Aug 28, 2016

Art in the Park weekend at the Old Fort

It was humid and hot today. But that did prevent the natives from getting out and enjoying the yearly Art in the Park two day display of fine art in the city. However, I spent most of my time at the Old Fort.  

Back in the 80's I used to go to The Fort and take pictures of all of the interpreters. This was the site of the original fort that was built in 1815.  I would fill albums with pictures from this place.  

Now it is only open on special occasions. I stood around a while and observed the interaction the interpreters had with each other. 

This took me back in memory of my trip earlier in the year to Colonial Williamsburg where the audience was actively involved in the presentation. I was ready to pack up and move by the time I left that day because I wanted to be around people that appreciate history.  

The Shawnee Indian tribe was represented  today. The interpreter traveled from Cincinnati, Ohio to participate this weekend. I made the mistake of asking him about his "costume" he grimaced and I had to change my word to "clothing". Then I was given an explanation of the skins that were used to cover his feet and legs and got a peak at his loin cloth. 

I, then, walked a few blocks to where the streets were lined with food vendors and those who were selling their creations.  Overall, I preferred the atmosphere of days gone past.  

Aug 21, 2016

In Search of my Southern Smith Connection

Downtown Morristown

My nephew and I drove for hours to reach a small city in Northeast Tennessee called Morristown located in the county of Hamblen. I was hoping to find where my great-great grandfather was buried in 1906 and any other information that I could find. His name was Pleasant Thomas Smith, a Civil War vet. 

Downtown Morristown

We traveled up and down hilly streets to reach the only library in town. I carried my two large binders inside that contained all of the information that I have on the Smiths. The library was small, so very small.  I asked if they had any newspapers on the microfiche from 1884 and beyond. There was some juicy information on a relative that involved a barn burning, jail, and a divorce that I wanted more information on. They placed me at a table in front of a reader and I began my search.  I looked through every date that I could muster but didn't come up with anything. It was then that one of the librarians suggested that I go to the archives at the courthouse.  I gathered my things and off we went. 

Morristown, upper level

The archives were located in the basement, which meant that I had to carry my binders down a flight of stairs and I was not looking forward to the descent. Once inside, I was greeted by two elderly women who were ready to research.  I was pelted with questions on dates, names, and locations. After a little while it was suggested that I go to the next county for research because we couldn't find anything on my ancestors.  Even though my great-great grandfather married his second wife in Hamblen County, they lived in Jefferson County before the county boundary changed. 

Morristown upper level with my nephew

Instead of going to Jefferson County that day we walked around downtown Morristown. Main Street was lined with flags and hanging flowers. There is an upper level with shops all along the top.  I have never seen anything like this before and I thought it was awesome. 

The next day we headed to Jefferson County to a little city called Dandridge (the second oldest city in Tennessee, Jonesboro is the first). I was here once before many years ago. There was a country restaurant in the heart of the city was all that I remembered. Today it is out of business. I did visit an old plantation house that was on a back road somewhere but was not feeling that adventurous on this trip. We repeated our steps from the previous day. But this time was more productive.


I met a man who has been researching the Smith line from the county and he was due to arrive early in the afternoon. Timing was perfect in this instance. His name was Ray, a soft spoken southerner with gray hair, smiling eyes, and a firm handshake ( I always judge a man's character based on his handshake). A retired professor who loves genealogy is someone that I was looking for. There was a large folder in the archives for the Smith's. I looked through the folder and found land records that I hadn't seen before. I was thrilled. At least I was going home with more than one piece of paper. We exchanged phone numbers and email addresses.    

Barn in New Market, Tennessee

Sadly, Tennessee didn't begin recording deaths until 1914. I came home with some information that I didn't have before with hopes of eventually finding my great-great grandfathers grave.  I am determined to find him and say that I haven't forgotten you or your life.  Pleasant deserves at least that much from me. 

Aug 15, 2016

Zoo: A habitat for unhappy (maybe) animals.

Yesterday,  I went to the zoo with my nephew, a strapping 22 year old with intense blue eyes that stands over 6 foot tall. He is a gentle soul and I wonder why he wants to spend time with me.  Anyway, we toured the large complex. We went on an African safari, hiked through the Indonesian rain forest, and enjoyed an Australian outback adventure.  Over the years the inmates at the zoo has dwindled down in size.  Where once there was a large cage for birds where visitors could roam around freely is now no larger than 14 foot square with only a couple of birds. But, still, there are plenty of animals to see. 

