In Which it is 60 Degrees on Winter Solstice

So it’s not so cold outside right now … but I’m enjoying winter break! And reminding myself that it usually gets colder in January ’round these parts. Also, I love saying, “’round these parts.”

I haven’t been doing a very good job of keeping up with this here blog. And every time I post I think, “Here we go! I can do this! I’ll definitely post again soon.” And then a month goes by. This past month has absolutely FLOWN by. I mean it. It’s been crazy! My Dad and Parker and Dean came up at various times around Thanksgiving, which was wonderful, and then it’s as though the weeks since then have passed by at warp speed. I’m pretty sure I’ve only blinked once and it’s already Christmas! In all honesty, I moved on to Christmas mid-November, so it’s been a long time coming. But suddenly it IS Christmas and it doesn’t quite feel like it yet. I have great faith that it will start to feel like it in the next couple of days, but today, on this balmy Winter Solstice, I’m here to say that it does not feel like winter.

Advent Calendar

Wreath

Handknit Edamame Ornament

I made this knit edamame ornament for my Secret Santa!

Decorations

Tiny Succulents!

Warren Wilson Presbyterian Church

Christmas Cards!

Grandpa's Santa Suspenders

Home Grown Sign

Biltmore Estate

Himalayan Salt Lamp

Beautiful Himalayan Salt Lamp that I got as a gift from one of my munchkins!

Tiny Christmas Tree

Life has been full of Christmas songs and munchkins wearing cute Christmas outfits and art projects and chaos. It was a fun month, which is probably why it went by so quickly. At work we had a fun week of Secret Santa culminating in a delicious holiday staff dinner where we all guessed who was giving us our gifts! Always a good time. I was so proud of the edamame ornament that I knit for my Secret Santa and was thrilled by the beautiful gifts I received – one of them was the tiny succulents pictured above. Then it was full steam ahead through the rest of the days before winter break. Our school Holiday Performance was a blast! It’s destined to be adorable and hilarious when tiny munchkins sing songs for their families, and the performance did not disappoint. I’ve used my voice so much that I’m pretty sure I’ve had laryngitis for the past week – which I learned mostly means I’ve thoroughly worn out my voice and will get it back soon. Google says lots of fluids and rest, so that’s what I’ve been doing. Here’s to hoping it comes back very soon! If you know me at all you know that I am not a particularly quiet person, so to have no voice is a challenge. It’s really put a damper on my daily musical repertoire in the car. Nonetheless, winter break has started out just marvelously with Christmas cards being sent out, a very much-needed yoga practice, and some rest and relaxation.

We have a lovely wreath on our front door, which makes me smile every time I pull up. There are decorations on all of the apartments in our little complex, which makes me insanely happy. And our tiny tree is decorated and glows whenever we’re home – we have way more ornaments than space on the tree, but I consider it a personal challenge to fit them all in. I love looking at each one and thinking about all the memories I have of past Christmases.

Christmas is going to be very different this year. Perhaps that’s why it’s not quite feeling like Christmas yet. My brother is on his way to Prague, as I type these very words, to meet up with my Mom for the holiday. I had the opportunity to go but was torn for spending time with Scott and feeling like it would be a very rushed trip for me with a short break. (Mom and I are planning a trip to Spain in June instead!) And my Dad and Dean are in Hawaii for the second year in a row for Christmas. Honestly, it opened things up a bit on our end for Christmas plans, so that’s the silver lining. Biltmore on Christmas morning and New-England-bound on Christmas night!

I am grateful this year for the gift of being with family and for this incredible life! Merry Christmas y’all!

Baby It’s Cold Outside

The weather has been up and down lately – mid-60s earlier this week and mid-30s today! Fall has been crazy busy … still.

Samantha came up for a glorious weekend of adventures and indulgence. We ate good food, drank good beer and wine, and had a wonderful leisurely time together. Thanks for coming Samantha! We loved having you here!

Biltmore Winery

Wine Tasting

Christmas Decorations at Biltmore

And now, a few photos from life lately. I got the most terrific package in the mail this week from Leigh! Inside was the loveliest honey pot! And every time I look at it makes me think of Leigh and Winnie the Pooh. Thanks Leigh! Working on a letter soon.

Love from Michigan

Honey Pot from Leigh!

Went for a lovely walk at the Biltmore yesterday afternoon. The air was crisp, the views were beautiful, and it was nice to get outside. For some reason we are much more apt to bundle up and go for a walk this time of year than during the summer. It can definitely get cold, but goodness it feels great to get outside when the air is crisp.

Shadows at Biltmore

Biltmore House

Then we found ourselves at Home Depot where we saw this cheery little fellow nestled in the Christmas Tree display. Pretty cute!

