Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Douglas Airport noted for its quaint distraction

"With the latest terrorist incident over U.S. skies, air travelers are more on edge than usual and security lines are even longer," writes the Associated Press. "But if you're looking for something to distract yourself from all the worries and the waiting, a few airports actually offer unique attractions."

One of those is Charlotte Douglas International, thanks to its nod to the Southern way of passing the time.

"Pull up a rocking chair, make yourself comfy and set awhile. That's not the usual expectation at an airport, but the atrium at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina is lined with trees and white wooden rocking chairs, just like what you might find on a friendly Southern front porch. The rockers were first placed in the atrium in 1997 as part of a photo exhibit called 'Porchsitting,' but they were so popular that they became a permanent fixture.

"The rockers, made by Portico Furniture, have now been installed in 16 other airports, including Seattle, San Diego and Dallas/Fort Worth."

(Image from AP/Charlotte Douglas International Airport)

Monday, December 28, 2009

What will you be dropping (or raising) this New Year's?

New York has perhaps the most famous "dropping" on New Year's Eve when the Big Apple descends on, well, the Big Apple. But what other things get dropped across North Carolina on New Year's?

Here in Raleigh, we are quite proud of our giant acorn.

Mount Olive drops a pickle while Carolina Beach -- appropriately enough -- drops a beach ball.

They like to shoot in the air in Cherryville.

Charlotte will be trying something new this year. The Queen City's First Night event will climax with the raising -- yes, raising -- of a crown.

[T]he Queen's lighted crown will be hoisted 25 feet just before midnight Thursday to part the curtain on the new year [says the Charlotte Observer].

"We like the symbolism of hope's rising," said Moira Quinn, spokeswoman for Charlotte Center City Partners, the organization producing the festivities. "It's the rising of a new year, and shutting the door on a year that was tough on a lot of people."

So what about your city or town? How will you ring in the new year?

Quick hits: A hostel in AVL, what to do with Christmas trees, polar plans for the zoo and religion

Sweet Peas Hostel opens above Asheville brewery
"The new much-awaited Lexington Avenue Brewery will not be open for the holidays. But there is room at the inn upstairs," says the Citizen-Times.

"The Sweet Peas hostel, on the second on the floor of the brewery building, has already taken a number of reservations, owner Mike Healy said. The accommodations are basic, but clean and efficient, with 16 bunks, another 24 sleeping spaces on “pods” (something like the old railroad Pullman cars) and two private rooms.

"Sweet Peas will also offer a kitchen for guests to cook meals. Bed prices range $28-$60. The Sweet Peas entrance at 23 Rankin Ave. will be separate from the brewery. ..."

Christmas trees used to prevent beach erosion
"Coastal North Carolina communities are collecting old Christmas trees and sticking them in sand dunes to combat beach erosion.

"The Daily News of Jacksonville reported Monday that after stripping the ornaments and untangling the lights, coastal residents can recycle their trees at the Fort Macon State Park. Park officials will stake the trees along the sand dune line in areas where the beach is eroding. Officials expect to receive more than 1,000 trees this year.

"The retired Christmas trees serve the same purpose as fences without the expense. Park officials say the trees' needles collect blowing sand and can promote beach vegetation growth. ..."

N.C. Zoo plans polar bear exhibit expansion

"Officials at the N.C. Zoo are hoping a multimillion-dollar expansion of its polar bear exhibit will lead to expansion in the number of inhabitants in the exhibit.

"The News & Record of Greensboro reports that officials want to create a polar bear breeding program at the zoo, a move that could mean additional revenue.

"The $4.7 million expansion to the polar bear exhibit will accommodate some of the critical elements female bears crave in raising cubs: space and privacy. ..."

69 percent of North Carolinians value religion

"The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life just released their State by State Religious Commitment Analysis . Basically, that measures how the population from each state in the union values religion, how frequently they attend religious services, belief in God and the frequency of prayer," reports the Star-News' Amanda Greene. "(Did I mention I love these guys? Always great blog fodder!)

