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. 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.