Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Glory of Caramel Apples

A small guilty pleasure for my family on Halloween is Caramel Apples.
It is so sad to me that none of the kids found out Trick Or Treating last evening, unless their parents made them, will ever experience the singular joy of caramel apples.

I lived in an apartment in Bayside N.Y. when I was a child and most everyone who lived in that place knew the children that lived there. In all honesty, the occupants of that apartment building gave new meaning to the term, "it takes a village." Our Mother worked but that mattered not because we were "under surveillance" the entire day in that small New York microcosm being tended to by everyone from Mr. Macalusso at the corner deli to Pete, the tile man and as if to add insult to injury there was the Chinese laundry lady too. All this to say that though it was New York, it was also 1958 and things were more gentle then; even in the Big Apple. Home made stuff was distributed there not only due to economics but also in sincere desire to offer a really special Halloween treat.

Whitey and Irene, our next door neighbors, old enough, no older than my Mom's parents, made us Caramel Apples each Halloween. I mean, they were our neighbors, no one thought it necessary...No, not even in New York to X-ray those delightful confections to ascertain if they had, say "a razor inserted within."

To offer tribute to a kinder time that will likely never come this way again a recipe designed for making memories. It certainly made mine.
Irene, Whitey, a sincere thanks from the little girl next door and her younger brother and their Mom (doing all she could to make it another day alone with more on her plate than we ever knew as kids) for making Halloween such a special and well loved time.

Irene's Caramel Apples:

1 bag of good quality caramels (14 oz.) To quote Irene...Garbage in, Garbage out... So these must be nice caramels. Irene says so.

6 popsicle sticks. Now, you can buy sticks for this purpose. Then, you just saved the summertime popsicles, washed them up and kept them "for good."

2 T. water

1 tsp. vanilla. Not extract. Irene said.

6 Tart Apples They should be tart to create opposing flavors as that is the key to the delicate dance that have made these a Halloween favorite for years.

Unwrap all the good quality caramels. Now, it is necessary that one employs at least enough restraint during this process that when you are finished there is enough caramels to coat the six apples.
Place them in a saucepan on extremely low adding the water but not the vanilla just yet.
As they begin to melt- using a wooden spoon, give them a turn in the saucepan taking care not to let the bottom stick.

Wash up your apples and dry very well. Irene said! Remove stem gently.

Place a piece of wax paper on the counter ready for the newly caramel coated apples.

When caramel is all melted and has cooled just for a minute or two add the vanilla. Stir again and now you are ready to go. Can't wait too long or caramel starts to harden and it will not properly coat the apples.

Insert sticks in the apples and dunk the apple in the caramel turning the pot so that the caramel all goes toward the side enabling you to really get to the top of the apple with the caramel coating.
Gently pull the apple out by the stick taking care to do this gently and not dislodging the stick from the apple. Allow just a bit of caramel to drain off your apple before placing on wax paper to cool.

You can dip in salted pecans or cashews if you like but Irene was purist.

In the daily operations of my Asheville Bed and Breakfast I am constantly asked for recipes. I never decline. It is love in action when I repeat this recipe every year in memory of Irene and Whitey and all the folks in our Bayside community who loved us, watched us and always had our backs.

Happy Halloween!

Patti and Gary Wiles Innkeepers At Cumberland Falls Bed and Breakfast Inn Your Asheville Bed and Breakfast

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bulbs, Beautiful Bulbs

Though I spent more time in the state of Florida than I have in any state I've lived in I have to tell you that one of the things I most missed was bulbs, beautiful bulbs. I was born in New York City so while I lived in Florida for a prolonged time I actually began my life in a place that experienced seasons and even as a young person looked so forward to the Spring when all the bulbs began to send little green shoots forth as the winter loosed its grip on our neighborhood. This blog is designed to help those, just like I was when I first came to our Asheville Bed and Breakfast Inn, who have never bought bulbs or planted the little things but have an appreciation of the end product.

Here goes:

1. Everyone loves a bargain. Bargains are a good thing but not when the bargain involves a soft, discolored, moldy or diseased looking bulb.
Look only for healthy, large for type bulbs that are firm and fine. Your flowers will be too and that, after all, is the point. Besides, really too much work to start with a faulty bulb that will produce bad results.

