Inspiration Board No. 96: Falling for Dahlias

31 October 2012

Dahlias are one of the most beautiful flowers available this time of year, in my opinion, and so when I saw the pretty arrangement in the middle left, below, I knew I had to craft an inspiration board around it. I’ve never been the biggest fan of Halloween, so this combination feels just right for today. I love how the golden orange, bright red, and blue stone hues came together, and doesn’t that pumpkin meringue confection look amazing?!

Credits:

Orange dahlia button boutonniere from Martha Stewart Weddings, amazing deep-dish pumpkin meringue pie from Martha Stewart Living via At Altitude, Pendleton blankets, dahlia and berry centerpiece by Honey of a Thousand Flowers (photo by Leo Patrone) via Once Wed, dried leaf escort cards photo by Ali Harper via Once Wed (concept by Joy Thigpen), canning jars photo by Young & Hungry from Food & Wine, wooden invitation photo by Jose Villa, pumpkins and gourds photo by Foret via Design*Sponge

P.S. Another fall inspiration board

Christmas trees in baskets

30 October 2012

I truly apologize for discussing anything Christmas-related before Thanksgiving, and especially before Halloween, but I do have a legit reason for the timing of this post. For a few years (as I mentioned here), I’ve wanted a basket to hold the base of our Christmas tree – I prefer the look to a skirt or a plain stand. Examples:

From top to bottom and left to right: Country Living, Country Living, Country Living, unknown, Yvestown Blog, Country Living, Country Living. Clearly Country Living feels the same way about Christmas trees in baskets that I do.

True story: Last year, I attempted to buy a peach-basket type thing off of the employees at Carolina Pottery. Granted, the baskets were not for sale (they were being used to display other things that were for sale), but don’t you think they should have sold one to me regardless??

Moving on. From my research over the last few days, I found three online companies — Wisteria, Pottery Barn, and Crate & Barrel — that have a basket similar to what I’m envisioning.

1. Large woven seagrass basket from Wisteria (22″ high, 23″ wide — $105) | 2. Extra-large round beachcomber basket from PB (23″ high, 21″ wide — $129, or $150 with S&H) | 3. Basay basket from C&B (23 1/4″ high, 20 3/4″ wide — $70 (only in stores)) | 4. Basket tree skirt from Terrain (10″ high, 24″ wide at base — $49.30 with Cup of Jo discounts through October 31) | 5. 8 gallon round galvanized wash tub (8 1/4″ high, 17 1/4″ wide at top, 14 5/8″ wide at bottom — $26.06) | 6. Galvanized round wash pan (5 1/4″ high, 17 3/8″ wide at top, 13 1/4″ wide at bottom — $19.96)

Sadly, once you add in the cost of shipping something so large, the price becomes pretty prohibitive. If you like the look of the galvanized tubs, I’d recommend trying to find a feed store in your town. I think that look is a little too rustic for me, and besides, I like the idea of being able to use the woven basket year round to hold other things besides a Christmas tree.

As to why I needed to post this now, Joanna posted a 15% off + free shipping offer for Terrain that expires tomorrow. Sadly, the Terrain option (no. 4) is my least favorite, because it’s not as versatile as the woven baskets, but I’m open to the possibility.

So the plan? Stop by Crate & Barrel this afternoon to see if I like the Basay basket (we still have some wedding gift cards!), and then if I don’t, I still have time to order the Terrain basket. I’m also going to try and make a stop at HomeGoods, because you never know what they’ll have. Any other ideas in the meantime would be greatly appreciated!

UPDATE! I stopped by the Crate & Barrel store after work yesterday, and got a bead on the Basay basket! Unfortunately, it was too bulky and tall/wide to serve my purpose, so I left empty-handed. Didn’t feel motivated to order the Terrain offering, so for now, I’m still on the hunt!

Hiking in Asheville

29 October 2012

In order to offset all of the eating we did in Asheville, we went on several hikes! Being outside together in beautiful places is one of my and John’s favorite things, and Asheville in the fall certainly fits the bill. This year our hikes were waterfall themed, and as such, they were even lovelier than usual!

The first was Catawba Falls in Old Fort, NC, just a few miles outside of Asheville. You can find more info on this hike here and here.

