The beautiful of a hydrangea petal is something I used to scarcely notice! But seeing hydrangea petal tenderly caught in a spiders web, caught my immediate attention. PHOTO WORTHY
Today it began.
This is the day I begin the greatest adventure so far in my life. I declare myself incapable of failure … for in the end, I will be my own hero.
Currently I live in a noisy suburb of Atlanta. Behind my house an endless stream of cars whiz along the once quiet road, now a short-cut to avoid interstate traffic. Airplanes landing and taking off at Atlanta airport fly almost directly over the house a dozen times a day. By now I’m immune to the sound. Airplanes have been a part of almost half my life in some way or another, but I know they are there. Like the squirrels that live in the attic, I know they are there, they just don’t annoy me any more.
It’s how things are here. However ….
There is, three hours north of where I currently live, a quiet piece of mountain side property with a noisy creek that runs along the foot of it. Rue Anemone grows along the forest floor alongside fiddle head fern. Herds of deer cross the old logging trail that crosses my land, and high above my head a hawk makes home in the tallest hemlock.
The first time I saw it, it was covered in a half a foot of snow, but it took my breath away. I knew from the moment I saw it that it was my destiny. After all, I’d asked God for a sign and God GAVE me one. Okay, so it was a Berkshire Hathaway “For Sale” sign … but it was a sign none-the-less. Four months later I owned a piece of Serenity Mountain in Waynesville, NC.
That was the easy part.
The hard part is giving up my life here in Georgia where I have lived my entire life. Here, I’m close to friends and family … my veterinarian … my doctors … my hair stylist … the hot tamale place … my favorite deli … the places I hike … and everything else I’ve come to depend on.
My father, who in my opinion was the smartest man I ever knew, once told me that if I want to get from point A to point B smoothly, I may want to consider all the space between them. In that space lies an infinite number of choices all mine “ripe for the making”.
“Pick your way well,” he said.
That’s what I’m about to do.
MY A to B TO-DO LIST …. starting with “A” ….
- Spend as much time with friends and family as possible
- Purge the house of everything I don’t need/want/haven’t laid eyes on in five years
- Hike at least once a week
- Bake something and deliver it as a “thank you”
- Get the house ready to sell
- Pack and Move
- Become a feature writer for The Mountaineer in Waynesville, NC
- Build the new house on Serenity Mountain
- Keep up with this blog! Be faithful and write at least once a week!
- Keep my SH** together!!!
Few people know that I craft home roasted coffees from Africa, South America and Hawaii. What started as a hobby has now turned into a definite obsession. My small Nesco Roaster will roast about a quarter of a pound of green coffee per batch to my liking. For me, it’s not a set it and forget it kind of thing, I stand there and stare at the beans whirling around in circles as they begin roasting, watch for their color to change from green – to yellow – to walnut, chocolate and finally that deep color that gives me such a thrill! I listen for those pleasing cracks as they go through the two stages of de-gassing and shedding their chaff … and finally when they sweat off that glistening dry oil that when heated up smells so heavenly!
THIS MORNINGS ROAST:
A Costa Rican Dota Estate Coffee from Dota Terrazu.
This is one of my favorite coffees to roast because of the amazing scent it puts out early in the roast! You can tell by the beans that they are going to be quite chaffy, so I give them a brisk rubbing with a non-terry kitchen towel to loosen as much of it as I can before I begin.
Green coffee beans (unroasted) smell very much like grass when you open a fresh bag. The first thing I do when I’m prepping for a roast is go through my beans and pick out any small twigs, pieces of string, or pebbles that end up in the bag. The twigs and string will ignite in your roaster … and the pebbles will just kill it … so be sure to make a quick look at your beans. If there are peewee’s in the mix (smaller beans), pick those out as well because they will roast earlier and then burn, otherwise ruining the entire batch if there are too many in there. It’s better to check than wish you had later when you’re dumping a sad little batch of beans in the trash.
