Western NC Mountains


As with some of my friends, I love trains.  A couple of friends and I had chatted about taking a train ride.  So we settled on this past weekend and we chose Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.     The train leaves from Bryson City and travels up the Nantahala Gorge and stops for lunch and returns to Bryson City.  * The train we took was about a dozen cars long (engine and power cars included).  Here are a few of the cars:

Once we reached the top of the gorge, the engine uncouples from the “front” of the train and travels to the rear to reverse the train’s direction.  Now the front is the rear …

From Front to Back

(Click on the link above to see the engine moving from front to rear.

I love train travel and this was no exception.  I will say the train IS the destination.  Here are some of the sights, but the scenery never changes much so the train ride should be your love, or this trip may not be the most exciting. Here are some views:






AND, here are we  three train riders:

Marshall, Chad and Dan.

The most fun was US.  We cut up and carried on and had a hoot of a time.  Once we detrained, we DERAILED.

Never let it be said that Dan can’t find a martini.  Because it wouldn’t be true.  The martinis helped us wash off the trail dust.  And the ones at Derailed and Anthony’s were FAB.

We walked around Bryson City and had fun until some fish tried to eat my LV clutch.  I wasn’t having any of it.  See

Needless to say, I got my clutch back and I made up with the fishy and also made a “FWB” with the Italian.









Somedays I wonder why I am free to roam without supervision, but that’s society’s problem.

At the end of day one we went to Asheville to overnight and have dinner and a few libations.  My very favorite watering hole in Asheville is the stunning The Times at S&W.  Chris and Joe make the greatest drinks.  If you want any flavor, call it, and they will create.  I had two different variations of a Negroni.  One substituted Braulio for Campari.  Oh my how delicious.  If you want the best creations while in Asheville stop the The Times and let me know how much you LOVE IT.  See my OutWithDan twitter post from our stop at The Times.


I went in a different direction from my friends.  They headed south to Atlanta and I headed back west to Johnson City.  Instead of taking the freeway home, I decided to travel the much longer mountain route.  I had heard of Hot Springs NC and wanted to see it.  I had heard it was small and quaint.  It was very small and very quaint and although I may return to explore one day, it didn’t hold much in store for me on this trip.  Here’s one pic from Hot Springs.  (Note the train theme returns):

Along the way to Hot Springs I saw a sign that says “Thisaway” to Historic Marshall.  I confess that this use of Historical is often a ruse to get you to stop.  Sometimes, I feel the Historical just needs a Match to correct the Landscape.  But I was pleasantly surprised with Marshall, NC.  You wind down from the main road along a curvy road until you come to the little downtown mostly along one road.  I parked at the beginning and walked the entire expanse of downtown.  The little touches all along the main street and the side streets were so well manicured and cared for.  It was fun to walk and explore and enjoy.  Here are some of the lovely sites I encountered.

There was a small farmers’ market on the “Island” and a few local churches turning out while I was there.  Everyone said “Hello” and seemed happy.  I am not 100% what one does in Marshall, but visually they’re doing it just fine.

I arrived home mid-afternoon happy.  It was an enjoyable weekend of great fun with friends, great visuals and a non-hurried life.  I approve and highly recommend it!

Peace and love!


Let’s go OutWithDan

  • Sadly, he GSMR website is NOT friendly.  It has schedule upon schedule and so many of them are duplicative and not accurate.  And, not enough concrete info about food and sights are included.  Most links are “possibilities” so the trains seem so much more expansive than they actually are.  And try to get someone on the phone is like calling the pentagon and asking for the chief.  It simply ain’t a-happenin’.  But if you like trains, the train part is GREAT.




So, I’ve been a lil slow lately.  And to fill the gap I am posting a link to a wonderful trip I did a couple of summers ago with my Gal Pal Cynthia.  We explored the inland empire of LA and stayed at the coolest WigWam.  See her post here on her blog and enjoy the time that she and I had!

