A Little Bolt and Jolt

We’re experiencing a little delay in our regular programming here at Bits and Breadcrumbs this week. We’ve had a hiccup in the form of a freakish storm yesterday morning and a bolt of lightning hitting a tree and then jumping to our chimney, resulting in a big mess and lots of soot.

All inhabitants of the house are okay, no fire (luckily), and we got power back on late yesterday. The damaged tree hasn’t come down so far, but we have a chimney missing up top and much of its interior wall and firebox came down into the living room. We have clean up crews for the soot and mortar all over the interior of the house, some zapped electrical systems and equipment to deal with…and so on. And did I mention clean up crews? Lots and lots of clean up and contractors, to be followed by lots of construction to rebuild the chimney, firebox and surround, then plastering and paint.

And yet, we were very, very lucky. Had the tree not taken the bolt and if the lightning had struck the chimney cap first, I wouldn’t be sitting here typing, most likely, as the top of the house would have been in flames. Or had the chimney fallen into our bedroom (which is right next to it and where we were at the time), the story would be quite different. Thank you big tree.

Since this happened (and it seems like a week has passed since yesterday morning), my reading and commenting on others’ posts has been non-existent, the cooking has been interrupted, and our days are filled with folks coming and going. But I will be back online and returning to our regular programming soon. We are thankful it wasn’t any worse and that none of us were actually hit. I will try and share some pictures in my next post once I get my main computer back online, and in the mean time, I hope you all have a pleasant and safe weekend.

Campout

Is there anything quite so mesmerizing as a campfire?

Fall is now definitely in the air, and with it comes my desire to enjoy the cool breezes, see the leaves turn and give a sigh of relief that the heat of summer has come, and hopefully gone. It’s my favorite time of year, and since the first of October is my birthday, I always want to get away and do something outdoors to celebrate. And this year, I thought about how nice it would be to get away from the city, from the noise… from the computer, even…and go camping!

Now I know this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea or coffee, but we happen to like to camp…as long as it’s on our own terms, and that means a rather gourmet form of camping. I’m no longer in a frame of mind or of an age that I care to really rough it when I camp, but am completely on board with car camping as long as I can have the “necessities” close at hand! Usually I’ll do a fair amount of gourmet camp cooking when we’re camping, including egg sandwiches or omelets for breakfast and meat or fish and roasted campfire veggies or pizza for dinner. After all, I have a two-burner propane stove, camping pots and pans I keep in a pre-packed camp kitchen, a French press for breakfast coffee, glassware and plenty of coolers. We even have some champagne glasses dedicated for camping, naturally! And we do tent-camp. Ours is a “condo-like” spacious tent that you can stand up in and easily change your clothes. It accommodates our inflatable queen-sized pillow-topped air mattress and we have a ceiling tent fan with a light. We also have a boat—a traveling inflatable Class 4 Rapid, two-person kayak that we’ve taken on lakes, creeks, rivers and oceans. I told you it was gourmet camping!

The condo.

I guess the thing I like the most about camping is that you get to experience nature in a way like no other, up close and personal for the most part. We’ve seen all kinds of wildlife from hawks, owls, geese, ducks, eagles, egrets, herons and painted buntings to frogs, turtles, rays, crabs, whelks and amazing fresh and salt water fishes. And of course there’s the scenery, from mountain to shore. North Georgia provides many places close by that we like to visit. There’s Lake Winfield Scott, which I’ve mentioned before, and where we had a “Close Encounter of the Black Bear Kind” a few years ago in our campsite during a stay in June for my husband’s birthday. Yep, you heard me say it…a bear! A young black bear came into the site next to our tent to wish Dave a happy birthday, waving his paws, sniffing and drooling in anticipation of some sun-dried tomato turkey burgers cooking on the campfire (at least that’s what I think he was drooling over). Boy was that a surprise! But fortunately he ran away while we were running in the opposite direction…and all was well. He was a cute bear, but I don’t care to see one that close up again.

French pressed coffee and toasted bagels are a must, even in the middle of the woods!

Just happened to have some Humboldt Fog goat cheese and Drunken Fig Jam to have with that champagne. Love that stuff.

This time we decided to go to Lake Rabun, which is located close to several places where we enjoy taking day trips, and so that we could take out our kayak and possibly go for a swim. Since it was my birthday weekend, I chose not to try and cook very much while camping, and instead made and purchased some food in advance to take up with us so I could spend my time enjoying nature and the scenery. Some of the food highlights were my couscous salad—great for any occasion, Karista’s wicked Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Brownies...terribly addictive in the best kind of way, and my Kitchen Sink Campy Sloppy Joes for which you’ll find the recipe at the end of this post. And of course, some champagne!

