Field Trip: Atlanta

Ah, Atlanta.  For not being city folks, we are rather fond of this place.  We visited in the first weekend in June for the Indie Craft Experience.  Since it also coincided with my birthday weekend, we decided to be all extravagant, and to just have a good time.  And so we did….

We arrived quite late on Friday (much later than planned), so we literally went to the hotel and crashed.  We were at ICE all day on Saturday.  After leaving Saturday night, we headed to Inman Park as Wayne had made reservations for us.  We arrived a bit early and walked around.  It really is a gorgeous part of town.  All big stately buildings and historic homes.

The Earle

And in the midst of it is this cute little set of buildings that includes the restaurant Wayne chose, Wisteria, and a small bar.

Wisteria - Atlanta, GA

The inside of Wisteria is just as charming as the exterior – lots of brick and an overall cozy, warm feeling.

Wisteria

The wait staff were great and the food was….well…incredible is the only word.  I tried desperately to take pictures to share with everyone, but as it got later, the light just wasn’t sufficient.  I did get this one picture of what Wayne declared to be the best appetizer he’s ever had (and I’m in agreement): A caramelized vidalia onion tart served with local cheese.

Wisteria - Vadalia Onion Tart

Wayne had fish and I had a vegetable plate that included (and I’m not kidding you) 10 different vegetables.  Each one was perfectly done.  We are hoping to be able to go back soon with my parents in tow as I think they’ll love it.

On Sunday morning we had a bit of time before we had to be back at ICE, so I suggested we head to Ria’s Bluebird for breakfast.  It is a tiny place…diner-y looking.

Ria's Bluebird

But oh, the comfort food.  Check out Wayne’s stack of chocolate chip pancakes:

Ria's Bluebird - Pancakes

And my incredible nutella cream cheese stuffed brioche french toast with caramelized bananas.  Yep, it was just as amazing as it sounds.

Ria's Bluebird - French Toast

After breakfast, we were definitely feeling like a walk was in order, so we headed up the street.  I paused at the scooter below sitting quietly outside.  Why?  Because it’s adorable.

Scooter

Just a few steps away was the entrance to the Historic Oakland Cemetery.  It is gorgeous and although the light wasn’t great (quite a bit too bright), we spent quite some time walking around and taking pictures.

Oakland Cemetery - Wayne

I loved the fact that you were surrounded by these incredibly old gravestones and all the history that comes with them, but could still see downtown.

Oakland Cemetery

The cemetery has a series of benches and furniture that look incredibly peaceful.  I could see spending hours sitting quietly communing and contemplating.

Oakland Cemetery - Bench

Close to the visitor’s center is a fountain that was simultaneously appealing and creepy.  The little girl could be cute and having fun, but she has no eyes.  I’m not sure this would be bothersome to anyone else?  Maybe I’m special.

Oakland Cemetery - Fountain

This was a typical headstone…take a look at the years.

Oakland Cemetery - Gravestone

Wayne took the shot below and I love the way that light was falling on the grave stone.

Oakland Cemetery - Gravestone

Toward the center of the cemetery are the graves of confederate soldiers.

Oakland Cemetery - Confederate Soldiers

I took this photo and then pulled Wayne over to see the person who was buried with his dog.  He giggled and explained to the total clueless sport person (that would be me) that the statue is a Georgia Bulldog.  As in the team.  Ooops.

Oakland Cemetery - Dog

And finally, the Mausoleums.  The doors were absolutely gorgeous.

Oakland Cemetery

Oakland Cemetery

Time caught up with us and we had to depart to make it back to ICE before it opened.  I would like to return to Oakland Cemetery at some point when we have more time (and better light) to wander around.   Honestly, I think it was my first visit to a cemetery…ever.  I’ve always imagined them as creepy places that one should avoid.  I think after dark I would still feel the same, but in daylight this one is lovely and peaceful.

Although we were planning to stay over on Sunday night and spend Monday playing in Atlanta, for complicated reasons we had to head home early.  On the way out of town we stopped at Tamarind Seed for a quick farewell Atlanta dinner.  We just got lucky with this one – I literally pulled up the GPS, choose Asian food, and went to the closest place.  It turned out that the GPS seems to have good taste.

