Holidays and baking are two words that have been inseparable since our Townsend, TN Bed and Breakfast near Gatlinburg, opened 15 years ago this Thanksgiving. Each year, with one or two exceptions, all my Christmas gifts are goodies I have baked. Normally I complete this by Thanksgiving and deliver my tins or baskets from Thanksgiving through December. This year I was sick the latter part of November, and I didn’t finish the “selection process” until late last night. Picture me looking like Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream. As of yesterday, I considered backing off a little with the variety to give myself a break, but then I began thinking about some of the cookies from my childhood that we hadn’t baked in 30 years, and we always try a couple of new recipes. At that point I’m thinking the 12 days of (Xmas) baking, one thing a day, until I added everything up this morning and realized I had picked out 22 different recipes.
On the list: one carrot cake (Louise’s finest recipe from Sweetberries B&B), blue ribbon muffins for Pete, Ginny’s mint brownies, apricot bars (which no Xmas would be complete), choc chip bars from my childhood, several loaves of apricot walnut and cranberry pecan breads, both blue ribbon winners at the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center’s Blue Ribbon County Fair, Jan Whitt’s toffee, my all-time favorite sweet, Cheerio mix, John Wessell’s popcorn mix called Country Cottage and 12 double batches of cookies.
Of the cookies, six have made the list here for the last decade, two are from my childhood, (why has it been 30 years since I made almond crescents??) and four are new recipes. Of the four new ones, one is a potato chip cookie recipe from a cookbook I have. Reminded me of cookies when I was a kid. I thought maybe Great Aunt Margaret on the Janke side, but my mom just said she thought it was my Aunt Stephanie’s recipe on her side of the family. Good reason to give her a call and compare recipes!
The recipe I have in hand calls for 3/4 C ground up potato chips that you always find in the bottom of the bag. This morning for breakfast I made myself a lovely grilled cheese on sunflower bread, dill pickle and I opened that bag of chips that has been sitting on the shelf. So the laugh of the day? It contains the most perfectly formed chips, large and nary a one broken. What’s a girl to do? Maybe I’ll accidentally drop the bag in the next couple of days and then I won’t feel bad about breaking some up for the recipe…
My mom was never the cookies and milk after school type of mom, but I have to give her credit, she baked up a storm before Christmas. She’d run out of tins and start filling the turkey roaster and the soup pots. Most were double and triple batches. She said she wanted at least a few of each kind to put out on Christmas when the relatives came, and that was about all that was left as we Janke kids had sticky fingers for weeks before the main event. Or maybe is was only mizkathleen who had the sticky fingers. I spent some real quality time in the dark pantries of my various childhood homes.
I could run a contest to see who comes closest to guessing the total amount of butter used for the aforementioned recipes. Or, I might just pop a cookie and go and take a nap. I hope this month finds you all smiling with friends, family and the “reason for the season…” mizkathleen@ Gracehill Bed and BreakfastRead More
Thousands of quilters gather at the LeConte Center in Pigeon Forge, TN to look at quilts brought in from all over the United States. Local Quilting Groups (Piecemakers and Sevier Valley Quilters Guild) organize and administer the Festival. There are separate categories for professional and amateur quilters with divisions for hand and machine quilting, Appliques, Christmas Quilts, Children’s Quilts and military themed Quilts for the Quilts of Valor Organization.
This year the hundreds of quilts were displayed in the same room as the vendors who sell material, long-arm quilters, quilt kits for beginners and many other helpful tools for the quilting process. Patrons could wander the hall, looking at quilts and then talk to vendors who are able to explain what techniques can be used to accomplish certain effects. The week long Quiltfest is held annually in March at the Pigeon Forge LeConte Center, 2986 Teaster Lane, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
I could not attend the show this year and I’m sorry I am unable to attribute which quilters did which quilts… but as always, thank you for sharing your beautiful art work. mizkathleen@ Graehill Bed and BreakfastRead More
A year ago one of my long time doctors dropped me an email asking if I knew about Wilderness Wildlife Week in Pigeon Forge. Said if I didn’t, I needed to scope it out and inform my guests! After asking around a little, I found a few of my friends had attended over the years and Bonnie handed me the 73 page pamphlet last week when we met for lunch. It took two hours to plow through the thing! I plan on attending a couple of different days. It’s coming up fast, Saturday, January 24, through Saturday, January 31, 2015 at the new and beautiful LeConte Center in Pigeon Forge. For an online complete listing of “exhibits, performances, workshops, classes, walks and talks that are both informative and entertaining” go to http://www.mypigeonforge.com/events/wilderness-wildlife-week/, scroll to the bottom of the article and click for the schedule.
Since Bill and Bonnie Gathergood are regular attendees of Wilderness Wildlife Week, I asked Bill to write a synopsis of the event. Here are his thoughts…..
