a thanksgiving to remember

as i sit here, all done for at least today’s work day, i find myself thinking, “man, i wish we could rewind to a week ago.”  that’s right, i’m already sadly missing the thanksgiving holiday celebrated last week, and even though Christmas is on the horizon, i’m sure i’m not the only one feeling this way.

to keep this post from feeling too “down,” i want to share with you, my kind readers, all the fun we had last week up in the great smoky mountains.  it was my first major holiday away from my family (all grown up!), and although i dearly missed mom, dad, kyle, clark, and kari, i felt quite welcomed by phillip and his family on this special occasion.

it started last wednesday morning when mr. davis, mrs. davis, and emily came to pick up phillip and me bright and early for the drive up to gatlinburg.  we were packed in snug as bugs as we trekked up through north georgia in the great smoky mountains.  as you may know, there have been treacherous wildfires in that part of the state, and although they didn’t bother our trip up there too much, please keep in your thoughts the folks of tennesse and georgia around those parts, especially those right in and near gatlinburg for the fires they are suffering through right now.  this town is certainly more than a tourist attraction, and we all hope they can recover in no time.

our first destination was the cabin that cousin tony found and booked for our group.  with ten of us total, a large space was certainly necessary.  well, this three-story cabin (complete with hot tub and bunk beds) was just the ticket for our stay.  after quickly exploring, we kids unloaded the car of the luggage, treats, and drinks (can’t forget the wine!).

phillip and i were a bit famished afterwards, so we took the car into town for a bite to eat.  we parked in a deck towards the north end of downtown and moseyed along the sidewalks, taking in our first sights and sounds of this charming town.  as we walked, it was clear that we weren’t the only ones in gatlinburg for the weekend; the shops and attractions were already bustling with plenty of other visitors.  before we went too far, we spotted the pancake pantry and knew that’s where we’d be eating lunch.  this cozy restaurant is a welcoming combination of cracker barrel and the original pancake house (only helpful if you’ve ever been to either).  the service was amiable and the food was tasty.  phillip’s buckwheat pancakes were irresistible, and my buttermilk pancakes and sausage were hitting the spot also.

after paying we strolled around a little bit more before heading back to the cabin to greet the rest of the family.  once all there, it was mr. davis, mrs. davis, grandma lorraine, uncle steve, aunt pam, cousin tony and his girlfriend priscila, phillip, emily, and myself.  talk about a good group!  we spent the rest of wednesday night and all day thursday eating (constantly), playing card games (how about that euchre!), drinking (of course), and relaxing.  the weather was quite agreeable, especially thanksgiving day, and i couldn’t have asked for a more pleasant setting than the lush colors of the changing trees that surrounded us.  can’t you just picture it!

friday morning arrived and i think it’s safe to say there was a mild case of cabin fever going around.  see what i did there!  but really, we all needed to get out and stretch our legs, so we caravanned into town for some good old fashioned tourism.  while some folks went for breakfast, others of us were immediately interested in checking out the local ole smoky moonshine distillery.  that’s right, not even eleven a.m. and we were throwing back shots!  our friendly bartender briana was patient as we tasted and rated each of the thirteen moonshines they had available.  with no food in our stomachs just yet, you can imagine the hootin’ and hollerin’ time we were kicking up in there!

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memphis, the blues city

hello all, kelsey’s dad here.  it is my honor and privilege to be a guest blogger again.  this past weekend was my birthday and as a gift i was given the dream of being the guest duckmaster as the peabody hotel in memphis, tennessee.

as kelsey will tell you, one of my favorite sayings is “complete home run.”  i use this when anything or any place is spectacular, worth the time, worth the money, etc…as you read this blog, when you see COMPLETE HOME RUN, you can “take it to the bank” – it was worth it.

friday night we arrived at the peabody hotel in memphis.  tori was completely surprise to see our best friends mark and kathleen (from dallas) when we arrived.  our kids had arranged for a special birthday cake to be in the room as a celebration for me and for mark (his birthday is later this week).  COMPLETE HOME RUN, kids!  the chocolate cake was delicious.

