A Nice Place to Land

Travel is a very real part of my life, and I imagine and hope that it always will be.  Most recently I was back and forth from home in various stints over a stretch of a month and a half.  I will be home for about that long, and then gone again soon.  Then repeat.  Sometimes I travel for fun, like the trips we take twice a year to celebrate our marriage.  Or family reunion.  Or trips with our kids and their families.  Or the occasional quilt retreat that has no work attachments involved.  But while I don’t always travel with fun as the main purpose, it still is always fun.  Like visiting family, especially our kids and grandkids.  Or going to Quilt Market, if or when I go.  Or quilt retreats with work at least partly in mind, although sometimes work is the sole purpose.

For instance, the recent retreat The Green Apricot hosted in Crossville, TN.  I had a great time, and I loved being a hostess and cooking and hanging out and having a good time with friends.  On Thursday when it ended, it was good to see smiling faces packing up cars and heading back home again.  I, on the other hand, was not headed home.  Our granddaughter was having a birthday party in TN on Saturday, so rather than head south to Atlanta and then back up to Nashville the next day, I decided to hang around a bit and take it easy between retreat and birthday party.

As many of you know, I am a bit obsessed with donuts.  One time my husband looked at me and basically said, “If you’ve eaten one donut, you’ve eaten them all.”  I just stared at him.  The donut thing has been real my whole life, although I have hated Krispy Kreme for many years.  Mostly because my dad would get them on road trips, and inevitably I would get car sick, and well, the rest is history.  (As a note, I tried them again a couple of years ago, and I really do still hate them.)  The obsession, however, has really taken flight in the last couple of years because, well, donuts, and I love the idea that an easy way to shop local when traveling is to find a donut shop.  So, I try to look for donut shops whenever I am on the road.  This time I found Ralph’s Donuts in Cookeville, TN.  They’ve been there since 1962, and are located in a fun part of town with boutique shopping and eateries.  It was way off of my charted course from Crossville to Nashville, but totally worth it.  When I asked what was the one donut I had to order I got an immediate answer of, “Butter Twist.”  So, Butter Twist it was, and I was pleased.  I usually get two donuts at places like these.  A standard that I can compare with other donut shops, and their specialty.  But I had just returned from quilt retreat full of Oreos and Peanut M&Ms, so restraint was called for.  However, if I ever get to go back…

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Since I wasn’t in a big hurry, and I didn’t have the husband in tow, I thought I might check out Craft South in Nashville.  I’ve met Anna Maria Horner a couple of times, including once in a restaurant bathroom during Quilt Market, but that’s another story.  I’m kinda a big fan, and I love her work and her style, so I was looking forward to her shop.  However, it turned out that I might have actually been able to go into the store if Jeff had been with me.  I followed Sybil’s directions and found Craft South in a super trendy, fun neighborhood not too far from Vanderbilt’s campus.  But, all that fun and trend has a tendency to equal no parking.  After circling a neighborhood crawling with both construction and hipsters three times with no luck for parking, I bailed and headed to my evening destination.  Thompson’s Station, and Suzy Homemaker.

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Who exactly provides a snack bar in their guest room?  Who exactly puts together the perfect dinner because she knows what her guest needs?  Who exactly can cut through the crap and get to the real story with everything from politics to quilt shops?

Suzy Homemaker, of course.  No, that’s not totally her real name, but she is Suzy.  I met her a few years ago as she is Chris Warnick’s right-hand woman in putting on The Stash Bash, and have enjoyed her friendship ever since.  I messaged her a couple of weeks before I was going to be in Nashville to see if I could visit her and crash at her place for a night.  I knew it would be a treat to get to visit with her and her husband, but had no idea just how perfect of a place it was for me to land.

I had a great time at the quilt retreat in Crossville, and very much loved being a hostess for such an event.  But when it was over, I truly was exhausted.  It wasn’t until I settled in at Suzy’s that I realized how overstimulated I felt, and kind of wired.

Suzy keeps a lovely home, which shouldn’t surprise anyone.  So much of it is in the details.  Everything from the soap to the bed that I could barely convince myself to get out of the next morning.  Everywhere I turned there was something to look at and think about, but not in an excessively analytical way or in a trendy, copycat kind of way.  More like a “Huh- that’s cool-  I wouldn’t have thought of that, but it works perfectly” kind of way.

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She has such a great mix of wood and metal and white and black in her home, and just seems to highlight all the right things in all the right places.  Suzy and her husband are also in the race car industry, and there were hints of it throughout the house, but without being brash and kitschy.  It felt like Nashville, but it also felt like a canvas for conversation.

