Category Archives: USA

Waterfire, Sleepy Hollow, Villages and Mansions!

We drive from Camden to Providence, Rhode Island for Waterfire.  Waterfire is an art installation on the three rivers of Providence.  It consists of nearly 100 braziers with wood fires burning over the water.  Some small boats circulate with passengers and some tend to the fires.  There is music, food and entertainers.  There are 17 lightings scheduled for 2017 and we will see the second to the last.  


Once we reached our inn, Old Court B&B.  We were pooped out from the drive and it didn’t help that we were on the third floor, no elevators.  We just grabbed what we needed from the trunk and headed for the shower!  The B&B was an easy walk to Waterfire and we enjoyed the music and fun.  Though I wouldn’t fly out specifically to see this, it was fun to see.  It’s different.  Unfortunately, we don’t have much time to see Providence on this trip.  There are some interesting museums and the Rhode Island School of Design was just around the corner from our room.  I think it would be fun to visit Providence again.  


Sunday,  10/1/17 – Monday 10/2/17 Back to Newport, Rhode Island


It’s an easy 50 minute drive to Newport. We were here less than two weeks ago, on the Princess cruise.  That day, we spent by the harbor and on Rose Island.  Now we have a few days on our own! We opt for membership to the Preservation Society of Newport County which gives us admission to all their mansions and we hope to see several of them! We certainly made a dent in the list.  We toured:  The Breakers, The Elms, Marble House, Rosecliff, Isaac Bell House, and The Hunter House.  All were interesting to see, the first of the three are huge estates that were built during the gilded age.  They are lavish and over the top!  The conspicuous consumption here is a testament to wealthy Americans desire to be not just rich, but royal.  The homes say, “Feel impressed, and intimidated.”   Like Hearst’s Castle in California or the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. they borrow their bling from European palaces and chateaus.   The mansions were breathtaking.  It’s fun to imagine what it would be like to be that wealthy, but there was more than one quote that showed that at least for some of the owners, money wasn’t the key to happiness.  


The Isaac Bell House was a large, impressive house,  but much less grand than the previous three.  I imagined where I would put my furniture in this house.  It was human scale and really unique.  The last place that we toured, The Hunter House, was much older, 1748.  It was built right in the heart of the busy port of Newport during colonial times.  It wreaked history, the stories it could tell!    


We got a chance to walk along Cliff Walk.  It is a 3.5-mile (5.6 km) public access walkway that borders the shore line and is below some of the gilded age mansions.  The views are wonderful, and the walk is well used.  


Tuesday,  10/3/17 Historic Massachusetts – Deerfield


We have a drive back to Massachusetts today and plan a couple of stops.  The first is Historic Deerfield, which is unusual in that that most of the structures here were built here.  Deerfield shows what life was like 300 years ago, how difficult it was to stay alive.  Many of the reinactors talk about how the inhabitants survived a horrible Indian attack, and that they were on the edge of the wilderness.  We learned that the early settlers cleared 75% of the forested area to set up farms.  Today approximately 75% of the area is reforested.   I have a chance to card wool, spin it and try to weave.  Barry tries out tools in the carpenters workshop and admires the craftsmanship and labor needed to make the furniture that they have on display.  We both enjoy history and this place is the right scale and is relaxed and fun.  I love this geeky stuff and would recommend it!


Late in the afternoon we had planned to go to Amherst, (I had even researched a great pizza place there),  but we decide to save it for another trip.  We head back toward Sturbridge for a couple of nights. I learn that we are near Worcester and that I have been publicly pronouncing it incorrectly, it is  “Wister” – Geeze, really!?  That’s as bad as the Brits mangling location names just to make tourists feel stupid! 🙂


Wed 10/4/17 Sturbridge and Sleepy Hollow!


Our night in the well reviewed Old Sturbridge Village Inn and Lodges was OK, but by morning the noisy road noise was putting me out of my colonial mood.  We are cheered by the increased autumn colors that are arriving and looking forward to seeing another historical village.  Sturbridge is more theme park than Deerfield was, though not at all off putting!  It also represents a later time period, the 1830s. It is full of reenactors and great buildings to see.  One that really impressed me, food related:), was a typical breakfast for the farmers of the time.  It smelled delicious, but when we got close to it, it was filled with flies.  She said, well, that’s how it would have been at the time.  Geez, we just passed a farmyard filled with animal shit, I KNOW where those flies have been.  They were sturdier people back then!

