Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Still Standing

What do I have in common with this old house?

It may have chipped paint, falling chimneys, and some termite damage... however, after many years of abuse from the elements it is still standing.

Although I have not suffered for years like this old house, I have been a little under the weather for almost a year now with not much help from modern medicine. I feel a bit like my paint has been chipped away a little, however, Praise God, I am still standing!

"Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens." Psalm 68:19

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Back to School

Although technically it is still summer, I have always considered this time of year the beginning of fall. I think this line of thought dates back to my early school days. Beginning a new school year signified the official end of summer. Am I the only one who thinks that way?

We have officially started back to school in our household this week. Catie has started her senior year in the Early College program and Carson and I have started her seventh grade year here at home. I think it is going to take a while to get into the swing of things.

At least the temperatures have dropped a little and the evenings have become quite pleasant. We are once again enjoying our nightly ritual of porch sitting.

In honor of new beginnings, I thought I would share some pictures of the lovely apples that were at the farmer's market in Charlotte last weekend. Apples always seem to accompany the beginning of a school year, don't you think?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Cooking Class at the Mimosa Grill

If you have been following my blog for a while, you probably know that I am in a book club that meets monthly. We call ourselves the Magnolia Readers. Every month we chose a topic or genre and then we each select a different book on which to report. We also take turns hosting the meeting at our homes; however, whoever hosts can choose to do something different if she wishes.

Well, my friend, Lynn hosted the club this month and treated all of us to something extra special. The topic was cooking, and rather than hosting at her house, she took us to the big city of Charlotte to a cooking class presented by Zink American Kitchen. It was held at the beautiful Mimosa Grill in the downtown area. I was so excited. I love watching cooking shows, but I had never been to a class before.

After driving for over and hour and relying on a GPS for navigational assistance, we arrived at our destination, The Mimosa Grill. It is such a lovely establishment. We were greeted with drinks and had a little time to sit and relax before the class started.

The class featured produce from local farmer's markets, and each dish was prepared by a chef from Mimosa. They each shared great tips for preparation and information on where to find the best local ingredients. After each dish was demonstrated it was served to us by the waiters. Each of the four courses was paired with a wine that was discussed by another chef.

Everything was scrumptious! The meal lasted for several hours. I wish that every meal was served that way, instead of in the terrible American habit of eating hurriedly then rushing off to do something else. It reminded me of my trip to Europe and the meals that I enjoyed there.

The first course was Yorkmont Tomato and Peasant Bread Salad paired with Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc, from Marlborough, New Zealand. This featured local tomatoes, organic cucumbers, red onion, basil and goat cheese. It was named for the Yorkmont Farmer's Market located near the Charlotte/Douglas International Airport.

This dish was my favorite of all of the dishes. It also happened to be the easiest one to prepare. (I will share the recipe later on in the week.)

The second dish was North Carolina Shrimp and Corn Etoufee paired with Silver Ridge Pinot Noir from California. This dish was made with fresh North Carolina shrimp and craw fish from Louisanna. It definitely reminded me of my trip to the gulf coast many years ago. I love it when a dish evokes a distant memory. Isn't that part of what enjoying a meal should be about?

The etoufee looks yummy, doesn't it? The local produce featured in this dish was okra, heirloom tomatoes, sweet corn, and hot summer peppers.

I had my doubts about the next dish because I am not fond of turkey, but the American Turkey Melt proved that with the proper ingredients and techniques almost anything can become a gourmet dish. The smokey blue cheese, tomato, and crispy squash made this open-faced turkey burger special. It was paired with a very nice Ruta 22 Malbec from Patagonia, Argentina. I had never had a wine from Argentina before and enjoyed this one very much.

Plum Upside Down Cake with spiced gelato and spearmint simple syrup was served for dessert. I was especially glad to learn the proper technique for making a mint simple syrup. The trick to great taste is to remove it from the burner as soon as it comes to a boil. I think I would like to make some of this to keep in the fridge to add to tea. This dessert was paired with a sweet Gekkeikan Plum wine from Japan. I do not care for sweet wines at all so this was not my favorite pairing. I would much rather have a good cup of coffee with a sweet treat.

Of course, after this wonderful cooking and dining experience we were all stuffed. We decided to take a stroll down some of Charlotte's beautiful streets. If you ever get a chance to see this city, you should take it. There are fountains and beautiful artwork all around. Most people who come here are amazed by the abundance of trees. Charlotte probably has more trees than any other city of its size. That can be a problem when a storm with lots of wind blows through, but I think they add so much beauty to the cityscape.

