Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Blair Fraley Sales Store, Crossnore

If you are visiting the High Country near Banner Elk, stop by this 10,000 square foot thrift shop. Deals abound here and all proceeds go to the children of the Crossnore School.

The start of this gigantic shop was a small sale on the front porch of Crossnore School's founder to raise extra money for the school some 90 years ago. The store is a tribute to the tradition of mountain resourcefulness that established the school in 1913.

Ten years ago when I first moved to this area the shop was a tiny stone building (now the Miracle Grounds Coffee Shop) and things were piled high on tables with barely room to get around in the store. I was a bit put off by the jumble of the place.

Soon after they moved into the new super store and have been there since. It was a custom then to have a huge sale during the first week of each month when all the older items not sold would be moved to the school gym and sold for 50 cents for all items except furniture. It was called a Rag Shakin". People would line up outside the door to get in long before they opened. The first to be in got the best stuff so it was worth it. It was crowded and a lot like the tiny old store with things heaped on long banquet tables with walk ways in between. Since I am used to places like department store basement sales where people would be shoving and pushing each other to get to the merchandise, I was pleasantly surprised at the courteousness of Crossnore. Everyone was kind and polite. All you heard over the din was "Excuse me, pardon me, oh you had that first, I'm sorry I didn't mean to get in your way" Such a sweet difference!

With those days gone, unfortunately, it is much calmer now to shop there. Check the board as you enter for the sales of the day. Most days some department will host a sale for at least 20 percent off. They still do hold special sales the first week of each month where all the items in the store are 50 percent off.

The first floor has men and women's clothing, shoes, accessories, furniture and art along with books and cards. Some clothing is new, donated by local shops when they didn't sell. On the second level you will find fabrics, bedding, children's clothing, household items and seasonal items. Many things are antiques and you can find a great deal. The clothing is more upscale than in most thrift stores and all are reasonably priced.

The shop is located in downtown Crossnore on D.A.R. Drive just below the Crossnore Weaving Museum. Follow the signs off Hwy 221. Hours are 10-5 Mon - Sat, closed Sunday and most holidays. Call 828.733.4228 for more information. Happy shopping!

The Enchanted Forest, Asheville

If you love second hand shops like I do then this is the place for you.

I have shopped at thrift, consignment, and second hand shops for many years preferring to get better quality items at a reduced price than going to the mall for look alike fashions at much higher prices. This store is a unique eclectic mix of gently used and new items, all on the upscale end of fashion.

They carry shoes, accessories, jewelry and clothing including slacks, dresses, tops and coats. Today when I stopped in the clerk showed me the racks of things on sale --all for $5! Great deal. I picked up a tapestry jacket and pony scarf with lots of fringe for $10 total.

They also have locally handmade scarves, funky new socks, books, purses and lots more to add to your wardrobe without breaking the bank. Check in often as they get new items regularly. If you want to sell your clothing, this is the place to take your unused items.

The two shops are located at 235 Merrimon, just past Greenlife or on Hendersonville Rd past Earth Fare in the shopping center with Luella's BBQ. Hours are Mon- Sat 10-5:30 and Sun 1-5. For more info visit

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Martin's Pizza and Pasta, Asheville

Being from New England and growing up surrounded by great pizza places, I am always searching for the best one in each area that I live. My husband, a chef, and I are on a quest to sample all of the pizza places in the Ashevlllle area and find out who has what kind of pizza!

The first place we tried is Martin's Pizza, Home of the Square Pizza. Square pizzas bring back memories of my childhood friends' Italian mothers who used square cookie sheets to make their incredibly delicious homemade pizzas.

Martin's is located in an unassuming strip mall off Fairview Road next to Hamricks and River Ridge Plaza. The outside has a small dining area tucked in the corner of the mall. It was decorated still for the holidays with white icicle lights inside and out.

We ordered the 12 inch pizza, a medium size, which would feed 2-3 people easily. With a wide variety of toppings to choose from we ordered a half pepperoni and sausage and the other half artichoke, spinach and mushroom. The pizza arrived quickly and piping hot. The crust was crisp and tasty. The sauce sweet and chunky with a nice flavor. The ingredients and toppings were fresh and plentiful on the pizza. The wait staff didn't hover but made sure you were taken care of.

Prices range from $5.49 for the small cheese pizza to $12.49 for the 16 x 16 extra large pizza. Additional toppings are extra. They also serve cold cut subs, buffalo wing platters, pastas and salads at affordable prices.

