My town has no shortage of festivals this time of year. The Arts Festival was this past weekend, so we headed downtown again. As usual, lots of food vendors and booths with paintings, pottery and so on. We spent a fair amount of time in the kid's section where there were activities set up. Shaving cream swirl paintings, a spirograph-like thing, building a wooden bug-catcher, and this yarn web. It was a beautiful day and pleasant just being outside. We arrived with the younger daughter and left with the older.
Because we had three tickets that night at the Barter Theater. After a stop to change into dressier clothes, we drove up to Virginia and walked first to a cool little bistro for dinner. I had the special that night which had shrimp, asparagus, quinoa, olives and a pesto-based sauce that was absolutely delicious. Abingdon has a nice little main street and we walked around for a while before the show. I may or may not have chased a mallard duck while I was wearing a shortish dress and boots with heels. Then it was "Anything Goes," a 1930's musical with tons of costume changes, singing, and some slapstick comedy that I could have done without. And sailors dancing with mops. Because that's what sailors do, apparently. The best part was watching a 14-year-old girl let down her guard and become fully engaged over dinner and at the theater. I even enjoyed sitting with her the next morning in our pajamas watching an episode of "Parks and Rec."
And we have to have kidless outings once in a while. When the weather is nice, we love to have dinner out on the Square and then head over to the little speakeasy bar. The best part is that we can now walk in and ask the bartender for "the usual" and he says, "A Darcy and a Blantons?" Incidentally, I checked the menu for the ingredients of a Mr. Darcy - it's sparkling shiraz and limoncello.
I make it sound like we go out all the time, but we don't. Most nights is dinner at one house or the other. This night it was seared tuna.
But as often as possible these days, we eat outside on the deck. Yesterday I broke out the grill and made swordfish with tarragon butter (from last year's garden), grilled potatoes, greens, peppers and onions with lemon-chive butter, rosemary salt, and balsamic vinegar. If it's nice, we sit outside after dinner watching the bats emerge in the darkening skies. Have I mentioned how very easy it all is?
Oh. Well ours does. It's one of those fund raiser events, to get money for area schools.
Turns out that although the grounds opened at 11:00, they didn't actually start the races for a few hours. That meant time to kill. Some of the entertainment was fun - I liked these little girls dancing. I was less keen on the dance team of similarly aged girls in heavy make-up dressed in little more than bathing suit-like outfits with feathers. I don't think sexualizing young girls is a good idea. Why make them pedophile bait?
I was there with my boyfriend and his 8-year-old, so we spent some time walking around eating cotton candy and petting all the llamas.
Each participating school had a team in costume. There were Ninja Turtles and the characters from the Wizard of Oz and fairies. But the Napoleon Dynamite team was far and away the best. They nailed the characters, right down to the dance moves.
Their llama was of course, dressed as a Liger (Bred for its skills in magic!)
And then there was the llama parade. Mostly real llamas, but also these two kids in tall llama costumes.
Finally, it was time for the actual races. We stood at the starting line, where llamas and their local celebrity handlers. From our vantage point, I watched as one llama spit in the face of another handler's llama. Okay, so that's dubious entertainment. But I did enjoy it when one llama broke free and crossed the finish line well ahead of its handler. A silly event all the way around, but that was part of the fun.
I'm insanely busy and far behind on blogging. So I'll catch up a little with Easter Sunday afternoon, when my boyfriend and I headed down to the Smoky Mountains for a hike. Picnic first by the Little Pigeon River.
It was about 70 degrees at home that day and sunny, maybe just a bit cooler in the Smokies and perfect weather for a hike.
The trail started crossing Rhododendron Creek. Repeatedly. One of us had on a pair of sandals while the other had to stop and take her hiking boots off, wade across the creek and put them back on over and over. Yeah, that one was me.
I eventually decided to hike barefooted for a while until we'd left that creek behind and again on the way back. Fortunately much of the trail was carpeted in leaves and moss.
There were some early wildflowers in bloom. Trillium, one of my favorites.
And Turk's Cap Lily.
A few of the creek crossings had either stones that could be stepped on or convenient tree trunks to walk across. But mostly it was straight through the icy water.
This area was occupied by European settlers in 1800, but little remains of the homesites except for stone walls and piles of rock that once made chimneys.
On one former chimney there was a shard of old pottery resting on top of the rocks.
Over the gap and down to Injun Creek, a cartographer goof. It was actually named for the engine that toppled into the creek rather than the Native American/Indians in the area.
Apparently this self-propelled steam engine was use to go up the mountain to bring back wood for the school house in the 1920's.
The driver missed the switchback and the engine landed upside down in the creek and the wheels came off. Oops.
About 6 miles round trip. Every time I go for a hike, I wonder why I don't go more often.
When I bought this house last summer, the yard was just that - grass and not much else. Google maps is keeping the old vision of the house alive for me.