2. You will note as you read the packaging on your bulb that they fair best in the sun. Now, you may think that this seriously restricts your location choices but put on your thinking cap... Shaded yards are largely from dense foliage and when most of these bulbs bloom that will not yet be a problem. Some of the bulbs enjoy a bit of shade as well. e.g. Snowdrops and Trillium.

3. If you live in zones lower than six it is likely best you do not wait longer than mid November to plant. The soil will kill you to dig and it starts coming too close to freezing early in the morning. No sense in making a tedious job worse. If you live in a warm climate you can purchase pre-chilled bulbs or you can chill your own for 6 weeks (however the frig space to do this is intense and if you only have one refrigerator you may want to forgo this option because there will be no room for your food. You will then plant in very early Spring.

4. Last year, after owning our North Carolina Bed and Breakfast Inn for 11 years we found this handy,dandy auger at a local nursery. Frankly, it was a bit pricy and I stood in the nursery holding it and debating. Then I reviewed the number of bulbs I had purchased and closed the deal with myself as I walked it to the register and paid my knees thanking me every step of the way. Plant the bulb with pointed side up. On some bulbs this demarcation is very evident and on others, much less so. Do not stress over this or ever make it a reason not to plant. If you plant the thing upside down it will take longer to emerge from the soil but it will come up as it tracks to the sun.

5. A bulb is planted at about 3 times it's diameter. Using your auger hollow out your hole to the appropriate depth. Also, you do not have to just dig one hole for one bulb. Bulbs, like most flowers, look best in groupings. So, if you are up for that look, make an area to hold 10-15 bulbs (or more) and it will look so pretty. Rather than line them up like marching soldiers you can achieve a more natural and casual look by just a "toss in" strategy. Before you place the bulbs in the hole it is good to put some bone meal, blood meal or some superphosphate in the soil too as this encourages the root growth that will support this plant in spring.

6. Replace the dirt over the bulb and water both to encourage a good start and also to allow any air spaces to be closed keeping the bulbs safe and secure in their place. If you have rodents or deer and have had trouble getting these creatures not to dig your bulbs up...Discourage them with a bit of red pepper flakes to make your bulbs less attractive to their consumption. Fair is fair. They didn't spend hours planting them. You did!
After the initial watering unless you get no rain whatsoever and are experiencing arrid conditions it will not be necessary to continue watering them.
You may want to mark the bulb space planted if the spot you choose to locate your bulbs is not their dedicated space. This will help you not to inadvertently disturb them if you are planting other things a bit later.

Now for the very best part. The most excellent part of all. As I mentioned earlier in this piece, I lived in Florida with all that lovely sunshine for a very long time. So particularly for me, winter can seem long, brooding, dark, dank and lastly feel like it will go on forever.
It is such a simple but exquisite luxury after the seemingly endless winter gray to go out one fine day and see right before your eyes a field of beautiful riotous colored flowers raising their faces toward heaven.

Patti and Gary Wiles Innkeepers At Cumberland Falls Bed and Breakfast Inn Your Asheville Bed and Breakfast

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Child In Need Is In Trouble Indeed

The story of Zahra Clare Baker is a blatant example of a child in need is in trouble indeed.

Zahra was in a fight for her very life from the cancer already wreaking havoc on her 10 year old body and responsible for the loss of her leg and her hearing. Unfortunately, that wasn't the only fight she was waging.

Zahra's step-mother has now been arrested after days of local news reports and Amber alerts being issued all over North Carolina and beyond. It would seem that this little girl is not missing at all.
The search for this child was complicated by the fact that no one seems to have been able to provide reliable information about when she was last seen. She was 10 years old, how is it possible no one knows when she was last seen. Her father reported seeing her sleeping at about 2:30 a.m. on Saturday and could not seem to recall when he saw her after that.

