Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Friday Family outing

Several weeks ago, Chuck’s sister mentioned about taking us to the Tennessee Aquarium. She is a member and she thought it would be nice for all of us to go and have a day together down there. I thought it was a very nice gesture and I would make time to go.

I was off for Good Friday, the boys are on Spring Break, Cheryl was off with her kids too. So this worked out wonderfully.

The trip to Chattanooga is not a very long trip for us. It is just about 33 miles from the house to the parking lot. So it isn’t an all day ride to get there. That always comes in handy.

We caught up with Cheryl around 10 and started our day. Little did we know this was gonna be an all day thing. Of course, we first explored the gift shop. The look around places like that tend to be a little costly. But Cheryl got our tickets and off we went.

We started in the Ocean’s Journey part of the aquarium. This is the most recent part of the TN Aquarium. It was built 2 or 3 years ago and we haven’t had the chance to get down there. So, I was thrilled that we got to go there first. And the first exhibit belonged to the penguins. Now, I love penguins! And in this tank there were 2 different kinds. The Gentoos are the 3rd largest behind the King and the Emporer penguins. And the Macaroni, remember Happy Feet, the leader with the yellow hair. That was what was in this tank. They were so fun to watch. The lady put the bucket of food down and one thought that it was a buffet, so it helped itself to the food. Several others decided that it looked good, so they joined in. When she got done cleaning, she put on the head phones and microphone and started telling us about the penguins and answered questions. While she was talking, Bug, the Gentoo, stood right there, patiently waiting for her treat.

It was really cool to be able to be there for that. To watch them swim to get their food and to watch them play with each other. The boys and I got a kick out of that.

We moved on to the next exhibit and when we got there, they were just about to have a diver come in and talk to us about that certain tank. There were 3500 fish and 7 sharks in that one tank. He volunteers once a month to come in and do this. He must really like his job. Once again a very interactive tank for the kids to enjoy. After we got done there it was off to the touch tank. Now, we have touched stingray before, but they always enjoy something like that. We did this while at Dauphin Island, so to do it again was a treat for the boys.

Butterfly Garden was next.

It was a place where you cannot touch or pick up the butterflies. But if they choose to land on you, it is ok. Now, I, being scared of anything flying around me, was not a happy camper. But I survived with my heart racing through the entire time I was in there. There were some beautiful butterflies that I just had to take a picture of.

There was one that was struggling to get moving. Turned out they took it out too early and it wasn’t ready to come out, the wings weren’t fully formed. We were told that it would most likely die. It was sad to see it struggling like it was. You can’t help them, or they would die.
They are so fragile that anyone touching them like that would harm them more than help them.

Some were on the floor, so you had to watch where you stepped. Some were on the screen, some were in the plants and some landed on people. It is actually against the law to remove a live one or dead one from that area. "Check for hitch hikers" was the sigh as we left. Fans blowing and mirrors all around to make sure you are clean.

We watched the McCaws doing tricks and being fed. Angel and Amy are part of the largest McCaws in the world. They were beautiful and funny too. It was neat to watch them eat and play with the woman that was feeding them.

Finally lunch was suggested. I was about starved to death. But we were done with the one building and decided to move on to get something to eat. Now, they built a lot around the aquarium, that way you don’t have to move your car to get something to eat. We decided on Mellow Mushroom. Ok, pizza again, but this wasn’t Pizza Hut and it was something very different. On our way over there, we spotted the Easter Bunny. They were advertising for Easter on the Southern Belle. PJ had no problem getting on his lap.

It took some convincing to get the teenagers over there. But I got them to do it. Why not have fun? You are only a kid once. Heck, I hugged him too!

After lunch we headed to River’s Journey. This is the original part of the aquarium that was built about 15 years ago. It houses the TN River, Nickajack Lake and Rivers of the World. There are some very interesting things in there. They even had a Sturgeon touch tank. Now that was different. Weird actually. They really have everything there. Alligators, all kinds of turtles, snakes and frogs.

