Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sunday, September 23 - Settling Down

It's odd. School has been in session here for 6 or 7 weeks, and back in Maine for 4, yet it doesn't seem like that should be the case. I guess, psychologically, I'm not ready for school until I hear the first frost warning on the Weather Channel -- and around here, that's not likely for at least another month, maybe six weeks. So I should psychologically be ready to miss teaching by about November 1.

Temperatures this week have hovered in the mid to upper 80's, and predicted highs for Monday are 93-94 depending on what station one listens to. Our lows here are the highs in Maine, though I hear you all have had some hot ones. Bear in mind, "hot" in Maine means 85 for 2 hours; "hot" here means low 100's for two weeks.

We're settling into a routine here, which is why I haven't written much lately. I don't want to bore people with, "got up, ate breakfast, ate lunch, ate dinner, fed the fish, watched tv, went to bed". But in reality, outside of a few trips to Danville or Liberty for errands, we haven't done too much exciting here. That will change over the next two weeks though...

Paducah - The Barbecue is coming up next weekend. We're going over to Paducah to attend with Rick and Laura and anyone else who wants 12.5 TONS of good ribs within a stone's throw of the Ohio River.

Perryville - The Re-enactment is coming up October 6 and 7. Rick and Laura will be joining us from Paducah for two days of historical fun and excitement.

This past week, we drove down to Liberty (our county seat) twice. First, on Thursday, the 20th, we witnessed Pizza Hut cooking a 10 foot pizza, and enjoyed the county fair atmosphere. We also bought a quilt -- well, it's not a REAL quilt, just a large piece of fabric printed with a quilt pattern, then stitched to look like a quilt -- but nonetheless, it was made locally (not in China or Bangladesh) and it's just the right color combination and style for our house.

Then Friday the 21st, we drove west over to Lebanon (next county over, and I think in the next time zone, too), then south into Liberty, to witness the 10 foot apple pie being prepared. Disappointment! By the time we got there, about 4PM, it was already in the oven (we though it was going in at 9PM or so), and quite frankly, it wasn't much to look at. We didn't actually go back on Saturday to taste it, because we couldn't see how that one pie, big as it was, could actually feed the estimated 20,000 people who were going to show up! So Barry went to Wal-Mart, bought a frozen apple pie (very good I might add), and had our OWN Apple Festival!

Monday and Tuesday, Barry's going back to school. He's taking two computer courses (MS Word and MS Excel) a great way, and a great time to hone his computer skills, which should help in the job hunt. I'll be here mowing the edges of the lawn and driveway that I don't dare to get with the lawn tractor (that thing should have roll bars and a seat belt -- I feel I'm going to fall off most of the time). I'll also work on my online book business -- just this week I shall have added 100 or so titles, AND I've got Barry working with Adobe Acrobat making the files "searchable". His computer is MUCH faster than mine, I really appreciate the help, and he's enjoying it.

I'l post some pictures as soon as I get the chance to get them off the camera and cam-corder. The computer's been busy with business, but Monday I REALLY need to work on the pictures.

It's 10PM and the temperature is still 75 out -- we have 2 fans on, rather than turn on the A/C after the electric bill came! Everyone we've talked to says that this recent bill is the highest they've EVER had here. Well, when temps are over 100 for days on end, what do we expect? Interesting though -- back in Maine a bill for the same amount of electricity we've used would be about about $450. The next couple of months should be a lot less as we'll use neither A/C nor heat to any great extent.

That's about it for now. If I remember anything else I want to tell you, I'll just put it in another blog entry.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sunday, September 16 - Just hanging around

Barry went up to Nicholasville again today to get a refund on the sweatshirts that were overcharged the other day. While there, he picked up a few things -- on sale, great prices. If Kohl's ever opens up in Danville, we'll both need 2nd jobs just to take care of what we buy.

Nice day today, dry, cool (about 75, maybe 65 in the shade). I did some reading on the back deck out in the warm sun -- it felt about like July in Maine.

Tonight, after dinner and after feeding the fish, I took the dulcimer out on the front porch played "Amazing Grace." It's the first time I've played the dulcimer here in Kentucky, which is most fitting since it was MADE here and I'm just bringing it back home. Anyway, Barry sat out on the porch and listened to some country music -- which of course was born here, or at least near here. We've never been able to play music outdoors wherever we've lived (at least not in the past 6-7 years) so it was a real treat. While he was playing "Country Roads" by John Denver, I really listened to the lyrics, and I think with a few changes, the song totally describes our life here.

