May 30, 2008

Eating Organic

I'm going to deviate from my usual local Asheville info or events, because I came across this article about the 12 foods you should eat organic whenever possible. It says a lot of the same things my Aunt, who owns an organic, community supported agriculture farm, has told our family - so I thought I would share! The ones in bold are the ones I most whole-heartedly agree with and buy every time I grocery shop for those items. Don't worry, at the end I'll tie it into the local Asheville/WNC region!

1. Meat (include eggs, but eat them locally organic, free range)
2. Milk (always, always, always. Some comments on the related article seem to believe that organic milk isn't pasteurized... pretty much all grocery store milk is pasteurized. Organic milk lasts longer, tastes better, and is ultra pasteurized to make this happen. Organic doesn't mean straight from the cow's udder.)
3. Coffee (also add fair trade to this requirement)
4. Peaches
5. Apples
6. Sweet bell peppers
7. Celery
8. Strawberries (I usually don't buy strawberries because conventionally grown strawberries scare me, and organic strawberries are usually $6 and still sold by Driscoll. I haven't done the research or anything, but I suspect that if the same grower who uses lots of pesticides also grows organic, there's probably some cross-contamination going on there.)
9. Lettuces
10. Grapes
11. Potatoes
12. Tomatoes

Some important things to note:
Good farming practices are what's important. Don't buy organic from huge agri-business... period. Among other things, they overuse the soil - today it takes a handful of apples to get the same nutritional value that our parents and grandparents got out of just eating one. In addition, it may be cross-contaminated in packaging plants (remember the fiasco with spinach awhile back?).
Local food is always better. Huge corporate agri-business takes food from a CA farm, to a mid-west packaging plant, and finally to your grocery store. Go to your local co-op or farmer's market, and your produce will taste better and last a few days longer. During the spinach crisis, we were eating lettuces grown by local/regional farmers. If you can't eat organic, just eat local. Especially with the way gas prices are going, the prices for food traveling across the country is going to keep skyrocketing. But your local farmers' prices shouldn't change too much.
Independent organic certification is important! USDA organic means basically nothing, so look for another label on the packaging for an independent organic certifier.

I could probably go on, and on. But don't take it from me - check out this resource list. It includes articles, web sites, books, and movies. Growing Awareness is among several other great documentaries on community supported agriculture and organic food.

(here's the local part...)
Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) is a great Web site for local farms, apples, tailgate markets, CSAs and U-Pick farms. Plus restaurants, bakeries, grocery stores, bed & breakfasts, and other supporting organizations that sell or market local agriculture.

May 29, 2008

Another blog post on Cicadas

Lance is a North Asheville gardener and blogger who posts on Greenthumbr. He has a great post about the cicadas filling his North Asheville yard! The post includes a lot of interesting tidbits about cicadas which I did not include in my last entry. So, go visit Lance's Greenthumbr journal!

May 28, 2008

Cicadas come to town

Travel a block or two away from the bustle and noise of Merrimon Avenue or Charlotte Street and you'd think something major was happening - construction, machinery, even a hovering space ship are three ways I've heard this incessant noise described.

But the distinctive sound is actually the 17-year emergence of cicadas, when they invade to mate, lay eggs - and they do it in very large numbers in pockets across the Southeast. This time around they've invaded Asheville, but I've heard that they hit the middle of the state last time. It's a pretty cool natural phenomenon, even if they do look a little gross when thousands of them cover the yard, trees, bushes, and plants.
It's been fun for the kids to see them for the first time, and it's been interesting to find out how many people don't really know what a cicada is, especially those in their 20s who don't remember - or haven't ever seen - an emergence like this! The colloquial tendency is to call them locusts, although they are not actually locusts at all. The wikipedia link above explains a little more about these insects and has a really cool time lapse of a cicada emerging from its shell.

From the Asheville Citizen-Times:
Cicadas take over -photos
Cicadas have invaded North Asheville -video
Cicada singing -video

Other cicada fun:
Earrings made from cicada wings

May 26, 2008

Some thoughts on Green Sage Coffeehouse

Yesterday I did go to the Green Sage for brunch, as promised in my entry on Friday. Overall it was a great experience and I recommend it as a great place to stop for a bite. However, there were a couple of things, good and not so good, worthy of note.

Being that the Green Sage is on the corner of Broadway and College Street, well, it's crowded in there! The set-up works though - order and pay at the corner, find a seat, and runners from the kitchen bring your food. Though there was a pretty long line, we didn't have to wait for a seat - and there were 4 of us! On the downside, there's no separate counter for people who just want a quick cup of a coffee, so you'll have to wait through the line of folks ordering their food.

