Friday, December 20, 2013

o christmas tree

Christmas trees make me happy.  And for the first time ever, I was one of those people who put up their Christmas tree the weekend after Thanksgiving.  You'll be happy to know I was not one of the people you saw driving around with a tree on top of their car, and a fake wreath on the hood.  Nope, my Christmas tree tradition involves my friend Ann, a saw, a bow knife, and a hunt for a tree on my property.

This year the process went much smoother than normal.  For starters there was daylight, no freezing rain, and multiple trees to choose from.  The selection and cutting process took less than an hour.  We felt like pros, and therefore will have a miserable time next year.

Also in keeping with tradition, we did not trim the tree other than getting the height right.  And for the first time, it actually has the shape of a traditional Christmas tree.  Like I said, we felt like pros and have completely jinxed ourselves for next year.


I think it looks pretty cute.  The ornaments are some that I made a few years ago, and some vintage gold balls from when my parents first got married.  I like it.

Now I just have to wrap presents so I will have something under my tree!

2011 Tree  | 2012 Tree

Friday, November 15, 2013

(Re)Discover Chattanooga - Community Pie's new NY Style Pizza

Mmmmm, Community Pie.  As I've said before, I love Community Pie.  I had never been exposed to Neopoliton pizza before they opened, but my Italian taste buds very much approve of everything I have eaten in my multiple trips to Community Pie.  The warm gooey crust is right up my alley, and it doesn't bother me at all that it is meant to be eaten with a knife and a fork.  The flavor combinations on the menu always have me fighting to make a decision.  Homemade gelato from Milk & Honey is the icing on the top of what is always a good meal.

But there is more to pizza than just Neapolitan style pizza.  There is New York Style Pizza, Chicago Deep Dish, etc etc.  So I was excited earlier this month when I found out that Community Pie was adding New York Style pizza to the menu.  I was even more excited when they sent me a gift certificate thanking me for my previous blog post.  So a trip to Community Pie was in order....twist my arm.

We went last Saturday night to try it out.  There was about a 30 minute wait at 6:30, but we quickly found seats at the bar, and decided to eat there.  The bar staff was friendly, and it looked like our awesome waiter from our first trip to Community Pie is now a manager.  He is on top of things and super friendly, and we were happy to see that he is still around.

The New York style pizza is available by the slice, and also in 14" and 19" pies.  We wanted to try something that sounded cool, and also something basic that would show off the new crust, so we ordered two 14" pizzas: the Drunk Pig ("vodka sauce, Community Pie ricotta, homemade fennel sausage, fresh mozzarella, parmasean cheese, and crushed red pepper"), and the Demarco ("Fresh & Shredded mozzarella, hand torn basil, extra virgin olive oil, and pecorino romano").

Never try and edit a picture on an iphone.

The verdict???  Jon Stewart would approve.  (Jon Stewart has strong feelings on pizza crusts.)

The crust: In true New York Style fashion, both crusts were cooked well, easy to pick up, fold, and bite into.  I am not an expert on New York Style crusts, but I liked the crust on both pizzas.  There is no mistaking the New Your crust for the Neopoliton, so I call this a crust win.

The toppings:  The Drunk Pig was good, but the Demarco was amazing.  I'm a cheese pizza fan to begin with, and the Demarco is a grown up version of what what comes to mind when I think of New York Style cheese pizza.  It's got enough fresh mozzarella to be a little greasy, but the mix of hard cheeses means it's not swimming in grease.  You can't go wrong with torn basil and extra virgin olive oil, and the Demarco was the pizza that we was that good.  The sausage on the Drunk Pig was a little strong for my taste, but the vodka sauce, ricotta, and other cheeses were all on point.

Of course, we couldn't leave Community Pie without gelato...even in November.  You can try up to three flavors per serving, but I didn't look farther than two:  Mint Chocolate and Milk & Honey.

