Summer’s Lease

It’s September already, and to quote Shakespeare, “Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.” I don’t know about you (or should I say, “I knoweth not what thou thinkest”), but I’m looking forward to autumn—”when yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang”.[1]

Although I didn’t venture too many places this summer, I did have a few new experiences and even discovered a different perspective on the familiar.

North Carolina Botanical Garden
Tucked into a corner of this free public garden, which is operated by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is a large and diverse collection of colorful carnivorous plants. It’s worth a look:

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Three hybrid pitcher plants at the North Carolina Botanical Garden. — Chapel Hill

Not far from these native bog plants is the Poison Garden. I don’t know how I missed this area all the other times I visited! I was enthralled—from sinister garden gate to the beguiling mountain laurel.

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The gate leading to the Poison Plant garden provides an artful warning of what lies ahead. — NC Botanical Garden (Chapel Hill, NC)

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Every part of the striking mountain laurel is poisonous–from leaf and bloom to the drops of honey it produces. If eaten, it causes nausea, stomach pain, difficulty breathing, loss of coordination, paralysis, and sometimes death. Ironically, mountain laurel can also be used in ointment to treat skin disorders. — NC Botanical Garden (Chapel Hill, NC)

Kart Track
I spent a bit of time at a sprint karting track. Rest assured, I was not behind the wheel. Rather, there were seven and eight-year-olds behind the wheel, my nephew included. That may sound a bit astonishing, to say the least. On the one hand, they were just kids—children who flung their arms around one another in greeting and who navigated the garage area on scooters between practice sessions, qualifying, and racing. On the other hand, they were focused little racers once their kart wheels rolled onto the asphalt. My nephew enjoys racing over any other sport—but maybe not as much as he loves Legos.

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Looking past the “boogity, boogity, boogity” and checkered flag, one can appreciate the uniqueness of a racetrack –it’s there at every track if one is curious to look. For instance, Victory Lane’s three-tiered stand at the aforementioned track is material (block curbs) salvaged from a former venue in Italy, the historic Kartdromo Parma track.

Duke Gardens
This place never gets old, but I discovered it in a whole new way a few months ago—in the evening, just before sunset. As the day winds to a close, a quiet falls over the Gardens and the colors of the sky reach down and paint areas such as the Garden Pond, Perennial Allee, and Blomquist Pavilion in tempered light and shades of gold that heighten their beauty.

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The Moss Garden at Duke Gardens looks particularly charming in the fading sunlight. — Durham, NC

Duke Gardens is open until dusk, and many people take advantage of this for evening strolls, romantic rendezvous, picnics on the lawn, or solitary contemplation. I’ve also seen more numerous and varied kinds of wildlife at this time of day.

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A sunflower makes its final bow in the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden. — Duke Gardens; Durham, NC

Perhaps you’ve been to these or similar places as well, or might like to put them on your list of things to do. The lease on summer may be coming to an end, but autumn in North Carolina and many other places is amenable to outdoor pastimes. Enjoy your autumn.


[1] Shakespeare’s Sonnets 18 & 73

Hello, World

I was out and about earlier today and stopped by one of my favorite places—Fearrington Village.

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The grounds at Fearrington Village (NC) are a nod to English gardens.

Situated on pasture land between Pittsboro and Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Fearrington is designed to look and feel like an English village. Single family residences surround a “village center” that is comprised of a world-class Inn, two highly acclaimed restaurants (Fearrington House and The Granary), a coffee and wine shop (The Belted Goat), as well as a beauty salon, spa, bookstore, boutique, post office …and the list goes on.

Despite the numerous and, in some cases, luxurious amenities that Fearrington Village offers, there’s a down-to-earth, natural quality about the place, accomplished largely (in my humble opinion) by the various gardens, small ponds and walking paths.

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On the “square,” poppies (a personal favorite) make this wildflower garden “pop”. — Fearrington Village, NC

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One more poppy picture…I just can’t resist! –Fearrington Village, NC

Also resident to the village are Belted Galloway cows, Tennessee fainting goats, and donkeys. Today, when I entered the tranquil and slow-paced world of Fearrington Village, one of the donkeys was standing docilely in the pasture adjacent to The Granary. This is where I normally see the fainting goats (who were there today, also); but this was the first time I had ever seen a donkey there—in the past, I had only spotted a stout one standing under some trees along the edge of the pasture that runs alongside Route 15-501.

