06 December 2011

It's All in the Kraut. UPDATED

First let me say that this is my first post completely written from my phone.
My friend Nicole is in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and she and another friend split a weekly share of vegetables. Sometimes this means that as her friend we have a lot of veggies to help her eat. If you have been following me on facebook you'll know that we tried P. Allen Smith's Aunt Genny's recipes for sauerkraut.  It would be the picture with just the jars.
It should be stated that I don't eat sauerkraut so Cory and Nicole thought that it was overcooked and too sweet (sidebar: Nicole has her fake sugar labeled as real sugar and she has no real sugar in her house so we used brown sugar).
Nicole was again given two heads of cabbage so we are trying this sauerkraut thing again except this time we are doing it the old fashioned way and fermenting before we jar. The picture is with the bowl and the brick.  This was on it's first day. We have at least 3 more to go. Check back and I'll keep you posted on the Kraut progress.

Day one

Our first attempt
Update:  12-9-11
All I want for Christmas is an air freshener.
I think it is a fine line between rotting and fermenting as my back bedroom smells of cabbage and muck.  I've been skimming as the directions say and thus far, the process doesn't make me want to start eating it.  I find it interesting that most people really don't know what goes into the food that they love.  We are creatures of convenience.  For instance, if I actually had to kill my meat, I'd be a vegetarian.  I just don't think I could do it.  Thinking about killing my meat does make me eat less meat.  Yesterday, I had a Chick-fil-a sandwich which was my first fast food in quite sometime.  I've been consciously trying to put more vegetables in my life and for some reason yesterday my body was craving a Chick-fil-a sandwich with extra pickles. My body must be crazy because not more than 30 minutes after eating it I felt awful (physically---not emotionally guilty for eating meat kind of way).  Back to the Kraut....I'm out of town this weekend and I can only imagine what I will be coming back to but do not fear, I'll post it.

Update: 12-30-11
The Kraut resides on the back porch since I got back from Key West.  I walked in the door and was bold over by the smell of sweaty gym socks baking in mayonnaise on a late August afternoon.  It has taken two days, three candles,  and many, many simmers of rosemary (not to mention the Febreeze because I fear my clothes smell foul) to bring my house back to it's normal odor.  No one was around to "skim the scum" during the holiday so the mold is something out of a movie that I swear could take over the world.  I'll post a picture of it tomorrow....it's bad people--real bad.

Take aways from this experience:
  • It is good to see some of my friends take an interest in food preservation.  I think that if we all did it more we would each care about the work that goes into food preparation. Perhaps, the friends and I should stick to the simple things like jams.
  • I need more research on when mold turns to fermentation.  If you have any idea when this happens, please let me know.  My Betty Crocker Guide was no help.  Let's face it, friends don't like it when you accidentally poison them.
  • I prefer Aunt Ginny's recipe.  It is scum free.  Scum is still gross and even if they changed the name to "precious potent lollipops" I still wouldn't want to do it.

There is no way this screams, "Eat me! I am a German delicacy"
Updated 1-18-12
So last Saturday was intersting for the kraut.  I wanted to reclaim my favorite white mixing bowl so the kraut had to go.  I finished reading "The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Food, Farming and Love" by  Krstin Kimball and was inspired to dig a hole if I could not have a farm of my own.  The kraut needed to go and my little 5x5 garden could use some added mold (anyway, I didn't want Liddy to eat it and get sick).  When I went to dump the kraut in to my two foot hole, I noticed that it didn't look so bad.  It didn't smell so bad and it didn't burn my tongue when I touched it.  All I could hear was Nicole's voice in my head telling me that it would be wasteful to bury the kraut so I scooped some of the kraut back out and proceeded to was it off and jar it.  I've had a taste. It's ok.  Nicole thinks it is a bit salty.  I did not can it because I pulled it out of the dirt.  Still, this is not on my list of things I ever want to do again.  That was a lot of work for one jar of kraut.

29 November 2011

From the farming flower child who is my new hero to playing with tigers

Again I am amazed at the amount of time that passes between posts.  I come up with the great ideas to share and then never seem to get around to making time to write them down.   Well not to muddle the point let's get to the next entry. 

