Saturday, February 27, 2010

Justice of the Peace and old lawman

Generally a fan of the scientific process, no such methodology was used in finding a Justice of the Peace to perform the civil ceremony that united David and I in marriage 2 weeks ago. The folks at the courthouse provided a list of three names on a sheet of paper. We took the first one.

Sure, I did Google his name, William Slemp, and came up with almost nothing. There was something faintly reassuring about the listing of a single phone number. It seemed quaint.

The last name on the list came complete with a string of 5 phone numbers in both our area code and the next one over. While this person was probably being thorough, it made it seem like he was busy and maybe just a little hard to reach.

Imagine my surprise when the local paper carried a front page human interest story on William.
Turns out he is 80 years old and just retired from the Sheriff's office last Christmas, having spent 58 years in law enforcement. In the photograph above, he shows a bullet-hole in the police uniform he wore at age 24. Shots were fired at him in 1955, when he interrupted a robbery in progress during night rounds. The bullet struck 2 inches from his heart and nearly killed him

Another of the photographs in the article show Bill shaking the hand of President Harry S. Truman. When he was a deputy U.S. Marshal in Roanoke, Bill had occasion to provide chauffeur services to the president. That photo is faded, but this colorful character carries on, now uniting couples in matrimony in his living room.


Monday, February 22, 2010

First Crocus

After what feels like the longest February on record, the first crocus offer hope that spring may soon make an appearance. With colder than normal temperatures, gray skies and most of our precipitation in the form of snow, this month feels longer than the 22 days that have passed thus far, but yesterday brought sunshine, warmer temperatures and that harbinger of the season, my first crocus.

Lenten roses or hellebore were already spotted on Saturday. It is a great plant with a lot to offer gardeners at a time when not much else is going on, blooming in various shades of white, pink and purple. They tend to disregard the prevailing temperatures and sometimes bloom with the advent of a few warm days, so do not truly indicate the impending onset of a new season.

This clump sits where it gets just a bit more morning sunshine and the soil has warmed a little more, bringing it into bloom sooner than its neighbors.

I started with a few plants, as hellebore thrives in the shade and acid soil my yard provides. Over time they have multiplied from seed, with several baby plants needing to be moved to other locations. This year I may try a few blooming stems as cut flowers.

This last photo is a bit of a cheat. Earlier this week I was so hungry for flowers and greenery in what seemed a world so full of shades of brown and gray, that I purchased a pot of forced hyacinths. I love their scent. When these finish blooming they will be transplanted into the yard where their cousins from years past are just breaking their winter slumber.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Low + Slow = Delicious

If you plan to indulge in bacon, and these days anyone that is health conscious will likely deem it an indulgence, make it as wonderful as possible. Start with some of the best bacon you can find. I like the thick sliced variety, preferably with fewer or no chemicals.

Lay the bacon on a lipped plain baking sheet in a single layer and slide it into a 225-250 degree oven. Bake it for somewhere between 2 and 3 hours. Along the way the fat slowly renders out. Pour the fat off every 30-45 minutes. Half way through turn the strips over.

The finished bacon has exceptional flavor and is crisp throughout.

It is intensely bacony and delicious. While this method is time consuming, it requires minimal involvement in the actual process and there is no greasy splatter. The smell is pretty wonderful too.

Try it and you may become a convert.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Wouldn't it be Nice

Photo by Kristy Duncan (k-dj on Flickr)

Wouldn't it be nice if we were older
Then we wouldn't have to wait so long
And wouldn't it be nice to live together
In the kind of world where we belong

I waited until today to publish an announcement (Valentine's Day), but last Friday my partner in crime and other domestic adventures these past 25 years became my legal partner in matrimony. Yep, we tied the knot, got hitched, jumped the broom, said I do and quit the single state.

We had a simple civil ceremony at the home of William Slemp, a gentleman that has official authorization to perform this task. Plans are to use our event as an excuse to throw a party in spring when the weather is more favorable for a garden setting.

While some brides fantasize about a white wedding ceremony, I want a whimsical one. Silliness will be the watchword. Our daughter will serve as my maid of honor, who-so-ever wants can pull out an old bridesmaid's gown and join the procession, an adult co-worker wants to be a flower girl and one invitee has announced she will come as a goddess. Photographs will of course commemorate this foolishness.

So I leave you with a multiple choice question

Why Now?

a. Maybe the time had come
b. Health Insurance
c. Love
d. All of the above


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Won't you be my Valentine

Blame Kecia and the snow, lots of snow and some ice thrown in for good measure. A few weeks back, Kecia from one of my yahoo trade groups announced she wanted Valentines. Send her one and she would send one back.

Add in one snow day off from work and out come 8 Valentines to trade with the various folks out there that still believe in and send me snail mail.

For this romance inspired holiday, what better place to start than with a bodice ripper. Every now and again, my favorite thrift/trash store puts their books on sale. Four dollars gets you all the books you can fit into a plastic grocery bag. Paperback romance novels nicely tuck into any empty spots between bigger books.

The most appealing covers can simply be torn off the book and used to make a postcard with or without further alteration. Some of the mystery novels are good postcard fodder too.

For this construction, I used the pages of the romance novel, first giving them a light coat of gesso tinted with a small amount of red pigment.

