Posts Tagged ‘NC’

My iPhone took a trip without me

September 8, 2012

UPDATE: Never got news of phone, so replaced it with another 4s, though so tempted to get a 5! Every bit of my data was saved! Woo-hoo!

Well, my iPhone 4s went on a little adventure without me. I’d love to know the places it went and the people it saw. Siri, fill me in!

Frank and Sabrina, in a rare moment of calm here, agreed to accept partial blame in exchange for a treat

I traveled from Tampa, FL, to my home in Durham, NC, in a day, which is about 11 hours of driving, including the slowdowns during the notorious speed-trap zone along US 301 in Florida. I was operating on three hours sleep because my dang dogs were restless all night. In fact, I’m blaming the entire fiasco on them, because they distracted and exhausted me all day and because they’re dogs, so they can’t read this and disagree.

I stopped for gas near Florence, SC, and did the usual routine. Gas for the Honda, bathroom for me, bathroom and a walk for Frank and Sabrina, another bathroom stop for me, and then I decided to crack open a Dr Pepper to perk me up. Somewhere along the line I’d put my phone on the hood of the car. Uh-huh, you know where this is going.

Diane shows off her durable but not at all snazzy waterproof iPhone case

Accelerating back onto I-95, I heard a crack on my back windshield and saw an oddly shaped thing bouncing on the pavement. “Weird, I thought. That came out of nowhere.” A few miles later, I glanced to where I keep my phone. Empty. Not good. I fished around, realized I needed to go back, then remembered that unidentified flying object: my phone, of course. The good things were: I knew roughly where it fell and my phone is protected by a heavy-duty waterproof and shock-resistant case.

I had to go 12 miles back to the exit. Just as I was exiting off the highway I saw that a man had pulled over right where I think my phone bounced. It appeared he had just picked something up in the street and was getting back into his pickup truck. I pulled over. I honked. I screamed. But there was no chance he could hear me over six lanes of rushing traffic and a highway median. Do I know he got my phone? Nope. Coulda been a coincidence. I went to the scene of the crime and saw nothing. Maybe it bounced into tall grass? Maybe the guy had it? I have my contact info on the back of my phone, but no one has called. I took another exit and a nice hotel clerk let me use the phone. I called my lovely Lina, who went through the iCloud system and blocked data access. Later I called AT&T and deactivated my number. I did try the phone location service, but it said the phone was “off line” even though it rang.

Things I did right: Block access as soon as possible. Subscribed to iCloud from the beginning. My contacts are all updated online and I can load them onto a new phone. Most of my photos had been downloaded by Lina. Still I lost some. Put ID on my phone, not that it helped this time.

Things I did wrong: That’s easy — leaving my phone on the car roof! And maybe that I didn’t get insurance, but iPhone prices are falling very soon with a new model coming out, so that’s a silver lining!


A small-town parade to remember

July 10, 2011

I’d heard that Montreat, NC, has a special July Fourth parade, so when we happened to be staying in nearby Black Mountain (at the awesome Inn on Mill Creek), we had to check out the parade. Wow, was it packed, but well worth the effort. Montreat is an odd little place in the mountains. Its most famous resident is the Rev. Billy Graham. I wonder if he ever marched in the parade. I’m guessing yes.

We were worried that Ms. Statue of Liberty (left) was going to hit a power line she was so high up. The other Ms. Liberty (aka Diane) stayed on the ground, though Sabrina got the royal treatment because she was so dang slow.

We loved that they used the parade to hawk the used book sale.

These three yellow labs seemed very happy to wow the crowd.

A lot of residents put on goofy gear and walked the route. Simple and sweet.

We wondered how the bow would bounce when Flicka did her business.

Just in case you were wondering....

High honor for Durham’s dining scene

January 8, 2011

So this morning I’m reading the New York Times’ feature “Where to Travel in 2011,” which is online now and will be in print in the travel section on Jan. 9 and I’m zipping through the entries, places like Koh Samui, Thailand; Loreto, Mexico; Park City, Utah; and then I get to No. 35: Durham, N.C. Excellent choice, y’all, and not just because it’s my hometown.

