Inspiration from working at the Wildberry 17 Jan 2017, 6:17 am
Working at the Wildberry has changed my life. It has changed the way I view the world and the way in which I view myself. The tasks of the job itself held no transformational power. The people I have had the privilege to meet and get to know, however, have had a deep impact.
I consider it to be a great honor to be able to listen to and learn from people from all walks of life that hang their hats in different corners of our world. I’ve met artists, surgeons, astronauts and story-tellers; cancer survivors and vets. People with brilliant minds and hearts filled with so much kindness in them that they seem superhuman. People that have gone through hell and back and are brave enough to share their story with us with grace and humility. When I say honor, I truly mean it.
One woman that stands out to me, above all others, happens to be my boss, Glenda. She is beyond inspiring, filled with grit and passion and a healthy dose of sarcasm. She has worked painstakingly hard to get to where she is today and she never gave up. Glenda went back to college a little later in life and obtained her degree as a chemical engineer. A chemical engineer! How cool is that? Of course being a super brainy woman climbing the ladder within a man’s world wasn’t good enough, she also wanted to start her own business and be her own boss.
Glenda and Ken’s dream of opening a bed and breakfast was a long time in the making. The persistence of the dream alone is impressive enough, let alone the fact that when they finally made their dream come true they had the backbone and stamina to keep their day jobs while running a brand new home business, which is a 24/7 job. It never ends. And they are still doing it. They are freaks of nature! F R E A K S.
Watching people rise in spite of all the horrendous curve balls that life throws their way and still manage to smile and thrive and love is truly amazing. Thank you for all the inspiration, Glenda! My hat is off to you.
For the love of whiskey 10 Jan 2017, 9:23 am
Alcohol seems to serve as the ultimate axiom for our worlds literary greats. William Faulkner, Earnest Hemingway, Mark Twain, James Joyce and Edgar Allan Poe all reveled, quite publicly, about their sheer delight and immense appreciation for the various whiskeys (or whiskys depending on the poison and geographic locale).
When one considers that it is not what we think but how we think that springs forth ingenuity, progress and creativity it is no wonder that alcohol is the life blood of writers. Spirits slither into the chambers of our mind with the potential for tremendous imaginative expansion. They also dampen our tendency to be highly critical of ourselves, freeing our minds to roam however they please.
So here’s to whiskey; for the magnificent, insightful and witty influence it has had on our novelists, poets, playwrights and great thinkers of our time!
Often people are confused as to the difference between bourbon, scotch and rye. Many people think that whiskey holds its own as a specific drink when in reality whiskey serves at a category for more distinct spirits with slight variations. Bourbon, scotch, rye and Irish whisky all fall under the whiskey branch. Allow me to shed some light on these liquid sunshines.
All whiskeys are made from fermented grain mash and that mash determines what kind of whiskey you enjoy. Other than that the only major differentiation that can be made is based on geography. For instance, scotch can only be called a scotch if it was made and bottled in Scotland. Bourbon is strictly American. Irish whisky is from Ireland. You get the idea.
Bourbon- can only be called such with a grain mash that is at least 51% corn. You have two main types of bourbon; blended and straight. If you are interested in the purity of the distillation process then always opt for “straight” bourbon as they have laws banning additives. Straight bourbons are also required to age for no less than 2 years in new charred oak barrels. Blended bourbon can have added synthetic or natural colouring and flavoring to the final product. They also have no minimum aging period.
Scotch- is a whisky made from a fermented grain mash that consists of malted barley. Scotch must be aged for no less than 3 years regardless of whether or not the scotch is single malt or blended. Caramel colouring is allowed but no fermentation additives are. Single malt scotch is considered to be the prime choice since it uses only three ingredients; barley, water and yeast. Scotch, unlike bourbon, is more commonly consumed as is, or “neat”. There is a noticeable smokiness to the taste and aroma of scotch that makes it a little tricky to use in mixed drinks.
Rye- is a grass in the wheat tribe and closely related to barley. Rye is usually synonymous with Canadian Rye but there is also an American Rye and the differences are actually pretty great. Canadian rye has an aging minimum of 3 years but has no regulation as to how much rye is required in the mash to be called a rye whiskey. In fact, in the majority of Canadian rye batches you find have little to none rye as Canadians have some of the most relaxed laws on quality control for whiskey. There are a few brands that produce 100% rye whiskey though, one of the most popular being Alberta Premium. American rye consists of a grain mash of at least 51% rye with a two year minimum aging process.
Irish whisky- is made and aged in the Republic of Ireland with a minimum 3 year aging process. Pretty much any grain mash variants are green-lighted which makes for a rather large adaption in the flavor profiles. Irish whiskey, like Canadian rye, has the most relaxed laws in whiskey production.