This trail is ripe for discovering hidden gems. The little guy above right wasn’t even technically part of Catawba Falls, I don’t think, but was the loveliest tucked-away pool and small cascade!

Lower Catawba Falls is above. For most hikers, this is the end of the road. The trail is pretty much flat or gently sloped to this point, so it would be great for kids!

Being the adventurous sorts we are, John and I decided to hike the remaining distance to Upper Catawba Falls. And by hike, I pretty much mean rock climb, sans gear. There’s even a rope at one point! We didn’t take pictures the rest of the way up because things got even more precarious.

Cue the chorus of angels — Upper Falls!

There were two other gals enjoying the view when we arrived, and we were surprised to see a group of six middle-aged people arrive while we were resting. (Because of how challenging the description of the latter part of the hike was, and how challenging our ascent was, we hadn’t expected to see many other hikers.) The late arrivals had entered the pool in a different way than we had, which made us curious, so once we were ready to go, we set off the way they had come. After only a short (and fairly easy) distance, we joined up with our original trail. Cue face palm. We had taken a wrong turn at this point on the way up, bypassing this moderately difficult trail in favor of a much more life-endangering trail (really not exaggerating). Needless to say, the rest of our descent was uneventful.

If you attempt the hike to Upper Catawba Falls, make sure you stay to the left at every chance you get, and make sure you can always see the Falls/gorge – we got out of eyesight range when we took our wrong turn. (The only exception to this might be in summer, when there are more leaves on the trees.)

Our second hike was Crabtree Falls, at milepost 339.5 of the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was less taxing and a bit more dramatic than Catawba Falls, though I didn’t think quite as lovely. The hike is also oriented so you’re moving downhill on the out and uphill on the back, which is not my preferred mode.

For our hard work, we were rewarded with a moody sunset over the Black Mountains as we drove back down the Parkway.

I hope you enjoyed our Asheville adventures! If anyone has been to Asheville or Western North Carolina and has a hike to recommend, we’re all ears!

Note: Hiking around waterfalls is inherently dangerous. I’m sure it goes without saying, but do NOT attempt to hike directly up a waterfall, and use caution at all times whenever you’re in the vicinity of one. Also, even though we made the hike to Upper Catawba Falls more difficult than necessary, even the “easier” route is quite challenging, and should only be attempted by experienced, fit hikers.

Antiquing in Asheville

26 October 2012

On our fifth visit to Asheville, John finally agreed to go hunting for vintage goodness with me. WAHOO! We compromised on one hour, and the clock started the minute we stepped foot into the Antique Tobacco Barn :) I had read about the Tobacco Barn on Trip Advisor, and from the reviews, I was prepared for an expansive space (77,000 square feet!), disheveled displays, and not bottom-of-the-barrel prices.

All of these things turned out to be largely true. The space WAS very large, and the displays were pretty jumbled. Usually this means great prices (like at a flea market), but unfortunately, the prices weren’t good enough to make me bite on this particular day, though there were several pieces that caught my eye. Granted, I’m pretty stingy, so some of you might very well have happily snagged some deals! Here are a few of the things that caught my eye:

The outside of the space (not really a barn) and some neat vintage-looking crown hooks – would be sweet for a little girl’s room!

A ginger gar vase has been on my running “flea market wish list” for awhile, but this one seemed a little steep at $28. I thought the giant metal stars would make neat Christmas decor!

Also on my flea market list: a natural container/basket to hold our Christmas tree. The one on the left was not quite the right size, and was a bit too much at $65. More on this search next week – I might have a lead. The colorful, oversize (about 12 inches tall) metal letters were awesome, but they were also $35 each.

I loved both of these wooden storage pieces! I thought they’d be perfect for a craft room, where there is no end to the little bits and pieces that need to be filed away. The one on the right was $295, and the one on the left was $175.

A pineapple lamp is also on my wish list, and the Tobacco Barn had quite the collection. A pair was $200, which seemed expensive to me, but maybe in retrospect isn’t so bad? I also loved the bittersweet wreaths, but we just don’t have a place to store one in our apartment in the off season – they’re a little wild and crazy.

