Saturday, December 21, 2013

Garden Update

In December?  Oh yeah--just because I can!  Of course, being in the depths of winter, it's a pretty brief update.

Well, there are the parsnips hanging out in the far right corner, and in the background, our wildly re-seeded parsley just keeps coming back, even after several hard freezes.  But along the edges of the bed, next year's crop is already sprouting up through the leafy mulch.

Yep, my garlic is coming up!

I have one soft-neck and two hard-neck varieties (I don't know any of their names).  One of the hard-neck types came up a full week after the other two were already peeking at the sun.  I'll be interested to see how they grow, mature and develop bulbs.  But it will be another six months before I get to dig them up and see how they did.

In the meantime, Miss Chef is on break for four whole weeks!  Normally that would have been a troublesome prospect, as part-time employees don't get paid when classes are out.  However, Miss Chef has recently been offered a full-time position, so she can focus wholeheartedly on this winter's projects.

There were several batches of sausage to be mixed, ground, and vacuum-sealed (hat tip to Mom and Dad for their gift of a Food Saver several years back--we're using it!)

And the shower needs some new grout and caulking.

Since I was at work, McKenna stepped in to assist.  Isn't she sweet?

Miss Chef has plenty of other plans, but for the moment we are both ready for a little bit of down time.  Hope you all get a chance to rest and reflect as this year draws to a close.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Christmas Tree Part 2 / Cooking with Joe

When last I left you, we had just managed to get our Christmas tree upright in the living room.  It stood there, naked and confused, for over a week.  The plan was to leave it that way until the next weekend, to give McKenna a chance to get bored with it, before going ahead and making things oh so much more interesting.

It wasn’t until Tuesday night, however, that we were able to coordinate ourselves and get some lights and decorations on the dang thing.  We started with McKenna locked in the bedroom.  My theory was that she was less likely to go after the ornaments if she didn’t see us fussing with them.  However, at some point I needed to get into the bedroom to fetch the stepladder, so out she came early to meet the (partially) decorated tree.


As she came around the corner and spotted the sparkling tree, she came to a complete halt.  Even her tail was still for several seconds.  Then she proceeded to calmly inspect every box of decorations scattered around the living room.

Eventually, she found her way to the tabletop, jumping up next to our feet as we were reaching up to the highest branches.  Yes, the two of us and the six-foot tree were all supported by that sturdy table.  Oh, and the cat, too, but only for a few seconds, as she had to make way for our feet, and there wasn’t a whole lot of room to maneuver.

McKenna was content to explore the boxes and baubles as we added ornaments to the lower branches.  Her experience with our feet probably kept her a little wary of returning to the tabletop.  By the next morning, though, she was eagerly leaping up there and experimenting with the lowest ornaments.




I, however, had to head to work, so I left Miss Chef sitting on the couch with the spray bottle, just waiting for McKenna to make a wrong move.

I never did find out exactly what went down at the OK Corral Tree Table that morning, but everything was still in place when I came home that night.  In fact, it took at least half an hour before McKenna found her way back up there.  There was a lot of rustling and shaking of branches, but in the end, she was just making herself comfortable.  Sure, she checked out the ornaments a little bit…




…but in the end, she just settled down and eventually drifted off into a catnap.




And that, my friends, is the delightfully anticlimactic conclusion to this chapter of Cat vs. Tree 2013.  In spite of predictions of needle-shaking feline adventures, she’s just not that interested in something that stands still, no matter how glittery and dangly it may be.

Moving things, on the other hand, immediately get her attention.  A few days later, we both practiced Wrapping With a Cat.



“I tinks you needs moar tapes heer, Hooman.”



To be honest, neither Miss Chef or I are really feeling the whole jolly ho-ho-ho thing this year, so I’m glad that we do have the tree up and that I did get some wrapped gifts under it.  This will be Miss Chef’s first Christmas without her mom; it was only a few weeks afterwards that a heart attack claimed her.  For my part, the whole Thanksgiving plumbing debacle put a bit of a wrench* in the opening of my holiday season, and then I’ll be working all Christmas week, aside from the day itself.  So it’s going to be a low-key event here, cat antics notwithstanding.  (*pun intended!)

Not that there aren’t bright spots in our December days!  Just last night, one of Miss Chef’s most admired mentors invited us for a “small” dinner party at his place.  It’s always chaos when he cooks; he makes way too much and generally the food comes out a couple of hours later than he plans.  But Miss Chef got to have a load of fun cooking with him!