Tennessee whiskey- has to be made and bottled in Tennessee and with only one exception is identical to bourbon. Legally, it can be labeled as straight bourbon but the Tennessee distillers use a process called the Lincoln County Process that sets them apart from all the other whiskeys around. The Lincoln County Process is a filtration process that is performed before the distillation process begins. It utilizes thick maple charcoal to filter the water claiming that it not only enhances the end result flavor but also improves the quality of the water being used.
Winter Lights Show at the Arboretum 1 Jan 2017, 6:18 am
I can’t tell you the joy it brought to my heart to bring my family to the Winter Lights show this year. We wanted to give ourselves and our son a special treat on Christmas Eve. It was rather warm this year for the holidays, so no snowy white Christmas morning for us. What better way to bring in more yuletide spirit than to spend an evening walking through a wonderland of beautiful lights with the ones you love?
The Winter Lights show is held at the Asheville Arboretum
and has had immense success in the three years since it began. They
brought in the best of the best to bring us the perfect holiday
aesthetics. Walt Disney World worked with Jerry Stripling who was
their designer and event coordinator for many years and the NC
m had the outstanding idea to gobble up his expertise for the design and execution of the Winter Lights show. You can definitely expect that “wow” factor with someone who has his hands in creating the look of Disney World!
I was already floored before I entered the front door. Just the drive through the property and into the parking lot made my jaw drop and my belly get all giddy with excitement, with all the Kentucky Coffee trees perched up on little hills dividing the lots, beaming with purples, greens, blues and oranges.
The event is held as a nightly walk throughout three acres of beautifully illuminated gardens. When you enter the gardens you walk up to the “Cocoa Shack” where you can get delicious hot cocoas topped with whipped cream or artisanal marshmallows. The marshmallows were pretty big and they had two flavors; original and peppermint. You can also choose from hot cider or beer as well as assorted cookies, local chocolates and gingerbread men for snacking.
Although I thought walking around with hot cocoa in hand was an exquisite topping to the Winter Lights experience, I have to say that it was the roasting of the smores over an open fire that put me head over heels in love with this event. Placed throughout the property were little brick enclosed fire pits where you could have a seat, warm up and roast marshmallows. It was beyond adorable.
Need to know:
The event is held from November 18th to January 1st
Hours of operation are from 6pm to 10pm
Most people opt for the self-guided tours but personal tours are available upon request such as the 3-D light tour that takes you through the gardens with 3-D glasses.
Tickets are sold on-line and are date specific, so you must reserve your spot in advance. Usually a day in advance is plenty of time.
Tickets prices are as follows:
12 years and older- $18
Ages 5 to 11 – $16
Ages 4 and under are FREE
Vortex Donuts 26 Dec 2016, 11:35 am
Thank the heavens for the time and love that went into perfecting the conception of the doughnut. That pillowy marriage of yeast and flour, kissed with sugar, leaves a dazed and glazed expression on my face.
Admittedly, I am not a huge donut fan. I rarely eat them, and when I do I head down to Krispy Kreme to pig out. The subsequent tummy ache prevents another binge for a good 6 months to a year; however, recently those pesky confectionary cravings came creeping up again. This cold and rainy weather that we are having practically begs for donuts and hot wholesome coffee.
Instead of trotting down to the usual Krispy I decided to try something different so I headed to Vortex Donuts in downtown Asheville for some gourmet gorging. The inside of the building is open and spacious and has that quintessential hipster look to it but their mission statement and approach to making donuts in a healthful and low impact manner are a serious win.
They have a large focus on local and bio-regional ingredients for their recipes. North Carolina flour and milk are used as well as Asheville-made eggs, chocolate, sodas and kombucha. The donuts have no tans-fat and are free of fillers, preservatives and sketchy hard to pronounce ingredients. So you can rest assured that your donuts are of the highest and most healthful quality at Vortex.
I picked the apple fritter, salted caramel, chocolate covered Danish cream filled and one with bacon. I don’t remember what the donut was called. I only remember bacon. Because, you know, bacon.
They were great donuts. The ones I chose were labeled as “yeast” while others were labeled as “cake”. I prefer yeasty soft donuts. Donuts that smoosh between your fingers with the slightest bit of pressure. These seemed to be a 50/50 of yeast and cake but labeled as yeast. So if you are set on that delightfully airy and light texture like I am then perhaps you might not be as enthusiastic. No matter what your preference though, these donuts are beyond a doubt worth a try.
Vortex is located at 32 Banks Avenue #106, Asheville, NC 28801 and are open every day from 7AM to 5PM.
