Saturday, June 28, 2014

My Wood Burning Project

About this time last year I took my branch clipping tool out of my storage barn and used it to cut down the large bushes on either side of my deck in my back yard.

I drug the clippings out to the paved area at the back of our yard. I intended to let the clippings dry and then burn them. But I never got around to it. 

Then in the early spring we decided to have some friends of ours who own a small landscaping business clear out a small area behind our back fence. This included cutting down some bushes and trimming some limbs from some overhanging trees. 

Since there was still some brush left on the concret I told them to put what they cut down there as well. Because I now had a little more free time I could get around to burning all of it. 
I'm in the process of doing that now. 

Three times over the last month I've spent a couple of hours breaking up and burning the brush. 

As of late, I haven't been able to get out to the back yard at night and it's been too hot during the day to tend a fire. So my most recent "burn" happened this past Wednesday. I started it at 8 o'clock in the morning. It was the first time in my life that I have ever gotten up early for the purpose of burning brush to clear my property. 

I fed the fire for about 90 minutes. But as you can see from the background of this picture. I still have quite a bit of wood left to get rid of. 

I've kind of put myself on a deadline when it comes to finishing this wood burning project. On the 2nd weekend we are expecting a vist from some of my Pennsylvania family. I want to have it cleared up by then. 

For someone who grew up in an urban area, "fires" have always been associated with special events or doing something fun. For most of my life I was only in a place with an open fire when camping, went to an outdoor party on someone's farm, or went on a hayride.

I don't know why but almost every time I sit around an open fire I feel like everyone should be singing. That almost never happens. But when I rule the world "around the fire" sing-alongs will be "the law".   

Just to show you I'm serious about this, here's a link to a video on my You Tube channel. It's a recording I made of my own personal sing-along as I burned brush on May 14. 

Ron's Fireside Sing-A-Long

Now that I live in, the rural area of Warren county Kentucky, outdoor controlled fires are quite common. They are used to clear fields or burn brush. Smoke and the smell of wood burning are in the air quite often. 

Since public open burning is allowed (unless there's a drought) and I enjoy building and watching a fire I won't mind the effort it's going to take to get my concrete court cleared off. 

Only one thing that bothers me. Well, actually two things. 

It's already time to get out the branch clippers, cut back these two bushes, and make a whole new crop of firewood.

When those branches dry out and are ready to be turned into kindling, perhaps I'll set up a lawn chair, tune up my ukulele. Then I'll practice the sing-along at the bonfire we have at my church in the fall. 

Anyone wanna join in a chorus or two of "Kumbya"? 

Friday, June 27, 2014

RH Factors' Friday Digest

I don't have a specific thing to blog about today, so I'll use this opportunity to include a variety of things that I've been wanting to post about. As they say on Sesame Street, this "Reader's Digest" style edition is brought to you by the letter "B"

First a couple of pictures I don't think I've ever shared these "nature" pictures that I took a recently.

The beautiful butterfly landed on our carport while I was outside grilling dinner one evening earlier this month. 

A friend of mine who likes taking pictures of wildlife identified it for me through and exchange on Facebook. Unfortunately I don't remember the name he told me but it did have the word "Zebra" in it.  
This cardinal landed on the railing in front of my parking space as I was on my way to work one day back in May. The lighting on this picture isn't all that great because I was pretty far away. While the cardinal is the state bird of Kentucky, seeing them was a rarity in New Jersey where I grew up. So spotting one is still kinda special to me. 

Because I worked so hard and so long on building it I want to make sure that my Lego VW van is protected from coming apart again. So I now have it mounted, stabilized, and will keep it in this plastic display case. I plan on putting it on the shelf on the top of my new "rolltop" so that I can see every time I work at my desktop computer. 

I was going to decorate the case with stickers of peace signs and smiley faces like back in the 70's and a back ground picture simulating that the van was sitting in a campground. But I decided against it. 

Nevertheless in my research for a campsite scene to put in the background I found an interesting picture. 
I think it's so cool that I found an actual  red & white VW van camper parked at a campsite. 