So, as you might imagine, I wanted to get a picture.

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I got my donkey picture, but it was hardly a “one and done” scene. Notice the fluffy mound at this jenny’s front hooves.

I went around the bend of the fencerow to get a better angle, and behold!

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It appears that the rather rotund donkey I had spotted several times standing there in the shade by 15-501 was now the proud mother of a new baby!

Round about the time of my discovery, a lady pulled up, jumped out of her SUV, and came hoofing it to the fence. Excitedly, she reported that the foal was only one day old! (Apparently, she lived around Fearrington, had checked in on the mother the night before, and had found her still pregnant.) The woman jumped back in to her vehicle, then off she went…perhaps to spread the good news that the world consisted of one more dear little donkey. (UPDATE: Since writing this post, I have learned that the baby—a girl—was born at 5:30AM, making her a mere six hours old in these photos!)

The colt began to stir, and I witnessed one of its first lessons in standing and walking.
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The mother gently nudged her new offspring to keep it on its feet and get it moving. — Fearrington Village, NC

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With each nudge, the foal became more sure on its feet. By the time I left, it was doing quite well! — Fearrington Village, NC

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Fearrington Village’s newest colt gets a nuzzle from its mama. – Pittsboro, NC

As I watched this interaction between mother and newborn, I pondered God’s great design. It was a creation moment—a commonplace scene of everyday life—that was fascinating and beautiful.

Holiday Afternoon Tea at The Carolina Inn

Although I “bleed Duke Blue” most of the time, I enjoy all goods things in the Triangle—including the University of North Carolina’s beautiful campus in Chapel Hill.

I’ve wanted to explore The Carolina Inn, a “National Register of Historic Places” hotel on the campus of UNC, for quite some time. Its blend of Southern plantation style, Georgian flavors, and neoclassical elements give it an alluring charm.

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The front entrance of The Carolina Inn (Chapel Hill, NC)

This year, I had Holiday Afternoon Tea at The Carolina Inn. (Sorry Duke Inn, I still love y’all!)

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The Carolina Inn’s tea service incorporates an eclectic mix of bone china pieces. No two tea pots, cups and plates looked alike, but each no doubt held an interesting story; and the scones (delicious!) went well with my “Tea of Good Tidings” black tea.

The Inn was decorated for the 17th year in a “Twelve Days of Christmas” theme. Each day was a creative rendering by a southern artist. These various vignettes were displayed throughout the Inn, making it an adventure for young and old to locate and investigate the artists’ interpretations of the verses that comprise the traditional song, The Twelve Days of Christmas. Interspersed with this theme were other festive elements, such as poinsettias and elves busy at work.

But why am I telling you this? Please, allow me to show you the wonder:

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Elves were busy decorating the tree in the main lobby of The Carolina Inn. (Chapel Hill, NC)

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The topper for the tree in the main lobby was the crystal chandelier that’s a mainstay–you can see a little bit of it in this photo. The ornaments were a mixture of crystal and blown glass. — The Carolina Inn (Chapel Hill, NC)

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Poinsettias lined the corridor leading to the Ballroom and Colonnade at The Carolina Inn. (Chapel Hill, NC)

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“On the First Day” was created in 2008 by UNC alum Jeannette Brossart. The pear shaped carving was made from scraps of foam, finished with a cement and fiberglass mess exterior containing a partridge and the words “On the first day” in 24k gold leaf tesserae. — The Carolina Inn

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Felix & Fiona, two turtle doves, were perched in the Colonnade. — The Carolina Inn (Chapel Hill, NC)

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The sight of these three plump and playful french hens, created by Betsy Vaden in 2012, made me smile. — The Carolina Inn

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Larry Hearth of Hickory, NC, created “Four Calling Birds” from 100-year-old metal roofing of tobacco barns. (This wall hanging was designed in 2002 for The Carolina Inn’s “Twelve Days of Christmas.”)

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Five golden rings! This Gingerbread House was created by The Carolina Inn’s Executive Pastry Chef, Sara Thomas as a replica of the Inn. The five golden rings were “hidden” in the display.