More soon from me.  XO

A $200 2 Day Road Trip to San Bernardino, CA


Lucky Black Cherry

So today being #NationalTequilaDay prompted me to create a little tasty libation in honor of Tequila.  I like “good” tequila and in my opinion Herradura is among the finest.  I’ve had lots of good (and sadly some really bad) tequila but Herradura is always my go-to.  Today’s recipe uses .


  • 2 parts Herradura Reposado Tequila
  • 1 part freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 part Chambord
  • 2 parts Black Cherry Juice (most grocery stores carry on juice aisle)

Add all ingredients to a shaker and give it a stir.  Add ice and shake within a inch  of it’s life.  Strain into a Nick & Nora glass.  (My favorite glass). I chose not to garnish, but if you have Fabrri Amarena or Luxardo Cherries on hand, OhMyYum.

This recipe is not sweet.  It’s actually quite bright in taste.  The fresh lime juice surges to the forefront, but that is quickly followed by the silky smoothness of the tequila and dark cherry juice.  This new creation of mine will be in heavy rotation at parties or on an afternoon where I simply want a fresh drink that’s light and smooth.  #EnjoyResponsibly.

Here is the “Lucky Black Cherry”

Yankee Pimento Cheese

So we Southerners have surely had our share of pimento cheese.  It’s available in small and large tubs in the grocery store.  It’s at every church homecoming. And it’s delivered to many wakes.  It’s a Staple!

A few years ago,  my sweet friend Charlene Crandall sent me a yummy recipe by Sean Brock that appeared in Gun & Garden magazine.  I have made Sean’s version more than one time to the delight of many friends and guests.  Click for Sean’s Version.

Typically, a big component of Pimento Cheese is sharp cheddar cheese.  I like sharp cheddar cheese as a hint or sidekick, but not so much as a star.  With each batch I make, I try to incorporate something a little less pungent.  Also most recipes are for party size.  I wanted to make “my” version for one or two servings only.

There is probably some really great advantage to grating the cheese. Perhaps it releases dolphins or bluebirds. But for me I gravitate towards pre-shredded cheese.  (Side note:  I’m positive it was a lazy man who invented the remote and not some super athlete.). You may call me lazy, but I bet you will call me to get another helping of my Yankee Pimento Cheese!

Here is my recipe:

  • 2 oz cream cheese (at room temperature)
  • Pimentos (4 oz jar)
  • 1/4 cup of mayonnaise (I heart Duke’s)
  • 3 dashes of hot vinegar sauce (Texas Pete is delish)
  • 2 teaspoons of Mt Olive Simply Relish (Deli Style)
  • 2 tablespoons of Mt Olive Simply Vidalia bread & butter garden salad. (Chopped)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Shake or two of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 4 oz of “Northern” cheddars (NY, Vermont & Wisconsin) combo
  • 4 oz of Mozzarella & Provolone blend

Refrigerate one at least one hour prior to serving.

This makes enough for two full sandwiches.  It is less bitter and cheddar forward, but to my taste, a wonderful combination of cheeses and pickles.  This Yankee Pimento Cheese please this Southerner and I bet it will please you too.  Enjoy!

( PS. The cheeses were pre-shredded and in the sliced cheese and cold cuts section of my local grocery store.  As for the pickles, I’m for NC and Mt Olive Pickles is “THE” producer of pickles.  I’ve lived in Miami and LA and I’ve eaten 100s of pickles and for me there is only ONE: Mt. Olive Pickles! )

OhMyYum.  This is delish!  Here’s a picture of my batch.

Pimento Cheese


Kiss O’Cherry

I love to create new recipes for food and for drinks.  Mostly I create things that I want to eat or drink.  I try to impress me first and then share.  This is one of those times.

Growing up Cherry was probably my least favorite flavor.  I was definitely the last favor chosen of the Lifesavers flavors. 

