Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Get a life

While 2013 has been very good to us, it has also been kind of rough.  I am excited to move forward into the new year with a fresh start, and to continue to build on our many blessings.

We have this habit in our house of taking stock around this time of year.  There are some really great tools to provide guidance in reflection.  Tim Elmore offers insight into his year end tradition.  My friend Lori just posted about her year in review. My all-time favorite is blogger Susannah Conway's Unravelling the Year Ahead workbook.

I am feeling especially reflective because of a comment made on one of my husband's Facebook status updates.  As many of you know, one of the blessings this year was the launch of my husband's handpainted sign and repurposed furniture business.  It's a little part-time gig that has really grown into a great way for him to be creative and to connect with other people.  His work is a little part of him and he invests hours and hours working on designs, building, creating, fussing over details...you get the idea.

So, the comment was,

I like seeing your work but every time I do, i think, you need to get a life. : )

There are a couple of things about this statement.  First, when you say something snarky and put a smiley face behind it, it is still snark.  Second, what if this is his/our life?  What if this is something really important and meaningful?

When we encounter lessons like this in our life, we usually find a way to make them humorous.  "Get a life" has become a rally cry, a sort of inside joke that we toss out in conversation.

I feel a little vindicated after reading a post shared by my friend Ben.  The author has some really simple goals for 2014 - do things and make things. I love it!  Here's hoping that we all get to  Do Things and Make Things Next Year!  And, in the process, we just might get a life.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Plant geek: holiday wreaths

 For the past three years, we have been able to sneak away for short vacations before the Christmas holiday.  It has been a blessing for many reason - primarily because we need the time away.  However, I have been surprised to learn that I can enjoy the holidays in a different way when we take the time to break up the regular routine and slow down just a bit.  When we return, we always jump right back into the madness of our schedules, but for a few days, we can just soak up some of the season.

On each of these trips, I found inspiration in the decor.  Asheville's wreaths just blew me away!

You might know that the Biltmore is a huge attraction for Asheville.  We went on the night tour and our tickets also provided access to the grounds for the following day.  We spent several hours walking the gardens and trails and hanging out in the conservatory.  The wreaths on the doors of the conservatory were out of this world - big and beautiful and full of natural elements.
 I am a big fan of the dried hydrangea.
 Check out the use of the dried wasp nest for the top focal point.
 Here is an idea of how the wasp nest wreaths looked on the main entry to the conservatory.
 These wreaths were on the backside of the conservatory - closest to the gift shop.
 I like the "messiness" of this wreath - free form and lovely.
 We ventured up to the barns and stables and found this great barn and a wreath accent.  We loved the tin star in the center.

 The burlap bow with red accents was perfect for this wreath.
 We found this great wreath at the farmstead near the winery.
I really like the unique way of using the ribbon (burlap is hot, folks!) and the bells.  Super simple and cute.

I have a few more posts planned to geek out over the plants and holiday decor from our trip.  You have been warned!

Asheville good eats

 A friend is headed to Asheville in a few days and I promised to share some of our favorite restaurants from our trip.  We are huge fans of eating at unique, local places.  When traveling, we have become a little better at doing our research to identify some of our options and prioritizing.  Our latest method is to eat a big breakfast, share a light lunch and then find a nice place for dinner.

On our first morning in town, we were on the hunt for a great breakfast place and we found the first of several that made our favorites list, along with some other great local places.

Sunny Point Cafe & Bakery did not disappoint.  We got there just in time to grab a table before the line started to form.  I ended up buying a t-shirt and cookbook because we loved the place so much - real comfort food with great flavors.  And, I grits off my list, something I usually only order in the south.

Tupelo Honey Cafe was a lunchtime stop.  We had a short wait, but all of the reviews told us to expect a wait.  We had delicious pulled pork and fried chicken with fried okra, collard greens, and mac and cheese.  Perfect comfort foods for a cool day.

Biscuit Head was a fun and funky place in West Asheville, not too far from Sunny Point.  We had two giant, delicious biscuits loaded with great toppings.  I had a pulled pork version - yum!

