Wednesday, July 30, 2014

... you can call all you want but there's no one home and you're not gonna reach my telephone ...

The word 'vacation' means many different things, depending on your place and life and personality. I love adventures and traveling and dancing and experiencing new things and thus can occasionally come back from a weekend of vacation more physically exhausted than when I left. Usually, I am more emotionally and experientially fulfilled. But dog-tired.

Vacation does NOT mean the same thing to McLain. Vacation is more of a book-and-wine-filled idyll in some hidden place for him. With limited human interaction and next to no technology.

And this past weekend, I was able to get a little bit of that. To my great surprise, I actually LIKED it.

McLain and I loaded up everything we'd need to eat (and drink) for the long weekend and drove to Bryson City, NC. The quaint little town is surrounded by beautiful mountain views. To get there, We drove through Cashiers, NC - which looks like a place with people with lots of money and no need for outside society move. Their consignment furniture was for sale -used- at a price higher than the stores I'd go into would sell one new. But it was a darling little town.

By the time we'd arrived at Bryson City, we were thirsty and hungry and needed to stroll. For thirst, we stopped in at Nantahala Brewing Company. We sampled several of their house-made brews, particular favorites being the Hellbender, Dirty Girl Blonde, Trail Magic #1, and Devil's Courthouse. Because the brewery does not offer food on site, we walked next door and got pizza at Anthony's Pizza. It was crowded and service was on the slow side - but the pizza was GREAT. Downtown Bryson City is adorable, and it would have liked to linger longer and visit Humanite, but McLain was pushing to get back on the road.

He was wise.

The last bit of road to the cabin was skinny, curvy, dark and murdery. GPS was giving up on us, and we were using a map that didn't have our exact location on it. I was driving like an old woman and wondering why I didn't have brighter brights. It was decidedly unpleasant, and if we had stayed much later I wouldn't have been able to manage it. After only one wrong turn we arrived at Bear Kottage.

Once I shook off the nerves from the ride there, I was charmed. We moved in the food and our things and didn't leave the cabin until checkout on Monday. Except to get Splenda and salad dressing the next day, for a total of about a 30 minute adventure.

We got NO signal. I couldn't call out on my phone. We actually just turned off our phones, hence the lack of photos.

We sat in the hot tub, read by the creek, watched obscure American anime and finished Farscape. I slept late and long. Crop share veggies were turned into tomato soup and cheesy potato bake. McLain made pancakes and lamb roast. I made drinks and coffee. We debated the news and caught up and soaked in the beautiful sunshine.

And it was good.

And without me knowing it, things at work resolved. A tenant moved out. Test results came back. It was all waiting for me on Monday, and I did not lose a thing in the interim.

Except Dane cuddles.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

... can't you see we've got a good thing here?

What a crazy week couple of weeks! Last Sunday I discovered an old friend had arrived in town from Kansas (after having not seeing him in two years and with zero notice). As things typically go for me, I attempted to be accommodating and spent a good deal of time restructuring the next few days in order to see him. Which was, in hindsight, not a good use of my time.

Before the ghostee-pocolypse began - I went to Greenville for valuable pre-baby time with Lady Faulk looking at adorable owl-covered baby seats and the Cadillac of strollers. There were so many cute things to look at and gross things to learn about (NO, I did not touch her belly. YES, I am still in the choosing to be child-free for the foreseeable rest of my existence. Barring maybe adoption or fostering someday in the distant future).

The ghostee was vaguely interested in some very specific local gossip and I feel he was more using me for my network of friends than actually wanting to interact - but I arranged for a friendly game night at Starbucks with a host of folks and set up a group dinner at Palmetto Smokehouse in his honor. Which was delightful and yummy (drink specials and tasty food) but made my skin crawl from the conversational perspective.

In attempting to deconstruct my many social gaffes of the evening, I kept returning to the fact that people do in fact change. I have, in fact, changed over the past several years. And in said dinner I was able to demonstrate my new non-doormat feature. It was not well received by Kansas. Especially when I refused to take half-assed apologies and verbal abuse in front of a table full of people. Oh well.

The rest of the week was spent travelling for a work conference. It had been eons since I had been on a trip like this, so I was a bundle of nerves. It did not help that my planned mini-plane flight (Cessna, from Athens, via SeaPort) got cancelled super-last-minute and I had to drive a long way to Nashville. So I woke up at the butt-crack of dawn and navigated my way to the Gaylord Opryland Resort. I was not aware that this was a THING, y'all. It is most definitely the most opulent place I have stayed in. I got lost MULTIPLE times. It is like 5 massive midtown Atlanta hotels smashed together. and then they have a freaking botanical garden with a boat ride in the center. There are also a huge number of eateries and pools and a fantastic fitness center ... and a mall next door.