This is a finger of the lake where we put in our boat with a view towards the main lake, which is around the bend.

The view in the opposite direction towards Seed Lake.

It turned out to be a cool and lovely weekend for the most part, a little too cool for swimming and only one day of sun, but great for boating and camping and there were very few people. The leaves were just beginning to turn, several festivals were going on in the area including “A Taste of Clarksville,” in the small artist’s community of Clarksville, Georgia, and the Sautee Jamboree Music Festival in Sautee. There were also some wineries in the vicinity which were open for tastings. We visited the relatively young Sautee Nacoochee Vineyards and enjoyed tasting some of their wine and looking out over the small vineyard while listening to live music. Tiger Mountain Vineyards and Habersham Vineyards are located in and around this area, too.

View towards the vines at Sautee Nacoochee Vineyards.

The Tasting Room at Sautee Nacoochee Vineyards.

Cheers!

For those folks who love the mountains, love nature, but don’t want to camp or cook, there are two nice places to stay around Rabun that I can recommend. The historic Lake Rabun Hotel and Restaurant has been completely renovated and now includes a spa and a very good chef. Sitting out on their porch overlooking the lake is definitely the spot for dining. And slightly south of Lake Rabun lies Glen Ella Springs Inn, known for it’s food, beautiful foliage and pastoral scenery.

A covered bridge just outside of Sautee, Georgia.

According to the sign it was once used as a set location for the 1951 movie “I’d Climb the Highest Mountain” with Susan Heyward. Unfortunately it has become a target of graffiti.

The weather held for us to enjoy a nice long boat ride and some great sight-seeing over the weekend. After breaking camp on Sunday morning, we ended our trip with a drive up to Highlands, N.C., which is only a 45 minute drive from Lake Rabun. We spent a few hours there window shopping, and went to see the American Craft exhibit at The Bascom. The Bascom is a nonprofit center for the visual arts in Highlands, where individuals can come together to participate in studio art classes and public programs, share cultural experiences, and enjoy the synergy of art and nature. The complex is made up of several historic buildings amidst beautiful natural surroundings. If you’ve never seen HIghlands or The Bascom, I highly recommend adding it to your trip list. I’ve posted about Highlands before, and you can click here to see and read more about our trip there last year.

Entrance to the Bascom. They had a huge fundraiser and silent auction the night before…normally there are no tents.

Lawn sculpture at The Bascom.

The Bascom Pottery Studio.

All in all a very nice getaway and great way to welcome a birthday!

Stirring the campfire.

So I have to ask you, do you like to camp? Have you ever done it?

Tell me about it!

Almost ready!

Kitchen Sink Campy Sloppy Joes
Serves 6-8

You can leave out the chipotle peppers (smoked and dried jalapeno peppers) if you or your kids can’t take the heat with the sweet, or use hotter peppers if you like more heat, to taste.

1 1/2 lbs. of ground beef
1 1/2 to 2 minced chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 1/2 cups chopped sweet bell peppers (I use a mixture of green and red)
1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
2 Tablespoons of minced fresh garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
1-15 oz. can no salt tomato sauce
4 rounded Tablespoons of tomato paste
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
juice of 1 lime
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (can use more to taste)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Onion hamburger buns, or your favorite

In a large skillet, brown the ground beef over medium high heat. Drain off all but 1 1/2 tablespoons of the fat. Add the chipotles, sweet bell peppers, onions and garlic, and stir over medium heat for about 3-5 minutes, allowing the vegetables to soften. Add the oregano, cumin, chili powder, Chinese five spice powder, and salt. Stir for 2 minutes to cook the spices, then add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, brown sugar, lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, mustard and balsamic vinegar. Cook the mixture until it is thick and saucy over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Remove from the skillet and serve open faced, spooning the mixture over toasted onion buns. This freezes beautifully for camping and reheating, or to save some for another quick weeknight dinner.

Great for campouts and camp-ins!

Cool Interlude.

When it’s hot—and it certainly has been for most of us in the northern hemisphere this summer—all I can think about is the opportunity to dip myself into some cool water. This past weekend provided that opportunity. And although our forecast threatened, we decided to take the risk and drive towards the nearby mountains to find a swimming hole…hopefully one that wasn’t too crowded, and hopefully one not under a pop-up summer thunderstorm.

The view of the more downstream swimming hole area.

And in what can only be described as a timely move, my husband discovered a new phone application aptly named “Swim N Hole,” which shows you all of the swimming holes located within a prescribed radius of your area. He zeroed in on one very close by that looked promising called “Edge of the World.” At a mere 45 minute drive north of us, it beckoned seductively, so we packed up our suits, threw together an impromptu picnic and headed out. What we found was a little hidden gem. Continue reading

Enjoying the Holidays and the Versatile Blogger Award!

