Knock Knock…

During the ice age we experienced recently, there was a woodpecker that kept trying to peck through the exterior wall of my office.  I don’t really blame him except for the fact that he made it very hard for me and Gus and Scarlett to concentrate.  Me on my work and Gus and Scarlett on their naps.

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Barney Fife and Andy Griffith had narrowed in on this situation, springing into action from their deep slumber on the sofa in a matter of seconds.

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Scarlett tried to stare a hole through the wall.  Gus got distracted by a woman walking her dog.

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Scarlett assumed the position as the suspect’s knocking intensified.

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Scarlett decided she needed a better angle.

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Although this looks like a tender moment, Gus was not pleased that Scarlett infringed on his personal space.

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Gus shared his feelings and Scarlett quickly made him regret it.

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“Are you calling me fat???!!”

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Tensions subsided as the two were quickly reminded of the task at hand.  Mr. Pecker had resumed his knocking.

All in a day’s work.

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump

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Apocalypse Averted

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I went outside the other day.  It was terrible.  I don’t think I’ll do it again for a while.  Not that I’m having much better luck indoors.  A delightful side effect of these frigid temperatures: reduced amperage to my cable box.  Or something like that.  Translation: my connection freezes every 45 seconds, making it extremely irritating to try to watch TV as I only get about 1/17th of every story on the news.

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So I had nothing left to do except hunker down and make food like the end of the world was imminent.  I made LOTS of tomato soup, which Eugene and I feasted on for several meals, and homemade meat sauce.  I froze most of it so now I have a very full freezer and I’m tomatoed out.

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Tomato soup with grilled cheese…

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Tomato soup with garlic bread…

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Naturally, I also had to make something sweet. I decided to make those peanut butter chocolate kiss cookies.  My recipe made 20 cookies but I only had 17 kisses (don’t ask me how that happened) so I had to improvise a little.  I adorned the 3 kiss-less cookies with a row of chocolate chips.  Eugene said she actually preferred this set-up because the chocolate was more manageable and evenly distributed.  I can see her point, but the cookies are totally not as cute without the kisses.

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Scarlett thought these drastic times called for drastic measures and the relaxation of house rules like the one about her not being allowed on my coats or the table and especially not both at the same time.

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She was wrong.  Busted.

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Gus is having a hard time coping.

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Things were getting really rough.  It was so cold that the water draining from Eugene’s car was frozen mid-air.

In fact, conditions were so bad that Eugene casually mentioned something about how she thinks ironing is “kind of therapeutic.”  I think she kind of slipped on some ice and hit her head.

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Thankfully, when the sun comes up tomorrow it will be over 50 degrees.  Back to some sense of normalcy…or as close to normal as things get around here.

Y’all hurry back,

Sugarlump

A Tad Bit Chilly

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Oh hey….it’s like cold here.  Like, REALLY cold.  I thought I moved to the south for a more moderate climate? I think I accidentally brought the northeastern weather with me.  Actually, you know what? My sister just returned to Nashville from Boston on Friday by some sort of miracle considering every other flight on the planet was canceled.  I think I’ll blame her for bringing the snow and frigid temperatures.  I feel warmer already.

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It is so cold, in fact, that I had to use all of my Xena-warrior-princess strength to open Eugene’s car door last evening.

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This is my bedroom window.  Hooray for single pane glass! Not.

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The driveway is covered in ice, which makes for especially exciting picture-taking/ice-skating in flat boots.

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This almost looks fake to me, like when they frost the windows on movie sets in Hollywood.  I wish I were in southern California at the moment.

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Time to invest in some firewood.

Off to make gallons of hot chocolate,

Sugarlump

J’adore Holiday Decor

I was glad to have a house to decorate this year for Christmas.  The only thing is that I forgot how much work is involved.  Not that I’m complaining! There is nothing that warms my heart more than a house adorned with greenery, poinsettias, candles and shiny things.  Top it off with a Frasier Fir or Holiday Bayberry candle, and I might just explode with joy!

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I took advantage of having family in town the weekend after Thanksgiving to get the tree put up.  We selected a mighty fine-looking (and smelling) Frasier Fir.  Thank goodness my dear sister Eugene has herculean strength and could lift the tree to an upright position as my dad secured it in the stand.