Thanks for the gift certificate Community Pie, I enjoyed it!   My favorite crust is still the Neapolitan style, but don't be surprised if you see me come in for a slice of New York style cheese pizza sometime soon.  :)

Community Pie
850 Market Street,
Chattanooga TN 37405

Hours: Sunday-Thursday 11am-10pm
Friday and Saturday 11am-11pm
Website | Facebook | @CommunityPie 
New Menu

Community Pie on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

fall colors

The leaves have been so beautiful this year.  Since I've moved into my house, I've been a part of the Fall Color Project at Growing the Home Garden(Last year's leavesMy pictures from this weekend pale in comparison to the natural view, but I think you can get an idea of how spectacular the leaves in Chattanooga, TN are this year.  I hope you enjoy a few of my (unedited, iphone) pictures!

The view from my front porch.

My house is painted!
The oak trees are a beautiful bright yellow right now.

More yellow Oak trees.
This Oak has started the transition to orange.
This picture of the pond is about a week old,
but the colors were great.
It was so hard for me to take pictures of the pond.

The colors never came out as vibrant as they are in person.

But they're still pretty.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

my great grandmother's day lilies

I feel like my Chattanooga readers might be getting sick of my garden posts, but gardening in Chattanooga is part of living in Chattanooga, and I hope you can learn a little bit from me about what works (and what doesn't work) this area.

The plants that have done the best in my yard are by far the day lilies.  These aren't special hybridized day lilies, they are what I would call native ditch lilies.  These are the orange day lilies that you see along the roadside in the summer.  They can survive our hot summers, our sometimes cold winters, our wet years, and our droughts.  They prefer sun, but tolerate my shady front yard.  They even multiply on their own, and fill in so you don't have to weed.  All without any extra attention from us.

 Summer 2012

No one can remember when this day lily bed was planted, but it goes back as far as my uncle can remember, so easily somewhere in the 30 to 50 year range.  If my great grandmother was anything like my grandmother, these day lilies were actually collected from the ditches near her house over time. (My grandmother did the same thing with rocks.)  After my great-grandmother died, no one touched the day lilies.  Trees grew up around them, and they just kept growing and multiplying.  They bloomed when the house was vacant, and when the first tenants began renting the house.

Summer 2012

When I moved in, two years ago, they were the plants I counted on my first summer. This year they bloomed, but didn't bloom well.  The reason was this: they were beyond over crowded.

Summer 2013

So after who knows how many years of growing on their own, I decided this fall was time to divide the day lilies.  I was nervous before we started, because about 3 weeks earlier, the day lily bed was mowed over by a rogue landscaping crew.  At first I was upset (they mowed down my wildflowers right before they bloomed), but with the day lilies, I think it worked to my advantage.  When they were transplanted, the leaves were shorter, therefor less energy is required to keep the plants alive.

Here is process for transplanting day lilies:
  1. Dig out a clump with a shovel, and shake out the dirt.  The roots are fairly shallow, so you don't have to go down too far, but a shovel works better than  trowel.
  2. With the dirt out of the way, the bulbs can be pulled apart by hand.  If that is too much trouble, you can take a sharp knife, and cut the clump into smaller sections.  You're not going to kill them.  Promise.
  3. (optional)  Amend the soil.  My soil was pretty spent, so I added mushroom compost and soil conditioner to the bed so that the mixture was 1/3 by volume soil, mushroom compost, and soil conditioner.
  4. Replant, leaving 10-12 inches between the plants or small clusters of plants.  The leaves grow up, and then mound down, so you won't see the space in between.  
  5. Water.  Give everything a good soak so that the roots can establish themselves.  Continue to water carefully until estabolished.
  6. (optional) Mulch. They will survive without it, but whether its traditional mulch, leaves, or grass clippings, mulch helps retain moisture, and keeps out the weeds.
Spacing small clumps of day lilies about a full hand's width apart, I ended up putting less than a quarter of the day lilies back into the day lily bed.  All of the plants were immediately happier than they had been before.  They perked right up, and since it is fall, I only worried about keeping them watered for about 2 weeks.  This past weekend I mulched the bed, and we are now good to go.  

Fall 2013

You may be asking what I did with the rest of the day lilies?? I created another bed at the edge of the woods, put some near my roses, and gave about 50 plants to a co-worker.  This weekend we are celebrating my grandmother's 90th birthday, and I am giving some away as favors.  I have about 250 plants left, and they will be potted up or kept in plastic bags while they are dormant this winter.  Hopefully I can find happy homes for them next spring.  If you're interested, let me know!