Back to back weekends in November I visited two colleges and these two institutions could not have been more different.  First, I went with Anna and the 2014 Circle de Luz girls (click on the link if you want more information about the organization) to Warren Wilson College .  These girls are rising sophomores and this is their fourth college visit.  When Anna first approached me about going to WWC, my response was, "but it will take like a day to get the patchouli oil off".  Every one I have ever known to graduate from WWC has a certain air of Asheville and wannabe post modern hippie that my use of the stereotype is not unfounded.  Don't get me wrong, the stereotype lives, but it was not without challenge or has taken a new unpredictable facet.  For instance, yes, I did see a kid come to lunch barefoot and in his bathrobe and yes our lovely small private school educated, from New Jersey wearing a hat that tripled as a scarf and gloves in the design of a frog did give off a certain element of "peace to all" vibe.  BUT my friends, I was completely floored by my new hero (I think her name is Kate) who does her work study at the campus FARM (Everyone at WWC has to work on campus if they live on campus-commune-esque and also do 100 hours of community service before graduating).  Kate killed her own turkey for Thanksgiving last year after killing chickens at school.  She rules because our turkey came from Bojangles!  Below are pictures from the farm.  My thirty-something self wants to go back to college just so I can farm.

I giggled like a school girl over the "piggery"

Seriously, doesn't it make you want a little piggy as a pet?

Why I probably won't get a pig as a pet.
The very next weekend I found myself in Tigertown, South Carolina, otherwise known as Clemson.  I went with my friend Charlie to an alumni event.  Friday we hung out with his friends from graduate school and Saturday we bounced from tailgate to tailgate to tailgate. 
Just for your imagery...boing...boing...boing.
We went to the game, but actually never went into the game.  My day included two outfit changes (I am now the proud owner of a discounted Clemson t-shirt) and hating my feet by the end of the day. (note to self:  Boots are cute.  Boots with heals are very cute. Walk in boots with heals can be done, but not for 7 hours).  It was a great game against Wake Forest and we watched the end while debating whether spending $42 for a jersey for a 2-yr old was worth the price for the cuteness factor Charlie would get from watching him wear it--we concluded that Clemson fans were crazy if they paid that much for a throw away jersey. 

I saw a lot of farmer-types at Clemson and perhaps a few that have killed or attempted to kill a deer, but I guarantee you they are not as brave as my new hero Kate and killed their own turkey for Thanksgiving.  Enjoy some shots of an absolutely gorgeous football day.

The stadium before the crowd descended.

Now that is what I call a tailgating MACHINE.  Totally a "Roof is on Fire" kind of party

Charlie and his grad school friends. Guess which one went deer hunting the next weekend?

20 October 2011

Eat like an Egyptian

I was reminded this week that I am failing misserably at this whole blog project and goal I have set for myself and that well.  So, I'll get back to it and someone else can decide if they are entertaining or not.

As most of you know in 2009 I went to Egypt.  It was a once in a life time kind of thing....yada, yada, yada.  Out of it came amazing memories and some truly great friendships.  Earlier this year the Charlotte Observer wrote about this restaurant in the University Area that was a breakfast American kind of place with Egyptian items on the menu called The Bigger Bite.  I posted the article to facebook and Josh quickly responded that we needed to try it.  Josh and I were desperate for a little "brother and sister time" so we tried it out last night.   Obviously, we were not in Egypt because at 8pm we were the only ones in the place.  Dinner starts at 9 in Egypt or at least anytime we ate.  Josh also told me that I could not tell Karim, our gracious waiter, that the mural on the wall was not an accurate depiction of the Sphinx and the Pyramids.  The Nile was right in front of the Pyramids and the Sphinx sat in the middle.  I still think it is a sign of the times when across from the sphinx there is a KFC and Pizza Hut.  Seriously!!

Yes, I'll take my pizza togo for the horse ride home.

(Note: There are extremely few horse and buggies in Cairo and I don't think the horses could take driving in Cairo as it is not for the weak at heart. Tourists taking pictures of the few that they see is not helping the Egyptian cause of modernization.)
 Well, putting their mural aside, there was Arabic music playing in the background and some Arabic soap opera on the television which was refreshingly familiar.  For dinner, we had the Egyptian sampler and koshari.  On the sampler was foul, some type of eggplant dip, falafel and tahina and hummus.  I asked Josh what foul was and he said, "You know street food.  Didn't you have it when we were in Cairo when we stayed out......oh yeah"  With one eyebrow cocked, I replied, "When do you think I was ever allowed on the street by myself".  In all actuality Mona and her mother did take me to walk around on the street and it was one of my favorite times in Egypt.  We had ice cream instead of foul and they  indulged me into stepping into an Egyptian bakery which was on my "must-do" list.