There is something I want to mention about how modern technology has enhanced my experience of reading. For the last couple of year I've been buying and reading most of my books on a Kindle HD tablet. It's connected to the internet through WiFi. 

I like to read biographies. When I am reading specifically about a historic event or something that was part of a "public" forum, I no longer wait until later to find out more about it. 

I can actually stop and do a "Google" search to see what other resources say about what's mentioned in the book or go to You Tube to actually watch it.  

For example, I am currently reading about the life of Muppet creator, Jim Henson. In discussing the early stages of Henson's career, the book mentions the Muppets commercials for Wilkins coffee and the Ralston Purina dog food companies; Rowlf the dog's very popular appearances on The Jimmy Dean Show; and Henson's first live action film, "Time Piece."

Although the book did an adequate job of explaining what the all of these things were, I was able to understand them better by watching all of them on You Tube. 

Being able to do that makes reading so much more enjoyable and a memorable experience. 

Digital versions of new books are starting to take advantage of mobile devices, such as smart phones and tablets, ability to access the internet. 

Lou Mongello's "102 Ways" book about planning and saving for and at Walt Disney World does a great job with this. It is jam packed with web address links that expands on the information the book.  

Of course, the internet has made nearly everything, for the most part, so much better. I mean it does have it's drawbacks; but being able to access information about almost anything at any time is just something that I still find amazing. 

That's about it for this Friday Digest edition of RHFactors. 

The weekend is coming up and I've got some things going on that will give me a couple of things that are a little more interesting to write about than butterflies, birds, buses, and books. So y'all come back now ya hear? :)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Holes In The Walls

These four cut outs in our walls are the latest additions to our home. No, we didn't have box cutter wielding maniac with an obsession for creating geometric shapes in walls go on a rampage through our house. 
They are there because we finally had the electric heaters that were in them removed. Wayne Rector, an electrician who goes to our church, took them out yesterday. 

The heaters were already in the walls when Paula and her family moved in back in 1995. They were already inoperable at the time. Since then they have not been anything but eyesores and dust catchers. 

After many years of putting off getting them removed, the fact they are finally gone is a big step in our home improvement project.
The hole in the bathroom (above) will be built into a storage cabinet. The other 3 holes will be patched with drywall and eventually repainted along with each of their respective rooms. 
It's interesting to look at the borders of the holes and see the contrast between the colors the rooms used to be and what they are now. 

The next thing to be done is to put up some cardboard temporarily to keep bugs or mice from getting in until I can find someone to come in and dry wall the holes so we can repaint the rooms. 

If anyone reading this who is from the Smiths Grove / Bowling Green area knows of a reliable and reasonably priced handyman let me know. I'd appreciate it. 

So unlike the one I put in the kitchen wall of my first apartment in Kentucky after throwing a couple of frozen hamburgers across the room because I couldn't get them apart, I am proud of these 4 holes in the wall. 

It may seem like its a weird thing to be excited about but, just like the conversion of the flower beds in front of our house to a rock garden last year...

...its an important step for us. I'll keep you up to date on the progress of our home improvements as they happen.   

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Hey, What's Going On In Lego Land?

Blogger's Note: Just wanted to mention that yesterday's post was a milestone for me in this way. It was the 154th post of this calendar year. That means that 2014 now ranks second in regard to most posts in a year. The most in one year was 170 in 2009, the first full year of "RHFactors." That means that some time in July I should set an all time yearly record for published blog posts. Thanks for taking the time to read the silliness I write. It may not be Pulitzer Prize winning work but it keeps me off the streets.-Ron

Remember how much I used to post about Lego? Haven't done much for a while, have I? I may even have some of the few who read this blog regularly wondering, "What's going on in Ron's Lego land." 

Well, I have had been active in the land of Lego over the last couple of month but have not been building much. I had another issue with missing pieces in the "Aviation Adventures."

I had to call Lego customer service again to order more parts I didn't get in the set. Once again the CSR was kind enough to send them to me at no charge. 

