Wednesday, December 31, 2008

DuPont State Forest

Yesterday we had no cleaning to do and had heard the weather was supposed to be nice, so we decided to do some geocaching in the DuPont State Forest. It's located near Brevard, NC which is about an hour's drive from here.

The weather was absolutely perfect and we had a wonderful day hiking and geocaching. Before we started hiking in Dupont, we made a quick side-trip about 10 more miles
south and picked up a geocache in Caesar's Head State Park located in South Carolina. We wanted to log a find in SC to increase the number of states in which we've geocached. That makes 5 so far. We hope to add TN before we leave the area, and maybe even a jaunt to VA.

After making a quick find in SC, we headed back to DuPont. We brought both the dogs with us since we hadn't taken them anywhere for awhile and we thought we'd be gone most of the day. We ended up hiking a good 5 miles!! The trails are really nice and are open to hikers, bycyclists and horseback riders. We saw mostly bikers and hikers, altho there was a group of horses taking off when we arrived. It looked like a fun way to see the scenery.


We found 5 caches in the DuPont forest, which when added to the SC cache we found, brings our total to over 100! I doubt we'll ever accumulate anywhere close to the number of caches found by the 2 ladies who introduced us to this sport when we were working at the KOA in Richmond. They're 2 retired schoolteachers from Cincinnati who Steve struck up a conversation with. Geocaching is their main interest sin
ce they retired and they travel all over the country to do it. They have logged well over 2000 finds in about 3 years!! We might be able to catch up to them a little in the next few months since one of them just had double knee surgery!!

We had heard about the DuPont forest from someone we met when we were mountain biking here in Asheville at the Experimental Forest. He gave us a trail map and told us about some of the interesting things to see there. He recommended we visit Bridal Veil Falls, so we made that our target to hike to, finding as many caches along the way as we could. The Falls were pretty spectacular and well worth the hike!
I've read that a portion of The Last of the Mohicans was filmed at this location.


This picture was taken standing at the base of the falls. We could hear the water rushing from almost a half a mile away and the temperature was several degrees cooler as we approached.


This picture was taken standing to the left of the rocks pictures above. We talked to some other hikers in the area who said they had visited the falls a few years ago and they were only a trickle at that time. They said they could walk on the rock face. It must have been in the dry season or during a draught!!



I sat the camera on a rock and set the timer to take this picture. I don't think Twiggy or Shelby were very happy about being out there!! It was late afternoon and the sun had gone behind the mountains, so it's a little dark.



We had a wonderful time but were pretty tired and hungry at the end of our hike!! Thank goodness we took some cheese and crackers to munch on! I think even the dogs were worn out, they slept the whole way home. We stopped in Brevard and had dinner at an Irish Pub. It was pretty good food.

When we got back to the campgrounds, they were having a little bonfire with some people who have camped here for several years. We had an enjoyable visit with everyone. And we slept like logs last night!!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Bavarian experience and a visitor

Christmas was nice. The weather was sunny and warm. We sat outside on the deck most of the afternoon chatting with our fellow-workamper, Matt. He's a former navy brat, cowboy, RC plane pilot, fly-fisherman, etc. so we all get along pretty well. It was basically a mutual BS session. Not a bad way to spend the day.

Later in the evening we finally got the video feed working on the computer so we could "participate" in the Wray Family Christmas Celebration in Ohio. That was a LOT of fun, almost as good as being there!! We watched everyone open their presents, and opened the ones they sent us, then part of the family played wii and the other half played p-nuts. Except for Grandpa and Mark, who I assume took their obligatory Christmas naps. I'm pretty sure I heard some snoring going on.

Last night Steve and I went out to eat at a local German restaurant called the Bavarian Lodge. It was good food, good service and a good time. A little pricey, but we hadn't eaten out for awhile. I think the "goodness" may have been somewhat enhanced by the litre of German bier that accompanied my meal!! Holy Cow, yes I did say a LITRE!! And it was QVITE GUHD, DA!!

On the way back up the mountain, we finally saw "The Bear" that's been making occasional visits to the campgrounds. As I reported to my children, we actually only saw the
the portion of the bear which has become famous in American sayings for the product it is reported to expel in the woods. I've been hoping we would catch a glimpse of him, and a sighting from the comfort and safety of the car was definitely my viewing preference. Coming upon one while hiking in the woods would be my least favorite scenario. Hopefully we'd have the dogs with us if that happened. Not that I think they'd protect us, I was thinking more along the lines of tossing one of them to him as a snack to distract him while we make tracks in the opposite direction!! (Just kidding Twiggy!!)


I think we're going to have a New Year's Eve Bonfire on the campgrounds. That should be festive. The campgrounds has been pretty busy through the holidays. We even have some tent-campers coming in tonight. It shouldn't be too cold for them.

Now we're off to finish some laundry and cleaning!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Celebrating Christmas (etc!!)

Christmas has come quickly yet again. It's going to be our first Christmas spent away from family members. (Not counting each other, of course!) I think we're going to get to be with them vicariously thanks to technology. Skype: the next best thing to being there!

On Sunday we had a small gathering with some of the other campers here. There are 2 couples who are here for extended periods. One of them suggested we have a small carry-in. We were able to use the Cliffhouse so we didn't have to cram ourselves into someone's camper. It was quite enjoyable and fun to get to know some of our "neighbors" a little better. The lady who organized it is from Colorado. She said she doesn't really celebrate Christmas, but likes to celebrate solstice so she brought a poem about it which she read for us. I also tried my hand at fixing a vegetarian soup option for one of the guests. I used tempeh for th
e first time, and I think the result was pretty tasty. I'm still eating the leftovers!! Asheville is definitely a diverse place, which I can find somewhat annoying at times, but I'm a lot more laid back than I used to be.

Here's a picture of our little Christmas/Solstice group in front of the cozy fireplace......

We had way more food than we could eat and even some home made wine that was quite delicious! Our group, from left to right is David & Sandra from GA, myself with the bulbous head (and body,) Tim & Krista (who are both almost completely overshadowed by my bulbous-ness, they're from CO) Steve (my Ohio co-hort,) Garret, and his grandparents, Barbara and Michael who all live several hours from here, but I can't remember exactly where. They were a fun group and stayed and visited for several hours after stuffing ourselves.