Christmas Flamingo

Finally went to Highland Brewing Company for the first time yesterday too! We both got a pint of Cold Mountain – yum!

Highland Cold Mountain

I’ve been slowly working on this cable-licious cowl – it’s so meditative for me to knit and it’s so satisfying to make something so scrumptious and snuggly. I used a gift certificate and got myself some rather decadent yarn made from baby alpaca fleece (thanks Janet and Karl!!!) and I can’t wait to finish this and wear it all the time. And yet, at the same time, the process of knitting is so methodical and peaceful that I just want to keep working on it until I come up with another project. The trials and tribulations of a knitter.

Cables

In other new, I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving, but I’ve completely moved on to Christmas already. This is very uncharacteristic of me – usually I am rather militant about not doing Christmas things until after Thanksgiving. Not this year! I decided it was arbitrary to wait and that if it makes me happy then I should just do it. Luckily Scott is on the same page. No, we don’t have our Christmas tree up yet, but we have started whole heartedly listening to Christmas music. It’s indulgent and puts a smile on my face every time. So there’s that.

 

Autumness

Life is just as busy as ever right now! It’s feeling a bit more consistently cool these days. Our brand spankin’ new Trader Joe’s opened a few weeks ago and it’s AMAZING!!! We love love love having a Trader Joe’s here in Asheville.

Trader Joe's Asheville!

The walled gardens at the Biltmore Estate are ever changing and the carpet of flowers there is breathtaking.

Fall flowers in the Walled Garden at the Biltmore

I’m noticing fall colors like I never have before – there’s more lavender in early fall than I ever realized.

Fall flowers

And the wine tasting at the Biltmore is always a favorite spontaneous activity!

Spontaneous Wine Tasting

Fall colors

My Dad was in town last weekend and we really enjoyed having him visit. We took him to Wicked Weed, Doc Chey’s, and Hi-Wire to taste some of our favorite brews and delicious noms! And we went to Dough with some of his friends for the first time! I didn’t even know it existed. It’s a neat little bakery restaurant with good sandwiches and a nice vibe. One of his friends, Christopher Oakley, who used to be an animator at Disney, told us all about his recent findings about Lincoln at Gettysburg. So interesting! Thanks for coming to visit, Dad!

Dough Asheville

And now we’re enjoying the fall-ness in the air – the foggy mornings, crisp mountain air, pumpkins and Halloween decorations everywhere, planning for upcoming holidays, and all of our other sundry activities. My Spanish class at AB Tech has been awesome and we’re all talking about a Spanish IV class in January! Mmm fall.

Pumpkins!

Head First into September

I find myself diving into September head first. And it’s already almost halfway through!

School is off to a rock and rolling start. We are getting into a routine slowly but surely and getting to know our kiddos better every day. Teaching certainly is a challenging job, but I do love it.

I started taking a continuing education Spanish class at the local community college and we had our first class on Tuesday of this week. It was so great! It feels wonderful to be back in a Spanish class, reviewing my knowledge, practicing my conversation skills, and building my confidence with speaking! I surprise myself with how much I actually do know and remember when I just start speaking. Hopefully this class will hold me accountable for actually using this beautiful language!

Spanish Textbook

The Walled Garden at the Biltmore Estate is beautiful in late summer. The large leafy plants are lush and lovely. The flowers are abundant and bright. The grass is green and it feels so magical.

Walled Garden, Biltmore Estate

The roses are still blooming and I wish I had enough sniffs in my nose to sniff all of them. I’m always a bit disappointed when they don’t smell. But so many of them do, and jeepers do they smell good!

Roses at the Biltmore

Biltmore Estate from the Italian Gardens

I would like to say that it’s starting to feel like fall around these parts, but I just can’t bring myself to say that when it’s still mid-80s and humid. We have had some absolutely gorgeous misty mornings though! The clouds catch on the mountains and hug the sunlight into the morning with a tenderness only foggy mornings can. It’s like bits of magic leftover from dreamland.

Misty morning sunshine

Life has been busy lately. Busy, but good. I took myself to yoga last night even though I was so tempted to just stay at home. And I am so glad I went! Yoga is awesome.

African Violet

Fall is a busy time of year for us here in las montañas! I’ll try to keep the blog updated on all of our adventures. Also, my mom’s African Violet is blooming abundantly! It’s incredible! And it makes me think of her every time I see it.

late august

Yowza it’s been a while since the last time I posted! And a lot has happened since then. These past few weeks have been a bit of a blur.

I started back to work a couple of weeks ago after some glorious time off. We had two days of teacher workdays and then The Weekend Before Mom Left.