Since I still didn't have all the pieces for it I put the incomplete set away until I could build it completely. 

Since my May 1 trip on the release date of the Simpsons minifigures, I have made two stops at the Lego store in Nashville. One of those stops was on the way back from Atlanta in the middle of May, and the other was with Paula on our way back from our vacation in the Smoky Mountains a couple of weeks ago.

A lot of Lego related things have happened over the last week. On June 18 I received my "Everything Is Awesome" edition of the Lego Movie.  

This package included the blu-ray, 3D blu-ray, DVD, and digital copies of the movie. The other reasons I preordered this package from Amazon is the bonuses. 

While this picture looks a lot like the front of the package it is actually a small stand alone 3D portrait of the movie's lead character,Emmit. 

Then there's my favorite part of the package. 

It's a mini-figure of Virtruvius, the wizard character from the movie. I consider this the 17th member of mini-figure Series 11 which featured other characters from the movie. 

The only thing I don't like about the Virtruvius minifig is that it's not exactly like the one that's in most of the movie. His eyes are not the same. In most of the movie the figure's eyes are just white circles to make him look like he's blind. 

The special edition of character is the one that's at the beginning of the movie. So it's not the Virtruvius figure you see throughout most of the movie figure but at least it's a version of the character.  

Paula and I watched the Lego Movie on the night I got it in the mail. It was cool to see it from her point of view being that she only into Lego by association. I got to point out and explain some things to her. 

I also had the advantage, this being my 3rd time seeing it, of looking around at the peripherals in each scene; picking up on stuff I missed the first two times. 

As of the writing of this post I have yet to watch the bonus features but I'm looking forward to them. According to the online reviews I've read they are pretty good. 

The other new mini-figure I have gotten this week is one sold at the local minor league ballpark. It's an Oyo baseball figure wearing a Bowling Green Hot Rods uniform. 
The coolest thing about this figure is something not shown in the picture. The player's uniform # is 14; one of my favorite numbers when it comes to baseball. 

Well, now I'm up to the one thing that I consider the apex of my Lego building accomplishments so far. It is a model that I ended up building twice because it fell apart the first time I built it. 

I just finished the second build a couple of days ago. It took me about 5 months to finish it this time. Not because it was hard. The 115 steps required a lot of concentration and focus to put together. The design is so tight and precise that if you don't build them and put them together exact the model won't stay together. 

So in order to work on the model I had to be able to sit down and concentrate as having to lay out all the pieces in a well light work area. All those elements only came together about once or twice a week over the last few months. 

But enough about the process, here are the results.

I have made a video with the "nickel tour" of the details of this magnificent model. The Lego company really hit it out of the park with this one. I am proud to have built it. Here's the link to the latest "My Point Of Vue" video on You Tube featuring this VW Van.

My Point Of Vue: Lego Volkswagen Van Edition

So there you have an update on what's going on in Ron's personal Lego Land. Now that I'm back into building on a more regular basis I will be starting up my "This Week In Lego" reports again soon. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


Last week (June 16-20) for the 3rd time in the last 4 years I served as music director during Vacation Bible School at our church.

This year's program had a secret agent theme to it. The music and choreography, as usual, were fun. They were very effective in conveying the message of the gospel to the children. 

The three songs I chose to teach the kids and have them sing at the closing ceremonies are all the kind of melodies that get in your head and stay there. 

I took some videos of the kids practicing but because of my personal policy of not making public images of any children without parent's permission I cannot share them with you. 

Here are the links to the You Tube videos of each of them. 
Agency D3 Theme Song  
He Is Alive
More Than Just A Good Man

Although it was a pleasure and always a privilege to lead the kids in one of the most effective ways the Lifeway programs deliver the message of every program each year, it wasn't the best part of this year's VBS for me. 

This year was the first year my granddaughter Aria was able to come to VBS. 

This was a very new and confusing experience for her. She has never participated in anything like it before. Add to the the fact that she's not "a morning person" and you'll understand the reason for the somberness of the pictures I took of her at the beginning of the day. I took this one on Monday within the first hour of her arrival. 