I just had to throw in a picture of Mimosa's outdoor dining area. I love dining AL fresco, don't you? It seems that food just tastes better when enjoyed in the fresh air. I just wish this summer had not been so hot so that we could enjoy dining outside more often. Maybe the fall will bring better temperatures for that.

After a cooking school featuring local farmer's market produce, we had to visit the one on the square before our trip home. This seemed to be the perfect way to end the day. I took many more pictures of the produce at the market. I think I'll save those for a rainy day!

I would highly recommend a cooking experience like this one. If you love to cook or just love to eat, it is a fun thing to do. Thank you, Lynn, for giving us such a treat! The only negative at all is that next month it's my turn to host...whatever will I do?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

My Dream

I have always wondered what it would be like to own my own Bed-And-Breakfast. Recently, this beautiful old house went on the market. It is very close to mine. In fact, I could walk to it through the woods behind my house. It is one of the oldest houses in our area.

Wouldn't it make a wonderful little B&B?

Aren't the front windows gorgeous?

If money were no object I would buy it and make my dream of owning my own B&B a reality. Could you imagine spending some time at a lovely old home in the country? What if I told you it was haunted?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

New Beginnings

As summer is drawing to a close there are some things that are just beginning to happen. Children all over the country are getting ready to begin a new year of school. College kids are moving their things into dorm rooms and apartments; some for the first time. And parents, like myself, are getting ready to take on the challenges of balancing a multitude of activities.

My oldest daughter is in an early college program and takes college courses and high school course simultaneously. She started her college classes this week. Me and my youngest daughter will start her seventh grade homeschooling on August the twenty-fifth, when Catie's high school classes start. We ordered her books last week and are awaiting their arrival. There is something exciting about starting a new school year. I guess that is the educator in me!

I always pray for my children as they start a new year of school. I also pray for the teachers and school staff. I know many of you do the same. Are there any special preparations or traditions that you have for your family when starting something new?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Stopping By the Woods (Repost)

Now, I consider myself a "summer" person, however, it has been unusually hot here in North Carolina for most of the summer. The things that I enjoy about summer, like morning walks along the dewy paths and evenings spent on the front porch swing, have been next to impossible in this heat. Without these inspirational activities I seem to be experiencing writer's block. So, with that little confession out of the way, I thought I would repost one of my winter favorites. I think that I am hoping that reading this will somehow remind everyone that "this (hot weather) too shall come to pass." Enjoy! :)

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

John, Carson, and I went for a walk in the snowy woods this morning. I couldn't help but to recall one of my favorite Robert Frost poems. "Stopping By the Woods."
The snow was blowing off of the trees and glistening in the air like glitter. John said that it looked like glitter from angels' wings. I would have to agree with him.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Have You Heard of Bieber Fever?

If you have any girls in your household you have probably heard of Bieber Fever. For those of you who have not heard of it, let me tell you what it is. This is what a lot of young girls are coming down with these days. The symptoms are screaming, yelling, and fainting. They seem to worsen anytime Justin Bieber is in close range or on the televison or radio. Fortunately, my oldest daughter is a little too old to have it and my youngest daughter seems to be immune. She does however like his music a lot and she and a friend came up with a medley of his songs. I thought it was too cute not to share. Hope you enjoy! Happy Saturday!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Bald Head Island

Although I have been going to Oak Island for almost twenty-five years, I had never been to visit Bald Head Island, a neighboring island that is home to North Carolina's oldest lighthouse. Ever since I have taught fourth grade NC History I have wanted to go and see it. John and I decided that our week alone was the perfect time to explore the area.

We had to depart from Southport on a ferry to go over to the island. Once there the only ways of transportation are bikes, electric golf carts, and good old walking. I love the idea of a place that doesn't have a bunch of automobiles on the roads.

Those that have homes on the island have to ship their belongings on the ferry as well. I don't know what they do if the run out of supplies.

The marina has a beautiful building.

Once on the island, the views were wonderful. One can see the towns of Southport and Oak Island. You may notice the Oak Island Lighthouse in the distance. It is the newest lighthouse in North Carolina. Isn't it neat that this area can boast of the oldest and the newest NC lighthouses?

The other side of the island has some incredible views of the Atlantic Ocean.

Can you just imagine what early visitors to this island must have thought about it. Legend has it that the island used to have an area that looked like a bald head and that pirates used that as a way to give direction.

I couldn't resist showing off my butterfly picture. It was made while on the island. Can anyone identify it for me?

There was another lighthouse structure on the island that was made of metal. It has long since been torn down although the foundation still exists today.

Old Baldy, as it is called, was built in 1817 . We were told that it was made of soft brick and concrete.

