Saturday, September 30, 2017
Then there was this week. We have this corner of our property that has a beautiful ancient Angel oak on it. I want this area cleared so bad and we keep inching our way too it but it is covered in poison ivy. I am so allergic to it that I can't even look at without having an anxiety attack. The yard is all clear of it, everything is, except that corner. I volunteered to do the weed eating on this cool 95 degree day and commandeered the whizzer from Don. After the normal trimming of the perimeter I inched my way into un-chartered territory. I knew better. The minute the weed eater wrapped and slung a vine at me, I laid it down, I knew I was in deep Calamine. After extreme wash, rinse and repeat cycles, I still broke out in hives and blisters. I painted my body Mary Kay pink and silently damned the world to laugh at me.
On our only day off I went with hubby to Lowes. We decided to begin building a shed. I helped Don move the plywood, just a little. The next day I could not move, at all. When a blanket lying on your toe hurts your back, you are in trouble. For 4 days, my dear hubby moved me, lifted me, fed me and helped me dress.
We are supposed to be starting a new cabinet job and I still can't move. Don goes on without me. So it’s me and Snowy at home alone. I managed to get out of the bed, brush my teeth and take a shower but couldn't pull clothes up. Uh oh.
Snowy is a little upset with me because I am throwing her food at her. Then I picked up this tool, this awesome tool. I think people use it to pick up trash by the road but I use it to get cans down from top shelves, it has a grabber on the end of it. Let me tell you, there is not a whole lot that I haven't mastered this week with this thingamajiggy. I have pulled up drawers, opened drawers, pulled out pots and lifted a dog bowl with precision. Haven't mastered the corkscrew just yet.
In the midst of all this going on, roofers have arrived to replace our roof. I used the awesome grabber to push back items that were about to crash to the floor from the roof assault.
My plan for this day was to maneuver 4 steps down and a walk to the mailbox. I traversed the yard and talked to the one of the roofer’s who asked where the A/C plug in was. I figured it was for their power tools. Nope, he pulled a 3 foot long, 1980's boom box out of his truck and sat it on a stack of shingles.
Today is also spray day for the cabinet doors, so the yard is full of trucks; old trucks, new trucks, red trucks, blue trucks, political stickers, NFL team stickers, hats ,shirts, opinions. Alongside the roofing trucks sat a truck with a disabled veteran tag and conflicting view stickers. The driver served two terms in Iraq, was injured in a IUD that blew up their tank and later suffered shrapnel injuries from second stint. All were working side by side in the sweltering heat, swatting the same Avatar sized mosquitoes and swallowing gnats with their Mountain Dew and Gatorade on this 95 degree “fall” day.
I looked up on the roof, there wasn’t a single angry person up there, I looked on the ground and the cabinet spraying was going along just fine too. Chicken bones, soda can’s and Krispy Kreme donut boxes were strewn across the yard and roof trash was literally everywhere and I didn't have a care — I was getting a new roof.
I didn’t screen our roofers to see what color they were. I didn’t ask our veteran who they voted for. I trusted that everyone could perform their different jobs on the same turf, Earth. Facebook wars aren't the front lines of America, persevering people are.
Racist battles or trenches battles, I would have defended the RIGHTS of EITHER one of their views in my yard that day. But today, in my yard, in my America, there’s no need because there isn’t a co-exist, there is only exist.
I went inside, cracked a window for a few minutes and enjoyed a morning on the soul train. Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, singing, roof ripping, spray generators and raucous laughter. All is well in the pines.
Tuesday, September 19, 2017
Monday, August 21, 2017
I tried to talk about him on his birthday and a couple of days after, my throat wouldn't open and my eyes leaked.
But the memories were constant, consoling. My sweet sister who admittedly tells that she knows nothing about her childhood other than that she was born, quoted him word verbatim on the phone. I was telling her that we finally have our flooring put in
"Daddy would be so proud. Do you remember that night we got the new TV and he said "If I can't pay cash for it, it's not coming in the house?" she asked.
"I sure do sistah, I sure do." I told her.
Yes, Don and I could have easily had the flooring and anything else we wanted "The American Way" and put it on a Lowes card or any number of credit offerings — but we decided when we moved into the country to live smaller, to prioritize our purchases and never buy anything unless it was paid for with cash. You see, long before Dave Ramsey founded his debt free Financial Peace University, a common sense country man in Dorchester, SC did — my dad.