Luckily her mommy was with her to help her along. Here, during recreation time, she was either tired or bored while playing "duck, duck, goose."

Even though I was busy with other things, like teaching music and helping to count the offering, I took every chance I could to find where Aria's class was. I'd go by to say "hi". Sometimes I'd just "secretly" look in just to see if she was having fun.

As the week went along she got more and more used to the routine of VBS and started enjoying herself. 

Thursday was "water day" at VBS. A local fire company brought a fire truck to the church to allow the kids to play in a sprinkler attached to a fire hose. 

While waiting for the "go ahead" to get wet Aria had made a new friend, Stacey,the granddaughter of our friends Mark & Patty.  

Even with Stacey holding her hand for support, Aria still wasn't too enthusiastic about going through the spray of water. Her Pawpaw decided to help by picking her up and walking through the water with her. She still wasn't too happy about it. 

Although I saw her at different times during the VBS mornings, it was during lunch time that I had the most fun with Aria.  

On the last day, Friday, Aria got her face painted and got to spend some time with her Nana at the closing  ceremonies  that night. 

I'm not sure Aria will ever actually remember her first year of VBS but I sure will. It was great to see her every day. I'm sure she'll have a good time looking at the pictures and videos when she gets older. 

Although I had Aria there with me and the kids were really into the music; at the start of the week VBS just didn't seem right to me this year. I just felt like I wasn't really putting anything into it. 

By the middle of the week I decided that I was going to get more involved. I brought my puppet Cecil and did a little sketch for the kids each day. I only brought him out for my two younger groups: ages ranged from 5-7 years old.

In keeping with the secret agent theme I put Cecil in a disguise that first day. 
For the last two days, I had Cecil bring a couple of guests. I used my puppet who looks like an orange. Of course, I called him "Agent Orange."

I also brought my pink fish puppet and introduced it as "Suzy Salmon" Cecil's friend. 

I knew that the 5 through 7 year olds at church were familar with and liked Cecil. They have for a long time. But their reaction to him this time surprised even me. They went nuts over him. They all wanted to talk to and hug him. They called out to him and asked him questions. It made me glad that I decided to bring him to VBS this year. 

When I finished with the music sessions with all my kids I went back into the choir room where, Ginger, the Pastor's wife, was having music time with the 2,3 & 4 year old kids. 

I let Cecil visit with them on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. The last two days I also led them in singing a song about "the Wise man and Foolish man" while playing my ukulele. 

I also used my slide whistle on Friday to play my special "up and down" game with them. It's very simple but the kids love it. 

The closing ceremonies on Friday night wasn't the best VBS experience I've ever had. In fact it was rather frustrating. Difficulties in the tech booth, due to a recent switch of computers, made the kids' music presentation (normally the highlight of the night) rather awkward. But there was nothing that could be done. 

But alls well that ends well because the sound techs in the booth got the music and video to work, somewhat, and the kids improvised as best as they could. 

Besides, afterwards we all got to go down to the fellowship hall and have cookies. 

Oakland Baptist Church had it's best VBS week ever this year. Sixteen children in the 3rd to 6th grade classes followed the 'ABCs" of the gospel that are taught every year and became born again Christians. (Praise The Lord). 

I am so amazed at how well organized and smooth running the VBS program at Oakland has become. The leadership and commitment of Director Melanie Jones is the main reason for that. 

Also, Denise Richey and her dedicated kitchen staff amazingly manage to serve a snack and lunch to a church full of kids for each of the 5 days during the week. They do a great job. 

Throughout the week there was an average of 140+ kids in attendance each day and more than 50 adult workers. 

Now I know that each of those adults could tell you about their own VBS experiences during the week. What you've just read was a little bit of the details about mine.

I was so happy that I could be part of Aria's first time at Vacation Bible School. I will never forget it.  

It was a special year. One of memories and surprises. That's why I am always happy when I get the chance to help with VBS. It's always a blessing to me. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

One Last Long Distance Dedication

This is a little late but nevertheless I feel i have to post it. 

