Tuesday, July 26, 2016


We've received some amazing hospitality on our trip this summer, especially from our friends Denton and Vanassa in Nashville. We stayed with them for a week, and thanks to Denton's documenting skills, we have lots of photos to prove it.

Apparently hot chicken is the rage in Nashville, so we stopped by Hattie B's Hot Chicken to try some. After eating the second hottest on the menu, we decided we could take the hottest which is affectionately called Shut the Cluck Up. I mean, we did live in India. The hottest had a generous amount of ghost pepper and we definitely felt it. I went speechless while Denton was crying and sweating. The waiter had fun watching us, and we earned a sticker.

On to the rock climbing gym. Man, what a fun way to work out! I wanted to do it all day, but my hands and forearms would not comply, and they complained for days after.

Vanassa belaying Lynea.
Nashville has a really cool map of Tennessee at the Bicentennial Mall State Park.

We're standing on Nashville.
It's been a while since I've played golf, and Lynea has never really seen me play. Since it was a huge part of my high school career, it was kind of cool to hit a few balls at this driving range and remember what growing up was like. Denton always gave me grief for not playing soccer during that time of year, but we all realized why I liked playing golf so much - lots of alone time! Ya, I'm an introvert. At this point in life, I wouldn't spend the amount of money needed to keep up my golf game, but I have found other introverted activities to hone my solitude game.

Swing still looks pretty solid
Visited the beautiful Cummins Falls outside of Nashville and saw people from all over the world there!
Had to hit up a music joint, so we went to the famous Robert's Western World. This guy was great and he had some fun dialogue going on with his wife on the front row.

Hung out with the Denton's parents, our beloved across-the-street neighbors growing up. They treated us to a great dinner and a friendly game of corn hole. Mr. Josey and Vanassa took me and Denton down.

When we were seniors in high school we'd say, "Wow, we'll be 30 when your little sister graduates from high school." She's all grown up and in college now, so I guess that means we're a little past 30.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

North Carolina Swimming Holes

We had a few days to spend around Asheville, North Carolina near the Blue Ridge Mountains and The Smokey Mountains. I'm not going to lie, it's pretty incredibly breath taking. We weren't sure which parks to go to or what to do, then I found this article: Top 20 NC Mountain Swimming Holes. My eyes grew wide and I thought, "How can I go to all 20 in just 2 days!" I quickly found out that is not possible, mostly because upon getting to the first one, you don't want to leave. 

We settled for 3. 

1 - Sliding Rock (we visited with the Mitchell/Duarte clan back in 2009 when Judah was just a wee little thing). A fantastic 60 foot sloping boulder that splashes you into a 8 foot deep freezing cold pool. Super fun!!! I wished my nephews Kaleb and Jaden were with us. We usually take them to a water park in the summer...this is way better! 
I would not suggest going on July 4th or any other summer holiday. However, we made the best of the crowd and had a blast. 
Kaleb (12) and Jaden (10) the night before Kyle left in June. We only got to spend one evening with them, but we had a blast playing horse and watching Kaleb beat me and Jaden frog jump up to the basket and make it from a equating position!

2 - Skinny Dip Falls (clothing is not optional despite the name) has multiple cascades and pools. The best pool is near the trail/bridge. It is deep enough to jump of the rocks above (5-12 feet high). 

Me jumping off the rock with the beautiful cascading waterfalls in the background. 
This is the panoramic shot I took at one of the overlooks on the Blue Ridge Parkway which is a lovely drive that goes through Virginia and North Carolina. (Mom and Dad Harrill would love it. There are cute towns along the way too!)

3 - Tubing at Deep Creek (we also visited this with the Mitchell/Duarte clan back in 2009). It was just as cold this time and just as fun. The river runs quick enough for a white water thrill and a few water falls (1-3 feet high) in tubes. 
Tubing is one of my favorite activities! Look at the black bullet in the mountains! Woohoo he is strong! (Matheo named our car the black bullet when he was 3 years old)

Now I bet you are thinking, "My goodness Lynea is such a great artist!" I know I am, but I wasn't trying to show off my mad stick figure skills. As some of you know we recently made the brave mover from from flip phones to an iPhone so we would have gps for this trip. The drawing idea came from our dear friend Steve Diaz who was actually trying to cheer me up while he walked Kyle through getting my iPhone out of "recovery mode." Recovery mode means you are about to be super mad, sad, and aggressively annoyed with technology. I did have wonderful photos of all 3 swimming holes...and videos! But my iPhone is currently and will probably forever be "recovering." 

We were able to snap a few real shots with the iPad. 
A photo we were able to snap leaving the Pisgah Forest 


Family Time - Part 2

"Take a left after the shell station and go down to the first driveway by the big oak tree." Those are the directions we got from my cousin Tom on the way to visit him in the small town of Norlina, North Carolina. We ended up missing that turn and in a few seconds had passed the whole town!