We started with fresh veggies spring rolls.

Tamarind Seed - Atlanta, GA

I had the Pad Thai with Tofu that was partially consumed before the picture and Wayne had an amazing dish of Chilean Sea bass in a fantastic curry sauce.

Tamarind Seed - Atlanta, GA

We ended with a small chocolate mousse cake.  Clearly not very thai-themed, but it had (what I’m going to pretend is) a little J on top in honor of my birthday.

Tamarind Seed - Atlanta, GA

We didn’t get quite the trip we had planned, but it was definitely an enjoyable (and immensely indulgent) one all the same.  Honestly, cutting it short only gives us the perfect excuse to head back soon.  🙂

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Field Trip: Richmond, VA

Sadly, it is rare for our small family to get together on our own for anything.  We’re all busy folks and my baby sister Jen lives in DC, so it’s just hard to arrange.  A few months ago we used my trip to Richmond for Spring Bada Bing as a great excuse to make it happen.  My mom and dad drove from NC, Sara rode with me, and Jenna drove from DC to meet us.

Per the recommendation from the Richmond Craft Mafia, we started the day with breakfast at Millie’s Diner.  It is a slightly funky & fun little restaurant in Richmond.  The brunch menu is written on a chalkboard on the wall and boasts amazingness that includes Huevos Rancheros and a Veggie Mess.  We arrived early to beat the crowd and were seated immediately.

Millie's

I ordered the Heuvos Racheros.  It’s a HUGE plate of food and is wonderfully yummy.  The pretty sauce on the side?  Sriracha.  How’d I find out?  The hard way.

Millie's Food

After breakfast we decided to walk a bit and headed back up the road toward the farmer’s market we passed on the way in.  I was fascinated by the industrialness of area.  I don’t much about Richmond and just didn’t really expect it.  Several of the brick buildings have murals painted on them.

Painting

Painting

I had to include this sign.  Because it is awesome.  You can see Sara in the background quickly loosing patience with me and my camera.

Yeah, We have it

And look!  The Poe museum has evidently been watching Portlandia and decided they would put a bird on it.  🙂

Put a Bird on It

It turns out that Richmond is a greener city than I imagined.  Take a gander at the solar trash compactors.

Solar Trash Compactor

And the rain barrels at the market.

Rain Barrels

I had a great time visiting the Farm Bus.  Not only was it wonderfully decorated, but it was filled with produce, honey, meats, eggs, cheese…it is basically a mobile farmer’s market.

The Farm Bus

The proclamation on the bottom of the bus door.  If only we all followed their sage words of advice…can you imagine how different the world would be?  Well, one day a week at least?

Be Kind

After finishing downtown, Sara suggested we headed to Maymont Park.  Originally the park was a 100 acre estate owned by James and Sallie Dolley.  The property includes their former home, a collection of historic buildings and carriages, and a variety of gardens.

When we entered the park, I was more than a bit surprised to find that many of the trees were skirted.  Not in the way you’d like, but in actual skirts.  Like clothing.  Strange right?

Maymont - Tree Skirts

It turns out that each year, Virginia Commonwealth University’s sophomore draping class takes on tree skirting as a project and the results (aka fashion show?) takes place at Maymont.  This was one of my favorites:

Maymont - Tree Skirts

We walked throughout the park during our visit.  No particular goal in mind, just walking.  Here’s Jenna and I standing in front of a carved tree.  The roots were amazing, but you had to feel bad for the poor thing with all the names and sayings chiseled into its trunk.

Maymont - Julia & Jen

Here’s the view heading down the hill of the park into the Japanese garden.  Even with all the people milling around, it was an extraordinarily peaceful place.

Maymont - Path

Here’s Jen and Sara standing on the walking stones in the Japanese Garden.  The huge pond is filled with koi and there are several trails leading different ways from here.

Maymont - Sara & Jen

I found this old tree a short walk away from the main house.  It’s still hard to see in the photo, but I swear it looks as though someone could be living inside.  I dubbed it the Fairy Tree although I think more likely it would hold an elf or dwarf.