Getting back to the "diversity" of Asheville. I believe I feel a tangent coming on. Here are a few observations of things I've noticed about Asheville and its residents.

For one thing, there seem to be very few actual, full-time residents. Many folks seem to have vacation homes here and only reside here temporarily. There seems to be an extremely high number of people from Florida and among these, are a high number of people originally from NYC. I dunno what's up with that.

And those who are truly "locals" (as in living full-time in the area) most are generally not natives. Again, there's a large number of NYC/Florida people who have chosen to live here for some reason. I've met very few people who actually grew up anywhere in NC, let alone Asheville!

The car of choice down here is the Subaru. (At least we fit in somewhere!) Unfortunately, we still stand out because we don't have the back of our car plastered with bumper stickers. The Bumper Sticker Phenomena is worthy of mentioning as it's extremely prevalent down here. The most common BS sighting right now would be various forms of "Pro-Obama" stickers. Second on the list would be the anti-war stickers followed by various envirnonmental and "buy local" type of stickers, followed by all kinds of new-age, athiestic, and finally incoherent ramblings. There is a mini-pick-up down here with the front hood and fenders completely plastered with "Ron Paul for President" bumper stickers.

People down here seem to enjoy proclaiming whatever is important to them, whether on a bumper sticker, a t-shirt, a sign, a form of dress, or any combination of the aforementioned. I came across the perfect t-shirt, which I may have mentioned in a previous post that said, "If you're too werid for Asheville, you're too weird." I've also spotted a bumpersticker proclaiming ..."Asheville, where weird is normal and normal is weird." That pretty much sums it up for me!

It does keep things interesting!!

This is also one of the most pet-friendly areas I've visited! Dogs are allowed almost everywhere. Some of the restaurants allow patrons who are dining outside to have their dogs with them. I guess the health department down here doesn't consider themselves to be the self-appointed Nazis of public health like they do in Miami and Darke Co. Ohio!

I hope I don't sound overly cynical; I think it's been a good experience for me to see what it feels like to be somewhat of a "minority." I suppose that being stared at incredulously when I was the only person in my pottery class to turn down the offer of a free Obama pin doesn't really qualify me to classify myself as down-trodden. It could be rightly argued that what little I've experienced down here is NOTHING in comparison with what the member of a true minority is subjected to, but at least it's caused me to think about things I say a little more carefully. Maybe on occassion I'll weigh whether or not a careless comment I make might actually offend someone or hurt their feelings. I'm sure I'll still manage to be offensive to someone, but maybe I'll begin to becom a little more aware of my speech and actions, maybe I'll leave a better impression than I would have before.

I do find it somewhat ironic that even though the people here seem to think of themselves as progressive, diverse, open-minded and forward thinking, you might find yourself in heap o' trouble if they discover you happen to be a right-wing evangelical. I suppose it could be argued that this fear (which is basically a form of peer pressure) might make me so self-conscious of what I say, that I actually water down my beliefs to the point that I'm afraid to stand up for the things I do believe in. That's a legitimate concern also. Is there such thing as striking some kind of balance between having a belief system that you're not afraid to live out, but not shoving it down other people's throats? It's a question I constantly 'rassle with!

My, this has become a rather deep, rambling post. I think I had better sign off for today!

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukuh, Joyous Solstice, Merry Kwanza, don't forget that Dec. 27 is National Fruitcake Day!! Here's a link to a daily holiday guide for the month of December. Enjoy!!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Mother of Invention

Today was my day to do some "self-beautification." My wonderful hair stylist, Jeanine at the Hair Gallery in Troy Ohio, (shameless plug) had the foresight and kindness to send me down here with my very own, special combination of haircolor products that she uses to help me look young and sass-ay. Believe it or not, it doesn't come naturally!!

I managed to mix the goop up and apply it fairly consistently but I had to figure out a way to heat my head for 20 minutes. Normally she puts a plastic bag over my head and then sits me under the hair dryer in the shop.

At first I thought I would just soak a towel in hot water and wrap that around my head. I figured as it cooled I could stick it in the microwave (the towel, not my head.) Well, that just didn't seem to be doing the trick. I decided I would just use my hand-held hair dryer and move it around head. Better than nothing.

Then, I started thinking about those old portable hair driers that we used to use back in the late 60s/early 70s. All they basically consisted of was a blow dryer, a hose and a bag over one's head. So I sorta rigged up my own, and if I say so myself, it worked pretty well!! I call it "The Double Bagger."


Hey, it did the trick!!





Friday, December 19, 2008

Mountain Biking Today

With temperatures today in the mid-60s we decided it would be a great day to try a little mountain biking!! There are MILES of trails in the Asheville area. After doing a little research, we decided to try to combine a little mountain biking and geocaching in the Bent Creek Experimental Forest.

We loaded our bikes into the back of the truck and headed out mid-morning. We had to make a stop at Carolina Fats, the local mountain bike headquarters, to obtain some decent helmets, then we were off on our advent
ure. They are sure making helmest a lot lighter weight and better ventilated than what we wore "back in the day."

According the to map, I believe we rode a whole 2 miles on our big adventure!!! Let me tell ya, it felt like 10 or 20!! OK, now I know how out of shape I am!! However, we did get some good exercise and we did manage to keep our butts on the bike seats, no crashes or spills!! I do have to admit, I've never used my 1st gear so much in my life!! The bikes didn't do too badly for glorified street bikes. I could see where we might wear the brakes out fairly quickly if we ride these trails on a regular basis.

We did manage to find a couple of geocaches while we out on the trails also. They were a GREAT excuse to get off the bikes and catch our breath!! We talked to a really nice guy in the parking lot who is a local firefighter. He gave us a map of mountaint bike trails in the Dupont State Forest (which is located about an hour from here) and told us some of the trails that go by scenic lakes and waterfalls. Hopefully we'll have the time and some decent weather to make the trip there, it sounds really neat!!

Here's a photo I took of Steve taking one of the little jumps that the trail had to offer........

Obiously NOT!!!!

After getting back and showering, we went into Weaverville for a wine tasting at Maggie B's Wine and Specialty Shop. Ande went with us. We purchased a nice white German Reisling and a couple varieties of cheese to go with it. Then we ate dinner at the North Star Diner. All in all, it was a very enjoyable day!!


