Linky Love – Friends & Family

Since its Friday, and I’m trying to share some of my favorite blogs, I thought I would continue with blogs that I follow because the authors are my family, friends or friends-of-friends.

Cooking Therapy – This blog is written by one of my oldest and most treasured friends, Julie. She is a special education teacher, and one of the ways she balances out her work life is by creating in the kitchen. She offers so many fabulous recipes, and I’m guessing you already have the ingredients on hand for most of them! One of the reasons I love this blog is because when Julie and I were in college we decided to cook a turkey for a Thanksgiving meal, the same day that we had about 15 younger college girls from a small group spending the night at our apartment. Neither of us had ever cooked a turkey, and well, I have to say, that we have both come a long way in honing our cooking skills since that fateful fall day.

Love Wins – My youngest sister Kathryn does a fabulous job at writing about social injustices that she cares about deeply. She started the blog after spending a semester in India working with orphans, and she continues to advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves.

Little Creek Life – Athalia is a dear friend of mine who lives just minutes down the road from us. She blogs about “living in the mountains on a five acre swamp.” Having grown up off the mountain, she often blogs about the idiosyncrasies of living in the high country. She has a quick wit, is a budding photographer, and is a fantastic writer.

Sheri’s Blog – Sheri is a former supervisor of mine, and is one of the best mangers I have ever had. She is incredibly thoughtful and strives to make a difference in people’s lives. She currently lives in the US, but has lived, with her husband Kenyon, in Cambodia and Mozambique in the last few years. She blogs about everything from traveling and living overseas to cooking and leadership skills.

From 3 to 4 – Some good friends of our recently adopted a little girl from Ethiopia. This is their blog about overcoming adoption obstacles, growing as a family, and raising children. This is one of the few blogs that often makes me cry when I read it!

My Travels – My sister Elizabeth has traveled all over the world, but she currently lives outside of Bangkok, Thailand. She teaches 4th grade at Global English School and currently has her hands full with 25 students who speak a range of English. She knows the best places for haircuts, massages and cheap clothing – I visited her for a few days this spring, and we had a blast!

So, there you go. My favorite “friends and family” blogs.

Dollar Days at Grandfather Mountain

My entire family spent all of last weekend together in the High Country. This is epic for several reasons: one of my sisters lives in Thailand, my brother just got back from Mexico, and my other sister was in the middle of exams. As all of the kids get older, its so much harder to find a time when everyone is available. 

Family weekend 2We took full advantage of April Dollar Days at Grandfather Mountain in Banner Elk, along with the rest of the high country, it seems. My sister Kathryn was definitely freaking out as we drove up the narrow winding road to the top of the mountain. 

Family weekend 1It was a most beautiful day to enjoy the sunshine and scenery. 

Family weekend 5

Family weekend 8I can't deny that I loved the zoo. We saw bears, otters, deer, and mountain lions. Speaking of mountain lions, did you know that they are the same thing as cougars, pumas, and panthers? I always thought they were different animals – turns out different regions just have different names for them. Who knew?

Family weekend 6My absolute favorite part of Grandfather Mountain was the sprinkle-covered marshmallow pop I found at the fudge shop. Sprinkles and marshmallows – two of my favorite things – why didn't I ever think to combine them before?! I love sprinkles so much that I used to get small cups full of them from the dessert bar at Cracker Barrel when I was a kid. Seriously. 

Everyone pretty much agreed that Grandfather Mountain was a fun family activity for $7, but we definitely wouldn't have paid the $105 full price to go ($15 per adult). That is a bit outrageous. I will clarify that in order to get the $1/person admission you have to have someone in the car with an ID from Mitchell, Avery, Watauga, Ashe, Alleghany, or Wilkes County. 

Next year Matt and I would like to go hiking on the profile trail during Dollar Days. 

Christmas Traditions

I can't believe it is already Christmas Eve. This morning I have been thinking of all the fun memories I have of Christmas as a child. One of my favorite traditions I had with my brother and sisters was that we always slept in the same bed on Christmas Eve. Thats right – all four of us in one bed.

N29701581_35682902_4005When we were this size, it wasn't too hard for all of us to fit in one bed! (Check out the reindeer clothespin necklaces – my mom was so crafty!)

We would find every alarm clock we could and set them all for 5 o'clock in the morning. Of course, after having to stay up late to put out presents, dad and mom weren't too excited about getting up that early and they would always try to find the clocks and turn them off. Thankfully, we were quite crafty and usually had one hidden well enough that it wasn't found. 

Those sure were good memories. Now that we're getting older, things are changing. Last year I was married, so we didn't all sleep in one bed. This year Liz is in Thailand, and I'm at my in-laws for Christmas. Change is good, and I'm glad to see each of us finding our way in the grand scheme of the world, but it is nice to have such delightful memories of when we were young. 

N29701581_35682901_3530_edit

Whether you are starting new Christmas traditions or reflecting on old Christmas traditions, make sure you spend time with those you love and let them know how much you appreciate them. 

DSCN9421_editTake time to cozy up, drink homemade hot cocoa, and breathe in the new year. 

Did you have a favorite Christmas tradition when you were a kid?

90 Years

This weekend we celebrated my grandad's 90th birthday. 