The roaster I use is a Nesco Professional Coffee Roaster. It suppresses the smoke and it quiet enough that you can hear the beans as they crack during the expanding and releasing stages. Here, my roaster is cycling through the cool down stage. There beans are still cooking on the inside, but the roaster itself is cooling down. Once it stops, I break ALL the rules and open it up to allow extra air to get to my beans, but I wait a full five minutes before removing them.
Once you open up the roaster and remove the screen over the chaff cup, you’ll see how much chaff has collected in the cup! These were incredibly chaffy beans and since so much chaff collected in the cup, I’m expecting this roast to be incredibly smooth. The chaff from the cup is tossed in my garden along with left over coffee grounds. I’m always happy when I see the chaff cup this full! I know I’m going to have a good finished product.
After the beans have cooled the five minutes in the roaster (not what the instructions in the book says – but my method seems to work a little better), I remove the chaff cup and dump the warm beans into a wide-toothed sieve and shake off all the excess chaff. I got this sieve at an Asian market and it’s actually for dipping stuff out of hot grease, but it works perfectly at removing chaff from freshly roasted coffee! Shake until no more chaff falls and then set them aside to cool.
While the beans are cooling I make sure I’ve noted everything in my log book so I know how I roasted my beans. I keep a thorough record of how long each type of bean roasted so I can pinpoint roast times on light, medium and dark roast … or if you want to be particular, you can throw light city, city, and dark city in there as well. I also make a note of how many ounces of beans I roasted … believe it or not, that has a HUGE impact of the coffee finish.
This is also a good time to go over your now roasted beans for a quality check. In the photo above, you can tell that there are some very dark beans, some uncracked beans, and some beans that are very light in color. Anything non-uniform in your roast will effect the final outcome of your roast.
I go through my roasted beans and pick out the too-dark ones, the lighter ones (which probably weren’t quite ripe), and the ones that didn’t either split or crack during the roast. There were seven in this roast that didn’t make the cut.
A good batch is uniform in color with very little chaff showing after running through the sieve. This photo is of early season Kona Coffee Beans and it’s usual for them to be varied in sizes, but they all roast evenly. The more you roast, the more you learn which beans will roast evenly and which ones won’t. Costa Rican beans are more temperamental but more fragrant than most when roasting, but Kona is one of the easiest to roast. Tanzanian is also an easy first roast coffee and makes for an amazing cup of coffee! Nothing beats Tanzanian Peaberry for the scent during brewing!
I package and date all the coffees I roast and let them degas for at least 24 hours before opening the bag. I won’t go far as to say it will ruin the roast, but it does a lot to soften the boldness of a good roast … so I set mine out of sight and out of mind until they are ready to open and enjoy or send to friends.
People always ask what kind of coffee grinder I have. Mine is a Cuisinart Burr Coffee Grinder. It will grind anything from the finest grind on up to the most coarse … the the burr is never a problem. This photo was right after doing a fine espresso roast for a neighbor. The lines on the side are where I was testing the looseness of the grind. I washed it right after, but I’m always fascinated with the fact this grinder will grind coffee as fine as powder.
I store my coffee in plastic containers and never EVER refrigerate or freeze your fresh coffee. Grind your beans for only as much as you’ll use in two days and keep your freshly ground beans in an air-tight bag or container. That goes for the ground beans as well. I generally use one heaping tablespoon for a cup of coffee in a French Press.
Happy Roasting everyone!
There are, in this world, five books that I dearly love. Five poetry books that have shaped me, changed me and helped me become a better, more visually observant writer. These are the writers I’ve admired for many years … all different in their own right, most from the 50’s, and all with a particular flair with words in some unusual way.
Meet my five favorite poets.