Of course, the most appealing part of the Green Sage is the natural, organic foods and drinks. This includes fresh squeezed, organic juices & fair trade, organic coffees and teas. It's hard to tell what exact food ingredients are local organic, but they promise to use what they can. All of our meals were really tasty, most notably the trout salad (think tuna salad but made with local mountain trout), fresh fruit salad, and sweet potato home fries. Beware of the bland biscuits - go with grits or toast instead.

Overall, the place is really clean, fresh and enjoyable. I love the 'compost center' for busing your own table. Patrons are instructed to divide their trash into dishes, fully separated recyclable bins (glass, plastic bottles, aluminum, paper, etc), and finally... the unavoidable trash receptacle. You leave the Green Sage thinking This is how everyone should do it!

May 23, 2008

Memorial Day weekend at Biltmore

Visiting Asheville or a local who just likes Biltmore? Here is the weekend line-up at the Estate:

Winery Activities
Live Music
* Wine Bar Soloist: 3:30p.m., 4:30p.m. 5:30p.m., 6:30p.m. (30-minute sets)
* Arbor Grill music: 4:00p.m.-8:00p.m. Friday & Sunday
* Winery Stage: 1:00p.m.-5:00p.m. Saturday (located in the Winery parking area)

Complimentary Wine Programs - guests sign up at Winery Welcome Center. Space is limited.
* Red Wine & Chocolate Seminar: 2:00p.m. & 4:00p.m.
* Winery Behind-the-Scenes Tour: 3:00p.m. & 6:00p.m.
* Sparkling Wine Seminar: 5:00p.m.
* Cooking Demonstration: 3:00p.m.
* Grape Stomp: 2:00p.m.-5:00p.m.

Barbecue & Fish Fry
Guests can enjoy a sampling of the best pulled-pork served with Biltmore's famous regional sauces - Western Carolina red, Eastern Carolina vinegar, and South Carolina Mustard - or dig into a plate of Southern-fried fish. Menu includes varieties of BBQ, fried mountain trout and catfish, steamed shrimp, coleslaw, baked beans, hushpuppies, banana pudding, and more. Dinner offered from a chef-operated food cart located in the Winery parking.
* Dinner served from 1:00p.m.-7:00p.m.
* Price: $10.00 - $14.00

River Bend Farm Activities
* Live Music: 12:00p.m., 1:00p.m., 2:00p.m., 3:00p.m., 4:00p.m.
* Dance Demonstrations: 12:30p.m., 1:30p.m., 2:30p.m., 3:30p.m. (May 26-27 ONLY)
* Traditional Farm Life Demonstrations: 12:00p.m.-5:00p.m.

Enjoy what should be a beautiful weekend! (Local weather report.)

The Green Sage: Fair trade coffee, local organic foods, and eco-friendly business

Today I came across this Around Asheville post about the Green Sage coffee shop, located downtown at the corner of Broadway and College Street.

I did know the Green Sage was open, and am glad to have another coffeehouse where the beloved Bean Streets used to reside. But until coming across this post, I had no idea the Green Sage's hook is all fair trade coffee, local organic food, and ecologically minded business practices. This post also brought to my attention their roof-top solar panels, which I hadn't noticed when driving through town (too busy trying not to run over pedestrians or rear-end other vehicles!).

Tonight the Green Sage hosts a talk about what makes a model green business, at 6:30pm.

I probably won't make it to the talk, but after viewing the list of goals (to the left) on their Web site, I'm definitely checking it out - hopefully for brunch tomorrow!

They also have great hours:
Mon-Wed 7:30am - 9pm
Thursday 7:30am - 10pm
Friday 7:30am - 11pm
Saturday 8am - 11pm
Sunday 8am - 9pm

Café (Seasonal Hours)
Breakfast until 4pm Daily
Lunch & Dinner 11am-8pm (Sun-Thurs), 9pm (Fri,Sat)

Who doesn't love a late brunch on a Saturday!?

May 21, 2008

Planning a Group Getaway

All over the web there are recommendations for a girls' getaway. The best way to plan a group getaway (all girls or not!) is to follow some of the same tips.