"North Carolina consistently ranked in the top 10 states with the highest numbers of believers in each category. Overall, 69 percent of North Carolinians value the importance of religion. ..."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Happy holidays, Nawth Cackylacky!

As we're approaching the end of the year, we're beginning to see lots of holiday-themed e-cards. Below are a few that I've received and wanted to share. If you have any that you've received that are N.C.-related, feel free to email me at collards12@yahoo.com and I'll post them. (And please don't solicit your own organization or business.)

From the Blowing Rock Visitors Center:

From N.C. State University:

From the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHASS) at NCSU:

Hopefully there will be more to come!

'The Gift of the Magi'

This story by North Carolina's own O. Henry (real name William Sidney Porter) has become a Christmas-time staple. As Wikipedia puts it, the story "about young married couple and how they deal with the challenge of buying secret Christmas gifts for each other with very little money" is a "sentimental story with a moral lesson about gift-giving."

Enjoy, and Merry Christmas!

The Gift of the Magi
By O. Henry

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one's cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty- seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.

There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.

While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad.

In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter would go, and an electric button from which no mortal finger could coax a ring. Also appertaining thereunto was a card bearing the name "Mr. James Dillingham Young."

The "Dillingham" had been flung to the breeze during a former period of prosperity when its possessor was being paid $30 per week. Now, when the income was shrunk to $20, though, they were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D. But whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called "Jim" and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very good.

Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn't go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling--something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim.

There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room. Perhaps you have seen a pier-glass in an $8 flat. A very thin and very agile person may, by observing his reflection in a rapid sequence of longitudinal strips, obtain a fairly accurate conception of his looks. Della, being slender, had mastered the art.

Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the glass. her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds. Rapidly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length.

Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim's gold watch that had been his father's and his grandfather's. The other was Della's hair. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty's jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy.

So now Della's beautiful hair fell about her rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters. It reached below her knee and made itself almost a garment for her. And then she did it up again nervously and quickly. Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet.

On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat. With a whirl of skirts and with the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she fluttered out the door and down the stairs to the street.

Where she stopped the sign read: "Mne. Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds." One flight up Della ran, and collected herself, panting. Madame, large, too white, chilly, hardly looked the "Sofronie."

"Will you buy my hair?" asked Della.

"I buy hair," said Madame. "Take yer hat off and let's have a sight at the looks of it."

Down rippled the brown cascade.

"Twenty dollars," said Madame, lifting the mass with a practised hand.

"Give it to me quick," said Della.

Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings. Forget the hashed metaphor. She was ransacking the stores for Jim's present.

She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else. There was no other like it in any of the stores, and she had turned all of them inside out. It was a platinum fob chain simple and chaste in design, properly proclaiming its value by substance alone and not by meretricious ornamentation--as all good things should do. It was even worthy of The Watch. As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be Jim's. It was like him. Quietness and value--the description applied to both. Twenty-one dollars they took from her for it, and she hurried home with the 87 cents. With that chain on his watch Jim might be properly anxious about the time in any company. Grand as the watch was, he sometimes looked at it on the sly on account of the old leather strap that he used in place of a chain.

When Della reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason. She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love. Which is always a tremendous task, dear friends--a mammoth task.

Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look wonderfully like a truant schoolboy. She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, carefully, and critically.

"If Jim doesn't kill me," she said to herself, "before he takes a second look at me, he'll say I look like a Coney Island chorus girl. But what could I do--oh! what could I do with a dollar and eighty- seven cents?"

At 7 o'clock the coffee was made and the frying-pan was on the back of the stove hot and ready to cook the chops.

Jim was never late. Della doubled the fob chain in her hand and sat on the corner of the table near the door that he always entered. Then she heard his step on the stair away down on the first flight, and she turned white for just a moment. She had a habit for saying little silent prayer about the simplest everyday things, and now she whispered: "Please God, make him think I am still pretty."

The door opened and Jim stepped in and closed it. He looked thin and very serious. Poor fellow, he was only twenty-two--and to be burdened with a family! He needed a new overcoat and he was without gloves.

Jim stopped inside the door, as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail. His eyes were fixed upon Della, and there was an expression in them that she could not read, and it terrified her. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the sentiments that she had been prepared for. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar expression on his face.