Neighbors and even relatives are now reporting some of the following known details:
1. Her home life was miserable.
2. She was actually locked in her room for most of the day.
3. She was allowed out 5 minutes a day to eat.
4. She was beaten almost every day for the smallest of reasons.
5. Neighbors never saw Zahra though they were in awareness that a child lived in the house.
6. Her father reports it is possible that his wife could be involved in the disappearance of his daughter indicating that her treatment of his daughter was not an unknown to him.
7. Relatives observing the dynamics between her step-mother and Zahra witnessed her escalation of anger toward this child for incidents described as minor or nothing at all.
8 Lastly, and most devasting the following comment by a relative, "I just think this was something for a long time that we knew was going to happen, everybody that was close to the family."


It is my most fervent belief that Zahra is now safely in the arms of God and I will be in St. Lawrence Basilica praying for her after we finish breakfast today. I will be praying for those who remained silent too. I am sure they will need it.

Patti and Gary Wiles, Innkeepers 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Magic of Imagination

The magic of make believe is made real even for adults every time we enjoy a movie at the local cinema but sometimes the fun of make believe is lost in the land of adulthood.

When I was first working as a registered nurse (long before I ever had any idea that my husband and I would end up owning and running a bed and breakfast for what is coming up on 12 years) I was working nights at our local hospital 3 days a week. This would have been quite fine save the fact that I had a little daughter of four years old. We had her enrolled in the program of my dreams before I had known I would be working nights. The school was wonderful and enjoyed the best of reputations in our city. I had put her on a "wait list" a year before and when they called and said she could attend I felt as though I had won Lotto. This program began at 9:00 a.m and was only for 3 hours. The morning hours were not one problem. I was out of the hospital by 7:30 a.m. providing a comfortable window of time to make the drive home, ready my child providing breakfast and dressing and travel time to make sure she was not late for class.

After taking her to the front door of her class having been up all night working I was beginning to feel the need for sleep. Every day I drove home and went to sleep. Well, let me back up on that a bit. Every day I did drive home and try and go to sleep. My daughter was released each day at noon so really by the time I dropped her off I had literally 3 hours before I had to be standing at the classroom door again to collect her. It was a 20 minute drive back home.
I believe those of you reading this missive are beginning to get the picture.

School began in August and suffice to say by the beginning of winter I was beginning to have serious doubts about my abilities to survive this working Mom's strategy that had seemed workable....Workable in that I actually could have her at the appointed place at the desired time and would be able to pick her up too as neither was at my scheduled working time. In my infinite wisdom and sincere desire to have my girl attend this program it became painfully obvious that I had neglected to fully appreciate the difficulty that never getting any sleep was going to pose to me. In adding insult to injury I had also neglected to assess that as a four year old child when we did arrive back home from pre-school(her 25 minute rest time already fully appreciated by her) she was now in the "I want to play mode." Oh God, she wants to play and I am ready to completely collapse.

Now, the reader my be wondering long about now how I expected such an operation to function and that I should have procurred day care. Obviously, that would have been a sensible plan. It was also a luxury at that time we could ill afford. Further, it was only 3 days a week. So I set my thoughts to a solution of another kind and thus began the infamous "waitress game."
Here's how that went.

We came home, had lunch and armed with books, and other "busy work" accoutrement we went to Mommy's bed. She was four and loved to look at books, color and so forth. However, as all mothers of children that age know... this type of activity can only go on successfully for a time and then they move on and want to interact with someone. I was the only someone home and in complete and total sleep deprived desperation hatched the following plan.

My child was to be a waitress in a dining establishment I had stopped into one evening for dinner. I was not her Mom for this game now. I was the customer.
So we began "the waitress game." She had a waitress pad and I began to give her my order, all the while with my eyes closed laying down on what I fully hoped would be my sleeping bed (the operative word being-Sleep)
I would begin with my drink order and the requirements I had for that and move on to the appetizer and first course. My child, taking this all very seriously was writing down instructions as to my desires on this order. Finally, finished with the order she just stood there looking at me. I said, "Honey, what are you waiting for? I'm hungry and thirsty. Are you just going to stand there or are you going to get my order?"