Our hearts go out to Gatlinbug 20 Dec 2016, 7:24 am
I want to take a moment here to express how deeply saddened we are for those affected by the Gatlinburg area fires. This tragedy struck with little to no warning and lives were lost. Our hearts go out to all those who were impacted by this catastrophe.
The fires were pushed over from Chimney Top Trail in the Great Smokey Mountains at a frightening pace. The fires were fueled by 90 mph winds where within 15 minutes the entire area was engulfed in flames. Quite frankly, the pictures are so devastating and numbing to see that I am choosing not to post them on this blog.
People are still missing and as of today the death count reached 14. Nearly 200 people have been hospitalized with fire related injuries but all are in stable condition. Over 2,400 homes and businesses have been destroyed or damaged. These people have lost everything but the clothes on their backs.
How can we help?
- Tennessee’s Helping Hearts are taking donations for first responders. They are excepting towls, dog food, dishes, baby supplies, clothes and monetary donations. You can visit their website at www.tnhelpinghearts.us for more information.
- If you are interested in assisting those in the recovery efforts you can contact www.volunteerETN.org for more information.
- Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) has a call center for information about donating goods and helping to volunteer to aid the victims. The call center is staffed from 8 AM to 8 PM and you can reach them at 866-586-4483
- Publix Supermarkets throughout Tennessee have added a program where you can donate any dollar amount, adding it to your total bill at the time of your check out.
Goods needed include:
Personal hygiene products, diapers, baby foods and formula, flash lights, clothes, blankets, jackets, bottled water, canned and package foodstuffs and over-the-counter medications and basic first aid supplies.
Dolly Parton of the Dollywood Foundation has also announced that her foundation will be donating $1,000 a month to every family that lost a permanent residence until they can get back up on their feet again.
My family has personally made a donation and will be sending boxes of winter clothes and baby clothes for those who need it. Anything you can spare will go a long way to helping these families. Our thoughts and prayers are with them all.
Update: This was posted a couple of weeks ago but due to technical difficulties there was a delay. Although this news is no longer making headlines quite as much as it was the people still need our help.
Written by Kate Randall
Run, run, as fast as you can. You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man! 13 Dec 2016, 9:26 am
“Run, run, as fast as you can,
You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man!”
Nothing quite epitomizes the holidays like a colorful and tasty gingerbread house. This year I am following the trail of bread crumbs all the way to the Grove Park Inn where the 24th Annual National Gingerbread House Competition is being held. I like to grab a hot cocoa with my son and spend an evening leisurely admiring (and drooling over) the sweetest artwork ever. Viewing is held from November 27th to January 5th.
Gingerbread marks its humble beginnings with just that, ginger. The tradition of adding ginger to bread dates back to ancient Greece and Egypt. Originally the ginger was added as a rather effective means to preserve breads.
It evolved over the years with the addition of spices like cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Gingerbreads held religious connotations as they were made primarily by monks and nuns until the 13th century, most commonly by the French at that time.
Fast forward to Germany in 1812 when the Brothers Grimm published ‘Hansel und Gretel’, the lovely (and slightly creepy) fairy-tale about two sibling children getting lost in the deep dark wood where they stumbled upon a house made of cake and confections that was occupied by a cannibalistic witch. If you have not read this delicious fable, fear not, Hansel and Gretel outwit the old hag and live to see another day.
This epic tale sparked the inspiration of what we know today as the gingerbread house, or lebkuchenhaus in German. That’s right; the time honored tradition of crafting gingerbread houses for the holidays has its roots firmly embedded in the abduction of and attempted anthropophagy of children. Cozy, ain’t it?
German immigrants that made new homes in Pennsylvania and Maryland kept this tradition alive and thriving. The gingerbread making traditions also transformed into making gingerbread snaps as Christmas tree decorations. Oh and guess who gave us the idea to decorate our yuletide evergreens in the first place? Yes, the Germans. Thank you, Deutschland!
What did the ginger-man put on his bed?
– A cookie sheet!
Holiday shopping in Asheville 29 Nov 2016, 6:23 am
Getting into the spirit of gift giving is seamless when shopping in Asheville. We are a wonderland for the present seekers and bringer of good tidings. To help you have the best experience our mountain town has to offer I have highlighted 4 of the best shopping destinations in Asheville. Whether you made it onto the naughty or nice list, we have something for everyone.
The historic Grove Arcade is a magical place to spend your time doing holiday shopping. The beautiful building is decked out with lights, poinsettias, and snowy Christmas trees shining brightly on winding wrought iron staircases draped in garland.
