Category Archives: At Home

Backyard History

With all my travels to ancient places, I sometimes forget about the ancient history here in Middle Tennessee. While we don’t have any Medieval cathedrals or Romanesque ruins, we do have the remnants of a Native American culture called the Mississippians.

The Mississippians started somewhere around 800 AD in the Mississippi and spread west into Missouri and south and east into Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama, among other states. They were mound builders, and today those mounds dot the area. No doubt that thousands have been lost due to erosion and cultivation, but the ones that remain are protected and preserved.

One of the best examples of a Mississippi settlement near here is called Mound Bottom along the Harpeth River. In this area, the Harpeth snakes along bluffs and meadows, curling almost back on itself in places. Mound Bottom–which is maybe 20-30 acres–is in a horseshoe bend and is encircleled by the river except for one thin neck of land that leads out and up onto the ridge behind it. It was easy to defend and because the land is so close to the river, it’s very fertile.

What’s left today is one very large mound and several smaller ones around it.

We hiked out to the mounds a couple of weeks ago with a guide from the state park that oversees them. The area is not usually accessible, so we were happy to see it.

From the top of the largest mound, you can see several others around it.

(I am fighting with WordPress today–this photo really isn’t this blurry.)

So, from the top of the mound, you can see others around it. Most of these mounds were ceremonial, not used for burials. Each of these smaller mounds would’ve been part of a plaza where a family lived–probably in homes built of logs and mud. Additionally, a large fence, or palisade was erected along the border.

Mound Bottom was probably built around 950 and it is thought that it’s original purpose was as a meeting place. It evolved into quite a city and was then abandoned about 400 years later.

It wasn’t until 1823 that the site was rediscovered and about a hundred years after that archaeologists from the Smithsonian conducted extensive research here. Lots of artifacts were unearthed and much was learned about this early culture.

People often decry the lack of historical culture and significance of the United States. History snobs should remember though that our patch of land is exactly the same age as the patches where Druids roamed, where Alexander the Great battled and where caves were painted. You don’t have to travel far to see ancient history. It’s in your own backyard.

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Filed under At Home, Travel

Blame it on Technology

Earlier this year my laptop started acting hinkier and hinkier. Pages would take forever to load. Simple commands like cut, paste and enter were ignored. It was petulant and pouty and I finally bit the bullet and started shopping for a new one.

I settled on an inexpensive HP with Windows 7 and Explorer 9. I love Macs–my very first computer was a tiny little Mac with an external hard drive that crashed if you looked at it wrong–but I just can’t justify the $$.

So I brought my new HP home and within an hour I was all hooked up to the wifi and the email was working perfectly.

I am technology goddess.

For a day.

Then I went to the New York Times, as I do every day, to work the crossword puzzle.

Of course, this being a new computer, all my saved passwords and settings are gone. No sweat, I thought. I’ll just log in manually and take it from there.

First log in attempt failed.

So did the second one.

By the fifth failed attempt, I got a message that I had tried too many times and to come back later.

Thus began several weeks of frustration and futility. Emails and phone calls only served to reinforce every bad stereotype you’ve ever held about IT geeks. They talked to me like I was 12 in accents I couldn’t fathom. (Probably a good thing, because I’m sure that if I had understood everything they said I would’ve been even madder.)

After a while, I just gave up and for several weeks worked the puzzle at work.

Until yesterday.

I ditched Explorer and downloaded Firefox.

The sun came out. Rainbows arched across my roof. Unicorns and bunnies frolicked in my yard.

Thank you, Mozilla. Wish we’d met sooner.

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Summer in a Jar

I’ll never be accused of being a Martha Stewart-esque homemaker, but I do like to cook. This summer, I got the canning-freezing-preserving bug and here’s what I ended up with.

The first project was a joint undertaking between me, younger sister, her husband and daughter.

Tomatoes were the order of the day.

We started here:

These tomatoes, plus the other crate we bought because these were too ripe, were to end up canned and as marinara sauce. The sauce part was easy, but the canning part created much angst.

But we prevailed. And this…

Became this:

And then this:

Became this:

And, ultimately, this:

The next week, the peaches at the Farmer’s Market caught my eye and they ended up like this:

Have you ever taken a really hot biscuit, added a fat slice of butter to its steamy  center and then slathered on homemade preach preserves? Well, if you haven’t, I highly recommend it.