For those of you not registered with the Times’ website, here’s what writer Ingrid K. Williams had to say about us in the piece titled “A downtown turnaround means food worth a trip.”

“A decade ago, downtown Durham was a place best avoided after sundown. But as revitalization has transformed abandoned tobacco factories and former textile mills into bustling mixed-use properties, the city has been injected with much-needed life. In the heart of downtown, a crop of standout restaurants and cafes has recently sprouted around West Main Street, where low rents have allowed chefs and other entrepreneurs to pursue an ethos that skews local, seasonal and delicious.

Visit Scratch at 111 Orange St.

The farmers’ market favorite Scratch Bakery has a brand-new storefront for its seasonal homemade pies that include chestnut cream pie and buttermilk sweet potato pie. At the cafe-cum-grocery Parker and Otis, the menu features sandwiches made with freshly baked bread from nearby Rue Cler and locally roasted java from Durham’s Counter Culture Coffee. And at the sophisticated Revolution Restaurant, squash tamales, mascarpone gnocchi, and tuna with wasabi caviar rotate through the seasonal menu.”

Thanks for that, Ingrid, and to the Times’ editors for including us in this list that will bring more visitors to sample our many wonderful offerings, food and otherwise. Congrats to those who got shout-outs, and of course there are dozens more businesses who deserve them as well.

Taking a dog’s blood pressure? Start at the end

June 3, 2010

The indignity of it all, says Roxy

Poor Roxy, “the foxy doxy with moxy.” As if having her tail tampered with wasn’t bad enough, now I’ve got to go and post the photos online. She did tell me she’s happy to help in the name of science.

When my vet (St. Francis Animal Hospital in Durham) told me that the results from Roxy’s “senior checkup” indicated they should check her blood pressure, my first question was, how the heck do you check a dog’s blood pressure? While some online sites (and who can trust them?) recommend using the dog’s legs, the base of the tail is the best place for an accurate reading. Of course since dachshund’s legs are only a few inches long, that’s another reason to grab the tiger by the tail.

Vet techs Dianne Saladino holds the cuff around Roxy's tail while Paula Davis secures and comforts her

The equipment is similar to what is used for humans. The cuff that goes around the tail is infant-sized, but on my 15-year-old tekkel’s tiny tail it was still difficult to tighten. The listening device must be amplified because the pulse deflections are much harder to hear in dogs than in humans. (Did I get that right, vet techs?) It took a good ten minutes to get a reading. Tech Paula Davis held Roxy while her colleague Dianne Saladino operated the equipment. Meanwhile, Mom looked on, calming her baby girl when she wasn’t busy snapping photos.

Roxy’s blood pressure was a bit elevated, but now the vet isn’t sure if it’s because she was stressed or because she might have another problem. So I’m now to try to get a urine sample, which isn’t easy on a dog with low clearance. But fear not, there are other ways to collect, and, per Roxy’s request, I promise to not show any of them here. We all have our limits.

His wonderful whirligig world

April 22, 2010

Vollis Simpson in his backyard whirligig park in Lucama, N.C., in 2005

Update: Rest in peace, Vollis Simpson, who died at home in Lucama, N.C., on May 31, 2013, at the age of 94.

The recent article in the New York Times about our North Carolina treasure Vollis Simpson reminded me of our trip the the whirligig master’s home a few years ago. Hard to believe that Vollis is now 91 and still whirligigging! Here’s what I wrote on Nov. 12, 2005, for my (still ongoing) Who & Ware column in the News & Observer:

The state fair left Raleigh a couple weeks ago, but there’s a midway of sorts you can see year-round over in Wilson County.

The display, plucked down amid pine trees and tobacco and cotton fields, is a startling sight if you’re unprepared.  The sky suddenly fills with a carnival of contraptions, some of which resemble Ferris wheels, carousels, and kids rides. Colorful parts move excitably in the breeze while the sounds from dozens of spinning wheels clatter and click out a wind-powered melody.

