Tuesday, July 26, 2011

On the road again

I've been traveling again.  Back to the mountains, after gathering up my beach treasures.
I hit the road this time with my sister and niece for a girls' weekend of fun in the Tennessee Smoky Mountains.  We were taking a back road, through Madison county, when all of a sudden a mama black bear and her two cubs crossed the road right in front of us.  We all looked at each other, wondering if we really saw we what we thought we did.  I had my camera in my lap, but they were just too fast and I was just too dumbfounded to take a photo.  But I found replicas of them in Gatlinburg--
It was a beautiful drive.  Lots of barns (a trip just to photograph barns would be amazing),

green pastures, creeks and rivers to cross and interesting Tennessee license plates.
Our destination was Pigeon Forge.  I tried to pass myself off as Dolly Parton's long lost daughter, but no one believed it.  Hey, I think I can see a little resemblance...
Well, we are both wearing black.
Anyway, Dolly is from this part of Tennessee and there are reminders everywhere.
We spent all day at her water park, Splash Country, right next door to Dollywood.
Lots of fun, even if Moo did push us both under the waterfall at Lazy River and try to drown us.  She can be a mean one.
But we love her anyway.  I guess.
And speaking of mean tricks...

This innocent little face left her two favorite aunts stranded outside a locked car in the pouring rain after dinner.  On purpose.  We didn't melt, but our hair sure was a mess.  She got a good laugh out of it.
On Sunday, we went to Gatlinburg to the aquarium.
It was really cool.  All kinds of critters swimming around.

 And more critters gawking at them through the glass.
And penguins!  I love these little darlings.
Even pretend ones.
I always look for French connections and they usually are not hard to find most anywhere I go.  From Lalique crystal fish
to a Jules Verne quote
to a fish called a French grunt (they evidently make a grunting noise by grinding teeth that are located in the back of their throat and amplifying this sound by their swim bladder).
Who knew?
Before leaving for home, we had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe.  The cafe at the aquarium is appropriately named, though.

We were seated in the wedding chapel room, featuring photos of Elvis and Priscilla on their big day and Johnny Cash's guitar.
And I ordered grilled ratatouille vegetables.  Always a favorite.  And yet another French connection.
And then it was time to head down out of the mountains, after stopping in Spruce Pine to hug Mama Mildred.
It was a great weekend.
Oh!  But one really weird thing... We went to the grocery store in Pigeon Forge.  I decided to check out the wine aisle.  I found two bottles of Boone's Farm and some alcohol-removed wine.  Huh??  I asked the guy working there what was up with that.  No wine stronger than Boone's Farm (around 4% alcohol, I think) in Pigeon Forge.   We would have had to drive to Gatlinburg for that.  And by the way, I am proud to say that Boone's Farm has never crossed my lips.  Never ever. 
Moo's only request was that I bring chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, her favorite.  I pulled out the urban legendary Neiman Marcus recipe that has been in my recipe box for years and years and obliged.  I think they were the best cookies I've ever made.  But that's just me and I love warm cookies right out of the oven.

Neiman Marcus Cookies
makes 112;  can be halved

2 c. butter
2 c. granulated sugar
2 c. brown sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 c. flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
5 c. blended oatmeal (measure oatmeal and blend in food processor to a semi-fine powder)
24 oz. chocolate chips
1- 8 oz. Hershey bar, grated (I used a Lindt dark chocolate sea salt bar instead)
3 c. nuts, your choice (optional- I did not use)

Cream the butter and sugars.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Mix together the dry ingredients and then add to the butter mixture.  Add the chocolate chips, grated chocolate bar and nuts, if using.  Roll into balls and place two inches apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 9 - 10 minutes at 375˚F.

Bon appétit, Dolly, Moo, and Best Niece in the World!

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