A little video of my amazing first Christmas in North Carolina, surrounded by family and friends … Gods in His Heaven, all’s right with the world.
I guess I was five or six. Mona, a distant cousin was living with us for a while, and being a bit older than me (8 or 9 I think), she was who I depended on when life tossed an unexpected conundrum. A week before Christmas was no exception.
In the hallway next to our bedroom that we shared, was the pull down stairway to the attic. A couple of times, Mona and I came home from school and discovered the attic stairs down, Mom standing at the foot of them and Daddy at the top saying, “Is that it? I think I heard the bus.” Then Daddy would hop quickly down, and together they would snap the attic stair up closed then turn to innocently face us.
Mona was the one to always ask, “Whatcha’ doing up there?”
I figured we must have had more mice in that attic than the Pied Piper of Hameln, because Daddy would always reply, “Just checking to see that we don’t have mice,” and Mom would half-hardheartedly nod her head in agreement.
It was a week before Christmas.
What happened that night was either a Christmas miracle or a Christmas disaster depending on which room you were sleeping in. Mona and I suddenly awoke to a crash and a virtual downpour of Barbies and accessories, skates, puzzles, suitcases, t-sets, clothes, shoes, and dozens and dozens of other things like candy and yo-yo’s, falling through the ceiling. We sat there blinking like two hungry lions.
“What do you think it is?” I whispered to Mona.
“I think Santa Clause just came,” Mona said not taking her eyes of the skates, “And the skates are mine.”
“But Christmas isn’t till a week,” I added, “Will he come again?”
Mona gave me a look as she began hatching the scheme right then and there. “Go down the hall and tell Mom and Dad that you fell out of the bed in case they heard any thing.”
I walked in their room and found them both in a dead sleep, so I went back to our room and Mona quietly closed the door behind me. “They down?” she asked, as if I’d gone in and shot them both with a dart gun.
I nodded while I watched Mona shove “her stuff” under her bed and slide my stuff over to mine. “Stick this under your bed. We’ll put the bigger stuff in the back of the closet.” So in the middle of the night that’s what we did, and between moments of hiding the haul that, moments ago, was somehow sitting in the attic, we took a moment to play with the loot.
Once we were finished, we crawled back in bed and for the first time that night we realized we had a bigger problem we hadn’t thought about. A gigantic hole in the ceiling was right above the foot of our beds. Sheetrock hung from the ceiling in jagged pieces and upon closer investigation, Mona reported she could see a blue bicycle! Now how were we going to hid that hole?
It was Mona who came to their senses first. “I think we made a mistake. We need to put everything back in the pile and pretend we didn’t see it.” I asked if maybe we could just keep one thing, but Mona refused.
So, we pulled everything out from under the bed and closet, piled it in a pile and took the trashcan filled with little pieces of Sheetrock and insulation and dumped it on the pile. I may not remember a lot about Mona, but I do remember how she kept her cool that night through it all.
As I lay there in bed after, what she and I referred to as “The Big Christmas Crash”, I couldn’t believe that the wisest, craftiest person in the world was sleeping next to me. And while she wouldn’t let me play with even ONE toy that night, I found a new respect for her.
The next day we “let” my Dad discover what happened in our room while we were at school. All the stuff went back up in the attic and he and Mr. Marlow were repairing the ceiling when we got home from school that day. And yes, we put on our game faces and asked what on earth had happened.
Daddy blamed it on the mice.
I don’t suppose I ever told my parents about the fiasco that took place that night … about how Mona took charge of the situation like a boss and how our feigned surprise Christmas morning was a result of many hours of Mona and I rehearsing our reaction in the basement.
Or … how it all somehow led to my deep fear of mice. Wonder how Mona’s doing?
So here I am. Surrounded by her books, things that were special to us, photos of us, but mostly with the inspiration she bestowed upon me. At times it’s hard to believe she has been gone almost a year, I’m still crumbling daily … missing our talks, her gentle way of phrasing things so that I could see her thoughts. I miss the way I’d use a bland word when describing something and she’s say, “Oh certainly you can do better than that.” She taught me to think in metaphors and in colors of a box of crayons. Now that I’m here, it’s as if I’m seeing the world through her eyes and I’m so thankful.
