Thursday, October 27, 2011

2011 Tornados - 6 months later

View Tornado in a larger map

It's been six months after an F4 tornado passed a mile and a half away from my parents house (the Green Pin). I was with them that night, and this is the story of our lengthy and circuitous trip to check on my grandmother (the Blue Pin) who wouldn't answer her phone.  (Yes, she now has a hearing aid)  I went out to visit my parents last Sunday, and I snapped some pictures to let you see what things look like now.  Some people have been able to rebuild, some chose not to rebuild, and others are still in the process.
This area is fairly rural, and the lasting damage was done to the landscape.  Trees were splintered and snapped in half.  You can clearly see the path of the tornado as you wind through the roads bordering Tennesse and Georgia on the way to my parents.
The land around this house had to be completely cleared away.  There was no clear cutting, or taking the timber for lumber.  The twisted trees are not structurly sound enough to be used for that purpose.  Most of the scattered trees were burned in months of brush fires.  What was not burned was only suitable to be chipped and made into pulpwood.  The house is being rebuilt to match the previous layout and style, and they're making progress.  This picture barely shows the RV parked in the driveway.  This family has not been able to move back into their home.
A trailer identical to the one brought in here was in thrown up and into a tree during the tornado.  That is left of this tree can be seen in the far left of this picture.  Maybe because it was such an obvious total loss, and the structure so easy to replace, but this was the first home in the neighborhood that the family was able to move in to.  Everything around them was a complete mess, and they also lived in an RV but they were able to move into the new mobile home within a few months.
The mobile home here was the scariest part of the drive after the tornado.  It was thrown across the road, and up the hill from this slab.  The shower, water heater, toilet, were all literally scattered on the hill. This was something you saw and immediately felt that no one could survive.  Luckily no fatalities were reported at this address.

The area is recovering, but the scars will show for at least the next 2-4 years.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Happy Meal Halloween

It's not the same as the Classic Pumpkin Trick-Or-Treat Happy Meal Bucket, but it is cool that McDonalds is still making kids Halloween with Happy Meal Trick-Or-Treat buckets.  This year they come with stickers, so you get to make your own pumpkin or monster face. This is a great example of "If it ain't broke don't fix it" marketing. If you want to know more about the Happy Meal Trick-or-Treat Buckets, or pails, as they are officially called check out this blog post.  It's incredibly thorough.

By the way, is anyone as surprised as I am that Halloween is coming up so soon??

Sunday, October 23, 2011

(Re)Discover Chattanooga - Thai Smile

Sometimes it's sad when I think of the places in Chattanooga that have been here for a while, but I've never been.  I'm not sure how long Thai Smile has been in business, but it's long enough that they don't have a website or Facebook account, but still do good business. They rely on plain, old fashioned word of mouth advertising, and repeat customers.

This is going to be a quick post, so I'm going to keep this short and sweet,

  • Location:  Downtown, Chattanooga. Thai Smiles is right downtown near the Aquarium.  There's a Republic Parking Lot adjacent to their building, so if you don't mind paying to park, it's easy.
  • Decor: I liked it.  It's not super fancy, but its authentic, simple, bright, clean, and open.
  • Food: Really Good.  I like Thai food, and you can order each dish to your own taste spice wise.  They've got a good variety to their menu, and the 'standard' favorites you expect and love from a Thai restaurant.
  • Value:  Stellar.  I love it when the food is good and affordable.  The lunch portions are large enough to split with someone, and still take food home.  Our table joked that you can eat off one plate for 4 days. And you can never complain when the bill for 2 people is right around $10.
  • Service:  Can't complain.  The lunch service was fast, our drinks were never empty, and the servers never hoovered. What more can you ask for.
Thai Smiles
219 Market St, Chattanooga, TN 37402
(423) 266-2333
Thai Smile 3 on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 21, 2011

Clemson Tigers, 7-0

The jury is still out on Clemson football (7-0) this year.  Lots of people around the country are talking about a national title, and it's my personal belief that you don't talk about that kind of things until 10 wins are in the books.  It feels different than others I've experienced (I just moved back to Chattanooga after spending 10 years in Clemson), but with Clemson, you never know.  The defining characteristic in both the football and basketball programs for the majority of the seasons I witnessed has been inconsistency. Basketball wins vs North Carolina followed by losses by bottom ranked Florida State and football wins against top ranked Miami followed by losses to Duke.  The talent has been there, but for whatever reason the teams can't pull it together on a regular basis.  I'm always nervous about jinxing Clemson, but here are my thoughts on Clemson Football as it stands now, and why I think that this year *might* be different.