I’m not the only one documenting everything around here…

That’s cajun bbq shrimp Miss Chef is tossing around in that big old wok.  There was also gumbo, pork and beans,  guacamole, ceviche and halibut, a slow-smoked pork shoulder, mac ‘n’ cheese, slow-cooked collards, cornbread…and a rather impressive cheese board.


Oh, those are brussels sprouts in the background.  I didn’t taste those, there’s only so much a girl can fit in her stomach.  But that’s ok, we came home loaded down with leftovers.  As well as plans to meet some other friends for dinner the next night, before going to a Carolina Chocolate Drops show we discovered we were both planning on attending.

So maybe our Christmas season won’t be so glum after all.  We certainly won’t starve, and it also looks like we won’t have to worry about tree-based chaos at home.  That’s not such a bad start, after all. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013


It’s been a doozy of a holiday…  I’m still not finished catching up with myself, but some things just need to be captured for posterity.  So here’s a brief photo album.

To start, the farmers from which we ordered turkeys this year had a puzzlingly small crop.  Instead of being awash in giant birds, we found ourselves pondering the preparation and distribution of an 8-pounder and a 4-pounder.  If we weren’t friends with Carl, I’d have accused him of trying to foist off a chicken on us!  Still, we thought ok, that will be enough turkey for everyone, but no leftovers.

Then I got a voicemail: “Hi Alison, we’ve got three more people coming.”  So, in spite of my careful planning to avoid it, I found myself here on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.


Please notice that cart that has more than “just a few things we forgot.”  I was staggered to realize that a great portion of these shoppers were doing all of their Thanksgiving shopping on this day.  Had they only recently received the memo that Thanksgiving was on its way!?

Anyway, with a lot of patience, and joy at finding a large selection of unfrozen turkey breasts, the experience wasn’t that bad.  Once back home, I dunked it into the providentially extra brine that Miss Chef had left over from the other two birds.  Then finally, Mom and I turned to our day’s assignment: pies.


That’s pumpkin, apple and pecan.  We used pre-made crusts, so other than cutting up a lot of apples, it was pretty easy.  I did figure out that crimping the edges on the single-crust pies is easy, and was rather proud of how much nicer they can look that way.

Now, earlier that day, we’d noticed that the kitchen sink gurgled when Miss Chef was in the shower,  She reported that the water had backed up, but it drained afterwards, so we didn’t think about it too much.  We went about our day, pulling our pies out of the oven and doing our best to work around an overstuffed refrigerator.

Thanksgiving morning, after Miss Chef was well immersed in the preparations of turkey and green bean casserole, Mom and I both discovered clogged toilets in our respective bathrooms.  And, since it was Thanksgiving, you know it couldn’t possibly be a simple fix.

I won’t go into details, but suffice it to say that it was very fortunate that we were guests rather than hosts for the big meal (we celebrate with friends who have a much larger home, so we bring turkey and dessert, and they take care of the rest.)  Also, we made very liberal use of the facilities while we were there.  But aside from our “little” problem lurking back home, Thanksgiving itself went wonderfully.  We met some new people, spent time with good friends, and had one of the best meals we can remember.

And then came Friday morning.


Yes, that’s a backhoe, digging up the section of sewer pipe that had cracked after one of our rugged holly bushes poked and wriggled its roots through.  We spent over 24 hours without being able to flush (though Miss Chef bravely drained some water out of a main access, so we were able to do some judicious hand washing and tooth brushing.)  Fortunately, we are friendly enough with our neighbors that we were able to make a few pit stops in their house Thursday and Friday.  I haven’t quite figured out what would be a sufficient “thank you” gift for such hospitality!

Although our bank accounts will be reeling for a few months, we were happy to have the problem fixed and toilets flushing by Friday afternoon.  When the plumber delivered the diagnosis, I assumed we’d be looking at another day of work, but the backhoe showed up less than an hour after we opened our veins signed the papers, and the repairs were made rather efficiently.  I am still exceptionally grateful to have ready access to a fully functional bathroom in my very own house.

Saturday was mostly taken up with holiday shopping and some overdue chores.  By Sunday, the house was back together—bathrooms cleaned, dishes done, laundry getting caught up.  So Miss Chef and I decided it was time to try to rouse some holiday cheer.  Though neither of us was feeling at all Christmas-y after our budget-busting Thanksgiving, we got ourselves a tree and set it up in the living room



Yes, the tree is bare.  No, we’re not giving up on the rest of the process.  This is just as far as we’re going for now…because we’re waiting to see how that mixes with this:


We had McKenna out on the dog run when we brought the tree in, and when I carried her back inside, she mostly seemed intimidated by it.  She stood on top of her cat tree and teetered as if she were going to jump onto it, but never launched herself.  She did some sniffing from the floor, and even played a bit with the tablecloth…but after four or five hours, she has mostly ignored it.

We are going to leave the tree undecorated until next weekend, just to see if anything changes once McKenna has become more familiar with it.  Like Rosie, her initial nervousness invariably gives way to curiosity, so I expect the cat to investigate more closely in the coming days.  However, I’m sure the fun won’t really get underway until we’ve hung shiny, trembling baubles all over it.  I have visions of coming in the door after work to find the tree lying on the couch, with water and ornaments all over the place.  As I told my parents, “We are walking fully open-eyed into potential disaster.”

On the other hand, there is always hope that the end of this story is anticlimactic.  It certainly would be nice if our Christmas were a bit less traumatic than our Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


This season has lasted forever, it seems.  A month after our first mountain outing, and the beginning of the bright leaves overhead, I still found myself staring at the showy trees everywhere I turned.  At work…

Fall (25)


on my drive home…

Fall (12)


…and even in our own front yard.

Fall (4)


We had this red maple put in about five years ago, and this was the first time it truly lived up to its name.

Fall (5)


I had a little trouble catching the full color of these leaves, because now that the days are shortened, my departures and arrivals during the week happen in a deepening twilight.  As I see less and less of the sun, I revert to some kind of hibernatory ancestor, becoming more sluggish as if there were nothing ahead for me but months of sleep.

While I’m continuing to get up before dawn, I did manage to stir myself enough to put the garden to sleep.  Those pretty, pretty leaves fell down and dried nicely, so I raked them up, stomped them into bits, and saved them as a nice blanket of mulch.

garden 11

This was another twilight-taken picture, though I tried to lighten it a bit.  You can see Miss Chef’s parsnips hanging on there.  They are not supposed to be harvested until after a good freeze, which has just happened in the few days since I took this picture.  What you can’t see is the garlic I planted last weekend.  I was fortunate enough to find some at the market, so I didn’t have to sacrifice part of this summer’s harvest.  Some of the ones I bought from Jenifer at Laughing Owl Farm are of a soft-neck variety, which is my first time with those.  I’m interested to see if they grow or taste any differently than the usual hard-neck garlic.  Oh, and after leaving Jenifer, I happened across another farm’s table with really nice-sized heads that I just couldn’t resist.  I ended up with about 40 cloves in the ground, so there’s a good chance some folks may be getting garlic for Christmas next year.

It hasn’t been all slogging away in the office and the garden, though.  Miss Chef and I had a lovely Saturday date day, with pizza and a show…but first we dropped in at the Alexander House, part of the Charlotte Museum of History.  We didn’t know either of these places existed, but I’d seen a blog post about a colonial-style beer tasting happening there.  It was very small and sparsely attended, and to be honest, the colonial-style beers were not to my liking—there was a decent porter, and a spruce that tasted mostly of molasses.  But Miss Chef ran into somebody she knows, and the historic homestead was picturesque.

Fall (20)


Fall (18)

We also got to taste a syllabub, which is a drink made with wine and cream.  It sounds awful, but tasted decadently delicious.  Miss Chef and I thought it might be tweaked to make an interesting dessert dish.  (Fun fact: we had first heard the word “syllabub” at the taping last year of Miss Chef’s favorite radio show “Says You.”  It’s described as “a game of bluff and bluster, words and whimsy,” and features some very clever and very funny people.  After our pizza dinner that day, we just happened to be on our way to attend another taping of the same show.)

And this doesn’t really fit into my timeline, since it actually happened in October, but you know how cats like to perch up high?  McKenna found her way to the highest perch yet.

McKenna 10 (6)

From the four-foot high cat tree/podium Miss Chef built her, she can jump up another three feet or so onto the window ledge.  She often strolls across the overhang to the left, which extends about 10 feet across the kitchen, but occasionally it’s nice to just keep an eye on the birds.

McKenna 10 (4)


And now it is Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, and I must get ready to work.  Miss Chef has had the kitchen to herself all morning, but this afternoon it will be my mother’s and my turn to bake pies.  Fortunately, the weather has turned dreadful, cold and rainy with strong blustery winds, so there’s no temptation to go do anything else.  Except maybe catch up my blog just a little.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Quick Getaway

With all the organizing and anticipation for our annual long weekend in the mountains, Miss Chef and I nearly forgot about a bonus mountain stay on the calendar.  Good friends of ours were celebrating a milestone birthday, and invited us (and Rosie!) to join them at Pipestem, a state park in West Virginia.

Suprisingly enough, even though it’s two states away, the park is only about 40 minutes more of a drive than our familiar destinations in the North Carolina mountains.  Which was fortunate, because we weren’t able to arrange an extra day off for this weekend.  We planned to leave home Saturday morning, stay overnight and return home on Sunday.  It might be a bit rushed, but other than hiking and a hearty group meal, there were no specific plans to accomplish anything other than enjoying each others’ company.

The drive up through western Virgina was gorgeous.  Miss Chef and I had traveled up Interstate 77 a few years ago on a longer trip, and we still talk about how I nearly steered us off the road while gaping at the scenery.  The highway winds  through and around the mountains, and every once in a while one hillside drops away to reveal a stunning vista of picturesque farmland framed by forested slopes.  This time we were surrounded by vibrant golds, fiery reds and rich oranges, as the annual fall spectacle reached its peak.

It was perhaps fortunate that I had had a chance to take in some mountain splendor the previous week, since I was driving again.  (Miss Chef would like me to inform you here that it was my choice to drive…)

Anyway, we arrived at the park in the early afternoon, just in time to find our friends returning from a hike with their dogs.  All told, there would be five of us, sharing two cabins, with four dogs.  Miss Chef and I were in Cabin 4 with my friend Brian and his greyhound/lab/?? mix Amita.  Luckily, she and Rosie got along fabulously, as Amita was more than happy to let Rosie be in charge.

After we exchanged greetings and unloaded the car, we put on our hiking boots and went out with most of the dogs and humans for another hike.  First we went down, down down a big slope to a small lake.  We stopped briefly while the dogs decided not to jump in the water (good girl, Rosie), and that was my only opportunity to snap a quick picture.


The path wound around the lake for a quarter mile or so, and then began to climb, and wind some more, and climb even more.  We had let the dogs off lead once away from the cabins and Rosie, my little suburban sidewalk dog who prefers not to get her feet wet, was leading the pack.  She always has enjoyed seeing what’s around the next corner, and this was a perfect opportunity to do just that.  I found it ironic, though, that the the owner of the leading dog of the pack was the slowest human.  I had to take a quite a few standing stops to get to the top of the ridge…only to find there was more climbing ahead.

It was all worth it, though, if only because I knew a feast lay ahead.  Once back at the cabins, we took a short break before starting to prepare our meal.  Miss Chef and I had brought locally made salami from our stop the previous weekend at Hickory Nut Gap Farms, as well as some cheeses, crackers and grapes.  We lit a fire in the hearth while Miss Chef made an inviting hors d’oeuvres tray, then we each cracked open a drink of choice—cider, beer or wine—and gathered round for some catching up and fun conversation.

One of our friends wanted to take us back out the entry road to see the huge herds of deer that they had seen the previous evening.  We loaded took Rosie along, but didn’t get very far before getting out again at another scenic overlook.  This time I took pictures, though the lighting wasn’t the best.

Pipestem 11 (2)


Pipestem 11 (1)


On our drive to the golf course we did see a few deer, and even a herd of probably 30 of them, but the one who really made the evening was this lone buck, standing guard under an apple tree by the side of the road.

Pipestem 11 (10)

I stopped the car and got out to get a little closer for this zoomed-in picture.  He’s a little fuzzy, because he kept lifting his head and trying to scent me out, but there were at least six points on those handsome antlers.  When I finally lowered the camera to just look at him, we stared at each other for a good ten seconds, and then he began to casually paw the ground.  When he switched legs and became a bit more serious about it, I decided the prudent action would be to get back in the car—despite my friend’s urging to “go on, see how close you can get.”

No, she wasn’t serious.  I don’t think, anyway.

When we got back to the cabin, steaks were on the grill outside, and the premade twice-baked potatoes were in the oven.  A little quick salad action, some refills on the drinks, and soon enough we were gathered around the table stuffing ourselves.  It’s so nice to be able to spend time with good friends, when you can be yourself, and everyone knows your history, your pets, your family, and of course, some of your embarrassing secrets.

