Asheville’s Like Chocolate!

As I write this post we are relieved that everyone back home is safe from the earthquakes and seems in good spirits. The hard thing about being away from home for a long period of time is all the friends and family that you cant just pop around to see.

Life in Asheville is like eating a piece of chocolate – you can’t wait to get your hands on it and then it just melts in your mouth and you want a little more.  We are starting to feel very familar with the city and the surroundings and each day we explore a little further and discover the places we want to go.

I have to say driving on the other side of the road took a little getting use to and you have to teach yourself to look the opposite way and even north and south are in the wrong place so I struggle to navigate my way round so I need my trusty sidekick to help me who always just giggles when I get it wrong.  So far I have lived in shorts, tee shirt and jandals as the weather is very humid in the mid 20’s.

Asheville is well known for its food,(vegetarian everywhere – whats wrong with these people!), beer – lots of breweries (reminds us of the wineries at home, just as many of them) and the arts.  There is music everywhere and concerts playing most nights so we have lots too chose from for entertainment – the best concert so far has been JJ Grey that Charlotte has posted about. My favourite food place has been the 12 Bones Smokehouse for ribs ( the boys back home will be pleased to hear I am getting my share of meat)  the smokehouse is a popular place with queues out the door but very quick service – President Obama has been twice but he didnt show up the day we went!  The best brewery so far is the Asheville brewing Company which is just down the road from where we live – good beer (even Charlotte had one – good on you mate!) and they have a movie threatre attached to it and a separate kids room with big screens showing cartoons and car racing games – Jacob heaven.

The house we have rented is working out very well – we struck gold and it’s exactly what he hoped it would be – very comfortable and in a great part of town with lots of trees and great neighbourhoods to walk around. it has a huge back yard where we are playing lots of games with Jacob. We have been having lots of family meals outside on the back terrace watching the squirrals and bird life playing around Jacobs favourite tree that we have called ‘bucky” as we can climb aboard and sail around the back yard on it.

My yoga classes are not going too well – the yoga master is definitely not going to pass me but i am holding our for merit! I havent had a bourbon since leaving home so starting to have withdrawal problems but I did enjoy having the time to watch the PGA Golf Championship on TV and seeing Jason Duffner in action – cool guy.

Spending family time together is pretty awesome – We have been making lots of lego trains and been to a couple of kids movies with Jacob (turbo – very cool! and planes – lots of flying action) and now that we have found some babysitters Charlotte and I having some meals, movies and shows out at night (like date nights all over again – i am trying to remember all the old one liners!)

What did I do with that chocolate? and oh, by the way, I can nearly get a rubberband on my ponytail!

Lv to you all – Markey!

 

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The next instalment

Not so long this time – I promise!

The weather here over the last week has been amazing!  Hot and muggy and with thunderstorms most days.  Mark has been at home watching the last day of the last PGA golf tournament (he was very excited because he usually has to go to work on Mondays and miss the last day of the tournaments – but not here!!).  Anyway, it is a warm lovely night so he went out for a walk abut 30 minutes ago – unfortunately, it’s now bucketing down with the odd thunderclap so I’m guessing that he isn’t having that much fun out there!  The rain comes out of nowhere and goes again just as quick.

After the events of the last blog we had a few days when we just looked around the shops, did some yoga classes, (that would be just me – mark hasn’t had a total conversion just yet), Mark sussed out some golf courses and golf shops, nice family time at home etc etc.

Last Wednesday I was in one of the locally-owned bookshops – Malaprops (fantastic book shop) – and noticed that they had book clubs that anyone could go to.  That night the book they were discussing was a collection of poetry by Mary Oliver called Swan – my lovely cousin Mary had introduced me to Mary Oliver about a year ago so I was quite excited to go along.  I arrived at Malaprops with my usual punctuality, ie. 2 minutes after the starting time of 7pm, and sat myself down at one of the chairs with everyone else. Unfortunately there was two events that night and I spent the first half hour listening to an author reading from his book “Soil and Sacrament” about his journey into finding God through gardening (actually it was quite interesting and could have stayed but slipped away 20 minutes later when he had finished his reading and found the book club).  They were a really nice group of people but certainly a lot more serious than my lovely book club at home with a lot more probing discussions.  The girl next to me was a first timer too so afterwards we went and had a drink at the champagne bar which was fun.  She was bought up in Halifax and New Orleans so had an interesting and diverse upbringing!

