Saturday, January 31, 2009


While the seed catalogs pile up at the Post Office, I am on travel for February. I will be in Colorado skiing for a month. It is a lifelong dream ... easier imagined in my 30's ... but still worth giving a go. Back in March.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Free at Last

Yesterday was Inauguration Day. I was there in front of a jumbotron on the Mall wrapped in the magic of the moment. It was a cold day.We took the Metro to Arlington Cemetery and walked one of the most majestic stretches of road in America. With Lee's home behind us and Kennedy's eternal flame at our back we joined the stream of humanity that was pulsing into the city. We took our place in front of a jumbotron around 11. As the stream of dignitaries made their way onto the viewing stand my mind drifted to memories I have of my city. Some very personal memories ... like the time in my 20' s when I decided to take up jogging for the first time and decided that the best place to run would be around the reflecting pool ... it doesn't get more inspiring than that ... or the summer of 1976 when the American Folk Life Festival on the Mall introduced me to music and musicians as well as dear friends, that I have carried with me for a lifetime. Of the carousel in front of the Arts and Industries Building whose music ALWAYS made me smile .... of the summers I worked as a Tourmobile guide on the National Mall and developed a healthy respect for the heat and humidity of a Washington summer.As a tour guide I came to know these monuments and their stories. The Capitol and the Jefferson Memorial echoing the Roman dome ... how despite the darkness of the Civil War, the work went on in building the Capitol dome ... a true act of hope. The Egyptian obelisk tribute to Washington the 897 steps of which I have climbed more than once. The new WW II Memorial taking its rightful place along this sacred axis ... and finally the simple Greek beauty of the Lincoln Memorial.The Lincoln is where we come when we are petitioning. It was from these steps that Marion Anderson was given a much more fitting venue than Constitution Hall ... where Doctor King told us about freedom ringing "from the prodigous hilltops of New Hampshire" AND "Stone Mountain of Georga" ... and where 20 years later Jesse Jackson, using the story of David and Goliath, reminded the crowd that when they did not VOTE, they were "rocks just lying around."

So I thought it was fitting on Sunday night that we faced the Lincoln one last time. We were reminded of Marion Anderson's moment once again, we sang along with Pete once again (did you see him run off that stage ... made me feel young once again) And then I was awakened from my reminiscences by Aretha Franklin on the jumbotron ... and that was when I started to cry. No longer were we facing the Lincoln ... no longer were we the petitioners ... The axis had shifted. Now instead of having our petitions echo to the east toward the seats of power, we WERE the seat of power and Aretha echoed back over a sea of waving American flags the glorious sounds of freedom's ring.I reached out to put my arm around Hunter, but did not want to block the view of the woman behind us ... she said "You're not blockin' my view honey ... you two go ahead and hug .. that's how it should be."

Aretha Franklin - Sings My Country Tis Of Thee

Our Final Stop

We rounded out our Southern Sleigh Ride, with a stop to visit my in-laws, who celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary last August, in Signal Mountain, TN. Should you ever find yourself in the Chattanooga area, I can highly recommend the Old Towne Bed and Breakfast. I have spent a good part of this journey waxing poetic about things southern ... just let me say, this B&B hits all the high notes of hospitality, comfort and flavor. Earl's breakfasts are WONDERFUL, and we had our breakfast served just outside our room on at a table for two.From there we were off to Bath County, VA to enjoy the riches of the Virginia countryside along the banks of the Cowpasture River. I t has become something of a winter tradition to bring out the Highland County leg of lamb for the event. It was as local a meal as you could imagine in the dead of winter that included some parsnips from the Walatoola garden.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

Yesterday we had lunch with Ed and Wynell at the Irondale Cafe. It is this cafe that was the inspiration for Fannie Flagg in her lovable novel and equally lovable movie, Fried Green Tomatoes. The place was humming around 12:30 yesterday afternoon. Folks coming from Church, coming by twos coming by tens ... some in overalls, one lady in a fur coat ... all were lined up cafeteria style to pick their "Meat and 3 sides." I chose fried chicken (dark), collard greens, fried okra, and, of course, fried green tomatoes.

Look at this feast for under $40.
There was also peanut butter pie (a bit like eating whipped Reese's Peanut butter cups) ... fried chicken livers, creamed corn and meatloaf, and don't forget the Colbert County sweet potato pie.
The trick to making collard greens taste divine is this little condiment I had never seen before ... tabasco pepper vinegar. This jar of Bruce's is packed with white tabasco peppers. The effect is stunning.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Life Lists

My last morning in Daytona I went for a morning walk on the beach with Anne. As we arrived, a man approached us and pointed to a large bird standing at the water's edge and said it was a bald eagle. I have never seen an American bald eagle in the wild. I looked carefully and sure enough it was. I am not sure WHY he was chillin' in Daytona at the water's edge. I don't think of them as salt water fishers. But I was not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. Any day when you can add a new bird to your life list, is a good day. Since then I have been able to add roseate spoon bill from my perch on Chris and Gordon's porch.

While I did not capture any pictures of these two I DID get some nice shots of osprey, great blue herrons and pelicans when we were in the boat.

Friday, January 09, 2009

MORE things Southern

A continutation of the theme ...



Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Things Southern

We are on a road trip visiting friends in the South.

We are enjoying all things Southern. For example, at this roadside restaurant in North Carolina, we found the lunch special of Hamburger Steak with Onion Gravy. Instead of bread, we had a plate of warm hush puppies brought to our table. And the side we had to choose from were black eyed peas, collards, fried okra and turnip greens to mention a few.

Black Eyes peas are particularly important this time of year. On New Year's Day in the South one must eat their black eyed peas for good luck. I spent New Year's Day on the Outer Banks of NC and was already having good luck as I was spending the day with good friends, but I was sure to put a helping of black-eyed peas on my plate.

One of the more unusual establishments on the Outer Banks is the BREW THRU
You just drive in, load up with beer in your trunk and drive out the back.On the drive along route 17 south toward Savannah, I saw a sweet grass basket stand. I have always wanted a sweetgrass basket. They are woven of sweet grass, bull rush and pine needles. The woman who was selling these baskets was Ida Bennett. She had learned the craft from her grandmother and was teaching it to her own daughters and daughters in law.

I was very pleased with my purchase.And it wouldn't be Florida without citrus. We visited Davidson Brothers in Daytona Beach and loaded up on Honeybells and grapefruit. We will be tossing them out of the sleigh as we work our way back north.

Monday, January 05, 2009

At the Nursery

One of the stops on our Southern Sleigh Ride is at my sister and brother in laws' nursery west of Daytona. I took to weeding some 1 gallon pots while Hunter added soil and fertilizer. Then Anne and I took on the task of trimming the dead leaves off of the Washingtonia palms. They are lined with spines ... ouch !!