Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Cataloochie

The other thing we did on our Asheville weekend was head into the mountains for a little hike. We chose Cataloochie, on the eastern side of the Smokies. Getting there involved crossing over the mountain on an unpaved and exceedingly narrow road with tight turns, steep drop-offs, and poor visibility. After I gasped one too many times as a car came around the curve toward us, my fiancé (actually he wasn't that until later that day), said, "Close your eyes and go to a happy place. Sing Abba or something." Then he laughed as I covered my eyes and started quietly singing, "There was something in the air that night, the stars were bright, Fernando..."
It was overcast and intermittently rainy that morning but we walked anyway. Part of our hike took us along the creek. I can see why pioneers would want to settle in this valley. Apparently, they were on friendly terms with the Native Americans here.
In one clearing was this schoolhouse built in 1907, because the population had outgrown the original school. I read that the community had petitioned for funds for a larger school but were denied. The story is that the two founders of the settlement split a bottle of whiskey, moved the furniture out, and then burned the place to the ground. They re-petitioned with the claim that their school had burned down and were given the funds.
It seems to me like it would be difficult to be the teacher at an all-ages one-room school. How do you keep that many lessons going?
 We took a steep path up into the woods to find an old cemetery.
As with most old pioneer cemeteries in the Smoky Mountains, there were plenty of graves for babies and children.
There was something interesting about this lamb-topped baby's gravestone in the shadow of such an enormous tree. Puts time in perspective.
The stone for this woman noted that "She was a kind and affectionate wife, a fond mother, and a friend to all."
Back down to the lower part of the valley, we crossed this cool bridge. The rhododendrons were in full bloom.
I didn't get a photo of the house, which was a sprawling two-story place with multiple fireplaces and lots of rooms. It was built right at the end of the 1800's. The house even had closets in most rooms.
 I loved the worn planks of the staircase up to the second floor.
Some of the upper rooms were wall-papered with old newspaper. I don't know if there was wall paper over that. A silk dress for $9.95!
Across the creek was a barn built in 1923. I also read that 95% of the households made their own moonshine.
The only sign of the elk that live in this valley we saw was hoof prints. But it was beautiful and we were happy just to be out in the mountains.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Asheville walks

While we were staying in Asheville a few weeks ago, we took a couple of walks around the neighborhood where the B&B was located. In some places, the roots have pushed up the bricks in the sidewalks.
I'm not sure what's going on with the squirrels we saw. They looked like a standard gray squirrel but with wispy reddish tails.
 I liked this pair of cement cows sitting in someone's garden.
Our last morning, we went for a walk along the paved path down by a creek. I didn't get a photo but we ran into a man who was walking a dog he claimed to be a cross between a Siberian husky and a Chihuahua. I don't even want to think about the mechanics of that. But what it looked like was a miniature husky with stubby legs.
I had to look this up - it's a red milkweed beetle, feasting on a milkweed plant. I've planted some swamp milkweed in my own garden to attract monarchs.
The path took us down by a pond loaded with lotuses. Many of the leaves had a single drop in the center.
Eventually we got to the botanical gardens and walked a wooded trail there. It took us to this old cabin that had been relocated on to this property.
The gardens are all native plants. And native bees, of course. Look at all the pollen loaded on its back legs!
Turk's cap lily. If I lived in that neighborhood, I think my regular walking route would definitley include the botanical gardens.
 

Monday, July 20, 2015

By request...

Since I was asked, I am posting the engagement photo. Usually I protect the identity of people in my life, although occasionally photos of myself and my kids have appeared here. But I got the go-ahead, so for the curious, here's the photo taken right after we got engaged by one of the women we met at the Inn:

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Maybe I should just make up a more exciting story.

I think I've delayed in part because I don't have an intriguing story to tell about the engagement. The weekend of the 4th, we both had the day off on Friday and headed out in the morning through the mountains for a romantic weekend getaway in North Carolina.
Our destination was this Asheville bed and breakfast inn. We were up on the second floor, in the room that opens onto that balcony. Before check-in, we went downtown to have lunch on the patio of a vegetarian restaurant, the Laughing Seed, which has its own brewery. We spent some time walking around the city and stocked up on really nice chocolate truffles.
The Inn was located in an old neighborhood and that evening, we walked down to a near-by Caribbean restaurant called 9 Mile. We sat at one of the outdoor tables and had some fantastic seafood.
After a morning hike, much of it in a light rain, we returned to the downtown area for lunch. We ate outside again, watching a guy dressed like a nun riding his bicycle around and some street muscians playing across the street.
Our B&B host had recommended Isa's Bistro, where I had local trout, green beans and fingerling potatoes and a cold IPA. The skies opened up just as we finished lunch, so we went to sit at the bar and split a bourbon while we waited out the storm. We talked about the future, making plans for travel and joining our lives.
Because we're grown-ups, with children and two households. So this wasn't one of those "Oh my God, who knew we'd ever get engaged?!" sorts of things. We went back to our room to dress for the afternoon wine the Inn provided. (See the creepy dolls on the mantle? I stashed those in our closet right after I took this picture. I'm not a fan of dolls - too close to clowns for my taste.) We sat on the bed for a while, talking, and then when it was clear we were fully on the same page, he asked me to marry him. No surprises, just a deep growing certainty that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. Afterwards, we went downstairs to have a glass of wine and asked another couple staying there to take our picture. We'd spent the previous day's wine hour chatting with the two women, and when we told them we'd just gotten engaged, both teared up a little at our news.
We had dinner reservations that night at 8:15, at the ridiculously crowded tapas restaurant, Zambra's. But we couldn't wait, so we showed up an hour or so early and explained that we'd just gotten engaged and wanted to celebrate. The host found us a corner table and brought champagne on the house.
And then back to the hotel, where we had more champagne and truffles waiting. There were 4th of July fireworks going outside, in spite of the weather, and we took advantage of the privacy of our now-dark balcony to dance naked in the rain. Something I recommend to everyone. And that's our story. It was back to real life the next morning, to tell our kids and good friends and family.
Yesterday morning, my older son and his girlfriend visited so they could meet their future stepsisters. It was relaxed and easy, as the relationship has been from the beginning. Later, when I was hanging out with my kids, my older son said, "You seem to be doing really well, Mom. I'm glad to see you so happy." And you know, for a long time I wasn't sure this was a step I'd ever even want to take again. Now I can't imagine anything else.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

How about this?

I've written before about my distaste for the terms "boyfriend" and "girlfriend" for those of us well into adulthood. But what's the alternative? "Partner" sounds like you are trying to specify a same-sex pair. Which is fine, but not true in my case. Besides, it's awfully business-like. "Lover" is TMI. "Significant other" is very academic. "Beau" is kind of sweet and old-fashioned but I can't say it with a straight face. "Honey" or "Sweetie" are cringe-inducing. "Bae" and the like are just ridiculous. "Beloved" makes me think of gravestones. "Better half" implies that you are not a whole person on your own. "Friend" or worse, "good friend" practically beg for the use of air quotes. So in spite of myself, I've been sticking with the somewhat juvenile "boyfriend." But I'm retiring that as of yesterday. How does "fiancé" sound?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Back to the fun.

Thankfully, I don't worry about the squirrels all that much. Because I'm doing things like this - going for a bike ride with my boyfriend and his daughters. The younger one recently learned to ride without the training wheels and called so we could witness her accomplishment via facetime. I was tickled that she first made sure I was there to watch, too.
We've gone to the dog festival, met for Italian ices, and done the dinner and a movie thing at their house. I watched Jurassic Park with an 8-old-wrapped around me, and held my hand over her eyes during the gory parts.
We've also done some meals at home with my younger son. I have a few bottles of this wine and on the last one, I'd written my boyfriend's name under the mugshot. I handed this bottle and a sharpie to my son and he giggled as he altered the prisoner on the label to look like Hitler.
Which may have given the wine some bad juju because when my boyfriend used my signature ninja knife trick on the capsule around the neck, he managed to slice clean through the bottle AND into his thumb.
And we go out kidless, too, of course. The local nature park, for instance, has a monthly beer garden/pizza event. Local brews and pizza cooked in a mobile oven.
And on another night we had a beer on the patio over looking the square before getting dinner and then a drink at the little speakeasy club. I really like the downtown area - it's nice enough to be outside much of the year. In fact, on our first date at the beginning of January we were able to eat lunch outside. I'm looking forward to recreating that date next January.