Wasp Paper

Writing from the Writers Group this week. We’ve been doing this, but I can’t find the piece I used as inspiration.

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What would a wasp say if it could write its little heart out on that huge scroll?polistes_may_2013-2

I’ve never liked bees. Honey bees are ok—almost cute—but the rest of the beekingdom have always terrified me. Maybe not bumble bees. They are miniature winged golden retrievers, following too close and bumping accidentally; curious and furry. Hornets, wasps, yellow jackets; they are all evil.

The girl scouts had a giant hornet’s nest in the corner of the room where we met. It was something to do with North Carolina or Mecklenburg County. I never paid attention to that part. I had nightmares about it; swarms of these evil creatures would pour out of the bottom of their paper castle and come for me, vengefully pricking me to death for daring to cast my eyes in their direction, their fury unstoppable, their wings like a machine of war propelling them towards my vulnerable face.

But they…make paper! They have probably been making paper since well before humans ever did. What if a little wasp took her stinger, dipped in my fresh blood, and wrote on her paper. What would she say?

“Keep out! No trespassing,” big jagged letters around the belly of the nest. “Private Property!”

“You wouldn’t believe what I saw this morning! The sun made tiny round jewels on the ivy leaves round the old tree stump,” careful, precise holes poked, needle stitches for each letter. “You should pay more attention to the great world.”

“Yay for circles!” Big, punched out letters. “Circles are best!”

“My life is so brief and fast,” tiny bloody cursive, her ink from the well of my arm. “I must be fierce and powerful before I die, for it flies to meet me quickly. Then, I am no more.”

To read the nest book, one layer at a time, peeling pages from an enemy’s soul.

 

Note: that is NOT my photograph. I would never, ever get that close. The photographer is excellent and can be found here. 

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Freezing Fresh Basil

Last week I joined several ladies at the church for a “Canning Bee” as we sliced, cooked, squished, and bagged countless apples into over 20 gallons of applesauce. It was all spooned into plastic bags and frozen and it made quite a windfall for the Community Table! While I think it is really great to give food to community organizations that provide meals to those who need some assistance, I also think it’s pretty awesome to give them really GOOD food–good tasting and good for you, too!

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That same day, the woman with the proliferation of apples brought an equally abundant harvest of basil. In fact, it was so much basil that the whole church smelled deliciously of basil even the next day long after the apples were gone.

Ultimately, I was the recipient of the lion’s share of this harvest (two gallon sized bags crammed full!) and was delighted but clueless as to what to do with it all. My hope was to make pesto at some point but that point was not any time soon, so the only option I could come across was freezing.

However, I’ve never frozen basil before. One suggestion I had been given was to place them flat in a ziplock and freeze them that way. Then they could be crushed when frozen and wouldn’t have to be chopped. I was pretty worried that they would turn brown or black if I did that. I did a small sample of leaves in this way and while it was super easy to “chop” them by simply squishing the bag, they did indeed turn quite dark.

Even though I was willing to use a small portion of the enormous bounty of basil for that test, I wasn’t willing to risk it all, so I found a solution on Pinterest. (see my Pinterest page for my boards.) Here’s what I found and it really does a super job and it’s part way towards the pesto I want to make, too, because it involves olive oil.

You will need: fresh basil, olive oil of your choice, some kind of container to freeze it in that is (my suggestion) no larger than a 1 cup size.

Wash the leaves, trimming off any flowers and long stems. Let them air dry on a paper towel or clean dishtowels. This took about 20 min for me and I wasn’t super patient about the drying part! It was really late at night and I’d been chopping and squishing apples all day!

There seem to be several options at this point.

Chopping: fine or coarse. I chose coarse because, as I said, I was tired. Plus, my little tiny food processor would have taken FOREVER to do this much basil–if, of course, I could find the blades!

Containers: some people choose to freeze the basil in ice cube trays. I thought that was a brilliant idea! I didn’t have any, though, and I did have a few of those ziplock type small plastic containers. I think you could use anything you wanted but I’d guess it shouldn’t be more than about a cup size since you’ll have to thaw the whole container when you’re ready to use it.