Vollis cuts a propeller out metal

The mastermind of this handmade midway is Vollis Simpson, 86, a lifelong resident of Lucama, a tiny town in western Wilson County about 50 miles east of Raleigh. For more than a decade now, the curious and the collectors have come from near and far to come visit Simpson’s “whirligig farm.”

Simpson, known nationally, has large-scale pieces in Raleigh, Greensboro, Atlanta, Baltimore, and downtown Wilson.  He’s been written about in national magazines and had a documentary made about him. Last year USA Today listed his farm among the “10 Great Places to Sample Quirky Americana.”

Simpson, a lifetime tinkerer, machine shop owner by trade, and artist in “retirement” seems to take his fame in stride. You can ask him yourself if you stop by his workshop near the intersection of Wiggins Mill Road and Willing Worker Road.  You’ll have to maneuver through a few piles of metal, fans, fan blades, bicycle wheels, buckets, radiator covers, and more to reach his work space.

A tabletop whirligig

While Simpson might be one of North Carolina’s most famous “outsider,” or untrained, artists, he’s no recluse. He’s also not full of himself.  When responding to “Hi, you must be Vollis Simpson,” he answered, “Yep, what’s left of me.”

We visited on a Sunday afternoon, and, as usual, Simpson was working. He wiped the smudge off his large, lined hands with a rag and held one out for a shake. He advised his visitors to speak up, as he doesn’t hear so well these days.

Simpson, wearing his usual jeans and a plaid shirt speckled with paint, led us  into his field of dreams. His bigger works are worth $10,000 and up. (Not that they’re for sale, though he does still fill custom orders.) He also has a shed full of smaller pieces for the tabletop and yard that he sells from $100 to $200.

Vollis tests a tabletop whirligig in his workshop

For its centennial this year, Wilson commissioned a dozen large whirligigs. Five of those now dot downtown and the others are in the works. (Two are at the intersection of Tarboro and Nash streets.)

The house Simpson shares with Jean, his wife of 58 years, sits back behind the field holding the whirligigs. One son, Michael, a mail carrier, lives in a separate house on the family property, the same farm Simpson and his 11 siblings were raised on. His daughter, Carol Kyles, a social worker, lives up the street, and his other son, Leonard, a TV newscaster, lives in Greensboro.


Walk this way to way fresh seafood

November 10, 2009

Diane is ready for Walking Fish pickup

Can you believe that even in coastal towns, most of the “fresh seafood” on restaurant menus isn’t even from this country, much less the county? Some 80 percent of seafood served in America is imported and much of it is harvested under conditions that would not meet U.S. environmental standards. Diners are unaware either because they assume it’s local or they’re told it is when it’s not. Or they just don’t care.


Carteret clams are being steamed

The shrimp we sauteed the other night were recently caught in Carteret County, NC, about 200 miles east of our home in Durham. So were the clams we steamed two weeks earlier. And the flounder and jumping mullet we grilled? Yep, all from Carteret. Towns there include Atlantic Beach, Beaufort, and Morehead City.


Locavore fishavores congregate on Thursdays at Duke Gardens pickup point

We got all that seafood through Walking Fish, a subscription seafood service organized by Josh Stoll and other students at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. They’ve joined with Carteret fishermen/women to launch our region’s first community-supported fishery to sell locally caught seafood to the public. The name is a takeoff of the more common CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture. The CSF is coordinated through Bill Rice, owner of Fishtowne Seafood, a small Beaufort-based processing facility.


Chuck of Fishtowne fills up a bag with fish and ice. Earlier he gave a filleting demo.

The composition of each week’s portion varies according to season and weather. We were told ahead of time that we’d likely get clams, shrimp, triggerfish, spot, mullet, flounder, and black drum. I really appreciated that we had choices — weekly vs. biweekly, half-share vs. full share, filleted vs. do-it-yourself. We chose biweekly, half-share and filleted, for $79. Each share is enough for two people with a little leftover, and we’re getting six weeks of fish, so about $13 a meal-for-two for really fresh seafood. And we’re helping our fishing friends in Carteret.

Duke students said they weren’t sure how the program would go over, but I could have told them it would sell out, which it did (at 400 members!). We’re situated in locavore/foodie/eco central. You should see the Prius drivers pull up at the pickup point at Duke Gardens with their farmers’ market and Obama bumper stickers.

