 

Jasper Daniels

We toured the Jack Daniels’ distillery in Lynchburg, TN. What a tour! It’s the first time I’ve ever seen tourists carded before being allowed to take a tour. We took a photo of Chris and Lise with a white statue of Jack in the visitor’s center. We were in and out of a tour bus, walking outside, and climbing stairs to peer in the vats of Tennessee whiskey in the making. Everyone was invited to pose with a different statue of Jack in the grounds. They said it was deceptive, because the statue was several inches taller than the man actually was.

Lise and Chris with Jack Daniels in the visitor's center
Lise and Chris with Jack Daniels in the visitor’s center
Chris, Jack, and Lise
Chris, Jack, and Lise

Our personable guide started the story of Jasper who later had the nickname Jack. He disliked his stepmother and, when he was seven years old, told his dad he wanted to leave home. He did, with the father’s agreement. The Lutheran pastor and his young wife were just moving into the parsonage. When they heard his story they invited him to live with them. The pastor turned out to be the best whiskey maker in the county. Later the parishioners disliked having their pastor preaching about one spirit on Sundays and making another on weekdays. He agreed to quit making whiskey and sold the business to Jack when the lad was 16 years old.

We took a photo or so outside, because we were not allowed to take any inside the production area. The great distinction of Jack Daniels is that they use charcoal to filter the liquor, otherwise it would simply be a bourbon. We were allowed to snap the packing room where people were inspecting the bottles, cleaning off the seals, and preparing them for shipping. The tour ended in the tasting room where we had sips of four products.

Packing room at Jack Daniels
Packing room at Jack Daniels

I didn’t expect to get looped. I’m always careful with wine, though, because I can get woozy on half a glass. Having one mixed drink has never yet done me in. I reassured myself that we’d had a big Cracker Barrel breakfast, which should have mitigated the effect of the whiskey. Finishing the tasting, I went into the ladies’ room. I was facing a wood paneled wall painted dark green. I looked at a hook and perhaps swayed a bit. Good grief! I couldn’t focus on that hook. The grooves in the wood went one way, and the hook moved the other. This lasted several long, long seconds. Surely I wasn’t going to fall out right there in a bathroom stall! I blinked several times and moved my head. Ah! That was better. I was looking through two different levels of my trifocals. Whew! What a relief!

An Accent on Travel

We are having a marvelous time with Lise and her friend Chris. They flew into Asheville, giving us an opportunity to see the little airport for the first time.

Chris is a train fan, which of course delighted John. We rode behind a steam engine at the Tennessee Railroad Valley Museum in Chattanooga. There were photo ops galore.

 

 

We stayed at the Chattanooga ChooChoo hotel, a place still full of railroad memorabilia. There used to be a nice restaurant in the old railroad station, but no more. Now that space is used only for a $10 breakfast. Sitting in the lobby, Lise and I checked our cell phones and found a local barbecue joint that looked authentic. Tasting barbecue was high on Lise’s list for Chris. Photos couldn’t capture the fun we had. Our young waitress noticed John’s accent and had him pegged as a New Yorker. I was listening to her and found she was a local. The young lady checked on us often, and finally asked where we came from.

John answered, “Denmark, England, West Tennessee, and New York.”

She was intrigued and stood there chatting. I think she was hoping for a brief bio from each of us so she could listen to our accents. The owner sauntered over, and I wanted to keep him talking so that Chris could soak in his Tennessee mountain version of English. It was unique. I didn’t ask Chris if he understood him. I’m almost positive the man would not have been able to decipher Chris’ Manchester accent. When we left, we all agreed we had experienced authentic tastes and sounds of the area.

Thanksgiving Hunt

Now I’ve heard it all! Sister-in-law Beth told me about a pastor my brother Bob knew. The man had two churches, one in town, and the other out in the country. He told Bob the country church, Carolina Presbyterian, had a long-standing tradition for Thanksgiving Day. People gathered at the church for a short service and hearty breakfast, after which all the men went hunting. They came to church in their hunting clothes, and their dogs were waiting in the trucks.

Philosophy of House Cleaning

I’m not the only person in the world who hates housework, as evidenced by comments on the internet. One of my favorites goes something like this, “Housework has not been proved to be deleterious to your health, but why chance it?”

Neighbor Amy voiced a very humane philosophy the other day. She said, “I clean for the guest.”

“What does that mean?” I wanted to know.

“Well,” she said, “if the person coming to your house is a clean freak, then you disinfect everything. If her house is a pig sty, you wouldn’t want to make her feel uncomfortable in contrast, would you?”

I love it! At least half of it. It would get me off the hook for a slob. But what about the huge majority of the people who visit us? Let’s be honest. 100% of our guests have standards that would send me reeling into cleaning shock. I see this as a choice. Either give up letting people come here, or find a different philosophy that works for me.

I’m still feeling guilty for making Amy self-conscious. I wrote about her being a master gardener, one of those who will lean over and flick a weed out of your garden without realizing she’s done it. It’s possible my gardening skills are even worse than my housekeeping skills. Just leave the first “s” off skills, and that is my rating for gardening. We’ve had at least four master gardeners wander through our property. I didn’t catch it on their faces, but I know they were cringing.

Getting back to a housekeeping philosophy, I’m thinking along the lines of, “When my dirt bothers you, please feel free to remove it.”

Now I just need wording for a sign that can be posted discretely.

 Dust/weeds bother you?

Duster in closet.

Gloves on porch.

 

When folks are used to that, I might keep small loaves of banana bread in the freezer and post, “Reward for dusting and weeding.”

Would you be drawn in by that?

The Devil’s Printer

In this tale, my husband is the printer’s devil, an apprentice in printing. The printer itself is possessed by the devil.

John was not the only one contending with the printer. Just the other day I sent a six-page document, requesting a double-sided job. This was not a cruel and unusual punishment, since we’ve done it successfully before. No, out came six separate sheets. Not wanting the hassle of reprinting three pages on the correct side, I paid extra postage and went on.

John was disgusted when he asked for a few pages of a 90-page document, 111915 The Devil's Printerand the demented printer began spewing out everything. His reaction was normal, to shut it down. He left it off for a couple of days, thinking the crazy thing would get the message. Of course, it sprang to life again when he turned it on, determined to have the last say.

John said, “I didn’t know what else to do, so I let it run.”

“You needed to delete it from the print cue,” I said. “Why didn’t you get me?”

“It was the middle of the night,” he said. “I wouldn’t wake you for that.”

“I have a solution,” I replied. “Here’s what you do if it happens again. Shut off the printer. Go to the kitchen and make a cup of hot chocolate, preferably dark. Bring it to my side of the bed and say, ‘Darling (!!!!!!!!) Here is a lovely mug of hot chocolate. You can sip it, put a hex on the printer or fix it, and go right back to sleep.’”

What do you think? Isn’t any chocolate solution a winner?