On Thursday we had lunch with a friend of Kathy’s – Laura Bond.  She is Head of the Theatre dept at the University of North Carolina here in Asheville.  It’s great meeting some locals and Laura gave us some great tips on gyms, restaurants, spas!!!! (Mark has a massage booked tomorrow and I had one yesterday – not quite as good as Kate Harper but pretty blissful).

On Friday we checked out the gym recommendation from Laura.  Jacob was very excited because when we got there the fire alarm had just gone off so 2 very shiny red fire engines (one with a ladder on top) pulled up just as we arrived.  The gym was great with an indoor and outdoor pool, great childcare and pretty good weights and fitness room and only 10 mins from home.

After that we headed to the Asheville Brewing and Pizza Co which is just down the road from us.  It also has a cinema with full bar at the back.  We had been told it was a great place to take kids – we wandered round thinking it was OK and then we hit the back room – giant screens showing old cartoons on every wall, (the Flinstones was on when we got there), booth style tables and heaps of video games and pinball machines.  We had the pizza and salad buffet but the menu looked great too (Asheville is vegetarian heaven as everywhere has great vego options – Mark is stoked!!). Mark had a Pale Ale and I had a Ninja Porter with Raspberry – very tasty!!

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We managed to get a babysitter for Friday night, one of Laura’s theatre students Maggie who Jacob instantly loved, so we headed out to the Pisgah Brewing Company on the way to Black Mountain about 20 mins from home.  They have a fantastic outdoor stage set amongst big trees, a stall selling their beer and cider and various food trucks (even here there was one whole truck just doing vegetarian food and the others all had at least two vegetarian options – love it, mark can’t believe it!).  We went to hear singer/songwriter J J Grey and his band Mofro – they sing southern rock, blues and soul.  He has a fantastic voice and was a great live performer with an awesome band – Mark and I had a great time.  Hopefully this You Tube link works http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v6J-SBfMP5A – if not just you tube J J Grey and Mofro and listen to “The Sweetest Thing” or “99 Shades of Crazy”.

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Stage at Pisgah Brewing

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J J Grey and Mofro

This morning, Sunday morning, we headed to Sunny Point Cafe for breakfast.  A very popular local spot and given that we were told it would be a 35 minute wait we expected good things and it was fantastic. Here’s the menu. I had one of the specials of blackened scallops on egg over medium on rosemary bread with cajum hollandaise!! http://sunnypointcafe.com/daytime-menu/

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Mark and Jacob stayed home to watch the golf and I went for a hike with Kiki and a friend of hers.  We went to the forests in Montreat and did a 4 hour hike on the hills – it was great, beautiful forest, lovely view at the top and good company.

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Mary Beth and Kiki on Montreat walk

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View from top of walk

Contra dancing tomorrow night – mark is very excited.

love Charlotte, Mark and Jacob xo

The Last Week’s Activities in Asheville

This is quite a long blog since it’s been a while since I posted – feel free to skim read!!

Last Friday Mark had the great idea of doing the trolley bus tour of Asheville.  It was a excellent way to orient ourselves and learn a bit of the history of Asheville.  We went through the historic Montford residential area just outside of downtown with it’s beautiful big 2 and 3 storeyed wooden houses with fantastic big porches wrapping round the front – I love them! We drove up through the Grove Park Inn (previously mentioned) and through the River Arts District (previously pretty scummy area that has become trendy with artists and has lots of studios). We briefly stopped there and saw some great pottery which we’ll go back to.  Our guide on the second half had a great Southern accent – loved listening to her.  I’ve had a couple of people say to me, in a very heavy southern accent – “y’all not from round here?” -love it!!

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Local Pottery

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Us on the Trolley Bus

The architecture in downtown is great – lots of art deco buildings (which my photos don’t do justice of)!!

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Downtown architecture

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Church downtown

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more cool architecture

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fountain downtown

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Basilica

After the tour we headed out to a Nature Center where they also have a public pool next door.  The nature center had some cool animals – black bears, red and grey wolves, owls, eagles, foxes, bobcats, cougars – unfortunately they had eaten about an hour before we got there so most of them were sleeping – still pretty cool.  The grey wolf was beautiful!