Tomorrow is supposed to be unseasonably warm also. I think we're going to try to hide some geocaches of our own around the campgrounds and then post them on a special website for campgrounds. It should be fun!!

On Sunday we're going to have a little carry-in dinner with the other campers who are staying here. There are several of us who are here for extended camping. A really nice couple from Colorado named Krista and Tim organized the carry-in. We're going to use the Cliffhouse, it should be fun. Krista said they don't really celebrate Christmas, they celebrate Solstice, They're kinda new-age-y, crunchy (as in granola eater) type people. They're a super nice couple, and I'm pretty bummed about being away from the family for the holidays, so we're looking forward to having something to do. I'm going to make Mexican soup (including a vegetarian version for Tim.) It will be fun to get to know them a little better. There's another camper whose job brought him here temporarily. He's an electrical contractor I believe. His wife and son are arriving tomorrow to be with him for the holidays and he sounded interested in coming to our little pot-luck. There are also 3 young teen-agers who are tent-camping and Steve invited them too. It will be a different holiday celebration for us, but one I'm sure we'll remember!!

I'll post pictures!

Have a great week-end!!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Weaverville and NC Arboretum

Today was sunny and warmer than it has been (that means it made it up to the 40s, I would guess.) We went out to breakfast in Weaverville with Ande, our boss. First stop was breakfast at the Well-Bred Bakery. Steve and I got strata and I had to get a piece of apricot rugelach for "dessert." Steve had a chocolate chip cookie. Ande had a bagel with "schmear." (Apparently, that's jewish for spread.)

Then we toddled around Weaverville, what a delightful little town! The Miya Gallery has beautiful pottery, fine art, hand-blown glass, wrought iron and jewelry by local artisans. One of the jewelers works there, or maybe is the owner or manager. Her name's Elizabeth Hake, and she was extremely friendly and helpful, and very talented! I purchased a pair of her earrings which I'm sure I'll enjoy for years to come!

There were 2 potters whose work I thoroughly enjoyed! One was Liz Zlot Summerfield who makes sweet little handbuilt boxes and other containers out of earthenware. She calls her work, "small and intimate" and it is!

The other pottery I really liked was by a potter named, Julie Covington. I like her forms, and the designs are bold yet simple with earthy colors. I'll have to visit her studio next time I'm in the River Arts District.

The next stop was Mangum Pottery, maybe 2 doors down from the Miya Gallery. I had seen their website and wanted to visit this place for awhile. It's a family operation, today we met Beth Mangum, whose mother-in-law founded the business. Her daughter was helping out in the shop today. They have some great functional pieces and some nice work that incorporates other mediums, like wood. There was a gorgeous grand-father clock made out of clay and wood! It was 7 feet tall and will cost ya almost 7,000 smackers!! They also make ceramic instruments! There was a banjo hanging on the wall on strung and in tune!! How cool was that?!

After that we visited a little eclectic place called The Shop Around the Corner, the ladies there were so friendly. Then we enjoyed a trip down memory lane looking at all the old stuff at Preservation Hall, which was neat little shop featuring architectural salvage and vintage hardware. They had literally HUNDREDS of old keys!

Finally we stopped at a Maggie B's Wine and Specialty Shop. I purchased some local beer and some stuffed grape leaves and mozarella cheese balls in oil. It was a great morning and afternoon, but it wasn't over yet!!

We dropped Ande off at her condo and decided that after we stopped and let the dogs out for a brief walk, we would go hiking at the NC Arboretum. This is a wonderful, educational nature area just outside of Asheville. They have gardens, nature trails for hiking and biking, and a visitor's center with a gallery, and gift shop and a restaurant. They have various exhibits and activities throughout the year. Their December Events include a photo exhibit inspired by Henry David Thoreau. There's a $6 entry fee per car, we went ahead and purchased a memberhsip for $40 so we can come and go as often as we like! I'm sure we'll return.
Here's a picture we took using the camera's timer of us on a rock next to Bent Creek ............(I didn't think Steve would make it into the shot on time, the camera was sitting on a stone bridge.)

To see more photographs from the Arboretum, visit my picasa site.

That was definitely enough fun for one day! Tomorrow I'm going to Suze Lindsay's studio in Bakersville to see her pottery and her collection of work from other potters. Then we're going to visit a few other studios in the surrounding area! I'm taking my camera, it should be another great day!!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Too Many Beautiful Sunsets

I can't keep posting beautiful sunset pictures so I've devoted an album to it on my picassa site. There are lots of pictures of the same sunset 'cos sometimes they start out beautiful and morph to spectacular over the space of a few minutes. Sometimes it's hard to decide which moment is the most beautiful. I guess I can get carried away with sunsets.


When we lived in Laura we hardly ever got to see the sunsets because we had too many trees around. Apparantly I've missed them. When we lived on the farm, you could enjoy them pretty easily. I saw quite a few sunrises when we lived on the farm too.


Last week-end, my boss, Ande, and I visited a local potter who was having an opent studio. Judith Duff's studio is about an hour from here near Brevard, NC. I visited her a couple years ago when I was down here for a woodfiring workshop. She's a fairly well-known potter (among potters, that's about the only place potters are well-known.) I love her style, it's very earthy. She woodfires and also has received grants to research and develop shino type glazes from the local minerals. This type of glaze and firing has been used in Japan for hundreds of years. I admire all the work and research she's put into it. The pots are fired for 100 hours then the kiln is allowed to cool for 7 days to achieve the desired results.


Her work that I admire the most are the pieces that are fired in a huge train kiln that was designed by John Neely. She calls the glaze affect crackle shino (or sometimes American shino) and it has very earthy qualities that compliment her forms quite well. Here's a fine example.....