On Sunday June 15 one of my life long idols, Casey Kasem, passed away. 

Although he'd been suffering from Parkinson's disease for many years and has been retired since 2009. He was still and still is a constant influence in my life. 

It was the summer of 1973 that I started listening to Kasem's radio show "American Top 40" on the radio. 

I was already dedicated to the dream of one day becoming a radio DJ. Listening to Kasem countdown the biggest hits in America according to Billboard magazine for four hours each week only added fuel to my fire. I wanted to be just like him. He was the king in a realm in which it was very difficult to succeed much less conquer like he had. 

His voice, personality, and story telling ability, served as examples and inspirations that helped me develop my own style that is a part of my life to this day. All the Rewind shows I've made over the years are basically my personal stories recorded in a format inspired by Casey Kasem. 

While he may not written the script or done the research for all the stories for the AT40 shows; Casey Kasem's delivery is what made them come to life. His work is timeless and continues to be heard by millions by way of satellite radio. 

On weekends the 70's channel on Sirius/XM radio replays the AT40 shows from that decade. As I listen to them on my way to church on Sunday mornings I enjoy the "behind the scene" stories he tells about the hits. I feel the sentiment and sincerity that accompanies every "long distant" dedication. 

I'd like to share with you a recording I made a few months ago while listening to an AT40 show from 1978. 

I don't even know if I heard this story when it was originally broadcast. But now that I live about 20 miles from the town where it happened I think the story is very interesting. 

The audio is not the best but if you turn up the audio or listen through head phones you'll be able to hear it. 
Here is a link:
Rod Stewart Scam In Kentucky

Although a rather popular sound bite of Kasem's out take rant during the recording of an American Top 40 has made it's rounds over the years and seems to show that perhaps he took himself a little too seriously; I'd like to take a stand in his defense.  

The time and circumstances of that recording are not common knowledge. Perhaps Kasem was under a lot of stress at the time or was just having a bad day. That can happen to anyone; especially in the radio business.  

 I'd like to spotlight a You Tube video that is a counter to the outtake audio. It's from 1993 during the early days of the Late Show with David Letterman on CBS. It shows that Casey Kasem never really took himself or his career as America's Countdown king seriously. I think its a much better representation of his public persona. 

Casey's Letterman Top Ten

There were a couple of other things I will always remember about Casey Kasem. His career was multifaceted. 

In addition to being the DJ voice of my generation he was the voices of several cartoon characters first introduced to my generation as well. 

If you check out Kasem's IMDB profile you'll see an exhaustive list of the voice work he did throughout the years. His most famous roles were Shaggy in the Scooby Doo cartoons and Robin in the Super Friends series. 

I really liked his role in the 1971 Rankin Bass Easter special, Here Comes Peter Cottontail. 

Finally, one of Casey's most admirable charitable involvements was with the annual Jerry Lewis MDA telethon. A broadcast that was an event every Labor Day in my house when I was growing up. 

Kasem would be take on the duties of telethon announcer and second banana to Lewis during the times Ed McMahon was not there.

Most of the time that was during the over night hours of the broadcast. The very same hours I took pride in staying up and watching when I was a teenager. 

As you can see I was a very big fan of Casey Kasem. And although he's gone he's always going to live on in my heart and in my memory. 

I guess the most appropriate way to end this last long distance dedication of thanks to Casey Kasem is a quote of his own signature sign off. 

It's a catch phrase that encouraged his fans to go for their dreams while staying within the realm of reality. 

Thanks Casey I'll never forget to do just that. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Return To Our Vacation Spot Part 4

At the end of yesterday's post we were in the early evening hours of our 2nd full day of our Smoky Mountain vacation in Pigeon Forge. 

As we left the Island resort area we still had some important "must do" things on our list. 

Our next stop was the Walden's Landing shopping area. This is another outdoor mall that's got a lot of places and things that attract visitors and locals both. It has a multi-screen cinema, a miniature golf course, Calhoun's steakhouse, Five Guys restaurant, and several retail stores. 