An MSNBC article lists the top 10 girls getaway locations (and what you should do there):
1. Florence, Italy (art-viewing)
2. South Beach, Florida (club-hopping)
3. Provence, France (eating & cooking classes)
4. Las Vegas
5. New York City (shopping & shows)
6. Sedona, Arizona (spirituality & spas)
7. Bali, Indonesia (paradise... surfing!)
8. London, England (theater-hopping)
9. Sonoma, California (wine tasting)
10. Costa Rica (eco-tourism, adventure, and yoga)

The host of All-Girl Getaways, Stephanie Oswald, offers a video and article with tips on planning. Some of her ideas include:
-Pick a group with similar interests and travel styles
-Find a reason to celebrate
-Give everyone a task so they feel part of the planning
-Meet in person, via computer, or by conference call
-Choose a group leader
-Have each person pick 3 good dates, and then decide on one everyone can do
-Do something new
-Do your research
-Save money with package deals/all-inclusives

Of course, with today's economy and gas prices you might want to stick close to home or pick affordable destinations - that's where Asheville comes in to play!

Don't forget! Catch an ALL NEW All-Girl Getaways "Blue Ridge Retreat" tonight at 9pm on the Fine Living Network.

Other showtimes include:
Tonight @ 1:00 AM EST
Next Wed, May 28 @ 9:30 PM & 1:30 AM EST

May 19, 2008

Asheville on the Fine Living Network

The Grove Park Inn gingerbread competition. Biltmore Estate. Downtown Asheville.

These are all aspects of Asheville that have been featured on various television networks and shows. On Wednesday night, Asheville (and Carolina Mornings!) gets another opportunity to show our stuff. The Fine Living Network (channel 116 in Asheville on Charter digital cable) show All-Girl Getaways will air the episode 'Blue Ridge Retreat' Wednesday, May 21 at 9pm.

Here's the synopsis, from All-Girl Getaways:
Blue Ridge Retreat - Four women on the go who met at the same Sweet 16 birthday party 30 years ago have managed to remain close friends and have stuck through everything together. They want to celebrate their 30 years of friendship by going to Asheville, N.C., for the weekend. They have many activities lined up, including visits to the Rivers Art District and the Biltmore Estate; and they end the weekend at a spa resort.

One of those ladies-on-the-go happens to be the President of Carolina Mornings, Shari Goldstein. After hearing about the show over a year ago, one of her friends sent in an application - and they were picked to film an episode! Fortunately, Asheville was the place they chose for their getaway.

From the FLN Web site, "All-Girl Getaways shows you how women plan their all-girl escapes. From weeks of detailed planning and careful execution to finally enjoying the well-deserved weekend, you're invited into the inner circle to find out what it takes to have an organized, successful and exhilarating mini-vacation." See the promo:

Also, I stumbled on an entire blog, Girls Getaway, devoted to getting away without the guys. Here's the post about All-Girl Getaways.

For more about planning a getaway, stay tuned for Wednesday's blog!

May 15, 2008

Have you planned your Memorial Day getaway yet?

Carolina Mornings has several offers to take advantage of this upcoming Memorial holiday.

2 night minimum. We've reduced our nightly minimum for all vacation rental reservations to just 2 nights. This means those who have to work Friday but still get the Monday holiday off can have a Memorial get away (book with us Saturday - Monday) with us in the Asheville area.

Biltmore Luxury Condos. Live in luxury for less this Memorial Day weekend. We're offering our Condos for up to $150 off the regular rental price:

The Chateau A-100, The Retreat B-102, & The Villa B-100

2 Nights: $602 plus tax (Savings of $100!)
3 Nights: $863 plus tax (Savings of $150!)

The Hideaway A-300

2 Nights: $502 plus tax (Savings of $50!)
3 Nights: $713 plus tax (Savings of $75!)

The Biltmore Luxury Condos are located across the street from the entrance to Biltmore Estate, in the heart of Biltmore Village (read this previous post to learn more about the Condos).

Free Activities. All of our reservations include Asheville's Mountain Discovery Pass, which provides free passes to golfing, rafting, Asheville Historic Trolley Tours, Lake Lure Boat Tours, and Fun Depot.

Reserve Today! With only a week left, we have several properties (including Condos) still available. But book quickly to ensure you get your desired rental!

Ask about our Corner Kitchen restaurant gift certificates and discounted Biltmore Estate tickets (valid for 2 consecutive days - for the price of only 1).

May 13, 2008

Visitors will get to see more of Asheville before their trip

This past weekend my cousin was in town visiting. He recently moved to San Francisco and was telling us about his neighborhood. In fact, he put his address into Google maps to show us the location, and we had the option to select "street view." In this way, we actually SAW his street, his rowhouse, even his garden!

Here's a funny YouTube video from Google about Street View:

For those who haven't already discovered it, Google Street View allows those viewing maps of certain cities to 'cruise' around a location at street level. So far, Chapel Hill, Durham, and Raleigh North Carolina are included in Google Street View.