You’ll all have to excuse me, because every sentence is more than likely to end in an exclamation point … probably multiple ones … in bold … possibly italics … in orange or red! This is a dream I’ve been inching towards for quite a while, three years I think. I was bolstered forward like a catapult had smacked me in the rear end shortly after my Mountain Mother, Nancy Simpson, passed away after a long illness. Even though it broke me in half, she had made me promise her during her last week that I would see that dream true. I answered all to quickly that I would. Not good enough for the woman who knew me best. She let out an exasperated breath and grabbed my hand after a minute and made me look directly at her. “No,” she said. “Promise me. Stop talking about it and go live your dream. Be an old woman on a mountain and write. It’s the best advice I can give you.” Tears were rolling down my cheeks and she told me she’d have none of that … “Emotion is meant to be remembered and written down.”
My little log cabin is adorable and is halfway between Waynesville and Maggie Valley. It’s so quiet here you can hear your long forgotten thoughts and silences. Sleep here is like a coma … you close your eyes and the curtain of the day drops. When it’s raised the next morning, you can hardly believe your eyes. It wasn’t a dream. I’m really here!
It’s been a dream for a long time, to live in the Blue Ridge Mountains in a log cabin … and after 58 years, it finally came true! This morning I sat in the living room and drank coffee while I watched the birds warming themselves in the bright sunshine on my porch railing.
The tree looks so jolly and happy in the living room! The birds on the tree look as if they just flew through the front door to warm themselves! Once again, I have added the vintage ornaments inherited from family members!
The table has never looked more inviting with the stockings behind it going up the stairs. I’ll have eight people here Christmas and wanting a stocking for each person, the mantle seemed crowded no matter how I arranged them. It was Eric’s idea to run them up the stairs.
Yesterday, I made a quick drive up to Serenity Mountain to see the property in Plott Creek where the permanent house will be built. It was so peaceful and quiet that I didn’t exactly want to leave. I walked down by the creek and looked up to where the house will be and couldn’t believe it all was coming into fruition. In my imagination, I could almost see the house sitting there in the trees … the noisy creek babbling at my feet.
After I got back home, I had some homemade rustic soup and called it a day. ❤
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.
It’s started. The first phase of moving to Waynesville has started … packing up the stuff that will go into the storage building at the rental place in Hazelwood (what they call Old Town, Waynesville).
Hazelwood houses some of the most charming shops in the two square blocks the “downtown” Hazelwood area comprises … and I’m lucky enough to have bought property just up the road from it. Yep … I’ll be the one in my hiking boots tromping into Hazelwood on a snowy day just to buy French Onion Soup and a bar of soap.
Hazelwood will be sort of the home base once in the house. There’s an old fashioned pharmacy, my favorite place for soup and ice tea … The Bourbon Barrel Beef and Ale, and across the street is the Hazelwood Soap Company The soap company is my favorite scent shop EVER … the entire house will smell like HSC’s version of Vetiyver … the scent of Sandalwood and Patchouli, musk and vetyver. So basically the house will smell like a fresh clean hippy! If Waynesville wasn’t enough to get excited about alone, I get to live a short hike to Hazelwood!
Now about the packing …
I’ve never packed for a storage building before, so all this is new to me. Taping my precious books up in a sealed box was the most heart wrenching part of the ordeal. Books, as most of you already know, are my friends, and knowing that I can’t reach over and grab a Ray Bradbury, Bill Bryson, or Flannery O’Connor off the bookshelf until I restock the new bookshelves in Waynesville in approximately four months, is a heart stopper. I did keep out a few “EMERGENCY” reads in case I need a quick fix and all of them are by my three favorite writers … my Mountain Moms (Nancy Simpson) Poetry Books, “Farewell Summer” and “Dandelion Wine” by Bradbury, and Bill Brysons “A Walk in the Woods”. I admit, I’ve read all of these at least ten or twelve times each, but these are the kind of books I never get tired of.
