Monday, December 31, 2012

Will We Make It to Midnight? (Short Answer: No)

Ladies and gentlemen, you are looking at genuine moonshine, aka Soddy-Daisy Kool-Aid! Can you believe it? Some neighbors -- the ones we met while they were Lady Slipper-huntin' last summer, with Miller Lites in hand well before noon -- they brought these mini-Mason jars over to us tonight. That's a peach slice in one, a blueberry in the other. I started with an itty-bitty baby shot, and I gotta say, it was frighteningly smooth -- and tasty!! My new favorite neighbors, indeed! (Helping myself to a second baby shot while writing this.... Come on, folks, it's New Year's!)

These neighbors hadn't seen anything we'd done to the cabin since we moved in. They said they'd kinda been feeling bad for us, roughing it full-time up up here on the mountain (they have a home in town, and don't yet have running water here on the mountain). But after they came into the cabin tonight, umm, I think all sympathies flew out the window.  OK, we MAY have over-improved the place. At least by Tennessee standards.

Before we broke into the booze, we spent New Year's Eve day splitting firewood, reorganizing the shed for a new project, doing some painting, and I also baked some kick-ass Black-Pepper Cheddar Shortbread snacks.  Oh, and of course, Nick got his walks.

Dinner? Soooo not mountain-like. We got a little batch of king crab legs, which is what I used to eat when I was young, had money and spent New Year's with my close group of Minneapolis friends.  As the butter melted, I called those friends. So bittersweet to talk to them all and not know when I'll see them again.  It's hard, you know? You make some hard choices in life. Leaving my closest friends has been one of the harder ones.

But I also love life on Flat Top. ...  Choices, you know?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Very Merry Christmas

Nothing says Christmas like shoveling rock on the driveway and brewing five gallons of lager. Sounds like just another day on the mountain, right? But don't worry, we also found time for some culinary indulgences and there was an embarrassing abundance of presents from our families and friends! Nick the Dog even scored his first new toy in two years (from my mom), as well as two disgusting lambs' ears that he ingested with startling speed (also from Mom).

We skipped the whole tree mess and just decorated the wood post in the middle of the cabin that holds up the loft. And that's my new hat, from my sister. And check out all these goodies we scored! All of Mom's gifts were wrapped in quilted fabric bags that she made. Talk about DYI!

Mason's ex, Karen, always sends him his favorite snacks: summer sausage, cheese, peppers and such, as well as pralines and sinfully sweet divinity. I scored some gourmet goodies from her, too! She cushioned the presents with some editions of the Arlington newspaper, which Mason promptly uncrumpled and began reading -- kinda like a kid who's more intrigued with the cardboard box than the gift itself ...

In non-holiday news, we've been busy with a big indoor redecorating project -- before and after photos to come soon! And we've been slowly working on rocking the driveway, which had become mostly dirt. It's really classed up the front yard, not to mention cut down on the amount of dirt and mud that gets dragged into the house.

Hope y'all had a wonderful holiday! And stay away from those stores and sales. No better place than the mountain to escape all that madness!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

My OLD Man

After spending a week on the mountain (usually we go to town every four or five days, but holiday madness gave us new incentive to NOT go to town), today we celebrated Mason's birthday with a trip to the bowling alley. The local high school team ( Go, Soddy Daisy Trojans!) had the alley booked at 3:30 p.m., so we went into town "early" -- 11 a.m. -- for breakfast, then ran a few errands before hitting the lanes.

Some serious bowlers were a few lanes down from us and must have had a fine laugh watching us, but we had a good time. Just don't ask about our scores. And don't ask how we enjoyed the Budweiser (NOT Bud Light, by the way!), which was the only non-light beer they had. I think if you zoom in that photo, you'll see the little orange wristbands we had to wear to prove we were over 21 years old. Seriously. Like the cottonheads full of gray hair weren't evidence enough.

So, if the world does end on the 21st, we can say that we lived life to the fullest right up to the end! Bowling rules! Rock on! Happy Holiday Kwanzaa Season to everyone!)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Waiting for Guffman (Well, for Doug, actually)

Dogs love routine, I'm told, and Nick is no exception. The day starts when he hears me stir and finally convinces me to roll out of bed and get his bowl of kibble. If I'm not quite ready to roll, I tell him "5 more minutes" and damn, if that dog doesn't know exactly what that means, because about 5 minutes later, guess who's back at the side of the bed, whimpering ever so softly?