Miss Chef and I had brought the makings for s’mores, but we ended up passing on those in favor of the small birthday cake brought by the others.  I think we sang Happy Birthday, perhaps a bit half-heartedly, but between the hiking, the laughing and the beverages, nobody really cared about ceremony at that point.

Eventually we let the fire die down, the party broke up, and everyone went off to their respective beds.  The next morning, we appreciated the extra hour from the end of Daylight Savings Time, as we cleaned the cabins and packed the cars before heading off on a shorter, “relatively easy” hike.  Though not nearly as strenuous as the long ridge we’d climbed the afternoon before, there was a steep slope in the middle that I christened “Relatively Hill.”  Still, the dogs were happy, and it was a good way to enjoy the last bit of our time at the park.

Once again there was a round of hugs and promises to regroup at Thanksgiving in a few weeks, then we finally separated to return to our homes and Real Life.  Miss Chef had a lot of grading to do, and she and Rosie slept for about half the trip back.  We had left McKenna at home, with a neighbor coming in to check food and water, and she was content to have company again when we arrived.

That evening, while Miss Chef and I both graded (I helped!), I got another fire going in our own fireplace.  I wasn’t going to let those s’more supplies go to waste!  When McKenna came strolling in to see what was going on, I realized that this was probably the first time she’d seen fire.

She didn’t seem to have any problems with it.


So now we begin the headlong dash into the holidays—Thanksgiving in three weeks, then Christmas and New Year’s.  For now, though, it’s one thing at a time…right now, it’s time for bed.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Mountain Getaway

Three years ago, Miss Chef and I celebrated our 10th anniversary by renting a cabin in the woods in the mountains of western North Carolina.  We enjoyed the entire weekend so much that it’s become our annual tradition.  Just as the long nights close in and winter signals its intent to return, we enjoy a last hurrah of sunshine (usually), beautiful color, and apples.

We have never stayed in the same place twice, and this year found us heading to Lake Lure, just down the road from Chimney Rock, which we visited a couple of years ago.  It seemed more difficult to us to find the kind of place we wanted this year within our price range.  Miss Chef found one in a gated community, which I assumed meant more of a townhome kind of arrangement, or at least not quite the isolated cabin experience we’ve had in the past.

Regardless, I was excited to get away for a long weekend.  It’s only about 2 1/2 hours to drive to the Asheville area, and it seems only an hour or so before we are already enjoying our first mountain views.



Although Lake Lure is on the near side of Asheville, we couldn’t check in to the cabin until 3:00.  So Miss Chef assumed that we would naturally head on into Asheville for lunch at her favorite area restaurant…


…again.  We haven’t been to Asheville without eating here, since we first discovered it.  So I didn’t bother to suggest we try something different.  Besides, there are always a few more items left to explore on this menu.

Miss Chef leapt at the chance to sit at the bar, which is prime seating for the open kitchen.  We both enjoyed watching the many cooks at work, serving up our lunches while also prepping for dinner.  I swear one cook stood in front of me separating cloves from heads of garlic for half an hour.


With all the movement going on, it was impossible to get a good, clean panorama shot, but I like the sense of energy.  I was impressed at how quietly the cooks worked, and how they seemed more or less oblivious of their audience.  Even the sauté pans were shiny and clean.  No cursing or sex jokes out here!

After lunch, we wandered Asheville for a bit, visiting Mast General Store and French Broad Chocolate Lounge…yum!



Then we headed on a rather lengthy drive down (and up, and down…) a lovely, winding mountain road toward Lake Lure to get the key to the cabin.  Though we had been getting hints of early fall color for the past week or so in  Charlotte, everything was still mostly green.



Once we had keys and directions in hand, we found our way to the “gated community” and quickly realized this wasn’t your average neighborhood.  Almost immediately we were driving up a narrow, twisty gravel road with cabins strewn here and there on the wooded slope.  And when we finally reached our cabin, I had to give Miss Chef her due…she had found us a perfect mountain getaway.



It was small and warm, with a second-story loft area serving as master bedroom.   The opposite wall of the cabin promised a lovely first view in the morning.



It wasn’t until I looked out the back window, and stepped onto the balcony that I fully appreciated where we had landed.


The name of the property is “Me, You and the View,” which had stuck me as just too cutesy, but I have to hand it to them…it’s a perfect name.

After settling in, we drove back out to get a few essentials—coffee for the morning, deli sandwiches for dinner, and our first gallon of apple cider.  Then we retired to our cozy getaway and enjoyed a few hours snuggled in front of the tv with hot mulled cider.

