March 8, 2014
Above: Green Man Brewing's Demon Dweller, and the road out of Asheville.
One of our weekend-in-Asheville goals was to hike a handful of especially fun-looking trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway. But as Micah explains here, it didn't work out. No matter; we're already planning another trip in a few months (it's hard to leave Asheville without planning the next trip to Asheville). And one of the things I love about the area is that you don't have to take this long parkway drive to really see the mountains, because they literally surround the city. There were countless times we were navigating ourselves around town, only to take a quick turn, or come to the top of a hill, and be completely taken aback by the view. It never got old, and was just a great, constant visual reminder that we were somewhere Different and Special.
I also can't think of Asheville without thinking about beer. Delicious, weird, sometimes wild craft beers. This time we visited the new and impressively tenacious Wicked Weed taproom – I tried the French Toast Stout, and Micah had the Freak of Nature IPA. We will definitely return there on any future Asheville trips. They happened to be releasing their first bottled beer the weekend we were there, and we were blown away by seeing a hundreds-long line of people waiting hours to simply purchase bottles. I'll love any city that obsessively supports their breweries like that.
We also chilled out at Green Man Brewing, and Asheville Brewing Company. Last time, we hit up Wedge Brewery and Highland Brewing Company... and I can't wait to see where we'll end up next time.
March 5, 2014
Above: the top three photos are from Oddfellows, the bottom three are from Screen Door.
We hit up a few antique malls/stores in Asheville last weekend: Oddfellows, Antique Tobacco Barn, and Screen Door. My favorites were Oddfellows and Screen Door; they seemed more carefully curated, and had more of a mid-century focus. Micah liked Antique Tobacco Barn for the exact opposite reasons: it's literally a huge, sprawling warehouse full of barely organized old stuff. We had fun wandering around all three though - it was also a great way to talk about our tastes, and compare notes on how we see our home being furnished and decorated in the near / moderate future.
I fell in love with a few oversized educational posters, and a pointy-legged chair or two. Micah found some fun emergency water cans (I'm getting serious Dharma Initiative vibes from those), and we ended up buying this little reference book. I love the idea of buying non-tourist-y souvenirs from our trips, like books, or natural specimens, or records, or art. I guess we just started our collection!
February 28, 2014
Above: Packing essentials. My Block Shop scarf (the new line launches TODAY at noon, and you KNOW I'll be checking it from the road), leather hiking boots that my dad gave my mom in the late '70s that fit me like a glove, and our fun new instant camera.
Micah and I are celebrating our 4-year anniversary with a long weekend in Asheville! We've been once before for Micah's 30th, and have been wanting to return ever since. We'll be hiking a few different trails in the Smoky Mountains, and trying a few of the new breweries that have opened since our last visit (or that we just couldn't get to last time! - so. many. breweries).
We'll both be sharing on Instagram (his | hers) all weekend, if you'd like to follow along.
February 24, 2014
Sometimes we'll buy food that we don't really know how to use: a new vegetable, an unpronounceable spice, a strange cut of meat. We research it when we get home, then make a plan based on whatever else we have at hand. I think it stresses Micah out sometimes!, but it also breaks up the monotony of our meals, and makes me feel like I'm on Chopped or something. Sometimes, you just need to spice things up in the kitchen... terrible pun intended.
On a much smaller scale, I recently bought whole coffee beans instead of ground. Usually I buy them at a local coffee place and have them coarsely-ground for our French press... but that's not really in the budget right now. So when I found some nice-looking whole beans at Kroger, I was completely unfazed by the fact that we don't own a coffee grinder. I got home and promptly started Googling things like, "grinding coffee beans blender processor totally okay" and fell into a deep coffee-snob rabbit hole of the preferred methods for grinding (and storing, and preparing) coffee. I now know way too much about the friction heat caused by different processors and grinders, and how they affect the beans' oils, and how beans should preferably be ground or crushed rather than cut.
I also found out that a legit way of grinding beans is to use a mortar and pestle, which (drumroll) I happen to have. So romantic! Such a pain in the ass! Potentially worth it though! The next morning, I tried it out. It was easier and took less time than I thought it would. I had a lot of control over how coarse or fine the grind was, and the smell was amazing, and the coffee was amazing. So much more muchness than the pre-ground stuff we'd been used to... I also just felt super-cool using a mortar and pestle.