It was just what I needed- to be hosted for a day after hosting for a few.  We chatted into the night, and picked up again in the morning.  And of course, we had to get a donut, and head to a quilt shop.  This time there was plenty of parking.

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I stole these photos from the internet.  I am admitting it openly.  I’d like to give credit, but honestly, I’m not sure to whom I should give it!  At any rate, Suzy promised I would love Stitcher’s Garden, and she was not wrong.  Not by a longshot.  This place was packed.  I mean packed.  In every good way.  We have a shop in Georgia similar to it called Thread Bear Fabrics.  Both of the these shops have a crazy, serious selection.  You want traditional?  You got it.  You want modern?  You got it.  You want fat quarters?  You got more than you can imagine.  I had a fabulous time sifting through and making plans, and even remembering projects gone by.  I showed a bit of restraint, as I already have plenty and enough, but I did get a couple of things with purpose, and a couple without.

We literally shopped until the last moment.  Jeff flew in that afternoon, and I needed to navigate through Nashville traffic to pick him up at the airport.  It was good to see his face.  I enjoy my adventures, and I feel that I am fairly independent, but I miss him terribly when we are apart.

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Jeff and I go to Nashville from time to time as two of our daughters and their families live there.  We have a favorite place to stop and eat- Coco’s Italian Market and Restaurant.  My favorite appetizer is the bruschetta, pictured above.  I’d like to deconstruct it and try to make it at home, but I’m afraid I’d never get the bread quite right, and that I’d gain a couple hundred pounds!

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Speaking of low-cal Italian treats, we also never miss a chance to share a piece of Chocolate Eruption cheesecake.  We are kind of known for taking it to go with the intent of eating it a little later, but it never makes it more than a mile or so down the road.

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The next day we headed to our daughter’s house to spend the day celebrating our granddaughter’s birthday.  It was such a nice day with family, and I am so grateful that we were able to be there.  I feel very grateful for all of the travels, even the ones that can be somewhat stressful, but I am especially grateful for the travels that take me places like this one.  Some things matter, some things don’t.  Some things last, some things won’t.

 

Your Dekalb Farmer’s Market- just a few things. This time.

I really don’t know much about the history of Your Dekalb Farmers Market, but I do know a little bit about my history with this place of awesomeness.

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I grew up in Georgia, mostly in the Atlanta area, and have lived in and out of the area most of my life.  I remember going to YDFM when I was very young with my aunt who lived in Decatur, not far from the original market.  I also remember going after they moved to the current site, but I believe it looked a bit different back then.  I was still very young, and I only went a couple of times, but I seem to remember being just enthralled with huge tanks of fish, and watching the employees reaching into the water to nab one for a customer.  There are still tanks of fish now, but I don’t think as many.

YDFM doesn’t allow any photography inside of the market, so sadly, I cannot show you the amazingness of this place.  However, I can tell you a little bit about it.  At least this particular trip.

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I live about 40 miles from YDFM, which in our area means it can take anywhere from 40 minutes to 2 hours to travel to or from the market.  And yet, it is where I buy the majority of our meat and fresh produce.  It is also where I buy spices, fresh pasta, drinking vinegar, and international products that I would like to try.  I also take our recycling to their recycling center as the one in our county does not accept as many items.  The photo you see above is from the furthest parking spot facing the front doors of the market.  I often refer to the parking lot as the Serengeti, mostly because the few trees placed here and there makes me think of the pictures I have always seen of that place.  I usually try to park under one of the trees, but on this day I decided I could use the walk since I skipped the treadmill that morning.

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If you’ve never been to YDFM, there are a few things you should probably know.

First, as you can see, they have extensive hours.  However, if you have any kinds of issues with crowds or claustrophobia, some days and hours are better than others.  I try to go during the week, early in the day.  Mid afternoon isn’t too bad, but for me the traffic on the way home is terrible, so I’d rather go in the mornings.  I’ve been on a Saturday a couple of times, and will only do that now out of desperation.  Also, the week or days just before a holiday are insane.  As in you can’t reasonably shop with a normal shopping cart on those days.

Second, speaking of shopping carts, if you want one, you’d better get it from the parking lot on your way in because there are none inside.  There are rolling plastic baskets that are deep but slim, and of course, hand carried baskets.  But I can only go every couple of weeks or so, so I generally need a bigger cart.

Third, they don’t take credit cards, and they don’t really like to take checks.  Cash or a debit card are your best bet.