Wilderness Wildlife Week is a free celebration of East Tennessee culture, history and science. Hundreds of entertaining lectures on bears, birds and butterflies of the area are free to the general public. Concerts by local musicians; Boogertown Gap and Lost Mill String Band are presented along with historical church music with Sacred Harp singing and traditional hymns.
For 25 years, Wilderness Wildlife Week, a concept begun by Ken Jenkins and Bill Landry, brings fascinating information about the National Park and surrounding areas. There are historical lectures on the Lewis and Clarke Expedition, the Trail of Tears march of the Cherokee as well as traditional Native American folk tales. The Master Gardeners of East Tennessee present several lectures on gardening techniques, creating butterfly habitats and planting specific flowers to draw hummingbirds or monarch butterflies to your yard. There are several classes on nature photography including a photo contest with all participants voting on the best photos.
For the last two years, Wilderness Wildlife Week has been held at the LeConte Center in Pigeon Forge. The free lecture series are presented in the center’s many classrooms. People can also sign up for over 60 hikes through the nature trails of the National Park. All activities are free.
Thanks Bill, my first guest blogger! Blessings, mizkathleen@ Gracehill Bed and Breakfast
After 14 years of taking just about every conceivable photo at Gracehill Bed and Breakfast, guests still surprise me. It puts a smile on my face to see how different people see my home in a way I never thought of. The photos are by Daniel Ray of his wife Paulette, staying for some needed R&R. Later that evening, he recorded a frog doing his thing croaking, and then played it back to the poor little guy who just went bananas. Said frog will probably need long term therapy…..Read More
Many thanks to the Piecemakers Quilt Guild and Sevier Valley Quilters for allowing me to take photos at the 20th annual “A Mountain Quiltfest,” March 19-22, 2014, held at the Le Conte Center in Pigeon Forge. What a beautiful new convention center this is with easy access and no cover charge for the show! Not being a quilter myself, I certainly felt welcomed and picked up tidbits from snatches of conversation here and there. Many of my friends are quilters, and belong to different quilting groups in the area. There are various shows each year, and all are always well attended.
What originally attracted me to this particular show was the display section of quilts that are made every year by the two groups putting on this show, and distributed to shelters in the area, like Safe Space, for the children. Two examples are shownto the right. Nancy Younce’s quilt is done in a child’s style that made me smile. Bonnie Gathergood’s was made from blue jeans her children wore when they were young.
Another special section was the quilts made by the Smoky Mountain Chapter of Quilts of Valor. They meet once a month, at 12:30PM, on the first Tuesday of the month at the John Sevier Senior Center on Chapman Highway/Main Street in Sevierville. The Quilts of Valor are for returning service members. The national organization, Quilts of Valor, to date has distributed 98,207 quilts nationwide. Some quilts are designated for Medal of Honor recipients. An award ceremony will be held this August in Knoxville where the Medal of Honor recipients will receive their quilts. When President Obama recently announced 24 new Medal of Honor recipients, needles and sewing machines went into overdrive! If you are interested in this local chapter contact Annie Matuszak at 865-774-7946 who says she likes binding best. Why, I asked? “Because you are in the homestretch!”
I bumped into my friend Sue Ann Tippitt gazing at the “Vintage Button Bouquet.” She pointed out the characteristics of nationally known quilt designer Linda Roy of Knoxville’s prize winning quilt. “This quilt wins a blue ribbon everywhere it is exhibited deservedly because of the high quality of Roy’s quilting and her creative design,” said Sue Ann. The quilt features ruching, an unusual technique in quilts along with meticulous cross-hatching.
I took several hundred photos while walking around the 400+ quilt exhibit. This link goes to a short 3-4 minute video of 37 of those quilts. I found out from previous experience that a flash attachment usually washes the color out of the quilt photo, but if you’re not using flash, a tripod helps with clarity on a longer exposure. Quilt photography can be hard, particularly if it is a geometric quilt, with stripes and borders, which most have. The viewer doesn’t really notice strips on a slant walking through the show but it can be bothersome in a two-dimensional photo, therefore, I only used one photo out of every 16 quilts. That issue is my excuse and I’m sticking to it! So to all the wonderful ladies who hung their blood, sweat and smiles on the wall and didn’t end up in the video, what can I say, asymmetric quilts photograph the best when hanging on a wall…. Next year’s Quiltfest will be March 18-21, 2015. Some classes will begin on the 17th, but the vendors and the official opening are on the 18th. Happy stitching. Blessings, mizkathleen@ Gracehill Bed and BreakfastRead More
Red showed up in Townsend (TN) on a windy, blustery day when weather was pounding the east coast with snow and rain. He retired early his first night after having had a hearty dinner at Berry Springs Lodge in Pigeon Forge. Red was the first guest up the next morning. We chatted while I prepared breakfast, and he was patiently waiting on the other guests when they surfaced at 9:00. He enjoyed lively conversation along with popovers with honey butter (no jam for this guy), caramelized pears pistachio, and chicken crepes mornay with a fresh orange cranberry relish. He had seconds on OJ and decaf coffee. He said he was so excited about staying at Gracehill and visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that he needed to watch his caffeine intake for the next couple of days. I did learn he was not keen on sitting too close to the fire. Good thing I had put him in the only bedroom without a fireplace!