While we’re on the topic, there’s also a wonderful program called Carteret Catch. When you see that label in a Carteret restaurant or seafood store window it signifies that the seafood labeled as local comes directly from the county. Those fish don’t have to walk far.

She makes magical menorahs (and more)

October 19, 2009
A trademark handcrafted sculptural menorah by Sue Treuman

Trademark handcrafted ceramic menorah by North Carolina artist Sue Treuman

I recently wrote the piece below, about the fabulous ceramic sculptor Sue Treuman, for my regular artisan column in the News & Observer. Her work is sold nationwide and  menorah prices range from around $95 to $250. Google her name and you’ll find stores that sell it. It’s amazing!  Here’s the article:

The aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks prompted ceramic sculptor and musician Sue Treuman and her husband, Bill, to look for a more low-key place to live. She grew up in New York, and had spent most of her adult life not far away, but moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in 2007.

Despite the emotional and economic trauma of 9/11, Treuman said it was a dream a few months earlier that affected her most.

“It was the end of the world, and everyone was running around trying to get what they could get, just running around like crazy,” she recalled. “I walked through the crowd and decided I didn’t want to do that. I walk through the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and there are poets and singers singing their songs. I see everyone expressing themselves. It’s all about creating one’s life and doing what one needs to do. It changed my life.”

Single woman menorah

Some of her menorahs focus on one figure

While she had been making art for decades, Treuman, 62, became more focused and more appreciative of her creative community. When she and Bill decided to move, that was key.

“Family, community, connections, generations; that’s what’s important to me,” she said. They spent two years in Northampton, Mass., but Bill wanted to move south.

Then she saw Weaver Street Market, the cooperative grocery store and gathering spot in Carrboro, near the boundary of Chapel Hill. “I said, ‘OK, I can live here.’ It speaks of community, and that’s what my work is about.”


Sue's work often depicts family, community, and connections

Indeed, community and family are themes that run through Treuman’s work, especially in the pieces for which she is national recognized: menorahs, the candelabrums used during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. Each is a masterpiece of ceramic sculpture, depicting one to nine figures in clay often in motion, perhaps dancing, playing music or praying.

She got the idea about 30 years ago, and over the years, they have become more sculptural, textured and detailed, she said.

“I celebrate the culture of being Jewish, and Hanukkah is one of my favorite Jewish holidays, because you sing,” said Treuman, who composes music, plays the guitar and sings.

“It’s the story of the miracle of light, that the oil that was supposed to burn for one day burned for eight days.”

A handcrafted sculptural menorah

Menorahs are used during Hanukkah, which this year starts Dec. 12

In her 20s, while working out of a co-op art studio in the Bronx, Treuman’s pottery was for the most part functional. But as her work evolved, she moved more into sculptural pieces, especially the human form, and the menorahs were the perfect stage.

“These are functional, sculptural, and spiritual, synthesized in a ritual form,” she said. “There’s something about making an object of ritual use that people will touch and use. For me personally, I need my stuff to be touched.”


Sue shapes the stoneware clay with her hands and a potters' wheel

Treuman works on them year-round, in parts, storing limbs in different boxes. “My husband calls them the body snatchers,” she said with a laugh. She shapes the stoneware clay with her hands and a potters’ wheel, and each menorah has textures pressed into it, not carved.

“I do series, and though some might look the same, they’re all different. They’re fired twice, glazed, and then I enhance them. The faces have to be worked on to bring out detail, and I’ll use different lusters and acrylic colors.”

She sells the menorahs in galleries around the country, and they will be among the work on display at her home studio during Orange County Open Studios in the first two weekends of November.

Godess pot

A day with friends inspired 'Goddess pots,' Sue's most recent creation

More recently, the sculptural series Treuman has been concentrating on is her “goddess pots,” vessels decorated with a fantastical woman’s face or torso.

“They were conceived after spending a day egg-painting with a group of women,” she said. “For some reason, being with a group of women always gets my creative juices flowing. I woke up in the middle of the night and said, ‘My next project will be goddess pots,’ and I drew everything out.