This evening we are going to come back to Sturbridge Village for “The Sleepy Hollow Experience”.  As per their website:  Sleepy Hollow Experience is an immersive, outdoor theatrical experience that reimagines Washington Irving’s iconic 1820’s tale. They started it last year and every performance was sold out.  So, a few months ago, I set my alarm for 3AM (6AM EST)  so that I could get tickets for us for this evening’s performance as soon as they went on sale online.  


It is worth it!  This is so well done!  The performers are extremely talented, the production is very, very well done.  The sound and lighting were great.  The BEST part is that you can walk through the story in a village that is authentic to the settling of the book.  They have an intermission time in which you are the Van Tassel’s party.  The actors come into the audience and play period games.  The finale is the headless horseman galloping through the covered bridge after Ichabod, as the audience is lined up against the walls.  Chilling…






Thursday,  10/5/17 NYC and Home


An uneventful drive back to NYC, turn in the car at La Guardia.  A long, but not horrible flight and we get home just after midnight on Friday, 10/6/17. Such good memories, so many plans on what to see next!

Here’s the movie from the last leg of the trip.



Schooner Mary Day, 4 Days on Penobscot Bay

Schooner Mary Day
Denise walking in Isle au Haut, Maine

At 4pm we can go on board the Schooner Mary Day.  We will spend the night onboard, we can come and go as we’d like until we leave in the morning.  We will be on our own for dinner. The other passengers are nearly all retirees and there is one particularly charming lady traveling with her husband,  who I would guess is in her 80s.   She has been on this ship 13 times before.  She and the Captain, named Barry, have quite a flirty verbal back and forth.  Both my Barry and I find the other passengers to be of great good will and have shining outlooks.


The heads, two of them, are on the deck.  There is a “shower” in one of the heads.  The instructions are that we should step down into the head, cover the toilet paper and air freshener, use the shower head on the side wall (it has a flexible hose).   I don’t see how you could keep a towel dry in there, let alone maneuver around or have a robe ready when you need it.  MMmmmm When we go out to dinner, we make a run to the drug store in Camden to get a huge package of baby wipes.  I don’t think I will be showering for a few days.


Barry and I are below deck, down a ladder.  We are sleeping in head to head bunks.  The hull of the ship curves over us and the only light in our very small cabin is from a hatch on the deck above our door.  There is a very small sink, and small shelves for our “stuff”.  This is “glamping”, as their brochure says.  It’s pretty rough, especially after the cruise ship and the wonderful inns that we have been staying in.  BUT we are on a glorious ship in one of the most beautiful places on earth.


Wednesday,  9/27/17  Sailing Penobscot Bay & “Lobster Island”


Come morning, there is excellent coffee on deck and we have an amazing breakfast in the galley.  I am anxious to see what this will all be about.  It’s foggy and cooler today.  We are out of the harbor in no time. Members of the small crew climb up the riggings and glorious sails unfurl.  We, the passengers, are enlisted to pull lines to help.  Now underway,  photos do not do the scenery justice.  It reminds me of Puget Sound, but there are lobster floats all over and smatterings of light houses on small islands.  


Captain Barry warns us that there is no itinerary, but that we will arrive back in Camden on Saturday.  That’s all the information that he will give regarding where are we going.  In the early evening, he does let us know that we will be going ashore for a lobster bake.  He has a lots of fun about giving us a HEADs up in planning aHEAD before we GO ashore because there is no HEAD and so WEE should GO aHEAD and use the HEAD.   It is a small, uninhabited island. My Barry and I dig out the rubber boots that we purchased for this trip and are ready for the row to some island that Captain Barry will only call Lobster Island.  We are one of the first passengers there and I see our captain and cook add the live lobsters to the two huge pots of steaming sea water, throw in potatoes, corn and then use a pitchfork to pile seaweed over the top.  Too bad that not everyone could see this.