My Mom is living in Kuwait now. Scott and I spent a busy and wonderful weekend with her just before she left. We sorted through some of the last things, took a couple of car loads to her storage unit, helped her pack her 6 suitcases, and soaked up as much time with her as possible. I went through the house and took pictures of all of the rooms so I can remember them. It was so empty when we left, and even more so when my mom finally left. I have so many memories in this house – this is where I grew up! But the most important thing to remember is that home is with family. Always. But it’s still a little bittersweet to say goodbye to my childhood home.

Home

Family

Mom and me

I dove in head first after getting home with a couple more days of teacher workdays right before school started back with the munchkins! I am grateful that I was so busy right after getting home from The Weekend. I suppose it meant I stayed in a denial a bit … er … a lot longer. But then suddenly she is living in Kuwait! Being busy as she was leaving did create a welcome distraction from moping. It still seems totally surreal but it is getting easier as I am learning more about what she is doing and where she is living. Can’t wait to talk to you soon Mom! Such an epic adventure.

After all of the emotions of my Mom moving and starting back to school I opened a Dove chocolate at work and it said this:

Truth in a chocolate wrapper.

And I realized that it was truth in a chocolate wrapped like none ever before.

***

Last weekend Scott’s brother, David arrived! He was here briefly for Scott’s graduation back in May, but it was such a whirlwind weekend that he didn’t really get to see much of Asheville. This time was much different. On Friday night we went to Farm Burger for dinner – a first for us all! And let me tell you – it was delicious! Local beef, fresh toppings, tasty sides, and wicked good sweet tea. (Describing sweet tea as “wicked good” feels like I’m forcing two very different things together against their will – southern sweet tea and New England wicked … but I’m doing it anyway because that pretty much sums me up.) Saturday we started our day out right with some Sunny Point brunch. That place never gets old.

Get to the point.

Then we walked around downtown Asheville a bit and headed out to Black Mountain. Found ourselves drinking sweet icy beverages at the Dripolator and headed back home. Went to the Biltmore after 5 (Passholders can bring friends to the Estate after 5 for free!) and wandered around Antler Hill Village, peeked up the hill at the House from the Lagoon, and enjoyed some samples in the Winery. Retired to the apartment for some noms and Cards Against Humanity – good times.

Sunday after Gump’s Very Superior Pancakes we headed south on the Blue Ridge Parkway to Mt. Pisgah. It was a gorgeous albeit slightly warm day for a hike! It felt great but it did bring to my attention how sorely out of shape I am. Boo hiss. (One of the kids we passed said, “I hope there’s a gift shop at the top!” Hilarious.)

At the top of Mt. Pisgah

But seriously – check out this view! WE LIVE HERE!!! It was a really magnificent day.

View from the top.

We are so glad David finally got to see a bit more of Asheville! Thanks for coming!!!

***

We officially have the first full week of school under our belts and it feels great! I’m excited to be getting to know our munchkins better and better each day. Teaching is not an easy job but I get more joy and fulfillment out of being with those kiddos every day than I ever have in my life. I am so lucky! I’m even saying this on Friday afternoon!

Now I’m off to enjoy every last drop of this three-day weekend!

spontaneous whimsy // biltmore house edition

Hibiscus Flower

On Sunday Scott and I spontaneously decided to go for a house tour at the Biltmore! Disclaimer: We have 12 Month Passes and we use them regularly. We read an article on the Biltmore Blog that outlined a few restoration projects that are going on right now and we thought it would be fun to go check things out! So we took ourselves on over, found a doozy of a parking spot, and wandered through the house. They have self-guided tour booklets available (that you should definitely use if you’re going through the house for a tour), but we have been through the house enough times that we don’t always pick them up anymore. Lately we have enjoyed mapping out the many levels of the house in our heads and noticing the ever-changing decorations in all the rooms. The tour itself also changes from time to time. It gets rerouted depending on the time of year and the restoration that is happening at the time. We gallivanted through the house taking note of the detours and various subtle differences. It was delightful! After a quick jaunt we found ourselves at the winery – because free wine tasting. Why not!?

It was wonderful and spontaneous and whimsical.

Oh, and this beautiful hibiscus flower was blooming beautifully outside the winery!

this and that

Dogwood flowers.

Pink Dogwood

Picnic lunch at the Biltmore.

Picnic and Biltmore

Rainy drive on the Parkway up to Craggy.

Rainy Parkway

Craggy

Purple succulent reaching toward the sun.

Purple Succulent

Hemming pants with my Singer sewing machine.

Hemming with my Singer

Firework flower from one of the munchkins.

Firework flower

Life lately has been a bit crazy. A lot going on! But life is marvelous! So much to be thankful for: my family, my Scott, an awesome job, so much love from so many munchkins, curiosity, spring, flowers, warmth, this Sunday is my birthday, Scott graduates in two weeks, and a vacation in a month to the Northeast! Let’s be honest – I’m not doing very well with posting regularly. I’ll probably post soon about my birthday shenanigans!