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Jacob at Nature Centre

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Mark at Nature Centre

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Black Bear

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Grey wolf

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Cougars

The pool is a great public pool with a good shallow bit for Jacob and only about 15 minutes from home so might go back there.

The next day was the annual Arts and Craft Festival at the Church of All Saints at the Biltmore Village (the Biltmore Estate is the largest house in the US with 250 rooms – it was built by the Vanderbilts who owned huge amounts of the Blue Ridge Mountains. On the bus tour we were heading to Biltmore and the tour guide told us that all the mountains as far as we could see to the west had been purchased by the Vanderbilts).  The Arts and Crafts Festival wasn’t so great for Mark and Jacob who spent most of their time in the church playground – I had a better time wandering round the stalls and made a few wee purchases!!!  It was pretty hot so we headed in to town for lunch and then to Splashville which is this cool fountain park in the middle of town for kids (although I would have joined in if I had my togs).  Jacob was a bit tentative at the start but then was getting in amongst it – the kids never know when the fountains are going to start and where so they are rushing all over the place – peering down into them and then getting a faceful of water – it’s fantastic.

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Splashville

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Sunday was a quietish day doing the housework (uggh but small house so didn’t take too long with everyone helping).  Kathy Milam, a friend of ours who is living in Blenheim and comes from Asheville (small world), gave us some introductions to people here in Asheville.  One of the, Kiki, invited us to her house for a hike followed by a cook out (ie BBQ).  Jacob was stoked because they have a dog and a 14 year old, Will, who he had a great time with playing in his room with all his cool toys.  The hike was great and Jacob loved it.  At dinner we met Kiki’s husband, Chris, and her parents from Washington.  We sat out on the covered porch looking over the woods (apparently they had had a bear there a couple of days ago and the bear and dog had a very long stand-off until the bear walked away – Lucy the dog, who is a sweet dog, was pretty shaken for a few days)!!  The talk of bears prevented Jacob from going down into the woods to Will’s fort as it was getting dark and very scarey!!  It was really nice to be out at someone’s house for dinner – they were fun people.  We took Jacob back on the Tuesday and he had a 3 hour play with Will – his new best friend.

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Will, Jacob and Lucy walking by the Swannanoa River

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Mark and jacob by the River

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Kiki, Will and Lucy

Jacob and i have been having breakfast outside quite a bit – which takes about 45 minutes because Jacob is too busy talking to actually eat (can never understand how food isn’t his number 1 priority like it is for me).  We have been waging a battle against the squirrels who are constantly eating the bird feed preventing the birds from getting it.  We would constantly run out and chase them away only to have them all back in 5 minutes.  I decided to give up the battle when I got up one morning and there was 6 of them out there – I had visions of being “taken down” by a bunch of mutant ninja squirrels!!

One time when I was out there I heard this squealing in the garden and out popped a couple of fighting moles!!!  I’ve never seen one before so I presume they were moles – they were smaller than I imagined though.  They scarpered off in the separate directions and disappeared under the ground and haven’t seen them since.

I’ll post this now and the last few days in the next post.

love Charlotte, Mark and Jacob xo

Our house

We are really enjoying the house that we have rented.  It is in a great part of Asheville – north Asheville about a 10 minute drive from town.  We have 4 supermarkets within 10 minutes including a fantastic Wholefoods Market.  Ashevile has forest-covered hills all around it and our suburb in particular seems to be very woodsy. Every morning I go for a walk and within 10 minutes I’m on a narrow road winding uphill amongst big trees with interesting houses with fantastic views of the city.  It is so quiet up there that it’s hard to believe it is only 10 minutes to town.

Just down the road is a fantastic golf course for Markey – part of the Grove Park Inn which is a massive hotel which has had many famous people staying there (F Scott Fitzgerald, Clinton, Obama to name a few). Check out the link below. http://www.groveparkinn.com/

As soon as we can find a babysitter Mark and I are going to go up there and have a drink at the Sunset Terrace which looks over the course towards the city.

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Grove Park Inn Reception

View from Grove Park Inn

View from Grove Park Inn

Over the last week we haven’t done too much – just enjoying relaxing together.  In fact, some of the nicest times have been sitting outside the kitchen on the back deck, having breakfast, lunch or dinner, (we seem to be over the food tantrums from Jacob), and watching the birds and squirrels competing for the bird food or playing with Jacob in the backyard.!  I’ll do a blog post where I give a run down on some of the touristy things we’ve been doing – just wanted to give you an idea of where we are living.