My Barry and I explore the island a little.  We step onto spongy ground, mushrooms at our feet, pines all around us.  It’s like a memory of a fairytale, a deep, dark forest.  When a fallen log blocks our path, we climb over and investigate more.  The fog is getting heavier and I imagine bears behind the trees.  We can also hear our travel companions popping wine corks and smell the lobster.  We get back to the beach to see some of the crew setting up the meal into a gourmet mandala – a bed of seaweed, a ring of lobsters, a ring of corn and potatoes.  We all worship at the sight of it. We aren’t given pliers to crack the claws, but I look around me and see other people digging in.  The shell is so soft that I can just peel it off.  This is the sweetest, most tender lobster that I have ever had in my life.  I could weep, that no other lobster will be as good.  When the crew is coming around to try to get rid of the leftover lobster (Leftover lobster, ha!), I take another claw and my Barry goes for another lobster and claw! He enjoyed his meal too.  


Back onboard, we somehow eat more.  Cookie has made blueberry squares that are slightly salty and not too sweet.  Some decaf coffee to warm our hands as we have conversations with fellow passengers about the Galapagos Islands, Bhutan and northern lights in Iceland. Barry and I return to our little, little cabin as the crew is singing and the woodfire stove is heating up the ship.


Barry on deck.


Th 9/28  Sailing Penobscot Bay & Environs

I have found that during the night I can make it to head on deck and not be grossed out!  For one thing, it is always spotless.  More importantly, there’s a great peacefulness that comes with climbing up the ladder to look up to see millions of stars above my head.  It. Is. So. Quiet.   I return to my snug, little bunk and can hear the low snoring of people in other cabins.  Smiling, contented, I easily go back to sleep.


Another great breakfast! Then, Captain Barry tells us that the sailing will be great today.  Though there is a small craft warning, we will have some great wind.  


“Wind will blow butter off a biscuit!”, says he.


Nearly everyone gets involved in raising the sails.  We work on the port and starboard sides, the throat and the foot.  There’s problem with the foresail, a line is afoul.  Crew member, Paul from the Bronx is up there for 20 minutes in a harness working lines and getting it straight.  It sure makes makes me nervous, but he fixes it and comes down.  


The heeling of the boat had everyone moving around in a stooped posture.  I hear things shifting in the galley and we are flying on the water.  The water glistens and we race past lobster floats and pine covered islands.  The sailing is transformative, a meditation, so brilliant and above care.


Later in the afternoon, we stop at Deer Isle for a walk.  Homes along the water look so picturesque. I want step inside one of them, and sit in a comfortable chair to look back at us in the sailboat.  After rowing ashore, it is great to stretch our legs and see the beginnings of change of colors on the trees.  That evening there is pork loin, a huge salad, fresh bread, home cooked pies. We are fed again.  


Cooler now, we return to our damp, small cabin.  The scratchy, red wool blanket from the foot of my bunk now makes it’s way up over my comforter to just below my chin.  


F 9/29/17 Sailing Penobscot Bay & Environs


The wake up call of the crew swabbing the decks above us is the familiar routine now.  It’s our last full day onboard.  The “shower” that they showed us a few days ago is looking slightly more inviting, but I think I can hold out until tomorrow.  There is the amiable morning chatter with the other passengers.  One fellow from Maine explained to me how to understand the Maine accent.  He said that they like to conserve their “R”s.  As the Boston accent that I’ve heard, Park your car in the Harvard Yard – use no Rs …..  pak ya ca in the havad yad


It’s another great day of sailing, terrific wind and not too cold.  Toward the mid afternoon, a lobster boat is spotted on a closeby island that seems to be in trouble.  I can’t describe how impressed I am with how quickly and professionally the Mary Day crew reacted.  The first mate took a dinghy out to help, the captain called the coast guard.  It seems that this lobsterman went out alone to check his traps, fell overboard and could not get back into his boat.  The boat was ramming the rocks, motor on idle.  The water is very cold and the captain later said that the lobsterman was getting weaker by the minute due to hypothermia.


To get a little stretch today, we anchored in Isle au Haut.  It has a population of 73, only about 40 stay through the winter and there are six kids in the school.  There’s a very, very small post office, a sweet New England church, a small lighthouse and a store that is opened a few hours a week.  The scenery, of course is great.


