Weekend Shenanigans

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It was a beautiful cool fall weekend. We decided to lay low after last week’s adventures, so we hung around the neighborhood (after a fun bonfire night at the boys’ school on Friday). We indulged in cinnamon rolls and lying around reading The Witches, chapter after chapter, it never gets old, especially around this time of year. DSC_0053DSC_0055DSC_0127

I finished up painting after ripping up the old rug next to the floorboards to prepare for more renovations to our bedroom. It is coming along, slowly but surely. Andrew treated us to a late dinner of a 12-hour-smoked brisket which was fall-apart tender and amazing on Sunday evening. I had no idea what all the work was leading up to, and was pleasantly surprised! Turns out that guy knows what he is doing!DSC_0128DSC_0132DSC_0133DSC_0137DSC_0143DSC_0145DSC_0148DSC_0164DSC_0172DSC_0174DSC_0204DSC_0177The older boys set up a shop on Sunday, spending hours making origami hats, boxes, and other goodies to sell to us. They had quite a business plan, let me tell you! Emil spent plenty of time playing musical instruments and singing to himself upstairs, surely a way to decompress after a long week back in school. It’s so great to see these budding minds bloom!

It was a good, calm, relaxing weekend. Now back to writing and working  and collaborating and ideas. Have a lovely day.

Emil-isms

DSC_0010Emil is at the best age right now. Sometimes he says the funniest things:

One afternoon I found a chocolate bar in our pantry. I asked, “Who would like a little piece of chocolate?” Emil responded, “I do because I have a mouth!” Good point, my friend.

Emil often wears a superhero costume, like Captain America, out and about. But he doesn’t like people to notice it. So when someone says, “Hi Captain America!” He says, with a very serious face, “I’m not Captain America. I’m just EMIL. And I don’t like you.”

At nighttime, he sometimes gets out of bed, lies down next to his (doorknob-less) door, and whispers in a pathetic little voice under the door crack, “Papa, I need a hug. I just love you.” Gets him every time.

From the bath tub, “Mamaaaaa! I need more toys in here. Like a shark. And a cup. You’re welcome!”

There’s so much more. He is just the funniest little guy.

Hope you enjoy your weekend!

P.s. — Funny, the article I wrote for the Post made it (indirectly) to Good Morning America!

River Arts District

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On the last day of the trip, our wonderful friends Cat and Garriy, who had driven up from Knoxville the previous night, accompanied us to Asheville’s River Arts District, a great area by the French Broad River filled with artists’ studios, galleries, music and performing arts venues, and restaurants. Parking is free in the district, and we had no trouble finding a spot on a Saturday around lunchtime. DSC_0527

Many studios are open for observation, and kids are welcome. We were drawn into Asheville Glass Center, where the boys were mesmerized by the artists taking time to explain every step of the glassblowing process. Oliver in particular was smitten. DSC_0530DSC_0533DSC_0537DSC_0540

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Oliver and Cat sharing a moment (one of many!)

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We also stopped in the coolest custom lighting, antiques, and art store called Splurge, run by artist Robert Nicholas, whom we were lucky to meet. He was so kind and responsive to our boys, even showing them how the above carousel worked. Such a beautiful place!
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After a bit of browsing, we headed over to White Duck Taco Shop for lunch. It was soooooo good and worth waiting in line for. I highly recommend the fish tacos. And the outdoor seating was very nice for children (and puppies), though ours weren’t as well-behaved as the puppy sitting near us. Oh, well. You can’t win them all! DSC_0567

Read more about the River Arts District here.

And this is the last of our Guide to Asheville posts! I hope you have a wonderful weekend. We are heading to a campfire tonight at our boys’ school. Can’t get enough of the outdoors these days! Happy Friday!