First and foremost, I hope you’ve all been busy sharing some good times with friends and family during the past few weeks, and that you’ve celebrated your respective holidays with lots of great food, frivolity and a little reflection as well. We just returned from celebrating a most lovely Christmas with my mom out of town, and it was wonderful to be with her and to have the chance to spend some quality time together. Thanks for having us mom, you’re the best and we love you!

Second, I’d like to share a great surprise that happened on my way out of town for the holiday. I discovered that I’d been nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award by Sharyn at The Kale Chronicles and also by Eva over at Kitchen Inspirations. Wow! What an unexpected honor, and a super Christmas present, to boot! Sharyn’s blog, The Kale Chronicles, features her inventive recipes using ingredients from her CSA box, and for each post she creates bright and charming watercolor illustrations to go along with the subject, a unique and quite wonderful approach. Eva at Kitchen Inspirations is a graphic designer like myself, and hails from Canada. Her blog features some diverse and terrific sounding recipes along with lovely photographic images (she’s quite a stylist and shooter, too), as well as tales of her travels and culinary adventures…it’s a terrific read. Thank you both so much for honoring me with this special award and congratulations to you both on your nominations as well. Continue reading

Virginia really is for Lovers…of Life, Food, Wine and Nature

A pastoral setting, to say the least.

First, forgive me for the lack of posting for a while. This is truly the longest I’ve gone between posts since I started this blog. Work deadlines are the main culprit, and being out of town…and more work deadlines. Reality sets in, folks, but I am back! And I have lots to share with you. So sit back and read my story about taking a little trip to Virginia.

A dear girlfriend of mine and her husband have a lovely home on a farm in Afton, Virginia, and last weekend I flew up for my first visit and a girls’ weekend. Little did I know what a fun, tasty, adventurous and beautiful interlude lay ahead. Continue reading

Confessions of a Cookbook Addict

I am a cookbook-a-holic.

There, I’ve said it out loud…well, sort of. I know many of us have lots of cookbooks and/or love to read them, but I’ve kind of taken it to the extreme. In fact, they are running me out of the house.

My unorganized reading table of cookbooks, food mags and Ree Drummond's new book.

Sure, I have my favorites, and they rotate sometimes. I have some very old ones, hand me down ones and some found at yard sales. I have some by famous chefs, some by famous cooks, some from other countries and some from little churches, schools and Junior Leagues. And In addition to the ones I own, I’ve read a bunch that I checked out from the library. It’s like some kind of a jones or something, every now and then…mostly now…I have cravings to read a new cookbook, essay or magazine about food like others have cravings to eat some chocolate. What can I say? I’m kinda weird that way. Continue reading

Of Mountains, Waterfalls and Picnics

“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the wind longs to play with your hair.”

—Kahlil Gibran

Yesterday seemed like a perfect day to drive up to the North Georgia mountains for a little R&R from the city and we chose Amicalola Falls as our destination. Located in the Amicalola Falls State Park and situated at the southern terminous of the Appalachian Trail, it is the tallest cascade in the Southeast at 729 feet. We were pleased to find it not so crowded, and there was an invitingly cool and gentle breeze blowing…the promise of fall was in the air. Continue reading

Postcard from Florence

Last weekend for the 4th of July holiday, we journeyed to my hometown of Florence, Alabama to see family and friends, and to visit some of my favorite haunts from childhood. My intention was to share some thoughts about a great little soda and sandwich shop that we always go to when we are there, but something happened as I looked at my hometown with fresh eyes…I saw so much more to share. So this is my postcard to you from Florence…and maybe you’ll just wish you were there, too! Continue reading

Summer in the South: A Few of My Favorite Things

Easy, refreshing and delicious Buttermilk-Basil Sorbet

Summer has not been my favorite of the seasons. Of course as a child, there were some things I really liked about it: no school, swimming and vacation were chief amongst them. But summer is always hot here in the South…really hot. And I like cooler weather better.

As time goes on, though, I’m coming back around to appreciating summer again­—it does have a lot going for it, after all. Longer and lazier days, cooking outdoors, taking a dip in cold bodies of water, and tons of fresh produce. Here’s my little laundry list of a few of my favorite things about summer, the things I look forward to—most of which are food and drink related, of course! What are yours? Continue reading

Ode to Red Speckled Grits

Red Speckled Grits close up and personal.

You no longer have to be born and bred in the southern U.S. to have tasted grits in one form or another. Now a part of the mainstream food vernacular, they appear on menus and in recipes from grit cakes to souffles, and the ever popular shrimp and grits. But as a child raised in Alabama, I hated them! Usually over salted, or worse still, bland and runny, I just didn’t get it. To me, they were slop. Continue reading