Sa 9/30  Our Last Morning on the Schooner, on to Waterfire in Rhode Island


How does “Cookie” do it on a small, WOODBURNING ship’s stove! I have the chance to talk with her a little.  She gets up at 4:30 to get the fire going and has learned to rotate things around so that they will cook evenly.  She is just a wonderful cook, among the dishes that we had that were great were:  Scrambled eggs with onion & herbs (she turns off the heat and adds cream cheese!), cranberry muffins, piles of fruit, amazing bacon, pies, homemade ice cream, tons of cookies, blueberry pancakes, soups, chili, terrific salads, and that lobster bake…All of it was better than the cruiseship and she does it on a wood stove!


We enjoyed our time talking with fellow passengers from Maine, Massachusetts, Illinois, Washington, and Florida.  Everyone was so easy to get along with.  The crew was stellar.  I have never seen people work so hard and have such wonderfully helpful attitudes.  They slept in bunks right off the galley, barely crawl spaces and always wore a smile.  The first mate was a real cutie and couldn’t have been nicer or more attentive.  Our little 80+ year old lady was catered to and helped all over.  The captain seemed to have a pretty dry sense of humor, but I wish that he has talked more about the areas where we were and maybe some stories about previous sailing trips.  This was the last cruise of the year, maybe he was ready to give it up.  The Mary Day would go into dry dock shortly and he did talk about all the work that he had to catch up when he was home.    