Pita lickin' good!
The main course was koshari and we had it mild and topped with shawarma beef.  I don't remember having this one either, but it may have been at the Galabaya  Party and I just didn't notice because there was SO much food.  It is rice, pasta, lentils a spicy sauce (you can get a hot sauce but Josh didn't think it was hot enough--I liked the mild) and then it is topped with shawarma beef or chicken. 

Probably our only disappointment of the night were our after dinner drinks.  Now don't get me wrong, Karim makes a mean cup of tea but there was a little part of me that wanted a rose tea or mint tea in a clear glass or a Turkish coffee to finish off what I thought was a great dinner.

If you go looking for the Bigger Bite, it is on JW Clay Blvd and Hw 29 near Nona's Bakery and Panera Bread.  I know Josh and I'll be back and I'll be ignoring geographical accuracy of historical structures and listening to a little Umm Kulthum .

30 August 2011

What Have You Seen This Century

Picture it....Huntersville 1911. I can only imagine that the population was less than 1000 and there was a railroad and maybe a mill and a store front.  The year 1911 is when my friend Cara Holbrook was born.  This week I have been asked how I came to meet Cara because we'll let's face it we make an unusual pair. If memory serves me correctly, she retired from teaching about the same time I started putting together sentences--the two word variety.  To put it into perspective, she graduated from Catawba College in 1934.

Ms. Holbrook came into Town Hall one day and was all upset that her neighbor was going to encroach on her land.  She wanted someone from the Town to come out and survey her line to make sure her neighbor was doing everything right.  Planners are not surveyors, but she had an Aunt Gen quality (technically my great aunt, but on that side of the family you don't get the Aunt title until a generation has passed) so I agreed to meet her.

I realized she lived alone, so I went back to check on her from time to time during lunch or after work and it was through those visits that I learned a lot about her, what times were like in Huntersville before the building boom of the 1990's and 2000's, teaching in Mecklenburg County and her family.  Ms. Holbrook had never married and was very devoted to her parents and her sisters.  Probably the most depressing thing she has had to do is give up driving.  It hasn't been until recently, that age has caught up with her and you no longer see her going to the post office for her mail (seriously, crossing Gilead Road at times is similar to Frogger). But, she still plays cards, never misses church and has people to take her where she needs to go.

My visits began to become sporadic and this summer she left me a message at Town Hall, but didn't say what she needed. I rushed down to her house only to find out that she needed my address (if you know me at all you know I tend to lean towards the worst in those situations.  Mom stopped calling at 6am because I kept answering the phone, "who died?").

Her church was throwing her a birthday party and after she got over the shock of her age being announced in front of the whole congregation, she was getting used to the idea of a celebration.  I don't think I was aware that she was 100 (or getting close).  I promised to mark my calendar and attend.

Saturday we celebrated Ms. Holbrook.  Aside from enjoying the birthday of one really cool woman, there was church punch involved.  I just can't get enough of good (non-kool-aid) church punch. and will admit to cutting myself off at four glasses. 

Ms. Holbrook officially turns 100 on September 1st.  Happy Birthday to a woman who gives me such great inspiration!

I did not write the name of this book down, but it was about the history of North Mecklenburg.  The Holbrook's have been around this area for a while.

01 August 2011

My little escape artist

As most of you know, I share my life with a four pound Yorkie who often lets me know who wears the pants in the family.  They are size XXS.

One of her favorite spots...riding the car while the human operates it
In our five years together, Liddy has gone looking for me a couple of times.  She suffers from separation anxiety and I have a whole routine of treat finding just to make my exit from the house a whole lot less stressful on the both of us.

Last night, I asked my friend Jennifer if she would watch Lids (her nickname) because I have a Town Board meeting.  She reminded me to block the cat door as I had forgotten that the last time I left Liddy at her house, I returned to an empty house and rising anxiety levels after realizing that my dog was nowhere to be found.  Last night at a bridal shower I retold several of Liddy's escape stories.  These escapes are why she is microchipped.  Her original escape was from her last owners to me so this dog has a history of wandering.