Ande and I had a really nice time seeing her new work. She had a woman from Asheville there who gave a little demo in ikebana arranging using one of Judith's pieces. It was very interesting.
This Sunday I'm supposed to head up to Bakersville with some of the other pottery students from the Odyssey Center to visit Suze Lindsay's studio. She's going to serve us some chili and show us her collection of work (her own work and that of many other potters.) It should be very inspiring! I'm looking forward to it (and will take pictures!)
We loaded the kiln yesterday at the Odyssey Center and it should be firing today. We'll unload it next Monday which is our last class. Here's a link to the pictures I've taken during the class so far with captions explaining the process.
Hopefully one of these days Steve and I will have time to do some more sight-seeing. I want to visit the Biltmore before we leave and now would be a good time because they have the Christmas lights on display. We'll have to go on a week-night though, because they're booked on the week-ends.
And that brings us up to date. Next posting I'll put up a new recipe that Steve and I are experimenting with for Chicken Makhani (Indian Butter Chicken.) It's very close to what he likes to order at Amar India. It will take a little more research and development, but that's fun (and unfortunately fattening!!)
The weather today is rainy and nasty, which is why I'm piddling on the computer. But that's enough for now!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Need I Say More?




Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thanksgiving, etc.

It's hard to believe that Thanksgiving has come and gone already!!

We had plans for the annual Wray Thanksgiving Vacation to take place down here this year. Steve's dad had rented a house for the occassion, and we were planning on 18 family members converging on Asheville for the holiday. However, Steve's dad was still on the mend from the by-pass surgery, so only 4 came down, consisting of our 2 kids, one kid-in-law and one possibly future kid-in-law.

It was a lot of fun! Dustin & Megan brought their wii game. We played the games on it, plus did some exercises on the new "wii fit." They had borrowed it from a friend. Getting weighed in front of everyone was rather depressing, especially when the little voice told me I'm obese and have the balance of someone who's 64 years old!!! I think it's a little screwy! I'm not fat, I'm just short for my weight!!

The weather was gorgeous on Turkey Day. Danny and Ainsley got here Wed. evening, Dustin and Megan on Thusday evening. We mostly hung out, cooked, played games, and visited. We took the trolley tour of Asheville on Sat. That was fun and interesting.

Steve fixed a new chicken dish he concocted while taking care of his dad for Thursday evening's meal. We fixed turkey with smashed potatoes & gravy on Friday. Megan and I made a pumpkin pie. Steve fixed donuts one morning and his famous pancakes another morning. We also ate at ihop a couple times, and Mellow Mushroom, and 2 Guys Hoagies and the Fiddlin' Pig. (No wonder I'm obese!!)

I discovered my talent as a ski jumper on the wii fit game and managed to somehow become a yoga master due to my flexibility and balance. (Wait, it told me I'm obese and aged beyond my years - I told you something's screwy!!)
It was a fun holiday that went by too quickly, as always! Danny & Ainsley left early Sunday morning and Dustin and Megan left on Monday. I went to my pottery class Monday afternoon.

I have uploaded some pictures from the most recent salt-firing for my class at the Odyssey Center. Here's a link to where they can be viewed. http://picasaweb.google.com/lorettawray Click on the Salt-firing Album. I also have some pictures from the class. The album's entitled "Suze Lindsay Class..." There are also lots of pictures of Asheville and some of our other camping adventures.

I'm going to add a picture or 2 here from the firing just so this entry looks more interesting! This is a shot of my favorite piece, it's a tumbler, it holds almost 12 oz..........



And these are a grouping of yunomis that I threw from one lump of clay. (The tallest is under 3 inches tall!) The method is called throwing off the hump..................

I certainly have a heckuva time getting photos where I want them! When it looks just right in the preview, I publish it and everything's all wrong!! It's very frustrating! Whadya expect for free???

I think that it's time for me to sign off for tonight.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Back in the Swing of Things

It finally feels like Steve & I are getting back in the swing of things. He returned from Ohio a couple days ago. His dad is recovering quickly from the triple-by-pass surgery and our son, Danny, is staying with Papaw until he's able to take care of himself again.

Later this week, Danny and his girlfriend plus Megan and Dustin will come down here to visit with us for Thanksgiving. The original plans included Steve's dad, brother, sister and their respective familes, but since his dad's medical problems, it has dwindled to just our immediate family. I wish we could go up to Ohio to be with his dad but it just won't work out. We're very thankful that Steve got to spend as much time up there as he did the last couple of weeks. We're also extremely thankful that his dad is doing so well!! We have much to be thankful for as the season approaches.

I've been enjoying my pottery class. Today we unloaded the kiln from our first salt-firing. I will add pictures soon, I'm having some camera problems. I was pretty pleased with my results. Only a few pieces were in in spots in the kiln that didn't get much action from the salt. I have decided that I need to get more proficient at brush work. That's what I'm going to work on with my next batch of pots.

Last week, one of the other students did a hand-building demonstration of a very interesting form. It requires the use of some blocks of wood and thick foam. It's a fun process and I like the results. Here's a picture of the small tray that was made in the demo.....



The weather down here has been extremely cold!! It feels like Ohio! For several nights (when Steve was gone) the temperature was down in the teens - brrrrrr!!!! Fortunately our heat tape is working properly on our water lines and we haven't had it freeze up! We've certainly been going through the propane! I had to have the tank filled twice while Steve was gone. We actually had several tent-campers when the weather was so cold, I couldn't believe it!! Crazy young 'uns!!

We have all the rentals clean and ready for the Thanksgiving visitors. We had some extra cleaning to do over the week-end because the pipes froze in one of the yurts and the occupants ended up in one of the cabins. It's been keeping us busy, I'm glad Steve's back!! Once Thanksgiving is over things will slow down and after Christmas we'll be extremely slow.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and gets to spend quality time with family and friends over the week-end.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Whirlwind week!

It has been a busy and eventful week and a half!

On Nov. 4 I headed up to Ohio to help Julie get things ready at Bear's Mill for the upcoming art exhibit. I thought I owed it to her since I'm one of the featured artists! I stayed with Meryl Tues. night and had a nice visit. Wed. morning I received a phone call from Steve to tell me his dad was in the hospital!!

Apparently he'd been having chest pains and had called his doctor to schedule a stress test. He flunked the stress test and they immediately admitted him to the hospital. I visited him that morning and he was in good spirits and actually feeling pretty well. The doctor wanted to do a heart cath, but wasn't sure when he could schedule it.