Eclipse Trip – Baker City, Oregon

Eclipse Trip

The light is not like a sunset, but more, as Barry said, like lighting from a stadium.  It isn’t a warm glow, but cooler, eerie light.  The temperature also grows significantly cooler and both of us reach for jackets.  We look through our solar eclipse viewing glasses to see the moon slowing take an ever larger bite out of the sun.  We are standing across the dirt road, where we have parked in a line of cars, just outside of Baker City, Oregon.  This is within the Path of Totality. (TA-TA-TA!) We are in a very dry, sagebrush covered landscape, with craggy hills and a clear blue sky.  
Shadows are elongated and the moon nearly covers the sun to make a crescent, then a small sliver.  Next a shout comes up from our group of strangers-viewers!  The eclipse!  Barry takes a short video of the hills surrounding us, it is a 360° sunset and the sky has changed to a dark, dark blue.  We are able to take off our glasses to view the sun without them. There is a very bright red section of the ring around the moon and I try to pull my eyes away from the eclipse to look at the stars in the sky, here at 10:20AM.  I study the bright silver ring of the eclipse and the realization that this is real, not a film, makes me smile.  Quickly, Barry and I take a selfie and hope that something turns out from photos.  
So, so quickly, the sun returns.  Just a sliver opens up and the whole world is illuminated again.  Too short, too quick, it can’t be over!  
Later that day, Heather texts us:  “Good eclipse?  Worth the trek?”  I respond:  “Yes – No”.  Now that I have time to reflect upon the experience, I am very glad that we went to see it.  It was really a trek, though. 
I started planning this a couple on months ago when I looked into flights all along the Path of Totality (TA-TA-TA!) and also at hotel rooms.  Many hotels were already full and there were few flights.  Some hotels that still had vacancies were gouging people outrageously  for the eclipse viewing date.  We really weren’t up for a long drive, and had read that lots of traffic jams were expected, so we gave up on the idea.  Then, I saw an article just a couple of weeks ago that listed college dorms that were renting rooms.  
My first choice, Western Oregon University was filled, but I completed in an interest form for Easter Oregon University and heard back from them a few days later.  They had a package available. For three nights we could rent a dorm suite for $500.  I rechecked flights and drive times and we decided to do the 10.5 hour drive to La Grande, Oregon.  We planned to stop at 8.5 hours in Boise, Idaho for the night, check out Boise, then drive up to the dorm.  
We set off as planned, but got off on the wrong highway.  This added two hours to our first day’s drive.  It was about 10PM for us, 9PM Boise time, when we looked for a place for dinner. Boise’s population is 223,000, to compare Sacramento has 495,000 and San Diego has 1.4 million residents. Boise is,  by far, the largest city for miles around in this area of the county, but it isn’t a large city.  I was very curious to see what we would find in Boise.  I had never been there. 
After that long drive, I was cheered by $4.50 glass of Lagunitas IPA, a Northern California,  lovely beer,  at a Mexican place near the hotel. (We were at the Lagunitas Brewery just a couple of weeks ago and the beer there was $8, I think. FUNNY!)  However, when my “salad” arrived it was only shredded lettuce, that was it, shredded lettuce was a salad. This was not the house speciality, I suppose.  
Revived the next morning, we strolled through a unexpectedly large craft and farmer’s market in downtown.  The vibe was sort of hipster meets cowboy.  Truly, everyone we have met here is very friendly and it’s a nice people place to be.  Lots of fun to see local crafts and foods.  The downtown is mostly well maintained and handsome, with some old buildings and some monumental, modern ones around them.  It reminds me of Salt Lake City.
The Idaho Botanical Gardens are supposed to be interesting, so we made a stop.  It is advertised as a  local feature.  It was “Bug Day” and they had lots of fun activities and exhibits for kids.  Happy kids run around the gardens with small butterfly nets, capture insects and line up to show them to an entomologist. Craft tables are everywhere as kids wield scissors and glue sticks in the celebration of insects.  There are native gardens, which to my untrained eye look lots like the desert that we’ve been driving through for hours and hours.  It’s not a major destination, such as the gardens in British Columbia (Butchart), Portland, Denver, or even Phoenix,  but a pleasant diversion. 
Barry and I listen to NPR as an optometrist/ umbraphile (one who loves eclipses) is interviewed.  He says that seeing an eclipse is like falling in love, and that everyone should have the chance to, at least once in their lives, fall in love and to see a total solar eclipse.  Since, I am still gloriously in love with my sweetie, 42 years now,  the bar is pretty damned high for this eclipse.
On the road North, I see a sign:  “45 PARALLEL, HALF WAY BETWEEN EQUATOR AND NORTH POLE”.  The teacher part of me smiles – very, very cool.  
We stopped in Baker City.  This is the town where we will view the eclipse, it is within the Path of Totality (TA-TA-TA!).  It’s a cute little town, we stopped in all the shops that we could find, had lunch and sampled at a vodka distillery.  We thought that this was a good indicator that, perhaps, La Grande was even nicer.  We thought that a university town might me more artsy or something? 
A couple of hours later, we checked into our dorm suite.  Nice and clean, the suite had 3 bedrooms that each had a single bed on stilts, a living room, a kitchenette, bathroom and storage room.  They supplied sheets, toilet paper and two paper cups. Well, not the Four Seasons.  Barry moved the mattresses into the living room, so that we could be together.  We reminisced about the times when Barry visited me in my dorm at UCSB, moving mattresses and ..ah good times.  We hung up the towels that we brought from home, unpacked our cooler….  So, what’s there to do in La Grande, Oregon?  Well, NOTHING!   
The University did have the dining commons opened for visitors, but we weren’t invited to use any other facilities such as the fitness center or tennis courts.  I had read about hiking in the area, but we nixed the idea of desert hiking.  
Went to see a movie, read, walked on campus.
Tick off the box next to “View Solar Eclipse” on our bucket lists, and we just couldn’t face another day in the dorms, though it was paid for and the dining commons might have meatloaf tonight.  We decided to cut our trip short a day and book a hotel in Reno.  We will take our chances on what some said would be apocalyptic traffic.  
What we hoped would be a straight 8.5 hour shot to Reno turned into hours more.  There was traffic, but not eclipse traffic so much as a bridge out that wasn’t on google maps, and we were rerouted all over, then repaving in Nevada.  Ahwg!  
We stayed in Mount Whitney Hotel, a fun non-smoking, quirky place.  It has a climbing wall built onto the outside of its multilevel building!  The interiors are fun and unusual.  (If you have to go to Reno, I would recommend this place.  But, I wouldn’t recommend going to Reno to begin with.)  No one was climbing on the wall when we were there, but it looks really, really cool and frightening too.    
Interestingly, we were across the street from Harrah’s, which looks pretty dumpy.  Barry wants to see the Harrah’s car museum and we go into Harrah’s to find it.  The museum is actually a couple of blocks away, but I have time to take in the cigarette smoke and loud gambling machines and lots of incredibly sad looking people.  
Barry loves the car museum, and I am NOT bored out of my mind, so a win/win.  He wishes he had Jon with him so that they could have car talk.  
Today, finally home, I’m really glad that we went.  It really was a quite a trek, but it could have been worse.  I read that Trump is going to speak in Reno this morning. If we had stayed in the dorms and not come a day early to Reno, ugh, we would have been in the same city with him.  
 Thank you, Universe for the eclipse, it was stunning!

