Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving Part One

We got started on our Thanksgiving trek on Wednesday after work. We weren't able to get a really early start, as we both had to work that day. We were greeted with the same sight that probably most every other traveler was that evening- a long line of red tail lights in front of us on the interstate. It didn't surprise us, I know Thanksgiving is the most heavily traveled holiday. And of course, the major interstate of I-75 goes right through Atlanta. We avoided heading through downtown and took the bypass around the city, but it was still bumper to bumper with folks just as anxious as we were to start the holiday season off!

We made it to just north of Atlanta, and we decided to take a quick dinner break. We called our friend David, who lives in Marietta, and he met us at Big Pie In The Sky, a slightly infamous pizza joint which gained its fame from the show "Man Versus Food" on the Travel Channel. The slices of pizza here are SO big, you don't get plates- you get your own individual pizza pan to eat on! I figured it would be dead, just hours before Thanksgiving morning, but I was very wrong. The place was packed, the line was to the front door, every seat at every table was filled and people were streaming in and out to pick up orders. The "medium" size pizza, which is what we ordered, states it feeds 4-6, and takes over an hour from time of order to table-side delivery. The large pizza is a whopping 30 inches! Not only were they the biggest slices of pizza I've ever seen, it was also quite delicious and worthy of the detour.

We got back on the road later that evening, and some of the traffic had died down, and we finally made our way over the state line. It was late, but a cozy room and bed awaited us at a brand new shiny Fairfield Inn & Suites in Cleveland, Tennessee. I'm glad my husband made reservations in advance, because I heard the clerk at the front desk tell someone over the phone they were booked up. We settled onto the couch in the living room to watch a bit of TV and wind down, but the bed was too tempting and we were in it within the hour. We awoke the next morning to the sounds of the vet techs at the kennels nextdoor, walking the dogs who weren't lucky enough to travel with their families.

The next morning we headed into Knoxville, to the home where James grew up, and where his parents still live. We got there about 10:30, before anyone else, but lots of company started to arrive shortly. My in-laws have gorgeous property and I just love coming there each and every trip, no matter what time of year. Fall just seems to bring out the beauty of the property, with the colors of the leaves and the sweeping open skies overhead.

We met the newest member of the family, Missy, who just joined the Truan household a few weeks ago. Missy was found after what surely was a long and harrowing episode of living on her own outside. Her coat was long and matted, she had sores on her body. But now she has a new home with a loving family, and she is already getting spoiled by my mother-in-law. She still seemed a bit shy and unsure, but she was super friendly and played with her toys and enjoyed the attention. She was happy to see everyone that day, and we were delighted to meet her. But we made sure we also gave out plenty of petting and attention to Joppa, who has been ruling the roost on his own for awhile now.

We had a huge spread, and James' mom Carol worked very hard and was busy getting everything ready while we all visited with family and got caught up on each of our lives. We had turkey, gravy, dressing, roasted veggies, green beans, corn, cranberries, salad, baked mac and cheese, potatoes, and I'm sure other items I'm forgetting to mention. There were so many choices that day, I didn't even get to taste everything, despite eating until I was stuffed. Then of course we had wonderful pies from pecan to pumpkin to Granny's million-dollar pie, and the family favorite chocolate chip pie. We even had turkey shaped cupcakes!

We even celebrated James' dad David's birthday, which was the next day on Friday but we decided to enjoy it while everyone was gathered. There was a wonderful cherry crisp, but we were all too full to do anything but look at it and admire it when he blew out the candles. Seems like everyone had the same gift-giving ideas this year and went to Bass Pro Shops!

Eventually the festivities started to wind down, and unfortunately we had to leave that afternoon because I had to work on Friday. As we got on the road, the dark clouds hovered over us. The local news was calling for possible flurries that evening, but I don't know if they got any or not. I wish we could have stayed to find out, but it was back on the road for home.

Stay tuned for Part Two.....

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Coastal Getaway

This will be quick on the writing side, there is a lot of pre-Thanksgiving craziness going on at our house tonight, but I wanted to get this on here.

I just wanted to share the photos from our trip over the weekend, to Biloxi Mississippi. No real occasion, just felt like slipping away for a few days. We left Friday after work and came home Sunday evening. It was a gray weekend, which you can see in all the photos, but we had a wonderful time. The first thing you notice about Biloxi is that there is still a great deal of damage left from Hurricane Katrina. These photos were taken from the hotel room window, of the surrounding area. You can see how close we were to the water. It seems as though they are making great efforts to rebuild still. (The first photo is the foundation of what used to be a hotel.)

Our quest for smashed pennies took us to a few spots over the weekend. Here is the Jefferson Davis home, Beauvoir. It suffered a great deal of damage from Katrina, in fact many of the pieces on display inside had just been returned a few weeks ago, after being refurbished. Jefferson Davis lived here after the Civil War, as he was homeless when all of his property was confiscated. After his death, the home was turned into a home for Confederate veterans. The Sons of Confederate Veterans still own the property today.

Look how huge the windows and doors were. These were in the his and her master bedrooms and lead out onto the porch, where the family slept sometimes in the summer.

Also on the property is a cemetery where hundreds of soldiers are buried. And one favorite work mule, Polly.

Later that Saturday the penny hunt took us to Stennis Space Center where we were able to take a free tour.

We were able to ride a small bus out to the area where they test the engines used on the space shuttles (and before that, Saturn rockets for the Apollo program). These photos don't do the gigantic size of the platforms justice. I wish we could have gotten out to take a closer look, but I understand national security issues.

Later at the museum we were able to see a few engines close up (above). Inside the large (free!) museum there was a lot to see, including this beautiful mosaic. Sorry for the quality of the photo, it was beautiful.

Also this very interesting sewing project, where the members of the American Needlepoint Guild are creating pieces based on all the uniform mission patches from over the years. Since I've been cross-stitching since I was young, I found this collection quite compelling.

James gave a try at the simulator, where he had to land the shuttle on a runway. It was more difficult than it looked.

He also tried "building" with gloved hands inside this container. It was just large Lego-like pieces, but the challenge was still there. I did not do well at all, but James managed to put all the pieces together easily.

Does this outfit make me look fat?

We actually walked right by the elongated penny machine, it was so cleverly disguised. We've never seen one that looked so unique!

We stopped to check out a few lighthouses along the coast, this one was oddly enough right in the middle of a busy highway. The one below, I'm not really sure if it used to be a lighthouse or not, but we couldn't think of any other purpose for it.

Although it was extremely cold and blustery along the beach, and rainy most of the day, it didn't seem to bother the various sea birds we saw that Saturday afternoon.

We ended Saturday night by going over the bridge into Ocean Springs, where we found this cute little Italian restaurant downtown (and lots and lots of shopping, but everything was closed already darn it!). Al Fresco's Bistro had outdoor dining, and despite the cold, we took advantage of it. They had heaters hanging from the ceiling, and we were actually quite warm while we ate by the fountain (notice the red tint to the photo- from the heaters). The only bad part- the portions were huge but because we were at a hotel and leaving the next morning, I couldn't take the rest of the yummy gnocchi home with me!

We ended the weekend on Sunday with a stop at a Bass Pro Shop in Alabama, which had a penny machine (I think they all do) and brought our penny total for the weekend to 13. We enjoyed Biloxi, although we could have enjoyed better weather, but we've put it on our list of areas we would like to go back to one day. Plus, I want to go back to Ocean Springs and check out all that shopping!!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!!!!