My child, even at that age, was not a stranger to eating out. Being the only child, she had dined out frequently usually accompanying her Dad and me. She said, "Mom, I know you are my customer now and not really my Mom for this game but who is supposed to cook this food? I am the waitress and I bring the food." I carefully explained that in general terms this is how that usually goes but this diner is a bit different and the waitress actually prepares the food.
"Oh", she says and disappears to the kitchen. Blessedly, believing that I had a healthy 10 minute cat nap that is about to be mine, all mine, I close my eyes.
In seconds, she is back looking at me and I realize now that I am going to have to up the ante of this game if it is going to provide the 10-15 minute intervals of solitude and sleep I am so looking forward to.
"Oh, honey, Mommy didn't explain this well. You don't have to really do the actual drink and food but in this game you really do have to make something", I said.

I told her she could use the platter in the kitchen and a towel to cover it for her "waitress tray" and water for the beverage and she would have to use her imagination to come up with what items could be used for the food I had ordered. Like coloring a picture of a hamburger and grass for the lettuce and draw the pickles...Well you get the picture.
Sometimes she would be gone for a bit of time to appropriate all the required assembly items for the order I had placed.
Then, just as happens in real life.... when she arrived bedside with the order I would announce that I needed more ice, I would need a tomato too and by the way, the fries are a bit chilled needing immediate re-heating and I have decided I would also like a pork chop. Generally this could go on for an hour. She was little and had worked both her tiny feet making tracks back and forth from the rest of the house to our bedroom in search of the desired items as well as delving creatively into her imagination to achieve the desired results. She was still new to writing her letters too so those skills were being heightened. Sometimes, I cut a lucky break and after a few orders she would crawl up in the bed with me for a rest from all this hard labor. We had much fun and a lot of laughs with this crazy endeavor and she speaks of it still to her own children.

My favorite item to tell her I wanted was a Pork Chop and for reasons I can now no longer name, save the insanity of needing a nap, I would howl, "Rork Rop, girlie, I need a Rork Rop" which would initiate riotous laughter in her wondering why I could not say the words right. She, would approach her customer, AKA her Mommy, very gently and say, "Now, you have to say it right. It's Pork Chop." she would repeat very slowly so I could get it right. I would reply, "Girlie, that's just what I said, Rork Rop, now for heaven's sake will you go get me one? I don't have all day." She tried to remedy this incorrect pronunciation many times. Speaking slowly can clearly. Each time I continued to muck it up. Finally, in desperation, she would reply, "Ok, I'm going to go ahead and get it for you but no one else is even going to know what you want unless you start to say this right. We are going to have to work on this."

My daughter is 38 now with four children but the waitress game and all the crazy permutations that originated from her imagination fueled by my own will be with us both for always. The magic of Imagination is endless and constant. Try it out for yourselves.

Patti and Gary Wiles, Innkeepers 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Get out the Vote

I am a lifelong..... Clearly, I do have a dog in this race but save that,whatever your political affiliation, I still want you to Get out the Vote!
The concrete reasons are obvious. We are in critical times in our country. The congress, senate and numerous gubenatorial races are "up for grabs" and wouldn't it be nice if whatever party actually prevails, they truly prevailed? In other works, each group became educated on their preferred candidates and then put in the energy- despite all the reasons that sometimes things we deem more important get in our way- and actually got to the polls and VOTED! Then, each group could know they gave their best and as democracy operates, whether that is what you thought best or what someone else did,you support the elected individual.

No coups, no anarchy, some disappointment but in the end we all work together for the good of Americans and the United States of America. The right to vote is such an honor. Regular folks, regardless of all the things that both divide us and unify us, are given the blessing of saying their peace without fear of reprisal. Men and Women have fought, died and many have also suffered life altering injury to ensure that we have this right. It is a privilege, an honor and a responsibility. Failure to exercise it debases all that has been sacrificed by those who paid the ultimate price, both the dead and those that will continue living, altered forever by their service for your priviledge to make your choice free from fear.

Each and every person, at our Asheville Bed and Breakfast, is given company time to get to the polls and vote. It's just that important.

Patti and Gary Wiles Innkeepers At Cumberland Falls Bed and Breakfast Inn Your Asheville Bed and Breakfast

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Soups-The heart of the Fall Season

I love soups! Soup is the heart of the Fall Season. When I was a little girl living in Bayside, NY long before I ever even dreamed one day I would be an inn owner in Asheville NC when my brother and I would come in from the cold we were often greeted by a bowl of soup. It was nothing short of a magical concoction. Our fingers found the holding vessel warming, our faces, all chilled from the fall winds, found the rising steam comforting and the taste transcended delicious offering up its comforting heat all the way down. It made us feel special and loved.