Once inside there are one hundred and eighty steps that spiral through several levels. My contractor husband was a little skeptical about the safety of this staircase. He was a bit fearful of climbing to the top. I figured that if it has been standing this long then it must be pretty safe.

Fortunately there were several landings for us to stop and catch our breath. There were even a couple of windows that gave a glimpse of the view waiting at the top.

On the last level, we had to climb a ladder through a small opening in the floor. The view from the top was amazing.

The three hundred sixty degree view of the island was worth the climb.

You could see everything from the top from the marina to the marsh.

Much of the island is a maritime forest with lots of trees. It was just beautiful.

It was a really hot and humid day so the temperature at the top was almost one hundred degrees. Sweat was running down our faces and backs.

Needless to say, we didn't stay at the top very long. With the unbearable heat and John's uncertainty of the construction of the stairs and platforms, we made our visit very short.

I am just amazed at the age and beauty of this lighthouse.

I would love to visit all of the other lighthouses in North Carolina. Maybe we will take a trip to the outer banks to do just that.

Of course after all of that climbing, we were very hungry. Fortunately the island has several restaurants. We ate at one called Eb and Flo's. Don't you just love that catchy name? John had steamed mussels and I had my favorite, crab cakes. It was all yummy. We finished up the day by returning to our own island and spent the evening on the beach with friends. A day doesn't get much more perfect than that.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Beautiful Southport, NC

If someone told me that I had to choose another town in North Carolina in which to live, I think it would have to be Southport. This is a lovely little town south of Wilmington, situated on the banks of the Cape Fear River where the river meets the Atlantic Ocean. The streets are lined with beautiful Live Oak trees, historical houses, and wonderful shops.

Each trip to the coast has to include a day of meandering the streets of this quaint town. This trip was no exception. After getting the group settled into camp last week, one of our first excursions was to Southport. John and I enjoy walking the streets and admiring the beautiful homes.

We even found several that were for sale. This one would be perfect, don't you think?

This is one of my favorites. It is a good thing that it is not for sale.

The Christmas House is one of our favorite shopping stops. Of course you can tell by the name that it houses many Christmas items (among other things) for sale. Notice all of the flag buntings. This town has a Fourth of July parade and celebration that is one of the most patriotic events I have ever attended.

My girls used to love to visit this little shop, Bullfrog Corner. I have never seen so many toys, candy, books, and kids things in one place before. When they were little every trip to Southport included a purchase here.

Southport Antiques is one of several great antique stores in the town. Although I did not purchase anything on this trip, I do have quite a few items in my home that were purchased here and in some of the other stores around town.

I really would love to have this beautiful dough bowl but my pocketbook just wouldn't allow it. Maybe next time!

Southport even has its own bed-and-breakfast. I have never stayed here since our beach home is only fifteen minutes away, but I have seen it featured on a television show and it looks really nice.

The town has its own waterfront park with a pier, picnic tables, and benches overlooking the Cape Fear River.

From the park I could get a great picture of Camp Caswell across the water.

After all of this walking around and shopping, John and I were starving. We made a stop at one of our favorite restaurants, the Yacht Basin Provision Co. From the outside it looks like a bait and tackle shop, but it is really a great place for fresh seafood. You order at the counter then serve yourself drinks from the beverage cooler. Your food is then brought to your table outside where you dine overlooking the water. We ordered the special (we always do) crab cakes and peel and eat shrimp with a great cucumber and tomato salad. I would have taken a picture for you, but I think John was getting tired of the camera. I know that all of my fellow bloggers can relate to this.

Are you ready to visit Southport yet? I would highly recommend it! The charm of this southern coastal town would certainly make it worth your while.

Monday, August 2, 2010

I'm Back!

It's back to reality for me today. After spending a wonderful week with John while the girls were at Camp Caswell, I have a pile of dirty laundry to wash and some wonderful memories to share. I hope to spend the next few days blogging about the beauty of the southern most part of the North Carolina coast. As most of you know this area has captured my heart and soul. With the girls busy having fun at camp just minutes away from our vacation home, John and I were able to explore some areas that we have never visited before. I am looking forward to sharing a more detailed post later in the week. However, for now the laundry is calling my name so I'll just show a couple of photos of things to come.

I'll certainly have to post about our wonderful youth group and their trip to camp. Remind me to tell you about the stomach virus of epidemic proportions that plagued our group.

I'll most definitely post about our ferry trip over to Bald Head Island to visit the oldest lighthouse in North Carolina.

I'll also tell you about the town of Southport, North Carolina. This is one of the most beautiful towns in the state. I think I would like to spend my retirement years there.

I've got lots to do and I really want to catch up on everyone's blogs, so this will have to do for now. Happy Monday to you all.