Football Time in Tennessee

I love Tennessee. I love football. And I love Tennessee Football! The words “It’s football time in Tennessee!” were first spoken by the great John Ward, who was the ‘Voice of the Vols’ for 31 years. I get goosebumps every season opener when I hear those words, because here in Tennessee it’s more than about football. It’s about family, friends, fellowship and the sight of red, yellow and orange mountains and hilltops surrounded by crisp autumn air.

I can’t remember when I fell in love with Tennessee football. I think I always loved it; I just didn’t have the attention span for an entire game when I was little. Growing up, I remember my dad and big brother either watching the game on  TV or listening to it on the radio.

My first visit to Neyland Stadium wasn’t until November 11, 2000, where I saw the Vols slaughter the [Arkansas] Hogs with my friend, Nikki. It was my freshman year of college, I had a cold and so did the weather, but I’ll never forget experiencing the excitement and energy as the Vols ran through the Power-T while the Pride of the Southland Band played Rocky Top!

Up until 2008, I had only seen 2 men at head coach: Johnny Majors and Philip Fulmer. I always thought the long careers of both highlighted the loyalty Volunteer fans have for their team.  Misty-eyed, I watched Philip Fulmer coach his last game at Neyland with class and dignity against Kentucky in November 2008.

Philip Fulmer hoisted on players' shoulders after UT beat UK for Fulmer's last game as Tennessee Head Coach.

The past few years have been painful, but my loyalty and pride has not wavered. My boyfriend tries to sway me to the darkside, but my blood runs orange. He has the unfortunate disability of being an Alabama Fan. He’s from Alabama, so I guess he doesn’t know better. He’s never experienced that true Tennessee Pride, or he’d understand why I’ll never say Roll Tide (I know, that was a little corny). GO BIG ORANGE! {INSERT ♫Rocky Top♫ HERE}

From the Knoxville News Sentinel

Virginia Beach: Rich in History, Conservation, and Family Bonding

I’ve been on hiatus from the blog-o-sphere this summer. I actually didn’t realize until today that is has been over 2 months since my last blog entry. I guess I’ve been busy enjoying the HOT weather. In July, my family took a vacation to Virginia Beach. This was  no ordinary vacation: it included a 12 hour drive in a 7 passenger van with my parents, boyfriend, brother, 4-year-old nephew, and 89-year-old grandma. Our destination was my aunt and uncle’s house in the Dam Neck area of Virginia Beach.

Day 1: Monday. We loaded the van and headed up to Virginia Beach, via I-81.  I must say the drive between the Tri-Cities in TN and Christiansburg, Va is beautiful. Multiple “pit-stops” later, we entered the Williamsburg-Chesapeake area. This area always fascinates me because it is deeply rooted in both Revolutionary War and Civil War histories (The Battle of the Chesapeake in 1781, during which the French fleet defeated the Royal Navy was the decisive battle of the  Revolutionary War).  Also the cutting edge stormwater research and conservation efforts come from the Chesapeake Bay area. The Chesapeake is the largest estuary in the United States, and in the 1970s the first “dead zone” was found in the bay. The “dead zone” is an area with hypoxic water, meaning there is little to no oxygen. The zone kills many aquatic organisms, including the food source of the blue crab.  The hypoxic zone is partly caused from large algal blooms, which are nourished by sediment laden and phosphorous rich stormwater runoff from residential, farm and industrial land throughout the watershed. Check out http://www.chesapeakebay.net/ for more information about the Chesapeake Bay Program.

Day 2: Tuesday. We visited the Virginia Beach Aquarium. The aquarium had a large exhibit explaining the perils of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, particularly those caused by stormwater runoff.

I thought it was cool, but I think I was alone in that thought. My nephew was unenthused.

The aquarium has a lot of hands-on educational components that may be over the heads of  younger children, but the cool animals and the opportunity to pet a sting ray make up for that. It’s a great place to visit, especially in the heat of the day. I highly recommend!