It might not be an ideal long-term solution, but I've decided to embrace and enjoy grinding our coffee beans this way. I love recipes that take a long time, or have a long-winded process... or maybe I'm as committed to my coffee as Micah is to his biscuits. A new personal goal of his has been to perfect a from-scratch biscuit recipe. He's slowly becoming a Southern grandma – and I love it. These were buttermilk biscuits; perfect with hand-crushed, French-pressed coffee before a sunny Saturday full of antique and thift-store shopping. (No really, we did that - I'm not just continuing the grandma bit. He also made a pitcher of sweet tea yesterday. I can't wait to marry him.)
February 21, 2014
Above: Anybody else think those cleaned & trimmed carrots look like the baby mandrakes from Chamber of Secrets?! No? Just me? Whatever.
So, I finally "harvested" my pot of carrots. And by harvested, I mean dumped the pot over onto a bald, snowy patch of yard, and fished out any (adorably stunted) baby carrots that were large enough to eat. It was fun! I probably could've harvested them two months ago (seriously they're about the same size as this one), but the pot had been sitting in my laundry room and simply got forgotten.
This was my first time successfully growing a root vegetable, so I'm super proud. They were orange, and real, and everything! I carefully cleaned them, then sliced them into thin rounds, and dumped them into a chicken noodle soup Micah was making for dinner. And thus ends my gardening year. Just in time, too – we just took inventory of our seeds last night, and Micah has started plotting how to best utilize the two raised beds that came with the house. Spriiiiing!
February 17, 2014
Above: Making, rolling, drying, and cutting pasta dough. I do love a good, long process.
We didn't have money for Valentine's Day gifts this year. Which is fine – while I'll leap at any chance to celebrate anything, February 14th has always just kinda been my youngest brother's birthday (and holy shit I just realized MY YOUNGEST BROTHER IS 22). Micah had a job interview in the afternoon (fingers crossed!), so I was alone in the house for a few hours. I was feeling kind of sorry for myself, to be honest, and also totally preoccupied with how his interview was going. My knee-jerk reaction to any sort of anxiety is to do. Something, anything, everything. Usually I clean the house, or revisit the Never-Ending Edit. But I realized dinner needed to be made, so I jumped on it. I wanted it to be special, to celebrate the day – but we were going grocery shopping the next day, so I was making do with the weird odds-and-ends we had. I had time, and the desire to make an effort, but limited ingredients... and then I remembered pasta.
Oh, pasta. Eggs, semolina, flour, a bit of water, and a lot of love. I hadn't made it in forever. It felt so good to create in this very tangible way, and to know that all the positive and wistful energy I was channeling would hopefully nourish Micah and I in turn.
I added some aleppo flakes, for heat (and a pop of Valentine's red). Aleppo tastes somewhere between red pepper flakes and sun-dried tomatoes to me, so it made sense for pasta. I used just under half of the nests for dinner (tossed with random sauteed veggies, and topped with fresh Parmesan), and froze the rest. We also brought out two bombers from our "beer library" (a cool, dry cupboard in our laundry room where we've been collecting 22oz. bottles) to celebrate the spirit – and accomplishments – of the day. It ended up being a perfect Valentine's Day: simple, intimate, and nourishing.
February 14, 2014
Above: I was driving home from lunch downtown as the snow started. By the time I reached the hill leading up to our house, the first few inches of cocaine-powdery snow had amassed, and my poor, light Civic almost didn't make it. I didn't even try to pull into our driveway. (She still hasn't moved, as of this post.)
This week, Durham got the most snow I've seen since I moved here 4 (!) years ago. It started early Wednesday and didn't stop until Thursday morning. Big fat slow flakes, fast slushy "wintry mix," hail... we got it all, and sometimes all at once. Since I work from home, and Micah is inbetween jobs, our snow days really didn't look any different than any other day – but we did manage to take a long hike around the neighborhood yesterday. I was thankful we had enough food, and could just hang tight and stay warm (reminder for next time: screw bread and milk, stock up on firewood and s'more stuff!).
Our insular little neighborhood was plowed late last night, and the snow is only just now starting to melt today. I'm glad we got to experience this in our new house, and glad we didn't lose any trees – we saw a lot of heavy limbs had snapped under the ice on our street. The dogwood in our front yard had already started to bud!; it must be terribly confused right now.
It makes me excited to see the other seasons from our little house-on-the-hill, spring in particular. The dogwood blossoming early... I've spied some errant azalea bushes in the back... and then everything filling in green and lush... mmm. I'm also curious to see what kind of bulbs will come up from the previous owner, and so ready to prep some raised beds, especially after years of trying to garden in the brick factory that was our duplex yard. It's the kind of thing you can really only dream about on a snow day.