Goddess pot

Goddess pots celebrate womanhood

“I wanted it to be women vessels, women holding space, and it turned into open vessels that became women, and then a venue for making different faces, hair, textures. Some are very, very big. I do make some smaller ones, but I usually sell them to private collectors.”

Since moving to the area, Treuman has gathered together a new group of women.

“I literally found one woman weaving in her front garden. I’ve never been so bold,” she said. “We dance and sing and eat and laugh. We have fun. The group is dedicated to the spirit of being a woman and what wonderful things women can do and be.”

The kindness (and cooking) of strangers

August 25, 2009
Good Samaritans Steve and Diane of Concord, NC

Good Samaritans and awesome cooks, Steve and Diane of The Ibis in Concord

It was bound to happen. I’m in and out of my car at least a dozen times a day, sometimes double that, while researching my farm-travel guidebook to North Carolina. In a series of events not worth explaining, with only my cell phone in my hand, I locked my keys in the car. ARGH…. I called Better World Club (better version of AAA) and waited for help.

Meanwhile, I was starving. I was surrounded by food, most of it raw, as I’d just arrived at the farmers’ market on the NC Research Campus in Kannapolis (there’s a whole other story to that). But one table really caught my eye, or should I say nose — take-out Caribbean-influenced dishes. I told the woman there, Diane, that I’d be back as soon as I could get my wallet out of my car.

The Farmers' Market in Kannapolis is open May 7 - October 29, Thursday evenings 4-7 pm

The Farmers' Market in Kannapolis; open May 7 - Oct 29, Thursday evenings 4-7 pm

The market closed before my car was opened. I was so sad. Until Steve, Diane’s husband/partner walked over and said “what do you want to eat?” They gave me two containers full of amazing food — herbed chicken breast with crunchy veggies in a curry sauce, and a bean and meat dish. They refused to let me later send them a check. They said they had had a restaurant in Concord, NC, called The Ibis but that now they were only catering. If you’re in the area, hire them, or visit them at the farmers’ market.

200908_35_Concord_The IbisThank you, Steve and Diane. If I’m back at the market, I’m *buying* your awesome meals to go and giving you a big, big tip. But I know what you really want me to do is pay it forward, and so I shall.

When Mother Nature checked in for the night

July 30, 2009

I arrived at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Concord, NC, (just north of Charlotte) last week all happy. I had my work planned out for the next day and life was good. I’m not sure I’d ever stayed at a Hampton Inn, and I was pleasantly surprised by how nice it was. Funky little artistic touches, everything was clean, the free wireless worked, the lobby was inviting. People were even hanging out there.

Man balances on his heels wading through the water

Guest entering second-floor room practices feet-raised-through-puddle maneuver

About half an hour later, a giant storm blew up, first thunder and lightening, then driving rain, and then hail. Being a storm lover, I had to go see it for myself. I was on the fifth floor, the top, and took the elevator down to the lobby. I was alone, save for a guy puffing away on his cigarette. Rain poured down in sheets and lightening crackled. I clung to the cement post, thinking, if this were metal, I would not be out here.

The storm waxed and waned a couple times and finally I headed back to my room, commenting to the desk clerk, “That was a great storm!” She said something like, “are you kidding me?” Then she relayed what I said to someone else behind the desk.

All hotel guests were evacuated after the fire alarm went off

All hotel guests were evacuated until firefighters could check out the situation

Soon, I understood her reaction. Further down the hall, water was pouring down a wall. Pouring. A guest in the hall said, “you should see the second floor.” I walked toward the two elevators and one had water dripping down the outside. I took the stairs. The hallway was under water. Not a lot at all, but still. Ick. Thirty minutes later the fire alarm went off and we were all evacuated for 30 minutes or so until firefighters arrived to decide whether we could stay.

Guest are leaving for dryer grounds

Some guests had to leave for a drier hotel

One couple I talked to had taken the elevator pre-evacuation and once they reached their floor, the doors wouldn’t open. Somehow they managed to pull them open. Yikes! I used to have major elevator paranoia, so the thought of that freaks me out. Meanwhile, several of the ceiling panels buckled under the weight of the water from the second floor, which now had fully flowed to the first-floor hallway and part of the lobby.