Della wriggled off the table and went for him.

"Jim, darling," she cried, "don't look at me that way. I had my hair cut off and sold because I couldn't have lived through Christmas without giving you a present. It'll grow out again--you won't mind, will you? I just had to do it. My hair grows awfully fast. Say `Merry Christmas!' Jim, and let's be happy. You don't know what a nice-- what a beautiful, nice gift I've got for you."

"You've cut off your hair?" asked Jim, laboriously, as if he had not arrived at that patent fact yet even after the hardest mental labor.

"Cut it off and sold it," said Della. "Don't you like me just as well, anyhow? I'm me without my hair, ain't I?"

Jim looked about the room curiously.

"You say your hair is gone?" he said, with an air almost of idiocy.

"You needn't look for it," said Della. "It's sold, I tell you--sold and gone, too. It's Christmas Eve, boy. Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered," she went on with sudden serious sweetness, "but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I put the chops on, Jim?"

Out of his trance Jim seemed quickly to wake. He enfolded his Della. For ten seconds let us regard with discreet scrutiny some inconsequential object in the other direction. Eight dollars a week or a million a year--what is the difference? A mathematician or a wit would give you the wrong answer. The magi brought valuable gifts, but that was not among them. This dark assertion will be illuminated later on.

Jim drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it upon the table.

"Don't make any mistake, Dell," he said, "about me. I don't think there's anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less. But if you'll unwrap that package you may see why you had me going a while at first."

White fingers and nimble tore at the string and paper. And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! a quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of the lord of the flat.

For there lay The Combs--the set of combs, side and back, that Della had worshipped long in a Broadway window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jewelled rims--just the shade to wear in the beautiful vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply craved and yearned over them without the least hope of possession. And now, they were hers, but the tresses that should have adorned the coveted adornments were gone.

But she hugged them to her bosom, and at length she was able to look up with dim eyes and a smile and say: "My hair grows so fast, Jim!"

And them Della leaped up like a little singed cat and cried, "Oh, oh!"

Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm. The dull precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection of her bright and ardent spirit.

"Isn't it a dandy, Jim? I hunted all over town to find it. You'll have to look at the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it."

Instead of obeying, Jim tumbled down on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled.

"Dell," said he, "let's put our Christmas presents away and keep 'em a while. They're too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose you put the chops on."

The magi, as you know, were wise men--wonderfully wise men--who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy birthday, South of the Border

South of the Border, that Interstate 95 "icon for motorists," has turned 60. So happy birthday, SOB!

The brightly lighted facility features more than a dozen shops, six restaurants, a small amusement park and a motel with 300 rooms, but travelers and employees acknowledge that it's not the same place it used to be [says the Associated Press].

Suzanne Pelt, head of public relations and personnel and a 25-year employee of South of the Border, offered an explanation for that change. "We have lots of competition now that we didn't have in years past. It used to be that we were the only motel between New York and Miami," she said.

I've stated it multiple times: as a young North Carolinian, I was devastated when I finally discovered that Pedro's home was not in my home state but was instead in one of the two "mountains of conceit," South Carolina. I quickly got over it, thinking that N.C. was better off not being associated with the tackiness that is South of the Border. However, I've proven wishy-washy in recent years; there's something so quintessentially iconic and Southern about the place. Though I probably wouldn't stop there in a million years, I'm glad it's still around.
(Photo from MSJE.org)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Banker ponies get new fillies

WRAL reports that a couple of new new fillies have been added to the herd of wild horses at Shackleford Banks.

National Parks wildlife rangers introduced the fillies, Sacajawea and Jitterbug, to the Shackleford Banks herd and released them this week.

Sacajawea and Jitterbug are of the same Banker bred as the herd, which numbers around 110 horses.

The National Park Services adopted the fillies from the Foundation for Shackleford Horses, which manages the herd and conducts genetics research.

(Image courtesy of the Foundation)

Quick hits: North Carolinians are pretty happy, and WCU makes a banjo player a doctor

N.C. ranks 13th for happy Americans

"People in sunny, outdoorsy states -- Louisiana, Hawaii, Florida -- say they're the happiest Americans, and researchers say they think they know why," says the AP.