This was Liddy the day I found her on September 5, 2006

Fast forward to this morning.  Something told me to put Liddy's harness on her which has her dog tag with my phone number.  I drop Liddy off and block the cat door with the tub of cat food and a child's stool.  I do our little leaving treat routine and head into work.

Phone rings.  "Hello," I say.  Man on the phone says, "I have your lost dog".  With exhaustion I say, " @#$-it she got out again through the cat door."  We exchange pleasantries about where I am going to pick up my little Houdini as I exit the interstate and return back to the Chantilly neighborhood.  When I get there, Mr. Williams, a local contractor, is using a rope for a leash and Liddy is standing as far from him as possible.  I didn't ask if she was nice to him when she found him.  I assumed she growled a little.  When she spots me and my scent, her eyes light up into the most innocent expression that seems to say, "What took you so long to get here? I went looking and I knew I would find you. Silly human, we are never to part."

I return to the scene of Liddy's crime to realize I had been out maneuvered by the cat, Mae, who has taken to living outside since her life companion Stuart went to the Great Meadow.  She had moved my mound and Liddy must have followed. What a four pound dog can't move, a ten pound (guessing here) cat can.

Liddy got a lecture on how being late for work is bad considering I do all of the income earning in our relationship and that if she really wanted me to keep her in the once a day Greenies lifestyle that she is accustomed to she is going to have to do her part and stay where I leave her.  I'd like to think that she learned a lesson today and that by rushing off to bed she is punishing herself.  But let's face it, she's full from the Greenie I just gave her and there was no rushing.  I wonder which one of us is actually learning the lesson.

27 July 2011

That's Entertainment

Planners are an interestingly, nerdy group of people.  It really is hard to turn your mind off to planning.  For instance, I guest lecture for one architecture class and I always tell them that in there is not one thing that you do in a day that hasn't been thought about by a planner at some point in time.  How you get to school, where you find entertainment and even how you enter a building.  These are things planners always seem to think about.  Planners get charged when they find engaging public spaces; can talk about building relationships at nausea and never tire of discussing pedestrian scale, sustainability and compatible uses.  Just ask my family. 

So, it seemed fitting that the second meeting for the Charlotte Metro Young Planners would be held at the NC Music Factory and include a tour of the facility.  Jessica and Kate really took this simple idea of getting together and talking shop to a new level with our tour.  Let me confess that I believe I may not meet the definition of "young planner" as I careened into my 35th year this June, but there is not a category for "seasoned planner who is no where near retirement".

The evening began at VCGB, which is a New York style beer garden.  I believe it stands for Very Cold German Beer.  Their pilsner is one of my favorites on a hot summer day.  Again, the planner and southerner in me asks...where in the hell are the trees on that patio?  In the sultry south, we need shade or so says my dermatologist.  I'm hoping that once the heat subsides, they'll think about adding some vegetation to break up all that concrete.  One might ask why even go outside at all when there is a tray of shaved ice to keep your mug cold.  If you intend to bring Fido, you'll need a spot on the "Seven Steps from the Sun" (or otherwise known as their patio).  This building is also home to a Charlotte icon the JFG sign.
photo courtesy of NC Music Factory
Note: lack of trees
Our tour guide was Ken Thomas, the Vice President of Entertainment with the ARK Group which operates the Music Factory.  The facility has been open for a little over two years and has hosted a variety of acts thus far.--anyone from the B-52's to Counting Crows to Wiz Khalifa who was the act at the Amphitheater that night. (Again as I am a "mature" age, I had to youtube it--apparently he is being compared as the next Snoop Dog). 

After a quick beer, our tour kicked off at the new home for the Comedy Zone in Charlotte.   The Comedy Zone is located under The Saloon and I have actually been there before thanks to some tickets Nicole won over the 4th of July weekend.  It definitely adds to the types of entertainment that can be found on the property.  I got this picture of David.  Now that he has the picture, maybe he can work on his act.
Because this is located in the basement of the Saloon it is designed so that the audience has a food venue to go to before the show or a place between shows.  It also makes for good staging between acts if there are more than one show that night.

Photo just to prove that it actually was a tour
We went through the Saloon to Wet Willies. The balcony at Wet Willies is a great spot to catch what is playing at the Amphitheater and it is a lot cleaner than the one I am more familiar with--downtown Charleston.