I went to Indianapolis Wed. evening to visit Dustin and Megan after spending a couple of hours at the hair salon getting my locks dolled up for Friday! I stayed with the Canfields (Dustin & Megan) that night and we did some shopping for baby stuff on Thursday morning!! I still can't believe I'm going to be a grand-ma! I discovered the awesome baby store, "Once Upon a Child" where you can buy "gently" used baby clothes and furniture. We bought a little bassinet and are on the look-out for a "Pack-and-Play. I've never heard of this contraption but I've been told by 2 reliable sources that I should have one myself for when I'm baby-sitting!!

I came back to Ohio on Thursday and helped Julie get things ready at the Mill. We worked until 11:30, it was just like old times!! We got up early and finished things before the reception from 6-9. We had a great turn-out!! There were 3 of us who had our pottery on display. Julie, our friend, Rita from Indianapolis, and myself. We had paintings by Evie Mahrt from Piqua, OH. She's a phenomenal painter who does impressionistic landscapes. We love her work!

We had a great turn-out for the exhibit and I got to see some folks I haven't seen for quite awhile. Dustin and Megan came over and brought us Maid-Rites for dinner, yum!! It was so nice to get to visit with old friends!! Julie let me sleep on her couch both nights.

Saturday was spent at Miami Valley Hospital waiting for Steve's dad, John, to undergo triple-bypass surgery. Steve drove all night Friday to be there. He picked Danny up on the way. That was a long day and when we finally got to see him, he was very groggy and sore. We spent Sat. night at Steve's parents house. Steve and Danny slept like logs!!

Sunday we were amazed to see how well John was doing! He was talking a blue streak when I arrived and smacked me on the arm several times. (He always does that when he's in his "story-telling" mode! I thought my arm was gonna be black-and-blue but I was tickled he was feeling so well!) All the kids and grand-kids were there to see him and even though we hate that he had the surgery, I'm so glad everyone was able to be there and we got to spend lots of time together!

I headed out that evening after we all went to dinner. I took Danny home and spent the night at his place so it broke the drive up a little for me. Of course, Danny was no company at all on the drive down 'cos he slept the whole way, but I know he was pretty tired from the whole ordeal. So I figured out I slept in 5 different beds/couches in 6 nights on this trip!! Danny said I should be careful who I tell that to!!

Steve followed me because he wanted to come back to the campgrounds for a few days so we could get caught up with the cleaning. Then Wed. he headed back up north to be with his dad when he got released from the hospital. That happened today but he had a little set-back and had to go to the local hospital to get a temporary catheter. Steve will stay with him until late next week and then Danny will have some free time and is planning to drive up and be Papaw's nurse-maid for however long it takes for him to get back on his feet.

Judging from the way he's bounced back so far, I don't think it will be more than a few weeks!! He's a pretty amazing guy for 79 years old!!

So now Steve's back up north and the ladies are in charge of the campgrounds. Our maintenance man had some vacation days planned to visit family this week, so Ande and I are taking care of things. Ande does 95% of the work altho I did have to help a couple late-comers check in this evening and was standing in the rain helping a guy back his big ol' honkin' motor home into his spot!! Things should settle down now.

Last night she and I went out for sushi!! That was outstanding!! We also visited a little consignment shop in town, what fun!

Here are a few pictures from the reception at Bear's Mill. My pottery will be on display for the month of November. I'm excited about the work I'm producing in my class down here. We're supposed to fire the salt-kiln next week and I need to make sure I get some pieces glazed this week so they make it into the firing!

This is a picture of several of Evie's paintings and some of my pottery displayed on the table. The piece on the pedestal was made by Julie.







Next is a picture of one of Julie's vessels and 2 of Evie's paintings. I think they looked very nice together!




And here's a shot of the 4 artists, pretty hot for ol' ladies if I say so myself, which I do, 'cos I'm probably the only one who will!!


From left to right are Rita Wiley, potter, Indianapolis, Julie Clark, potter, Bear's Mill, Evie Mahrt, painter, Piqua, OH, and Loretta Wray (yours truly) potter, Asheville, NC (well, technicaly, Troy, OH!!)


It was definitely a whirlwind of a week! It felt like so many things happened that it should have been longer than a week!! I believe I put over 1200 miles on my car!! The best part was when I paid $1.76/gal for gas in Indy!! It's still over 2 bucks/gal down here.

I believe I better sign off for now. Keep Steve's dad in your thoughts and prayers, we're thankful that he's getting along so well and that we were able to spend time with family and friends!

Monday, November 3, 2008

When a Picture is NOT worth a thousand words

I've come to the conclusion that pictures just do not do justice to the beauty we're seeing down here. I'll continue to post some, but keep in mind that it's definitely NOT the same as being here! A better camera might help, but I don't think it would be as impressive unless they could be projected on a huge screen!

Sunday afternoon we took a drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway south of Asheville. I think the leaves must be very close to their peak of color. Since we left somewhat late in the day, we were treated to a different play of light and shadows than we've seen up until now. The lower proximity of the sun shining through the leaves provided an array of beautiful fall colors. As we drove through some of the heavily wooded areas, I felt as if we were in a huge church made up completely of stained glass windows. The colors were breathtaking and seeing such beauty in nature always makes me feel closer to the creator.

Our goal was to hike a trail off the Parkway that is supposed to be somewhat "off the beaten path." It's a place called "Skinny Dip Falls" and we weren't planning on participating in the activity for which the falls was named (and were hoping that the weather was too chilly for us to have to observe anyone else participating in the aforementioned activity! We did come across some teen-agers making out but they were thankfully fully clothed.)
It was worth the possibility of seeing more than we bargained for, and worth the hike to visit this beautiful spot. By the time we arrived, the sun was getting pretty low and we were a little worried that we might not have time to make it down to the falls and and back before darkness set in. We did NOT want to get stranded in the dark. Even though the trail was well-marked and only about a 20 minute hike from the parking lot on the BR Pkwy, we hadn't brought a compass or flashlight, had no phone signal, and the trail itself was a little hard to discern because of all the leaves on the ground. We wouldn't have been able to see the markers once it became dark. So, that added a little air of adventure to our hike!

The trail head for the falls is located at mile marker 417 on the Parkway. There's a small parking lot with an overlook that provides a view of Looking Glass Rock, which is an interesting mountain peak that stands out because of its bald surface.

Here are some shots of the falls.................(I still haven't quite figured out the alignment features of this site and apologize that the pictures don't always end up where I intend for them to be!)

