Tuesday, March 17, 2015

St. Pete

Mom and Dad under the giant kapok tree - Museum of Fine Arts, St. Pete, FL.

Mazzaro's Italian Market

Amazing place....  smelled like 'grandma's grilled chicken at the lake' as soon as I got out of the car.  The workers were speaking Italian.  It was the real deal

Fish sandwiches, cannoli, espresso!

fresh lasagna and pasta dishes - on the way to the oven

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The winter storms of '15

Anyone who knows me knows I love weather, winter storms are no exception.  I never remember MTSU being closed 4 days in one week.  I had an unexpected week vacation in Sewanee, and the weather was beautiful ... in it's own way.

Ice storm #1 was really hard on my Murfreesboro neighborhood.   Trees and branches down everywhere but my property did ok.  Arriving in Sewanee on Friday night brought a blast of beautiful big snow flakes just around dusk in storm #2.  I'm happy that I brought my truck because driving conditions required a 4x4, especially off the main road.  After putting a new starter and battery in my truck, I'm really happy to have it.

These first three photos were taken during the magic hour of dusk during the advent of the 2/20 snow/ice storm #2  It eventually turned to sleet and rain.  The flash produced an interesting effect, reflecting off of the big flakes.  One photo was taken at my Murfreesboro house after ice storm #1.

UPDATE:  The big Sewanee snow of 2/25-26 I wasn't about to miss out on so I rescheduled some students to Friday and enjoyed some 4x4 touring in the 5" of snow we got.  Murfreesboro only got an inch.  The town of Sewanee got 3-4", less on the north side of the mountain, more on the SW facing slopes like at my place.   I got up early on Thursday and hiked around by the Sewanee Cross and plowed through virgin snow all the way to the end of Brakefield road.   So glad to have a 4x4 that takes me into these wonderful wintry scenes.  

My road was still snow covered on Sat. 2/28 while the roads around the Domain of the University were mostly dry.

Another winter storm looks likely for Wednesday night!!!!  It's your birthday present, John P.

View at dusk from Sky Castle
Sky Castle during the storm
the bluff
icy beauty

happy to have lots of well seasoned firewood left
ice storm #1 in Murfreesboro

virgin snow - Brakefield Rd.

Greens View Rd

Virginia Ave 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Florida holiday

Some photos from my trip to Florida to visit my parents in the Villages and the Rezvanis in St. Pete.

Ft. Desoto beach

Roya and Yesenia

With mom and Roya

Xmas dinner

Dad in his chair
Dali Museum at night
St. Pete
Rezvani Sisters
Strolling in St. Pete ... dolphin

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The sound of roaring creeks

2.93 inches of rain Dec. 22-24 recorded at the Sky Castle weather station, this Christmas eve.  

The sound of the roaring creeks here is tremendous.   It's like living by the sea, except it is doesn't ebb and flow, it's constant.   It's particularly awesome at night, even a little scary.  The weather change abruptly today with the cold front.   It was 55º last night, and I had a window open to hear the sound of rushing water to sleep to.    Now, it's 41º with rain and fog.  Was planning on going to the track to train, but I think I'll take 2 days off and enjoy my last few hours of the year here in Sewanee before I travel.

Unlike a lot of my nature and weather videos, this has sound.   Have a listen to the awesomeness of nature - there is no greater church.

I'm off to FL. Merry Xmas, 2014.

Friday, December 19, 2014


Panforte is a traditional Italian fruit and nut cake.  Literally meaning, 'strong bread', it is a very dense and chewy dessert that is actually low carb since it is flourless.

The version I made has hazelnuts, pecans, almonds, dried tart cherries, golden raisins, dried apricots, figs, and dates.  It's topped with a chocolate glaze.

This is so easy to make. Simply mix your favorite dried fruits and nuts with some spices and almond flour. Heat 2 tbsp butter with 3/4 c honey and 1/2 c sugar, mix thoroughly, put in spring-form pan lined with buttered parchment, bake at 300º for 55 min, cool overnight. That's it. Make a chocolate topping by melting chocolate chips with a halfcup of milk or cream and pour over.

Here's what I use. All nuts and fruits are roasted and coarsely chopped. Amounts are approximate.