I was behind Chuck’s neice, she was snapping pics on her cell phone. So whatever she snapped I snapped. I will make her a scrapbook for her 13th birthday. That way she will have a nice memory of our family trip.

We hit Ben and Jerry’s after we got done shopping in the gift shop. Now, you think I would pass up good ice cream. No way. I spotted that on the way in and I was planning on hitting that if no one else was.

The place was packed. But they move very fast. I knew what I wanted and PJ and I split it. Eric got the waffle cone with 2 scoops and then the others got what they wanted. Since I picked up lunch, Cheryl picked up the treat. She is like me, this was a special day and we don’t do this stuff everyday.

We got done and got to talking. I wanted the boys to see the Coolidge Park and the carousel that was there. So, it was suggested that we go over there. Ok, I didn’t mind the walk and it was a beautiful day. Past the aquarium, up the sidewalk, and several flights of stairs we were at the bridge, sucking wind, but we made it that far.
The bridge was built in 1910. They have done many renovations to it. This was my first time walking across it, and hopefully the last for a while.

Little did we know how long of a walk that we were in for. But it was worth getting to the other side. Next time I am down this way, I want to go to the Hunter’s Museum
and walk along the Trail of Tears. It is a lovely story when I heard it a few years ago.

I have only been to Coolidge Park once, that was several years ago. I made a date with Chuck to go there, have a picnic and go on the carousel ride. A Valentine’s Day date.

Very interesting about the animals on the carousel were made by a local man from Soddy Daisy. He goes to craft shows and displays his work. I have seen him before and come to find out, he teaches classes too for something like this. I loved going on the ride, it was an old fashioned ride with old fashioned prices. .50 cents per child, 1.00 for adults. PJ had never been on a carousel before, so it was a good thing that we did go over there. He was on all kinds of animals. Couldn’t make up his mind what one to go on. So, a little on each was fine with him.

Coolidge Park in the summer has the fountain flowing. The kids come down to play in the fountains. They love it. It is a fun time in the summer time.

I took several shots of it. This is the only old building left in the area that hasn’t been updated. Now, I couldn’t get close enough to it to get a good close shot, so I did the best that I could. I took from several locations. Some were different than others, but the best I got was from the walking bridge.

It was a gorgeous day. The weather was perfect, the aquarium was fun, lunch was delicious and Ben and Jerry’s was just too good.

This morning my feet hurt, my calves were sore, my back was aching. But it was worth it all. We all had a great time and I would do it again.

I have a Garden

Ok, I know this is a weird thing to blog about, but if you know where I have come from and where I have been, you would understand why I am so excited about this. It may not be anything exciting for some, but how many of you grew up with a back yard? With a place to play, with a place to plant flowers for your mom. It is a big deal to me.
Two years ago, right before my dad's multiple surgeries, he made a garden box for each of the boys for their birthday gifts. Nice gift, they were tickled with that idea. He made the 4x4 boxes and filled them with dirt. And we took it from there. We planted everything that we possibly could think of planting. They each chose what they wanted and where it was to be planting. I helped them plant all kinds of seeds. They first started with lettuce, spinach and sweet peas. Good cold weather stuff. And then eventually they planted cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, okra, green beans and some other things. It was a start to small gardens. We lived off the spinach, lettuce and tomatoes all summer. The cucumbers came in quickly. And the bell peppers were small, but they were out there when I needed them. The boys were proud that they had food coming in from what they planted.

Last year they wanted flowers along with some vegetables. Not as big as it was the year before. But I still got a lot out of the garden. PJ produced a bunch of cucumbers and bell peppers. And we had tomatoes coming in all the way until September.

