Visit to Blount County

Monday July 8th was the 1st day of my two-week vacation and I chose to start it off with a visit to Cades Cove, TN.  (note – some pics are below, but you can find all my pics from this day here.)

For the past 5 years, I have been the county coordinator for Blount County as part of the TNGenWeb Project, but I’ve never been there.  I have learned a lot about the history of the area from my work through TNGenWeb in helping others, but it was a wonderful experience to actually BE there and see the places and names that I have become familiar with.  Cades Cove in particular has been of interest to me – it is an isolated valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and I have seen gorgeous pictures of the views there.

driving towards Cades Cove.
view in Cades Cove

Seeing the Cove involves an 11-mile loop road and it was neat to travel along it. We spent about two hours driving through and seeing it, but could have easily spent a whole day.  There is much to see, trails to follow, etc. To help with learning even more, I downloaded an audio tour that was quite entertaining. Our first stop in the Cove was John Oliver’s cabin. 

John Oliver cabin
view from John Oliver cabin


One of the stops we did get out of the car for was the Primitive Baptist Church.  Buried here is John Oliver and his family – they were the first European settlers to the area. Also buried in this cemetery are some distant relatives of one of my co-workers, the Shields family.  I recognized so many names so it was just cool to actually be there where they were.

Primitive Baptist Church
Kaleya in the church
John Oliver & Lurana Frazier Oliver. Buried at Primitive Baptist Church

We saw horses in the cove and Kaleya went bezerk – she loves horses. Seeing them run across the valley was amazing.

Kaleya w/ some horses

Here is a video she took while I was driving.

After our visit to the cove, I then headed to my friend Billie’s house. To get there from the Cove, we went through Pigeon Forge. Can I just say who knew TN had a Vegas-strip? That place was crazy! But, I know I’m gonna have to do the touristy-thing and take the kids there for a weekend. With places like MagiQuest, a Titanic museum, a Hollywood Wax Museum with a big King Kong on top, and a Hatfield & McCoys dinner theater, who can resist? Besides, I’ve already promised Kaleya. :-)

MagiQuest in Pigeon Forge
Hollywood Wax Museum in Pigeon Forge

We made it to Billie’s (one of my genealogy buddies) and settled in for the night. Billie was definitely the “hostess with the most-ess”. Kaleya was treated to a food in bed. How do I top that?  Then, Billie set us on our way Tuesday morning with a great breakfast of scrambled eggs, biscuits with her very own homeade apple butter, and some Benton’s bacon – a Monroe County original.  I don’t each much bacon but that was some good stuff!!!

Kaleya gets treated royally.

In all, we covered about 180 miles on Monday according to Google Latitude. You can even see a loop where we were going around the Cove (the placement on the map isn’t quite right, but Google does know I did a loop). Neat.  :-)

180+ miles covered in one day!

Hanging Out at the Musician’s Corner

Yesterday, anxious to get the kids out and do something around town, I consulted Ms. Cheap’s column and found out about the Musician’s Corner event at Centennial Park. The kids love going to Centennial Park – we last went there in April for the Earth Day Festival. I particularly enjoy having the backdrop of The Parthenon. It makes for quite an impressive scenery.  The event itself was Tour de Fat’s travelling festival – Beer, Bikes & Amusement. There was definitely lots of beer (not that I drink the stuff), lots of bikes, and lots of amusement. But – it was all family friendly :-)

Kaleya & Q post in very large picture frame

We wandered around a bit, Q climbed a tree, and we waited for the 2:15 Le Tigre showing.  LeTigre is a micro-vaudeville act – their tent only holds 52 people. It was entertaining for sure. The call guy (don’t know what else to call him?) was funny and interacted well with the audience while we waited to get in. The tent itself is decorative. Inside the tent it is quite cozy. Our show was that of Steinomite, a rapper character who actually had some cool celebrity wordplay in one of his songs :-).  You can catch some of his work on YouTube.

Q climbs trees
the awesome Le Tigre tent
my Queen of Hearts admission ticket for Le Tigre. They have 52 seats. Get it?

After the show, as we were walking through the park on our way to some of the amusement contraptions set up, we met Robin Williams! Kalonji happened to catch his profile as we passed by him and said out loud “Was that Robin Williams?” I was like, what? where? I turned around and saw him and we weren’t sure until we saw another couple go up to him and talk to him and shake his hand. Cool! So, we went over and I may have jumped the gun for I eagerly was like “Mr. Williams – it’s a pleasure to meet you!”  I then had to tell him that my mother was born on the exact same day he was (she’s been telling me this my whole life) and he said she shares good company. Ha! It was great. Then, Kalonji spoke to him and told him and we were able to get a picture. He was so nice! He is in town filming his latest movie.  When I was in grad school at UNC, he was on our campus filming Patch Adams – I think I remember getting a glimpse of him one day then, but this was way better :-)

Robin Williams!

After that, the kids explored some of the activities that were in the park and we caught a performance from Yo Yo People - a husband and wife yo-yo expert team. They were great – funny & interactive.