Clearly, I was suffering for my career and the nation's future. SO MUCH SUFFERING.

What do you do on a conference? Absorb sessions and network! It was a little out of my comfort zone, but I got to bond with some gals from my district and meet other folks. The sessions were informative, but not always the most entertaining way to spend an hour. And some were hilarious for all the wrong reasons. And I was rabidly taking notes so I could re-hash and re-present later on. The coffee was meh, the food was scarce (probably due to the fact that our conference was HUGE), and people were not showing their best manners at times.

After-hours dinners and adventures were had, naturally. If you go to Music City, prepare yourself for cowboy boots, blues music and whiskey. B.B. King's Blues Club was just a short ride from the hotel. We made a reservation on OpenTable, but  it took 30min to get a table after we arrived. No matter! We sat at the bar and listened to the AWESOME house band until we were seated at a table. Everyone's food was fantastic, as we were in the sharing mood. I had my first ever fried catfish, some awesome Memphis BBQ wings, fried pickles, fried green tomatoes with caramelized onions, and chips with blue cheese/bacon/truffle oil (yes I AM aware that every blessed thing on that list is most definitely fried). There was some dancing (both blues dancing and alcohol induced bouncy-white-girl-dancing) and Thursday seemed to be a night with the 'older set'.

Tootsie's Orchid Lounge was another awesome stop. This bright purple building has a band playing (and a bar slinging dranks) on every level. It was smoky and dive-y and so terribly fun just to exist in. The food was typical pub stuff, so I'd not plan on eating there. But if you want to hear the local talent, this is the place to go! On a trip up and down the stairs, I heard the same song in three different styles by three wicked vocalists.

And then there was the live music and mechanical bull at the Tequila Cowboy. Good times! I'd like to go back and explore the Parthenon and the Hermitage, amongst other things.

Oh, and Night Vale - lovely weather we're having.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

... she's a high-flying flag ...

Various and sundry events had me traveling to more off-the-beaten-path areas this past week, like Mount Airy, NC. This small town, besides being home to some of my extended family members, is best known for being the alleged model of Mayberry from the Andy Griffith show and the local sonker festival. It is also quite picturesque.

With all of those wide open spaces there isn't much to do. However, in recent years there has been an upswing in the number of local wineries and breweries in the Yadkin Valley area and North Carolina in general. In fact, my uncle works at Stony Knoll Vineyards. My cousin and I had some time to burn, so we went to Round Peak Vineyards and Skull Camp Brewery. The grounds were beautiful and dog-friendly. The owner's dogs even made the rounds and paid our table a visit.

As you can see, I tried SEVERAL wines and shared a flight of beer with my aunt and cousin. The wines at this particular establishment are mostly blends, and the semi-dry wines were all excellent! My top picks were Anticipation, Matrimonio Parfait, Nebbiolo, Dedication and Temptation. I even had a very good port. And did I mention the view?

It was a very nice way to spend an afternoon, after a long morning of baking zucchini bread and sitting on the front porch with octogenarians. Who kept trying to feed me sonker and pie and fried chicken. The horror!

I also got in a fair bit of reading. I was able to subscribe to Runner's World and the Atlantic at a ridiculously low price via Zulily. I haven't been getting a lot of books in this summer, but I have been reading a lot of articles, magazines, and blogs. The books currently in process are Dune, Lies My Teacher Told Me, Stiffed, and Riverworld.
McLain and I are dog-sitting for Lady Faulk's sweet Indy this weekend. Indy and Yankee are getting along swimmingly, but Indy is very affectionate, hyper, and likes to invade Yankee's 'bubble'. Conclusion? Indy is more like me and Yankee is more like McLain.Which works out.

Aren't they so cute? TOO CUTE!

We had a great holiday long weekend, and my NC family was able to come down for a brief stay. We had some swim time at the Crouse House before meeting up with the Forgie clan for some out of this WORLD fireworks. I have never in my LIFE been so CLOSE to fireworks going off before! I borrowed this photo from a friend who was snapping close by. They seemed close enough to touch! And were close enough to leave a little ash behind.

Other than  my very strong feelings and regrets and thoughts about the recent SCOTUS ruling, a pretty wonderful week for everything but my politics-and-ethics--related blood pressure.
This, on the other hand, made me feel a bit happier!