Now I would probably buy the Wild Cherry roll.  Coconut is and always will be my favorite, but Cherry is gaining ground quickly.

With Cherry in mind, I set out to create a Cherry Martini that is both simple and delicious.  And not overly sweet.  And I think I have succeeded wonderfully.


For a redder martini add an easy splash of Dark Cherry juice.

Add all ingredients into a shaker and fill with ice.  Shake vigorously for a couple of minutes and pour into martini glass.  Garnish with a maraschino cherry.    Enjoy!

Cherry Martini

The painted Oyster shell is by my talented friend Cynthia Dunn at Art 105 in Kinston, NC.

Morgana King

Tomorrow marks the 88th birthday of Morgana King.  What a unique and talented soul this woman is.  I was first exposed to Morgana in the early 90s.  One of her first Mercury (EmArcy) albums was released on CD with a host of other jazz artists like Helen Merrill, Billy Eckstine and Blossom Dearie.  It was packaged in one of those maddening long plastic boxes with the artwork on the top and the disc on the bottom.  It’s a wonder I have any teeth left.  Yes, I was one of those who opened the boxes without a knife.  . 

Later I was turned onto more recent Morgana recordings including the following beautiful examples.

Miss Morgang King with Torrie Zito – Mainstream Records
It’s A Quiet Thing – Reprise Records
Stretching Out – Muse Records

In mid 2000 I was living in San Diego but in the process of moving to Los Angeles.  I learned that Morgana would be at the dearly missed Cinegrill at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel for a 70th birthday celebration.  I talked a buddy into going with me.  I was so blessed to be there.  Here’s a picture of Morgana from that day.

I have since learned from the wonderful writer James Gavin in his Jazz Times article about Morgana that this was her Farewell Birthday Show.  This was one time that I was in the right place at the right time.  (James’ article provides a great insight into the life of Morgana.)

Here’s a clip of Morgana at the Hollywood Bowl in a tribute concert dedicated to Billie Holiday.  (Thank you Morganafan for the Youtube posting!)

Happy Happy Birthday Morgana.  (June 4th).  May you be as blessed as you’ve blessed us!

Erwin & Elephants

OhMyYum, yesterday I had lunch with my besties at The Farmer’s Daughter restaurant in Chuckey, TN.  No, you (probably) do not know where it is.  It’s literally in the middle of nowhere in the country.  But oh my goodness is it delicious.  And trust me, I made an absolute pig of myself.  I was in such a hurry I only managed to pop off one picture of my dessert.  Otherwise, I ate all of the evidence.

Coconut Cream Pie

And since Coconut is my favorite, I managed to shove one more thing in my “PieHole”.

Afterwards, I rode through the county in a food coma. Along the way I encountered a Skunk Cow.  This cow was so cute with it’s white stripe running from its head all the way along the center of it’s body.


It was either go home and take a nap (not a good idea) or to go somewhere to walk around. I chose to go over to Erwin.  I got out and walked for an hour or more.  My digestive system was so happy.

I’m glad I randomly chose  Erwin.  There is an Elephant Installation in it’s downtown.  From the Facebook link I can see this isn’t the first time.  But, it was my first time.  These elephants are so cute and will be up for auction later in the year.  One might look really cute on my porch.

I LOVE Public Art.  It adds so much to the character of a town.  Los Angeles has its Angels, Chicago has its Cows, Goldsboro NC has its Pigs, Fullerton CA has it’s sheep and Erwin TN has its Elephants.  Fun times indeed.  #CelebrateArt



JOINTS. Roadside, that is…

I am fond of off the road, out of the way, never been down this street, road, avenue type of driving.  And often I’m rewarded with new adventures.  If I’m really lucky I’ll find a new joint to grab lunch or dinner.  (Finding a new breakfast joint would be heaven but those seem fewer and fewer these days.)