But wait - Asheville, apparently, will also join this list. According to the Mountain Xpress, Google cars with mounted cameras on the hood have been seen perusing the streets of Asheville. It takes about a year after filming for Google to launch street view content, according to a spokeswoman quoted in the article.

Privacy lawsuits have cropped up due to this feature, and the article notes one in Pennsylvania. But Google cars shoot footage from the street, and privacy laws clearly state that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy on public streets or sidewalks. In other words, as the Asheville resident quoted in the article states, if you've got a problem with anyone looking at your windows, close your blinds! Anyone who has looked at Google Street View knows it's next to impossible to look into a home.

In my opinion, this is awesome for future guests of Asheville. Prospectively, you can see downtown Asheville, clear directions to specific locations, even your vacation rental! Very cool.

Read the Mountain Xpress online article.

May 7, 2008

Vacation Destination: Mountain Air Country Club

Mountain Air Country Club is located at the top of Slickrock Mountain just outside of Burnsville, and about 30 minutes away from Asheville. It is geared towards those who love both luxury and an outdoor lifestyle. This location alone places Mountain Air CC in an area full of things to do, including both art and culture activities as well as those in the great outdoors.

But Mountain Air CC also has a lot going on within the community.
Mountain Air CC activities (detailed on the Web site) include a fitness center, swimming pool, hiking trails (guided nature walks are available), a cinema, golf courses, outdoor recreation areas, community gardens, and a spa.

Mountain Air CC is good family getaway because parents and kids
can enjoy having fun. There are many opportunities for the family to spend time together, but with so many kids' activities, parents can also grab time alone - getting a couples' massage, hiking, or just enjoying a little quiet time.

Mountain Air CC is for anyone who enjoys the luxury and convenience of a country club, but also wants to visit the mountains. It isn't for everyone, since some people desire to getaway from that lifestyle with a rustic mountain retreat, but others want what a country club can provide and Mountain Air does it better than any I've seen.

About half the homes at Mountain Air are lived in year-round, while the other half are vacation rentals owned by those who want to share their mountain getaway home.

Photos from Mountain Air Web site. To view more photos and to see these in a larger format, click here.

May 5, 2008

Ideas for Mom this Mother's Day

Don't forget this Sunday is Mother's Day!

First of all, don't forget to find cards for the most important Moms in your life (mothers, wives, your child's mother, grandmas, aunts, godmothers...).

If you're a last minute shopper (like me) and still need to find something for the special Mom in your life, here are some ideas:

All-in-one shopping
Take advantage of department store sales (JC Penny, for one, is offering a big Mother's Day sale, and you can get anything from Sephora make up and skin products to nice dresses to lingerie).

Of course, like the department stores, lots of big jewelers are offering sales. I suggest, however, that if you decide to go for this type of gift, don't forget about your local jewelers. In Asheville, consider the Karot Patch and Jewels that Dance. You'll get a more meaningful piece (not to mention the diamonds and gems are less likely to come from ugly mining practices).

Spa Treatment
Moms love the spa treatment. Consider a massage, something extra special like a hot stone massage or mud wrap, or a manicure, pedicure, or facial. In Asheville, look at Sensibilities Day Spa or Spa Theology.

A Getaway
Okay, okay, we all knew it was coming. But really, don't forget to consider a Mother's Day Getaway. If you live close enough, think about a quick weekend visit to the Asheville area. Or, if you live in Asheville, you can still enjoy a cozy weekend in a mountain cabin, away from Mom's regular hectic routine. But this coming weekend has filled up quickly, so book fast to get a great last minute reservation. To give mom luxury and a sweet day in Biltmore, I highly recommend the Biltmore Condos.

May 1, 2008

North Carolina primary events in Western NC

Excuse the political entry, but this is a big 'thing' in North Carolina right now! We're certainly not used to being an important part of primary season (in fact, we're used to primary 'season' being over around February). Here are two outdoor events going on tomorrow, a chance for lots of people in the Asheville area (locals and visitors) to see some political history in action.

Friday, May 1st is apparently a big campaign rally day in WNC:

Get Out the Vote Rally
Hosted by UNC Asheville organizations - Students for Obama and the College Democrats
Featuring Michelle Obama & Grammy winner Gladys Knight
Free and open to the public, outside on the UNCA quad
Seating available at 4:30pm, event starts at 5:30pm

Hillary in Hendersonville
Hillary Clinton Rally
Free and open to the public
Downtown Hendersonville, sometime around noon