This year for my birthday I asked my dad if he would make me 2 4x4 gardens. Last year, when I turned 40, I didn't dare ask my dad for anything for my birthday. The situation between his wife and me had just started, so he decided not to stir the pot. And with that, he forgot my 40th birthday. I sat at the dinner table and cried over that one, especially when PJ mentioned "maybe he doesn't care anymore."Out of the mouths of babes.
This year I thought that before he can't do the things that he loves to do, I would like for him to make me 2 boxes. And I told him at the first of the year that I would like that for my birthday. He made the boxes and brought them over to the house. Last week, the stubborn old coot, brought the dirt over and unloaded all of it in the 4 boxes. And then he brought sand and fertilizer over after that and got them all ready for planting. He didn't have to do all of that, but I guess he felt that he needed to. That was fine. I don't mind doing things to help out, especially since this is something for me.
I have some plants started inside. I have herbs growing in the house. Dill, Basil and Chives. I also started the Sweet Pea flowers too. I am planning on putting them out front to grow up on the wrought iron on the porch.
Last night, since it is staying lighter longer. I took my walk and then got home to go plant. PJ and I sorted through the seeds and went outside to plant the stuff that is good for the cooler temperatures. 3 different kinds of lettuce and some spinach. And then I got my peat boxes and planted tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers to start them in the house. I am so excited about all of this. It gives me a chance to do things with the boys. To see the excitement on PJ's face when the seeds start breaking ground and to be able to eat what we planted.
I never had a backyard to do things in. Yes, when I lived on the farm with my grandparents I had a huge backyard. But I wasn't allowed to plant anything, I was allowed to pick the strawberries and tomatoes. But I wasn't allowed to plant my own stuff.
All the houses that my dad built, well, he left the woods all around the house, so that way he wouldn't have to mow the yards. All the places that we lived in, I never had a place to call my own. And then I got married, and we rented up until we bought the house 7 years ago. So, this is the first place that I have a yard of my own, a place to plant what I want to plant when I want to plant it. I hate yard work with a passion, but I love the gardens.
I would like to have 4 more for next year. That way I don't have to buy any produce and I will be able to can what I do grow. I am hoping for a good season this year. I would like to have enough to feed us through the summer and fall. I may actually think about planting year round too, greens do quite well in the winter around here. It doesn't get cold enough for it to hurt the hardy plants like that. Eric has a rosemary plant in his garden, it has survived 2 winters and 2 summers, 1 very brutal summer. So, there are things that I am looking forward to getting out of the garden to eat.

King for the day

I think PJ had a good day. He took his cookie pops to school with him and got rid of all of them. That was a good thing. They didn't come home with him.

Chuck called me and told me that he would be taking PJ out of school early. Sure why not, it was his birthday. Plus Chuck really wasn't in the mood for Wendy's that PJ was thinking about. So, he picked him at 2 and took him to the Season's Market. This is a market that opened late last year. It is similar to a Fresh Market. They have wonderful things there, some are a little pricey, but some things are worth the little extra.

I would have loved to have been there with him. Having him look at all the stuff in the meat cases, asking the questions of what everything is, pointing at things, you know how kids are. They want to know so much, and then explaining things to them is just kinda fun.

He wanted sausage, more like Andouille sausage. But Chuck told him that it would be rather difficult to build a meal around sausage, and had him move down the line. Well, he found something that did catch his eye. Chicken Cordon Bleu. Good choice! And it really was, he did good. He also picked out, the kid's ultimate favorite, mac and cheese. It was his day, he could do what he wanted to do.

Here is King for the day in his daddy's new chair, talking to one of the many people that called for him yesterday.

I made his cake at lunch time yesterday. And that was a bear to do in less than an hour. He wanted this Deeply Chocolate Almond Cake with the Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting. Well, I didn't know all that this cake entailed, so when I got home and started reading the stuff, I was a little shocked. I needed to have an ounce of unsweetened chocolate grated and then melted in water. It made a ganache type liquid. Let cool for 10 minutes. Great, that already put me behind 10 minutes. While that was cooling, I got all that I needed to get mixed and then put that in there. This turned out to be a very dense cake. But very chocolatey too. I got them in the oven at 12:28 and it said 30 minutes to bake. Ok, I was gonna be pressed for time. While that was in the oven, I made the frosting. The cream cheese was out, but I forgot about the butter. Thank goodness for the microwave. Now with the frosting recipes, I always have to adjust to our taste. This book uses so much powered sugar, so most of the time, that has to be cut back, quite a bit.