The next morning, I arose just before dawn and discovered the view had many faces…


…and that it changed quickly and frequently.  The fog rising off Lake Lure became rosy in the morning sun before slowly dissipating.







The temperature had dropped well below freezing the previous night, and neither of us was eager to head out on a tromp through the woods on this chilly morning.  So we opted to drive back to Hickory Nut Gap Farm, which we had passed the day before.  Miss Chef has been here before to pick up pork and beef for the school, and for one of the restaurants she’s worked at.  Today it was time to pick up some supplies for ourselves.

Which included apples.



Once we’d cleared out a good portion of their inventory, we decided to head on back to Asheville, since the farm was about halfway there anyway.  The day was still chilly, so we stopped to eat at a noodle shop right on Pack Square.  The place was teeny-tiny, reminding me of some of the no-frills restaurants I’d enjoyed as a student in Paris, many years ago.  The food was warm, delicious and filling, and we were soon back on the sidewalks, exploring the storefronts of this funky, creative city.

We stopped at the renowned Malaprops independent bookstore.



We tried out a new business, the Gourmet Chip Company.


I got the plain-Jane salt and pepper chips, Miss Chef tried “the Parisian:” white truffle spritz, herb crusted goat cheese, rosemary and thyme.

We checked out any number of gift shops, food stores and art galleries as the day warmed a bit.  We eventually found ourselves in the general area of the parking garage where we had left the car, and decided to head out of the city.  My vote was to enjoy a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

For those who aren’t familiar with it, this is a beautiful two-way roadway constructed in the 1930s.  Today it is, in a sense, the longest National Park in the country.  According to Wikipedia,

“[i]t runs for 469 miles (755 km) through twenty-nine Virginia and North Carolina counties, mostly along the Blue Ridge, a major mountain chain that is part of the Appalachian Mountains. Its southern terminus is on the boundary between Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Cherokee Indian Reservation in North Carolina, from which it travels north to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and offers access to the Skyline Drive.”

And according to the official National Park website, construction began in 1935 as part of the New Deal, offering jobs for the unemployed.  Today it is a lovely tourist attraction, but considering the state of technology nearly 80 years ago, it’s also a monument to human determination and ingenuity.

Ride along with us for a minute or so (please ignore the windshield specks).


The construction of the parkway tunnels gives testimony to the careful craftmanship of a bygone era.



The parkway also features many, many pullouts to stop and enjoy scenic overlooks.  We took advantage of several.






It seemed that the overnight cold snap had finally started some of the trees into their first bright show of color.




However, as you can tell, the sun was promising to soon drop behind the distant ridge, so we headed back to the the nearby town of Hendersonville for a warm, tasty dinner.  It was close to bedtime when we drove our way back up the gravel road to our home away from home, and we didn’t waste any time snuggling in for another cozy night.

Sunday morning I slept a bit later than the day before, and was eager to see what the view offered this day.



After snapping this shot, I settled into breakfast, only to look up no more than five minutes later and discover the scene had changed remarkably!


And ten minutes after that…



Did you notice the fake owl sitting on the balcony railing in a couple of those shots?  Miss Chef found it a bit unsettling…I can’t imagine why…



This was checkout day, so Miss Chef was busy cleaning up while I finished breakfast and stripped the bed.  I decided that, although we’d missed our chance for stargazing with the telescope near the back window, it might be interesting to see what it could do in gazing across the valley.  I’d never used a telescope before, and it took me forever to see anything besides white haze.  But in a one-in-a-million stroke of luck, I happened to zero in on the top of Chimney Rock!  I had Miss Chef come out to see, and we were both surprised to realize our cabin was sitting at least as high as that formation. 

Before driving back to the office of the rental agency, we went a little out of our way to visit the small lake where a kayak belonging to the property had been available for our use.  It had been too cold the previous day, but we were interested to see what the lakeside looked like.  And we were quite glad we took the time!



We also discovered a short nature trail across the road, and were happy to get in at least a short hike in the woods.  There was a picturesque waterfall…


…and a gorgeous wide, rocky river alive with swirling eddies.





We spent quite a while here, seated on a huge boulder, just watching the water flow by.  Isn’t that what vacation is all about.



Soon enough though, we were headed back to the highway—a couple of stops for more cider and other regional treats, as well as lunch in Hendersonville, and then back down to the flatlands.  We collected Rosie from “camp,” where she stays with a friend in the country, and then finally home.

Only to realize, fall had followed us into our own front yard.

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