I know that zoos are well intended places for people to come and see animals from all over the world. At least, that is what I want to believe. I wandered the zoo and observed the animals.  How can a being be happy in such a place? Bars are everywhere. The Komodo Dragon lay listlessly on the cool rocks during the hot and humid morning, while I was drenched in perspiration. 

I had never noticed how beautiful a tiger really is.  The intensity of his brown eyes and the stripes that lay meticulously on top of the golden fur was almost too much beauty to behold. This beautiful cat lay on top of the wooden bench while its partner paced their area of confinement.  

I didn't mention that a little farm was included in the things to see at the zoo. These animals we see on a regular basis if we live close to farms.

By the time the tour of the zoo was over, I felt very much like the pigs and wanted to snooze.  

I am nearly done with the photography certificate program and a few of my pictures (hoping a few more) have been chosen to be on display at the local art museum in January. This is exciting news for me and confirms I am going in the right direction. 

Jul 16, 2016

Train, tractors, and enjoying nature

I like rust. Isn't that an odd thing to say? I am attracted to old things from yesteryear, except old men. I do have my limits. 

The other day I was driving out into the country for a photo shoot.  It is mid July and the height of the summer season. Everything is blooming and we are surrounded by green. I love it!  It is amazing how peaceful it is away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Where quiet can be achieved without ear plugs. 

As I was driving along I would try to look at everything that came across my path to see if maybe I would like to try and find it again on my return trip home. Then I spotted a train, but not only a train a tractor was there too. 

The train and tractor were just off the highway. I turned into the small drive and parked the car.  Everything seemed to be strategically placed, but with the look of abandonment.   

The train car was packed with things but I didn't dare go up and try to look inside.  Who knows who or what would be lurking behind the windows. 

I stood there for a while and just looked at the train and tried to imagine the life it had. Where had it been and what were the people like who inhabited it while going on a journey.  I had only been on a train twice in my life so far. 

The first train ride was in Chattanooga, Tennessee when I lived there.  The train took the riders on a small tour of the city. I sat in the "colored" car, which was very nice, but it may not have been when those words were painted just above the seat. The wheels squeaked and the cars jerked as we rolled along the track.  The second ride was in Morocco.  We traveled to Tangier, my favorite city in the country. The train was packed with people and we were given sweet treats to eat by a fellow passenger.  Oh the journey's we take and the memories we have of them. 

Jul 7, 2016

Girl Gone

I haven't really disappeared but it seems like it.  The summer has been busy with photographing a wedding, part two is this Saturday. And the pressure of trying to get enough models to pose for my photography class assignments that is coming up in a few weeks has been stressful, besides working my full time job that I about worn out. I am no quitter. Trust me, I have thought about it a time or two though.  So, tonight I went out to photograph flowers.  I wish that I could say that they were all brilliant but that would be lying.  The cone flower is the best one out of the bunch and the last one that I took.  

The thing about being a photographer is that I see wonderful pictures of things as I drive by and sadly my camera is not always with me.  The other day, I saw two monks chatting while sitting in front of a church.  I looked over and thought what a great picture it was. I could have run home and got the camera but the moment was lost.  That is exactly what photography is. Capturing moments.  

Please bear with me while I work on some fine art photography over the next few weeks and will be posting more regular then. 

May 28, 2016

Nostalgia & Small Towns

This past weekend I went to a horse show in a small city close by and photographed one of the contestants. I walked around the stalls and noticed a pair of boots, well worn, and laying nonchalantly with the riders things. The abundance of dust tells me that the owner spends a lot of time with his horse and doesn't really care about how he looks. 

These boots caught my eye too. The horse trainer came over for a chat. She kept moving her feet around until the spur lay on top of her other boot.  I thought how odd it was that someone would stand for a period of time like this. 

The love of old cars is the dream of many. As I was driving home I saw this car and was taken back to my childhood.  The cars were large and roomy inside. The steering wheel was as big as a pizza and the radio had knobs that you turned to find the music that you love. The only way to cool off was by rolling the window down. 