My tastes in soups have altered slightly but my love of the genre remains. Please enjoy our Fall Fling Squash Soup and Cream Recipe helping you to ward off the cool winds of fall and make someone in your life feel special and loved.

Fall Fling Squash Soup:

1 medium butternut squash
1 medium acorn squash
4 T. good quality olive oil
2 carrots cut on the bias
2 ribs of celery, coursely chopped
1 medium onion, coursely chopped
3 fresh garlic cloves, minced
6 cups vegetable broth
3/4 tsp. of Cayenne pepper
8 oz. whipping cream, or whole or skim milk. (Taste remains delicious I assure you.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut butternut and acorn squash in half lengthwise. Use 2 T. olive oil to brush the insides of the squashes before laying them face down on baking sheet. Bake 30-40 mins or longer until tender. Baking time differs with freshness of the squashes used. Use remainder of olive oil to saute carrots, onions, garlic and celery in pan until tender. Salt and pepper to taste. When squash is tender remove from oven and let cool. You can bake off the squash the night before if time you are time pressed.

Scooping the flesh from the squash, add to the pot with the sauted vegetables. Add vegetable broth, bring just to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes covered. When all veggies are very tender and the soup is no longer very hot you can use an immersion blender or place in food processer to puree the soup. If you choose the food processer, you will need to wait until the soup is only lukewarm, not hot in any way.
Add whipping cream to the pureed soup, stir to blend and return to the stove to heat up to your ideal eating temperature.
If serving this as a special occasion you can buy small (bowl size pumpkins.) Cut them in half, scoop out the meat and you have two bowls. If you are really feeling culinary you can use meat for Pumpkin pies. Garnish with sour cream and cilantro.
Wait for the smiles! I have used this wonderful soup for a cold morning starter at our Asheville Bed and Breakfast and I always get smiles and requests for this fine warming recipe.

Patti and Gary Wiles Innkeepers At Cumberland Falls Bed and Breakfast Inn Your Asheville Bed and Breakfast

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Lake Eden Art Festival-Asheville Favorite

Lake Eden Art Festival-an Asheville favorite for more than a decade.
The location of this festival is magical and really invites all attendees to connect in a physical way with the out of doors.
The term festival can mean many things to different people. Some are looking for art, some food, some nature in the raw, some music and some looking for traditional mountain crafts. For all the aformentioned you will not be disappointed in the Lake Eden Art Festival.

Orginal hand crafted items, fun gifts and treasures, many of which some of the guests at our inn have been delighted with and taken home as travel gifts can be found.

So you wanna dance? No problem: salsa, swing, hip hop and plain ole fiddle dancing music where you free style and make up your own jive.

So you cleave to the more traditional mountain lore orations. Poetry readings can be both heard as well as shared at Pisgah open mike right at the Festival.

So, round up your family, tell all your friends and make friends you haven't even met yet all at the Lake Eden Art Festival. Tickets are hard to come by and sell out early, so don't delay. There's a fiddle with your name on it, a poem for your soul, a new dance step and a Christmas present that can't be found anywhere else. Consider the possibilities.

Patti and Gary Wiles

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Theater in Asheville

Theater in Asheville North Carolina is thriving and plentiful. We have been innkeepers at our Asheville Bed and Breakfast Inn for nearly 12 years and one of the many things I think people are surprised about when they visit our area is the amount of culture available to enjoy in Asheville.

Many of our visitors come from culturally rich areas of our country like Miami, New York or Los Angeles. These guests are accustomed to being able to pick and choose a great theater venue from a musical to a classic and are delighted when they realize that whether they are attending a local production from Asheville Community Theater or one from The State Theater of North Carolina they will see top notch talent, dedicated and well rehearsed players for likely much less money than they are generally out for an evenings entertainment.

Take a look below to see some of the awesome productions available this theater season right here in Asheville North Carolina.