DSCN9403_editCan you even imagine what it is like to live for 90 years? He was born in 1920, shortly after World War I ended and lived to experience prohibition, women being allowed to vote for the first time, the invention of the television, economic prosperity, the Great Depression, the Hindenburg, World War II, the Cold War, JFK's assassination, the invention of the computer, the Exxon Valdese oil spill, the internet, the Rwandan genocide, 17 presidents …

As we were celebrating his 90 years of life, I was thinking about how so many things change over time. Doesn't is seem like the iPhone has become such a common part of life? He lived for 97 years before the iPhone came out. He can still remember having to go outside, catch a chicken, and wring its neck in order to have dinner. He grew up in a completely different time. 

But you know what hasn't changed? People. People are still the same. We still want to love and be loved. We still want to do something with our lives that makes a difference. 

So here's to today … and the next 90 years. 

Healing

Sorry I have been absent for a few weeks. Although I have had many things on my mind to blog about, it was time for a much needed break. Since my last post in October, Matt and I have driven back and forth to Atlanta twice, visited family in Spartanburg and Greensboro, attended the weddings of two friends, and had multiple friends in town. Plus we had two standing commitments each week. On top of both working 40 hours a week. And the holidays aren't even here yet. 

For us, it was too much. I'm sure it is the pace that many of you keep normally, and at other seasons in our life, it is probably the same pace we could keep, but right now, it was too much. We kept drinking more coffee and staying up later to make the days last longer, and our bodies were slowly wearing down. Inevitably, we both got quite sick and have spent the past 10 days trying to recover. 

It seems like it takes quite a while for our bodies to catch up and feel rested. We've been doing a lot of leisurely hobbies like knitting and designing, we've been putting together puzzles, watching movies, drinking green juice, taking lots of vitamins and supplements, eating healthy bon-bons, and of course, sleeping!

So, our apologies if we haven't returned your call, couldn't accept your dinner invitation, weren't able to stay at the football game, didn't update the blog, or didn't attend marriage class. We were resting. And healing. 

Plain Grandma and Peach Honey

My grandmother, whom we called "Plain Grandma" for some unknown reason, was an absolutely amazing woman, and I am so proud that I share part of her name. Unfortunately, she passed away when I was pretty young, so I don't have a whole lot of memories about her. She was a caterer, and everyone always says that she would give you the shirt off her back. One of my favorite stories that my parents tell about my grandma was when they had just gotten married. My mom and dad went to her house and grandma asked my dad if he had any luggage, because if not, she was going to get some for them as a wedding gift. My dad replied that he didn't have any luggage, and grandma said, "Well, what are you going to carry your bags in stupid? A paper bag?" 

From what I hear, my grandmother was an amazing cook. She had a few recipes that she didn't share with people, but there was one recipe that she willing gave out – her potatoes. People always swore she left out ingredients in the recipe, because theirs never tasted quite like her, but she retorted that maybe they just couldn't cook. 

I wish I remembered more about her. I vaguely remember her paying me $1 to sit still long enough to put pin curls in my hair. I vaguely remember an upstairs room in her house where the door was always shut – turns out it busting at the seams with storage items – but there was a paper skeleton decoration on the door that used to always freak me out. I vaguely remember how tasty her chicken and dumplings were. 

One thing I do know, is that she was most in her element when she was cooking and serving meals for a crowd. My mom is the exact same way, and I find myself frequently enjoying that as well. Isn't it interesting how hobbies and passions are passed down through generations? I am so thankful that my grandma could cook, and that she taught my mom how to cook, and that my mom taught me. Sometimes mom and I will be cooking something, and she'll say, "Your grandmother would be proud." 

Even though she hasn't been with us for 20 years, I sure do hope she is proud of us. She certainly left behind a legacy of cooks. 

Ashley 1Three generations of cooks. This is me with my mom and grandma. 

N29701581_35685339_766This is one of the last pictures I have of plain grandma. I think we had just finished dance lessons or something. 

So, in honor of my grandmother and the fact that its summertime, today I'm going to share with you her recipe for peach honey (with my mother's permission of course – I certainly don't want to get in trouble for giving away secret family recipes!)

This peach honey is really like a freezer jam, but you'll see why its called peach honey when you make it – it looks just like honey and is quite sweet! My mom came up the other day and we made an enormous batch for her to share with some friends. 

DSCN8156This is what the peaches and sugar look like when they're cooking. We made a pretty large batch in my 20 quart stockpot. If you're going to make a lot, I would recommend doing it in a few smaller batches. I recently read that it will take longer for a large batch to boil, and it will break down the fruit more. 

DSCN8165And here is the finished product – doesn't it look just like honey? 

DSCN8166It has such a beautiful amber color. 
 
 

Grandma’s Peach Honey


4 cups ripe peaches, peeled and smashed
6 cups sugar

Drop peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove quickly and place in ice water bath to stop cooking. Cut a shallow “X” in the skin on the bottom of the peach, and gently peel off the skin. It should slide right off the flesh. Remove the flesh from the pit, and smash the fruit with a fork or pasty blender. If you use a food processor, don’t puree it – you’ll want some fruit in your “honey”.

In a large pot, mix the peaches and sugar. Bring it to a rolling boil (don’t stop with stirred) for 5 minutes.  Quickly ladle the honey into sterile jars or containers. Keep in the refrigeration for 3 weeks or in the freezer for up to a year.

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