Fall 2013

Saturday, October 26, 2013

mini shade garden

The string of creative names continues.  Not too far from my "Shade Garden" is an area that I am calling, for lack of better words, "Mini Shade Garden".  It's less than 1/4 the size of the "Shade Garden," and is basically a triangle in front of a large Hemlock.

The kennel wire around the tree is leftover from my blackberry fence, and my thoughts are to wrap it around the tree, and plant a flowering vine at the base.

I wanted the focal point of this garden to be a hydrangea, and if you read my blog yesterday, then you won't be surprised to know that a few weeks ago I begrudgingly added an Oak Leaf Hydrangea.

It's a tiny stick now, but as it matures, it should spread to a 6 foot shrub.  We'll see.

Also in the Mini Shade Garden:
  • Lily of the Valley
  • Native Columbine
  • No ivy.  This is an area that we pulled the ivy out by hand. 
Both the Lilly of the Valley and the Native Columbine are known to spread, so I planted both to see which wins out Darwin style.

Friday, October 25, 2013

shade garden - close ups

I want to keep track of how fast things grow and fill out, so I took these pictures of the plants in the Shade Garden right after they were moved.  The idea is I can look back at them this spring before I move on to other areas, and see what my spacing / density needs to be.

The hydrangea with the best chance
This hydrangea may not make it.

Center section of Hearts-A-Bursting

Holly - moved 1 week before 1st frost
Little Brown Jugs


shade garden

One day, maybe, I'll come up with creative names for my gardens.  Today is not that day.  Today the best name I can come up with for the area that my mom and I have been working on is "Shade Garden".  It's a horrible name.  All of my gardens are in the shade.  "Shade Garden" in no way distinguishes this part of my yard from any other.  The important part is not the name, but the fact that it's finished.

Before we get any further, let's talk about hydrangeas, and specifically Oak Leaf Hydrangeas.  I have a love hate relationship with hydrangeas.  When I moved into my house, I decided that I wanted to include as many 'old-fashioned' plants as possible.  Hydrangeas qualify. They've been around forever.  They're shrubs, so they're good habitats for critters, and I do love nature.  They also bloom, which is plus when you're dealing with shade, and they make good cut flowers.  That's a lot of positives. This is what I don't like:
  1. Hydrangeas are trendy right now, and I'm not the kind of person who follows trends. 
  2. Blue hydrangeas make me think of trailer parks.  (You can say that when you grew up near trailer parks.  And I'm not the only one who things so, so don't judge me alone.) There's nothing wrong with trailer parks, but they've never been my aspiration or inspiration.  
  3. I hate their foliage almost as much as I hate iris foliage.  Plants only bloom part of the year, so for me, what you're looking at most of the time is important.  When Oak Leaf Hydrangeas aren't blooming, they look like they're trying to be trees, but their leaves got fat instead, and they grew out instead of up.

So you can guess what the first plants to go into the "Shade Garden" were.  Oak Leaf Hydrangeas.  They grow very well here, and as such, I have access to almost an unlimited supply of free Oak Leaf Hydrangeas. Free always wins.

OK, back to the story of the newly named "Shade Garden."

So last summer we got out the Round-Up, and went to war with the ivy behind my shed.  It was a hot and dry summer, and after two applications ivy was gone.  Last fall we blew leaves into this area to help with the mulch, and the ivy stayed away. Hallelujah! There was an azalea, a holly, some huckleberries, and a few Hearts-A-Burstin in this spot, so the foundation of a garden was there, it just didn't look like anything yet.  It was a mess, but I called it natural and didn't loose any sleep over it.

Fast forward to about a month ago.  My house was finally painted, and it was time to make my yard as spiffy as my house.  The area behind my freshly painted shed needed to go from 'area where the ivy used to be' to some type of garden.  'Garden' being an area with things that bloom and laid out in a way that you can see said blooms.

I'm a big fan of plants that have grown with little or no attention over the course of the past 20 years, so I decided to keep everything that was growing in this area, but move it around so that the tall things were in the back, and the short things in the front. I also brought in 2 baby Oak Leaf Hydrangeas from my parent's house, and a mix of hostas from my house and my parent's house to add blooms.  It was a very sophisticated plan.