"A new study comparing self-described pleasant feelings with objective measures of good living found these folks generally have reason to feel fine.

"The places where people are most likely to report happiness also tend to rate high on studies comparing such things as climate, crime rates, air quality and schools. ...

"Ranking No. 1 in happiness was Louisiana, home of Dixieland music and Cajun/Creole cooking. ...

"Rounding out the happy five were Hawaii, Florida, Tennessee and Arizona.

"North Carolina ranked No. 13 for happiness, while neighboring Virginia trailed at 27th.

"California is 46th.

"Last in happiness is New York state.

And ...

"So North Carolinians rank 13th as the happiest Americans?

"Well, yeah, we can work with that. Being in the top 20 is OK. It’s all right. Something to be happy about," says the News & Record's Eddie Wooten.

"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has measured happiness, talking to 1.3 million Americans from 2005 to 2008.

"The places where people are most likely to report happiness also tend to rate high on studies comparing things such as climate, crime rates, air quality, schools and taxes, The Associated Press reports. ...

Banjo master to get WCU doctorate

"Call it an early holiday gift that can't be beat — famed mountain banjo picker Marc Pruett is getting an honorary doctorate on Saturday at Western Carolina University," says the Citizen-Times.

"t's the cap on a memorable year for Pruett, one of the region's premier bluegrass stars, who plays with the group Balsam Range. This fall, the band had a No. 1 hit on the bluegrass charts with the cut 'Last Train to Kitty Hawk.”'

" 'You could have knocked me over with a feather,' Pruett said when he heard he was getting the degree. 'At first, I thought it was a prank. But it's a very humbling experience.'

"Pruett, raised in Haywood County, is a 1974 Western Carolina University graduate. The school usually bestows two honorary doctorates a year, said WCU spokesman Randall Holcombe. Pruett was selected for his 'achievements as a professional musician and in appreciation for … love of the traditional culture of the Southern Appalachian mountains,' the degree reads. ..."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Queen City's on fire

The announcement yesterday of Brian Moynihan as CEO of Bank of America in all likelihood puts to rest any fears of the bank leaving Charlotte anytime soon.

The bank's headquarters will remain here, Moynihan said in an interview, adding that his office will be in Charlotte. Moynihan's Boston ties had raised concerns about his commitment to Charlotte [according to the Observer].

"We're committed to maintaining everything we do for Charlotte," said Moynihan, a Boston-based executive who said he hadn't thought about where he will live yet. "It's just that simple."

The decision gives the bank's employees, including about 15,000 in Charlotte, a known commodity as their next leader. But the choice is also likely to agitate investors who wanted a fresh start and to raise questions about the bank's ability to attract a big-name CEO from outside the company.

This is the second bit of good/great economic news for Charlotte over the past couple of days. Appliance maker Electrolux announced earlier that its headquarters will move to Charlotte, employing close to 800 people.

Charlotte's new mayor, Anthony Foxx, said Moynihan told him Wednesday evening "very emphatically that Charlotte is and will remain the headquarters."

The two agreed to meet soon, Foxx said. ...

The city, which lost Wachovia's headquarters in last fall's financial implosion, has fretted about the potential for losing Bank of America since Lewis unexpectedly announced Sept. 30 that he would retire at the end of this year. ...

[Former Mayor Pat McCrory] called the headquarters announcements "a sign that Charlotte continues to be a competitive city for major corporations."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Hall, Moore, Bullock earn Globe nominations

Native North Carolinians Michael C. Hall and Julianne Moore received Golden Globe nominations Tuesday, while East Carolina alumnus Sandra Bullock picked up two.

Hall, who is from Raleigh, was nominated for best actor in a television drama for his title role in “Dexter.” Moore, an Army brat born in Fayetteville, was nominated for best supporting actress in a dramatic motion picture for “A Single Man.”

Bullock pulled off a rare double, earning best actress nominations in drama (“The Blind Side”) and comedy (“The Proposal”).