30 minutes are up and I take one out, the other was still jiggly in the middle, not good. The one was almost done, the other had a ways to go. 3 minutes added to one, 6 more minutes to the other. Now, I am supposed to be back at work at 1. I didn't make it. I also didn't get lunch either. The one cake came out and out of the pan, maybe too early, but still, I had to get it out of the pan. The other came out of the oven at 1:06 and then I was on my way back to work.

I left a note for Chuck to frost the cake for me

The cake was delicious as usual. Didn't expect anything less than wonderful with cake.

My birthday is next. I still don't know what kind of cake I will be making. Maybe a red velvet with a white truffle frosting. Or tiramisu cheesecake. Or even a blueberry - cherry coffeecake. Don't know yet, but it will come to me.

PJ had a nice birthday overall. Collected about $100 in cash too. Must be nice to be a kid again. He is planning on buying a Nintendo DS with his money. That is fine with me. He can buy what he wants to buy.

For those of you that don't know, my boys are 8 days apart in birthdays. It makes it a little difficult on me, especially me. I make the cakes for home and for school. I do all the shopping for them too.Take this morning, for instance. I haven't gotten anything for PJ yet. With Eric turning 13 and planning something memorable for him, I just let PJ's gift slip away from me. That,and I really don't know what else to get for him. With both of their birthdays being within a 2 months of Christmas, it makes it a little difficult.
For years, Eric was overshadowed by his brother. He had to share his birthday with PJ, he had to share parties with him, he had to share everything with him. There were a few years here and there that we had both on one day. PJ's 1st, Eric's 6th and 10th birthdays were parties and it was much easier to do it all in one day. I don't do that anymore. They are older, they can pick out their own cake and it is more of an individual thing for them to celebrate their own day.
The other day PJ informed me that he wanted something for his class and a cake at home. Not a big deal, I don't mind. Plus, I might as well do what I can do for him while in elementary school because when he gets to middle school, I can't do anything. So, yes, for the next few years, he will have something to take to school for his birthday.
I have this cookbook that is amazing. I have used it so much the cover is falling off the book. "The Cake Mix Doctor." Figure it out, she takes cake mixes and makes the most amazing cakes out of them. I have made several and people really think that I made them from scratch. I don't have time to make a cake from scratch, I have, but the time thingy just isn't there. And some of these cakes are so stinking creative that if I didn't say anything, no one would know the difference.
PJ goes through this book once, twice and finally on the third time he picked something that no one has had yet. He did pick something that had rum in it, but I was not running to Ooltewah to get a little thing of rum for his cake. I had to have him pick something else out. He knew what he wanted for school. But the big cake, well, it had to be chocolate. But chocolate what?
He finally picked a cake. And we hit the store. Cream cheese, eggs, butter, honey, 2 cake mixes, powered sugar, unsweetened chocolate, and cocoa. 28 dollars late we were on our way home. I could have bought 2 cakes for that much. But it means more to me to be able to make them their cakes. I make all the cakes, even my own. That way I know they are good!
For school he wanted these cookie pops.
They don't take all that long to make. They are cute too. I think it took longer to get the little bags on it then to make the cookies. I didn't have popsicles sticks, but I did have some lollipop sticks left from Valentine's Day. He and I made them together. It is always fun to do things with both of them.
Today at lunch I will be going home to bake a cake for him. He picked Deeply Chocolate Almond Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting. Go figure, my son picks something with chocolate in it. That is my child.
He said he wanted to go somewhere for dinner, but not sure where. I really don't care. It is another night that Eric will skip out on doing any of the dishes. Or he will so graciously leave them there for someone else to do. That is just another part of a morning that I have to go through with him.
Oh well, PJ was excited to take his cookies to school with him. He didn't want me to help him, he wanted to do it on his own. He was so proud that he had something special for his class.
It means a lot to them when I do things like that for them. And it is fun for me to do it for them too.