Winter Wonderland festivities kick start on November 18th and last through January 4th. They open with quite the bang too. Deck the Halls Lighting Celebration is from 5-8 and the Asheville Symphony Chorus is there to carol for you beginning at 6 pm. They make this a fun venture out a great option for families too with ornament decorating for kids, story time, pictures with ole Santa Clause and free servings of cookies and warm cider.
Located right outside and wrapping around the arcade is the bustling Portico Market, offering more eclectic gifts and locally crafted goods.
Santa visits are held every Sunday from 1-5 until Christmas.
This charming little area is definitely for the architectural aficionados! The Biltmore Village is said to have been built to capture the look and feel of a rural England village or French hamlet. The streets are lined with maples, ginkgo and poplar trees as you stroll along brick sidewalks.
From traditional to peculiar, this area is bound to please the tastes of just about everyone with it’s over 40 shops to visit. The cottages have been turned into store fronts and studios that host house ware products, naturalist goods, furniture, books, clothing for men, women and children of all ages as well as galleries for jewelry and art admirers. The streets are also lined with tasty restaurants and bakeries such as the Well-Bred Café which I highly recommend.
Extolling the abundantly quirky virtues of downtown Asheville never get old. What I love about shopping in the heart of Asheville is that it feels like an experience; an experience that you can fine tune to your liking in such an exciting variety of ways. Your downtown experience not only includes the Grove Arcade but also over 200 locally-owned and operated shops, boutiques and antique emporiums.
Buskers and entertainers on the street corners are ready to serenade you or humor you with their talent. On every street you’ll find a variety of restaurants that appeal to a variety of tastes buds such as French, Greek, Middle Eastern, Thai, German, Spanish and so much more! When you get tired from walking head into one of our many pubs and maybe even catch a jam session to enjoy. Maybe you’ll even get to see our famed bicycling nun that rides around Asheville.
Asheville Outlets opened up in 2015 and was designed to be an open-air village for shopping and hosts 70+ of our nation’s top retailers. It is beautifully designed with plenty of sunlight, waterfall fixtures and awnings for rainy weather; all providing more of a relaxed shopping experience. The food court is located indoors for when you get a bit hungry but there are also options right outside of the mall. After you are done shopping you can even head right down the street to an entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway for a scenic drive and hike.
Written by Kate Randall
Three cheers for Asheville beer! 22 Nov 2016, 6:02 am
This ones for the beer enthusiasts.
I remember the good ole days when PBR and Bud Weiser were perfectly fine choices for beer. I was young, so young, and knew nothing about the glorious world of craft brews. I have come a long way from the Coors Light slinging 21 year old I used to be. I credit this transition entirely to Asheville, who single handedly opened up my eyes and my ever so grateful taste buds to the true craftsmanship that goes into brewing our fermented friends.
Our beers flow and pour about as continuously as our mountain springs do. Asheville has a near endless reel of winning Beer City USA since 2009 and the whole country has taken notice. When we throw pubs like the Thirsty Monk into the mix, the world beings to take notice too.
So what makes Asheville such a leader in brew land? Why do people come from all over to experience “beercations” here? How does our little mountain town stand up next to such big cities like Portland, Oregon for recognition?
At first, I thought it was mostly about our community. Asheville is a tight nit group of folks. We love to support our farmers and small scale growers, our talented DIY friends that make soft and colourful scarves and create nourishing home-made lotions to pamper ourselves with, our small businesses, musicians, herbalists and definitely our brewers.
I think our grassroots movement and dedication in supporting our friends and friends of friends is at the core of our flourishing beer scene. Now besides the obvious fact that we take brewing very seriously here in Asheville and strive to brew excellence at all times, a really great point was made that “ashevillians” are the new guys on the scene.
We are the excited kids with huge dreams and endless possibilities just pouring into our craft. We are not doing the same old thing. Tradition is here and will always have its place but our beers have been elevated by ramped up and creative minds wanting to birth something different. Beers that stand tall and stand out.
I’ve had beer with rosemary, beer crafted with jalapenos (yes, it was delightfully spicy), dandelion beer and beer brewed with the kick of smoked chipotle chili peppers. I loved them all. Especially the Rosemary infused beer!
With the arrival of winter chilling our bones one of the most sure ways to add heat to your hearth is to cozy up to a nice beer. With this in mind I’ll be taking you to some of the best spots in Asheville this winter that have some of the greatest; and in some cases most renowned beers around. Stay tuned.
A look into the Appalachian wildfires 18 Nov 2016, 6:14 am
The wildfires currently raging across the southern Appalachia have much of the public unnerved and worried for our forests and national parks. I am certainly one of those people as the facts are quite disheartening.