But what I see now is the beginning of a new look for it. Oh sure, the plantings are sparse. They'll fill in, though.
I'd decided not to do much in the way of planting this summer, but a couple of things I'd ordered last fall arrived and needed to go in the ground. The instructions on these flowering fern tubers was to soak them for half an hour before planting them. I'm not convinced they aren't pale carrots. Or weirdly elongated turnips. Or thin potatoes. But in they went.
Other than planting those and the toad lilies, cutting back the lirope and mowing once, I've not done anything in the way of gardening. Because I stay busy. I did harvest some daffodils for the table when I made this dinner (salmon with a ginger marmalade topping, zucchini and yellow squash with feta and balsamic vinegar glaze, roasted sweet potato slices and bread with garlic cheese). I think it's about time to fire up the grill and cook some meals outside.
And on some nice days we head downtown to eat at one of the restaurants with outdoor seating. Wednesday we had martinis and then dinner, with this friendly pup watching and hoping for more head scratches and possibly a treat.
I may be too busy to work much in the yard right now but I still enjoy watching last summer and fall's hard work pay off. Every day something new is in bloom and since I've forgotten exactly what I planted, much of it is just a wonderful surprise to me.
We stayed at a different sort of place Saturday night, a hotel in Nashville. One odd thing about the hotel was that the toilet was noticeably hot, especially the tank. I popped off the lid to check and found very hot water in it. I couldn't resist asking about it at the front desk and was told that during construction, they'd accidentally hooked all the toilets in the building to the hot water pipes instead of the cold and can't fix it without tearing out all the pluming. Seems like a mistake that would be ridiculously expensive in an ongoing way. Not to mention being environmentally unsound.
After we checked in, the first order of business was dinner. I'd been to Fido once before when I visited my son, so we went there. It's located near the Vanderbilt University campus, in a former pet shop.
The restroom is marked only by this sign.
They've also enclosed what must have been the alley next it, with the painted exterior wall now inside. We spent some time doing our usual thing of making up stories about the people around us. Particularly entertaining was the young guy who casually leaned against a chair to chat up a young woman working on a laptop. He made the tactical error of introducing his buddy to her. The second guy promptly moved into the girl's personal space and leaned over her shoulder to look at what she was working on, clearly outmaneuvering the first guy. I think this is a friendship code violation, but maybe he operates on the "all's fair in love and war" principle.
In spite of the coffee house feel of Fido, it has delicious food. Cornmeal crusted catfish tacos for him, salmon with spicy kale, crispy onions and baked cheese grits for me.
And then we headed over to downtown Nashville to walk around.
Things were hopping outside on that Saturday night. Groups of costumed Elvises (Elvii?), for instance. Have you ever noticed that Elvis impersonators always take on the role of the older, fat, drug-addled Elvis? I guess it's a lot easier to copy a flamboyant caricature. We also saw lots of young women in bachelorette parties. They were easy to spot - one in each set wearing a short white veil and many of the women carrying plastic penises on sticks. And no, I can't explain why anyone would want to do that.
Not sure this blond-wigged Jesus approved. Judging from his slumped posture, he's probably the discouraged Jesus mentioned on the roadside sign in Kentucky. At one point, we heard some women yelling, "Ooooh!" and became aware that another young woman was using our kiss as a backdrop to her selfie. As we ducked away and laughed, she yelled, "I love y'all!" I just know that somewhere on facebook or instagram, there's a post of her selfie with the caption "Old white folks making out on Music Row."
In one store there was a fortune-telling machine. We plugged in our dollars to have Zoltar talk to us in a ridiculous accent, saying vague things like, "If you think you can or you think you can't, you're right!" Thanks, Zoltar.
And then he spit out his predictions. General and convoluted, I've yet to figure out what they actually predict. I think they are less fortunes than general life advice. But who cares? It was Zoltar!
We were tempted to hop on board one of these mobile taverns, which appeared to be powered by the customers pedaling. From the sounds of it, however, the only drink options were beer and shots. We opted instead for a glass of wine at an restaurant with outdoor seating.
The streets were chaotic. Lots of drunks, some aggression. At one point, two men began squaring off, with the posturing and threats that precede a physical fight. A bored looking cop watched from his car for a bit before using the loudspeaker to say, "Either go ahead and fight or move along." It was a little unnerving to see that he had no intention of intervening. But there was mostly a celebratory atmosphere. It was a beautiful night and it felt good to be out amidst all that life.
The next morning, we checked out to head to my older son's university so my boyfriend could meet my son and his girlfriend. I noticed the manufacturer's sign in the elevator. We were on Schindler's lift! I mentioned that to my son and he said, "Stop it." We met for brunch (and it reminded me how much I like eggs benedict) and had a little time to talk. I love both my son and my future daughter-in-law and don't get to see the two of them nearly enough. Later, I texted my son to relay the message from my boyfriend that he'd enjoyed meeting them and received this in response: