[4/52] January 27, 2012

January 26, 2010
Curtains at Early Girl Eatery, two years ago

Dear Reader,

How was your week? Mine was fairly quiet. I might have whooped a little when I weeded the garden for the first time this year, and sighed a little. The first was for being able to ease the soreness in my back afterwards, the last was for the number of butter beans scattered all over the bed (I foresee a retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk right in my front yard. Beans can indeed be magic…if you count magic as “never having to buy bean seeds ever again.”) People are asking me what I’m planting, and a Durham garden blog I follow just said that they planted their peas yesterday. And I saw a daffodil on my walk today. It is still January, right? I’ve not turned the wrong page in the calendar or something, right?

Seriously, it feels kind of weird. It’s like watching a movie in which everything goes so well and is so lovely that you just know something big is about to happen, but you don’t know what, and you can’t do anything about it. Well, I can’t, but I think I’ll take advantage of this mild winter and plant spring-like things while I still can.

***

I’m looking forward to something this week, and it’s our annual winter Asheville trip. This is our third year, and instead of going south in winter (we are in the south after all) we go west to western North Carolina, to mountains and mist and a spa.

Yes, a spa. For some reason when we tell people this, they wrinkle their noses. I don’t think they expect us to be typical spa people- I don’t even wear makeup! The truth is, we go to this particular spa for its amenities and to relax. I usually dunk my dry winter skin in warm whirlpools, mineral waters, go to wet and dry saunas, try out the contrast pool at least once (you soak in a very hot tub, and then you dunk yourself in extremely cold water. It’s actually very refreshing). In between the soaking and sweating, I read by the fireplace, usually with a blanket and herbal tea and some trail mix. It’s one hell of a way to relax, and I am looking forward to it. Some of my favorite moments at the spa:

1) Soaking in the outdoor hot pool at night (by day, you get an amazing view of Blue Ridge Mountains). I get to see the stars on a clear night, and if it’s snowing, it’s fun watching snowflakes fall on your face while you’re warm and cozy. It reminds me of those photos of hot springs in Japan.

2) Going back to the spa near closing time (when there are very few people), lying on my back and looking my reflection and the moonlight through the spa’s clear ceilings. So peaceful and soothing.

3) I also get a kick out of the fact that I get to wear my bikini in January 🙂

The rest of the resort isn’t bad, either- there are plenty of rocking chairs and a huge (it’s like 6 feet tall) fireplace in the main hall, and we’d sit by the fire late at night, rocking and talking quietly. Most of the time we end up playing Scrabble or Carcassone.

Then there’s the Asheville “scene.”

The food in Asheville is terrific, and being the boring people we are, these are the few places we go to over and over:

1- Rosetta’s Kitchen. It’s not that it’s all-vegetarian. It’s fabulous. This is a place where the daily shipment of kale is like 5 big crates, and when it comes in, the customers cheer loudly. The food is not the fanciest, but it is the most comfortable. The family favorite, which is peanut butter tofu, sautéed kale, and mashed potatoes with nut gravy, is well, indeed a family favorite. I don’t think there’s a single thing there that is not delicious. The only bad thing about it is that it makes the food at the spa really, really horrible. Really.

2- Early Girl Eatery. My favorite breakfast/brunch spot, though they do a very good dinner too. I love their catfish sandwich, but mostly, I love their strong coffee and eggs benny (poached egg over spinach with their signature tomato gravy).

3- French Broad Chocolate Lounge. This is like coffeehouse/dessert heaven. They have EVERYTHING, and I mean everything- chocolate, beer, coffee, tea, cake, cookies, brownies, ice cream, and so on. All of their ingredients are very high quality, and it shows. The best part is that they are usually open until 11 every night, so when the spa closes at 9, we continue the fun at the chocolate lounge and indulge in a dessert or two.

4- Beer. So much beer. In fact, Sierra Nevada just announced this week that their East Coast operations are going to be near Asheville. I’ve been to Barley’s, Jack of the Woods, and Asheville Brewing and Pizza, and all are good. I’m hoping to go to The Thirsty Monk, which was picked by Garden and Gun magazine as one of the best Southern bars.

Okay, I think I’ve gone on long enough about AVL. 🙂 Time to start the weekend!

Later,
E.

P.S. For links, I have a sort of a fantasy trip list:
Little Flower School Dutch Masters Class (not your typical flower arranging)

Food Photography Course in France (with bikes and trips to Farmers’ Market!)

Squam Italy (photography, food, knitting)

and a lovely video about tailoring in Italy.

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[3/52] January 22, 2012

Tulips

Dear Reader,

The week was slow. If last week was denial that I was very sick, this week was acceptance that with sickness comes a very slow re-entry to the world.

So let’s move on to the weekend, shall we?

Friday:
January 20, 2012
Short bike ride (my first in maybe a week) to lunch.

Saturday:
January 21, 2012
tea and toast for a very rainy day (glad I got that bike ride in!)

Bell's Hopslam
Imbibed Bell’s Hopslam (that sold out at our local beer store in like 45 minutes). Also, finished all levels of W.E.L.D.E.R. It’s all about small victories.

Sunday:
January 22, 2012
short ride to a friend’s birthday brunch.

Bundled up.
Winter finally came, sort of. It’s going back to being 60 tomorrow.

sunday dinner
Sunday dinner and scrabble (I lost).

Here’s to a more regular (and easier) week!

-E.

P.S. Links you might enjoy:
Letters from authors.

Loved this article about finding a photographic voice.

Sherlock Holmes comes to PBS in May. And BBC has confirmed a third season…

Nellie Bly is one kickass hbic.

This is very sweet.

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[2/52] January 13, 2012

Januar 11, 2012

Dear Reader,

Oooh, friday the 13th. Hopefully that means my sinus-infection-filled week is over. Let’s not talk about the gory details. Let’s just say that neither my brain nor my body are really working properly at the moment, so I had to do things that were not very taxing, but still entertaining.

Like watching Buffy Season 7 again. Man, I love Buffy. Spike is the perfect tragic, yet flawed, hero. I could go on and on, but let’s just say, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. Also, watching girls kick ass is very good when you’re trying to keep your spirits up. You know what else was good? Re-reading Graceling by Kristin Cashore, about this girl who also kicks ass (but for a living). Are you sensing a theme here?

I think I’m going to move on Karen Russell’s Swamplandia, which is about a girl who wrestles alligators (yup, sticking to the theme). The book I’m currently reading, Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal, has been put on hold until I get much better- having a loss of appetite and not really at 100% kitchen strength is not really helping. Also, it would be nice not to cough on everything I’m making.)

One good thing, though. I discovered the wonderful world of facial steams. They are really wonderful for sinuses, even better than neti pot (especially if your sinuses are clogged). All you have to do is to boil a saucepan of water, pour it in a bowl, add a few essential oils (eucalyptus is recommended, but I’ve also used peppermint, rosemary, and/or tea tree oil), wait a few minutes to cool, then breathe in with a towel over your head. Easy as that. Also, it conserves water so you don’t have to run a faux shower to get all that steam. So soothing and easy to do and I feel so much better afterwards.

Hopefully next week I’ll be better…til then,

-E.

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[1/52] January 6, 2012

Camellia and Cast iron plant

Dear Reader,

Here we go again.

Right now I’m feeling a little disoriented, even a little stressed after the first week of the year. Part of it is not feeling like it’s a new year and part of it is not really making a new slate, just continuing the old resolutions. Last year this month I was looking forward to a new year because 2010 was filled with lots of family visits, 2 deaths, and a heavy shroud of grief. 2011, other than my back acting up, was very tame by comparison, and I’d like to keep 2012 that way, too. Sometimes tame and boring is good.

So, my resolutions:
1- Continue and actually implement one personal retreats/craft weekend/one-day workshops per month. This is probably the hardest one, and I tried this last year, only to give up after two months. This month’s personal retreat theme goal is to set up/assign/plan personal retreats throughout the year.

2- Do some more gardening than you did last year. My exercise plan for this month (and the next two months) is to get my back in shape for gardening so that I don’t injure myself as much.

3- Explore more of local area or NC. I subscribed to Our State last year, and now I have a list of towns I’d love to visit. Would you believe that I have never went walking/hiking into Duke Forest? (And it’s my ten years this year in NC, too!)

4- Continuations of last year’s resolutions:
a) ride your bike.
b) keep writing/blogging.
c) keep cooking (food resolutions to be at my food blog)
d) keep reading at least 52 books (I listed 51 books last year, but I think I also didn’t list everything I read- so that is something I should work on- maybe join Goodreader?). I also should start a 2012 book list!

We’ll see how that goes. Feel free to demand progress reports 🙂

***
So today I finished Blue Nights by Joan Didion. Like her earlier work, The Year of Magical Thinking, her latest book is haunting and heartbreaking. (For example, I cannot stop thinking about congee from Year of Magical Thinking.)

A few of my favorite quotes:
In theory these mementos serve to bring back the moment. In fact they serve only to make clear how inadequately I appreciated the moment when it was here. How inadequately I appreciated the moment when it was here is something else I could never afford to see.