This crisis is extremely difficult to manage due to the drought-like conditions afflicting the southern states. Thus far, we have six states burning and North Carolina is the hardest hit out of all of them. With over 130,000 acres burning, 50,000 of those acres are from WNC. To put the enormity of the collective fires into perspective, 130,000 acres is 9 times the size of Manhattan. For the sports enthusiasts, it is the equivalent to 97,000 footballs fields. Don’t worry about picking your jaw up off the ground; mines still there too.
Big thanks go out to the 5,000+ fire fighters that have shown up to battle these wildfires, working around the clock in extremely dangerous conditions. Another big thanks go out to all the health care providers giving aid to the 200+ peoples that have been hospitalized due to breathing difficulties.
Air quality issues have been set for the Charlotte area with a code red designation as their air quality is comparable to Beijing, China (never a good thing). On average we breathe in 100 particles per breath on a good day and the Charlotte area is currently breathing in 1000 particles per breath. For frame of reference, Beijing, China’s daily measurements are steady at 1500.
When confronted with depressing news, I search fiercely for the silver lining. I know, I know. How can something positive come out of 130,000 acres of beautiful forest land burning? As it turns out, forest fires can be quite healthy, hence why some of you may be familiar with the term “controlled burns” that occur in various national forests and protected lands.
Granted, these fires are not in control but I am choosing to look at the positive outcomes from this misfortune. For instance, the fire clears out dead and decaying plant matter as well as invasive weeds that may be choking out other species. Thinning out the green density allows for more sunlight and rain water to reach the plants which creates a favorable opportunity for new seedlings to sprout and flourish. The burning of the forest also creates ash. Ash restores nutrients to the soil thereby enriching the earth and making it much more fertile for future growth.
There there, did my silver lining make you feel better? No? Honestly, it didn’t make me feel any better either, but hey, at least I tried.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to perform a rain dance!
Written by Kate Randall
Blue Ridge Babushka 15 Nov 2016, 5:17 am
The Blue Ridge Mountains are home to some of the richest temperate deciduous forests in the world. We credit this honor in large part to the last Ice Age. During the last Ice Age, thousands and thousands of plants and animal species moved to the Southern Appalachians because ice did not cover our mountains the way they did in the Northern Appalachians. They faced a near certain extinction without this refuge.
After the Ice Age, some species traveled back north but many species stayed, giving us the high biodiversity we see still thriving today.
I have a nickname for our portion of the Appalachians. I call her the Blue Ridge Babushka. Why? Well, because she is old. The Appalachians are the oldest mountain range in the world. Of course this is contested by some people but the vast majority of scientific consensus states that we are in fact the most ancient mountains in existence today. They formed during the collision of the plates in the Ordovician Period about 480 million years ago. Impressive, eh?
Scientists also found crystalline rocks in our region that were dated up to 1.1 billion years old! The pressure and heat necessary to create crystalline rocks would have annihilated any and all primitive life forms in the area at that time. The time period I am referring to is called the Precambrian Age. The Blue Ridge Babushka, indeed.
A bit of fun trivia is that we are one of only two temperate rain forests in America. Yes, you read that right. Rainforest. The extra rain creates an exciting variety of flora and blankets our woodlands in purifying soft mosses. A forest rich in mosses, lichens and ferns are an outstanding indication of good air quality as they quite literally filter and purify our air. So if you find yourself amidst our greenery, breathe deeply, it’s good for you.
The Appalachian temperate rainforest includes the Nantahala National Forest, Cherokee National Forest and the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. So the next time you find yourself in one of our great national parks, take a moment to appreciate the fact that you are standing in a rainforest.
Both temperate and tropical rainforests are crucial to our earth’s climate. They literally stabilize it by helping to regulate the earth’s temperature and weather patterns. They are precious. Unfortunately, 55% of our rainforests have been destroyed due to deforestation which is 100% human driven. Farming, logging, mining, building of dams and plantations are all huge contributing factors.
I moved here to Leicester for many reasons but most importantly it is because these mountains feel like home to me. They are also the literal home the hundreds of thousands of species just like in every other habitat that is threatened around the world.
What can we do?
- We can support companies that operate in a way that minimizes damage to the environment.
- Establish parks to protect our forests and rainforests.
- Purchase foods grown in a sustainable way. (Vote with your dollars)
- Teach others about the importance of our forests.
- Reach out to your state legislators and let them know how you feel.
- Learn about conservation issues within your own community and start there.
- Volunteer at conservation projects, join a conservation organization.
For more information you can follow the links provided below which will give you wonderful ideas on how to lower your impact on this world we all share.
Written by Kate Randall