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The tree had a beautiful shape with impressive uniformity…

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…except for this one little branch here in the back that stuck out like a tail.  It cracked me up so I left it there.  Who wants a tree without a little bit of character?  If I had it my way (and by my way, I mean if I won the lottery and could justify spending 4 figures on live greenery), I would have one of those miniature, spindly, misshapen Charlie Brown trees in every room because I think they are hysterical and precious. Fortunately for anyone who comes to my house, my holiday decor fund has a limit.

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AFTER my dad and I had strung the lights on the tree, I realized that my transition from the LED lights purchased last year for my tree that was half the size of this one to the new incandescent lights that I purchased this year to bridge the gap was not so smooth.

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See the annoying blur of the white LED lights against the soft, warm glow of the smaller incandescent lights? I could not stand the sight of it so yours truly went out the next day to get some more of the 200 light strands of acceptable Christmas tree lights.  When I got to Walgreens, where they were running a 2 for 1 special, I noticed that this location had 300 light strands for the same price as the 200 light strands.  So instead of buying 2 more 200 lights strands, I bought 2 300 light strands, thinking I could get away with adding just 1 300 light strand to my existing 200 and then keep the “free” 300 light strand for another purpose.  Perhaps for an unsuspecting shrub.

I got home and took the wretched LEDs off the top 2/3 of the tree and began stringing the regular, lovely, perfect, warm lights from the top.  All was going swimmingly until I reached the point where I needed to connect the 300 light strand to the 200 light strand.  I would like to tell you that these are the EXACT SAME LIGHTS FROM THE EXACT SAME MANUFACTURER.  I held up the 3 prong connector of the 300 light strand ready to plug it into the receptacle of the 200 light strand only to discover that the 200 light strand’s receptacle had only 2 holes.  JOY TO THE WORLD!

After contemplating poking my eyes out with the 3 prong connector so I couldn’t see the darn lights on the tree anyway, I collected myself and began taking the 200 light strand off the BOTTOM 1/3 of the tree so that I could make unexpected use of that additional “free” 300 light strand.  I was concerned that my math wouldn’t work out and the lights would be too dense at the bottom of the tree, but the result was passable for my OCD self.

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I was pleased with the end result, even though my camera doesn’t pick up the delicate glow of the lights very well in low-lighting.

As if that wasn’t enough light-enduced drama for one year, I decided to put electric candles in the windows.  All 44 of them.  I thought I might get crafty and use the battery operated LED lights (did I learn nothing from the tree episode?) to save (cause) myself some trouble.  I put one in the window and didn’t really like the looks of it.  It was too white and kind of dull.  To see if I was imagining this, I put a plug-in incandescent candle next to it in the window and went out in the yard to compare the two from a distance.  NO COMPARISON.  I really wanted to like the LEDs for their energy savings and convenience; however, there might as well have been no candle in the window if I had opted for this route.  It was pitiful, really, next to the arc of warm light radiating from the incandescent.  More work for me, but I knew it would be worth it.  4 hours, 2 trips to the hardware store, and 16 extension cords later, it was totally worth it.  I promise.  It’s really a crime that I couldn’t get a good picture of it for you.  I haven’t mastered night photography yet.  Or day photography.

After all of that electrical excitement, I moved on to a few more basic decorating assignments: the front hall, the front door, the porch, the mantle, and the kitchen island.

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The nice man at the farmers’ market gave us a good deal on this Frasier Fur wreath.  I found some of that wide, mesh-like ribbon at Hobby Lobby and finished it off with a big ol’ bow.

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I also stumbled upon some large faux wreaths at 50% off so I got 2 of those for the large windows on the porch.  They got bows, too.  Please disregard the expired mums that I had yet to remove as of the date this photo was taken.  Please do note the snow on the roof!  Too bad this wasn’t Christmas Day.

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My dad had to trim a low-hanging branch off the tree to fit it into the tree stand, so I used that to fill out the mantle.  My gold pears from Pier 1 a few years back gave the mantle a nice, rhythmic touch.  First, I prepped the mantle with some saran wrap to keep the sap from creating a hot mess on the woodwork.