Maymont - Fairy Tree House

There is a whole side of Maymont that we didn’t even enter as we were all getting a bit tired at this point.  The Nature Center focuses on Virginia wildlife and boasts bears, bison, and various birds of prey.   We also didn’t make it to the mansion, visit the Wetlands, or the Cactus garden.  Next time?

We had a great time hanging out as a family again although the trip was fairly short.   Jenna was off on an adventure to Brazil shortly after our trip and Sara and I stayed for Spring Bada Bing on Sunday and then returned to real life.   Hopefully we’ll have an opportunity for another family trip soon.

Field Trip: Rising Meadow Farm

After returning from vacation a few months ago, Wayne and I had the pleasure of attending a sheep shearing at Rising Meadow Farm in Liberty, NC.

The farm itself is gorgeous.  We pulled in, parked, and walked toward one of the barns.  You see fields on both sides with a house on the hill to your left.  Just past the house is this pasture and barn:

rising meadow field

And everywhere you turn, there are animals grazing.  So peaceful and serene.

rising meadow sheep

The barn closest to the house was the home of the shearing.  It was all being handled quite quickly in stages.

Rising Meadow Barn

First, the sheep had been moved into the barn to await shearing.  You could tell they were a bit restless, but no one looked distressed at all.

rising meadow sheep waiting

The sheep were pulled out one at a time to be sheared.  Two shearers (is that an actual word?) were working simultaneously while we were there.  I was absolutely fascinated by the fact that the sheep didn’t seem to be bothered at all by the process.  The person shearing would just lay them down and begin.  The sheep seemed resigned and completely calm.  Honestly, it seemed most uncomfortable for the shearer whose back must be unbelievably sore after the hours of bending.

The shearers were working manually with what appeared to be over-sized scissors that are called blade shears.

rising meadow shearing

Once the fleece had been removed from the sheep, it is carried outside to a stand.  Basically, the stand has slats or, in this case, grids that are open to the ground.  The fleece lays on the stand and small pieces fall through the openings.  Additionally, the person working the stand will remove the (shall we say) less desirable parts of the fleece (aka the dirty, icky parts).  This is called skirting.

Rising Meadow - Cleaning the Fleece

After skirting, the fleece was placed in a large plastic bag marked with the source sheep’s name, and weighed for sale.  I asked a million and one questions while we were watching and waiting.  When my curiosity was satisfied (and many kudos to the folks at Rising Meadow for having unending patience with me), Wayne and I started digging through the available fleece until we found one with coloring we liked.  We then headed up to the farm store (the house on the hill) to also purchase some roving.

Inside the store there was a collection of yarn available as well as a few other related products.  The owner, Ann, was again patient with us and answered questions for me.  We were told that Rising Farm will sell the fleeces (fleece-i?) directly to individuals.  Whatever is left over is sent off for processing, and then returned to the farm where it is dyed by hand.  When we handed Ann our card from our fleece, she said “Awww, Wilhelmina is such nice girl!”  Wayne and I smiled – it was clear we picked the right fleece.

A short while after Wilhelmina returned home with us, I pulled out the fleece and washed it well.  It was quite a painstaking process.  I have pictures, but I’ll spare you.  The short version is that it was icky, hard on the back, and long.  The end result was worth it though – a gorgeous clean fleece that we can begin to process.  I am experimenting with various carding techniques, but in the meantime we used a portion of the fleece and some roving to make our very first set of dryer balls.  We experimented a bit and have been using a few ourselves for a over a month and love them.  They both reduce static and shorten drying time.  Want a new set to try for yourself?  You can see the listing in our Etsy shop.

Rising Meadow Dryer Balls

If you are in North Carolina and would like to experience Rising Meadow yourself (minus the shearing which only happens a few times a year), you’ll have the opportunity in May.  They are holding an open farm day on Sunday May 6th that happens to coincide with the open farm day for The Goat Lady Dairy.  You can read about our Goat Lady Dairy experience here.   Both farms are high recommended and are a great family-friendly adventure.