Chad Morris - I am 100% convinced that the single most important precipitant in Clemson's success this year is Offensive Coordinator Chad Morris.  Not only has he brought a new offense to the program, but he's implemented it in such a way that technique and discipline on the field have improved.  He hasn't overwhelmed his players and focuses on execution. The way he is introducing his playbook the players have time to learn and be comfortable, and teams are surprised each week as new layers and folds are added.  I also really like his attitude.  He's tough and all business.  When asked about how tough he is on his players he has said "I don't need any more 20 year old friends" and if my memory serves me correct also something to the effect of  'this is not the first time I've yelled at a team, and it won't be the last.'  I feel like he is giving this team the tools it needs to be better football players, pushing them,  and expecting them to make it happen.  I like it. A lot.

Receivers and backs - I grew up an SEC fan, and I appreciate a good hard hitting running game.  For me something that separates the men from the boys in football is yards after hit, or yards after contact. The ACC is more of a passing conference, and in past years Clemson has been weak in the yards after contact category.  Don't get me wrong, there have been a few standout players, and maneuverability has been a strength in many Clemson players. But an area where I see an across the board improvement on Clemson's offense is the guy with the ball tucking his shoulder, making a hit rather than just taking a hit, and trying to break a tackle for extra yardage. I like it.

Adjustments - A strength in this coaching staff and this team lies in the ability to adjust the game plan, and make corrections.  The first two games this year Clemson played sloppy and ineffective first halves, but were able to make great corrections and adjustments at halftime.  As this season has progressed we've seen good adjustments in the 2nd quarter and after halftime.  Clemson has not been able to do this in season's past, and I give the staff and the players kudos for this.

Every game is a big game - Clemson has always been able to get up for the big game.  They've exceeded expectations when they're up against quality opponents.  It's great to have a team that plays to the level of the competition when the opponent is nationally ranked, not so much when it's Duke.  **So far** this year, Clemson has played every game like it's a big game, and that each win is important.  I'd like to see them come out stronger to start a game, but they have settled down each time and played every game like it's the most important game of the year. I've also never seen the fans get so excited for a road game at Maryland, or a home game against un-ranked UNC.

Sammy Watkins - The great thing about this team is there are a lot of play makers.Tajh Boyd, Andre Ellington, DeAndre Hopkins, Dwayne Allen are all fantastic.  I believe that by the end of the year Mike Bellamy is going to be a true freshman standout.  And then there is Sammy Watkins.  I'm convinced that there was a moment in the 2nd half of the Maryland game when Clemson was down and he said to himself 'We need to win this game, and I'm going to make it happen.' And then he did. He doesn't do it alone; he's had some great blocks.  What impresses me even more than his speed, hands & size (all amazing by the way) is his vision and communication skills.  This is a true freshman that came in and studied the offense this summer with his upperclassman QB.  He knows the game, and is able to communicate what he sees on the field to his coaches and the other players in a way that directly translates to points.  This kid is special, has his goals set high, and I'm pretty sure he's not going to let anyone on a football field stop him from making his dreams come true.  He will do what is necessary to out run, out catch, and out smart anyone he lines up against.  His talent, work ethic, and immediate impact on the field is why we (and thanks to ESPN, everyone else) have taken notice of Sammy Watkins.  Tweets like these are why Clemson fans have fallen in love with him, and cheer for him on Saturdays.


*Images from,, Orlando Sentinel online, and the Sammy Watkins for Heisman Facebook Page.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

(Re)Discover Chattanooga - Sluggo's

I had never heard of Sluggo's when I was told that was where we were going to meet people before Wine Over Water a few weekends ago.  I was picturing a dive bar, something dark and dim, and was more than pleasantly surprised when we got there.

Sluggo's is a small, fun, open space.  You order at a counter, everything is cooked to order, and they bring the food to your table.  They've got a small but solid beer selection, and board games if you want to hang out or bring kids.  Any place that has Apples to Apples hanging around automatically gets some bonus points.

The food is vegetarian, and it's tasty.  I'm always up for an adventure food wise, but tend to stay in the shallow end the first time around.  There was vegan chili on the menu, tofu tacos, pesto bruschetta, and fantastic vegan nachos.  I had the nachos, and they were great!  They came with a mustard sauce, which was a bit of a surprise, but really good.