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Can you spot a few of the golden rings in this photo? I see three of the five! — The Carolina Inn “Twelve Days of Christmas”

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“Six Geese A-Laying” consisted of hand-blown European ornaments on an iron urn. Very pretty in person—and looked like a lot more than just six because of the mirror! — The Carolina Inn (Chapel Hill, NC)

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One of my favorites, “Seven Swans A-Swimming” was an origami cut from the pages of a 1964 history book created by The Carolina Inn’s Reservations Manager, Elizabeth Rodriguez.

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LEGO artist William Stroh of Holly Springs created “Eight Maids A-Milking” from, you guessed it, LEGO building bricks and figures! — The Carolina Inn (Chapel Hill, NC)

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Lance McRorie, a glass artist from Georgia, created the elegant “Nine Ladies Dancing” in the old tradition of flame working glass. — The Carolina Inn (Chapel Hill, NC)

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“Ten Drummers Drumming” was created by Riley Foster of Mebane in 1999 from recycled machine and vehicle parts and other found objects. — The Carolina Inn

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SPOILER ALERT: “Eleven Pipers Piping” was an imaginative invention of artist Susan Philips from Apex, NC in 2001. A peek into a stained-glass looking box (left) revealed eleven pipers of surprising style and character (right). — The Carolina Inn (Chapel Hill, NC)

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A mechanical toy tops off the twelve days. The “Twelve Lords A-Leaping” crank toy tree designed by photographer Mark Crummett appeared to be a fan favorite. — The Carolina Inn (Chapel Hill, NC)

There’s still time to see the “Twelve Days of Christmas” at The Carolina Inn. The celebration runs through January 2, 2015.

Another Season for Southern Season

Southern_Season_ExteriorOne of my favorite places in the area is Southern Season in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (It must be true! This is my second post in as many years!) Southern Season is a specialty shop for all seasons, but it’s especially fun this time of year.

I stepped into Southern Season earlier this week, and the store had been transformed into a Thanksgiving and (mostly) Christmas emporium. True, throughout the place were many of the usual delights: an abundance of fragrant coffee beans, an array of teas, shiny kitchen gadgets, glistening-glass jars of old-fashioned candies…and, of course, Tar Heel Sugar Cookies and Chapel Hill Toffee. But there was more. So much more.

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The selection of sugars was mesmerizing. Sugar Crystals. Sanding Sugar. Shimmer Sugar. Even Edible Sugar Confetti. Something tells me that my old-fashioned sugar cookies are gonna look especially festive this year, Sugar Lumps.

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I was resistant to cheese straws for many years. (How un-southern of me!) I didn’t see the appeal, but I’ve since warmed to their charms. And now there’s a charming little box of pimento cheese straws sitting in my kitchen.

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Oh, the joy I had peering at the Christmas gifts and studying each ornament. (Sadly, I did not see a single nativity, but it’s possible that I overlooked it.)

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The bowl was full when I got there. Just kidding. Okay, I DID have one or two…okay, THREE…pieces of the south’s—nay, the WORLD’S—best peppermint bark EVER. Southern Season Peppermint Bark. Try it, if you can! Fans of peppermint and chocolate will love it, I think.

There were other samples scattered throughout the store. (What a great way to try before you buy!) Besides the cheese straws and the peppermint bark, I saw ginger cookie samples, as well as nuts for anyone so inclined—some all spiced up, and others down-to-earth-plain but plainly delicious.

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This was my favorite display. Maybe it was the pretty, plaid toffee tin. Maybe it was the cardinal theme. Or the berries and boughs. But it was probably all of the above. …And Southern Season’s famous gift basket section can be glimpsed just beyond.

Here’s a bit of trivia—and a puzzle, too! Check out the store’s exterior photo from my first post two years ago and compare it to the store’s exterior in this post (found at the top). Do you see the difference? They’ve dropped the “A” but kept the “Southern Season.”

With stores now in Chapel Hill, Richmond (VA), Charleston (SC), and online, Southern Season spreads its southern appeal to the masses. And continues to grow. Raleigh and Charlotte, it looks like there’s a Southern Season coming your way in January 2015!

Wherever you are, enjoy the season.