Wouldn’t have wanted to spark any bad dreams! We hung around after breakfast for several hours doing this and that waiting for the weather to clear. It didn’t, so we took off around 3:30, picked up another friend, and the three of us visited the most popular attraction in the most visited National Park in the United States, Cades Cove. It is a pioneer settlement, an 11 mile one way loop drive ringed in by mountains. Of course, Red had to hop out of the car each time he saw a different animal- white tailed deer, turkeys, but no bears today. He was quite the attraction himself as several dozen kids and parents wanted to make his acquaintance. After being disappointed that Berry Springs didn’t really have a nude beach, he decided to go skinny dipping in one stream we had to drive through as water was a little high from all the rain. He met us on the other side, chilled of course, so I cranked up the heat. We skipped the hike I had planned to Abrams Falls as he was just warming up, but we did stop at several of the old homesteads. Back to Gracehill Bed and Breakfast in time for sunset, the big attraction here at the highest house in the county. Red chatted up our guests this morning, but stuck to coffee himself claiming he had to watch his figure this time of year. With all the Christmas celebrations, he had packed on a few pounds. Off today for a stop at Sweet Berries Bed and Breakfast on the Tail of the Dragon, 318 curves in 11.2 miles. But that is their story to tell. Maybe it’s a good thing he did skip breakfast. I’ll pack a Dramamine for him!
Hugs and Kisses, Red, mizkathleen @Gracehill Bed and Breakfast.
So, what does the Elkmont area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Malaysian jungle have in common? Synchronous fireflies, that’s what! Currently there are 2000+ species of fireflies in the world, and I am fortunate enough to live in one of two areas of the world that have these phenomena once a year in early June. Depending on winter weather, it can be from mid May to mid June, so check before making lodging reservations. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park will list the dates at this link. Synchronous fireflies, also known as lightning bugs, blink in unison or in waves. You’re sitting there in complete darkness and they all blink on and off at the same time. At times it is like a wave of light moving across a clearing. This is called phase synchronization or spontaneous order. I know I’d like to glow and have a little spontaneous order in my office, but I’m afraid I just don’t have the right genes along with the other 1998+ species.
Much varies between these firefly beetles. Some blink, some don’t. Some fly, some don’t. The color of their bioluminescence ranges from yellow to orange to red to green. Usually it is the male blinking to attract females during mating season, but then you have those femme fatales that blink the pattern of another species to attract unsuspecting males for the ultimate act of cannibalism. This link at wikipedia has a great article on them and much has been written locally, particularly from The Daily Times. Their last article was Sunday, May 26, 2013.
So, how do you see them? In years past, you just drove your car up to the Elkmont Campground area and hiked back on some old weed covered gravel roads. That’s what my mom and I did. However it became so popular that you now have to catch a shuttle from the Sugarlands Visitor Center outside of Gatlinburg. Wait time and lines got long enough that the National Park now allows shuttles from the Townsend area too, and you buy your ticket ahead of time.
Don Alexander at the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center (865-448-8838) says, sales open up May 1st each year at 10AM and tickets are a $1.00. This year they sold out in 45 minutes. It’s not often you can experience something magical for a buck. The ultimate cheap date, and you get to sit on a blanket in the dark! They run two shuttles a night from Townsend that hold 18 passengers each for a week to ten days. If you don’t use your $1.00 ticket, which really is a placeholder, your credit card is charged $10.00 for each unused ticket.
These shuttle buses from the Cades Cove Heritage Tours cost a lot more than $18.00 a night to run and this year they were underwritten by, who else, Townsend’s Firefly Café and the Blount Partnership! You catch the bus at their restaurant location, 7967 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway, Townsend, TN 37882, (865-738-3507) between 6:30PM and 7:00PM. The buses return to the same location around 11:30PM each night. Have dinner at the Firefly before you catch the shuttle.
Deborah Lee, owner of the Firefly Café, has been a restaurant owner in Townsend for years. Her new location, now in its second year, gets an A+ for décor, service and food. My favorite is the Elkmont Burger, and they have the best French fries in town. Deborah says, “I called it the Firefly Café because I absolutely love the synchronous fireflies of the Smokies, and that they generate their light from within.” I’m off to create a little spontaneous order. Not! mizkathleen@ Gracehill Bed and Breakfast