Day 3: Wednesday. Coastal Discovery. The beau and I decided to spend a day to ourselves exploring coastal ecosystems. So after eating breakfast with the family we headed off to Sandbridge Beach and Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. This was one of my favorite days of the trip.

We hiked along boardwalk trails to the beach where we encountered ghost crabs (Ocypode quadrata), horseshoe crabs (Limulus polyphemus),  gulls, and jellyfish. We even saw a pod of dolphins swimming just off shore. 

After the shoreline excursion, we hiked along the coastal marsh where we observed great egrets (Ardea alba) and great blue herons (Ardea herodias) staring into the marshy waters for a meal, and warblers perched along marsh hibiscus.

Day 4: Thursday. Military Tour 2011. My uncle is a retired military Captain and a Civil War history enthusiast. The entire family, plus he and my aunt, loaded up in two vans for a tour of Virginia’s rich military history, which included Fort Monroe and Norfolk Naval Base. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed Fort Monroe. My uncle told us that the Fort will be decommissioned by the US Army at the end of September 2011, and most likey will be converted to a National Park because it is a U.S. National Historic Landmark. I hope this holds true. The history of Fort Monroe begins in Colonial times as the Old Point Comfort for Jamestown (1609). In 1819, President James Madison ordered the construction of a fort to safeguard the Chesapeake Bay, this became the largest stone fort built in the U.S.  Prior to the Civil War, Robert E. Lee was stationed here [Fort Monroe] as a lieutenant and engineer. Even after the succession of Virginia, Fort Monroe remained a Union stakehold.  Lee never ordered an attack on the Fort during the Civil War because he said it was too great of a risk to overtake.  Offshore from Fort Monroe was the location of the Battle of Hampton Roads, more commonly referred to as the Battle of the Ironclads. Following the Civil War,  Confederate President, Jefferson Davis was imprisoned at the Fort Monroe Casemate. The Casemate Museum is open to the public and depicts the history of Fort Monroe and Old Point Comfort.

This is the original flag that hung in Jefferson Davis's cell to remind him of the union he betrayed during his Confederate Presidency.

Day 5: Friday. Virginia Beach Boardwalk. The tourist trap visitor’s portrayal of Virginia Beach is the Boardwalk, which won the American Planning Association’s “Great Public Spaces” award in 2009.

Neptune's Park, the perfect place for photo-opts and music on the Boardwalk.

It offers biking, outdoor concerts, open air cabanas, and front row seats for people watching. The surf was a little rough the day we visited, but it made fun for body surfing. If sun-bathing, surfing and frolicking in the sand isn’t your thing, I guarantee you will find something to your liking ♫down on the boardwalk♫.

Day 6: Saturday. The LOOOONG trip home, via North Carolina. My mom is obsessed with fascinated by lighthouses. She also promised my nephew that he could climb one.  So before leaving Virginia Beach we made a stop at Cape Henry to see the United State’s first lighthouse.  There are actually two lighthouses on Cape Henry, the original built in 1792, and its replacement built in 1881.

My mom and nephew in front of the original Cape Henry Lighthouse.

15 very long hours later, which included stops at an outlet mall near Burlington, NC, we arrived home. Very tired. Very grumpy. But very glad we took the trip together. We made wonderful memories, and my boyfriend survived his first true bonding experience with the family.

High Fructose Corn Syrup

Last weekend I read a disturbing article about the effects of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) http://drhyman.com/5-reasons-high-fructose-corn-syrup-will-kill-you-5050/. I’m not going to reiterate what the article states, so make sure to check it out on your own. Since reading the article, I have been on a mission to eliminate it from my diet, as I truly feel it is linked to diabetes and being over-weight (both of which run in my family).