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

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Andrew wanted to surprise the boys with a special adventure during our Asheville trip. And though they have been on plenty of city trains, the thought of an open-air car traveling through the Smoky Mountains to a pumpkin patch sounded too good to pass up, even though it was a bit of a splurge. I have to say, it was a completely different experience to have fresh air blowing in through the open car, traveling alongside a river, beautiful rolling hills and fields, and across an old bridge. DSC_0454DSC_0459DSC_0461DSC_0463

Oliver stood by the window the entire trip, being careful not to reach out the open windows. But Emil was the biggest fan, as he has recently been a bit obsessed with trains. He talked about the train for a good part of the drive there, and then after as well. I think it kind of blew his mind. DSC_0464DSC_0467DSC_0469DSC_0470DSC_0472

On the ride there, someone read part of “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” and when we arrived, we were greeted by Charlie Brown, Lucy, and Snoopy characters, along with a whole field of kid-awesomeness (and plenty of kitsch). It was the kind of amusement-park silliness that is sometimes necessary. They ate it up. DSC_0478DSC_0483

There was trick-or-treating (they did NOT skimp on the candy…), marshmallow roasting, there were games and a pumpkin patch, where the boys each chose a pumpkin to take back with them. DSC_0487DSC_0488DSC_0491

And then the ride back… we lucked out with more rain in the forecast. It held off until we stepped off the train, then started to pour on the drive back to the cabin. DSC_0493DSC_0495DSC_0496It was such a treat! If you’re interested in going, here is the website. They do a Polar Express train on Christmas Eve, which sounds like a blast!

Graveyard Fields & Ridge

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I have to apologize if you are tiring of these Asheville posts, but we just had so much fun and wanted to share all of the highlights of the trip. I will be posting the rest of our pictures and stories twice a day until I get through it all — a warning, it will take us through until Friday, but next week I’ll be back to regularly-scheduled posts I promise! 

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As I write this, my heart just aches. I am looking at the pictures from this day, in my opinion the best day of the whole trip. There is so much good in Asheville. The people, with their kind eyes and artists hands, the amazing food, the care people take of their little city streets and shops, the obvious pride they have in their artists and musicians. But the mountains, oh the mountains! DSC_0403DSC_0397

The mountains are everywhere in this place. The Smokies, the Blue Ridge, all of it seems to go on forever, and I forgot that these wild places still exist and are protected (thank goodness) and cared for by many. This place touched me in a way I can’t explain, only to say that somehow as a child I had this connection to a similar place and it has imprinted on my soul. Revisiting places like this — with mountains and nature and water flowing clean and clear — it makes me feel awake. DSC_0398DSC_0400DSC_0402DSC_0405

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In choosing hikes near Asheville, we were conscious of the fact that although our boys love nature and seem to thrive in it, they are not used to long hikes. I was nervous about Oliver in particular, who is sturdy in some ways, but has not proven to be the happiest long-distance walker. This time, he was happy as a clam to walk over 4 miles with just a short rest. No joke — there was not one complaint of tired legs or boredom. DSC_0410DSC_0413

Find a good description of the hike and how to get there here. And please note that this time of year is a stunning time to visit, but if you choose to visit in May, you will be greeted by a thicket of rhododendron bushes so thick, the flowers will eventually carpet the main paved pathway down to the river in early June. Though the areas around the falls and river are paved and supplemented with board pathways and steps, if you choose to hike up higher on the ridge, it is all footpaths, which is real hiking, in my opinion!

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Emil was impressive. At three years old, not only did he keep up, he kept pace, racing ahead and then stopping to wait for us. He asked to be carried once during the whole four mile hike, and after a short jaunt on Andrew’s shoulders, he wanted to go on his own again. We hiked uphill to the high ridge overlooking the other side of the fields and stopped for lunch smack on the trail between two streams. Four burly hikers passed us while we ate, carrying pots and pans, sleeping bags and extra shoes hanging off the back of their packs. They were headed on an adventure and our future flashed before my eyes — there we were, two adults with three strapping teenaged boys, rugged from years of hiking and camping and living close to the wild, on our way to camp where only the sturdiest could make it by foot, to a place no cars or campers could reach. Oh, the things my dreams are made of.  DSC_0443DSC_0444DSC_0446

DSC_0448Sometimes trips like these make my dreams run wild. I could, we could, live a life so happy near a place like this. Little man, maybe some day!