Almost heaven, Old Kentucky
In knob country, Green and Barren Rivers
Life is old there, older than the trees
Younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze

Country roads, take me home
To the place, I belong
Old Kentucky, mountain momma
Take me home, country roads

All my memories, gather round her
Miners lady, stranger to blue water
Dark and dusty, painted on the sky
Misty taste of moonshine, teardrop in my eye


I hear her voice, in the morning hours she calls me
The radio reminds me it's my home from now on
And driving down the road I get a feeling
That I did come home yesterday, yesterday


It just seemed the lyrics fit -- the knobs were dark and dusty against a gorgeously painted sky, and we certainly DO live on a country road which takes us home.

Though it's not without its problems (what is?), we're totally happy here, and we both just KNOW we made the right move.

Oh, and did I mention that KENTUCKY beat LOUISVILLE last night? Just in case I didn't,

KENTUCKY beat LOUISVILLE last night.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Saturday evening, Sep 15 - UK beats Louisville

If you didn't see the game, the Wildcats got the Cardinals. WHAT A GAME! 40 - 34 for the first win by UK against Louisville in 5 years, and the first time UK has beaten a top 10 team in 30 years. And in this sports-crazy state, Lexington is total chaos right now...

Stay tuned...

Saturday, September 15 - Voting and Mennonites

It's only 52 days until Election Day. Plus there's an active Mennonite community here in Casey County. Now those two items may see to have nothing in common, but they actually do.

We needed to find K C's Quick Stop convenience store in Hustonville. That's where we will vote. So off we headed. Oh, and it's supposed to be on the way to south Casey County where the Mennonite community is located.

Well, we drove all over heck's kitchen in the Hustonville area, running from Ellisburg to Chicken Bristle (YES Virginia, there IS a Chicken Bristle, KY), trying to find K C's. Never did, gave up, headed for south Casey (many people don't even bother to say "Casey County" -- it's just "Casey" like you should assume they mean "Casey County". LATER: We called the store when we got home, so now at least we know where to vote -- we just didn't go far enough out KY-78.

In any event, I had read that the Mennonite community was located along KY-910 near the village of, get this, "Phil." There's a "Teddy" right down the road from "Phil" but that's for another trip. Well, we ended up at the end of KY-910 in Russell Springs, sort of hungry and thirsty so we stopped at McD's. I could say that we drove over into the Central Time Zone for a cheeseburger, but that wouldn't be exactly accurate. We DID drive over into the Central Time Zone, and happened to find McD's. You see, Casey is the western-most county in the Eastern time zone -- which is why our sunrises and sunsets are about an hour later than they are in Waterville. Yikes, the sun is barely over the knobs by 9AM here!

Well, wouldn't you know, we actually found almost NO Mennonite stores or businesses on KY-910. But we DID stop at the "Bread of Life Cafe" and bought a Penn's Ham, home-made bread, and some sorghum. A bit of explanation...

(1) Penn's Ham is a tradition around here. You may have heard of "Smithfield Ham" from Virginia -- well, Penn's is KY's version. We haven't tried it yet, but it is supposed to be "finest-kind" as we'd say in Maine. Cutter's Whistle Stop in Moreland serves ONLY Penn.

(2) The Bread of Life Cafe is a fund raiser for the Galilean Children's Home, begun by Sandy Tucker, a Mennonite, many years ago, taking in homeless children. It's an institution around here, and the cafe and a Goodwill-type store in Liberty, are the main fund raisers for the home. The restaurant offers Amish-style buffets twice a day, all you can eat of great home-cooked food for $11.95. It's not a bad price, and considering where the profits go, we need to return for dinner soon.

(3) Sorghum is a molasses-like syrup produced from the sorghum plant. It looks like corn, but the syrup is more nutritious than molasses. There are several sorghum mills around here where the sorghum cane is pressed for its juice, and the juice is then boiled down (10-1 ratio) much as maple syrup is made in Maine. Kentucky and Tennessee are the two top sorghum syrup producing states in the country.

Barry is in the kitchen now baking corn bread, on which we WILL spread the delicious (I hope), amber-colored sweet syrup. Doctors used to prescribe sorghum because of its high nutrition level, not found in other sugary syrups.

Now that we're home, I found out that most of the Mennonite/Amish businesses and shops are OFF KY-910, along South Fork Creek Road or South Fork Ridge Road, and there are literally dozens of them, ranging from leather harness stores to quilt shops. One place even advertises that it has hitching posts out front for you to tie up hour horse and buggy. Anything from quilts to cheese, bulk foods, leather goods, daylilies to sorghum and home-made jams, jellies and breads. I can see where we're going shopping for gifts in the future.