Daddy moved us underneath a 300-400 year old Angel Oak in the early 70's. We didn't have a phone but we had ways to communicate (just short of smoke signals.) If my granny down the dirt road needed us, she went out onto her porch and shot the pistol in the air. Don has that pistol today. We didn't have a TV for a while either. And then — one afternoon a delivery truck stirred up the dust down our sandy dirt road. The sliding delivery truck door opened and a television so big I didn't think they would get it through the front door arrived. A Curtis Mathis, top of the line colored television. And —we had 3 channels!! That night we sat around the oak cabinet encased TV and watched either Ponderosa, Gentle Ben or Little House on the Prairie, one or the other.
One of us with a caffeine buzz from the rare bottle of Coke in hand exclaimed "We must be rich!"
Daddy shot the pride down quick. "No, we sure aren't, if I can't pay cash for something after bills, it doesn't come into the house." It stuck as a memory, I wish the concept had stuck longer. But we are back there now, Don and I. We love living simple, the American dream didn't have to be chased, we could have jogged to it easily.
So — as this coincidental (or not) world goes, a few days later my sister and I are together in an antique store that she couldn't (and maybe didn't) wait on me to peruse. We are almost through the place and there is a basket with marble eggs in it. A dozen or so, various colors. I pick up one and tell the story to a friend that is with us. I've told it before but appreciate that they didn't remind me, repeating it is therapeutical.
I could have purchased several of the eggs or the whole basket, for that matter I could easily go onto Ebay or Amazon and get a whole slew of them, but — I only buy one for memories sake as they present themselves
As I placed the egg in my stone fruit and egg basket at home I recalled it again, as Daddy told it.
"When I was a young-un, we collected eggs every morning and brought them in. The pickings were getting slim and my Daddy figured we had a snake problem. Well Mama had a basket on the kitchen table and it had these marble eggs in it, my Daddy looked at those eggs after he finished eating and took one out, later he went outside and put that marble egg in one of the hen's nest. Then one evening we came in from working the fields and there was this huge snake stretched across the dirt road, it just couldn't budge. Daddy got out of the truck, killed the snake and then slit it's swollen belly and got Granny's marble egg back. He took it inside, washed it off and put it back in that basket."
I was in North Carolina when Granny moved to the nursing home. I didn't get any of her marble eggs, don't know where they went, but I could very well have one of them in my bowl right now, I get them from thrift stores or yard sales or wherever they appear. My eggs could very well end up in a resale store one day too, but the story hopefully will live on if I tell it, like my Daddy told me. I guess the moral of the story would be "Don't put all your eggs in one basket, put some in the hen's nest."
I think of him this morning — the historical eclipse, a day that makes the rhyme "Hey diddle diddle the cat and the fiddle, the cow jumped over the moon" seem logical. I think of the conversation we would have if he were here.
"Daddy, what are you going to do for the eclipse?" I'd ask.
"Well, it depends on what time it is. If it's nap time, I will be sleeping." And then he'd wink and wiggle his nose and tell me that he has built a contraption in his shed out of beer cans and scrap metal"
Don and I would laugh and tell him "No thank you, we bought some of those newfangled glasses that are going to protect us from going blind."
The sun rose this morning, bright and blazing on this day near Charleston, I'm about 30 minutes from where that hen house was, where Daddy was, where we were. We don't all get to choose where we are going to be on certain day's, like the object of Carly Simon's disaffection in her song lyrics, “You flew your Learjet up to Nova Scotia to see the total eclipse of the sun." but — we can choose who we are going to be with. Don and I will go outside on the tailgate of the truck, have a cocktail, in celebration of an earlier happy hour and watch the anomaly in the sky with our glasses. Remembering the card board boxes we had in the early 70's and then I'll toast to the creator of our unnatural and natural wonder's and to Daddy "What does it look like from your side Daddy?"
Sunday, June 25, 2017
Thursday, April 20, 2017
A few months ago, probably around the winter solstice, I curled up on the couch with my 2017 Burpee Seed catalog, over-wintering like the shriveled stalks of last year’s garden outside my window. I anticipated the extra tock of the clock each day that will eventually lead me to long, leisurely, southern summer evenings. I was anxious to wipe the slate clean and start anew—my yard a fresh palette.
Thursday, March 30, 2017
The cool evening air was heady with the wafting aroma of charred, broiled and baked everything from Charleston, SC’s mecca of culinary delights — an olfactory appetizer of sorts as my husband and I hobbled the cobblestones on our way to Hank’s Seafood Restaurant.
Balmy sea breezes whipped port side of 10 Hayne street as Hank’s Seafood Restaurant came into view. The faded brick facade of Hank’s is just timeless and tonight could have been any century Charleston. I could almost imagine fish hawkers shouting their catch at the City Market which is a hop skip and jump from Hank’s, making it a viable part of our evening if we choose to stroll after dinner.
Fresh, plentiful bounty in close proximity, that’s really what Hank’s is all about. According to Hank’s Restaurants’ overseer and first Executive Chef Frank McMahon, “From day one at Hank's Seafood Restaurant, our goal has been to use the best possible local seafood, and there are no suppliers more local than Dan Long from Crosby's Seafood, Tommy Edwards from Shem Creek for seasonal local white shrimp, and more recently, Mark Marhefka for fish, as well as David Belanger for caper blades oysters and clams and Kimberly Carroll for crab.”
Frank’s quest for quality is mirrored today by Executive Chef, Tim Richardson. Hank's Seafood Restaurant has been voted “Best Seafood in Charleston” by Charleston City paper for 16 consecutive years, coinciding with Chef Tim Richardson’s tenure.
I knew within minutes of entering Hank’s that this establishment was a well oiled machine. We were taken by the hostess to a perfectly set table in a comfortable surround booth and allowed to settle just long enough before a waiter took our drink order. The few minutes before they arrived, I took in my surroundings. The warehouse, though not nearly as old as it appears, was once a popular disco in the 70’s. Nothing vaguely reminiscent of that era remains. The disco balls have been replaced with masterfully designed décor by an award winning New York architectural firm along with designer Amelia Handegan. I felt as if I were simultaneously in antebellum Charleston, and oddly, in the galley of a fine old ship. Richly stained and polished wide pine plank floors met with the bones of the structure, huge mahogany frames. Light poured through hand blown leaded glass windows highlighting the beautiful bar.
Executive Chef, Tim Richardson came out to greet us. I patted the chair and asked him to sit for a second, not something that seemed to come natural to him but he obliged. I asked Chef Richardson to tell me of a constant, something that he never tires of and that he believes to be the key component to their success, he told me without blinking. “The bounty of our fresh local seafood, for both questions. Everything else revolves around the services of our local vendors and the appreciation of our patron’s.” Chef Tim made a few suggestions which we agreed heartily to and he sprinted off to prepare while we sipped our cocktails.
I tried the “New Old Fashioned” while my husband had “Hank’s Signature Oyster Shooter.” We love oysters, so keeping in the theme, tried several variations of them on Hank’s menu.
Our first was the ½ dozen oyster sampler, a beautifully presented collection of three distinctively different oysters on a bed of sea salt. Briny, less briny and mildly earthy, and finally a plump sweet. We loved them all. As French poet Léon-Paul Fargue (1876-1947) once wrote: "I love oysters. It's like kissing the sea on the lips."
We followed the half shell’s with a dish of “Oyster’s Casino” in Garlic Butter, Smoked Bacon, Asiago Cheese and bread crumbs.
Next and perhaps my favorite were the “Grilled Oysters” on the half shell with Red Wine Mignonette Gastrique, Crispy Andouille and Arugula.
Last but not least, we enjoyed “Hank’s Fried Oysters” served with Green Tomato, Sweet Corn and Blue Cheese Vinaigrette with Pickled Okra
Our entrée, “Seared Scallops with Red Rice and Collards” was exceptional. The scallops were hands down the best I have ever eaten.
All of our dishes were delivered perfectly by Hank’s efficient non-intrusive wait staff, they were amazing and were both there and not there in near perfection.
In our enjoyment of the evening I had not even noticed that the restaurant had filled to capacity. The community table, the first of it’s kind in Charleston was now full and lively as well. Towers of seafood dishes sashayed before us, glasses clinked and the low lively rumble of conversation over good food capped the best evening. Well, that was until our lovely waitress suggested dessert.
We finished our meal with a shared dessert of “Hank’s Creamy Peanut Butter Pie”, a delightfully rich end to our meal. Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Mousse, Chocolate Ganache, Graham Cracker Crust. I was so full that I had to leave a bit on the plate. My husband said I would miss that bite later, I have — every day since.
Saturday, December 31, 2016
Snowy is sleeping on an oval braided rug on the hardwood floor. I can hear the cattle lowing in the valley by the stream, silhouetted by the dark foothills of Pisgah. Rain is pelting melodically on the tin roof over the porch of the cabin.
It's not the first time I've filled a floorboard up with books to read on a trip. But it is the first time everything has come together to complete this nirvana.
The smell of toast and Neece’s Country Sausage wafts from the kitchen threatening to wake up my gently snoring hubby. As the 3 Bear's would say "Everything is just right!"
I am in love with Mountain Springs Cabin's in Candler, NC. The cabins are located about 15 minutes from downtown Asheville and minutes from Pisgah forest. The cabin we are in is called the "Cricket's Nest." And yes, it is as adorable as it sounds. One of the most private of the cabins offered, it sits on a 3/4 acre lot and is butted up to a stream with mountain views and pastures.
We were greeted by a chalkboard sign near the front door that read "Welcome Renae, Don and fur baby Snowy." Chilly and damp from unloading in the misty rain, I migrated right to the lamps and to the gas log fireplace. I did everything that the manager Kate told me at check in NOT to do in less than five minutes. I flipped switch’s and mashed all the buttons to no avail, the toasty fire eluded me. THEN, I read the instructions. I called the office and confessed my crimes to the Kate who gently scolded me and then sent help to light the pilot.
After the room got toasty I explored the cabin. I jumped on the bed, turned on lamps, opened drawers and started unpacking. The layout of the cabin, it's lighting, furnishing, all of it was very well thought out. Everywhere that I needed something to be, it was. If I took something off, there was a hook to hang it, if I went to put something down, there was a place for it. I deem this good cabin chi.
The living room wasn't spared of timeless antique furnishing and was perfectly cozy with minimal yet serviceable pieces. A bag of popcorn and the movie we ordered were sitting on the antique singer sewing machine TV table.
The kitchen has an old adorable enamel top table with two old cane bottom chairs. Every single utensil is provided and right where my hand would go if I were home to get one.
The bedroom was consumed by an awesome king bed. Quality bedding and lined curtains made for a perfect early morning sleep in. The headstand was full of books to select from and then much to Don's delight a closet opening revealed a small fan. He likes to have the whir of a fan to lull him off. It was actually one of the best nights sleep I can remember away from home. The light from the gas logs glowed from the living room onto the bedroom walls, the room was just far away from the heat to keep the covers pulled up.
The bathroom, shut the front door! A HUGE tiled and benched walk in shower. It was amazing! I have been in high end hotels that didn't have a shower this nice. The cabin was modern where it needed to be and rustic where I wanted it to be.
I eventually pulled myself from the couch, wrapped myself tightly and went exploring on the property with my camera. Snapping pics of an old barn, the yurts (so cool) , streams, cows and chickens on the adjoining property. The air smelled of spruce and hams, possibly smoking next door from plumes of smoke seen across the stream.
Mountain Spring property is laid out like a mini version of it's mountainous community. 50 acres of twisting and hilly paved drives lead to the cabins. The cabins, all with unique names blend beautifully with the flora of the land. The land and later cabin retreat have been passed down to the women in manager Kate King's family since before the Civil War. Kate sold the property in 2010 to RVC Outdoors, but stays on as general manager and part of the awesome team that maintain this beautiful cabin retreat. I walked up to the lodge office and talked with her for a bit, I wished already that we had more time to spend together. I sense a kindred spirit in Kate.
The next day we drove into downtown Asheville and checked out some shops and realized quickly that we just wanted to be back in the cabin. We bought some groceries on the way in and cooked up some crab cakes with a salad for dinner.
As we packed up the next morning and pulled out I told the Cricket’s Nest goodbye and that I hoped to be back soon — I was. Like one hour later. We got down the road, stopped and ate breakfast and I realized while we were eating that I left the Neece’s liver pudding and sausage in the frig. “We’ve got to go back” I told Don. I was scared that the cleaning team would throw it out when they discovered it, so I called Kate.
“Kate, I left my food in the refrigerator, I will be back in about 45 minutes.” I told her.
“No need Renae, we will throw it out.” she replied.
“No! We want it.” I told her.
When we got back to the office to get a key fob. Kate asked if we really came back for liver pudding. I told her that we indeed had. “We can’t find Neece’s anywhere near Charleston.”
She said that she had never tried it and asked what it was like. I told her to think Redneck Pate’. She laughed and we left Mountain Springs once again.