I also packed up all my rocks, that friends (and a few strangers) have given me … stuff from the kids … boxes of photographs … art supplies, and a world of other stuff that when I finally unpack it, I will probably hear the theme song from “Chariots of Fire” as I behold my lovely lovely things again!
So, the first batch is loaded and ready for transport during the next trip up to Waynesville, With that trip is a search for a rental house or condo … and my second trip in to see my new boss at The Mountaineer , Vicki Hyatt.
Oh, did I not mention THAT yet?
Well, it’s happened. The thing I set out to do from Blog Day 1 has happened … and I can’t be more excited! Once relocating is completed, I’ll start my first assignment … outdoors and “Through the Lens with Lynn” … a challenge to all our readers to find and recreate the photo I post. The idea is to get people out of the house and looking at Waynesville from a new point of view! I can hardly wait!!!
So … Waynesville … here I come. Ready or not!
I hated to admit it, but for once my husband (to my everlasting annoyance) had been right.
“Those shoes look absolutely ridiculous with that pair of jeans,” he had told me while brushing his teeth. I looked at him with horror as the foamy tooth-paste spit rolled down his awkwardly extended little finger and dripped on my carpet. “You should wear boots or something … maybe your loafers!”
I rolled my eyes. Men knew nothing about fashion or how to stand over a bathroom sink and brush. Mine chose to walk around the house doing menial tasks while he brushed his, like flipping channels on the TV, finding a pair of socks, or telling me what I should-or-should-not-do.
“How about you just keep your spit in the sink and keep your fashion advice to yourself,” I’d said with a stomp. Besides, these were an absolutely fabulous pair of high heels that I’d purchased on QVC for only twenty-nine dollars! Supposedly all the movie stars back home were wearing them, and since my know-it-all-husband had moved me from California out here to “Hooterville” North Carolina, I knew I’d never find anything like this in Helen’s Bait Shop & Clothing on Old Riddle Mountain Road.
I looked down to admire my shoes. These were beautiful … black suede, peep-toe wedges with a very narrow 6″ heel, and tiny golden rivets sprinkled down the back heel of the shoe like shooting stars on a deep dark sky. How could anyone not look at these and be impressed?
My husband could, that’s who.
“Bye,” I called as I pulled on my heavy winter coat, grabbed my purse and the leash of our Basset Hound, Bert.
Bert was given to me as an anniversary present from my husband. Actually, Bert was more my husbands dog, but he’d played me like a fiddle that day and tied a little red bow around his neck and placed the incredibly cute five pound Basset Hound puppy in a picnic basket four years ago. I admit, Bert was an adorable puppy … big sleepy eyes, long droopy ears … he was the perfect example of a postcard puppy.
As he grew, however, he’d become a chewing machine and when left alone, he was absolutely determined to destroy anything he could. Our two year old sofa looked like a Salvation Army reject, and my husbands recliner hung in shreds from about a foot down.
Now at a whopping 69 pounds and with a broken leg, unable to walk, he was a little less than “adorable”. I wrapped the leash around my hand and lugged the big gravity-sucking creature up into my arms and carried him out to our garaged car for our trip to the vet. “And thanks for the help,” I called sarcastically over my shoulder as I let the back door slam shut.
It was a one mile drive down the mountain to Dr. Willards Animal Hospital and the part dirt, part gravel road was practically frozen solid all the way down. Luckily our car was equipped for weather like this, and it did a fine job gripping the icy road. Bert lay quietly in the seat next to me, occasionally stretching his neck to peer out. It broke my heart that he couldn’t hop up on the window sill to see the icy woods he loved romping in so much. I patted his head, “Don’t worry buddy, Dr. Willard will fix you up and we’ll go for a walk in a week or two, alright?” Bert looked at me with trusting eyes and then lay his chin on the seat as if he’d understood perfectly what I’d said.
Right then, I heard an unfamiliar thumping beneath my car. Bert raised his head and began to softly growl. What on earth? Since the drive was only a one-lane road, I simply stopped the car and climbed out to see what I’d hit.
Nothing. Instead, I realized that my front tire was completely flat. Great.