Early Girl Eatery was another bustling place.  We went pretty early on a Sunday morning, and had only a short wait.  The farm-to-table freshness showed through in both of our dishes.  Who would have thought that sweet potatoes in a breakfast scramble would be so delicious?

French Broad Chocolate Lounge was a delightful little place.  We picked up some dessert to take back to our hotel - butter cake, a macaroon brownie and a pecan tart.  We survived a long line and was so glad that we waited.

Farm Burger offered great burgers with really amazing choices of toppings.  We shared some fries on the side.  I spent more time admiring the decor - awesome metal stools, mason jars, and pictures of cows.

There were still several restaurants and breweries on our list that we didn't have the chance to sample - Mellow Mushroom, The Thirsty Monk, Wicked Weed brewery, Carmel's Kitchen and Bar, Rhubarb, and more!  We can't wait to return.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Asheville Glass

On our vacation in Asheville, we decided to try our hand at glassblowing.  We found the Asheville Glass Center - a great place that offered several different kinds of classes, including a 30 minute basic class.

We had a choice of making a glass, Christmas ornament or a paperweight.  I decided to make a glass and my husband made a bud vase.

We had a ton of fun and took away some super cool mementos.  We really liked our instructor as he was very patient and really clear in explaining the process.

I think the next time we travel, we will look for another opportunity to do something similar.  We loved the hands-on aspect and the chance to be creative and learn.  We are super nerdy that way.

You have to love their walk-in schedule.  It was fun to see our names on the list and we loved the giant chalkboard.

Monday, December 16, 2013

And this is why we shouldn't ask people to take our photo

When we travel, we have this tradition of taking photos...lots of photos.

Over the years, we have discovered that we are better off with the selfie.  My husband is the better camera operator and his phone works best.

Look at this example - us and the beautiful Carolina mountains behind us.  Nice, right?

When other people politely offer to take our photo, usually after they watch us clumsily get ready to take our selfie, it turns out bad.  Usually hilariously bad.

Case in point...the antlers growing out of our head in the photo below.

The background:  We were at the beautiful Omni Grove Park Inn to see the National Gingerbread Competition and the historic inn and golf course.  It was breathtaking from start to finish. 

On one of the verandas, they have this great setting for photos - a decorated tree, a north pole looking sign, and a sled pulled by reindeer. In this case, you see the tree and the ANTLERS of the reindeer growing out of our head. 

For goodness sake.  At least we are consistent. 

If you need more proof, check out the bar growing out of my head in the photo with my mom when we celebrated her birthday last spring.  This is a thing for me.

A little vacation does the heart good

Here is a sneak peak at our vacation to Asheville, NC.  We took some time to get away and in a longer post, we can explain why Asheville and why this time of year.

Until then, you should know that we climbed on some high things and zip lined all around a repurposed golf course.  It was completely safe and a serious amount of fun.

A few vacations ago, I learned that the best vacation agendas had to include something outdoor and adventure related - the more active, the better.  Too much history or touring or sitting (even on a pristine beach) equaled a stir crazy husband.

The best vacations (for us) also include some...
 Vintage shopping.  Preferably in places with central air or heat set to a comfortable temperature.  But, hey, if you have the chance to go through a 77,000 square foot vintage store and it doesn't have heat and it's a cold, rainy day, you go anyway.
Great food - preferably local and preferably delicious.  We have found several great local places and found some great tasting southern classics - like pulled pork, fried okra and collard greens.  We may or may not have had pulled pork in two different dishes for breakfast two days in a row.
Learn some stuff.  This trip, it was glass blowing.  Don't I look like a boss in those safety glasses?  I was actually super nervous until we got started and our glass blowing expert was super cool and put me at ease. We pick up our vase and cup today.  Can't wait to see how we did.
 For this time of year - getting into the holiday spirit.  Nothing gets you ready for the holidays more than touring America's largest home - The Biltmore - all decked out in lights and trees and garland and full of live choirs and musicians.  Simply beautiful.
Photos - lot of photos.  Even out of car windows.  Sometimes not in focus.  Sometimes on our phones or with the actual camera.  We don't care...we just want to remember.

So, more soon - just wanted to offer a little teaser about our fun times in Asheville.