The end result is that I have something that resembles a garden.

Or should I say, looks like a garden after I label everything, and you don't have to play Where's Waldo to find the plants.

Since I forgot to take a before picture, imagine all the plants clustered together around the azalea and the small tree up front. We moved everything back and out, with the exception of the azalea. (I was scared I would kill if we tried to dig it up.)  Now that we're finished, you can actually see the azalea, and since the holly is no longer on top of it, both plants should do better.  The hydrangeas have plenty of room to fill out, and the Hearts-A-Bursting & huckleberries should look nice in swaths in the back.  You can see everything, and it still looks natural.  In the spring it should look like a garden.  Mission accomplished.

This post has close ups of the plants we moved.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Garden Update

If you're reading this post, I just want to say thank you.  I have fallen back into my inconsistant nonexistant blogger habits, and if you've stuck with me through it, I really appreciate it.

So in the past month or so I haven't been out and about around Chattanooga much (I missed Southern Brewers Festival, the Tennessee Whiskey Festival, AND Wine Over Water), but a lot has been happening on the home front. Outside my house, inside my house, and all over the yard.  Here's a rundown of projects we've been working on, and I'll go into detail about each one in the coming weeks.
  1. My house is painted!  You may have noticed that my house itself has been absent from my garden pictures thus far.  That's because the paint was peeling and falling off the back of the house.  The house is now painted, and we are at the cleaning up after my painter stage of the project.  It looks SO much better.
  2. My living room has gotten an unexpected remodel.  What started with painting the back of my built in cabinets turned into new crown molding, work on my ceiling, and a whole lot of painting.
  3. I now have an area that shall henceforth be known as 'the woodland garden' 'the shade garden'.  We have turned one random azalea and a few volunteer plants in the woods into an area that has a some structure (the tall plants are now in the back) but is appropriately disheveled for my liking.
  4. My day lilies can breathe!  The only significant flower bed that existed when I moved into my great grand mother's house was a row of day lilies that might be older than I am.  While you think that might be pretty, (and they were) you have to remember that day lilies multiply, and these were way past over crowded.  Side note: if anyone wants day lilies, PLEASE let me know, I still have hundreds!  I'm not even kidding.
  5. We've also done some work in the gardens around the kitchen and the driveway.  Some of it has been general maintenance, and some of it has involved transplanting.
Believe it or not, you're looking at around 50 day lily plants. 
They were extremely overcrowded

It actually has been a lot of work, but the weather is nice, and it's a good time of year to be working outside.  I know it will pay dividends this spring, when I can show you pictures that will actually include my house!

Monday, September 9, 2013

a recipe

Creative post title right?  I don't usually do recipe posts, but I made something this weekend that I really liked, and I thought I'd share.

French toast is one of my all-time favorite breakfast foods, but one that I don't usually make for myself.  It's messy, and I can burn grilled cheese, so I tend to stay away.  I've been eyeing some french toast bakes on pinterest, so I combined a few recipes, took a look around my kitchen, and came up with this:

  1. (1) medium loaf/baguette of sourdough bread
  2. 4 eggs
  3. 1 cup almond milk
  4. 2 tablespoons of vanilla
  5. 1 tablespoon-ish Alchemy Spice "Wake & Bake" (Cinnamon, nutmeg, good stuff blend)
Wisk everything except the bread together in a large bowl.  Slice the bread into 1"-1.25" slices.  (Since I was doing finger foods for brunch, I cut them again into stick size slices.) Gently place the bread into the bowl, folding it once after all the bread is added, and let it soak for about an hour.

This is where I thought I was going to have a pinterest fail.  The bread quickly became mushy, and wanted to fall apart in the bowl, before I even finished adding all the bread.  I think this is because my bread had dried out some, but I had a small freak out.  I ended up with some small-ish pieces, but it came back together as it baked....and they were still really good.

Place in a greased (and floured if you feel so inclined) 13"x9" pan, and bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 30-45 minutes, or until brown.

ta-da - french toast sticks

This turned out really good.  Good enough for me to type out a post just so I can pin it, and have it for future reference good.