Fourth, I have the same suggestion for this place as I do for IKEA virgins.  The first time you go, show some restraint and don’t buy much.  Just a few things, then go home and let everything you just saw kind of settle in your brain for a bit.  Otherwise it is easy to waste money and end up with a lot of food that you can’t possibly consume before it goes bad.

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My weakness is the bakery department.  I actually don’t buy anything there anymore for a couple of reasons.  First, it is so dang good that I could probably eat my weight in breads and muffins and croissants and cookies, and that just doesn’t work out very well.  Second, they are fresh baked and don’t have any preservatives, and so should be eaten within a day or two of purchase.  Sadly, I have found that we can’t eat it fast enough, and usually have some waste.

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As you can see above, I mostly focus on fresh produce at the market.  There’s aisle after aisle of varieties of produce, most of which I am familiar with and know what to do with, but some is just foreign and intriguing.  There are organic and nonorganic options, and the description above the bins includes the origin of the food.  I find that the produce is fresher than at the grocery, and that the prices are at least competitive, but often are better.  They bring in and move such a large volume that the turn over is amazing.  Also, if you are wondering if something is actually in season, or if it is maybe late in the season, you will know quickly at YDFM.  In the height of the strawberry season the berry table is overflowing with packages of berries, but when in winter the selection is much smaller.  While there are always a wonderful variety of apples available, it is evident that apples are currently in season by how many more than just the standards there are in the market.

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Other favorites are the deli, seafood and meat departments.  Pictured above is a pretty normal lunch for me.  YDFM smokes their own meats on site, and I prefer their sliced turkey, chicken and roast beef over other places.  While I don’t often eat it in a sandwich, I do like to make kind of a deli plate for a light lunch. They have an amazing selection of cheeses from all over the world.  I like to buy a new cheese to try from time to time, and then talk my husband’s head off over dinner about where it is from.

The seafood department at YDFM is a force in it’s own right, and simply has to be experienced to be understood.  My house could fit in the seafood department.  My entire house.  And if it is seafood and they aren’t selling it at YDFM, you probably shouldn’t be eating it.  I have gone in there when every bin and tank was full, and and I have been there when the seafood selections were thin.  There’s a reason for that.

I don’t like to buy chicken anywhere else.  I find that the chicken at YDFM is the size that you would expect a chicken to be.  It doesn’t look like it came from a chicken that could beat you up in a dark alley.  And they have just about every cut you could think of.  They also have turkey, beef, bison, lamb and pork.  There’s probably something else in there, but I can’t remember, and well, no pics allowed to help me remember!  We love the sausage that YDFM mixes.  They have it in turkey, chicken and pork.  The hot is the best, but to each his own.  *Here’s a tip… When buying seafood or meat at the market, ask for ice.  If they have any available, they will double bag your meat purchase in a bag of ice.  However, I find the cashiers don’t really like it because it gets the labels wet and makes them difficult to scan.

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Spices are another thing that I love at YDFM.  They are significantly less expensive than the national brands at the grocery, and are fresh.  They don’t come in fancy packaging, but they don’t need to look good to taste good.  I use the pumpkin pie spice in my favorite fall protein shake.

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McClary Bros Old Timey Drinking Vinegar is another thing that I recently discovered at YDFM.  I believe you can purchase it elsewhere, but it’s just as easy for me to get it there since I know they carry it.  Every evening before bed my husband prepares a glass of this drinking vinegar mixed with some seltzer water for each of us.  The biggest benefit we’ve noticed is a significant reduction of acid reflux at night.  I don’t know that it is as healthful as Bragg’s, but it is definitely more palatable.  There are several different flavors, but we like the Michigan Apple Pie the best.  I’d say the Beet and Carrot one would come in second, but really, by a long shot.  The other flavors are just too sharp for me.  It’s also a little pricy in my opinion, but we only drink a little at a time, and since we don’t really drink anything else other than water and Red Rock Ginger Ale, we have room in the budget for it.  Again, I am sure Bragg’s is a healthier option, but how healthy can it be if you hate it so much you won’t drink it?

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Dinner on the same day as a trip to YDFM usually involves whatever I saw that wasn’t actually on my list.  This time it was fresh whole wheat pasta and YDFM’s own marinara sauce.  I’ve wanted to try their marinara for a long time, and it was quite good, but I have to be honest, I like mine made from our homegrown and bottled tomatoes better.  The pasta was perfect, but Jeff wasn’t crazy about the texture.  Fresh pasta is a little different from dried.  I froze what pasta we didn’t eat that night, and I’ll probably have it for lunch some time.