The fear is not for what is lost. What is lost is already in the wall. What is lost is already behind the locked doors. The fear is for what is still to be lost.

***

Oh, for smartphone/tablet readers: have you used the new IndieBound Reader? If not, I highly recommend the application- it makes it easier to read the Google e-books that I buy through the local bookstore.

***
I promised a friend “best 10 books I’ve read in 2011” list, so here goes:

Eunice’s 10 best books read in 2011 list
(this is very, very hard, as there were so many good books!), in no particular order:

1- Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman. I did not want to finish this book- I wanted to read it out loud, slowly, and savor the beautiful metaphors. Definitely pure Gaiman and very London.

2- A Song of Fire and Ice series, by George R. R. Martin. This is a cheat, as this is actually multiple books, but it’s really all part of a epic. George R. R. Martin is one hell of a storyteller, bawdy and conversationally and chillingly and… it’s really hard to explain. It’s very easy to get lost in the world and go “huh? I don’t live there anymore? Really?” This is the series I recommend to people who don’t normally like fantasy, and are forced to have bed rest.

3- Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline. If you’re a video game geek who went through 80s and love the sci-fi subculture (for example Star Trek and Joss Whedon), you will most likely love this book. I really enjoyed reading this one and had to look up a few things.

4- Then, Again, by Diane Keaton. I’ve always liked Diane Keaton, and this book made me like her more. Thoughtful semi-autobiography that is mostly about her mother, and also talks about her mixed relationship with her mother. Not at all judgmental or bitter- but not all roses and unicorns, either.

5- Joy for Beginners and The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Baumeister. Great end-of-the-year books to make you think about your life. The School of Essential Ingredients has wonderful food metaphors/descriptions.

6- The Homecoming of Samuel Lake, by Jenny Wingfield. I got the recommendation from Yarn-a-go-go and I LOVED it. It is sort of a ‘southern’ book, and it sort of it isn’t. It’s just one of those books that you cannot help reading (and getting a hankering for food) and it reads like a good friend who’s been by your side all these years.

7- Green Glass Sea, by Ellen Klages. Ellen Klages is a very gifted storyteller (I loved her Portable Childhoods short story collection), and her YA novel is just excellent. It’s about a girl who grows up in post-atomic bomb age (literally!).

8- The Illumination, by Kevin Brockmeier. Dreamy writing and just hauntingly beautiful.

9- (tie) Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs. So much fun to read, though it kept making me think of X-men (it is sort of in a similar vein, but with no capes and masks). Has a sort of Ray Bradbury-gothic feel to it.

or

The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern. This is the book booksellers and media loved, and I have to admit, I am looking forward to the movie. It’s a very cute love story, with lots of twists and turn thrown in.

10- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. The book that helped me get back to writing. I really must get my own copy…

(yes that was more than 10 books but like I said, it was HARD.) You can view the full list of books I read in 2011 here.

Okay, that was long. Time to go!

Til next week,
Eunice

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December 31, 2011

So here we are. The obligatory New Year’s Eve post. Before I go into year in review and resolutions, I’d like to review the act of blogging.

One thing about blogging that I’ve read lately is that blogging is dead, out of fashion compared to say, twitter or facebook or the next new social media site. Also it seems like the “best” (or rather, profitable) writers are “taken,” as in, either not blogging anymore or writing columns or books instead.

I don’t think it’s a bad thing when well-written bloggers go on to write columns or books; it’s a great thing, but I don’t think blogging is dead. I think it’s a great way to practice writing, chronicling, sharing, or even interacting. I enjoy reading blogs about someone’s life, new bits about things we have in common, and tutorials/recipes. Despite all the negative aspects of internet, it’s a nice way of connecting and keeping in touch. The only problems I’ve had with blogging is that, one, sometimes I don’t get the urge to write all the time (writing is a very fickle creature), and two, figuring out what is public and what is private.

***

So this year in review thing. I think one thing I have not mentioned is that I’ve been recovering from a pinched nerve in my back for most of the summer. The good news is that it healed, but the bad news is that I have a spinal disc protruding slightly from my back. It’s not really that big of a deal- it happens to a lot of people, and the most common cause is gravity.

My reaction to it, however, has been more dramatic than I would like. I’ve been living in fear of aggravating my back for a while, and I’m not liking it very much. For more part, this means I haven’t done very much gardening, photographing (especially when it involves uneven surfaces), exercising, and a large number of things that were a part of my life. Even cooking, which I adore, was a danger zone: standing up for too long could cause some back pain. I’ve been going back to cooking, photographing, exercising for a while and I haven’t had problems, but I still am cautious.