Elizabeth Bishops “North & South” : This one is first because I’ve had it the longest. Elizabeth Bishop sends her readers on a Mr. Toads Wild Ride of vivid imagery and whimsical tales! My Aunt Lila introduced me to Elizabeth Bishop when I was a teenager and it was her poem “The Fish” that hooked me (pardon the pun). “The Fish” reminded me immediately of a child’s reenactment of “Moby Dick” and it was impossible not to continue this incredible collection of simple and colorful poems! And there are so many that I adore: “Roosters”, “The Gentleman of Shalott” and “Man Moth” … and the list would go on and on! It makes me wish I were related to her! She seems like one of those people you feel like you’d call Aunt Lisabeth.
“Selected Poems” by Stanley Kunitz: So this was my Dads book and he really admired Kunitz. I had picked it up when my Dad was living and wondered how much Mr. Kunitz was paying my Dad to keep that ridiculous book in the house. After my Dad passed away, I just happened to flip through it and a particular poem demanded my full attention. It was his poem “The Portrait” … a poignant memory about a slap his mother gave him as a child. In his 64th year, he could still feel it in his cheek. But there were other less sad under-tales and they are goodies! He writes of romance and simple memories so beautifully, you almost feel as if you’re intruding on his moment. LOVE this book!
“Complete Poems” by Carl Sandburg: If you loved eating more than anything, imagine, if you will sitting down to a table piled so high with food you couldn’t see what was on top or on the bottom! This is how this book is … six hundred and seventy-six pages of pure beautiful Carl Sandburg poetry that is enough to satisfy your craving for poetry for months! If you’re a bit like me and you love a history lesson scattered around in your poetry, Sandburg will never disappoint. At times you think he’s writing an inaugural address in verse, and other time you think perhaps he’s just in the mood to tell you a thing or two about Abraham Lincoln you didn’t know, and then he just surprises you with a fog walking in on cat feet! The man is a genius whether he’s writing for kids or grownups, it’s all absolutely unforgettable!
“The Collected Poems” by Wallace Stevens: He’s the wild card in my list, but on my list of favorite poets. He is the most aristocratic and high-falluting of most of the poets … he’s hard to read … you find yourself having to re-read lines before you can elevate yourself to his high-thinking and finally get the meat of what the devil he’s talking about, but once you get it, you just want to cry. Yeah, he’s that amazing. He uses multi-syllable words I’ve scarcely heard of like I toss around pronouns. In my favorite piece, “Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour” (yeah, don’t try to guess where he’s going with that title), he invites you into a corner of his imagination and have a look at his thoughts on God. HIGHLY moving, captivating and a spark of romantic verbiage, Wallace Stevens brings my imagination to life, and that’s what I love most about poetry. If a poet can do that, then they’re accomplished in my eyes.
“Living Above the Frost Line” by Nancy Simpson: Saving the best for last. This is a book by my Mountain Mother and I’ve loved all her books equally, but this book is my favorite. With gentle echos of Elizabeth Bishop (a poet who’s style she greatly admired), her writing is a timeless as the Blue Ridge mountains and the poems roll out of her pen like a free-flowing fountain. I’ve sat in front of her and watched her compose … how she would look out her window, then down on paper, tap her pen a few times in the margin, and then start writing so quickly it was as if she were chasing the thought and catching it on paper. She was a word genius, who had a flair for describing the things she observed so vividly you could envision a pink pantsuit walking out the door, or leaves on the ground turning into a flock or wrens. I carry this book with me everywhere and no matter how many times I read it, I always find some new little discovery that I missed the first hundred times I read it.
… climbing McAfee Knob along the Appalachian Trail in Virginia today!
On that day (in 2014) I had set out that morning with my friend Brendle and we had hiked a leisurely hike till noon. Then we picked up the pace and made the knob around one-thirty! It truly was one of the best days of my life! My dream is to do it again …. someday!
My Dad had done this hike the month after he had returned from WWII in the European theater. He had seen a photo of McAfee Knob in Life Magazine when he got home and decided to climb it on his way home from visiting his cousin in Michigan. In a happy turn of events, his cousin, C.A. decided to make the climb with him! My Grandma Hamilton had the only photo of them on the knob … Dad sitting like I am, and C.A. standing behind him with his arms crossed.