Q and Kaleya with their heads in some kind of audio contraption
Yo Yo People perform

We then wandered over to Mickey D’s for some ice cream treats and came on back home. We later realized that we’d missed Here Come the Mummies though – dang it! Maybe next time.

Thanks to Musician’s Corner for a fun afternoon. We are looking forward to upcoming events!

My Favorite Workout Video EVER!

OMG. Last night I found my favorite workout video ever on YouTube! It is by Gin Miller and it is a Reebok Step Aerobics workout. The video is actually posted by Reebok themselves – they get my props for that!

When I was in college, Emory had a physical activity requirement, so every semester you had to do some sort of PE class. I appreciated that because it kept me physically active. By the time I graduated from college, I’d lost weight, gained some muscle and was about two sizes smaller than when I started school. It was great!  Part of my routine centered around this video. My senior year (1992-1993), I purchased this VHS tape, got a step, and did this workout at least three times a week. I absolutely love step aerobics!

So, in light of my recent efforts to increase my physical activity, when I found this video last night I was excited! I just finished doing most of the workout and I still love it. I had to do it with modifications though as I don’t even own a step. But, even doing it on the floor was enough to get my heart rate up there for awhile. I did about 30 minutes of it and couldn’t even do all the arm movements the whole way through. Yep, I have some progress to make, but I am just thrilled to get restarted.  If I can do this twice a week in addition to my walking on my treadmill desk, I should make great headway soon. :-)


First Week With My Treadmill Desk

I am in love. With my new treadmill desk! (sorry Kalonji). Oh my – I can’t even begin to describe how great this is but I’ll try. :-)

This week is my first week with my treadmill desk at work.  It is a LifeSpan TR800 DT-5 model and it has been wonderful! Here is what the desk looks like – it has a treadmill base and an independent adjustable height desk.  It is very sturdy.


And, here is me on the desk the very first day.

After the first couple of days, I realized I had the desk too low. I found myself having to reach for the keyboard and it was causing me strain, so I moved up the desk height. I am 5 ft. 6 inches, and I have it on setting number 8.  I’ve been in this configuration for 4 days and it is working well. I also added a second monitor so that I would have a larger screen to look at and also have a screen at a higher height.This setup has been perfect.


My Physical Activity

The goal for getting the desk was to get me more active. I have not been able to be effective in getting much physical activity into my daily regimen for many years now and I believe this is finally the solution. So… this week, I have averaged between 1.5-2 miles each day. I tend to walk around .8mph and my number of steps average about 3,000 steps (though- two days this week I was over 8,000 steps/day! Chalk that low average up to me needing to ramp up at the beginning.)

Walking while working has been fairly east to do at this slower speed. Having the second monitor has really helped me improve my ability to focus while on the treadmill for sure. The first couple of days I was indeed sore from having walked on it, but by the end of the week I found that getting to work and getting started felt good. Seriously, it feels GOOD to get on and start moving – to start working my legs.

My Goals

My goals for this first week were simple; to get used to being on the desk for more than an hour a day and get used to working while walking. I believe I have accomplished that! My goal for upcoming week 2 (April 1- 5, 2013) is to try and average 5,000 steps a day.  As you can see, I’m taking it slow.  But, as I like to tell myself…




Visit to Mammoth Caves, KY

The last week of January I was able to take time off work for a staycation and what a great week it was indeed! On the last day of my “staycay”, Kelli and I took the kids up to Mammoth Caves. It it near Nashville and only took about an hour and a half to get there.

Prior to going, I spent quite a bit of time checking out the website and trying to figure out which of the tours to take. With multiple factors going into the decision, I decided that we would do the Frozen Niagra Tour.

We arrived at the park at about 10:30 or so if I recall correctly.  Because we visited during off-season, they were not offering the tours as frequently as they do in other parts of the year, but there was an option for the Frozen Niagra Tour at 3pm so we had some time to kill. We started by checking out the Heritage Trail, a trail that begins just behind the Visitor’s Center. Mind you it was cold out – about 20 degrees that day, so we only did about half of the trail.  I wanted to be sure we got to the Old Guide’s Cemetery where Stephen Bishop, a slave cemetery on the grounds.

slave cemetery

We then went inside to see the exhibit in the Visitor’s Center. It was very well done and we learned some interesting facts about the cave. There was also a cave hole in the exhibit that the kids enjoyed. Doesn’t Kaleya look just like Kelli here?

We then drove around the grounds some before heading out for lunch.  After lunch, we came back and it was time for our tour. The Frozen Niagra Tour begins from a man-made entrance to the caves. To get there, we hopped on a bus for the short ride (a few miles).  While the Frozen Niagra is the shortest tour, it is also the “prettiest” part of the 400+ mile cave system and the only part that has formations. The tour was about 90 minutes and it was cool. Dark, wet and creepy about sums it up.

looking out on the grounds
cave formations
Miles & Kaleya in front of another cave formation

On the way out of the cave we saw cave crickets – even creepier!

cave crickets – not cool.