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The final step was the stockings, which took a little bit of time and imagination.  You see, I had found the most perfect faux fur tree skirt and pair of stockings at Homegoods.  The only problem is that there are 4 people in my family, not 2.  I called all of the surrounding TJ Maxx/Homegoods locations and non of them had more of these treasures.  I had to get creative and settle on an eclectic look with the addition of another type of fur stocking and a fabulous sequined one, which I made my dad’s.  He was confused and probably a little disturbed by this.  It made me laugh.

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On the topic of confused and disturbed, for my holiday arrangements in the kitchen and foyer, I spray-painted some branches gold.  But not just any branches.  Branches that came from 12 foot tree limbs that fell during an intense wind storm we had here in Nashville on Halloween. I drug these branches out of the yard and into my garage.  I’m sure my neighbors thought I was crazy.  You’d be amazed by what a little metallic gold spray paint and a small hand saw can do.

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When it comes to holiday decorations, I think simple and natural is best…

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…until I have to take it all down.

Covered in pine needles,

Sugarlump

Southern Charm

Hey there darlin’,

I’ve been in the south long enough now that I’ve become accustomed to the hospitality and general kindness shown by strangers that drew me here in the first place.  Just the other day, I was at the deli counter at Kroger ordering honey maple turkey and Swiss cheese and the lovely elderly worker behind the counter engaged me in conversation the entire time she sliced my deli items with motherly care.  We talked about the weather because that’s what you do in the south.  She asked me what was going on out there because we were due for some inclement weather.  I told her it was cold and raw and rainy and she informed me that we were to get snow later in the evening and maybe some ice. This was just one day after it was a lovely 70 degrees and sunny.  We chatted about how we’d like to be somewhere tropical when the weather turns sour.  As she handed me my food, she looked me in the eye with genuine concern and said, “Now, you be real careful out there.  Alright, honey?”  I replied, “Yes, ma’am.  You do the same.”  It’s nice when strangers care about your well-being.

This is just one of many instances of southern civility that occur on a daily basis in my life.  I was talking to one of my clients a little while back as we were completing an install at her condo here in Nashville.   She is from the Northeast and lives in New Jersey so we have a lot in common and often talk about the differences between the North and South.  She said although she loves the variety and all the Northeast has to offer, she is always struck by the warmth of southern people.  We were talking about going to the drugstore or grocery and how people hold doors, smile and actually talk to you, not at you.  I mentioned how I had been at T.J. Maxx the other day and instead of a surly “Here’s your receipt,” as I checked out, I got a cheerful, “Thank you. Come back and see us!” My client smiled and said she hears that a lot here, too.  We both paused for a moment, looked back at each other, and at the same time said, “And they actually mean it!”

I think non-southerners are catching on to this and flocking to the south.  The secret is out!  I stumbled upon this article one of my friends shared on facebook.  I’m glad to know that other people appreciate the ways of the south like I do!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/suzy-strutner/tk-things-i-learned-in-th_b_4394289.html

Y’all come back! (I mean it!)

Sugarlump

North comes South: Part II

Day 2 of my friend Blair’s visit was quite busy.  We started off the day with a plan to hike part of the Natchez trace and suited up in several layers of athletic apparel to face the nippy wilderness.  But first, we made a stop in downtown Franklin for a little retail therapy and sustenance.   I took Blair to several of my favorite spots: Iron Gate, Gino, Philanthropy and Anthropology.  Blair found a couple of cute pieces for Easter at Gino and then we decided a sweet treat was in order as delicious smells wafted over from the adjacent Meridee’s.  I had a strawberry pastry that I intended to eat just half of, but before I knew it, it had disappeared on me.  Blair got a cookie that I made a note to try sometime.  And by sometime, I meant later that afternoon.

As we walked to the car to head on to the Natchez trace, I lost Blair.  She was behind me one minute and as I went to unlock my Jeep and hop in, she was nowhere to be found.  I circled the car only to find Blair trying to get into another car two spaces ahead of mine.  We had a good laugh over that.

Our drive to the Natchez trace took us through the beautiful farms in Leiper’s Fork. I had never been over that way so it was an uncharted adventure for both me and Blair.  We saw lots of different animals. Blair was particularly taken by the horses wearing “sweaters.”  They were pretty darn cute.

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Don’t let this clear, sunny sky fool you; it was about 45/50 degrees.

