Crafty Cousins

Christmas Eve night, the Dyer girls got crafty.  My cousin Kristen had bought a gingerbread house kit at Sam’s club for $5 on a whim and asked us if we’d like to entertain ourselves by putting it together.  Of course we did!

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We sat around Granny and Papa’s table and giggled and cut up like old times as we took a stab at confectionery construction.  We’ve had some good times and crazy conversations at that table.  One thing is for sure: what happens at Granny and Papa’s table stays at Granny and Papa’s table.

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Though we were certainly enjoying ourselves, we took our craft very seriously, too.  We worked hard to get the walls and roof pieces to stick together.  We even enlisted the pepper and jam containers sitting on the table to hold the pieces in place as they set.  We soon discovered that our “mortar” (icing) wasn’t exactly of the highest quality.  I had the bright idea to use marshmallow creme as a binding agent because, as I recalled, it sticks to EVERYTHING.  It wasn’t exactly easy to control, unfortunately, so one side of the house looked like it had insulation bursting out between the roof and the walls.  Rookie mistake.  We kept that side concealed from our photographer.

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The kit also came with fondant (or fon-DANT! if you’re my enthusiastic cousin Kristen) to make the doors and windows.

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It was looking a little rough there for a while, but with the addition of the windows, bushes, random peppermints adornments, layer upon layer of frosting that tasted like joint compound but didn’t act like it, and dusted flour (an improvised touch) it really came together.  You could barely tell it was homemade.  Ha.

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Papa did say it was the prettiest house he’d ever seen.   It was charming in a very haphazard, out of plumb kind of way.

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This is where the $5 cost came into play.

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Not 5 minutes after we completed the house, disaster struck and it toppled to its death on the way to the dining room table from the kitchen table.  No one was sadder than Granny.  She almost cried for us.  We took it pretty well.

For next year, we’ve vowed to make our own superglue-infused icing and construct the house out of graham crackers instead of gingerbread so the walls and roof aren’t so heavy.  Just wait for it.  It will be epic.  And we’ll have Papa write us a State Farm homeowners’ policy just in case.

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump

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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

Shooting Range

I’m really getting into this recreational shooting thing.  The other day, I went to an indoor shooting range where we shot 9mm handguns.  The guy told me which particular type of gun I was shooting, but I promptly forgot because I don’t know anything about guns except that they are fun to shoot (safely).

I did, however, remember what I learned in class before we went out to the range:

1) Always keep the gun pointed towards the target in the range (and away from living beings).

2) Don’t load the gun until you’re ready to shoot.

3) Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.

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Once we got out into the range, we had to select a target.  We had our choice of pink or blue.  Naturally, I chose hot pink to make up for my tomboy years in middle school when I shopped exclusively in the boys’ department at the GAP and refused to acknowledge that pink existed.  The man running the place said the pink was actually easier to see.  I think he just wanted to see a bunch of guys shooting at hot pink targets.

I had never shot a handgun before so I needed a lot of prep on what the heck I was doing.  I finally got the gist of it but the gun kept jamming because I didn’t keep a firm enough grip on it after I pulled the trigger.  Towards the end, I had a death grip on that gun.  I was holding it so tight that my ring made a serious impression in my finger.

The hardest part was not wobbling with my breath.  Thank goodness I wasn’t hopped up on caffeine or I would have had no hope for hitting the target.

Turns out, I hit the target pretty well for a newbie.  I never got the X, but I got pretty darn close 49 times.

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I was so proud that I hung my target on the refrigerator.  Even grown-ups can display their accomplishments on the fridge.  I can’t wait to see the look on the cable guy’s face tomorrow when he comes to fix my cable (that has been broken since NEW YEAR’s EVE!).

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I was pretty pleased with myself.

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A few more rounds and I would have blown this guy’s (girl’s?) heart to smithereens.

I’m glad I tried the handgun indoors thing, but I think I prefer rifles.  I like being outside and having more distant targets.   Too bad I live in an apartment complex with 0 yard.   I need to make a trip back to Kentucky to go shoot on the farm.

Now, on to my next task with the slightly more difficult moving target: skeet shooting.

Y’all be careful,

Sugarlump

Visiting Jack

Cousin Lauren came down to visit me here in Nashville the other day.  After some lunch and a trip to Comcast to switch out my cable box (I’m so much fun to visit), we headed to Lynchburg, Tennessee for a tour of Jack Daniel’s Distillery.

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As we neared the distillery in the car, cousin Lauren remarked how another distillery she had driven by had these creepy old buildings.  Moments after we stepped out of the car, we determined this place was creepy, too.  Must be a distillery thing.  And the fact that it was miserably cold, damp, and foggy.  Other than that, it was a perfect day for a distillery tour.

I’m such a great host.

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This was pretty nifty.  There is a natural source of water under this here hunk of rock that is used in the production of Jack Daniel’s products.  Apparently it’s some pretty pure stuff and makes Jack Daniel’s whiskey taste real good.  How do people figure these things out is what I want to know.

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This is not a black and white photo in case you were wondering.

After we went through the buildings where the whiskey is produced, we found ourselves by some very black trees.  The trees turn black from a mold that grows on them as a byproduct of the distillery.  Our tour guide assured us that the mold is not harmful to the trees or to people and is in fact a sign that the production of whiskey is going well.  Looks can be deceiving!