Martin's serves local beers and has a small bar that seemed to be a neighborhood type of place to hang out with people coming and going and chatting with each other.

Overall we thought it was a nice place nearby to get some good food. I would go back for the pizza.

Tufted Titmouse

On cold winter days I enjoy watching the bird feeder outside my office window. It is a platform feeder hung in the boughs of a huge rhododendron. The Tufted Titmouse is the busiest species at the feeder, coming and going and chirping at the others.

A common bird of forest and feeders in the eastern United States, the Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicoloris) often seen foraging in groups with other birds. It is quick to scold predators and is easily attracted to the mobbing calls of other species.

It is a small gray songbird with a short tuft on its head, black eyes and prominent pale gray face. The underbelly has a rosy hue. Both sexes look alike.

Their song sounds like a loud, whistled "peter, peter, peter, peter" or a scratchy, chickadee-like "tsee-day-day-day." They also sing fussy scolding notes.

Beginning in the 1940s, the Tufted Titmouse began expanding its range northward. Previous to that it was found only as far north as Iowa, Ohio, southern Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. Explanations offered for the expansion include global warming, the maturation of abandoned farmlands to forest, and increased number of winter bird feeders.

Unlike many chickadees, Tufted Titmouse pairs do not join larger flocks outside of the breeding season. Instead, most remain on the territory as a pair. Frequently one of their young from that year remains with them, and occasionally other juveniles from other places will join them. Rarely a young titmouse remains with its parents into the breeding season and will help them raise the next year's brood

The information above is from Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Frozen Clouds

When the weather gets cold we all see the frost that forms on our windows, of our homes and cars but what about the frost you see on plants outside during the winter?

Frost forms when water vapour freezes into ice crystals on cold surfaces. In winter, temperatures are usually low as the sun is low in the sky during the day and the nights are long. On clear nights, when there is no blanket of clouds to keep the warmth in, then any heat received during the day quickly escapes. The temperature will therefore drop considerably and as the moisture in the air freezes, the ground will be covered with frost.

There are three types of frost that occur in different ways:
Rime frost is ice formed when a damp, icy wind blows over flowers, branches and other surfaces. Rime frost looks like icing around the edge of petals and leaves, and only occurs when the temperatures are very low. In the mountains this also happens when the clouds settle over the high peaks for a length of time. The trees, bushes and plants get completely coated with a thick covering of frost, so much so it looks like snow or frozen clouds!

Hoar frost occurs when water vapour touches a very cold surface and freezes on it instantly. This can happen to the leaves and branches of plants, and will cover them with ice crystals that look like spiky fingers.

It can also occur on other freezing surfaces such as soil and metal, and so can often be seen on cars. Hoar frost can occur at higher temperatures than rime frost – usually when the air temperature is around 0°C (32°F). However, the ground is usually much colder, and the air must be moist for the ice crystals to form.

In particularly cold weather, fern frost may appear on windows. This happens when tiny water droplets (dew) first form on the cold glass. These then turn into ice and more moisture freezes on top. As this process continues, more ice crystals are formed and the frost develops into what looks like feathery fingers. Fern frost can create beautiful patterns of ice crystals, which often look leaf or fern like – hence the name.

So when it is really cold and cloudy look up to the tops of the mountains near you. What you see may not be snow - it is most likely a heavy covering of rime frost on the trees.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Haiku of Winter Woods by Basho

One of my favorite poets is the Japanese poet Basho of the seventh century. This one captures the somber mood of the woods in winter.

"The god is absent;

His dead leaves are piling,

And all is deserted


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Book Review: Touring the Western North Carolina Backroads by Carolyn Sakowski

Have you ever been out on an afternoon drive and saw a road that looked interesting but weren't sure where you would end up? One of my favorite books about the back roads of the entire mountain region of western North Carolina is this one.

Saowski is a native of Morganton, NC and has a B.A. in history from Queens College in Charlotte and an M.A. in history from Appalachian State University in Boone.

She lists twenty one scenic tours of the mountains designed to be a journey throught the history of each area. Tales of eccentric characters, folklore and stories about the early settlers make the scenery come alive.

Sakowsi begins the book in the Bryson City area and follows the counties on up to Sparta in the furthest northwestern county. I especially like how she draws you in with her highlights of local buildings still standing and the history of who lived there and how it all came about.

Find out all the details of the back roads in your favorite area of the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. This book is a must have for the explorer in us all.


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