1 c. - hazelnuts
1 c. - almonds
1 c. - pecans
1/2 c. - figs
1/2 c. - dates
1 c. - dried tart cherries
1/2 c. - gold raisins
1/2 c. - dried apricots
2/3 c. - almond flour (or 1/2 c all purpose flour)
cinnamon, cloves or allspice, nutmeg to taste
2 tsp finely ground coffee

mix thoroughly in large bowl

heat 2 tbsp butter (I use butter - canola blend), 3/4 c. honey, 1/2 c. raw sugar until sugar is dissolved and mixture bubbles.

Pour over fruits and nuts and mix thoroughly in large bowl.
Add a few squirts of chocolate syrup while mixing

Line spring-form pan with parchment paper and butter the paper

push mixture into pan, compress mixture with wet fingers or spatula

Bake at 300º for 55 min.

let cool over night

remove from pan and paper

make chocolate topping and coat:
boil 1/2 c milk or cream, reduce heat, add chocolate chips (semi sweet) until melted

coat and cool

Monday, December 15, 2014

Fall concerts...

My fall concert season went very well...

My program included the new Handel Suite, 4 Brazilian cafe pieces (including Brasileririnho, my new transcription), Mallorca by Albeniz, and some American fingersyle pieces including 2 Jerry Reed pieces... (Drive In, Jerry's Breakdown).   After hearing Yo-yo Ma and Paco D'Rivera play Brasileririnho, I had to find a way to play it, and I did!  The piece ended my first half.  I also played some old stuff ... my lute set, a flamenco piece, Delta, Bluetude, and Frevo.

In addition to my guest artist concerts at Mississippi State University and Wofford College, I also did a lot of public service events.   These included numerous classes at MTSU - including a 150 member intor to music class, a church service at Otey Chapel in Sewanee, a concert for Adams Place retirement community, and 2 school performances - Centennial High School in Franklin, and Evergreen Charter School in Asheville, NC.   I absolutely love playing for kids and answering their questions, and listening to their stories!

Both college trips were awesome, long drives in the University car.   First, down to Mississippi St. on the Natchez Trace, and then to Spartanburg, SC through the mountains and Asheville, NC.   Wofford College's Leonard Auditorium was quite a grand venue and a decent crowd.  Happy to receive a standing ovation.   The Evergreen Charter School was so cool, a funky young faculty, everyone wore jeans and was comfortable, laid back, and cool.  The kids were polite and smart.  They were very nice and appreciative.  Thanks to Karen and the staff.

A nice fall tour.  Here are some photos...

Wofford College - Troubadour Series 

Wofford College - Leonard Auditorium

On the road through Asheville

Evergreen Charter School - 6th grade
Mississippi State University - after concert 


On the wings of ...


Lucky shot from the Sky Castle web cam on Sunday morning, 12/14. A still from the cloud video.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Fall '14 color and toward winter

It's been a whirlwind of fall guitar concerts, travel, and now winter vacation.  Finally, I am on vacation and will update here with some photos....

It was a beautiful fall ... an unexpected early cold snap on Halloween with snow on the mountain, a great fall party, and goodbye to the leaves as we come upon the winter solstice within a fortnight from now.

Here's a chronological set of photos of the fall color season -  earth, sky, and home ....

Oct. 26, Moonset

Oct. 26 - leaves beginning to fall

Oct. 26 sunset

Oct. 28 - near peak color

October freeze - the plants come in

Snow on Nov. 1 morning

Nov. 11 - the last of the leaves

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

New cam

I really wish I had this new Dropcam - a high resolution streaming IP camera with web based recording - back during those epic August storms.

My Sewanee Dropcam has a few challenges as it is operating at the edge of my internet capabilities ... with only slow DSL available here and quite a distance to the router.   Nevertheless, it's seems to be working at about 98%, with only occasional screen freezes.

The Dropcam is in addition to the low resolution IP cam integrated with the weather station.  The feed is irregularly updated as it is controlled by the Weather Underground network of webcams, which really has some serious inconsistency issues.  You can view this at any time by clicking the link/photo on the sidebar of this blog.   The Dropcam has a much wider angle view than the Ambientcam weather camera.

I've decided to not make the Dropcam stream public because it has excellent audio and I would rather not have a possible public eavesdropper in my midst... but perhaps when I'm away for more than a week, I'll stream it publicly.    The great thing about Dropcam is the ability to generate timelapse recording... which I posted my first one to Youtube (below).   It was a rainy last day in August and the clouds/fog below in the cove was really beautiful.    Unfortuately, all Dropcam recordings display the Dropcam logo in the lower right of the image.