So, we spent the day in BROOKLYN

imageAugust 3,  2016

Just didn’t know much about Brooklyn, so we thought on this trip, we’d learn a little more about it.  We actually started  in small coffee shop in Greenwich Village. It was just a few doors down from a place that Taylor Swift is renting for $40,000 a month. I guess she was in town but we did not see her.    It’s a beautiful area, but still hard to understand how these charming, but somewhat modest homes the cost millions and millions of dollars. Just the cost of living in the big city, I guess?  We learned that the area around Washington Square Park is quite ritzy, that on the Upper East Side Katz Deli’s sign says Katz Deli and That’s All because that’s how what the owner told the sign maker to put on his sign (get it?). The area in Williamsburg has a large Hasidic Jewish population. Our guide is Jewish and has relatives who have 10+ kids from arranged marriages.  Other parts of Williamsburg are becoming quite hipster. There is an area of NYC that I’d never heard of, DUMBO, that’s district under metro bridge overpass.  The  bridges in NYC are BMW:   Brooklyn, Metro,  Washinton.

Next time  I’m in NYC I want to see High Line Park and the Whitney museum


We drove toward Brooklyn with a small tour group and learned more about the movement of immigrants into New York, specifically into Brooklyn.  These immigrants changed the USA, each group brought their customs, religions,  their foods. They struggled with prejudices against them, tried to make a living in a new country. I have to admire them for the struggle that it had to have been.  I know that being of 100% European descent, DNA verified, all of my people came over the pond.

It makes me think of all the immigrants in the USA arriving during my lifetime, the frustration that I have had sometimes faced when trying to address immigrant children’s educational needs, or just becoming accustomed to the foreign languages in my own city. It is sometimes unsettling to deal with the changes immigrants are making today.  However, my “better self” feels that our county, which I do love so dearly, has always welcomed the world in and must continue to do so.

Sooo, we enjoyed the gifts they brought to our country’s potluck :  Cubano sandwiches, French chocolates, Polish pierogi, Jewish kinish, Italian cannoli- what a grand day! Thankfully lots of walking!

Lynchburg ‘un Other Southern Stuff

January 17-18, 2016

Lynchburg,Tennessee is even more rural than I’d thought it would be.  We drove down miles of residential country roads to arrive there.  With a population of 300 and something, it’s smaller than I thought too, even with the entire Jack Daniel’s Distillery as the major employer in the area.  We arrived for the last tour of the day and enjoyed hearing about the history of the company and the methodology of production.  There is a tasting tour, but as the tour guide said, they give you just enough to piss you off.  It’s not enough to enjoy it.  SOOO, we had to purchase a bottle.  Interestingly, Lynchburg is in a dry county, there is no alcohol for sale there in restaurants or stores.  HOWEVER, if you purchase a bottle (and this was on a Sunday too!) in the Jack Daniel’s gift shop, it is a commemorative bottle and exempt from the restriction.  Tricky, huh?  I wonder how much a politician was paid off for that little bit of extra consideration.

We rented a very cute guest house just down the street from the distillery and the town square.  As I mentioned, we arrived on a Sunday, took the tour and then went out looking for some dinner.  None of the little restaurants in town were opened, except for a Subway and a Chinese place and it was too cold to walk around anyway.  Using google maps, I found a place that had pretty good reviews, showed that it was opened and was only 22 minutes away.  Though it was ghastly dark and cold outside, we were adventurous (and hungry) enough to find this gem.  However, once we got onto the one lane road, winding around a small mountain, with a river below us and no place to turn around, I was losing enthusiasm.  I didn’t have time to get into full panic mode because we arrived at the place to find that it was closed for the season (thanks google maps).  We went back to our cottage to snack on crackers, fruit and nuts that we still had from Nashville.