It was that photo that inspired me to go … do a hike my Dad had done … cross the same rocks and streams that he had so many years ago! As I hiked I looked around and wondered how much different the forest around me must have looked back then!
I’d give anything to have that photo now!
“Finally … I’ve had enough of your cold ornery ways!
I’m tired of your lying, cheating and backstabbing!
I’ve had enough of your leaving …
making my heart soar as I happily packed up your clothes
and stuffed them out of sight (out of mind)!
And then, three days later …
you’d show your ugly face again … back at my door
expecting me to be happy to see you!
So once again
I pulled all of your heavy moth-ball infused clothes out
and hung them all back in the closet …
angrily, I might add.
Never again will I trust your tawdry”signs”!
Your “I’m leaving this time for good” song and dance
no longer enchants me because
you ALWAYS come back!
Well, you cold, bitter,
what-ever-you-want-to-call-yourself today nuisance ….
I’ll have you know that I’ve put your clothes away
once and for all.
I have in my possession a box of ten-penny nails
and I intend to use every last ONE of them this time.
That’s right … I’ll be nailing the door shut this time
with your heavy as lead clothes inside.
You heard me right … you no longer have access
to what everyone from Washington to Delaware
refers to as “your clothing”!
I’ve found another and will no longer
have room for you in my life!
So let this be our final “goodbye” ….
Spring is upon me and I simply don’t have
room in my life OR my closet for you.
Goodbye Winter …
Don’t let the door hit you in the icicle on the way out.”
You cannot catch the tooth fairy in a mouse-trap. Only your Daddy.
You cannot hide your uneaten peas, broccoli, liver, etc on the shelf under the table-top forever. Eventually the cat will out you.
Switching the Castoria with Hersheys Syrup only works if you fake gag and don’t offer to lick the spoon.
You can change an “F” to a “B” but you can’t change a “D” to anything, so it’s better to make an “F”.
Just feed all the Baby Asprin you don’t like to your cousin or hide them in your mothers potted plants.
When faking “taking a bath”, don’t forget to wet the soap and re-wet the tub after drying it with the towel (so the towel is wet). Be sure to moisten your skin and rub some soap on yourself so you smell clean. Dampen the bottom edges of your hair.
Use caution when using a light bulb to raise the temperature on the thermometer. It’s very difficult to explain a 109 degree fever to a hysterical parent.
A fake cough will always turn into a real cough if you over play the cough-card.
Never hide your report card in a library book and then return it. There is a level greater than “lost” that only a kid understands.
None of the exercises will make your titties bigger before you’re eight.
I was notorious for cleaning up my room and sticking stuff under my parents bed just because they had a dust ruffle.
It is absolutely possible to dig to China if it weren’t for childhood curfews.
If you need to do an oral book report and just plan on casually asking your Dad last minute what it’s about, don’t count on him giving you a straight answer. For instance, “Island of the Blue Dolphins” is not a true story about an island that football players went to in hopes of becoming a championship team and the quest of a little native boy on the island who wanted to become a Dolphin. However, an awful lot of boys in my class asked to read that book next though! (And thank heavens I got an “F”!)
PULLING THE SCOTTY
I am tossed from side to side
between my Mother and Daddy
as the little green GMC pickup truck
slowly makes it way up Old Cherry Mountain Road.
Every so often Mother would yell “Stop, Cecil!”
Daddy would explain for the dozenth time that
he’d have to get to the curve first.
Once we were at the level place in the road,
the three of us would climb out and trot
back down the road to retrieve the rock Mother
wanted for her rock garden.
Daddy would place it in just the right place
in the back of the truck and we’d all climb back in.
Occasionally I’d lollygag and end up sitting by the window
where I stretched out my hand to snap off
long fronds of Queen Annes Lace that happily
grew at the edges of the old road.