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lounge

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lounge

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kitchen

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kichen

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kitchen

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front porch swing

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backyard and woods

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backyard swing

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squirrel and bird tree and occasional pirate ship

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looking to the back deck and kitchen door

 

Food!

As anyone who knows me would know, food is a big part of my life and after the good food desert that is Disney I was really happy to get to Asheville with all the wonderful restaurants and cafes that it has (plus the wonderful Greenlife supermarket which is part of the Wholefoods chain – wonderful organic selection of foods and other grocery items).  Sadly so far my supermarket experiences have been done at breakneck speed with either a manic Jacob in the store or a bored one in the car!  Hoping to get some nice browsing time at Greenlife sometime although that would just be dangerous for the wallet and I have limited pantry space here (which is quite challenging for me given my pantry at home!)

So far our favourites are Tod’s Tasties for the best sandwich combinations ever and really good coffee.  My last sandwich was a veggie melt with spinach, caramelised onions and marinated tempeh – incredibly good.

Jacob and I went to the Laughing Seed Cafe which is a vegetarian restaurant.  I remember it from last time we were here.  It’s so good that I want everything on the menu – fantastic flavours and some really interesting drinks.  They have the best vege burger I’ve ever tasted. See the link for the menu. http://laughingseed.jackofthewood.com/menu/

Mark and I are hoping to get onto some babysitters soon so that we can get out to more of ther restaurants – I feel a bit like a kid in a candy store at the moment with all these great new restaurants to try out but we can’t go to them (going with Jacob is never quite such an enjoyable and relaxing experience).

Today I started The Fast Diet where on two days of the week you can only eat 500 calories (or 600 for men).  It is meant to have good health benefits as well as being good for weight loss (not that I’m too concerned about that but once I hit those restaurants I might need something to balance out the gluttony!).  It’s pretty achieveable and my breakfast and dinner were pretty much the same – I just couldn’t have that little bit of gorgeous dark chocolate, or the glass of wine, or the oat raisin cookie at afternoon tea!  Feeling a little peckish now (9.20pm) so might go to sleep so II can get to breakfast time!

Signing off now – will do more of a what we’ve been up to blog with photos tomorrow.

Settling in!

I thought that I should bring some reality checks into the idyll that is our Asheville Adventure (since it is all sounding very peaches and cream at the mo).  My last post included a heartwarming family photo of our first family dinner in Asheville – what I didn’t mention is the major meltdown from Jacob about 5 minutes after that which resulted in a naughty room incident with 5 full minutes of screaming and crying!!  After a more relaxed approach to behaviour and food during our time at Disney time combined with extreme tiredenss Jacob is not quite himself at the moment which is testing our patience (although he is returning to normal now that we are settling in!!).

After a challenging night’s sleep where our body clocks weren’t quite functioning properly (hoping that will be better tonight)! Jacob and I headed down to visit his pre-school.  It seems like a cool place in an old two-storeyed house.  We met his teacher, Miss Kylie, who seems lovely.  Jacob is looking forward to starting on Aug 19th.

We then found this amazing 2nd hand book shop with a champagne bar and cafe.  It has little nooks and crannies with subdued lighting that you can tuck yourself away in, with a glass of champagne, and read some of their awesome books – Jacob and I didn’t do the champagne bit today sadly!!

Still got to get our car, phones and sundry other boring stuff.  Will not blog again for a week to give you all a break!  (might just put up some photos).  Hoping to get to a Mountain Dance and Folk Festival (hopefully get to see some clog dancing!!) and also the Asheville Arts and Crafts Festival this weekend.

love Charlotte, Mark and Jacob. xo

Learning How to Blog!

The first step on the blogging of our 3 month American adventure is visiting my brother-in-law, Geoff, to learn how to blog (from the author of the well-known blog, Spores, Moulds and Fungi!).  This may take some time with my low-level of technological savvy!!!

While we’re away I’m going to be doing regular blog of what we are getting up to.  If you are interested click on the button on the right-hand-side to become a follower and get email notifications of our blog updates.

Looking forward to keeping in touch!

love Charlotte