Now to dinner, and to watch or listen to the University of Kentucky (Lexington) v University of Louisville (not Lexington) football game -- it's kind of like the Sox v Yankess back in Maine. The results will be the headline in every newspaper in the state tomorrow.

The Advocate Messenger in Danville has videos of the candidates we saw yesterday -- Beshear, Conway, Fletcher, Lee (alphabetically). In the Beshear video, right at the beginning, he's referring to a totally scared squirrel running back and forth on the lawn in front of the stage. It doesn't come over well on the video, but in person it was totally hilarious!

My, what we're learning here.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Friday, September 14 - Catching up

OK, it's been awhile since I've written. Not that nothing has happened, but nothing out of the ordinary, or nothing unusual or or really noteworthy has happened. Well, now that I think about it ...

We went to a political rally today in Danville -- the first time either Barry or I had ever been to one (I hate to admit that as a former history-government teacher). It was the Constitution Square Celebration -- it was in Danville in 1792 that the Constitution for the Commonwealth of Kentucky was written, so Danville was the first capital of Kentucky. Candidates for several public offices were there -- governor, attorney general, agriculture commissioner, secretary of state -- in Maine these last three would be appointed by the governor but in Kentucky they're elected positions.

Anyway, Steve Beshear (D, challenger) and Ernie Fletcher (R, incumbent) duked it out for 15 minutes each. I have already decided how I will vote in this contest, but it was nonetheless interesting to hear both candidates. After Beshear spoke, I got a chance to shake his hand and comment on one of his political ads saying that as governor he would pass a law requiring universal health care. I reminded him that as governor he could not pass laws, and he said, quietly, "I know that." I only wish his campaign ad had not said that he could.

The candidates for Attorney-General couldn't have been more opposite. Stan Lee (R) and Jack Conway (D) were on totally opposite sides of the fence on every issue. I had been leaning toward one of them, but it only took about 20 seconds of one speech for me to confirm my choice. One of the candidates for agriculture commissioner is named "Farmer." How ironic.

After the speeches, we wandered around the 200 or so vendors (maybe we'll go back tomorrow, or maybe we'll go to Bardstown, to the Kentucky Bourbon Festival), but didn't buy anything. Possibly that was because we went up to Nicholasville yesterday, to Kohl's. It's always bad news when we go to Kohl's. I'm up for their "frequent shopper" award now -- I wonder if I can get sky miles...

We bought a rug steamer (on sale, plus 15% off) -- the house is 90% carpeted, and I figured that with a rug steamer of our own, we'd keep the carpet in better condition than we would if we rented a steamer every time we needed one (which we probably would not do until the carpet was totally beyond help). Of course, on the way, we checked out the 60%-90% clearance racks. Wouldn't you know -- we both found things we really needed. Plus we got 15% off for using our Kohl's charge card! Thank goodness Kohl's is in Nicholasville (about 35 miles away) or we'd be there every day!

We had to go to Lexington Monday, and we stopped in Frankfort at the Honda dealership there -- Barry needed a new side mirror (thanks to my lousy driving), so we ordered the mirror. Went back up to Frankfort on Wednesday to get it installed. Then off to Nicholasville on Thursday, Danville today, Bardstown tomorrow? The cat seems to wonder where we are all the time...

The house still hasn't closed -- one of these days I'll tell close friends in an email what is happening -- but it will all work out. My house in Waterville hasn't sold -- who wants a 2-apartment house in Waterville's South end, beautifully landscaped, for a steal? I've dropped the price twice now (it's down to $74,900), and no serious takers yet. I'm scared that if it doesn't sell soon I'll be paying for heat for a house that has no tenants -- and I don't want tenants in Waterville if I'm in Kentucky -- too much of a hassle, I mean, think of all the damage they could do that I would have to have repaired. Not worth the chance, so I'll keep it empty.

I mentioned the Kentucky Bourbon Festival earlier. Every day, there's something going on within 50 miles of here. We could literally be on the road every day -- Apple Festival in Liberty this coming week, Constitution Square festival in Danville now, Bourbon Festival in Bardstown, World Chicken Festival in London -- and those are just the ones I can remember for THIS week...brass bands, wine tasting, Civil War re-enactments...if I were working I'd miss 99% of it -- as it is, we'll probably still have to miss 75% of it because there's SO much going on. "Evita" in Paducah, is out this week (conflicts with the apple festival in Liberty), but the barbecue festival there NEXT week is on. Civil War in Richmond, Crab Orchard, Camp Nelson, and of course Perryville, all in the next 3 weeks, and it doesn't end with December either. Aretha Franklin at Centre College in Danville, plus a probable presidential debate at Centre next year...Hokey-smokes, doesn't anyone here take ANY time off?