now, saturday was a full and fabulous day!  mark had done the research for all the festivities, so we started at breakfast only a block from the hotel.  we took the ultra exclusive vip route through the alley to the bon-ton café.  COMPLETE HOME RUN.  whatever you do, be sure you order the big sammie.  COMPLETE HOME RUN.  while at the bon-ton, we struck up a friendly chat with locals hart and sarah.  hart is a third generation memphian, so it’s obvious that he should work for the chamber of commerce up there.  i told hart we were in memphis just for a short time and were looking to “blow it out.”  he kindly obliged and provided a complete list of “what to do and where to go” during our stay.

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urban grub – nashville, tn

a couple weekends ago i made the 4-hour drive west on i-24 to see my high school friend luke wed his best friend bailey.  the wedding was lovely in a lush estate outside the city, and the band played us into the night as we danced and laughed under romantically lit tents, reminiscing with old friends about our teenage years.

earlier that sunday, though, i had strolled into town in the young afternoon and needed something to eat, for the reception was quite a ways away.  i asked my kind airbnb host meg for a local recommendation, and she was quick to reply that urban grub had a good brunch and wasn’t too far from the apartment.  sounded good to me!

after parking over on gilmore avenue, i dodged the drizzle and was warmly greeted by the hostess.  she quickly seated me at a table for one on their covered patio, a perfect spot among the industrial fans, space heaters, and cool autumn winds.

my waiter chris approached with a glass of water, prepared to take my order.  i informed him that i had only about an hour before i needed to go get all dolled up for the wedding, and he was quick to get to business.  i told him i had been eyeing their eggs benedict with crab (they call it the oskar bennie), and he was happy to say it was one of his favorites, a great choice for a first-time visitor.  done and done!

chris hurried over to put in my order and then was back in a flash with the most darling basket of homemade buttermilk biscuits i’d ever seen.  they were accompanied by freshly salted butter and from-scratch blueberry jam.  uuhhhh, yes, please!  these little pouches of heaven were the perfect starter, and i enjoyed them throughout the meal with dem preserves and butter.  mm!

mm, bizkits.

mm, bizkits.

in nearly no time at all, my brunch was swiftly served in front of me.  looks tasty, doesn’t it?

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i wasted no time digging in, mainly because i was short on time but also because i didn’t want my dish getting cold.  the hollandaise was not too hollandaise-y and had a nice spritz of lemon that was pleasing to the palate.  the eggs were poached to perfection, not too runny but not too cooked.  now, i have never personally poached an egg, so i don’t know what makes me a poached egg expert, if anything, but the only experience i have myself is when i watched mary willa do it up in greensboro.

the english muffin was nice and crispy and didn’t get soggy from all the sauce.  the only thing that truly seemed to be missing was more crab.  i was expecting generous lumps of crab piled atop each side of the muffin, but there was only a spoonful sitting in between, not enough if you ask me.  i would love to have had a bit of crab with each bite of the muffin and egg, but that day was not the day for it to happen.

the grilled asparagus was a welcome addition to the plate, but if i’m being completely honest, those gouda grits were the star of the show.  i couldn’t shovel them in my mouth fast enough, giving no second thought to how all that cheesy and buttery indulgence wasn’t doing my waistline any favors.  as my mother would say, “apply them straight to my hips!”  hehe.

overall, the atmosphere here at urban grub is a bit of hustle and bustle.  it’s a big restaurant, so there are lots of tables, which means lots of hungry customers.  it was a touch louder than i would have liked, but since i was by myself, i didn’t mind too badly.  plus, with nothing to really hear, i was able to watch as the falcons marched on to victory against the local tennessee titans.  rise up!

i could easily picture myself spending a lazy sunday afternoon here with the girlfriends, nursing mimosas and snacking on biscuits all day long.  aw, yisssss!