Daddy would go through the gears on the steering column,
first, clutch, second, clutch … and the truck would balk
at the idea of switching up to third gear, so we’d settle
into second as the rock in the back lurched backwards.
Mother laughed and Daddy would shake his head …
Mary Alice and her rock obsession! He adored her for it.
Merrily rolling behind us was our turquoise and white
Scotty Camper, rocking side to side like a happy drunkard,
the yellow ping-pong ball smiley face hanging in the window
seemed to echo its elation. It had followed us from
South Georgia along the slick concrete freeways that
ker-thunk ker-thunked beneath the wheels, and later
along sharply curving mountain roads where Mother was
certain it would tip over at every switchback.
We finally rolled into Bill and Nancy’s campsite
on Cherry Mountain and Daddy set the emergency brake.
My cousins, Tim and Jeff climbed out of the creek
shaking off water as they ran up the hill. Mother opened up
the Scotty and began bringing out lawn chairs.
Daddy used the rocks in the back of the truck to
keep the Scotty from rolling down Cherry Mountain.
That night I slept in the overhead bunk in the Scotty
gazing past the Smiley Faced ping-pong ball at the same
moon I would come to adore over the next fifty years
with the cousin I would someday learn to call “Mom”.
… and I looked down into the treetops and was shocked to see clouds gathering around my feet!
Puddles are magical things. My brother and I were walking my mothers two dogs, Sasha and Roxie, down the old mountain road after a cold winter rain during Christmas several years back. I had stopped to re-lace my hiking boot and sat there in wonder. There at my feet, clouds were gathering. The tops of trees were gently swaying in an icy winter gust as leaves fluttered past me. It was as if I were frozen … afraid to move … not wanting to break the spell.
Then my brother saw it too.
The two of us silently gazed into it as if it were another world. I slowly took out my camera (as if not wanting to frighten it away) and captured a photo of that magical puddle to another place. We vowed the next day we would bring our aging Mom down the mountain to see it. During the night, though, the doorway was closed. Nothing but mud remained where the beautiful window to the treetops had been.
To this day after a heavy winter rain I will often ramble down the mountain to the place where the puddle once was. There is no sign it was ever even there except for this photo.
My brother and I laugh that maybe that puddle wasn’t a reflection at all. What if it really WERE a … … … but no …
… that would be unimaginable.
… that time I took my dog Bernie T (the Pomeraniac) kayaking, and he saw his reflection in the water … and ended up jumping overboard to save himself.
So I just realized while I was putting this blog together how “ungirly” of a little girl I was. My most memorable Christmas gifts, except for maybe one of them, are not the average “little girl gifts”! Maybe it’s because as a child I was mostly surrounded by boys … rough neck, frog-in-the-pocket boys, who were pretty much my only choice of play-mates in the neighborhood!
I had a few girly friends, but I’d much rather be playing in the ditches and building forts in the woods with the boys instead of sitting in the front yard brushing the hair of some bug-eyed baby doll. There were, I mean, only so many sub-plots you could play before the “Mommy and Daddy” game, got utterly boring. Kimberly whatever-her-last-name-was, took her Baby Alive and went home when I suggested we see who could throw our dolls further up on the roof of the house.
I never saw Kimberly again and that stupid Baby Alive was still on the roof when we moved away.
Never in a hundred years would I have suggested throwing my all time favorite Christmas gift EVER on the roof …
#1 GREEN TONKA TOY TRUCK WITH WHITE WALL TIRES
I got this for my fifth Christmas and I remember circling it in the Sears and Roebuck Christmas Catalog like it happened yesterday! I’ve no idea where I originally saw it … if it was on TV or if someone in the neighborhood had one, but I made SURE Mom and Dad knew I wanted it. Don’t ask me what else I got that Christmas because I can’t remember a single other thing … but that Tonka truck … I LOVED that toy! And yes, I slept with it! It went everywhere with me and even as a teenager, it sat on my dresser and held lip-gloss and necklaces. Today it’s wrapped in newspapers and in my basement. Not even my son was allowed to play with it. Once I’m in Waynesville I want to have a special place for it so I can show it off! To this day, that Tonka Truck is one of my most prized possessions.