Some notes:  I have started keeping almond milk around because it lasts longer in my fridge.  It's thicker than regular milk, which I think works well here, but you can use whatever you have in your fridge.  Vanilla is always good, and the Wake & Bake Sweet Spice is worth keeping around.   I used it in an apple sangria last fall, and my mom puts it on apples.  A little goes a long way, so use it to taste.  Alchemy is a local Chattanooga Company, so gotta love that too.

Friday, August 30, 2013

o/` its the most wonderful time of the year o/`

Seeing football on TV last night made me giddy.  Planning my table-gate for tomorrow made me happy.  I'm even looking forward to grocery shopping at 5pm on a Friday.  The reason is simple.  College football season is finally here.

The first ball was snapped last night, and ESPN's first GameDay of the season - a 4 hour special - will be broadcast from Bowman Field in Clemson on Saturday.  250,000 to 300,000 people are expected to be in Clemson.  I. Can't. Wait.  The first Saturday of college football is like Christmas for me, and I have my day planned out.  There will be fresh baked  cinnamon rolls and mimosas in the morning, and I won't change out of my orange sweatpants until at least noon.  I printed out the full schedule for the day earlier this week, and there won't be a moment during the day that football won't be on my TV, laptop, or both.  If you don't want to hear the football tweets, I suggest that you go ahead and mute me for the day, because watching football at home became exponentially more fun with the invention of twitter.

The grande finale of the day is the Clemson v. Georgia game at 8:00pm on ABC...and my stomach gets a little queesy just thinking about it.  See, the thing about being a Clemson fan is that it's hard sometimes.  We have a long history of what is known as "Clemsoning".

from urban dictionary

BUT our recent history is changing, and good things are happening.  First Dabo was promoted to Head Coach, then we got "The Chad", followed by Brett Veneables, then last year we won the games we were supposed to win, and then there was 4th & 16 and we beat LSU.  I still get nervous, but Clemson has recruited well, and the coaching staff seems to have control of this team.

Key word there: seems.  We won't know a thing until Saturday night, and everybody will be watching.  Georgia is a strong opponent, and both teams have their top 10 national rankings on the line.  The atmosphere is Clemson is already electric, and Death Valley will be rocking tomorrow night. I. Can't. Wait.

It's a national broadcast, on plain, over the air digital TV, and since I can't make the trip to Clemson, I'll be watching & tweeting, I hope you watch too!!


Friday, August 2, 2013

(Re)Discover Chattanooga - Brix Nouveau

I love wine.  I love cheese.  I love music.  I was very happy on the Brix Nouveau patio this past weekend.

He who takes better pictures than me.

The concept behind Brix Nouveau is giving people a chance to learn about wine.  People who know wine can order by the bottle or by the glass, but if you don't know wine, the staff is very helpful, and you can order tasting groups called fights.  The flights are groups of wines designed to give you a chance to develop your own tastes, and try things you might not have experimented with on your own.  I believe the idea is that the flight offerings are constantly evolving, so that you can really explore the wine list.  (Twist my arm.) This weekend the options included a sparkling wine flight, which made me really excited.

Where there is wine, there is also cheese, and I love how Brix Nouveau sets this up.  They have an amazing list of meats, cheeses, and accompaniments, and you can pick what size tray you want, and each item on the tray.  We're talking everything from dark chocolate wafers & fresh honeycomb, to dried meats & aged cheeses.

They also use oil and vinegar from Olive, an olive oil and balsamic tasting room on the north shore.  Oh my goodness, this was amazing and deserving of it's own picture.  Raspberry Balsamic ohmygoodness.

The atmosphere is elegant, but relaxed.  It's a place I felt comfortable with friends after a casual trip to the market, but would also be well suited for a nice date.

Looking at the Brix Nouveau website and Facebook page, the theme of wine education is played out in a Wednesday night 'Wine 101 Tasting.'  It's priced at $20, and the discussion is geared towards beginners who want to know more.  The wines are rotated every two weeks, and I think this is a great (and affordable) way to learn about wine.