The last time we were in the Smokies by ourselves (October 2011) we walked through this area. We enjoyed "The Tomb" attraction and ate at Five Guys for the first time. 

The sole reason for going there this time around was to revisit one of our favorite places in Pigeon Forge that specializes in one of our favorite snacks. 

The Smoky Mountain Popcorn store has 150 different types of flavored popcorn. Some of them are amazingly delicious. Their categories include: candied, cheese coated, soda, savory, spicy, and seasonal flavors. 

Each customer is allowed to sample 4 different flavors of their choice. The sample portion is just 5 or 6 kernels but it is enough to decide if you like that flavor or not. 

Paula tried the dill pickle and a couple spicy flavors. I tried some cheesy flavors. We each bought some of our favorites to take back to Kentucky with us. 

As the sunset in the Smokies we still had one more thing we wanted to do. We had decided to visit one of the newest attractions in Pigeon Forge, the Hollywood Wax Museum. 

In an area of the parkway where the attraction buildings are made to look like a legendary ship, and an upside down building, the Hollywood Wax Museum facade stands outs as a real eye catcher. 

With a giant King Kong climbing up a building that looks a lot like one of the original World Trade Center towers on the right and a Hollywood version of Mount Rushmore on the left. The outside of the museum is very impressive. 

Paula and I had debated about going to the attraction and probably would have not if I had not decided to skip plans to go to the Friday night home game of the Tennessee Smokies in nearby Kodak, TN. 

While looking at the wax museum's website in effort to know what to expect for our $20 admission fee I made a tongue-in-cheek remark to Paula. "I hope they didn't spend all their money on the outside". As it turned out there was a little more truth to that statement than we would have liked. 

Here's my close up shot of the Hollywood icons sculpted on the outside of the building. 
The only reason I can think of for Elvis to be included in this display is so that it will appeal to the large southern demographic that visit the area. 

Upon entering the building you by your admission ticket and then go pose for a souvenir picture of your group. Something they try to get you to buy at the end of your visit. It's taken using a set that has a King Kong theme. Here's a picture of the area taken from the second floor of the museum.The picture is taken with the visitors standing inside the ape model's hand. 

On a scale of 1 to 10 I would rate this museum at a 5. It's not awful but it's not great. Many of the wax figures do not look like the celebrity they are supposed to be. Paula's theory is that they used the same basic template to make every statue and then tried to make them look like the star they were supposed to be. 

At the start of your self-guided tour you emerge immediately onto the red carpet where you encounter sculpted versions of some of today's most famous movie starts. 

Bradley Cooper
Angelina Joli
Robert Downey Jr. 

Morgan Freeman
Many of them were made way too thin for them to look realistic. Here's a shot Paula took of me with the Kevin James figure as an example. He's too think; I am not. 

Hulk Hogan looked absolutely deformed and the worst was Lucille Ball. Set up as her "I Love Lucy" character Lucy Richardo doing her classic "Vita Vita Vegimin" commercial, the figure does not anything like the TV icon. 

The best one we thought was the one of Hugh Hefner. It was so realistic that it was a bit creepy. 

There are plenty of opportunities to pose with your favorite stars. Paula spent some time in the bottle with Barbara Eden in a scene from "I Dream Of Jeannie". 

But the best picture of our visit was taken at the Star Trek exhibit. I just so happened to be wearing the appropriate attire to fit right in the transporter scene. Too bad I won't be returning from the away mission.  

The "horror" wing of the museum was pretty good but that's because the characters were either wearing masks or weren't human. 

Overall when it comes to the Hollywood Wax Museum in Pigeon Forge I would have to say "skip it". Take some pictures of the outside and save your money. 

Once we left the wax museum it was time to get some dinner. Paula wanted to try a barbecue place she thought we would like; Bennet's Pit Barbeque.

The place was very busy but we didn't have to wait long for a table. Our waiter, Justin, was a guy in his 30's who obviously worked out. His arms were huge. He was very attentive and friendly. 