The final project was undertaken by me and husband.

Cucumbers…

Plus garlic…

Plus dill….Plus the secret ingredient….
Plus jars….

Equal this:

It all adds up to summer in a jar. It’ll taste great come January.

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Filed under At Home, Food/Cooking

Bite Me

A couple of days ago I noticed this when I was getting dressed:

It’s on my leg–between the ankle and calf. At the time, it was a lot redder and itchy.

I showed it to a mom at work.

“Oh, you need to get that looked at right away.”

I showed it to friend who grew up on a farm.

“Do you think it’s a brown recluse?”

I described it to a sister who works at a hospital.

“You better go to the doctor right now–a woman I work with had a spider bite and got MRSA (a type of staph) and was in the hospital for three days.”

I took a picture with my phone and emailed it husband a thousand miles away.

“Yuck.”

A few hours later, I picked up husband at airport and he looked at it again and suggested a doctor visit.

So, the next day I went to the doctor. My regular doctor was booked, but her nine-year-old partner was free.

“Yep, something bit you,” he said. “It’s nothing bad, just ugly. Come back if it changes.”

“That’s it,” I thought? “You’re not even a little impressed?”

I quickly scrolled through a list of probable ailments that might get his attention.

I was pretty sure that the little toe on my right foot was broken, but that didn’t seem worthy.

I’ve got a pretty impressive patch of flaky skin on the bottom of my right foot, but I really didn’t want to bring that up either.

“Can you just cut it off?” I said. “It’s really grossing me out.”

He laughed and put a bandaid on it.

Oh well, at least I got off work a couple of hours early.

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Hollywood and the South: Not Exactly a Love Story

Last week I was listening to a high-brow call in show on NPR. There were two studio hosts fielding financial questions from callers. One conversation went like this:

Caller:  Hi, this is Anna and I really need some advice from y’all.

Host #1:  (starts giggling uncontrollably)

Host #2: What’s so funny?

Host #1: Oh my God, she said “y’all.” That is just so cute!

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 In a few days the movie, The Help, opens.

Please, I beg of the patron saint of motion pictures, don’t let Hollywood screw this one up. I wrote about the book the movie is based on a couple of years ago. I have hopes that the movie will live up to the book, but then I had the same hopes for Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and The Prince of Tides.

The problem with Midnight is the accents–they are uniformly horrible. And early on in the movie the word “y’all” is misused. Y’all is always, always plural. Yet there was one character asking another “y’all got any ice?” They lost me right then and there.

In Prince the problem wasn’t the accents, it was the cavalier changing of the story and switching the identity of the title character.

I’ve often wondered if the people of North Dakota cringed when they watched on of my favorite movies, “Fargo?” Surely the good people up there aren’t as consumed with all-you-can-eat buffets and wood chippers as the movie would have you think. And I wonder if the broad accents in that film were just stereotypical caricatures as most Southern accents are.

The Help is the story of black maids and their white employers in Jackson, Miss. It’s set in the early ‘60s. The book doesn’t soft-pedal the racism and segregation that was rampant in that area at that time. But for the movie to ring true to a Southern audience, the accents have to be right. The manners and culture have to be right.

If I see one sterling silver fork out of place or one bottle of ketchup on a dining room table, I swear I’m getting up and walking out.

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“A long, long time ago…I can still remember…”

I went to my high school reunion last Saturday night. Class of 1976–35 years ago.

We were a fractured class and I know that most of us left our small, private school with a sense of relief that those days were over.

Let me tell you how it began.

Private schools have long been part of life around here. Generations of families are loyal to one school or another. I would’ve loved to have gone to the school that my grandmother, father, brother, uncle and a host of  cousins attended, but it was boys only at the time and that made it off limits.

There were several venerable girls-only schools around, but they weren’t right either.

Then my parents learned that a friend of the family was starting a new school. A co-ed venture that would offer a well-rounded experience with emphasis on academics, athletics and spiritual life.

It was going to be a grassroots effort with no frills for the first few years. There was no cleaning staff and we students spent the last 15 minutes of the day doing chores. There was no cafeteria and the first year we either brought our lunch or placed an order first thing in the morning for McDonald’s. There was a strict dress code, and now I know that uniforms would’ve made our lives much easier.