Last weekend (Sep 8, Barry's birthday) it was the Butchertown Country Day, held 1/4 mile up the road. Food, music (Billyblues, of course), games, auction, just an old-fashioned country get-together. Oh my, I tried the sausage and biscuits and pineapple-carrot cake. Barry tried the boiled beans among other things. Now, another trip to Kohl's for larger clothes is in order. These folks can COOK!

On a sadder note (Alison and Senora, please tell Mei about this), we've now tried our 4th (and last) Chinese restaurant here in Danville. The best of them is OK, the worst should have had the 911 emergency number printed on the take-out menu. We ordered crab rangoon and "double happiness" (shrimp and chicken, at least I think I might have seen some chicken in it) tonight. Best I can say is that we didn't die (yet). OK, it wasn't that bad, but having had Ming Lee set the standard for good Chinese food, we just haven't found anything here that can faintly compare with the food that Mei would have thrown out at Ming Lee.

OK, got to sit down with Barry to plan our next outing -- Got to go back to Kohl's 'cause we were overcharged on 2 items. How about finding a festival on the way there or near there? There's got to be SOMETHING! OH, the Advocate (local newspaper) Brass Band is playing Sunday. Yeah, we won't get bored. Not for a LONG time.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Wednesday, September 5 - Kentucky Fried Chicken

Sanders Cafe. Doesn't sound like much, but here in little Corbin, KY, was where "Col." Harland Sanders perfected his fried chicken recipe.

Well, I had a hankering for good fried chicken this morning, and we needed to get away for awhile, so we went out for some KFC. Now this isn't JUST ordinary KFC -- well actually it is, but WHERE we went for the KFC was the real story.

You see, (or you have seen if you've clicked on the link to Sanders Cafe above), this is the reconstructed cafe where the "Original Recipe" was perfected. And it's only about 74 miles away. Now, we have a KFC in Danville (who doesn't have one?), but we've wanted to see where it all began. We've wanted to drive down to Corbin ever since we first found out about its historical significance.

So it was off to Corbin, about 29 miles from the Tennessee line. The more one reads about the life of Sanders, the more one is impressed. When I-75 bypassed the town which is on US-25 (once the main route between Illinois-Michigan area and Florida), Sanders's business basically tanked.

At age 66 (in 1956), he sold the cafe and the motel for enough to pay off the debt, and armed with $108, began to take his recipe and his "11 secret herbs and spices" around the country, selling both. Thus began the Kentucky Fried Chicken empire. In 1964, Sanders had moved to Shelbyville (where his widow, Claudia, ran "Claudia Sanders' Dinner House" -- yes, we've eaten there too -- Claudia still had THE original recipe!), and sold the franchise for $2,000,000. Not bad at 74 years old.

Sanders Cafe, truth be told, is somewhat a disappointment. The building is NOT the original, but is furnished with replica furniture, and the museum does have many Sanders-related items, so that part was quite interesting. The food is standard KFC fare, though I must admit, the chicken IS good!

We actually spent more time looking at the memorabilia, like the replica kitchen (to the left) which contains many items from Sanders's original kitchen, than we did eating. If you want to hear about it, I can tell you about the totally unruly little girl who nearly spoiled everything! But that's another story.

On the way home, we circled up through Renfro Valley (Kentucky's version of Nashville), where we hope to go for a George Jones concert later this year; and Berea, Kentucky's arts and crafts capital -- thinking Christmas shopping already!

We ended up in Richmond, home of Eastern Kentucky University (which has a campus in Danville, and I've applied for part-time faculty positions there). EKU's football team played UK last weekend and didn't do that well -- 50-10! Oh well.

Then it was back through country roads to Lancaster and Danville. We noticed that between Richmond and just east of Lancaster, EVERYTHING was brown. Cattle grazing had nothing to eat that we could notice; trees on the side of the road were brown and dying. That part of the "Bluegrass" should be renamed "Deadgrass" -- SO sad to see it looking like that. I have never seen the effects of drought to that extent. It makes our brownish lawn look absolutely lush in comparison, and we were so glad to see green grass again, as we approached Lancaster.