Pour a layer of olive oil in the bottom of the container and swish it to cover the sides. The OO is what keeps the leaves from turning dark, so you want as much of everything covered as possible. Pack in the leaves, covering with the oil, and stick in the freezer. I did mine in layers since it was a rough chop: put in a bunch of basil, pour in some OO, squish, repeat.

Yummmy! I’m looking forward to making pesto soon!

The Hills Remember

writing assignment: choose a title or cover from a book on a shelf and use that as a starting point.

The Hills Remember

The hills re4member my father. He used to talk to them, imagine them, dream with them, pine for them when he was away for too long. He walked them plowed them, loved them.

“I lift mine eyes unto the hills,” he would say every time he returned home, “whence commeth my strength.” It was not a question as the psalmist would have it. It was his declaration. He knew from whence his help, his strength, his all came frometh; those mountains.

During the time of the great second war he wrote home from France and Germany in words that never pretended not to be homesick. He saw horrible things but also beautiful ones as well. “It is all really pretty,” he wrote from the countryside somewhere between France and Germany, “the Land, I mean. But it ain’t none of it as pretty as our mountains!” All he wanted to do was return to these mountains; these rolling hills that never forget.

I stand on the earth, toes gripping, sinking roots down deep. The ancient hills roll out all around me as far as the eye can see. Soon, as the sun sets, the mountains will leap up and catch the fire ball, pulling him down below their horizons.

If my father were alive he would be 90 years old today. But he does not walk these hills any more, at least not with feet of flesh and bone. But the hills do remember him and so do I.

I lift my eyes to the hills from whence commeth my strength.

Kitties and Puppies and Doggies and Cats

Now I know that money is tight for everyone in the world but I met a woman the other day who has a cause worth taking a moment to read about and, even if it’s only a couple of dollars, worth giving to. So please…. read on…

Her name is Chandra Spaulding and she has a great passion for caring for animals. Not just her own pets in her own home but caring for those that need homes, too. The last time I saw her, she was sitting on the floor in the bookstore petting the two very happy cats, Cedric and Theda. The store has recently provided the two matching black and white cats (“just like bookends” Chandra said) a new home and now they happily roam the shelves and greet the customers every day.

cedric (photo not by me)

Cedric (photo not taken by me--but it sure is cute!)

Chandra has a great love of animals that is readily apparent. She also spends a great deal of time and money not only helping find homes for animals but also helping people find ways to get the pets they love the vaccinations and spay/neuter procedures they need but may not be able to afford.

Of her work she writes, “I assist folks in western North Carolina by arranging low- and preferably no-cost spay/neuter, plus transport, for their pets through Humane Alliance in Asheville, North Carolina. These people love their pets but lack the financial resources to get them fixed and vaccinated. Often these cases involve multiple pets, including puppies and kittens. Further, I work with partner organizations, making the most of available spay and neuter vouchers. There are other associated costs, though, such as basic vaccinations and travel expenses. Rabies vaccine is required if an owner does not have proof and a pet is four months old or older, and frequently even the $10 for the vaccine is hard for families to come up with, especially when there are more than a couple animals in need. Sometimes these trips to Humane Alliance are the only contact a pet will have with a veterinarian for a year or more. Trips to Humane Alliance require an hour or more of driving (one-way) two days in a row and considerable effort in coordinating with families. Any assistance offsetting these costs would be very much appreciated by me and the families which receive your contributions!  There are people asking for your help, and it’s a great example of how a little bit can go a long way. A little bit of giving makes these families feel acknowledged and understood, and a little bit of giving helps keep our pets population under control and healthy! Pets are very much part of the culture of this mountain area, and they help us be better human beings in so many ways.  When you help with spay and neuter, you are contributing to stronger society.”

So, here’s the deal. She needs help. No, let me put it a better way… the animals need help and she’s one of many who are getting it to them. And you can be one of those people, too. Chandra is using ChipIn, an excellent and quite secure fund-raising site, and every little dollar you can give will help. Check it out HERE.

Also, if you’re in the Sylva, NC area or if you want to make a trip to the most beautiful place on earth (the mountains of western NC) or buy a book online this weekend, come by City Lights Bookstore and be a part of Cedric’s special promotion. Cedric will give a portion of the money you spend in the store or online on Friday, January 20th to PAWS, the non-profit, no-kill animal shelter from whence he came. Want a kitty of your very own? Go downstairs to Citylights Cafe between 11AM and 4PM to adopt a furry friend for yourself!

