LIFE'S BETTER IN THE MOUNTAINS

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Carolers


As is the case with most people, our Christmas decorations bring back warm memories of other Christmases.  Some of them bring back poignant memories of those who have gone.  Others remind us of our very young children, and rather young selves.

One of my favorite decorations was a gift from my son many years ago.  It was one of the Byers Christmas Carolers.  A nurse.  We loved it so much that we added to the collection over the years and now we have Carolers all over the place.  The photograph below shows the carolers singing in the streets.  You will notice that there is a doctor behind the nurse.

[NOTE:  Interestingly enough, this is what nurses actually used to look like.  When I first became a nurse, we wore those white uniforms along with a cap unique to the school of nursing from which we graduated.  And yes, we all had a blue cape, just like this caroler.]



We now have an extensive collection of Carolers.  We have a large set of street vendors.  My favorite of these is a fishmonger with her cart, complete with a cat sitting below with a fish in its mouth.  My husband's favorite is an organ grinder, with a monkey holding a tin cup.  We've had many laughs over the years at my husband's expense because he once referred to it as the "monkey grinder."

We have a set of "A Christmas Carol" with the spirits, the Cratchetts and even the Fezziwigs dancing in front of the fireplace.

I really love all the Carolers, but none more so than the nurse.  Ah, the joys of Christmas Past.


Friday, December 12, 2014

We Love Lucy


This has been a rather chilly week for us and we have totally enjoyed the beauty and warmth of our new fireplace.  Lucy loves it as well, especially the warmth of the hearth.  Most evenings she can be found stretched out near the hearth.

Sometimes she stretches out full length





Sometimes she pulls her paws in



Hanukkah begins for our Jewish friends on Tuesday.  And for all of us winter begins next Sunday.  The longest night of the year and then the days will lengthen.  Yes, in milliseconds for a while but the idea that the light is increasing is what we focus on.  In this hectic season, try to relax and enjoy yourselves and your family and friends.  Don't turn everything into a problem.



Our quote for the week comes from the Dalai Lama:

"Our prime purpose in this life is to help others.
And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them."



HAVE A SAFE AND WONDERFUL WEEKEND, EVERYONE


 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Finally Finished


Following removal of the old insert, trimming of some stones, and removal of the old hearth, the new insert was put in place.  It is wider and taller than the old insert.

The gas line was hooked up, new electrical wiring to accommodate the new remote.




 The unit viewed from the cut in the chimney.
It looks very much like a small furnace.


 The chimney was closed off about eight feet up and the new fireplace vented to the outside.  The workers re-assembled the shingles which were removed for the cut.

 Look at that.
You cannot tell where the cut was made.




 The lower hearth stones were placed and cemented.


The gas logs were inserted and connected.  The wiring was completed.  A glass panel was placed to seal the fireplace and then the frame was placed around the unit.

The county inspector came out twice during the process to make certain everything was done safely and properly.

 So after 10 days and a ton of money we went from this...




 To this.  TaDa!



The fireplace has gentle blowers which, when activated, suck the cooler air from the floor and send it out through the sides.  That plus the radiant heat from the glass warms the room quickly.  The remote has functions we will likely not use and can be programmed like your furnace thermostat to automatically come on or shut down at certain intervals.  You can set a temperature and the fire will adjust itself to keep that temperature.  There is even a light inside to illuminate the fireplace when there is no fire.  The frame doors will open if you choose and you never have to put a log on the fire.

We are absolutely delighted with the fireplace.  How wonderful to have a warm fire with my morning coffee.  We just love it.  And Lucy loves the warm hearth which is so much easier on the neck now that it is not so tall.



Friday, December 5, 2014

We Love Lucy


Even before we finished off the Thanksgiving turkey it was time to take down the Thanksgiving decorations and start decorating for Christmas.  Thanksgiving came later than usual this year.  So December began a mere four days after Thanksgiving Day.

In 1939 Franklin Delano Roosevelt changed the date for Thanksgiving from the traditional fourth Thursday in November to the third Thursday in November.  That year, traditional Thanksgiving Day would otherwise occur on November 30.  The US economy was not good with the country coming out of the great depression, World War II was beginning in Europe and retailers felt that the shortened Christmas shopping season would be devastating for businesses.  So Roosevelt issued a Presidential Proclamation changing the date of Thanksgiving to the third Thursday of November.

The Proclamation was met with confusion and dismay by many.  Football was king even then, and games would need to be re-scheduled.  School vacations would need to be changed and all calendars would be incorrect.  Roosevelt's political enemies loudly questioned the President's authority to change the date of Thanksgiving.  The Proclamation was so divisive that many states decided not to abide by it and to keep the original Thanksgiving date.  In fact, twenty-three states kept the original date for celebrating Thanksgiving Day and twenty-three states followed the Proclamation and celebrated Thanksgiving on the third Thursday.  The folks in Colorado and Texas were lucky...they celebrated two Thanksgiving Days that year; one on the third Thursday and another on the fourth Thursday.  Roosevelt changed the date to the second-to-last Thursday in November again in 1940 and more states followed that date.

In 1941 Congress passed a law that Thanksgiving Day would be on the fourth Thursday in November.  And so it has been.  I must admit, I wish we had kept it the third Thursday.  I think it just might give it the attention it deserves.  Now it seems Thanksgiving is almost forgotten under the rush to Christmas.  And it's one of my favorite holidays.

We always enjoy Thanksgiving whether we are with family and friends or just the two of us.  And a too-large turkey.  We had a quiet day but we felt rushed to move toward the Christmas season too soon afterward.

Lucy does not recognize anything special about Thanksgiving.  Unlike many pet owners, we do not give her any turkey or dressing.  We did give her some freeze-dried sweet potato treats that she loves and she was quite happy with that.