After the tour, we then decided to walk down to the “Historic Entrance” of the cave – the original entrance to the cave. The kids had fun exploring the ravine along the way and it was cool to see that part.

kids exploring. kinda look like “hobbitses” don’t they!
the Historic Entrance


The rest of our photos are here if interested. It was a great day – thanks National Park Service for a great visit!

Kaleya waves goodbye

How We Spent Our Anniversary

Well, here’s a belated post! But, I have to do it b/c I wanted to chronicle how Kalonji and I spent our 11th anniversary. Our anniversary is New Year’s Eve and we were fortunate to be able to steal away for two days and spend the weekend in Louisville – without any of the kids. I can’t recall the last time we were sans kids for any significant period of time. :-)

We went to Louisville to meet up with an old friend of Kalonji’s and just hang out around town. We were there from Saturday the 29th – Monday the 31st. Our hotel was right on the Ohio River – on the Jeffersonville side. We stayed at the Sheraton. Here’s a pic from the hotel website.

Our room was nice – see example below. We didn’t have a King, but rather two Queens, so that we could have a better view.

We arrived Saturday night, so that didn’t leave us room to do much, but we did have a late dinner with Kalonji’s friend Dave and his family. Kalonji and Dave went to high school together at Jeffersonville High School, where Kalonji went for his junior & senior years. They had not seen each other since graduation day, 1990 – 22 years ago! It was so great to meet them! I could tell why Kalonji and Dave got along in high school – their tastes and outlook to life are so similar. Dave was even able to scan in a picture he had of Kalonji in high school – classic!

Sunday morning Kalonji and I had brunch at the hotel restaurant, where we had a gorgeous view of the river.

Then, we wandered around Louisville some, spending time on Bardstown Road – a great strip of businesses, etc.

We then had dinner again with Dave and family and spent Monday doing a little shopping before heading back to Evansville. What a great weekend. And, we even managed to get a picture of Kalonji and his brother, and all the kids – a great way to bring in the new year!

Our Digital Music Strategy

After several years of indecision and just trying to see how the industry is unfolding, I have finally committed to a firm digital music strategy. Kalonji and I own a lot of CDs.  To date, I have not digitized them as I had not found a system that I felt would work for us.  However, this weekend, I chose to start using Amazon Cloud Player as our digital online music locker storage of choice.

Here are the requirements of what we needed:

  • lots of space
  • cheap
  • easy upload of our mp3 files
  • stream over the web or via Android device
  • playlists so we can segment according to family member
  • company stability, something that I know will be around for awhile

Why not iTunes?  ITunes is great for ripping CDs. I really like how managing music is easily done with the iTunes interface. Their iTunes in the Cloud service met all the criteria except two – no web streaming, and we can’t use it on Android devices.  Not being able to stream on Android devices is a deal-breaker. I am an Android fan gal, not an Apple one. :-) 

Why not Google Music? I, a self-proclaimed Google freak, was very excited with the launch of Google Music about a year-and-a-half ago. Google Music meets all the criteria. However, the process to upload mp3 files to the online library is horrendously slow. I could not sacrifice the time it would take to get our music library imported to the web account.  I have been waiting on the process to get better, but I have waited over a year and after trying again this weekend, it doesn’t look like it is getting any better. I also do not like their online navigation through the music library; it lacks options that are important for me. 

Google Drive? I do use G Drive extensively, and wondered if I could find convenient way to play music files stored in my account. It too meets the criteria above with the exception of playlists. Though, if I could find a player for music files in G Drive, surely the player would facilitate playlist creation. So far, no luck there either. All the options I have been exploring were insufficient in functionality.

Amazon Cloud Player to the Rescue!   Last week, I received a notice that my free cloud subscription would be ending soon, so I took this as an opportunity to check out Amazon again. I already am a heavy Kindle book user via the apps, and liked what I’d seen during my trial for the cloud service. Yet, I never committed because I was waiting around for Google. Well, I decided to wait no longer and I am enjoying adding our files to Amazon Cloud Player. Especially since not all files have to physically be uploaded.  Just a few months ago, they added a “match” feature where your files are run against their catalog and songs that are present are added w/o you having to upload the file. The upload speed for files that do need to be physically added is great and I’ve had no troubles. In just 24 hours now, I’ve ripped and uploaded around 1,000 songs. I am putting everything under my account, and then using playlists so that each of us can quickly get to our own music of choice on our individual devices. This rocks!  

Kaleya Was on TV

During the last week of August Kaleya was on television! Her school was featured in the local news for the changes that the new principal, Jahi Rohrer, is trying to make to help bring the school up.

Kaleya can be seen at 0:58, at the end of the row of students doing their morning cheer.

Though we withdrew Kaleya from the school just two days after this aired, it was still cool to see. Kalonji is President of the Parent-Teacher organization and he will still be involved with the group. However, we felt for Kaleya’s best interest that we needed to transfer her to a different school.