Our server also mentioned that the North Shore Block Party is this weekend, and the First Annual Progressive Dinner is tonight!  It will start at Heaven and Ale across the street, and end at Brix Nouveau.  The cost is $50 (including tax) and "covers food at all restaurants involved – Heaven and Ale, Foodworks, Sushi Nabe, Gigi’s, Milk and Honey, and Brix Nouveau."  You can travel at your own pace, and pick up tickets today at Heaven and Ale.  All I can say is yum, and yes please.

Edit 8/19/13:  Robin Dance at has just started a "Love Where You Live" linkup, and the first topic is favorite restaurants.   Brix Nouveau is a perfect fit for this list, with Sushi Nabe, Sweet Basil, Typhoon of Tokyo, The Terminal, Alleia, and Foodworks brunch also deserving of some love!  For more of my favorite places to eat in Chattanooga click on the #CHAeats tag.

Brix Nouveau
301 Cherokee Blvd, 
Chattanooga, TN 37405
(423) 488- 2926
Tuesday-Thursday:              5:00pm-10:00pm
Friday-Saturday:                  4:00pm-11:00pm
Sunday:                                4:00pm-9:00pm *
*Sundays featuring 25% of all wine bottles and live entertainment

website | facebook | instagram | pinterest
Brix Nouveau, Wine & Cheese Bar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 1, 2013

travel #2013 - huntsville speedway

I didn't realize it tat the time, but my trip to Huntsville Speedway this past Saturday may have been my last hurrah for my year of travel. (map)

Funny how unexpected expenses do that to you.  Regardless of how long my travel plans will be on hold, I can't believe I'm saying this, but, I'm glad I got to go to Alabama.

Oh, Alabama.

It's not quite a 2 hour drive to Huntsville Speedway.

Alabama is a beautiful, if not sometimes comical place to visit. We took the back way to the track, and let me tell you, it's been a good year for corn in Alabama.  It was tall and thick, and ready to be picked.  This area is still pretty rural, so not much had changed in the 10 years since my last trip to Huntsville.

The track itself is in a fantastic spot.  It backs up to a mountain, and as the sun sets it's absolutely gorgeous.  It seems odd to talk about the nature setting at a race track, but trust me, when you're sitting on metal bleachers at the peak of summer waiting for the show to get started, you appreciate the view.

Huntsville Speedway itself is near the top of my 'Best Tracks to Watch a Race' list.  It's short, just a quarter mile - which for you NASCAR fans, is half the size of Bristol.  Your car has to be set up to turn.  It's an action packed little track, and it's small enough that you can see everything from the stands.  The concessions and bathrooms are well laid out, so even though there was a decent crowd, I never had to wait in much of a line.  'Beer Barns' are located on both ends of the grandstands, and there is a family friendly section of seating in the middle.  Traffic isn't too bad, so everybody leaves happy.

The fans are always a great part of the 'experience' of a night at the racetrack, and as you can imagine, the great state of Alabama does not disappoint in this arena.  Close your eyes, and think about what race track hairstyles and fashion might look like in Alabama.  I can say with 95% confidence that someone who fits that description was at the track this weekend.

No crazy hair in this picture, just a cool sunset.

Along with the fashion, it's always fun when you realize you're sitting next to a driver's mamma, or girlfriend, or drinking buddy.  And you always know, because they are vocal in their support during a race.  I'm guilty of it myself, and it makes zero logical sense, but during a race, fans go into a WWE mode and feel like they must be heard over the roar of the cars.  If payback is deserved, you will hear about it, and probably see it on the track.  It's part of what makes going to the racetrack a cultural experience.

As for the race itself, it was great.  There was a respectable number of cars present for the Rocket City 100, and they were all close in speed.  There was a lot of racing, and cars moving up through the field.  The team we went to see (my dad drove for the owner on occasion, and the last race I actually went to I spotted for this team) had a car driven by the awesome Chris Whorton, who technically led every lap of the race.  He was challenged for a while, and it definitely got 'racey' for a few laps, but the car owner has track championships at Hunstville spanning four decades, and there was little doubt that Chris would win this race.

So congratulations to Chris & Rick, it was fun to be back at the racetrack!
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