Norlina is a tiny town of about 1,100 people. It's where my Grandma and Grandpa Mitchell met, where they raised my Uncle Mitch and his younger brother, my dad, and where we used to go visit my grandparents when we were younger. It's been a while since I've been back and I have fuzzy memories of this place that's so full of family history. Since we were close by, I wanted to make sure to pay a visit to see family, solidify some of those old memories, learn a bit more of my family history, and share it all with Lynea.

As the story goes, my Grandpa, Clayton Mitchell, moved from Alabama to North Carolina to help build the John H. Kerr dam on the Roanoke River. The dam was constructed between 1947 and 1953. Clayton was a welder and it was this project that coaxed him to move to North Carolina and eventually meet my Grandma, Mary Stella Traylor, in Norlina.
Standing by the John H. Kerr dam my grandpa helped construct.
The house my great grandma and great great grandma grew up in.
I've got lots of childhood memories from this house my grandparents built and lived in for many years.
My cousin Tom grew up in Norlina and ended up returning after college. He taught school, coached sports, and did a lot of farming. Though he's retired from teaching, he still has a lot of farm work on his hands.

Beef cows
That look you have when you're a farmer and you gaze out on the land.
That look you have when you're a wannabe farmer and you look out on the land.
Me and Tom at his property
A little bit bigger equipment than I'm used to!

We got to hang out with my Aunt Lou and visit the town where our family used to run small businesses.

With Aunt Lou, 89 years young, in front of what used to be her clothing store.
Lynea looking down on the strip where my family owned a hardware store.
Old car garage my Grandpa owned where he used to work his mechanical magic.
Grandpa, on the left, used to build race cars.
Aunt Lou took us to her basement and showed us an old family tree.
I'm grateful to have the chance to visit Norlina this summer and think about my family - hear stories of where they came from, see places that they established and worked hard at. I have great childhood memories from there and now I have a few adult ones, too. Thanks to Tom for his amazing hospitality and incredible stories!
Where Grandma and Grandpa are buried.

Us and Tom at Kerr Dam.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Summer and Family Time - Part 1

The older you get, the more you appreciate family. You consider what they've been through, decisions and sacrifices they made, stories that changed their lives and turns of events that made it possible for you to eventually be born into the world as a unique individual.

This summer, Lynea and I have had the privilege to spend lots of  time with my family. We first went to the Barton family reunion in Florida, where my maternal Grandmother's family has been celebrating  every year for more years than I've been alive!

One of the things I most remember about our family reunions growing up is the talent show and the guarantee of much laughter. My grandmother, Martha Polk, and her 2 closest sisters, Aunt Mary and Aunt Helen, always performed a hilarious song and though they're all pushing 90, they did not disappoint this year either.
One of them is actually using a walker these days, while the other two are just being funny!
 We also got to spend a couple nights at my Grandmother's house in Wildwood, FL. Looked at lots of old pictures, watched old VHS's, heard lots of old stories about growing up on a farm and traveling around in a wagon. It's funny how our interests of getting back to the land and learning the arts of homesteading intersect with with my grandmother's actual upbringing. Although farm life was hard for the family in certain ways, it seems like there was no shortage of love, support, and joy. There's an old "simplicity" saying that folks in my generation stole from the depression era and that we heard repeated during our permaculture course a couple years back. It goes, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." I hear a lot of that simplicity in those old stories from my grandmother. Her family is a testament to the fact that there are different types of being poor. They may not have always had lots of money growing up, but they were rich in love and relationships. This is something that I admire, without glorifying the hardships of the past. It's also interesting to see how my grandmother has continued these habits of being frugal. She still grows beans, peas and collard greens at the young age of 89. She takes her food scraps out back to "feed the worms" and she cooks everything in her old cast iron pot. Let's just say that if she showed up at a hip foodie event, she'd have the most cred in the room!
Beans and collard greens
I hope other folks my age get to experience that with their grandparents. I hope that they can trade stories about compost and canning, talk about gardening methods and falling in love. Not everyone's story is glamorous or easy. But there is much wisdom from our elders. I'm grateful for the one's in my life.

While looking through all the pictures I came across one of my Uncle Hollis who married my Grandmother's sister, Aunt Lucille. In one of the pictures he's holding her and they're both beaming, young and in love. It was almost an exact copy of one Lynea and I had from our early days. These folks that once seemed old, who used to pat me on the head, hug me, and smile, who have already gone on from this life - here they were in this old picture with dreams and a whole life to live, hardly different from us. I see it and I think how we will also soon go the way of these elders.

What stories will we have to tell? Will we learn from our family's mistakes and successes, seeing portraits of ourselves in them? What will be our challenges and joys in the days to come? In an age that pits young vs. old, making it hard to relate and understand each other, I hope we can learn from each other like we've learned from my grandmother.

Just your everyday "back stretching"


Monday, June 27, 2016

Berry Fix

This summer adventure of ours is amazing, however, we are keenly aware of all we are missing out of back home. Jess and my dad are both sending us photos of the trees we all used to pick from together. Strawberry, blueberry, mulberry and cherry seasons are passing us by. We got lucky!! We are in North Carolina for the blackberries! It was hard for us to not pick pounds and pounds like we are use to for freezing and canning, but we enjoyed every minute!