As we drove back to the campgrounds, we were treated to some beautiful views of the mountains being touched by the setting rays of the sun. I know I said pictures don't do it justice, but I have to give you a taste of it.....

If you want to see more of the photos I've taken since we've come down here, you can visit my Picassa Web album at http://picasaweb.google.com/lorettawray The photos on this page are full size, a little better for viewing. I always downsize them to post on this site.
There are also some pictures from my pottery class with Suze Lindsay posted. That's been fun and interesting and I'll post more about it later!
FYI, I'll be heading to Ohio tomorrow for a few days to help get things ready and participate in an exhibit at Bear's Mill on Friday, Nov. 7. My pottery will be on display along with the work of 2 other potters (Julie Clark and Rita Wiley, both good friends of mine) and a talented painter, Evie Mahrt. I'm planning to run over to Indianapolis to visit Megan and Dustin on Wed and Thursday and then will stop at Danny's on the way back to spend the night Sat. It will be a busy week, but I'm looking forward to it!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Day Off...A Little History of the area

After we got the place cleaned up yesterday and Steve met with the electrician, we decided it was time to really get away from the campgrounds for a few hours. We decided to look for a geocache in an area I was wanting to visit. It's a local resort/country club called the Grove Park Inn. Very swank and uppity kinda place. We felt extremely conspicuous as we parked the car and tried to discreetly hike up a little hill to figure out where our GPS was indicating the cache was hidden. We found the cache with no problem. We had some travel bugs we had picked up in Indiana that we wanted to "release" and this cache happened to be a "Travel Bug Hotel" so we sent them on their merry way!
After that we visited a few interesting shops on the grounds of the resort. First stop was the Homespun Museum. The buildings of this complex once housed the famous weaving and woodworking complex of Biltmore Industries. Edith Vanderbilt (wife of George, who built the famous Biltmore mansion) took a particular interest in locally homespun fabrics. This led her to establish a craft education program eventually called Biltmore Indsutries. In 1917 it came under new ownership and was moved to its current location.
The architecture was very interesting and I loved the wood-work and the smell of the old buildings. There were some old looms and samples of the fabric that was made back then. Also, we could see in the windows of a huge old warehouse-like structure that housed huge vats for dying the wool and other equipment. I know some weavers who would have loved visiting this place!


Our tour continued at the Grovewood Gallery. This was a wonderful shop/gallery featuring all kinds of hand-made arts and crafts and beautifully crafted furniture. Many of the artists were local, but they also feature work from all over the US. It was interesting to see how many products they carried that we also featured at Bear's Mill. (Julie Clark has good taste!) The Gardens in front of the Gallery had beautiful garden sculptures and lovely landscaping.
I recognized the work of many potters, some from the Asheville area and others from elsewhere. I was excited to see work by a potter who had taught a class I took in Yellowsprings (OH), Marty Fielding. The furniture we saw was fabulous (and way out of our price range!!) Still, it's fun to look and get ideas. And it was so enjoyable touring another beautiful old building covered with ivy that had gorgeous views out the windows!

Our last stop was the Antique Car Museum. There were many old cars in here. There was an old Eldorado that reminded me of the De Soto we owned when I was a kid. The smell of this place immediately brought back memories of the old filling station where my dad worked, M.F. & D in Troy, Ohio. We didn't spend much time here because they were getting ready to close, but it was a nice end to a very enjoyable afternoon spent learning about some of the local Asheville history.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Day Off....sorta

Today was sort of a "day off" for us. No yurts or cabins to clean, just the bath house and Steve had to meet an electrician for some problems in one of the cabins. So what do I decide to do on our day off? Laundry and housecleaning! It's just not right!
So I stripped the bed to wash the sheets and we spent a few minutes talking to Ande seeing what the rest of the week was looking like as far as cleaning goes.
When I walked into the bedroom I was greeted by the gruesome sight of Steve's foam pillow lying in chunks all over the bed and the floor!! Yes, it had been dismembered (does a pillow have members?) by our 2 innocent looking canines! Although I have a sneaking suspicion that the cat was somehow the instigator of this horror. I have no proof, just a gut feeling. As punishment, we made the puppies pose in the midst of the carnage.............

And this was the look on my face when I first saw the mess........................



Actually, that pillow was beginning to look rather disgusting and I have to admit part of me was glad, yes glad!! that the had dogs destroyed it!! (Shhhhh, Don't tell Steve!!)

I hope this post wasn't too shocking for anyone. We'll blame it on the approach of Halloween!! Better sign off now.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

First Snow......Already??


It looks as if we brought some sort of weather curse from Ohio down with us.....we woke up to snow this morning!! I hope it's not an omen of things to come. We haven't winterized our water hose yet but why do today what you can put off until it's cold and blowing all around you? Hopefully we'll get it done tomorrow or have to unhook the hose again tonight. Not that big of a deal.


You can spot the Florida transplants that are here (and there are LOTS!) They're the ones shivering in their parkas!!

I'm sure it won't last, we have to have Indian Summer yet (I hope!) Anyways, I can tolerate a little snow better than the hot and humid weather. Plus the snow has the added benefit of being pretty!!

We'll just brew up some coffee and turn on the fake fireplace!





Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Links to share

I came upon a couple of online videos today that I want to share.............

The first is a link to some videos on youtube that show scenes from the campgrounds here if you're interested in seeing what it looks like. There's nobody blabbing and no music, just footage of a guy driving around the campgrounds.
http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=campfire+lodgings&search_type=&aq=f

The next link will take you to a video that solved a problem that has plagued me for YEARS!!! How the %$@&! do you fold a doggone fitted sheet?! I knew there was some kind of "secret" to it because years ago I remember getting some sheets out of the closet and Steve's grandma's house and they were folde perfectly!!! How did she do it??? Since our job duties include "housekeeping" now, it became even more imperative that I find the answer to this dilemma. So I googled "folding a fitted sheet" and was taken directly to this website. It really works too! (I tried it this afternoon.) Even on fitted sheets that are all elastic! Mine wasn't quite as flat as the guy's in the video, but give me time!!! The internet can be awesome once in awhile! (My life is pretty sad if stumbling upon something like this can make my day!)