Those old cars needed gas. When I saw this old gas pump I was very excited and felt like I had really gone back in time.  It was a James Dean moment. Even though I was a child of the 60's, I really appreciate living now with all of the luxuries that we have. That is, except for those people who have their cell phones stuck under their noses all of the time. They get on my nerves. 

May 11, 2016

Monticello: Feeling sorry that I slept through history class

I must have slept through history class when I was in school for every grade. Once the teacher opened her or his mouth my eyes began to roll back in my head and then before I knew it I was sleeping.  All of those dates and wars were of no interest to me then. But now it is a different story. This time around it is personal. How?  Well, once I started tracing my family history the men on the Campbell side of my family fought in every war once they arrived here in the early 1700's.  My recent trip to Virginia opened my eyes to how much I lacked in knowledge about the history of my country.   

Monticello is a daunting place. It is a large house that sits on a hill with the Blue Ridge mountains surrounding it. President Thomas Jefferson lived here. We went on a weekday and I was surprised that it was extremely busy. The guests were herded together and every 15-20 minutes a group entered the house, one group at a time in each room.  Once inside I tried to take in as much as possible. The entry hall was large with animal heads hanging on the walls and deer skins draped over the banisters. A few sculptures were displayed on tall pedestals. The rooms off to the side were smaller, which I found to be surprising. The room that fascinated me the most was the library. The original collection of over 6,000 books were sold to the Library of Congress for around $23,000. But shortly afterwards Jefferson declared, " I cannot live without books" and another collection began.  I spotted a copy of Don Quixote tucked securely behind some glass from the original collection. Sadly his second collection was sold too in 1829 to settle some debts. (I might have to do that too if I don't stop buying so many) 

Across from the main residence was a shack. There was barely enough room inside to turn around. And yet, slaves were forced to live in cramped quarters like this. Try to imagine yourself living there.  It was here that I learned a bit more of Jefferson's private life, especially regarding Sally Hemings, his slave, with whom the former President had six children with. 

There were gardens all around the estate. Not just vegetables but flower gardens too. Jefferson took great pride in the plants that were grown around the estate and documented everything that took place. 

I brought the company bear called "Grizz"along and took pictures of our travelling companion at various places such as Williamsburg in the stocks, at William & Mary College, and Monticello. It was great fun doing this and a lot of people commented that their company did the same thing. 

They say that Virginia is for lovers.  I have to agree. There is so much to do in this state and one has basically anything they could want, there are mountains and the ocean is not far away.  I live in corn fields. The land is flat and you can see for miles. The day after I came back home I cried. The weather felt as sad (rained) as I did and cried along with me. I wanted to pack up my belongings and move right then and there. Maybe I am being dramatic or not. Does anyone out there feel like this when they come back from vacation? 

May 7, 2016

Jamestown, Virginia: A lesson in being a tourist

Our first visit should have been to Jamestown. Somehow we did things backwards.  I was so enamored with Williamsburg that I was a bit disappointed when we made it to the First Settlement. 

This is an oven for baking bread. Very similar to what I saw in Morocco.
Three ships arrived at Jamestown, Virginia in 1607, the Discovery, Godspeed, and Susan Constant. My companion had to remind me that the first settlers had to build from the ground up. It was nature that they had to contend with and at that point in time it was a bit more brutal in Virginia. They were going thru the Little Ice-Age. 

In truth, the houses were nicely built. They were wood frames which were filled in with sticks. The holes were filled with sticky wattle and daub (mud, clay, and grass mixture). The roof's were thatched, with dirt floors, and on the inside of a few of the houses the rooms were filled with elaborately hand carved furniture. But most were one room homes with a table, chairs, and bed with a straw mattress.  

Armour was also in every house.  It kind of reminded me of Vikings. One always has to be on guard. 

The last leg of our tour was visiting the ships. Even though we visited on a weekday the place was packed with children on field trips.  I expected Captain Jack Sparrow to make an appearance at any time. 