Asheville Community Theater:

A Christmas Story
Arsenic and Old Lace
Honkey Tonk Angers

Some of the offerings found in The State Theater of North Carolina this season are:
The Drowsy Chaperone
The Prisoner of Second Avenue
A Christmas Carol
A Few Good Men
Miracle on 34th Street
Music on the Rock

So maybe you can't afford to fly to New York or L.A. The economy is a bit rocky now and we may all need a bit of escapism or a flight of fancy to keep our best foot moving forward. That's exactly what you'll find at the theater. So, whether you choose the sentimentality of the beloved Miracle on 34th Street or angst, ambition and dreams of the players in Rent the transport is waiting just for the price of a ticket.

Patti and Gary Wiles Innkeepers At Cumberland Falls Bed and Breakfast Inn Your Asheville Bed and Breakfast

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands-Things to do in Asheville NC

The much anticipated Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands is always a favorite choice among things to do in Asheville.

A local tradition showcasing the creative work of the members of the guild each of these craft persons having undergone a stringent jury process in the assessment of their work by other guild members representing mountain counties of nine states from Maryland to Alabama.

Not only will guests to this fair held yearly at Asheville's Civic Center find guild craft work but music and craft demonstrations as well. This organization, the Guild, has been fostering these mountain arts and those who are inspired to create them since 1930.

We would love to host your visit and we'll see you at the Craft Fair. Only three months to Christmas (Oh Dear!) and it's a great place to find a unique hand made gift that will be treasured by a loved one.

Patti and Gary Wiles

Friday, October 1, 2010

Ground Zero - A tree that grew in Brooklyn

Next year, September 11, 2011 will be the 10 year anniversary at Ground Zero and a tree that grew in Brooklyn. Along with many others I was listening to many newscasts on September 11 as the news anchors and nearly all the programming reviewed some of the heartfelt stories of survivors and those who didn't survive that fateful day. The pundits discussed what effects this national game changer had on the consciousness of the average American, how it altered our country and those in it. The tragedy of the day was put through nearly every kind of filter one can imagine.

A lessor known piece caught my attention. There was a Pear tree planted close to the Twin Towers in an outdoor concourse. Burning debris,everywhere that day reduced this tree, to a charred shadow just as it did the lives in the those buildings. This carnage of this tree was hauled to Arthur Ross Nursery and planted on Veteran's Day, it's prognosis grim. Nursery workers, wishing to provide it with the best start possible of rich soil, trimmed limbs,tender care and fertilizer rallied to breath new life into the wrecked remains. Today, much like the families and the nation, this tree bears its scars but it, in true New York fashion, would not simply lay down and die. All 35'of this callery pear tree will, the Lord willing, be transplanted in its leafy, green splendour to serve as the anchor to a glade of trees near the memorial's heart- two 30 foot waterfalls shooting over the original footprints of the twin towers. It is bowed but not bloodied and though not perfect stands tall as a monument to faith, tenacity and sheer survival.

Though it has been 9 years, the unfolding of that day will stand in crystalline memory very similar in nature to my day in the 5th grade one cool New York afternoon in November when my classmates and the nation heard of the shooting and subsequent death of John Kennedy. Anyone alive that day will always remember the events and where they were as they unfolded.

The morning of September 11, 2001 I was preparing breakfast. It was early yet and the guests had not come down when the phone rang. It was my child and as all Mother's know it was evident when I heard her voice something was horribly wrong as she said, "Do you have the television on?" I replied that I was in the middle of fixing breakfast for the guests so of course I didn't. She said, "Mom, you are going to need to turn it on." I went into an unbooked downstairs room and turned it on and within moments, the second plane hit. My daughter and I silently viewed the unthinkable no words passing between us, both of us crying and in understanding that terror had finally come to the United States of America.

Soon after that, our guests came down. We began to tell them what happened. As fate would have it, one of them was from Isreal. While all our U.S. guests were stunned, she, having experienced this as a daily reality in her own homeland had a different tack. She acknowledged the shock, horror and sorrow we were all feeling while taking hold of and voicing to the other guests the fact that our country and citizenry is strong and after a time we would come to a place of wisdom, resilience,solidarity, survival and resolve. She was right.

Patti and Gary Wiles, Innkeepers