We went through the dining area at Bask (yeah! I finally know where this is) and they are anticipating an upscale Italian place opening soon to compliment the dining options.We walked through Butter, an upscale NYC style club.  The experience starts with the front door covered in animal hide which is just the beginning of a decadent, textural overload that includes different styles of velvet wallpaper and an amazing chandelier over the dance floor.  Unfortunately, it is just very dark to take pictures.

The visual experience alone is worth the $500 per table weekend night cost and the potential people when people are actually is shear bonus. Now, all I have to do is stop working for the public sector.

To round out the tour and the complex, we went by the office section which is home to the Creative Loafing, a couple of non-profits and a lawyer's office.

Once we were back to VCGB, I returned to good, cold German beer drinking and eating tasty black and tan onion rings and limited (as much as I possibly could) any talk about pedestrian scale, traffic studies or long range plans.  But really, can they get some trees at the beer garden!

26 June 2011

Holy Cow!

It is not often you hear, "I've got to go pick up my cow".  Nicole, Cory, John and I purchased 1/8th of a cow in May and it was butchered this week.  Nicole picked it up this morning and we had a cow pool party where I collected my 1/4 of the 1/8th of our cow.  To put 1/8 of a cow in perspective, it is about 85 lbs of meat before the butcher and about 60 pounds after.  It fits into a large soccer mom cooler, but the lid won't shut.  We got a variety of cuts and a lot of ground beef.  We estimate that we paid $3.65/pound for our bounty.  I am especialy going to enjoy trying to find a receipt that will make beef liver taste delicious.  I have a particular vivid childhood memory where I told my mother that the chicken and dumplin's had gone bad because I had accidently gotten the chicken liver, a delicacy reserved for my grandmother Pearl.  In its pre-packaged form, my portion of our cow looks like this.

I don't think I have to question where the beef is
In other" return to retro practices", my garden is battling aphids and General Whitney is not winning that war.  A new strategy is required, but in this picture the battle looks quiet.  I made my first batch of blackberry jam.  It is my favorite of the jams.  Nicole picked the blackberries for me and they were the largest ones I have ever seen.  The jam does not disappoint either.  I'm hopeful for greenbeans soon.  I've got a lot of jars to fill.
Do you see that little yellow tomato? It is a pear cherry tomato.

The aphid war zone

The camera on my phone makes these jam jars look almost angelic.  Let's hope they don't float up to heaven too soon.
My Saturday was completed by my favorite dinner.  I don't quite cook it like Mama does, but I didn't do too bad with fried zucchini, mac and cheese (should have been velvetta) and soup beans with corn bread.  Charlie was my dinner companion and he brought a fabulous bottle of wine for the meal that I made him not open.  We'll share that some other time.  This really is more of a Miller Lite meal and the Blue Moon he also brought complimented the simplity of the meal.  After dinner we walked Liddy around the neighborhood and sat on the porch and watched the neighbors.  Simple summer things are why this is one of the best times of year.

20 June 2011

T minus for Texas

Since I was about 5 years old Texas has always had a special place in my heart.  My barbies were either from Texas or California and the first show I had the privilege of staying up late for (apparently late bed times are a privilege) was Dallas.  I've traversed Texas twice in my Honda Civic (once with a TV in the back seat).  My sister and I drove so long that everything became funny--tumbleweed, railroads, thunderstorms.  Crossing the Rio Grande was not quite as grand as the movies, but we did love pointing out Mexico just to our left. 

Last week, I went to Texas for Chad and Stacy's wedding in Fredricksburg which is in the hill country just outside Austin and San Antonio.  I opted to make this a mini-vacation and stopped into see my friend Sabrina in Houston. I met Sabrina in Cairo.  She was another GSE exchange member, but from the Houston Area.  Sabrina has one of those "what do you want to be when you grow up" type jobs where she works with astronauts at NASA's Johnson Space Center.  Her division trains astronauts on their missions outside of the aircraft or international space station.  Thursday, I got a VIP tour of Mission Control and the aquatic training facility.  It was cool to go to places that people don't normally get to access. 
The original mission control

Mission Contol for the International Space Station

Mission Control for the Shuttle launches

Sabrina at her training pool.

I think as Americans we forget how much our country has gained from a strong science presence and I hate to see that we are diverging away from this strategy. If we are asking our children to be the next great minds, where are they going to aspire to go if we keep continuing to cut funding towards cutting edge science?  I assume they will all head to China.

The NASA theme continued into the evening. After grabbing a tea at the Turkish Restaurant, we went to see the premier of the The Great American Moon Rock Caper .  I've linked the trailer.  The movie was an interesting subject matter as it was based on a real life event where some NASA interns stole some moon rocks and tried to sell them on Ebay.  They were caught.  The film sets the caper in today's time and has some funny lines.  The best actor is actually also the director and producer, Travis Ammons, but it is very hard to get passed the over acting of the other characters and the pimp music in the back ground.  The best song was in the opening credits and it slid downhill from there into a kind of 1970's soft-core porno music from that point forward.  Perhaps it will be a cult classic, but I would need to be paid to see the show twice.  They had DVD's for sale and I quickly passed.  The evening ended at Fusion Taco.  Food trucks are all the rave and if you are in the Houston area I would recommend checking this one out.

My time with Sabrina was well spent and she graciously took me to Hobby between her shifts at work (totally talking to astronauts--I said it right--SPACE).  Sabrina can make your whole day brighten and always treats you like you are the only one in the room.  I wish I saw more of her.

Next stop was Austin, but really only for the airport and the Sonic because those tatter tots are addictive.  One of Stacy's friends from grade school picked me up from the airport.  You learn a lot about a person when you just start with their name, Ashley, and spend an hour and a half in the Texas countryside.  In addition to meeting a lovely and caring individual, we went through Johnson City, TX and Ashley endured my Tennessee stories.

 All of the bridal party and the families of the bride and groom stayed at the Hoffman Haus. In case you are ever there, I stayed in the Indian Paintbrush Room that Stacy had picked out and loved. it, especially the breakfast delivered in the picnic basket and the fun porch. This was an absolute beautiful location for a wedding and it will be a while before I stop gushing about how amazing every thing was.  Below are some photos of the wedding and venue.
Stacy and Chad with Chad's brother's and sisters

The ceremony location

Extra fans for a not-as-hot-as-I-thought Texas evening

Dinner location

Chad and I
On Saturday before the wedding I got an opportunity to tool around downtown Fredricksburg and below are a few snap shots.  Bonus for me was that there is no open container laws in Fredricksburg so shopping with my frozen Bellini only added to my experience.  According to my wine server, Texas hill country is the second most visited wine Appalachia in the US for wine below Napa and Sonoma.  Perhaps at the time I didn't realize that it made them actually third. 

Needless to say, I stayed up pasted my bed time every night but had a blast.  Oh the dancing!! Too bad there are no pictures of that.  It was wonderful to see Chad's family again and to be welcomed by Stacy's family and friends.

I also got a few extra shots of Texas on my drive back to Austin.  Next trip I spend more time in Austin.

The Johnson settlement

Johnson City, TX, Home of Lyndon B. Johnson

Bull at a sculpture garden outside of Johnson City, TX

Stacy and Chad's wedding concluded my wedding season for 2011 and it was definitely worth the trip to Texas. I hope they both enjoy a long and happy life together and I can't wait to plan another trip to Houston to see them.

08 June 2011

Favorite Time of Year

May through July are my favorite times of the year.  Most people prefer the coolness of a spring morning or the way the smell of the fallen leaves add crisps notes to Autumn.  Not me.  Give me rising humidity levels, evening thunder storms and the hopes of a garden harvest.  Maybe it is a reminent of my childhood excitement about summer--school being out, pool/beach time and my birthday.  I am still surprised how hopeful I get at the onset of my garden.  Will this year be better than last?  Will mom teach me something I didn't know before? Did I learn anything since last year about creating boundaries with my natural neighbors (bugs, birds, or squirrels)? When will the first tomato makes it's appearance and from what plant will it be?  What can I learn to "put up" this year?
The professional planner in me is amused by the recent rhetoric and new trends associated with the things I do because my grandparents did them and because I don't want these traditions to die.  My Papa would have laughed me to the end of the driveway if he heard urbanists described his lifesyle. To his generation, these things just made common sense and I don't know when we as a society started going away from it.  Perhaps it was the rise of the modern day subdivision and the deed restrictions against common sense activities like gardening, yard animal ownership(seriously I am no where near owning goats or chickens) and hanging your laudry out to dry on the line.  I offer the following examples:

Trend One: I am an urban agricutrualist.  I have a 5x5 garden plot on the duplex lot I rent.  I also put lettuce and herbs in pots on my porch. Essentially, if you grow anything edible in the city, join me as an urban agriculturalist.  Maybe we'll get our own club t-shirts.