We were able to try local cuisine the next day.  For breakfast we went to the Iron Skillet.  There were a table full of caricatures of “good ole boys” at one table.  They were friendly, but seemed to smirk at us walking in as much as we grinned at surprize at them.  The menu included biscuits, gravy, and country ham along with standard fare.  I just had some eggs, but Barry tried the salty county ham.  All in all,  It was cheap and tasty and entertaining.  IMG_3634


We shopped a little in the little, little town, then said adieu to our traveling partners, the Flemings.  Barry and I spent some kicking back and reading Gardens and Guns and Southern Living magazines in the cottage, then we walked down to Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House Restaurant.    





Miss Mary Bobo opened this historic home to guests, beginning in 1908.  It is known for its traditional Southern cuisine, hosted family style with a hostess at each table.  They only seat you if you’ve made reservations by phone and on a cold Monday afternoon, the place was filled!  I thought it was charming.  The food was all I had hoped.  Barry and I agreed to sample, not eat.  Still taking just taking small portions from the plates that were passed and then just nibbling at those, we were full by the end of the meal.  

Miss Mary Bobo's Guest House
Miss Mary Bobo’s Guest House

The menu of the day consisted of:  sweet tea, country fried chicken, meatloaf, mashed potatoes, hot stuff relish (peppers and tomatoes), spiked applesauce (with Jack Daniel’s),  fresh green beans with ham, macaroni and cheese (listed as a vegetable in a few other restaurants that went to in Tennessee, teehee!), yeast rolls, wonderful fried okra …. and for dessert….heavenly fudge pie, oh my!  Yikes, it was all delicious and served in such lovely surroundings, and a local lady told us the history of the house, the family, its lodgers and its connection to Jack Daniel. I didn’t want to, but I had to buy their cookbook!

 Part of the fun of this trip was the Southern food, so forboden to our usual mostly healthy diet, but you have to sin sometimes…fairly often, right?

Folk School, Home in my Heart

JCCFSJanuary 15, 16, 17, 2016

John C. Campbell Folk School has been on my bucket list for a few years. In the mystical mountains of North Carolina, it was established in 1925 to teach young adults the skills they needed to live well in Appalachia:  cooking, welding, basket making, soap making, quilting, music, etc.  The earliest founders stated that finding joy and harmony in community was part of their goal. Today it is a haven for grown ups who want to live in an artists’ commune, even if only for a few days.  It is home in my heart.  

We arrived late on Friday afternoon, got settled in or comfortable yet modest room, then got to work. Barry and our buddy Dan signed up for woodturning, friend Nancy for weaving and I took a jewelry class. That first class ran from after dinner to about 9pm. All of us got a good start on our respective projects.

John C Campbell Folk School
John C Campbell Folk School

The next day we got more of a feel of community vibe.  Yesterday, at check in we were told there are no room keys, though you can lock the door from the inside at night, “it’s all about community”. Saturday began with Morning Sing in the Community Room over a cup of hot coffee and the gradual peeling off of layers of down and fleece. We layered clothing for our frosty walk from our room in Davidson Hall to Keith Hall Community Room. Singing folk, and originally hymns, in the morning has always been the tradition here. They ring a dinner bell, and the hundred plus of we students and our instructors convene inthe dining hall to take our places behind large tables for the blessing.  

last breakfast together

A country breakfast of biscuits, gravy, sausage, eggs and more fueled us up for the morning’s classes. (We were some of the very few “yankees” and couldn’t help chucking about all the delicious, but pretty heavy meals.) The weekend classes are more intense than the weeklong classes, I am told. Therefore we missed the evening folk dance because three of our little party were still in their studios until around ten o’clock PM.