Barry's left foot is elevated and at last peek, the cat was sharing the futon with him (good kitty). The black-and-blue is less, but it's more swollen than it has been. Of course riding all over eastern Kentucky probably didn't help that, bbut he has a doctor's appointment in the morning to see if it's OK. He's been good about staying off it, or at least wrapping it with an Ace bandage, but it needs to be looked at (yes, Alison, I ended that one with a preposition -- should have said, "a doctor needs to look at it." There!) OH, Alison, I picked up a couple of travel brochures dealing with Civil War sites and re-enactments in KY. I'll get them off in the mail tomorrow.

With temps still in the 90s here, very much like a hot Maine July, my body is telling me that it's still summer -- NOT time for school. Casey schools have been in session for 3 weeks, Danville for 4 and Harrodsburg for 5. But it still does NOT feel like school, so I haven't missed being back in the classroom at all. I'm sure I will once the weather cools off here -- by November probably, it'll seem like fall.

Thus ends the saga of two Mainers in search of the "Holy Grail" of Fried Chicken! Time to publish, and off to bed soon.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Sunday, September 2 - Update on recent events

On Saturday morning, we had been invited to a local get-together -- read more in the next paragraph...but we were potentially ready to cancel, as our "Bluegrass Cat" had to see a vet. We've found a great one just up the road and on the first left -- "Double Doc" - a husband/wife combination with a huge farm, and a great, well-recommended practice. Evidently when Ramses went outdoors awhile ago he must have gotten into a fight with another cat because his left front paw was quite swollen and painful. He was sleeping UNDER my bed which he only does when he's not well. Anyway, we were able to contact Beth (the vet) and get him in right away. Fever was up, and the swelling was too, so she put him on antibiotics, and gave him a shot to relieve his temperature. The whole visit -- $48 including meds! Plus he was such a good cat, she seemed to like him just fine. He's doing better today, limping a bit but much better than yesterday morning. So we're all set now for medical practitioners!

Our neighbors, Larry and Joann, had invited us to a get-together down in Middleburg (about 20 miles away). Yesterday, Saturday, we were on the road with Joann, (and Frank and Rita, other neighbors) to a 600-700 acre farm in the really rural part of this already rural county, going over hills and valleys on one-lane dirt roads through some beautiful countryside, when all of a sudden it seems, a rough-hewn stage with a first-rate sound system appeared on the top of a small knoll. This was the party!

By the time it ended, there were maybe 200 people there, enjoying the music of individual singers and instrumentalists -- singing blues, folk, country, old standards -- something for everyone. We're not talking here about first-billing musicians one might see at top venues (Michael, Alison?) But these guys were just phenomenal, and why they're not on the top music charts I'll never know. Maybe they don't have good publicists...?

In any event, one of the main reasons we went was because of a band called "BillyBlues" which, it seems, has one of the founding members living about half a mile up our road -- so they're neighbors, too! If we want one of their CD's or a "BillyBlues" T-shirt, all we need to do is hop on the lawn tractor and drive over -- and Colin will personally autograph it (oxymorn there -- how can an autograph NOT be personally signed? - DUH)! OK, maybe the sun got to me yesterday...

In addition to the music, here was a pond for swimming and canoe races. Barry and I didn't enter, but Rita's canoe tipped so she spent the rest of the afternoon drying out; Frank's partner wasn't into canoe racing, so paddling and steering pretty much by himself, they came in last. Kids (and some adults) enjoyed the water, which by Maine standards is somewhat green; most of the ponds/lakes here are either green (hence the name, Green River), or tan (like our little piece of water). But the water was evidently not a deterrent to the swimmers!

Just about everyone brought food -- pulled pork with or without barbecue sauce, fried chicken, potato and macaroni salads, coleslaw (made with broccoli), corn, desserts. I tried as much as I could fit on one plate, and didn't walk away hungry.

The owners of the farm, who moved to Casey County about 35 years ago, started having friends over on Labor Day weekend about 4 years ago, and it's now probably the second biggest party in Casey County, after the Casey County Apple Festival coming up later this month! See all the pictures, and check out "BillyBlues".

Now, Barry is going to be embarassed by this, but I'd ask, what are the chances? Like father, like son? At almost the same time last Thursday, and hundreds of miles from each other, both Barry and Rick sprained an ankle. Not just AN ankle, but the SAME ankle. For Barry, luckily it's just a bit swollen, and an "Ace" bandage seems to be taking care of it. Rick, on the other hand -- have you seen a doctor yet? Karen, Brittany and Dalton -- watch where and how you step! I know about genetic predispositions, but this is carrying things too far guys!

Off to work on other projects now -- catch you all later.