One other little "housekeeping" hint I've learned is an easy way to get the pillow in the pillowcase. Turn the pillowcase wrong side out, put your hands inside the case, grab the corners, grab the end of the pillow and it's sorta like the opposite of skinning a banana.

So, my work here is finished.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pinching Myself

I told Steve that I have to keep pinching myself today to make sure I'm really here! Wow, it's been a great couple days!

Last night we had a very enjoyable bon-fire here on the campgrounds. It was topped off by 2 campers who are also bagpipe players! I LOVE the bagpipes and these 2 were pretty good at it! (There's nothing worse than a lousy bagpipe player!!)




This morning the weather was beautiful! We walked the dogs down to the pond and I remembered to bring my camera along to snap some pictures








The leaves are changing and the mountains are beautiful right now. The dogs really enjoy our hikes, even though it's been cool. We just bundle them up in their little doggie coats!

Today I started my pottery class at the Odyssey Center in Asheville. It's a truly amazing place and I'm so excited to be able to take a class there. My instructor is going to be Suze Lindsay. She wasn't able to attend the first day of class. Normally that might be upsetting, but her husband, Kent McLaughlin, subbed for her. He's a prolific potter also, so I sure wasn't complaining!!! It would be like attending a Paul Simon concert, but he couldn't be there so Art Garfunkle filled in. Well, maybe not exactly like that, but you get the idea!! (I think this is when I started pinching myself!)

I was so nervous!! I know I didn't have any reason to be, but I was!! My stomach felt all knotted up!! I felt better once I actually got to get on the wheel and most of the class had left for the day. Then I got to talk to a couple of other students and te instructor. It was more laid back then.

The facilities are amazing. I've taken pottery classes before, but never had such wonderful resources available. There are about 15 wheels, a slab roller, an extruder, a gas kiln, a soda kiln and several electric kilns. Not to mention that HIghwater Clay is just up the road and sells hundreds of ceramic tools, plus clay and glaze chemicals!!!!! Too cool!!! (pinching myself again!)
Here's a shot of what I call the "Wall of Fame......" Other potters will recognize work from many well-known potters....................

Ok, so to top the evening off, (how could it get any better??) Steve picked me up from class and we ate at a BBQ place called the Fiddlin' Pig. Not only was the food DEEEE-LICIOUS, but they have LIVE bluegrass music every night!! Tonight they had a local band called Cane Creek. They had mandoln, fiddle, guitar, bass fiddle and banjo. They were awesome!! What was even more amazing was that the girl on fiddle was 14 years old! She could really play! And the kid on guitar was maybe 15. He played like Doc Watson! (My arms were black and blue by then from pinching myself so much!!)
So, I came home with my head full of pottery, my tummy full of BBQ and my ears full of bluegrass music!! What a full day! I think it's just a taste of things to come!


HAPPY TRAILS!!




Monday, October 13, 2008

housekeeping

Today we got a taste of what our housekeeping duties will probably entail for this month. We had to clean all 3 Yurts and one of the cabins. Plus the daily cleaning of the bathhouse. It was a rather long day. 2 of the yurts absolutely had to be cleaned because they're booked for this evening. The rest could've waited until tomorrow but we decided to get it all done so we won't have much to do tomorrow and if someone calls wanting to rent them they're available.

I thought I would really dislike so much cleaning, since that's kinda what my life was about when the kids were home and I was doing all the housework. But it's no so bad. The worse part about cleaning my own house was dealing with all the clutter. We don't have much of that. And since we keep up with them, they never really get all that dirty. And we can walk outside and take in the view!!!!

So we're caught up with the cleaning for today. Tomorrow all we should have to clean is the bathhouse. That's a building that houses 4 private bathrooms with showers. It takes less than an hour for both of us to do the whole thing. I think we're planning to visit the nearby small town of Black Mountain tomorrow. It has a 5/3 bank and it's supposed to be a quaint little town.

Yesterday we did some geocaching in Weaverville. The caches we've found down here so far haven't taken us to as interesting of places as they did in Richmond, IN. I think we need to do a little more research. (Disclaimer: The aforementioned disappointment in no way reflects our feelings towards Weaverville! It's a great little town and we will probably visit there often. Great restaurants and quaint shops. We just seemed to come across more "off the beaten path" kind of parks and hiking trails while geocaching in Indiana.)

Downtown Asheville is very quirky and quaint. I LOVE the fact that there are coffee shops virtually EVERYWHERE! There's a sweet little coffee shop just at the foot of our mountain where they actually roast the beans on the premises fresh every day. I'm going to become an even worse coffee snob than I already am!! I just bought some beans that are called "Dirty Nekked Guatamalan." It makes a superb cup of coffee!

After a long day of cleaning, I kicked back on the deck and phoned the kids to see how things are going. Megan told me that she and Dustin heard the baby's heartbeat at her doctor's appointment today! I wish we weren't so far away! Danny told me that he has a job interview tomorrow at Southland Church in Lexington. I hope this works out for him! He's supposed to call tomorrow to let us know how the interview went. Life down here would be perfect if we only weren't so far away from friends and family!!

Oh, the other day when we were hiking on some trails here on the campgrounds we came across an extremely LARGE pile of animal poo. It was definitely too big for dog poo. It almost looked to me like that fungal growth you sometimes see in your flower bed. So, being the curious type of person I am, I picked up a stick and poked it to see if it was in fact poo or fungus. It was defintely poo. And it seemed to be full of seeds or pits. We mentioned it to Matt, the maintenance man here. He said that it was probably bear poop and there was at one time a small black bear who was known to hang around the area, but fortunately had not discovered the trash bins or made a nuisance of himself yet. He told us what he had learned about bears in Alaska. He said that up there the tourists wear bells and carry bear mace. Then he asked us if we knew how they identify grizzly bear poop in Alaska..........because its full of bells bear mace. hahaha.....I'm figuring Twiggy will make enough of an hor'devor for me to make a clean getaway!!!! (Just kiddin' Twiggy!)

I'll sign off with a picture of our deck. It's a delightful place to sip our morning coffee or kick back and relax after a long day! It was a pleasant suprise feature of our campsite here. Note happy puppies huddled on their blanket!



Saturday, October 11, 2008

Observations and ramblings

Today was one of the best so far! We planned a drive to Spruce Pine, about an hour northeast of here to visit a "Potters Market." We thought we would do some leaf-gawking and hopefully a little geocaching too. The trees north of here are beginning to display their fall foliage.