The one thing my father had never taught me to do, was change a tire. I could build a potting shed, fix the refrigerator, change the oil, but I had no idea how to change a flat. Climbing back in the car I reached for my cell phone in my purse and then remembered I’d left it charging on the table by the back door.
I knew my husband wouldn’t be coming down the road a while, and honking would do no good. It was over a half mile back to the house. He’d never hear it, and if he did, he would probably never put two and two together. Besides, today his college football team was playing in the playoffs and it could be DAYS before he missed us. I imagined him, eating leftovers for the second day in a row and saying, “Hey honey, when are you going to cook and do some dishes again. Honey? HONEY? Now where the devil did she go?” then looking around puzzlingly at the unfolding mystery of my sudden disappearance.
“Darn it!” I yelled as I slammed my fists on the steering wheel. Bert jumped a bit and dipped his head as if he thought I were about to smack him for some unknown reason. “Bert … we’re stuck old boy and it’s either up or down.”
I crawled out of our warm car and went around to his side to lug him out. It was 21 degrees and if I left him in the car, I was afraid he’d either freeze to death or rip the entire interior of the car to shreds. “Come on you big galoot … let’s get you back to the house,” I grumbled while trying to balance on tiny heels and carry Bert at the same time.
Little by little, Bert and I made our way up the drive, my ankles twitching and wobbling under the weight of each step. Several times my foot would roll completely over and Bert and I would tumble down, both of us wide eyed and panicking. Thankfully, my heavy coat absorbed most of the impact and we’d get up and start all over again … me standing in my fabulous heels, bending over, lifting sixty-nine pounds of dead weight and taking that first precarious step, then another, and another.
Bert seemed to love the whole idea of me getting all dressed up, driving half way down the mountain, and then carrying him back up! His eyes sparkled as he looked around as if he’d never seen our mountain from this angle before, and occasionally he’d give me a little lick on the cheek as if to say, “Wow, thanks Mom … this is wonderful!” … all the while I’m on the verge of double ankle failure as I wobble, stumble and cuss my way steeply towards home.
Finally we made it to the base of our yard, where road turned to concrete. I was certain I was within ear shot of my husband who was undoubtedly engrossed in his game by now, so I yelled, “HELP,” at the top of my lungs.
I paused a moment waiting for the front door to open, but after a moment when nothing had happened, I yelled again a bit louder. Still nothing. So we continued while I shouted the most profane slurs I dared at my husband, happy now that he couldn’t hear me!
Finally we arrived at the foot of the porch steps and had only nine precarious steps to climb. Home at last!
I angrily turned the door knob and kicked open the door. It sprang open like a trap and banged into the wall behind it, causing my husband to practically jump out of his skin and spill his tea all over our shredded sofa. There I stood before him breathing heavily, my light beige coat torn and dirty, globs of mud on my face and arms, my hair hanging in stringy strands all over my head, and my beautiful QVC heels scratched and muddy. “What the devil have YOU been doing,” he shot at me as I stood there looking as if I’d spent the night in the city dump, “I thought you were taking Bert to the vet?”
I lay Bert in his recliner and kicked off my once-beautiful shoes … my feet throbbing from the walk and my toes nearly frozen from the cold. Breathlessly I managed, “We had a flat. At the bottom of the hill. I had to carry Bert. All the way back.”
My husband stood up and jumped into action. If there’s one thing he loved more than football, it was playing the part of the hero. “Leave Bert here,” he said as if he actually thought I were stupid enough to carry him back down the mountain,”We’ll go down in my truck, change your tire and then drive back up for Bert.” I nodded, still out of breath and still somewhat annoyed at my husband for whatever reason.
I was just about to go in the bedroom for warm socks and boots when my husband turned and all-knowingly said, “I told you not to wear those stupid shoes. You should have worn your boots like I told you!”
The January ice entered my very soul as my stubborn I-will-not-be-wrong attitude gave birth to misery right there in my living room. I walked over to my QVC heels, smugly slipped them back onto my sore, cold, aching feet, and on now quaking ankles, precariously followed my husband out into the garage.
-Lynn Hamilton Rutherford c2017
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.