The firefighters has a busy night in Concord

The Hampton Inn was but one of the many stops firefighters had on this stormy night

Long story short, the firefighters gave us the OK to return to our rooms, though most people on the first two floors had to go to a different hotel, which the Hampton Inn folks arranged for them. I heard different theories as to why the leaks occurred, but never anything official. Bottom line: too much water came down in too short of a time. There were flash floods all over Concord, as well as a few other evacuations.

I was in bed by 1 a.m., thinking, no way will we be getting breakfast. Wrong. In the morning, except for damp carpet and barrels under holes in the ceiling, everything was in order, with fresh coffee brewing and food laid out. Amazing. I heard several customers checking out, with the desk clerk offering them a full credit for their stay —  and several of them refusing! That is a powerful testament to the notion that if you treat customers right, they’re much less likely to be cranky. (Airlines, take note.)

Giant fans and dehumidifiers were used to dry the hallways

Industrial-strength fans and dehumidifiers were used to dry the hallways and rooms

By the next morning, a disaster-response company called Advance Catastrophe Technologies  was there in full force, drying the hallways and rooms with giant fans and dehumidifiers. It was a class act. Because the Hampton Inn is a franchise operation under the Hilton umbrella, I can’t speak to others, but the Concord site did things right. Though no one, of course, can control what happens when Mother Nature checks in for the night. 

A joy ride, complete with pain

July 23, 2009
See why it's called Blue Ridge?

See why it's called Blue Ridge?

At 74 years old, our beloved Blue Ridge Parkway has its problems. But it is still a glorious 469-mile joy ride along the Appalachian Mountains, from Virginia to North Carolina. Next year, during the 75th-anniversary hoopla, there will be the usual long list of media events and celebrations, but the best way to appreciate the Parkway is in silence from an overlook or during a hike or, for Wessel and me, a bike ride.

Diane races downhill during a ride in 2007

Diane zips downhill during a ride in 2007

Recently, near Waynesville, N.C., we took our 10th ride together on the Parkway, since moving to North Carolina in 2003. (But don’t forget, y’all, that I’m a native, which is why I can say y’all.) 

Though Wessel and I are woefully out of shape, with me sitting on my derriere in the car half the summer while researching “Farm Fresh North Carolina,” we rose to the challenge. And I do mean rose. During only 20 miles of riding, we climbed a total of 2,900 feet!

View on parkway from the Waterrock Knob Overlook

View of Parkway from Waterrock Knob

I’m glad I hadn’t known that ahead of time. The only thing I insisted on, because I did know from our elevation map in “Bicycling the Blue Ridge” that this would be a grueling-up and screaming-down ride, with no in between, was that we would end the ride going down. That’s just a little obsession of mine.

Wessel at the Waterrock Knob Overlook

Wessel at the Waterrock Knob Overlook

It was July Fourth, and the weather was perfect. Surprisingly, the car traffic was very low. As always, the “other” biker traffic was quite high, as the Parkway is a magnet for motorcyclists. Only at the end of our ride did we see other bicyclists. The highest peak we reached was Waterrock Knob Overlook at 5,718 ft (milepost 451.2). We could have walked half a mile to the summit lookout, at 6,400 feet, but we didn’t want to tax our legs even further.

The Parkway is famous for native flame azalea

The flame azalea is native to this region

While air pollution has diminished the views from the lookouts by some 80 percent since the Parkway first opened, they’re still something to behold. The summer haze, as well as the pollution, gives the mountain ranges a dreamy gray/blue wash. Sadly, some of the overlooks have been closed because they’re totally overgrown, one of the many problems brought on by the park’s $250 million maintenance backlog. (Some of that will be erased by the $14 million in federal stimulus money approved for the Parkway this year.)

Wessel and I still have a lot of ground to cover on the Parkway. We’ve ridden 274 miles on it, but that’s always up and back, so we’ve explored only 137 miles on our bikes. Here’s to the next 332!