Trend Two: I am an environmentalist for having a garden.  By growing my own vegetables, I am wasting less energy to go to the store to buy vegetables and using less pesticides which are also harmful to the environment (let's face it my garden is not organic.  I love Miracle Grow).  I guess environmentalist overlook the fact that I still visit the farmer's market for eggs, fruit, some meats, honey.  Maybe I'll buy carbon offsets (that whole concept makes me giggle).

(photo taken from National Archives)

Despite having three wedding this spring I managed to get a garden started this spring and even before Mother's Day which is the wivestale deadline my sister recites.  I think in Charlotte vegetable plants have to be in the ground before May. Thus far, I have harvested a cucumber and killed the cilantro (seems par for the course. Cilantro is my Achilles heal. Maybe this year's cilantro sacrafice will look favorable on the garden gods. For more see my cilantro post from last year) RIP Cilantro 2011.

Strawberries have plumped their way into my heart and jam jars.  We've had one bad week for the berries when it rained for five days straight, but even then they are still good for jamin' and freezin'  In the pantry I have jars of strawberry preserves, strawberry jam and strawberry jam with fresh ground pepper (a new variety for my shelf and one I am enjoying as a sweet end to a savory breakfast). Canning brings me to Trend Three.

Trend Three: Preserving food yourself is better for you and fun. Preserving food reminds me of the story of Aesop's The Ant and the Grasshopper. I have often turned down playtime at the pool so I can make a round of blackberry jam. Sure, canning is fun to me, but it is a delayed satisfaction. Preserving is work upfront.(Martha makes everything look easy but she has a staff. My grandmother, Pearl, had a staff of children and grandchildren. I have me)  There is the hot kitchen in the middle of a 90 degree heatwave June and I dare anyone to describe puttin' up a load of corn in mid-July as fun when you're battling gnats and flies. The payoff is having a personal gift for someone or memories of great holidays with food traditions like green beans and creamed corn that you can pass on to the next generation of Nintendo players.

I'll let you know if my hopes rise or sink.  Right now, the summer joy rests on 20+ plants, a supply of city water and Miracle Grow.  

While you wait, enjoy the recipe below. I got from my friend Cory (who got it from Savor Cafe) Mom and I had one using some old gin I got from my uncle's house.

Strawberry Basil Martini
7-8 strawberries
7-9 basil leaves (medium to large leaves)
1/3 cup simple sugar
3 parts gin

Muddle strawberries and mint. (I just threw them into a blender) Combine all ingredients into a shaker and give it a good mixing.  Pour into desired glass.  The recipe should make two martinis because you should always share.

24 May 2011

The World Changes One Step or Generation at a Time

As a kid, I asked my uncle why he never went to church when he came home to Tennessee.  His sisters would go with their children and I can recall the church--pews without cushions, my grandfather singing and the smell of pine.  His response was he hadn't found a church where you could be a Buddhist Baptist at the same time.  He loved the hymns, but wasn't caught up in all the fire and brim stone rhetoric.  It wasn't until after he passed in 2004 that I heard what  Paul Harvey would describe as "the rest of the story".

My uncle was a senior in high school in 1964.  He had left Cosby High School to go to Newport High School (the city school) because it was the only school in the county to offer calculus.  Denton Baptist had youth led Sundays and when it was his turn to put together the program he wanted to invite the gospel choir of his new school.  There were African Americans in the choir and the preacher, who was originally from South Carolina, told him that they were not allowed at a white church.  My uncle preached that Sunday on intolerance and Jesus' love for all people.  As I am told he used a fire and brim stone approach to the preacher's prejudices.  I'm not sure if he stormed out of the church or quietly went back to his seat, but in my mind he stormed out with gusto.  In his sermon he told the congregation that he no longer intended to be a Baptist and requested that an official letter renouncing him in the Southern Baptist fold be sent to him.  My uncle got his letter and my grandfather didn't go back to the church until the South Carolina preacher was replaced which was about two years later.  I don't know that my grandmother ever went back.  This event had changed my uncle in ways I'll never understand.  I was always  proud of my uncle, his accomplishments, his influence on my life and after hearing this story I realized how lucky I was that he left a mark on my DNA.