Eric's day out

Feb 25 was Eric's 13th birthday and since I had to work, I thought that taking him out for a day of shopping and lunch in Chattanooga would be nice. Now lunch started out with just him, PJ and me. Then it blew up, my in-laws came, my SIL and her family invited themselves.Anyway we left to go to Steve and Barry's. It is a sports store that they opened in Chattanooga. They carry the Starbury stuff along with Venus Williams, Sarah Jessica Parker and Bubba Watson lines. Everything in the store is under $20. We got there and everything was 8.98. EVERYTHING. I told Eric that he had $100 to buy whatever he wanted. I mean you are only 13 once and I wanted to make this memorable for him. I never had a parent that did anything like this for me. And I really wanted him to have a nice birthday. He looked around 2 or 3 times. I think the first time he was in awe in all that was in that store. And then he got a buggy and started shopping. He had so much fun. He got 2 pair of tennis shoes, 2 NCAA T shirts and UT hat. I ended up buying PJ a pair of shoes, much needed. And I got a decent jacket for Christmas 2008. Yes, I start early. When I find something I buy it. Nothing major, it was only 8.98.
We got to downtown Chattanooga for lunch and drove around looking for parking. Ended up paying $4 for that only because I couldn't find something with a meter. Nuts! But it was right across the street from the restaurant. So I guess that would work. But still to pay that much for just 2 hours, unreal. We all had such a nice lunch. It was fun trying to get PJ situated with what he wanted for lunch. I guess when you have 14 different proteins, spices, 30 veggies, sauce and then pick from 5 starches, you get a little overwhelmed! But I got him through. The man behind me, his bowl was piled so high, I am surprised that he didn't lose anything. He was very helpful though, you can take a spoon and try the sauces, I didn't know that. He told me that they had the sesame noodles on the side along with the sesame seeds to add to your meal. Cool. You learn a lot from the people around you.
Since we don't do this a whole lot, I told Eric that he could have dessert. Something special for him. Only if I got to share it with him!
Across the street from where we ate is
Now I went there the other day when I was down there, and they weren't open. And it was too cold to wait around for them to open. So I figured since we were gonna be there again, we would go there after lunch. I love this store. I am such a kid. They have everything that you can imagine. All kinds of candy, flavors and anything you want. Now, I am an orange slice type girl. So, that is the very first bin that I go for. I love those things, I guess you can call it an addiction. I also like the fruit slices, you know the ones, they look like they have the peel on them. Oh my goodness, I was in heaven. I grabbed my bagged and filled up with orange slices. And even though I was full, I had to have a few before I got in the car. PJ made a bag, and Eric made his, but he paid for what he wanted. The store has the funny mirror in it. Well, I couldn't resist. I had to get a shot of the boys in it.
This is what life is all about, to have fun. To live a little, to enjoy the time that you have. We stopped a few more places on the way home. Eric wanted to go shopping at the mall, so we headed up there. And then home for the night. I am so tired, but it was worth it. I know that Eric will remember this birthday for the rest of his life.