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We arrived at the trail entrance and embarked on our hiking adventure a little leery of the heavily wooded/potentially creature filled path.  Thankfully, we didn’t encounter anything questionable except a swampy patch and a little horse poo.

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Not too far into our journey, we stumbled upon this beautiful view.

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Selfie alert!  Here we are at a large bluff along the trace.  You can’t judge us because there was not a soul within miles who could have possibly taken our picture.

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Limbo anyone?

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I was very interested in the neat shadow patterns of the trees.

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About 2 miles in, the trail opened up into this lovely lawn.

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Lots of pretty wildflowers.  Seeing this reminds me that I once suggested to my Dad that we turn part of my parents’ lawn into a meadow.  It was a no-go.

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We came across this memorial honoring the soldiers who traveled along the Natchez Trace during the war of 1812.

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We hiked the trail for roughly 4-5 miles.  Our pedometer seemed to be confused by our frequent elevation changes through the hills so our mileage was a little ambiguous.   We weren’t terribly concerned about it.  It was a nice hike and a nice chat and we were happy to have made it out of the wilderness alive.

It was 2:00PM by the time we wrapped up our hike and we were kind of hungry.  Just a little ways down the road, we stopped in “downtown” Leiper’s Fork for some lunch.  We first ventured into Puckett’s, which looked delicious, but neither of us was really in the mood for a rib-stickin’ meal of BBQ or meatloaf.  I was craving a salad (a very rare occurrence for me) and Blair thought something a little bit lighter sounded good, too.  We were about to head back to downtown Franklin when we spotted a little café.  Perfect! We walked in the door and started reading what looked to be a lovely selection of salads, soups and sandwiches.  The “host” greeted us with a very confused look on his face as he speculated, “Lunch?”  Not knowing any other commonly accepted term for a mid-day meal, Blair and I responded, “Yes?” (duh?).  He then informed us that the grills had been turned off.  We said no worries; we were hoping for salads anyway.   His frown deepened as he informed us that he wouldn’t be able to serve us salads either because apparently when the grill is shut down, this establishment that serves many things not prepared on a grill is paralyzed, and it is impossible to prepare anything edible for two hungry young ladies even though there were pre-packaged items staring at us in the refrigerated case in between us and Mr. No.  We left a little miffed and happily noshed on salads and fried pickles at 55 South back in downtown Franklin.

We arrived back at my place mid-afternoon and inadvertently took a power nap while catching up on some March Madness.  Then it was time to get ready for dinner.  On to the next meal!

Blair loves sushi so I knew I had to take her to Virago at some point during her visit.  Not only does it have great sushi, but it’s also one of my favorite restaurant designs in Nashville.  Good lighting, not too loud, different dining formats, great use of texture, interesting crowd, prime location in the Gulch.  It’s a pretty swanky spot.

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We sat at the bar so we could watch basketball.   After thoroughly reviewing the menu, we ordered sushi and drinks and settled in.  I can’t explain it, but something possessed me to order a cocktail spiked with jalapeno.  It was very interesting and mostly enjoyable until my sushi that contained sriracha entered the mix.  It probably didn’t help matters that I also dunked each bite into soy sauce mixed with a sinus-clearing portion of wasabi.   Towards the end of the meal I ordered a bowl of plain rice to counteract the inferno building in my mouth.

It was still a reasonable hour when we wrapped up dinner so we headed down the road to Patterson House, a throw-back speak-easy in Midtown.  We ordered fancy, chemically-engineered, hand-crafted drinks.  And doughnuts.

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We got to talking to the bartender (as this is the south after all) about the concept of this establishment and how it reminded us of a “mixology”-type bar in Boston, called Drink.  Much to our surprise, this bartender knew Drink because Patterson House had hosted several guest-bartenders from Drink recently.  This world is impossibly small at times.   We chatted with the bartended some more about her favorite places to eat in Nashville.   She recommended City House and Rolf and Daughters, two places high on my list to try in Germantown.  She also mentioned the Catbird seat, which is located directly above Patterson House.  I made a note to check it out.  Sadly, our new friend was moving to San Francisco in the near future, but it was nice to meet her.

And on that note, we concluded day 2 of our adventures.

Y’all hurry back,

Sugarlump

Here to Stay

Somehow, I have lived in Tennessee for a year.  How did that happen?