This is the beginning of sunset season where the orb of the setting sun will rotate south on the horizon and be in my full view.

Still not tired of the view.   This was the view from my deck on the last sunset of August. (Canon Powershot A2400SI)

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Cedarcrest log house history

She just drove up.   In a new Buick, she slowly opened the door as I curiously approached the car, putting a cane on the ground, she stood up, turned around and looked at me and said, "I grew up in this house!"

It was Evelyn Davidson, age 82, smiling... looking 'fit as a fiddle.'

When I moved into this house just before Christmas 1997, I was given a photo of this  house by the previous owners who said they got it from woman that lived here before it was moved.  I went and got the photo and sure enough... it was written by Evelyn when she last visited this house in 1988.   Hard to believe that was 26 years ago.  She flipped over the photo and said, "Yes, that's my handwriting."

This house was originally located in Deason, TN... a small crossroads several miles south of Murfreesboro on Rt. 231.   It was moved here by Charlie Farrer, of the well-known Murfreesboro construction and hardware companies.  It was moved to where it now stands ... log by log, each spray painted with a number, every cedar log had a unique dove-tail joint that fit together like a 3 dimensional puzzle.  When I bought the house, I pressure washed off the spray painted numbers and applied a fine oil based clear protectant.

I researched this house when I bought it almost 17 years ago.  I believe I actually called Evelyn, who has lived in the same house in Shelbyville for 61 yrs.  She referred me to the previous owner named Clyde Barber, now deceased, who was in his 80s when I talked with him in early '98.   He said when he moved into the house in 1927, it was "about 100 years old" at that time.   He said the house didn't have electricity until 5 yrs later in 1932.

The photo

This photo taken of the house in 1942, sided over with wood and with a different window and door configuration, shows Evelyn on the porch at age 10, standing third from the right, wearing a hat.

With the photo, a letter to the people I bought the house from, Mr. & Mrs. Robert Roose, said that Evelyn's parents were Jasper H. and Lula B. Hayes.   She said in the letter:
"you will notice this picture was taken before lawn mowers were used.   My dad would cut the yard with the mower used to cut hay, and not very often at that." 
Also in the letter, she diagrammed the layout of the original house.

I asked Evelyn the usual questions I ask people of her age.  How do you stay so active and healthy?  She said, "well, I've always worked.  Ate food that we grew."   She was also married for 60 yrs.  Married at age 23 to a man 15 yrs older.  He passed away last year at age 96.   I also asked her how long she wanted to live?  She said, "I had a doctor that said I wouldn't live past 81... so I got another doctor."

She also mentioned that when growing up, they heated with wood burning Franklin stoves and it sometimes got below freezing inside the house some mornings, freezing water basins.

I asked her if she had an email so we could stay in touch.   She said, "No, but I'll take your number."  She said she'd like to return with her daughter.

I hope she does.

Like my neighbor Hans, and Joe T. (who passed this yr), you can't have enough octogenarians as friends.  

My house as it is now.  All local cedar and probably pushing 190 yrs old.  I still find 19th c. square nails in some of the walls and beams.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Another tornado?

It sure looks like one...

I kick myself for not being home for this storm.   With my high resolution camera out of order, I captured this image on my low resolution weather cam just after sunset as it was transitioning to night vision, so that's why the colors are a bit weird.

Yes, definitely some ground level rotation moving through Lost Cove.   Beautiful.
Note the radar minutes before the time of the photo ... certainly looks like tornado vortex signature poised at the top of Lost Cove moving south, although very short lived.  Goes to show that small tornados can whip up in a matter of seconds at anytime during a storm and they can completely escape detection from the National Weather Service, since they are so short lived.  This one lasted a few minutes at most.

Radar at 7:46 PM - Franklin / Marion Co. TN

Friday, August 22, 2014


This post is inspired by my dad who today received a great report from a heart catheterization, an internal probe of his coronary arteries.  On the basis of an MRI, he was diagnosed with severe blockages in his heart, up to 80%.   Upon this more detailed exam, his heart arteries were not blocked 80%, but only 50% - not requiring a stent.  This was the best news possible!  My dad is making a new commitment on lifestyle and has lost 20+ lbs and taking on an exercise regime.  After 2+ decades of a terrible diet, and sedentary lifestyle, making this change at age 74 is better late than never.