Like many dogs, Lucy sleeps in a variety of positions.  Sometimes she stretches out full length and other times she curls up like a cat.  (My husband prefers that we can it curling up like a puppy.)

She stirred when I approached with the camera.
But then quickly snoozed again.


These past few weeks have been troublesome in our country and in many places around the world.  Today's quote comes from a few lyrics of a song written in 1955 by Jill Jackson Miller and Sy Miller:

Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me
Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be.

Let peace begin with me let this be the moment now.
With every step I take let this be my solemn vow:
To take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally
Let there be peace on earth and let it being with me.

We are indeed brothers and sisters on this planet and peace will come only when we recognize that fact and stop isolating ourselves from the rest of the nation and world.  We're all in this together and what affects one affects us all.


HAVE A WONDERFUL AND PEACEFUL WEEKEND, EVERYONE



Monday, December 1, 2014

A Fireplace That Heats the Room


When we built our mountain home, we wanted a wood-burning fireplace.  We paid quite a bit extra for a fireplace that would burn wood, especially considering the fact that the chimney would be almost two stories tall.  We gave the height and width of the desired fireplace to our contractor, assuming (and NEVER assume) that the depth of a fireplace was standard.

 It is a very tall chimney


So we did get a wood-burning fireplace but despite a very deep chimney box, the fireplace itself was almost as shallow as the condo-sized fireplaces designed to burn logs from the grocery store.  We were disappointed to say the least, but decided to install gas logs so we would have a fire.  The fireplace was beautiful and the fire was beautiful, but it gave us no warmth at all.  All the heat was pulled up the tall chimney.


In mid-October, I read Betsy's blog.  (here)   Betsy is a dyed-in-the-wool lover of wood-burning fireplaces.  Yet she described a gas log insert that actually warmed the room.  I showed the post to my husband and we began researching these new types of vented gas logs.

Before the construction began


We visited a fireplace and hearth showroom and talked with the owner.  He was delighted that I had several pictures of the fireplace on my iPod.  We decided on a unit made by Mendota.  After some discussion, the owner gave us a "ballpark" figure for removing the old insert and replacing it with the new unit.  I gulped audibly but my husband said, "great."  So the owner came to our house for a home evaluation.  Imagine our surprise when he said they could begin installation in mid-November and we would have the new fire for Thanksgiving.

The work was more extensive than I had imagined.  They cut a large hole in the chimney and did a lot of the work from the deck outside.  The weather was perfect, albeit a bit chilly, and the workers were precise.  They lettered and numbered each shingle as they removed it and stacked them in order so they could be replaced in exactly the same spot.


 A couple of workers, one inside the firebox and one in the great room.




 Looking through the firebox to the deck outside.




 And looking through the hole from the outside to the floor of the room inside.

Each evening the workers carefully closed up the hole with insulation and plywood.  Despite some of the coldest weather we've had, our great room was actually warmer even with the cut.  That made us realize just how much heat had been sucked up the chimney, even when we didn't have a fire.

The next step would involve cutting through some of the stone (one-and-a-half inches on each side and three inches from the top).  While they made every attempt to keep the dust level down, it was still quite messy and I covered the furniture with sheets.  Cutting through stone inside a room is simply messy and there's no way around it.  After the tedious job of cutting the stone, it was time to place the new insert.  Next would come the electrician to wire for all the remote-controlled activity and the lights inside.  (Yes, the insert has lights that we can turn on to illuminate the logs when they are not burning, or even when they are.)  The gas line was already present but needed to be upgraded.  And then would come the tedious task of removing the hearth.

More to come...







Friday, November 28, 2014

We Love Lucy


The new fireplace is finished and we love it.  I am pleased to tell you that Lucy does not mind at all that her eight-inch hearth as been taken down and the new hearth (actually the top of the old hearth) is a mere two inches high.  She finds it very comfortable indeed.  And it doesn't stretch her neck so much.

Please don't make me get up.  This is so cozy.

We will be repeating Thanksgiving dinner for some days to come.  Dear husband brought home a fresh turkey.  A 15-pound fresh turkey.  The man will happily eat turkey until the turkey is all gone.  We had a quiet dinner and a lovely day.

French novelist Marcel Proust gives us our quote for the week:
"Let us be grateful to people who make us happy.  They are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom."

There is no better person than the one who makes us happy.  In times of trouble and stress, we turn to these people and we are so grateful to them.  I hope you have these wonderful gardeners in your own life.  Tell them just how important they are to you and how grateful you are to know them.


HAVE A WONDERFUL WEEKEND, EVERYONE AND GIVE THANKS FOR ALL YOUR BLESSINGS.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Through the Cullasaja Gorge


US 64 runs the length of North Carolina, from the Tennessee mountains to the Outer Banks.  It runs through our town and some of its most beautiful areas are not far away.

Our favorite section of 64 runs from Brevard to Franklin, NC, past Cashiers and Highlands.  The route from Highlands to Franklin runs through the Cullasasa Gorge and features many waterfalls as the elevation changes.  We love to drive it in spring and fall.

The largest waterfall is called Dry Falls, although it is far from dry.  Stairs descend to the base of the falls and one can actually walk behind the waterfall if you don't mind a bit of mist.


Click to enlarge and you can see the walkway behind the falls




 Along the route are some beautiful cascade falls




 Some smaller than others


 Because we were meandering we took a different road.  Just to see where it took us.  We came upon a nursery and enjoyed the pumpkin farmer they had on display.



While we do not have the highest mountains in the country, we have the oldest and some of the most beautiful areas to appreciate.  We spend a lot of time wandering the mountain roads.  Well, except during the summers and leaf season when the tourists take over.