Donate through ChipIn to support Chandra’s work and buy books from Cedric to support PAWS.

(and if you don’t have anyone in your life who wants a book, feel free to check out MY WISH LISTS!  😉  )

This Year’s Gifts

Last year I made all of my gifts for family and friends and this year I have made a good number of them. The rest I have purchased locally. Pretty proud of that, thank you very much!Today I baked cookies and small pound cakes for my favorite bookstore, cafe and a couple other retail places. I was also able to pick up the recently completed pieces of pottery! Only one more to go and it’s finished; just needs to be fired.

The teapot is covered in ladybugs. The lid says “ladybug  ladybug” and the handle says “fly away home”. The bottom is black to match the lid but I didn’t get a shot with that in it. When the lid is on, there are tiny little antenna from the little bug below that make the lid look like a giant bug. Pretty pleased with it!

The mug is for a friend whose nick name is painted on the mug. Actually, he’s not “no fun” at all, but the mug came out quite well. My favorite is the handle that says “Fun? No!” and the straight face smiley on one side.

Lastly is this scarf. Just finished the last bit this morning. It’s quite long and is doubled up in these photos. Two strands of yarn held together. Quite warm as well. I did it in a Farrow rib which, although the fiber lacks stitch definition, adds a bit of stretch width wise and also lays flat. I’ve got it packaged in a cool little 31 bags tote.

Final bowl to pick up this week before the end of the week and that’s the last of it! The last two photos here are of a bowl I finished some time ago that I have just not posted photos of as of yet. It was just for me.

Black Friday Locally

Last year around this time I made a post called Small Business Saturday . That day (and in turn the post) was designed to encourage people to shop at small businesses. Actually, I had the extra emphasis on LOCAL businesses.This spring I wrote this post about how valuable your money is to the small business owner right down the street from you. Here’s the most important bit and the info came from the 3/50 project.

If half the employed population spent $50 each month in locally owned independent businesses, it would generate more than $42.6 billion in revenue. For every $100 spent in locally owned independent stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll, etc. (and that’s true whether the item you purchase was made in the USA or China or anywhere else, for that matter.) If you spend the same $100 at a national chain store, only $43 stays in the community. If you spend it online, NOTHING returns to the community. Get That? NOTHING. Not A Penny.

This year I’d like to once again encourage everyone to shop locally for their holiday gifts and, actually, for everything you can! In honor of that, here are some of my favorite small businesses–most of which are local to where I live. However, sometimes people mistake “small” for “inaccessible” and these are nothing like that. Many have storefronts on line as well as real brick and mortar shops.

clbFirst of all there is City Lights Bookstore. I have life-long fond memories of shopping or just hanging out in the small owner-operated bookstore in my home town and while I will confess to shopping from time to time in one of those other, big chain book stores, I’ll always give my heart and my money to the local bookstore. The people are great, have wonderful recommendations, can order pretty much anything and they actually READ BOOKS.

Also, there is City Lights Cafe right down stairs and it’s no secret that this is one of my favorite places to eat. They have gift baskets, gift cards AND a new promotion to support shopping locally: free drinks with a receipt showing you bought stuff from a local businessowner.

It’s By Nature in downtown Sylva. There website is under construction but its got the hours and address. Wonderful locally crafted items. Stained glass, pottery, fiber art, wood art, photographs, paintings/sketches, etc etc etc. And occasionally a nice dog 🙂  Additionally, there are tons of other great places in Downtown Sylva and HERE is the list.

Then there is the Dillsboro Chocolate Factorydcs. They are so good at what they do! And what they do is make some awesome chocolate stuffs! Fudge is the best–far and away!

Around the corner from the chocolate place is Treehouse Pottery. Not only are Travis and Joe, the potters who own the business, really talented, they are also right there in the building. Their studio and shop are all one room, so you see their work in process.

And one of my favorite hobbies is ceramics. I paint at Claymates in Dillsboro and it is fantastic place both to create a gift or to give a gift certificate for someone to exercise their creativity. They not only have ceramics to paint, they also have a really interesting glass work (not glass blowing–far easier!) section and various other things in the works.