So for this year what I’d like to do is to be aware, but not be afraid. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the distinction between the two.

**

A Year in Review: 2011

January:

heading to bed

The boy gets a new jacket and we go to Asheville for our annual holiday destress.

January 18, 2011

I don’t have a picture of it, but I think our favorite discovery was Asheville Pizza and Brewing (yum).

February:

[32|52] even off the bike they found it impossible to not do everything in-sync

We got a “new” tandem bicycle.

February 18, 2011

I designed and knit baby vests for a friend’s twins.

March:

Alex Wong 2

Vienna Teng and Alex Wong concert at The Carolina Theatre.

among camellias

I knit most of an Icelandic yoke sweater-vest in a weekend. That was fun.

[37/52] aren't we cute after spending the day doing whatever we wanted

We got an Ipad2. Oh boy, that was one big rabbit hole.

April:

the cookery open house

The age of food trucks and the cookery in Durham begins. Basically an answer to everyone’s “What’s for dinner tonight?”

[41/52] She's So Charming, It Makes His Head Hurt

Friends came over to visit and we had a good time (Duke Gardens, Watts Grocery, Carcassone with scotch)

May:

Bike Parking at ATT

Durham Bike Month.

raw strawberry pie

A reward after urban garden tour (thunderstorm, hail, lighting, the works).

owl butterfly

Visiting NCMLS with a friend over Memorial Day weekend. It was very hot (99 degrees) and my friend was pregnant…a good combination. 🙂

June:
June 4, 2011
Unexpected but fun results from Fountain Pen Show

June 9, 2011 & [46/52]
ADF Gala.

Father's Day
NYC for Father’s Day. Visited High Line for the first time.

July:
Just mere moments of celebrating
I got older. And yes, we went back to Asheville for R&R.

Blue Ridge Parkway
And I climbed a short, swaying tower on top of a hill? mountain? and took this photo. Still gives me shivers.

August:
August 12, 2011
Shed-building begins. Also, pumpkins.

August 27, 2011
Hurricane Irene. This was probably the worst damage- but I don’t think it was for many people in the NE area.

September:
DSC_0487a
Fall Farm Tour- part of staycation. It was FREEZING that weekend (no joke- 34 degrees, I think.) Also: Jordan Lake (which was nice), trip to IKEA (new furniture!) and Mr. Yum builds a workbench all by himself.

September 30, 2011
Logan and Kate paid us a visit.

September 26, 2011
We hired goats to eat our ivy. Alas, the goats had other plans.

October:
Joy
The boy magically gets younger 😉

uhmm, somebody got a new toy.
I got a new camera!

November:
Mr. Yum and A. H. H.
Somebody sold and got another Rivendell. Oh, a Brompton came to stay with us, too.

father and son
Williamsburg weekend (birthday weekend for Alicia)

catching up
First Bloody Bike and Brunch.

November 25, 2011
Thanksgiving at our house!

November 30, 2011
Then I dented the car…

December:
Hi from the other side of the world
Trip to NY to see my parents.

December 18, 2011
Night of Lights.

December 24, 2011
Christmas in Richmond, VA.

Whew! See you in the new year…

moi

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December 22, 2011

Have yourself...
Happy festive vegetables to you!

Dear Reader,

Today is winter solstice, and here is how I spent it:

-woke up late, disoriented. Went through normal breakfast routine.

-tucked a shivering puppy under my arm until it stopped shaking.

-worked with many rambunctious puppies

-walked dogs who knew the trail better than I did.

-biked in the fog/mist to dinner (it’s 70 degrees and really humid!)

-had a wonderful, practically gourmet dinner from Boxcarr Farms.

-celebrated with a s’mores pudding: sweet meringue over bittersweet chocolate pudding over homemade grapham crackers, I think.

-celebrated even further with a flight of beers. Finally had pigmeat markham smoked rye ale, just before it was gone for the year.

-biked happily home, knowing that my sweetie is free from work for at least a week.

Thank you for putting up with me while I counted down solstice as best as I could. I’ll probably take a few days off during the weekend, but I’m going to try to do a retrospective of photos and books before the new year shows up. In the meantime, have a wonderful holiday.

All the best,
E.

Posted in life, solstice | 1 Comment

December 21, 2011

December 21, 2011

Dear Reader,

I think the photo says it all. Happy Solstice’s Eve!

I’m very much looking forward for the longest night of the year to be over, because then it means it can only get brighter from there. 🙂

More later,
E.

Posted in life, solstice | 1 Comment