I thought that maybe getting Eric out of the house So, I went grocery shopping and then got home. "Eric, you want to go to Hamilton Place today? Maybe you can find that hat that you are looking for." It was a done deal, he had been saving his money from doing his allowence, and I figured that this would a good thing for him to get out and clear his head.We get down there right at 10 and some of the stores that he wanted to go to were still closed. I thought they opened. That was fine, he just wanted to walk around and see if he could find something that he like to buy. Not a problem, I didn't have much to do this afternoon anyways, I didn't mind. He finally found something. And we were on our way home.
On our way home, we took the backroads home. I conveniently brought my camera with me this day. Only because, I had the time to do whatever I wanted to do. It really isn't backroads, but it is off the interstate, something a little different.
I took some road that I ended up having to turn around. But before I had to, we had to drive under this train bridge. I have a thing for the old train bridges. I don't know why, maybe because they are few and far between in this area.
Eric wanted to try his hand at taking pictures.I don't mind. He may find something that he would like to do.The rest of the way home was rather unphotogenic. They are building so much all over the place, that there isn't many old places left around. They tear up the old, rip down the trees, strip the land to build bigger and better, that won't be around as long as the house that they tore down or the trees that they ripped down. And it is sad for the way that the land is cleared for something that someone really doesn't need.
We got home, and I thought that we would stop for free lunch with Chuck. I had to drop something off with him anyways, so staying for salad was just another option. But when we got done, I just didn't want to spend the day at home. We had a perfect day for a drive. And that is just what we did. We went home and packed the cooler and took off for the afternoon. To where? Well, the last trip was north of here, so we headed out east and then north and then south. Trust me, not what I was planning, but it worked out nicely.
We haven't been out to the Ocoee River and the dams that were out there. The weather was great. Open the sunroof and let it all hang out. Our first stop was Ocoee Dam 1, there are 3, but we only stopped at 2.
Some people thought it was a good day for fishing too. Yep, it was a great day for fishing too.We continued to drive along this curvy road. Enjoying the view on one side, the river that was not a river. The lack of rain pretty much dried up what was supposed to be a white water rafting adventure.I love this part of the river. When the rapids are flowing, the place is wonderful. But, once again, the lack of rain, really is starting to show how badly we need the rain. Now, TVA hasn't opened the gates yet to get the water to start flowing, that will start soon. Right before the rafting season, if there is one, begins. The ramp was a bear to get back up, really, I am out of shape. Yes, round is a shape, but not a shape that goes uphill very well. Since we were already out this far, I figured another 30 to 40 minutes up the road woudldn't be too bad. And I needed gas, so it would be best to continue the way that we were heading.
I stopped at the BP and nearly didn't get out of there. Eric swiped the card and tried to put diesel in my Jetta. Thankfully, the nozzle didn't fit! I can see me trying to explain that to Chuck, the tow bill, and the bill for the new engine. Yep, got lucky, didn't I? We hit Copper Basin. Now, for those of you that are from other areas, I will give you a site that you can look at this little town. Many years ago this was a mining town near the junctions of Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia. Located at the very end of Polk county. It consists of over 60,000 acresI love going here. Here is PJ in Tennessee, looking at going into Georgia. The boys are fascinated with the fact that one can stand in Tennessee and the other in Georgia. I turned down one road and drove for a little while. I didn't see anything thing that caught my eyne for a picture. So I turned around and headed back to town and go the other way I was really looking for an orchard out there, but I had no cell coverage and no internet coverage, so that was out of the question. Turned around to head back home. I pulled down this one road, and I spotted this barn. We are surrounded by them. And in the country they are everywhere
Now for some photo ops that did catch my eye on the way out there. Eric needed to stop before we got in the middle of no where. That is fine, not a problem. While I was waiting on him, I was looking around. People up there are a little backwards. Now mind you when I moved to Cleveland in 1989, these people were backwards to me. But for the boys to comment, it is rather obvious. But while I was waiting, there was this empty building for rent. There was nothing there, but there was this door, wide open. Someone took the time to replace the awning, but the door looks like it was the original door that was with the building so many years ago. And now for the trip home. I stopped at the places that would process the dirt from the land that was stripped for copper. This is all now abandoned, and this was as close as I could get. I would love to see what all was back there. It was a gorgeous day. We enjoyed the ride there and home. And I am so glad that we had the chance to get out. That Eric had time to clear his brain. And that we had time together. Next trip is to North Carolina!