This past Saturday marked the anniversary of completely uncharacteristic move 1100 miles south.  In a way, it seems this year flew by, and yet living in Boston seems a long way back.  I didn’t know a soul when I moved here, but of course I received a warm welcome.  It is the south after all.

I’ve made many wonderful friends in the last 12 months.  I’ve gotten to see my grandparents and extended family more than ever.  I’ve discovered I like bluegrass.  I’ve put 17,000 miles on my car. I’ve experienced a tornado warning.  I’ve taken thousands of pictures of the sky.  I haven’t done yoga once.

Words like “you’re fine” and “y’all” have become fixtures in my vocabulary.  My style has become more eclectic and less preppy.   Though it would be a serious stretch to call me an extrovert, I’m more outgoing and chatty than I used to be.  I like to get out more.

I don’t have a TV in my room and I don’t miss it. I still haven’t bought bar stools so I don’t have a proper place to eat a meal.  I cook maybe once or twice a week.

I’ve decided I’m not over the city living as much as I thought. I’ve stopped drinking soda. I like dogs more than I used to.  I’ve been to the movie theater 3 times.  I’ve canned jam.

I’ve learned more about what’s important to me and what’s not.

It feels like home here.

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I think it’s time to take down this wreath.

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump

Easter Eatin’

Happy Easter, y’all!

I’ve been up to a lot lately that I will post about when I have some free time, which will be on the fifth of never.  Just kidding.  Kinda.

Even though these posts won’t be in chronological order, I thought I’d share my Easter while it’s fresh in my noggin.  My dear little sister, Eugene drove down from Lexington, Kentucky to join me for the holiday.  I hadn’t seen her since Christmas, which seems ridiculous since she lives only three and a half hours away.  She arrived last evening and we went out to dinner at Germantown Café, which we had been to last summer for brunch.  The brunch last year was fabulous and dinner certainly didn’t disappoint.

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My friend and her sister joined us and we ordered two appetizers to share: pork belly tater tots and fried green tomatoes.  I normally don’t like tomatoes but I didn’t mind choking these down one bit.  They weren’t half-bad; in fact, they were more than half-good. The pork belly tater tots were slightly smoky, but not overwhelmingly so, which was good.  I’m not a huge fan of smoky things, including cigarettes.  They were very rich but quite tasty.

For my entrée, I had the fish special, which was a panko-crusted tilapia with a Puttanesca –like medley over parmesan polenta and asparagus.  If there is ever a fish and grits/polenta dish offered at a restaurant, I will most likely order it.  It’s one of my favorite combinations ever.   This wasn’t the best I ever had, but it certainly hit the spot.

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We moved on to Holland House for drinks/dessert.  I ordered a drink on our waiter’s recommendation that wasn’t on the menu.  I don’t recall the name, but it was a bourbon-based concoction that tasted like fall in a tumbler.  Fall is my favorite season and bourbon is my poison, so I definitely enjoyed it.  It didn’t hurt that Holland House is such a neat scene with its dim-lighting and parlor-like feel with just the right balance of rustic and refined décor.  Initially I had wanted to sit at the bar to people watch and observe the theatrics of the bartenders making their artisan cocktails, but it worked out that we were seated by the fireplace since it was a cold, rainy night.  We ordered dessert to finish off the evening.  My sister and I split a flourless chocolate cake with a scoop of homemade carrot cake ice cream.  The dessert wasn’t as spectacular as the drinks, but all in all, it was a fun evening.

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After church this morning, my sister and I headed over to Pancake Pantry, which I have been wanting to try since I moved here.  I was forewarned that there would be a line down the sidewalk and today was no exception.  Poor Eugene toughed it out in the rain with me, each of us with a malfunctioning umbrella and no outerwear, for about 45 minutes.  Thankfully, the food was worth the wait otherwise I think she would have killed me.  She ordered pecan pancakes and I ordered chocolate chip.  We also rounded out the meal with an order of sausage patties and hash browns.   The pancakes were superb and the sausage was the good stuff.  The hash browns, while good, were clearly crisped up on the griddle with Parkay margarine.  I know this because Parkay has a very distinct flavor which I first experienced as a child when I insisted we purchase the Parkay spray margarine I had seen on TV because it looked like fun to use.  It is not tasty and I’m going to have to dock Pancake Pantry a few points for this faux pas.  They have a good thing going with their pancakes with whipped butter, though.