In the next building, where the whiskey drips through 10 feet of hard sugar maple charcoal to be purified, our tour guide lifted the lids of the large containers so we could smell the whiskey. We got a huge whiff of the whiskey, which made me think of bourbon balls as the smell lingered in my nostrils.

Pleasant thought, no?

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This prompted me to ask cousin Lauren about some candy my mom had brought down with her from her friend.  I was under the impression that all chocolate specimens in the tin were bourbon balls.  Here was our clarifying conversation:

Me: “Those bourbon balls didn’t really taste like bourbon at all.  They actually tasted almost like coconut.”

Cousin Lauren, “Did the ones you ate have pecans on top of them?”

Me: “No.”

Cousin Lauren: “Then you were eating coconut balls.  The ones with pecans on top are bourbon balls.  The ones without pecans are coconut balls.”

Me: “Oh……No wonder they tasted like coconut. At least I have a good sense of taste and could identify the coconut.”

Cousin Lauren: “…and the lack of bourbon.”

I’m glad we got that cleared up.  It was really troubling me.

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Towards the end of the tour, I asked our tour guide where she was from because she clearly did not have a southern accent and had been asking people in the group where we were from.   Coincidentally, she was from Massachusetts, where I lived for 13 years and moved here from in April.  I asked her where in Massachusetts she was from and she told me Salem, a town famous for the witch trials that occurred centuries ago.  These creepy trees would fit right in there.

All I have to say is, this world is tiny.

And I like bourbon balls.

And try to arrive at the distillery before 2:30PM if you would like a tasting tour.

We arrived at 2:40PM.

Y’all be careful,

Sugarlump

Childhood Campfires

When we were little, Papa used to take us grandbabies camping on the top of the hill behind Granny and Papa’s house.  We would haul the kids’ picnic table to the top of the hill (read: Papa would put it in the back of his truck and drive it to the top of the hill for us) and Granny would load us up with hotdogs, buns and marshmallows for a lunch by the campfire.  We always had a big time.  I can smell the marshmallows burning just thinking about it.  Oh man, those were the days.

I recently found some photos of these camping adventures in some old family albums.

Here’s my sister Eugene at age 3, roasting a branch and channeling her inner Pocahontas.  She was wearing her idol’s shirt for good vibes.

On this particular afternoon, it appears I was thrilled to be roughing it in the backyard at the Fisher-Price picnic table.  Cousin Lauren looks significantly less thrilled.

A few minutes later, there was quite a shift in the mood.  Cousin Lauren is proudly displaying a walnut as I manage a smirk and continue to slouch.  My dad would be so displeased with my posture in these pictures.

And, for Pocahontas, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere.

Here is Pocahontas doing a little interpretive dance after her beverage.  Or maybe she had to go to the bathroom.  Either way, she was really getting the most out of our afternoon in the wilderness.

Always an adventure “camping” with Papa.

Y’all keep it real,

Sugarlump

The Demolition Derby

Growing up, the Cumberland County Fair Demolition Derby was the highlight of my summer.  We always planned my visit to Kentucky around the fair and when I was in elementary school, I even arrived several weeks ahead of time to … Continue reading

Family Visit: Scene I

I haven’t posted much this past week as I have been a tad busy with out-of-town guests (my immediate family), visiting my grandparents in Kentucky, picking beans out of the garden, making potato and chicken salad (clarification: potato salad and chicken salad, not salad with chicken and potatoes.  That would be weird.), cleaning up my house, drinking enough water to match the rate at which I am sweating it out due to the triple digit heat wave, breaking up and shelling beans to put up, wrangling my cats, watching the clouds, working at my day job, watering my scorched container garden, sending thank you notes, catching up on recorded reruns of Pioneer Woman, tracking severe weather across the U.S., and remembering my name.

It has been quite a week, but a good one.

I had Mexican food for dinner Friday, Sunday and Monday nights.

I repeat: It was a good week.

It was also nice to see my family.  We tend to have some good laughs when we’re together.

The fun began when my sister drove down from Lexington and we picked up my parents at the airport the Friday before last.

Getting down to business, we drove straight to Mexican Restaurant #1 for dinner.

My Dad ordered a large Margarita, which was served in what seemed to be a punch bowl with a stem.

I had taken a few minutes to decide what kind of drink I wanted and I was telling the waitress that I would like a strawberry daiquiri as my Dad’s water basin of a drink arrived.

The waitress then asked me what size drink I would like.  Seeing my eyes bulge out of my head as they placed my Dad’s drink on the table, she cracked a smile and devilishly asked:

“You want big?”

I was a little hesitant to order a drink as large as my head, but I kind of wanted one.   The waitress was a very perceptive lady and concluded:

“You want big.”

A few minutes later, this is what arrived.

Yes, Eugene, that is my drink.

As you can see, we were off to a great start with the family visit.

We enjoyed a tasty dinner and caught up on what had gone on in the past week.  I was telling my parents about taking my cats, Gus and Scarlett, to the vet for the first time since moving to Nashville.  I had to take them in for a distemper shot and I was going on about how Scarlett had behaved quite badly, per usual. I believe at this point in the conversation Eugene was sort of half-listening as she tried to make a dent in the 4 plates of food she had been served because she looked up confused and asked:

“Wait, she had to get a shot for his temper?”

We all died laughing. Another great “Julia-ism.”

Oh, you crack me up, Eugene.

More to come on the rest of the family weekend.

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump