Monday, August 27, 2007

Twelve Years

What did the ram say to his girlfriend?

Wool ewe marry me?

I love you, David. Happy anniversary!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

We're Back! with One Local Summer #8

Son had a wonderful time at camp doing everything from kayaking to archery, grinding corn to pulling carrots. When we picked him up, he was a jumble of emotions--thrilled to see us, disappointed to leave, exhausted, and full of stories that kept him from napping in the car on the way home. We're glad to have him back--and awfully glad to be home sleeping with our own pillows.

Although we're still digging out from the mountain of laundry and sleeping bags and mail, we've managed to do just a bit of cooking. We present two meals for One Local Summer:

1. One last local dinner in North Carolina: local hamburgers with banana peppers cooked in, topped with dead-ripe tomatoes and served with sides like mashed potatoes and pickled squash (bought at the Brevard farmer's market from the lady who canned them).

2. And one meal to start our day right, back home in Maryland: eggs from our dairy co-op with local cheese, tomatoes from our CSA, and grits ground by the campers like my son at Gwynn Valley! On the side, some leftover challah (made with local eggs, milk, and butter but non-local flour and yeast) slathered with NC blackberry jam. Yum!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

One Local Summer #7

We've been doing a whole lot of local eating during our vacation in the mountains of North Carolina. Everything from our restaurant choices in Asheville to our Shabbat dinner involved local foods. But for this week's official entry for One Local Summer, I submit our day of local eating. Most of the supplies we acquired at the fantastic grocery, Poppies.

Seeded bread from a local bakery, local blackberry jam (also with seeds--my favorite), and locally roasted coffee. (More about the book soon.)


Scrambled local eggs with Brevard shitakes, served with steamed local green beans. Fresh peaches for dessert.

Mountain trout panfried in butter with summer savory served on a bed of local rainbow chard. Topped with a relish of chard stems and yellow squash, cooked down in a local brown ale reduction. Terribly improvised, but absolutely delicious!

The wine we saved for dessert...

...and served with fresh blackberries.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Shabbat in Appalachia

As the end of our very peaceful week in the mountains approaches, David and I have found ourselves quite ready to pick up our son and make a slow, leisurely drive home. Last night as we celebrated Shabbat, we missed Son's high little voice singing the blessings over candles and wine along with us, then leading the blessing over bread.

We've had amazing luck finding local food in this small mountain town, and we filled our Shabbat plates with it. It did not start out that way. After tasting how sweet the local white wine is, we chickened out of buying local red--and we bought a plain white novena candle at the grocery (since we found neither beeswax tapers nor the standard-issue Shabbat candles).

The bread, however, was local: homemade white bread bought at a roadside grocery stand. After we tasted it, I marvelled that it tasted just like challah. David laughed and said, "Not eggy enough. It tastes like Wonderbread!" Only then did I realize that I had never tasted Wonderbread. (Nor have I ever tasted a twinkie, a fact which I suspect the Yarn Harlot would applaud.)

For the meal, we had chow-chow canned by a vendor at the Brevard farmer's market, along with zucchini and banana peppers (from another vendor), which we stir-fried in butter. The okra and tomatoes came from the roadside store where we bought the "challah" we blessed earlier. Lima beans over rice (not local) rounded out the meal.

For dessert? Fresh scuppernongs--North Carolina's state fruit!

Although it was a lovely meal in a lovely place, I am looking forward to celebrating next week with all three of us, home in Takoma Park.

Shabbat shalom, y'all.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Knitting in the Blue Ridge Mountains

I had big plans for my vacation knitting.

While I sat on the porch in the middle of Appalachia, I was going to begin Miriam Felton's Mountain Peaks Shawl while listening to Barbara Kingsolver's Prodigal Summer (about the same mountains) on my iPod.

While my mountains are not the ones Felton was thinking of when she designed the shawl, I knew this shawl with its cool green woodiness would always remind me of this vacation and this area--one I've loved since I was a little girl.

After I started, I began to wish I had brought a set of needles one size larger. As I started the "purl two together through the back of the loops" part, I realized I would have to rip the little bit I had and start again at home, with needles sharper than the regular Addis I was using.

Hm. I knit a few more rows on my just-for-the-car scarf....

* * *

While we were picking up a few little things in town, I chanced across a knitting store! What luck. I popped in Charlotte's Fibers in Brevard just to pick up a set of sharper, and perhaps larger, needles so I could restart the shawl. While the store does not have that hip coolness of Purl's in Asheville, the selection of yarns here at Charlotte's is simply fantastic. I got lost--as did David!--in exploring all the colors and textures as well as cool samples and tempting patterns.

Looking at the local yarns, I found myself in front of a shelf of hand-dyed Misty Mountain Farm's Blue Ridge Yarn. I picked out Highlight (a merino-tencel blend) in the "Waterfall" colorway. Although the yarn is produced over the border in Virginia, it nevertheless seemed like kismet. We are staying, afterall, in the Land of Waterfalls. The yarn came home with me.

I bought one skein--and cast on a narrow scarf, just one width of Feather and Fan. I think it will be a gift for a young friend--perhaps with a matching little sock-toe purse with an I-cord strap, if there is enough leftover yarn.

* * *

This afternoon, we plan to explore some of the local pottery shops around Brevard. Please, please don't let me fall hard for another hobby....

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

To the cabins!

On our drive to the mountains of North Carolina, I started Amy Singer's Montego Bay scarf from the summer Interweave. Knitting with some leftover Seasilk reminds me how much I love knitting. (While the hemp laceweight I've been knitting with most lately is beautiful, it has been hard on my hands.)

The pattern for this scarf is easy to memorize and all but mindless afterwards--great for a long car trip.

Of course, I had to rip the thing entirely after I had knit at least a foot of the scarf. Twice....

* * *

We drove down this way to take Son to camp--the same camp I attended when I was a little girl. In fact, the two blankets we packed for him to use in his bunk are the same two blankets I took when I was a child. They are now a bit more threadbare--but sewing his name label right next to my old one was a wonderful feeling.

Camp Gwynn Valley is a traditional camp for young children, with a few twists. Children who attend have campouts and cookouts, they ride horses and bikes, learn to do some climbing and play assorted outdoor games, do some hiking and some playing in the lake. They do traditional crafts (including weaving and pottery) and sing and dance in the evenings.

Every night after the children are in their bunks, staff members walk from cabin to cabin serenading the campers to send them off to sleep. That is one of the many traditions that seems to have lasted since I attended more than thirty years ago.

The camp has a farm where children get to care for goats, pigs, and cows as well as gather eggs from the chickens. The campers also harvest produce--everything from cantaloupe and broccoli and tomatoes to corn and potatoes. The farm provides about 70% of the food for the camp. Astounding. Talk about eating local! The camp even has an old gristmill where campers grind the homegrown corn into grits for breakfast and cornmeal for tortillas.

Son was very excited to arrive, only getting a little nervous about leaving us at the very end. He and his counselors made up his bed and unpacked, then he gave us hugs and smiles and set out for adventure.

* * *

Son's camp session is one week long, and while he enjoys his time there, David and I are staying in a little lake-front cabin about five miles away.

And the adventures in store for us? Reading. Knitting. Quiet conversations. Maybe, if we're feeling really wild, we'll walk around the lake.

David asks me if I can remember what else it is that couples without their children do....

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Asheville Arts and Crafts

Asheville has a fantastic arts and crafts scene. We had a blast admiring urban sculpture and listening to all the street musicians, often right next to each other:

One of our favorite art locations was Woolworth Walk. Remember the old Woolworths stores from years and years ago?

This one has been converted into a location for local artists to display and sell their art. Very cool. What a great reuse of space!

And they even preserved the soda fountain!

* * *

Of course, there is little I love more than fiber. And there was certainly no shortage of it in Asheville!

First we went to the legendary Earth Guild. I oggled all the looms, then bought a spindle to replace my broken one and some bamboo fiber as well as silk brick to spin during vacation. Although my brother was very patient about my fibery addiction, after a little while he excused himself to explore the stores next door.

While David and our son checked out a toy store and my brother went to say hello to a friend in a comics shop, I checked out another yarn store--Purls:

The store is gorgeous and hip. Sensuous yarns arranged by color are beautifully arranged. I bought some stunning handmade pottery buttons--square, glistening, and as of yet with no destination.

I left the store and met up again with the boys. On our way to dinner, my brother reminded me of the story he and his girlfriend told me earlier in the day: they had gone in a store with both yarn and handcrafted items and tried on hats. Although my brother had liked one hat very much, he had refrained from purchasing it because he thought I might be able to make one for him.

SO...looks like I had to go to just one more yarn store....

What sacrifices we make for our loved ones!

We walked over to a small shop in Grove Arcade, Asheville Homecrafts. One side of the store was full of hats and scarves and the like, many of them knitted from handspun and some felted. Lovely. The other side had an astonishingly varied assortment of yarn given the size of the store.

And here's the hat he would like:

I've got some ideas about how to knit it--but I'd love any tips or thoughts any of you have!

Isn't my brother a handsome model?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Eating Local--in the mountains of NC

On Saturday, we drove into Asheville just in time for lunch. We parked in the garage and, admiring all the bumper stickers, immediately knew we were in the right place:

We decided to have lunch at a beautiful vegetarian restaurant, Laughing Seed Cafe, with a posted menu that looked so fantastic that we couldn't pass it up.

Even before we were seated, we realized we had made the perfect decision. As we walked to our table, who should we run into but my brother and his girlfriend! They had no idea we'd be in Asheville, and we had no idea they would be. What a wonderful suprise!

As we chatted and caught up a bit, I sipped a basil martini garnished with a cherry tomato. How perfectly seasonal, and utterly delicious as well as beautiful.

The Cuban tempeh sandwich is to die for, as was the watermellon gazpacho. Much of the produce, especially on the daily specials menu, comes from local farms.

We spent the afternoon with my brother while Rebecca attended her friends' wedding. We toured around Asheville and its art-and-fiber scene (more details tomorrow) as well as luxuriated at one of purest time sinks of all time: a great independent bookstore, Malaprop's.

We thoroughly enjoyed our day in Asheville. All my passions seem to be shared by the entire city--even gardening. The planters next to the side of the road are filled with edible and beautiful delights like rainbow chard:

Eventually, we were ready for dinner at another of the city's cool eating establishments, the Early Girl Eatery.

This is a restaurant entirely based on the importance of local food--meaning food grown locally as well as food cooked in a local style. As they say on their website,

The menu relies heavily on the high quality local produce grown in the area by family farms and community-supported agriculture (CSAs). Our cheeses and some of our meats are also produced and raised locally. The menu changes periodically with the seasons, while the specials change daily. This enables us to better utilize the local ingredients available. We believe local food tastes better and sustains a healthy community. Made from scratch is the motto at the Early Girl, and our recipes reflect our background in southern cooking as well as our vast experience with vegetarian fare.

And on the menu:

For dinner, I ordered sweet potato pone, cabbage, and black beans...

...while David had local trout served with a green-tomato/blackberry sauce. Goodness gracious!

My brother ordered pork chops, which came with potatoes as well as a mixture of green and yellow beans.

(Hint: Not in Asheville but drooling nonetheless? Check out Early Girl's free online recipes!)

Friday, August 03, 2007

One Local Summer #6

Due to arthritis in my hands, I have done next to no knitting or spinning for a while.

But we have been gardening, visiting farms, doing some experimental food preparation, and packing for a long vacation! Details about all coming soon. This summer has been busy and draining for me, and I promise to get back to blogging regularly as soon as we return from vacation.

* * *

For our sixth meal of One Local Summer, we tried out our new, homemade solar cooker! After cutting out cardboard, covering it with tinfoil, and taping it together, we filled it with shredded newspaper and a painted-black cake pan sealed in a cooking bag. We checked the temperature after setting it in the sun: about 325 degrees.

We filled a mason jar with garden tomatoes, summer squash, and zucchini, and stuck the jar in the cake pan for several hours.

When it was finished, we had a summer stew to serve over rice, alongside garden kale and store-bought black-eyed peas. What a feast!


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