In my typical fashion, the visit was centered around food.   Eugene didn’t seem to mind and I didn’t have to cook.  Not that I mind cooking, but I still don’t have barstools so there isn’t a proper place to sit and eat a meal in my apartment.   I’m working on it though.  Thank goodness Nashville has a lot of great restaurants.

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump

No Mo’ Nemo

Cabin fever has set in.  We have watched far more of the weather news that I would recommend, cooked and baked (and consequently overindulged), played multiple games of scrabble, blogged, edited pictures, watched several basketball games and a movie in the past 24 hours. The travel ban is lifting in 4 minutes as I write this and I couldn’t be more excited about dining out this evening.

Since I was confined to the house, I thought I might as well track the progress of the storm.  Here is my coverage of the storm (on a 24-48 hour delay):

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Backyard around noon Friday.

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Front yard around noon Friday.

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Backyard about 2 hours later.

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Front yard about 2 hours later.

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The deck around 2PM Friday.  Keep this image of the overturned table handy.

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A backyard-deck combo around 2PM Friday.  I was getting a little carried away.  There was nothing else to do.

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Front yard around 4PM Friday, just as the travel ban took effect.  I don’t remember ever being under a travel ban before.  It makes you really want to travel.

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Backyard around 4PM Friday.  The snow was beginning to bury things.

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The kitchen island around 4PM Friday. Time for some wine and cheese.

I also made some German chocolate bourbon pecan pie bars.  I’ll post about those later.

Back to the snow coverage (day 2):

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Approximately 9AM Saturday morning.  We had officially been snowed in.  Travel ban still in effect as snow removal teams tried to clear roadways.

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Front yard Saturday morning.  There is an Adirondack chair under all of that snow somewhere.  Anyone feel like a cup of coffee on the front patio?

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Winter wonderland.

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The deck was almost completely filled in.

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The front walk/tunnel midday on Saturday as the snow tapered off.

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No amount of snow will keep my family from grilling.  The first thing my dad did outside was shovel a path on the deck in case we needed some steaks for dinner.  Those are the table legs sticking out of the snow.

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As I mentioned, the travel ban was lifted at 4PM on Saturday, so we ended up going out to dinner. The highways had been salted and were almost completely clear of snow.  Some of the back roads and smaller roads in the city were still quite snowy, but that didn’t stop us.  Here we are exiting the restaurant.  The snow was up to the top of the parking meters.  Karma for the cranky meter maids if you ask me.

Y’all be careful,

Sugarlump

I found Nemo

I made a somewhat last-minute decision to fly back to Boston for a long weekend.  It figures that I picked the weekend an “epic” blizzard is due to hit New England.  I think it’s karma for me calling Nashville silly for canceling school due to the threat of 3 snowflakes.

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I’ll have you know that I left unseasonably nice weather in Nashville.  I felt kind of ridiculous heading to the airport yesterday in my fur vest given that it was about 65 degrees.

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I was supposed to fly out from Nashville this morning, but, given the rumblings of the impending storm, on Wednesday we scrambled to change my flight and I ended up flying into Providence last evening.  Good thing, considering almost 4000 flights have been canceled because of this storm, including the one I was originally booked on, which would have been arriving about now in Boston.  That would have been a dicey landing.

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Thankfully, I was able to reschedule my plans for tomorrow to this morning.  I headed out at 8:45 before the snow began and found it very challenging to obey the 55 mph speed limit coming from 70 mph speed limits in Nashville.  All I’m going to say is that I kept it under 75 and I made it back in one piece.

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Now I can enjoy a lazy couple of days by the fire. I don’t have a fireplace at my place in Nashville so I feel like I’m at a ski resort at the moment.  Maybe I can talk my mom into making me some hot chocolate…this will be a good test of how diligent she is about reading my blog…

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Although I love the weather in Nashville (minus the tornadoes at night), I hadn’t realized how much I missed a good snow.  It’s really beautiful.

Hopefully there won’t be any major issues with this storm.  Not only was school canceled, but many offices and businesses as well.  Travel ban in effect as of 4PM.  This is serious.  Think positive thoughts.

Y’all be careful,

Sugarlump