A while back I had to be up in Rocky Top.  Yes, that Rock Top, as in the song.  That song that once it gets in your mind, it squats.

It was a quick work trip and I found myself zipping down Main Street and hurriedly heading back to Knoxville.  But out of the corner of my eye I spied:

This was  just a quick glance as I was ready to get back to the “big city”.

But, it wasn’t long until I found myself back in Rocky Top and I was hungry.  I do love me some Bar-B-Que so I decided to pull in and give Coal Creek Smokehouse a try.  And OhMyYum what a great decision.  The place is a small house accessed from an alley between two buildings or from a side entrance through a gravel walk.  But either way you get in, once you’re there, you want to stay in and Pig Out!

Here are some of the YUMS I have enjoyed:

Brisket Plate with Baked Beans and Potato Salad and SPOON BREAD
Pulled pork sandwich with Mac & Cheese and Baked Beans
Fried Pickles
Pulled Pork platter

I return often.  The food is all homemade and the meats are smoked in house.  This past Tuesday they had sold so much pork they were out.  So Brisket won, temporarily.  So far the Pulled Pork is my favorite.

I have never had Spoon Bread before.  I love all things corn and corn and more corn.  I’ve had corn bread baked and fried.  But this spoon bread was out of this world.  I found a recipe online that I want to try soon.  It looks so similar.  Spoon Bread.  If it’s anywhere as good as Coal Creek’s, it’s heavenly.

The town of Rocky Top started out as Coal Creek.  It was a mining town.  Then it was Lake City.  Now it’s Rocky Top.  Ever how you call it, I call it “Tops” in Bar-B-Que.  Do yourself a favor, get off the freeway, the throughway and follow your hungry gut to discover something new and different.  I’m surely glad I did.  And I’ll do it again and again!



I love Live Theater.  I have been fortunate enough to have seen some really great theater in my life.  I’ve also had a privilege to have performed in live theater as well.

Since moving back eastward, I have decided to get out more and support the local arts as much as possible.  And I can report, Eastern Tennessee is RICH in live theater.

The first show I saw here was Del Shore’s “Sordid Lives.”  The show was staged at Johnson City Community Theater.  I saw this show  in Los Angeles several times, so it was a pleasure for it to be my first theater outing in my new home.

I loved the TV show “In The Heat Of The Night.”  I do remember seeing the original movie when I was quite young, but I remember the TV show more.  I was thrilled to be able to see it in a theater setting.  And oh what a powerhouse.  I saw this show in Abingdon, VA at the Barter Theater.  BTW, the Barter is Virginia’s state theater.

I had so wanted to see “I Love A Piano” in Jonesborough.  I had thought I was to be out of town the last weekend it ran.  But my travel plans changed and I had completely forgotten to pick up tickets.  But Fate had a very different plan.  On the last Saturday it ran, I happened to wonder over to Jonesborough (a whole 8 miles away) and was walking around and getting a bit of exercise and window shopping.  As I was meandering down Main Street I happened to see that “I Love A Piano” was starting in less than 10 minutes.  I popped my head into Jonesborough Rep Theater to see if any tickets were available and there was one.  And that’s all I needed.  So I said YES.

The next two shows were both presented by Kingsport Theatre Guild.  And what shows.  Both are deep and rich in family issues.  First up was “‘Night Mother”.  A two woman show featuring a mother and daughter.  A solid show with great performances.  This is a show I’d love to see again.

And last night I saw the Southern Melodrama “Steel Magnolias”.  Oh what deliciousness are the quips, and how heart-wrenching is the seriousness of the piece.

In three months I have been dazzled by 5 very different shows.  The casts have  possessed a wide range of talent.  Each theater is different in setting, staging, lighting.  But all of them have the same thing in common:  A Desire to Entertain.  And all of them have succeeded wildly.  Come to Eastern Tennessee (and far western VA) and be  entertained.  It ain’t only NYC and LA that know theater!

Let’s Go LIVE!