In Charlotte I attend St. Martin's Episcopal Church.  Last November, I became an official Episcopalian and have never thought twice about finding another church home.  From the moment, I walked onto the grass bare lawn I knew there was something different about St. Martin's and the best I can describe it is an open, loving community where everyone is welcome.  The smiles can be seen on the faces, but people here tend to smile with the eyes and the heart.  This month I attended my first Pastoral Blessing (in other words--a gay wedding).  The men who were having their union blessed are my Kanuga mates and I make them laugh with my Cosby stories--seriously people it is hard to find better material than my family--both sides.  Typically,  there is at least one cocktail before the heavy eastern Tennessee accent bubbles out.

I don't usually have a lot of emotion when it comes to wedding ceremonies.  At this ceremony I couldn't help but have the biggest smile and near tears because somewhere in the middle of it all my heart opened to what was really going on--I was watching the world change and in one micro step.  In this service, our collective humanity was showing its fullness at acceptance. This was no better said than by Father Murdock in his  homily (without fire and brim stone) in which he reminded the audience that God loves us all regardless of the labels society places upon us.  In my own world, witnessing this even was just one generation from how my uncle became the Buddhist Baptist.
To my friends Bryce and Jarrett, I wish you great love and happiness and I hope that I will always be able to entertain you both for many more Septembers on the porch at a Kanuga cabin. (This is where I plug that we want to be placed on the main row from here on out or until one of us turns 80--not naming who that will be first--not it.)

(Photo courtesy of facebook and poprockphotography...ya'll she really rocks as a photographer.  Please see her work on facebook )

02 May 2011

Small Town Spaces

I have a confession.  I love small towns, especially small towns that modern times have forgotten. This weekend I helped celebrate the nuptials of Emily and Jonathan Hines in Bennettsville, SC.  Bennettsville has a certain charm, but nothing compared to the off the interstate adventures I had with just me, the CRV and a camera.  Ok let’s be honest, there isn’t an interstate that connects Charlotte and Bennettsville so the whole ride was just full of treasure.

My first stop was the Pee-Dee river that divides Anson and Richmond Counties on Hwy 74. There is a boat landing on the eastern side of the bridge and I stopped for this picture.

You can see that I also opted for a self-portrait photo op with a dandelion gracing my curly locks.  One might ask why the Pee-Dee has significance to me.  There are only a few geographic boundaries that bring on a stylistic oratory change in which my southern accent becomes so thick some of my Yankee friends would swear that they were talking to my Country Cousin and not me.  Other instances of southern accent insurgence include talking to elderly southerners, after a couple of glasses of whiskey and anytime after Rocky Top has been played.

The next day (the big day of the wedding), I managed to squeeze in a visit to a roadside farmer’s market and  red train across the street from the John Blue House.  The concierge at the Comfort Inn told me that Mr. Blue had something to do with the cotton gin and was one of Laurinburg’s claim to fame.  She laughed it off as if she were a skeleton in the closet rather than an antique china collection.  I quickly told her that I’m from the place where Daniel Boone Killed a “Bar” (bear)  so I understood.   We all can’t have the hometown of Kelly Pickler.

Because I was staying at Laurinburg, I had the opportunity to go through little towns and communities on US15/401.  I counted four cemeteries on this road and considered it a sign to be extra cautious.  On this road is a little train stop town that has long since seen the days of commerce called Tatum ,SC.  It has a gorgeous old station and one neat row of boarded up storefronts.  I forced the Charlotte attendants to the wedding to stop on our way to the after party and we had a lovely late afternoon glass of wine sitting on the platform trying to avoid splinters.  A few Tatum shots are below.

I drove a part of 74 that I don’t often drive and as I passed by Pate’s Food and Meats I hesitated to stop because there was a nagging sensation that I should get back to Charlotte.  On my way to take a picture of the store and water tower, I found this gem.

I took it as a reminder from God that some of the best things in this world we often speed by because we have ten other places to go. Today’s era is so very instant and fleeting moments that we often don’t pay attention to the methodical rhythm of our own intentional steps.

I revisited the boat ramp on the way back into Anson County. I had forgotten to put my bouquet in water the night before and the beautiful flowers were starting to wilt. I thought it fitting to toast Emily and Jonathan in my own way by tossing my joys and well wishes for them into the water (I totally ignored the pollution part with my rose colored glasses). May we all be blessed with moments that I experience this weekend on my side trip adventures.