The Potters' Market was pretty phenomenal. There were about 30 well-known potters exhibiting in a huge warehouse. It reminded me of the Christmas bazaars Meryl & I used to go to, only it was ALL POTTERY!! And these were rock-star potters. We talked to Mark Peters for a few minutes. I think he eventually remembered that I had participated in a woodfiring at his home/shop a couple years ago. Actually 2 years in a row. You can see Steve & I in some of the photos on this page. I hope I can remember some of the forms I saw today so I can use them for inspiration when I start my class in a couple of weeks! We drove past a lot of places we had visited when we were in Bakersville for the workshop.

Our plan was to circle back on the Blue Ridge Parkway and take in the scenery and do a little geocaching. Unfortunately, we discovered that he Parkway was closed near Mount Mitchell and we had to take a detour. Steve was a little miffed because he had checked the website for areas that were closed and couldn't find any. The bad thing about driving through the mountains is that when there are detours, they can add many miles to your planned route. So that's basically what happened. We ended up spending the whole afternoon figuring out the best route back to Asheville. I'm not complaining too much because we were treated to some gorgeous scenery, but we didn't have time to do any geocaching so that was a bit of a bummer.

And we ate lunch pretty late which made us somewhat cranky because we weren't sure where we were going! We ended up eating at a little greasy spoon type diner that offered "all things fried" on its menu. Well, I had a burger, which wasn't deep fried, and was actually pretty tasty. And Steve got a milkshake that taste like homemade ice cream. So, healthy it wasn't, but tasty it was!

As we were driving up highway 80, we saw a rickety little suspension bridge (for pedestrians) that spanned a beautiful rocky creek. I hollered for Steve to stop and we took some pictures. Well, he took the pictures from the middle of the bridge because I couldn't bring myself to walk out on it. My apparent fear of heights just wouldn't let me walk out there. That and the sign warning that the bridge could only hold 4 people. I mean this was AFTER our meal at the
greasy spoon diner. I didn't want to take any chances!











The road names are so interesting down here. Names like "Tater Town" and "Shake Rag" just make me smile! I find myself wondering who came up with them.

When we got back to the campgrounds we just kicked back and relaxed. We did a little laundry and on my walk to and from the laundry room I was treated to a most gorgeous sunset. I snapped a photo of it at one point. The photos just are not doing this place justice, but at least I can look at them and remember what we were treated to. I call this photo "Heaven Came Down."

A little while after I took this photo, the sky turned deep red and Steve and I watched it fade away. It was one of those moments when you don't want to say anything because it feels so holy that talking seems almost disrespectful. We came back to the camper and had a little campfire and ate dinner. Then we folded laundry and we'll probably be heading off to bed soon. The end of an extremely enjoyable and relaxing day!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Adventure Begins


Really, our adenture began several months ago, but I've decided that I would like to start keeping an account of our travels and adventures. I thought this might be an easy way for friends and family to see what's happening with us, if they're interested. So, I'm going to try to post pictures and happenings on a somewhat regular basis. We know how this usually goes, you start with good intentions and make daily posts for about, mmmm, 2 days, then maybe twice a year. But ya gotta start somewhere.

We arrived in Asheville, NC this past Sunday. We spent the summer at th KOA in Richmond, IN workamping there while in the process of selling our home. Here's a link that tells about workamping if anyone's interested. http://www.workamper.com/ I wish I had kept a journal of what we did there, so better late than never, I guess.

When we were in Richmond, I remembered a show I had seen on RV TV about a beautiful campgrounds in Asheville, NC. We weren't sure where we were going to spend the winter, but we decided to contact this campgrounds to reserve a site for a couple weeks in the fall on our way to wherever we were working for the winter. When the owner heard we were workampers, she offered us a job for the winter at Campfire Lodgings. http://www.campfirelodgings.com/ After talking it over for about 5 minutes, we accepted and here we are.

We both love the mountains, and the view here is simply breathtaking. I'll try to figure out how to post pictures soon. It's also the pottery capital of the WORLD, so I'm planning on taking some classes in Asheville. I just signed up for a class with a rock star among potters, Suze Lindsay. http://www.forkmountainpottery.net/ It starts in a couple of weeks.

Yesterday we started our training for what we'll be doing here at Campfire Lodgings. In addition to RV sites, they rent out 3 vacation cabins and 3 yurts. This page tells what our yurts are like http://www.campfirelodgings.com/yurt.asp

We got a tour of the facilities yesterday and the Yurts are very cool! 2 of them have bathrooms and they all have heat, AC and TV. Plus cable and wi-fi. They're very "zen" if ya know what I mean! The Cliffhouse is very different than what I imagined. It's not your typical cabin rental in the Smokies. What I mean by this is, that most of the cabins we've rented when we came down here are newer and even though they're really nice, they don't have a lot of character. Some of them you could even tell weren't extremely well-built, just thrown together as cheaply and quickly as possible to start renting them out. The Cliffhouse was built in the 80s as a residence. It was built by the father of the current owner of the campgrounds. I believe he was in some area of the concrete busiiness which is evident by all the beautiful rock masonry in the cabin. He also scavenged and imported lots of items he used for decor so the cabin has a funky, eccentric feel to it. It probably isn't everyone's cup of tea, but Steve and I thought it was pretty cool!

The other 2 cabins are smaller and were built as rentals. They don't have quite as much character as the Cliffhouse or the Yurts, but they're cozy and feature all the necessary comforts.

We'll be responsibe for the housekeeping of all these buildings, including the laundry. In addition, we'll be responsible for cleaning and maintaining the bath house.

The campgrounds has some nice hiking trails and a secluded little pond. Yesterday we saw a family of wild turkeys while we were taking our tour. We haven't seen any deer or bears, yet!!

The city of Asheville seems like it will offer lots to do. It's a pretty artsy area so it's going to take Steve a little time to get used to all the dreadlocks and various other bohemian fashion statements. But it also means there are coffee shops EVERYWHERE and music and art galleries and studios. Plus, the hiking/outdoor activities are countless!!

I think we're going to enjoy our stay here!

And now I'd better sign off because we need to go help clean the Cliffhouse!