The interpreters were wonderful and spent a large amount of time explaining things to us. I learned how the compass works and where the term "knots" comes from when it comes to navigation. ( I should have taken notes) 

On the way in we talked at length to one of the interpreters. (Sadly, I didn't take a picture of her.)  She told us about the Powhatan Indians that were in the area and that Pocahontas belonged to the tribe. We were encouraged to touch the summer dress that she was making out of deer hide while she talked to us. The interpreter was a former school teacher and I felt that she was an invaluable asset to Jamestown because she passionately talked about the history of the area.  

I came away knowing more than when I went in.  Mission accomplished.   

May 3, 2016

Spaghetti Squash with Brocolini & Bison

Have you seen the multitude of recipes that are posted on Facebook and wished that you had time to make them all of them?   Well, I did make one of the recipes but I changed it up a bit.  When a person just uses salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes and expects something extremely flavorful amazes me. Red pepper flakes only adds heat but not much for the flavor at all. I have done the dousing the noodles with marinara sauce thing, and, to be honest, I am not crazy about it. But this recipe is good.  Ok, so I tried a couple of things that I have never eaten before in this recipe, brocolini and bison. Brocolini looks like broccoli but it is more tender.  Bison is, you know, where the buffalo roam meat.  It was on sale when I went to the store for the brocolini. If you are not adventurous use ground meat of your choice or just go meatless.  


1 tbs olive oil
1 bunch brocolini, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese or an Italian blend of cheeses
1/4 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese
1 tsp Italian seasoning
salt/pepper to taste
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

What I added:

1 onion chopped
1 tbs clarified butter or ghee
1 chicken bullion cube, I use Knorr  
1 lb of bison, or less of the amount that I used. 

Cut the spaghetti squash in half. Clean the seeds out of the middle.  Apply olive oil to the inside of the squash. Place on a pan lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes or until tender.  

Place a large skillet or non-stick pan on medium heat.  Add the oil and butter. then add the chopped onion and saute until translucent or a little brown on the edges. Next, add the garlic and saute for a couple of minutes.  Place the bison in the pan and cook until brown. Place the meat mixture in a bowl and set aside. 

Add the chopped brocolini in the same pan and add a little butter.  Cover and simmer until tender.  You can add a little water, but it is not really needed if you lower the heat a bit.  Once the brocolini is done stir into the meat mixture. add the cheese but save enough to sprinkle on the top, 1/4 cup or more. Salt\pepper the mixture to your taste. Remember that cheese adds saltiness to the food.  

Fill the shells with the mixture and sprinkle with cheese.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until the cheese is golden brown.  Serve with crispy bread. Enjoy! 

Apr 30, 2016

Williamsburg, Virginia: My Experience

Once we set our feet on the Duke of Gloucester Street, I felt like we entered a time warp back to the 1700's of Colonial America. This is considered a living museum, where history is reenacted. The streets were filled with visitors as well as interpreters.  

When people first came to this country it was known as Virginia.  A place filled with landscapes and oceanic views. Eventually, the borders expanded north, south, and west.  

The first building we passed was the Capitol building, with fine round windows, and gardens in the back.

And a picturesque view from a doorway. But this was just the beginning of an adventure back in time.  

James Innes came to our side of the street to rant about freedom, taxes, and tyranny. (This man is on the cover of Colonial Williamsburg, The official Guide and yes I have a copy, even if it is for the picture of him that I wanted the book)

As various points were debated, Patrick Henry contributed with, "Hear, Hear or Aye". (famous for the quote: "Give me liberty of give me death.")

And a young Thomas Jefferson was present trying to persuade the audience to agree with his side of the argument. (Monticello, the home of Jefferson is not far from Williamsburg)

Lord North's effigy was boo'd and hissed at while we watched this demonstration. I loved every minute of it. 

There were garden paths that led to inner places of extreme beauty.

And the innermost gardens are filled with flowers, bushes, and statues. 

One day was not enough  to spend in such an historic place and to be able to comprehend the chain of events which brought our country to its present state. 

The price to get into the buildings is a bit steep, but in my mind it is well worth it.  You can come and walk around and view the demonstrations for free and also eat at any of the taverns, plus, a small park it located close to the end of the Duke of Gloucester Street for picnics.  The William and Mary College is at the end of Merchants Square. A student will give you a free tour of the building. Filming of the series Turn: Washington Spies was done in the Wren building.

But more than this, my Campbell relatives had their beginnings in Virginia. That is why I came.