Next, I drew linked hearts with a red colored pencil and cut them out.

Then I added dots with a red sharpie marker.

This photo shows the background paper I used. It was created using two colors of spray paint and stencils. My first coat was lime green sprayed over a broiler pan with round symmetrical holes and the second coat was red paint over lace. Once dry, the paper was cut to postcard size.

Hearts were attached to the paper by sewing them on the trusty Sears Kenmore that has been mine since I was 19. That sewing machine has seen more odd projects than most.

Lastly names were placed with one letter inside each heart using metallic lime green paint and further embellished using a ultra fine point sharpie. I also added the hand lettered phrase Be My Valentine to each card, but mailed them before remembering to take that picture.

Goes to show there are rewards for sending me snail mail.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Folk School

My first of what I now hope will become a string of visits spread over the course of many years began with the trip in late January. Leaving a little later than intended on Friday, I drove with eyes wide open along roads I had not traveled before. Vows were made to return with a time-frame that allows multiple stops to take photographs along the route.

After traveling south to Asheville, I turned west into and among the mountains of North Carolina. One long, lovely portion took me alongside a stretch of the Nantahala River and through the Nantahala National Forest. Nantahala is a Cherokee word meaning land of the noonday sun, so named for in some of the steeper gorges the sun is overhead only at midday.

Arriving around 4pm, I registered and went off to find my sleeping quarters. I had been assigned Little Rock House. One housemate had already arrived and was practicing her autoharp in the living room.

Situated next door to Rock House which is an older and more stone based construction, my building offered simple straight forward amenities, a twin bed in a shared room.

It is a hint of things to come, for I found John Campbell Folk School to be simple in the best sort of way. Simple as in genuine and free of secondary complication. It is a place that has the duality of being restful to the spirit while compelling your creativity to the forefront.

This time of year I am always on the lookout for signs that winter's grip is weakening. New iris shoots point that direction.

Bud swell on tree branches indicate sap is rising as lengthening days hint at coming warmth.

A red railing leads to the dining hall.

I sing behind the plow is the school motto.

Multiple sections of fence feature different symbols of the various folk arts taught at the school. John Campbell offers some 860 week-long and weekend classes each year. The week I attended there were classes in basketry, blacksmithing, my mica bookarts class, clay - complete with kiln building, dance (Appalachian clogging), enameling of jewelry, music (beginning autoharp), painting, quilting, wood turning and woodworking.

Classes are non-competitive with no grades or credits. Instruction is hands-on with discussion and conversation taking the forefront, rather than reading and learning through books.

The culinary arts are both taught and practiced here. While meal time is on a schedule, beginning of service is signaled by the ringing of a farmhouse dinner bell atop a tall tower. Rather than prayer, there is a short, simple song before meals. The lyrics are printed on laminated sheets at the dining tables.

Meals are served family style and the food is family fare. Really, I had not noted the nature of the meals until overhearing two sisters from Atlanta talking to each other about the food. Forty-somethings, they had come to share a quilting class. The sisters remarked to each other how this wasn't like restaurant food, it was like a friend had cooked for you.

As someone that cooks from scratch most days, I saw the food as fairly similar to what is served at my house (although perhaps more mainstream to suit more of the students). I forget how home-cooked meals are no longer the norm for many people.

Writing classes span the genres of poetry, journaling, fiction and memoirs.

Blacksmithing seems to be a strong area of emphasis here. A capital campaign is underway to build a new Forge Building and Francis Whitaker Blacksmith Shop.

There are hand-forged accessories in all manner of nooks and crannies including these coat hooks in the dining hall.

The dining hall chandeliers were hand forged by the blacksmiths as well.

Interesting items abound. As you leave the dining hall you can see this assemblage of a vinyl record and other assorted objects, put together to mimic a banjo. It carries the inscription

For Sun and for Rain
for grass and for grain
for All who toil
on sea and soil
That We may eat this daily food
we give our Loving

The main administrative building is Keith Hall. It is where you register and welcoming activities are here too. Keith Hall also houses a stage and dance floor where weekend dances are held.

The walls along the perimeter of the dance floor are hung with gorgeous quilts, only two of which are pictured here, as this post has become lengthy.

The only "spin" evident at John Campbell.

In an era when the reach of corporate America seems ever expanding and advertising shows up in ever more places, this place provides respite. Only after leaving and doing research for this blog post did I find out there are no televisions on grounds. I never missed them.

If you are so inclined, you can search out the two soda machine on campus, but there are no soda dispensers in the dining hall.

Do I qualify as smitten? I think so, only wishing that the school was a little closer. Weather was truly awful for my Sunday drive home with strong winds, heavy rains and even some hail. The trip that had taken four hours on the way up, lengthened to a five and a half hour journey requiring careful vigilance.

Arriving home safely, I can begin lusting after the next adventure.


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Not Quite Guitar Legends

Here is a link to an amusing video clip that has zebra finches practicing their guitar licks.

Perhaps I am just lusting for spring and this birdsong and nesting behavior remind me of the season.

Of course, zebra finches are native to Australia and Indonesia, not southwestern Virginia. Surprisingly, their breeding behavior is dictated by the advent of recent rain rather than the season, so they breed in most any season.

Enjoy the guitar work.