One thing that frustrated me about the Tobacco Barn is that I would assume some of these prices were negotiable, but very few stalls seemed to have proprietors in the vicinity (unlike at a flea market), so I wasn’t sure how to go about bargaining. Boo!

Once we had left the Tobacco Barn empty-handed, we drove down the road just a minute or so to visit Oddfellows Antiques and its sister storefronts, all lined up on a loading dock just off the road (you can’t miss them). The Tobacco Barn reviewers had recommended this group as having more reasonable prices and better merchandising (an interesting combination). I found the merchandising to be true, but I’m not so sure about the prices. We moved pretty quickly through these shops, and the only thing that really caught my eye was the lovely 4×6 wool rug above right, priced at $235. The tag said it was hand-knotted in Afghanistan. I don’t think the price was too bad, but since we’re likely going to be making a major change in our living quarters in the next few months, I don’t want to buy any major pieces before we know what the new space looks like.

For those of you that have been to Asheville, any antiquing recommendations to pass along? Fellow flea market connoisseurs: what do you think of these prices?

P.S. Vintage shopping in Virginia

Eating in Asheville

23 October 2012

John and I have a tradition (three years strong!) of heading out to the North Carolina mountains one weekend every fall. We usually stay in the Asheville area, though last year we tried Boone with dubious results (totally not Boone’s fault, though!). Besides the gorgeous leaves and beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway, one of our favorite reasons for venturing west is the food. Asheville has a plethora of delicious eating options, and I wanted to highlight the four we sampled on this trip!

First up was the White Duck Taco Shop, which we heard about through our friends Meredith and Michael. White Duck offers up some of the most delicious (if not the most delicious) queso dip I’ve ever sampled, and their salsa isn’t too shabby, either. Of course, the tacos themselves are the stars, and they don’t disappoint. Get ready for creative and unexpected combinations like lamb gyro, buffalo chicken, BBQ carnitas, thai peanut chicken, lump crab, and mole duck. John and I tried six tacos between us, and a surprisingly small amount of food went uneaten. Happily, there’s Cheerwine on the menu with which to wash everything down!

Saturday night we had dinner at Chai Pani, which bills itself as serving “Indian street food.” Since neither John nor I have visited India, I can’t vouch for the authenticity of Chai Pani’s street food claim, but I can attest that everything we tried was delicious! We split samosas, then I ordered the Sloppy Jai (a twist on the Sloppy Joe!), and John ordered the Thali, or daily special, which was Butter Chicken when we visited. I wish we had been able to sample more of the menu, because it all looked so interesting! Think shrimp and grits Indian style, tamarind short ribs, and raspberry lassi cheesecake.

Samosas from Chai Pani’s Facebook page

We saved just enough room for a post-dinner treat from the French Broad Chocolate Lounge. The line snaked out the door and up the sidewalk when we visited around 10pm, and though we waited for about thirty minutes, I’d say it was worth it. They even had an acoustic jazz trio playing inside, so that helped the wait go by more quickly! I ended up ordering the theros olive oil chocolate cake with strawberry sauce, which was good, but in retrospect, I wish I had ordered one of their signature hot chocolates (which come in flavors like lavender and honey, cayenne and cinnamon, and masala chai!). John ordered a tea and the mint chocolate chunk brownie, and found both to be satisfying.

Our last stop of the weekend was at an old favorite of ours, Early Girl Eatery. John uncovered this gem while researching our first Asheville trip years ago (I think he spotted it in the NY Times travel section), and we’ve returned every visit since. Odds are good that John will order the BBQ pork sandwich with ginger coleslaw and the cucumber and onion salad, and I will order the cheeseburger with basil mayo and fries. (I know what you’re thinking — cheeseburger?! — but this one is AMAZING!) Everything is extraordinarily local and seasonal, and you really can taste the difference.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that no visit to Asheville is complete without a visit to Early Girl… at least not for us! Two tips for your next trip: 1) Stick around even if they give you a long wait time at the hostess station. We were quoted 30-35 minutes, but ended up being seated in 4 due to no shows! 2) If there’s any sort of cobbler on the menu, order it.

I’ll be back with more soon on our hikes (waterfalls!) and antiquing adventures!