So, that’s your intro to Your Dekalb Farmers Market.  If you live in the Atlanta area and have never been, you really should give it a try, and if you are in the area visiting, it is worth putting on your list of places to visit.

The Getaway Gang

The Green Apricot hosted two retreats in 2017.  One coincided with QuiltCon in Savannah, GA, and planning for it began two years ago.  The other was just simply a getaway to take a breather at the end of summer and beginning of fall.  This one was a little more last minute, and while based a great deal on the fun time we had at Tybee Island in February, it was intended to be more low-key and have better accommodations.

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The Fall 2017 edition of  #thegreenapricotgetaway was located at a resort in Crossville, TN called Fairfield Glade.  I think you could call it a mixed-use property, as it is part resort and part community.  There are people who live there full time, but there are also a number of condominiums, and amenities ranging from golf courses to walking trails, from horseback riding to swimming, from medical facilities to a spa.  It’s located just off of I-40 about an hour west of Knoxville, and while the property is huge, I was surprised that not many seem to know about it.  It is not explicitly a retirement community, but it is definitely retirement friendly.

So, a few months ago I reserved 6 condos and got to work planning.  I knew that the condos were not big enough for all of us to sew in, and I reserved the classroom in the community center for three days.  I ended up limiting the attendance to just 12, including myself, because I was concerned about having enough room for all of us to be comfortable sewing in the classroom.  Each person had a 6 foot table, and there was plenty of room for 3 cutting mats and 4 irons.  Perfect size, and no electrical problems!

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Not everyone knew each other before the retreat, but the beauty of a small group like this is the opportunity to chat on a more personal level with other people in our sewing community.  There was a wide range of personalities and ideologies, and it made for some fascinating conversations throughout the days and nights.
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Machine name tags helped with getting to know your sewing neighbor, but putting them on the handwheel certainly made them more entertaining.  If you don’t believe me, just try it sometime.  I had prepared and brought several games to play throughout the getaway, but in the end decided to keep things simple.  We had several gifts donated by Rana from Sewn Into the Fabric, some of which were part of daily treats, like this dang cute pumpkin pin cushion called Big Delores, and some were drawn for.

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One game we did play was to find the blue Peanut M&M.  Before heading to the retreat, I sorted 12 pounds of Peanut M&Ms by color, and hid a blue one in one of the jars.  The one to find it won the first prize of the week- a Seymore Bones kit from Rana!  Kris didn’t miss a beat and immediately dumped out his jar of M&Ms and found the blue one…

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That started the drawings that went on throughout the retreat.  Kris drew the name of the next winner, and then also drew what prize they got.  We had another Seymore Bones kit, three copies of “Simply Strings,” also by Rana, and several boxes of Wonder Clips by Clover.

I didn’t get pictures of every project that was made or worked on, but I got a few.  Here’s just a snippet of what some of us were working on…

During the planning process I found that I was less than excited about catering options, so I decided to cook for all of us.  Preparing food for 12 can seem daunting in some ways, but really, I come from/have a large family, so I am pretty accustomed to cooking for a crowd.  I don’t consider myself to be an especially impressive cook, or excessively healthy, but I feel like I do okay in the kitchen and I have learned a lot about improving my own nutrition over the last several months.  I checked with everyone for any special needs, then set a menu based on meals that I’ve made for my own family before.  Most of the shopping had to be done ahead of time, so my car was incredibly weighed down on the drive to Crossville!

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We ate at my condo because, well, I hate food near fabric!  Snacks are okay, but it really does bug me to sit in front of my machine with a plate of food.  The sewing room was just under a mile away from the condos, so most of us drove back and forth for lunch and dinner.  But the weather was PERFECT for a walk, as well.  I served the same way I do in my own home- countertop buffet style.  I also dislike a lot of garbage, so we used real plates and glasses and I washed cloth napkins between each meal.  I very much enjoyed cooking for everyone, and with a little preparation it wasn’t nearly as much work as it could have been!

Monday:  Lunch- Green Veggie Minestrone with salad bar; Dinner- Acorn squash with sausage, apples, and kale, roasted broccoli, and salad

Tuesday:  Lunch- Salad and sandwich bar; Dinner- Lemon rosemary chicken with brown rice, roasted asparagus, muffins and raw veggies

Wednesday:  Lunch- Sandwich and salad bar; Dinner- Pork roast and apples with roasted mixed veggies and raw veggies

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Several of us also took a minute or two to visit some of the local establishments, like Little Blessings Quilt Shop in Crossville, and Gina’s Bernina in Knoxville.  This fabulous yarn shop was just a few miles down the road from the resort, and I was glad to have the chance to stop in at the Yarn Patch.  It’s a lovely shop, to say the least, and I didn’t have to look to hard to find something to take home with me.  I was especially impressed with the person working there, who I assume is the owner.  She handled her customers beautifully- gently guiding them as needed, and letting them wander as desired.  It really was a pleasure to shop there, and I hope to support this shop again sometime in the future.