#2 THE EASY BAKE OVEN
So most little girls played with their Easy Bake ovens until either their cake mixes ran out or the bulbs burned out. Not me. I loved mine so much that my Mom would mix up little sandwich bags of cake mixes for me to bake! But that isn’t all! I remember taking left-over pre-cooked spaghetti, some sauce and cheese and baking tiny casseroles! I made tiny little biscuits … tiny cookies … and my favorite – a hot open faced Oreo with a tiny scoop of ice cream. I was wildly inventive and my Dad, ever the guinea pig of the Easy Bake Chef, always smacked his lips and would say “delicious” … even though it probably wasn’t so great. After all, there’s only so much you can to do to food with two 100 watt light bulbs.
#3 THE TWISTER GAME
As an only child, this game was incredibly boring for me until my Dad figured out that the three of us (me, Mom and Daddy) could play together if one of us held the spinner in our mouth and we all took turns spinning. It was actually more fun doing it that way than having someone sit on the side calling out the moves, because it always required someone to spin the spinner with whatever appendage was available and the spinner was passed along to the next person …. teeth to teeth. Yeah yeah … germs were shared, but the laughter was ferocious and some of the best times with my Mom and Dad was spent watching my Dad lift his toe up to my Moms face and them working together to try and spin the spinner!
#4 MY SPIROGRAPH and GREEN PEN
Of all my toys, this one both fascinate and frustrated me the most. Actually, my Dad enjoyed this toy more than I did, but we would have “doodling” contests to see who could “doodle” the longest before our wheel jumped the track. I think every Spirographer ran out of green ink first because it was such an unusual pen color at the time and boy did I covet my green pen!
But alas, I got caught by Mrs Wall “doodling” in class with my green Spirograph pen and a couple of gears and wheels, and my green pen was confiscated. Spirographing was never the same after that.
#5 MY LIONEL TRAIN SET ♥ …. AND THE YEAR SANTA WAS ‘OUTED’
If I live to be a hundred, I’ll never EVER forget the year I got my Lionel Train set, because that was the year I found out the truth about Santa.
It was 1967 and we lived on East Court Street in Hinesville, Georgia in an Antebellum home with beautiful beveled glass doors between the hallway and living room. My Aunt Lila and Grandma Hamilton were spending Christmas with us that year They were sleeping in my room and I was sleeping on the roll-away bed in Mom and Daddys room. We had all had a traditional cup of hot cocoa before bed Christmas Eve, but since Aunt Lila was there, she made mine “special” and put a peppermint stick in it (and more than likely a hefty dose of Peppermint Schnapps as well so I would fall asleep quickly).
I’ve no idea what time it was when I woke up and heard muffled talking in the living room. I timidly crept down the hall to the closed glass doors of the living room, where I saw Dad and Aunt Lila on the floor playing with a train set and Mom putting a T-Set out.
My cousin, Mike, was right. My parents WERE Santa.
I was mortified! So I did what any kid in their right mind would do …. I kept my mouth shut and crept back to bed just in case they took it all back once they knew “I KNEW”.
Christmas morning when they came in and “woke me up” … yeah, right … I’d lay there all night wondering what else was fake … would my ears really fall off if I didn’t wash behind them? … would my nose REALLY grow if I told a lie? …. were there REALLY Mommy spies everywhere I went who would tell her everything I did when she wasn’t around? These were things I was doubting now. And the Tooth Fairy … and Easter Bunny … and the “President of the United States” …. was HE even real?
Anyway, I played it cool, and my Daddy and I ended up playing with that train set all day. Aunt Lila crocheted an afghan, Grandma snoozed in the easy chair, and Mom folded up all the used wrapping paper into neat smooth squares. As for me, I just suspiciously watched them all for the first time in my life.