There’s also lots of locally owned businesses to shop in that town as well, so rather than trying to cover them all, just go HERE.

This is really only a start–just the tip of the iceberg. Last year I did an all DIY Christmas and this year, I’m expanding it to DIY and/or locally purchased. I challenge everyone to purchase as much as they can in their local area from locally owned businesses this holiday season. It will make your whole community merry!

Handy Tips and Info For the New In Town

We are finally at the end of the tourist season and into the beginning of the student season. They’re both great–don’t get me wrong by what I’m about to do here, but sometimes, I just want to make out a little pamphlet to hand out to people who visit or move here. So, here’s my little set of observations on life in this small mountain town.

  • Traffic through town is one way. There are two lanes so that people can drive slowly in the left lane to find a parking spot while being careful not to ram into someone backing out of said parking spot. People just going through town drive in the right hand lane. The left lane is NOT for you to zoom past the rest of us and when you WHAM into the back of my neighbor’s humongous pickup as he’s backing out of his spot in front of the barber shop, I am going to laugh at you.
  • When the young guy who mows your lawn tells you he saw that your car was ready for pick up from the body shop (when you never even talked to the boy about your car. ever. ever.), he is not a stalker. He’s just being neighborly. Everybody in town knows you’re car was in the shop even if you never told a soul.
  • It is quite rude not to accept vegetables from someone’s garden when offered. Unless you’re allergic, take them and do your best to eat them. People are proud of their gardens here and you’re rejecting them when you reject their produce. This also goes for canned goods, fresh eggs, fish and venison–if you’re lucky!
  • It is not a novel or new idea to buy local.
  • No, we do not have a single chain restaurant in town apart from fast food. Really. And not everyone is upset by that fact. We also have one Chinese Buffett and we are damned happy to have it, too!
  • Yes, we have yet another auto parts store that just opened. We have one of every kind known to man, plus a few locally owned.
  • The movie theater does not take credit cards and probably never will. Get over it. You’re seeing a first run movie at half the cost of the Big City and they have candy bars that are cheap enough to not require credit to purchase.
  • Downtown Cullowhee is that spot where they told you. It’s a laundry mat, tattoo shop, a few abandoned places that used to be stores. It’s not even a “wide spot’ in the road–it’s just a spot. Once you see the pizza place, you’ve already missed it.
  • This is a college town because there is a college here, but it is not like any other college town because there is no “there” there.
  • There is one Catholic church, two Episcopal churches, one Lutheran church and 9,584,625 Baptist churches. Oh and about half that number of Methodist.
  • Yes, there are churches here where people handle snakes. They are not in the yellow pages and do not really want you to visit and take their picture. They are not the Amish.
  • When someone asks you who your “people” are, they are not assuming you’re a different race or from another country. They want to know if you’re “local” or “outlander”.
  • No matter how long you’ve lived here, you are not a “local” unless your great grandmother was born here. For some, that still might not be good enough.
  • Just because you are an “outlander” does not mean that people don’t love you or that they aren’t glad you’re here. You can be an outlander and still make this your home.
  • It does not matter where you came from, nobody can drive on ice. Snow, yes. Ice, no. People slide on ice. See all those guys in giant pickups out playing in the snow and ice? They’re all volunteer firemen with massive life insurance policies whose wives have said, “sure honey, go out and play in the snow!”
  • Be nice to the volunteer firemen because that is all we have. And they will save your life.
  • If you see a funeral with a cremation then you know the person wasn’t “local”. There’s nothing wrong with cremation but people just do not do that here. They love the land and see nothing wrong with being planted in it.
  • We do not talk funny here and we do not have an “accent”.
  • A “painter” is a panther. “Yonder” means over there. (And, by the way, Shakespeare used that word so I suggest, unless you wish to show your literary ignorance, that you not make fun of it. Many of the colloquialisms of the area are directly linked to Olde English, so perhaps we speak more properly than you.)
  • Everybody is related. Or might as well be. Gossip at your own risk.
  • Big houses on the side of the mountain makes for an ugly mountain.
  • We are not Hillbillys. We are mountaineers.
  • Storytelling is a fine art.