Our table also loved the pesto bruschetta, zucchini cakes, and tofu tacos.  Only one person wasn't happy with his meal, and considering he was tricked in the first place, I'm not surprised that he didn't fall in love with his BBQ tofu sandwich.  Sometimes it's hard to mess with the real thing.

If you're looking for something good and different in the North Shore area that won't break the bank, give Sluggo's a try.  I enjoyed it :)

501 Cherokee Blvd., Chattanooga, TN 37405
Mon - Sat:11:00 am-11:00 pm

Sluggo's North Vegetarian Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Garden Update - October 2011

I'm a day late for Garden Blogger's Bloom Day, but I'd like to have this for planning next year's garden, so here's what's blooming on my patio.

We've got moon flowers & moon vine, late planted tomatoes, black eyed susans, and my hanging basket with lantana & petunias.

This is my first post from the blogger app, so I hope the formatting comes out ok!

Monday, October 10, 2011

(Re)Discover Chattanooga - River Rocks Light Show

There are some things worth doing, even if it's by yourself. I am pretty happy I made the River Rocks light show at the Hunter this past Friday one of those things.

Before the light show started I met a guy who asked me, "Is this going to be as good as Pink Floyd?" and since I'd done my research, I replied "Even Better". He stared me down, but said "ok, we'll see." A third of the way through, he looked at me and told me I was right. The Pink Floyd light shows are known for being pretty amazing, but this is in another category altogether based on the technology alone. The firm who produced this show took digital imagery of the Hunter's exterior first, enabling them to create a skin of the museum in light. This then allowed them to enhance certain features, and to create depth. Images could then appear as if they moved in and out of the windows etc. The effect was pretty awesome. Rather than tell you all about it, here's the official video:

In my 'research' Friday afternoon before the show I learned that this type of technology has been used to produce shows in Melbourne (Australia) and in Amsterdam (Netherlands). I was pretty impressed to see this kind of show in Chattanooga, Tn. If you have some time, take a look on YouTube for the other shows.

This was part of the 10 Day River Rocks festival in Chattanooga. It was sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee, Volkswagen & the River Rocks Festival. This was a free event, so I'm going to say a big ol' Thank You!

River Rocks on Facebook

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

(Re)Discover Chattanooga: Wine over Water

Wine over Water has to be one of Chattanooga's 'Most Looked Forward To' events of the year. I'm blaming on the fact I've never been on living two states away for the past 10 years, but that really is a poor excuse. Held on the world's longest pedestrian bridge, there is plenty of room for wine from all over the world. This year there were 49 tents and 4 mini stages. Each tent featured 4-8 labels or a local restaurant. Even with the huge selection, you need to get there early to plan your route - the best wines disappear quickly.

Wine over Water is an event that really is right up my alley. Live music, wine, lots of interesting people, but not too crowded. My group was medium size made up of new and good friends. We were able to cut up and wander from table to table without getting split up. I kept notes for everyone in the program guide we were given with our wine glasses. I can't wait to go back and pick my top 3 to add to my collection at home! I personally loved how inviting the event was. There was no dress code, and you had people in everything from 3 piece suites, to jeans and jackets. The common denominator was that everyone wore a smile, and that wasn't just the wine talking. Everyone really was having a great time.

The Walnut Street Bridge really is the perfect setting for Wine Over Water. A former 'normal traffic' bridge, there is plenty of room for tents, musicians, and all of the people milling about from table to table. The timing is great too. In early October the weather is just starting to turn cool, but not cold, and the views are fantastic. From the bridge you can see downtown, the North Shore & Coolidge Park, Moccasin Bend & Signal Mountain to the west. To the East you have the Hunter Art Museum, and a large section of the Tennessee River. This year was even more special because the One Bridge Art Festival, 3 Sisters Bluegrass Festival & River Rocks were going on as well. As the sun went down, hot air balloons were inflated on the North Shore. Whoever thought of glowing hot air balloons at night was brilliant, and I wish I could have stayed around longer*.

The price tag for this event is a little higher than most things I've reviewed so far at $70 for day of tickets, but the wine was great and the proceeds go to historic preservation in Chattanooga, and 1/2 of the ticket price is tax deductible. Regardless, I'll be back next year.

Event Details
Date: Early October
Weather Policy: Rain or Shine
Selection: Over 100 world wineries
Cost: $60 way in advance, $65 one month in advance, $70 day of event.

* The reason we didn't stay longer was the Clemson VaTech game. Even though it was on DVR, saying I was anxious to watch is an understatement.
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