I took a class on clay silver jewelry, something that I knew NOTHING about. (This is how you keep the little grey cells healthy, n’est pas?) My excellent instructor, Pam East,

Denise Hogan and instructor, Pam East

managed our class of nine students. Every damned part of the process was a huge surprise to me. The silver clay IS silver with a bonding agent that looks and feels just like modeling clay, but much more expensive. But, I am getting ahead in the process. We beginners started with copyright free patterns and designs on transparencies to save the time of drawing our own. The more experienced artists had prepared some work of their own. These are transferred to photo polymer metal plates PPP, via a UV lamp. (No, don’t think the early Appalachian farmers did this particular craft.) These are then developed in a solution and cleaned to use as “stamps” for making designs on the silver clay.

silver clayI was able to make a pendant and three pairs of earrings with just some of the plates that I made. These clay “things” go into a dehydrator to dry. At this point they are very fragile and if dropped would shatter. Then they go into a kiln for only ten minutes. This is the magical part, they come out still white like clay, but if you bounce them on a countertop they ping like the silver they are. After a wire brushing and a ride in an electric tumbler with stainless steel buckshot, they are gloriously shiny. Oh my god, I made this??!

My silver jewerly!

The final step is apply patina, another processing and buffing and burnishing and we are done.

As I was working I got to chat to the folks with at my table: a practicing pediatrician, a retired orthodontist, a retired CPA who went back to school after retirement to become an RN and volunteers nearly full time to help the poor and her daughter, a chemical engineer. This wasn’t the group of people whom I originally expected to meet here, but I guess ….they really were!  Folks who live to learn and hunger for diverse life experiences.  All of this takes place on a 300 acre rural mountain farm. The rustic old buildings, meadows, rivers, hills and forests and quirky art installations just wrap around you like grandma’s quilt. So blessed to celebrate life in this joyful place.

The final morning we all had a “happy clappy”, as my new pediatrician friend calls it. Work displayed, dulcimer performances presented, certificates distributed, applauds and goodbyes delivered. I am planning our next trip back!

ER Not on Itinerary!

ER Nashville It was a pleasant day until we had to call 911. Well, except that Mr. Fleming’s battery died, perhaps that was a harbinger of what was to come.

We drove out to Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage. Learning more about our seventh president’s life and during his  prosperous 1,200 acre cotton plantation.  The Hermitage was built by Andrew Jackson and his family kept it until  1895 when a foundation bought it.  Thus, the current museum is full of original decor. It was interesting to see the chairs that he sat in, the bed that he died in, the lands that supported him, even many rooms of original wallpaper.

On the recommendation of some ladies we met at the concert the night before and good reviews on trip advisor, we visited Opryland Resort.  It is a behemoth of a complex with hotel facilities and conference Center, restaurants, a river cruise all contained under one roof. It was an impressive structure though other than hugeness, not especially  unique or interesting. Ya know if you’ve been to Disneyland, you’ve seen this stuff times 1,000 over. We decided not to take the little river cruise since we are all veterans of The  Jungle Cruise. Teehee

When we got back to our VRBO condo Nancy and I went for coffee, Dan left to have a new battery installed in his car, and Barry  (alone in the condo) had  what we were afraid was a heart attack. The poor guy had a intense pressure in his upper stomach and found it very hard to breathe.  He called me and I entered that totally suspended animation and sort of focused panic zone that I entered a few months ago when he had heart valve surgery.

I plunged toward the condo, calling 911, yelled to the concierge and handy man that my husband could be having a heart attack upstairs and we needed help. They could not have been more responsive, and kind in helping the rescuers get up to the 22nd floor! Giant paramedics took us to Centennial Hospital with EKG hooked up at all times. Quickly blood tests showed that his heart appeared to be in good shape, but they wanted to keep him for 24 observation. More blood tests, X-rays, heart monitoring ensued.

After a few hours we were moved into a temporary ward. The hospital was greatly impacted and shortly after our arrival emergency patients were diverted to other hospitals.   So there we stayed for a hell of a long night with only thin drapes between beds, we learned intimate details about the health of our neighbors.  (That’s a long story!) I got a straight backed chair for the night. The staff of nurses truly were angels of mercy though they drew blood and took blood pressure from Barry in what seemed to be every few minutes.

Thank Goddess, no evidence of any threat to his health, he was released.

imageMeanwhile the Fleming’s were able to take the Nash trash tour that we were SOOO  looking forward to. It is on our bucket list now to return just for this tour (look it up on YouTube!)  The Fleming’s said their sides hurt from laughing at the irreverent, filthy, joking on this tour. You know we must go!