In the last week of cutting it out of my diet, I have already lost 4 pounds. Here are somethings I have learned in the past week:
1. Off brand grocery items may be cheaper, but they contain HFCS when the brand name does not. For instance, Kroger brand bread contains HFCS, but brand names do not. Same goes for dried fruits not packaged by Sun-Maid.
2. Many creamy-style salad dressings and Ketchup contain HFCS. Make sure you read the label because the same flavor in a different brand may have regular sugar instead (try Hunts Ketchup).
3. It really depends on brand; read the label. It may take longer at the grocery store, but in the long run it may be better for your health. I’d rather spend an extra $10 per trip and loose weight than save that money.
This is just for starters, so I’ll make sure to post follow-up blogs.

Magicicada Invasion!

Magicicada Brood XIX “The Great Southern Brood” are in full swing here in Middle Tennessee. These cicadas only emerge every 13 years, and when they do they come out in biblical plague-like numbers. There is a cool website www.magicicada.org where you can track the emergence of the brood. Today, the website indicated the brood is in full chorus in Illinois.
Last weekend, in Middle Tennessee, these fascinating creatures morphed from nymphs into adulthood, leaving behind empty exoskeletons everywhere. The number of empty exoskeletons were almost disturbing. Trees, flowers, bushes, sides of buildings… they were everywhere!
This past week, my Beau and I decided to catch the cicadas and use then as fishing bait. The magicicada are very slow and poor fliers, making them easy to catch. We stuffed them in a bag and headed down the road to our favorite fishing hole. We only had an hour left of daylight, but the cicadas were a success. Smallmouth bass and sunfish were hitting them hard. The fish must realize these cicadas are a once-in-a-lifetime delicacy. I highly recommend trying the magicicada the next time you go fishing.
Yesterday and today, the magicicada is in full chorus. Their chorus is almost deafening. So much so, that local stores are selling “Cicada Earplugs”. Many people in this area find the magicicada annoying, but I think they are intriguing. The larvae live underground for 13 years, the nymphs emerge from the ground, then the adults emerge for 4-6 weeks with the sole purpose of mating. The females deposit eggs in twigs, then all the adults begin to die. According to this, I should begin seeing dead magicicada in about 2 weeks and all will be quiet until 2024.

Montgomery Bell State Park

Had the pleasure to attend a conference for 3 days this past week at Montgomery Bell State Park. A lot of the trails were closed due to a tornado that skirted by earlier in the week, but the park was still beautiful. In today’s stressed out and fast paced world, it’s easy to forget how to connect to nature and soak in her beauty. That’s why everyone needs to take advantage of their nearest State Park, even if it’s just a day-trip! They are FREE to visit and offer a lot of free activities such as guided nature hikes, wildflower walks, cave expeditions, canoe trips, boat tours, bird of prey programs, reptile programs, owl prowls, crafts, and the  list goes on. Visit http://www.tn.gov/environment/parks to find the park nearest you. I plan to visit them all. If you have a weekend available, I highly recommend a stay in Montgomery Bell’s new “green” cabins.

Gas Tank Robbery

I am an avid Kroger shopper solely because every $100.00 spent on groceries earns me $0.10 off per gallon of gasoline at the next fueling. With the price of gasoline predicted to be over $4.00/gal this summer, the cost savings is worth the monogamous grocery/fueling center relationship.

Another reason I am selling my house is so I can move closer to work. Currently, I drive 75 miles round-trip to work each day. This requires weekly refueling, sometimes more than once if I drive somewhere other than the typical home-work route.  Today, using the $0.10/gallon discount, it cost over $70.00 @ $3.499/gallon to fuel my truck.  At this price, it is costing $280.00 to drive to work each month; that’s $3,640.00 per year.

I love my truck, and the price of gas isn’t dropping anytime soon, so it seems that moving is the best solution to prevent this gas-tank robbery. 

Change in Latitude

As Jimmy Buffet sang:

“Its these changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes
Nothing remains quite the same
With all of our running and all of our cunning
If we couldnt laugh we would all go insane”

I need a change in Latitude! My house is for sell so I can relocate to a different town more like me. My current city is just too busy for this laid back country-raised chick.
Please let me know if anyone is interested in a 2 bedroom/1 bathroom house near MTSU.