We ordered a combo platter of pulled pork, a half rack of ribs and "hogs legs". The hogs legs were like the pork version of a chicken wing. That's the best way I can describe them except for the word "delicious." 

We couldn't finish it all so we took it back to the condo and eventually brought it home to Kentucky with us. 

On the way back to our condo we decided that we wanted some ice cream to eat a little later before we went to bed. It was after 10 o'clock so it was hard to find an ice cream place open. 

We went to several places, including a Ben & Jerry's store in the Tanger outlet mall, before we found a place that was open. 

We sat outside at the picnic table and ate our desert before heading back to Whispering Pines for our last night's rest in the Smokies. 

In any long lasting marriage there are things that couples do often and do well. For Paula and I one of those things is we travel well together. This includes the logistics of packing up and getting ready to head home at the end of each trip. 

Saturday morning was the start of the last day of our short vacation. We packed up our clothes and gifts, loaded them into the car. 

At the start of our trip we were proud of ourselves because of how light we had packed relative to vacations in the past. Everything we took fit in the Impala's trunk with room to spare. 

As we loaded the car we realized just how much we had bought to take home with us. The trunk was full and there was also some stuff in the back seat.  

We made sure we did the things required by condo management before we left the condo for good. We disposed of the trash, and checked out of the resort by 10:30. It was a very nice place to stay. 

After our experiences staying in a condo, last September and this time, I can safely say that we will more than likely be staying in a condo whenever we visit the Smokies in the future. And our first visit to Whispering Pines will probably not be our last. 

We had one more stop before leaving the Smokies and heading home. It was a return to another of our favorite restaurant/retail areas in Pigeon Forge. 

The Apple Barn complex is a microcosmic version of the Smoky Mountain resort area. It has a winery, cider mill, a candy and ice cream shop, two table service restaurants, a store featuring apple themed foods and products, and a counter service cafe featuring apple fritters and coffee.

It also has a special place in our "Smoky Mountain" vacation history. It's where we had breakfast and said "good-bye" to my sisters and their families when they were with us in 2009 for James and Brandi's wedding. It holds a lot of memories. 

First thing we did, on this visit, was have something to eat. 
Our restaurant of choice was "Applewood."

We initially intended to have breakfast but when our waitress handed us the lunch menu we each decided to make it brunch. 

The complementary glass of blended fruit juices, basket of small round apple fritters, and blended preserves are reasons I like this restaurant so much.  

I ordered chicken cordon bleu and Paula ordered meatloaf. We both got mashed potatoes because we knew they would be delicious. They are made from real potatoes which makes all the difference. 

Just like dinner the night before, we couldn't finish our entire meal. We asked for "to go" boxes and took home our leftovers. 

It took us about an hour to take a walking tour of the rest of the shops and stores on the Apple Barn property. This included a rest at the Applewood Grill to share an apple cider slushy and get some fritters to take home to Paula's sister. 

About 1PM CDT we got in the car and headed north east back through Tennessee toward Kentucky. On the return trip, instead of getting on I-75 north we took I-40 east through Knoxville heading toward Chattanooga. 

We came back through Nashville where we stopped at the Opry Mills mall so I could stop at the Lego store. I figured we were in the area, why not? I got a new set based on The Lego Movie. 

We also took some time to get something to eat at the food court. I stood in line to get Paula Hazelnut Mocha coffee from Starbucks while she went shoe shopping. 

Finally we merged onto the all too familiar stretch of I-65 that would take us home. 

So there you have the recollections, pictures and videos of our mid June 2014 three day vacation to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. 

I'm not sure if it will be our only chance to get away this year but I hope not. If it is...well we had a good time. 

Paula didn't get as much physical rest as originally planned. But she did get the mental break she needed. Hopefully she had enjoyed herself and is at least somewhat recharged in mind, body and soul. 

Also, this trip report is a milestone for me as far as social media is concerned. I have used both this blog and my You Tube channel to share our experiences with you. 

This shows that if I put forth the effort I can generate content that is worth sharing on social media. Thanks for being a part of this advance in my online development.