At first there were only 4 classes–7-10 and about 150 kids. There were 9 faculty. The football team practiced in a cow pasture and one classmate who lived adjacent to the school was regularly pulled out of class to round up her horses that were loose on the  grounds.

The years went by and the school grew. Faculty were added. New buildings were built. And somewhere along the way the “spiritual” aspect became a little more pronounced. It was always a little more evangelical and Jesus-freakish than I and many of my friends were comfortable with. 

By the time we were seniors, our class was clearly divided–at least in my recollection. Cynics on one side. Optimists on the other. When it came time for our senior trip the school decided that our class, unlike all the others, would go to a state park about 75 miles away instead of Florida.

So we weren’t in a very good mood.

Then it rained.

So there was a collection raised and one boy who was of legal age (18 back then) drove to the nearest liquor store.

You can guess what happened next.

About half of us were sent home. I actually think we were the lucky ones. There were meetings with parents and there was even talk that we wouldn’t be allowed to graduate.

But in the end, we did graduate. And off we went, all too glad to have that episode over.

But isn’t it funny how you forgive and forget over time? I was genuinely glad to see the people I will always think of as boys and girls. Most of us were together for 6 years–the first class to go all the way through from 7th grade to 12th.

As one classmate put it Saturday, he didn’t appreciate the school then, but he certainly does now.

Here’s what I appreciate–no one at the school had a locker. We all had little cubby holes. We left our purses there most of the time and our books too. We didn’t worry one bit about someone stealing our stuff–it wasn’t even a possibility.

35 years is a long time. But the girls who were sweet then are still sweet today. Pretty ones are still pretty. Jocks still have the athletic air and the ones who were funny and smart are still funny and smart.

Here’s to seeing you all again for 40.

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Filed under At Home, Nostalgia

China Comes to Franklin

Most of you probably already know that Husband travels to China two or three times a year. Along with racking up some impressive frequent flier miles, he’s also gotten to know some of the people he deals with over there pretty well. They always go out of their way to treat him as “VIP American.” For the last few weeks, we’ve been able to repay the hospitality that his Chinese colleague has always shown him.

Kevin came to Franklin.

 

This wasn’t just Kevin’s first trip to the U.S.–it was his first trip out of China. Travel for the Chinese isn’t as easy as it for us Americans and he had to apply for his visa in person at the American consulate near his home. But he and Husband have traveled a lot in China and have spent lots of time together. Husband really wanted him to have fun while he was here, as well as see the company they work for.

Many people have asked what he liked best, or what was the biggest difference. I think it was probably just the space. Most Chinese live in crowded conditions–high rise apartments, jam-packed buses and trains and sidewalks that are teeming with people. He laughed when we were riding the escalator at the mall and I commented on how crowed it was. He said that in China the escalators accommodate four across and every step is full.

Food was tricky at first.

  • chicken casserole was an epic fail
  • a homemade chocolate chip cookie was spat out (something I didn’t know until after he left)
  • a sausage biscuit with one bite out of it was discreetly put in the trash

Other items were big hits:

  • single barrel, 9-year-old reserve bourbon
  • guacamole and barbecue were popular
  • he even tried a few different kinds of cheese, but he absolutely drew the line at Roquefort

I ordered in “Chinese” one night–that’s when Kevin had his first egg roll and his first fortune cookie. He had never seen either of them before and he took a fortune cookie home to show everyone there what Americans call Chinese food.

But if there’s one food he’ll remember from his time in the U.S., it’s beef. We don’t eat a lot of beef, but Husband said he really wanted to treat Kevin because beef isn’t something they have a lot of–and when they do have it, it’s in small pieces. We had grilled steak, hamburgers (of course) and pot roast.

On his last night, we took him a local steakhouse in downtown Nashville.

Kevin had the bone-in ribeye. It tasted as good as it looks and he ate every bite. After dinner, we headed to Nashville’s famous Honky Tonk district.

And here he is in front of Nashville’s most famous bar.

He was here for 17 days. We discussed politics for about 15 minutes. I know that he adapted to Franklin (at least on the surface) much more gracefully than I would adapt to China.

 

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Filed under At Home, Travel