People with disease, especially heart disease often have a 'life revelation' that causes a sudden change in lifestyle to increase their chances of survival - one of the many reasons why 'it's better to know.'  I predicted this would happen for my dad, and I'm optimistic that it's not too late, perhaps just in time.  I'm very thankful that my dad seeks regular physical evaluations because without it, he would never have assessed his risk or made the changes.  One of the healthiest people I knew, Roland - thin, fit, a long time vegan, farmed his own food, died earlier than he should have simply because he never went to a doctor.  His disease could have been treated if caught early enough and he should be alive today.

This subject of food is one that is so convoluted and controversial, it affects everyone and there is more dogmatism, information, misinformation, theories, science, and culture on this subject than just about any other topic that affects human daily life.

There are so many scientific studies regarding what is 'the best' diet, but so many conflicts and contradictions in the findings.  Also, the science keeps 'changing.'

People eat for different reasons, with different goals, and with different levels of importance.   I like the saying, "eat to live, don't live to eat."   Personally, I think that if food and drink takes a central preoccupation in one's daily life, you'll run the risk of abusing it ... (over eating/drinking).  If a person's first thought on waking is food/drink ... eating, shopping, cooking, restaurants ... i.e. when, what, where, how to eat, etc...  scheduling every aspect of life around meals... then I suggest such a person needs to get a more active lifestyle where food is incidental, and not central.   Of course, good choices and some thought need to be a part of daily food consumption.

I think most people will agree that it is desirable to eat a diet that will promote a long life with least susceptibility to disease.  However, that's not universal.  For some, eating is so important to the pleasure centers of the brain, that they willingly eat a diet that will shorten their life.  Like smoking, heavy drinking, drugs, or any other risky behavior - it's worth it for them.

Other reasons people eat certain diets are to enable a certain level of physical activity.   Whether a competitive athlete, or just an occasional hiker, diet can contribute to maintaining such abilities as we age.   However, diet alone won't do it.   There isn't any diet that will by itself help a person fight the natural effects of muscle and bone loss due to aging - sarcopenia and osteoporosis.

There are so many studies, so much dogma, and so many contradictions ... it's probably better not to open that can of worms.   There are so many skinny healthy meat eaters, and as many obese vegans, it's not worth trying to cite isolated examples of individuals.  Like the 100 yr old Greek who smokes a pack a day for 70 yrs and never sick a day in his life!  But suffice it to say, there is a lot of evidence that negates just about any dogma, especially the myth that meat eaters are inherently unhealthy and vegans are immune to disease.   Instead of citing a million studies... I'm curious about what the longest living people on earth eat.

There are 4 places on earth where people often live to be 90 - 100+ yrs old.  What's common with all these places is that they are all near the sea:  Okinawa - Japan, Sardinia - Italy, Ikaria - Greece, and Nicoya - Costa Rica.

What's common in all these diets?  Fish, locally grown vegetables, nuts and fruits, and a generally lower calorie diet.  None of these diets are vegetarian.  Another commonality is that these people generally are active and walk daily as a form of transportation in their villages or as a part of their livelihood.   In many of these coastal communities, there are lots of hills and stairs to climb.

There are regional differences.  In addition to fish -

  • Okinawans eat soy, pickled vegetables, rice, a little pork, and green tea.
  • Mediterraneans in Italy and Greece eat wild greens, tomatoes, garlic, cheese, olives, fava beans, and wine.
  • Nicoyans eat corn, beans, rice, chicken, and tropical fruits.

There are also undoubtedly links to other factors besides diet.   Genetics and physical activity play a role.  In most of these places, you'll find active people, locally produced food, and a lack of processed Americanized junk food.   Obesity is very low.   Stress levels and lifestyle are generally relaxed.

Interesting stuff.

Mid-week storm

I was surprised that the chances of rain weren't higher this week.   Tremendous humidity levels with dewpoints over 80º in some parts of middle TN with temps in the mid 90ºs.   I knew there had to be some instability in the atmosphere.   Sure enough, a severe thunderstorm watch was issued and the fireworks began.   It wasn't as nearly as oppressive on the mountain, with temps 'only' in the mid 80ºs with a nice breeze.

Here are photos of the rotating storm cell, a very brief tornado that came out of the wall cloud, the beautiful aftermath of the storm, and the foggy placid following morning.

No, the view isn't getting old.

Approaching super cell thunderstorm

Wall cloud with brief tornado

Aftermath of the storm at sunset

The next morning - dawn on 8-21