After his breakfast comes his walkabout the property. If it's sunny, he will then curl up on the back porch and wait till he hears Mason get up. Then comes Breakfast No. 2, when he gets a few bites of Mason's cereal, then bacon or sausage, depending on the day, and then licks the egg yolk off the plate. And then for Breakfast No. 3, he licks my yogurt container. One, two, three -- every day.

On the couch or out in the sun, he then waits for us to brush our teeth. And when he sees us head back upstairs to make the bed, he knows he's tail-waggin' close to his favorite time of day: The Walk. Every day.

But as soon as that walk is done, Nick has a new favorite time of day: Waiting for Doug. That's him, waiting on the porch, above. If he thinks maybe it's getting real close to Doug Time, he goes out in the yard to wait, staring down toward the cattle gate to the property.

Doug owns the cabin behind ours; we share the same gate. He lives in town and the cabin is a work in progress, but if the weather is decent, Doug comes up almost daily to work on it. He also brings up a dog treat for Nick.

And if you saw Nick's reaction when he hears the tires of Doug's rattly old diesel pickup on our gravel drive, it's the Best Damn Treat Ever Known to Dog. His little legs quiver with anticipation, and he whimpers as he waits for Doug to come up the driveway. Oh my! Some days Nick scores a second treat from Doug on his way back out.

If Doug arrives while we're out on our morning walk, Nick will pick up the scent of his tires on the road, and a quarter-mile from home, he takes off in a sprint to catch up with Doug. And sometimes he'll run another quarter-mile to Doug's cabin just to make sure he isn't missing out.

This routine? It's the new highlight of Nick's day.

But Mason and I also score something out of Doug's visits: He brings us the Chattanooga newspaper! Sometimes it's a couple of days old, but we don't mind. In return, we give him homebrews. That's him  below talking with Mason, back when there were still leaves on the trees.

But as the days get colder, Nick's routine is about to take a hit. See ya in the spring, Doug.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Hello, Minneapolis!

Our birdhouse, sunset Dec. 8.

So I woke this morning to find my Minneapolis mates posting photos of the season's first snowfall. I have to admit, it's simply gorgeous when those fluffy flakes coat all of the tree limbs. But this is Dec. 9. There are good odds that those Minneapolis mates won't be seeing the ground again until March ...

Meanwhile, Dec. 9 on Flat Top was spent working in the yard, combining piles of shredded leaves into one giant compost heap that hopefully will become "gardening gold" come spring. Our skies were party sunny and delightfully pushing 70 degrees here on the mountain. At quitting time, I took time to pick up the phone and call the Balafas family to see how they were loving the snow. Sure enough, their two teenage kids were out playing in it when I called. Too cute!

That's me (right) on the phone with Dino -- oh dear, that hair IS gray, isn't it? Anyway, as you can see, we've already made a dent in our firewood supply. But don't fret, we have about five more piles as big as the one on the left. We are NOT running out this year!

Monday, December 3, 2012

We Needed a Vacation

I know, I know. We haven't "worked for the man" in more than two years, and we haven't even been that productive around the cabin lately. That solar project remains hanging over us, not to mention the winterizing project of finishing the "skirt" around the cabin's crawl space.

But, seriously, doesn't that white sand look like more fun? This is Okaloosa Island at Fort Walton Beach, Florida -- just a seven-hour hop south of here. (Technically, in that photo, we were on U.S. military property, but they didn't appear to be using it on this Thursday afternoon, and besides, why should the military get all the good beaches?)

Mason has got a buddy from his Texas high school days who lives here. Well, he "weekends" on the island, then spends the week on his 10-acre "farm" nearby. Not a bad life, eh? We're gonna leave him unnamed, because we're pretty sure he'd prefer it that way.

Now, we've been to a lot of ocean destinations. You know, sailing the South Pacific and all. But the white sand here in the Redneck Riviera? It's truly pretty damn nice. The restaurants and crowds? Meh... But don't worry, we brought icy cold homebrews along. And Nick the Dog loved the beach.

And now, back in Chattanooga, today it was 70 degrees. In December. The good life continues!