Asheville with Kids: Western North Carolina Nature Center

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On the Monday after we arrived in Asheville, Andrew took a little time to himself and I headed to check out the Western North Carolina Nature Center (check out the live otter cam on their site!) with the boys. It was a bit overcast and drizzly that morning, so the choice was a deliberate one; there is a nice indoor area with a small river creatures room including snakes and salamanders and a little log tunnel the boys enjoyed playing in. But the rain held out, so we headed outdoors to explore. DSC_0082DSC_0083DSC_0095

This center is dedicated to conservation of the Southern Appalachian Mountains and all its biodiversity. And such a beautiful place it is! There are black bears, red wolves and gray wolves, foxes, river otters, raccoons and skunks and vultures, owls, hawks, and wild cats, deer and coyotes, among others. The boys particularly enjoyed the goats, even though we see those guys all the time in St. Louis. Go figure!

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There is a really nice board path which winds around in the woods amidst all the animals, then a paved path that leads to two climbing structures in Arachnid Adventure, which includes many hidden giant black spiders in the immediate area. Also there is a small hiking trail through the woods which is covered in thousands of acorns that are perfect for little collecting hands. My bag was mysteriously full of them by the end of the day! DSC_0106DSC_0117DSC_0118

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It was quiet and peaceful, and I imagine you could make a whole day out of visiting this place.

P.s. — There’s a vending machine of Appalachian stuffed animals… don’t blame me if you get sucked into that one, I sure did!

Chimney Rock & Rocky Broad Riverwalk

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On a beautiful warmish day of our trip, we headed to Chimney Rock Park, ranked by USA Today Travel as one of the 10 Best High Places in the World… obviously, we wanted to check it out! We parked for free near the Rocky Broad Riverwalk entrance, where there are plenty of cute little souvenir shops and restaurants, and headed down to the water before heading on to the park. The water was a main attraction for the boys; Andrew and Milo rock-hopped for a long time and there was much pouting when we moved on from that activity! DSC_0245DSC_0247DSC_0254DSC_0272DSC_0274

I stayed close to Emil and Oliver, who just couldn’t keep up! But they really enjoyed the river and the many climbing spots.

Next, we headed back to the car to drive the rest of the way up to Chimney Rock Park. There is an admission fee, but it wasn’t too pricey, and it was really worth it once we got up there. We passed a beautiful field and picnic area on the way, which had a huge rock climbing wall (it was closed when we visited, but looked like a lot of fun) and an indoor nature center for the kids.

Once we reached the highest lot, we parked and split up. Andrew and Milo climbed the stairs while I took Emil and Oliver up through the elevator, manned by a friendly staff member. The elevator ride was short, but if you go on a day with big crowds, you could end up waiting for the elevator for quite a while. Plan accordingly!

Once we reached the top, we met Andrew and Milo on top of the Chimney, which is technically a 250-foot monolith and is luckily fenced in, as the point is at an elevation of 2,280 feet and the wind gusts up there can be a bit scary (I had a nightmare that night of Emil being swept off a cliff after one of those wind gusts)!

It was a beautiful view — they estimate you can see for 75 miles on a clear day. Hand-holding recommended…DSC_0296DSC_0300DSC_0306

Seriously!

We took the stairs back down, and it was beautiful.

Once we were back to the car, we decided to picnic and play in that field. It was another great view from there.
DSC_0320DSC_0332DSC_0324DSC_0328DSC_0330And three very tuckered out boys played in the field before we headed back for the day. Such a great place to visit, I highly recommend it — especially if you’re in the business of wearing out kids!