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And just like that, it was all over.  The weather was wonderful.  The accommodations were perfect- including the enormous mirrored bathtub/shower in every unit- haha!  But the best part was the company.

Until next time…

Then. And now.

I have had an amazing life.  A remarkably full life.  It’s been just as full of happy as it has sad, and I am grateful for every minute of it.

Spring, 1999- I think.  I had taken my four kiddos, ages 6, 4 1/2, 2 1/2, and 6 mos, to pick strawberries.  We were living in Washington at the time, and I had been learning how to make jam.  The summer before I was so excited about the abundance of blackberries- they grew everywhere- on the side of the road, by the park, in common areas around base.  And they were huge.  And free.  But the strawberries were not free, so they were especially precious and couldn’t be wasted.  I packed up the four kids and went to the grocery store to buy what we needed.  Sugar.  Pectin.  Citric acid.  I got to the counter and didn’t have quite enough money, so I handed the citric acid back to the cashier, turned to the kids and said “Our jam is going to taste great, it’ll just look kinda dark.”  The older ones grabbed the grocery sacks, and I grabbed the younger ones.  Before we got to the car, a man hurriedly headed in our direction with a small bag hanging from his extended arm.  He had bought the citric acid for us.  Did we really need it?  It would have been edible without it, for sure, but the real need that day was just a little bit of kindness.  I don’t know his name or remember his face, but I will never forget him.

Summer, 1999- pretty sure it was the same year.  The older two kids had been in Kindergarten and a financial need based preschool program, and school was now out.  We had enough food in the house because I had learned to use the resources we had pretty tightly.  I bought cheap, in bulk, and as close to raw as possible, and kept the pantry as full as I could.  I didn’t need to take advantage of the free summer lunch program offered down the street from our house, but reality was it made my life a little easier.  The sack lunches weren’t always that great, but if we got there early, there was plenty to choose from, and the kids could play on the playground and I visited with my neighbors.  We didn’t go every day, but we went a lot of days, and I was grateful for it.

Fall, 1999- we needed a lot of help that year.  It was time to get the kids ready for school.  It was all excitement for first grade and Kindergarten, until I started getting supply lists.  Then it didn’t quite feel like excitement.  The preschool that we had been enrolled in was amazing for making sure we as parents had access to a plethora of resources, and gratefully we learned of a program for helping families get ready for a new school year.  We stood in line for quite a long time.  I remember kids in front of us playing with Pokemon cards while we waited.  And I remember it was miserably hot.  Once inside the gym, the kids were all given free haircuts, a bookbag with school supplies, and each child was allowed one garbage bag full of used clothing.   Even the two littles that weren’t in school yet.  Relief.

So.  This is a quilting blog.  What on earth does my trip down memory lane have to do with anything?

Well, memories have a purpose.  They shape us.  They remind us to be grateful.  They remind us to be someone with a small bag of kindness hanging from the end of our extended arms.  They remind us that gathering is half of giving.  They remind us that it can be something really simple that relieves a mother’s anxiety.  So, with gratitude, let’s have another semi-annual food drive.

Kids are out of school, which means many of them are not getting the one or two meals a day that they qualify for during the school year.  Families that are working to make ends meet get hit hard at this time of year.  Almost harder than during the holidays, when most people think of contributing to their local charitable organizations.

With that in mind, let’s have a WIP Week at the studio.  From June 21-25, 9 am to 4 pm, bring your Works In Progress to The Green Apricot studio.  The fee?  Two pounds of nonperishable food per hour, or in other words, twelve pounds of food for each day you come to sew, knit, crochet, paint, talk, eat, or whatever.  No, I am not going to weigh your food.  You will have to read labels or weigh it yourself, and it is on an honor system.  Space is limited, so please register to reserve your seat.  We are notorious for ordering a little something for lunch, so be prepared for that, or bring a lunch from home.  There is a small fridge in the studio, as well as a microwave.  Food donations will go to United Food Force– a food pantry in McDonough, GA serving Henry and surrounding counties.

I hope you can come and hang out where the makers meet, but if you can’t, I still hope you can contribute to your local food bank.  It will make a difference.