N.C. State alum Zach Galifianakis starred in “The Hangover,” which was nominated for best comedy.

This is Hall’s fourth consecutive Golden Globe nomination for “Dexter,” Moore’s fifth Globe nod and Bullock’s fourth.

Ricky Gervais will host the Golden Globe Awards on NBC on Jan. 17.

Golden Globe nominations | Michael C. Hall | Julianne Moore
Sandra Bullock | The Proposal

It was good enough for Thomas Jefferson ...

We toured Monticello on a recent trip to Charlottesville. Down in TJ's cellar was a note about the kinds of wines that our third president enjoyed. He liked Madeira. He liked port.

He also liked North Carolina wine. REALLY liked it.

In fact, in 1817 Jefferson -- according to the Jefferson Encyclopedia -- "gave the state of North Carolina credit for producing 'the first specimen of an exquisite wine,' Scuppernong, and praised its 'fine aroma, and chrystalline transparence.' " It should also be noted that by 1826, "[w]ith the exception of a 'sufficient' quantity of Scuppernong, all the wines on hand in the Monticello cellar at the time of Jefferson's death came from southern France."

Not bad praise at all.

So why do wine snobs still look down their noses at the "sweet" wines?

Sweet wines - or "comfort wines," as this poster states -- are those "familiar, simple wines that are inseparably linked to fond memories, or places, or events. While they typically don’t receive rave reviews from wine critics and won’t be showcased in glossy periodicals, they do have merit."

Sounds fine to me.

Krispy Kreme about to go crazy in Asia

Winston-Salem-based doughnut (some call them little bits of Heaven) maker Krispy Kreme said that one of its franchisees has opened the doughnut maker's first store in Shanghai, China.

"KKD Lotte Holdings Company Ltd. operates the new shop at the In-Point Shopping Mall on the Wu-Jiang pedestrian walkway. KKD Lotte also is Krispy Kreme's franchisee in the Republic of Korea and Japan, according to a news release [via the News & Record].

"This is the first of 35 Krispy Kreme shops the franchisee plans to open during the next five years [emphasis mine]."

Quick hits: Some football news

Edwards leaves Boone an ASU graduate
"Last weekend was a very significant couple of days for Appalachian State quarterback Armanti Edwards," says the Citizen-Times' Keith Jarrett.

"On Saturday, the senior lefthander completed one of the greatest college football careers in the history of the sport in a 24-17 loss at Montana in the semifinals of the FCS playoffs.

"And Sunday he walked through the graduation line at Boone, earning a degree in graphic arts and imaging technology in 3 1/2 years.

"The team returned from Montana around 6 a.m. Sunday, and Edwards made it to the 2 p.m. graduation ceremony.

"Just 2.8 percent of ASU's latest graduating class received degrees in less than four years. ...

"He finished with 14,753 yards of offense in 51 career games, averaging 289 yards of offense per game. That career total is second all-time in FCS history, behind only Steve McNair (16,823 yards at Alcorn State from 1991-94). ..."

Applaud UNCC for seizing opportunity

"A lot of reasonable people are telling UNCC that this is not the time to commit to football.

"So when is that time?" asks Tom Sorensen.

"There never has been a good time to start football.

"There never will be a good time. ...

"Football is not official yet. Charlotte still has to meet next month with the UNC system's Board of Governors, who will approve or decline the football initiative in February. Charlotte also has to get approval from the Legislature.

"But the 49ers are closer than they have ever been, and instead of approaching prospective ticket buyers with a concept, they can go with confidence.

"I understand that student fees will jump. I understand that ticket sales - the school has sold 3,207 - have been disappointing. I understand that football isn't as essential as business or English, and that only in the SEC can students major in Gridiron.

"But college is more than academics. Football offers students a reason to stay on campus and alumni a reason to return. The 49ers are Charlotte's school, and some of us will be moved to drive there for the first time and perhaps realize why. ..."

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

First Raleigh, now Ocracoke: Kate Spade honors N.C. with handbags

A couple of years ago, our sister blog reported that high-fashion handbag maker Kate Spade had honored Raleigh, the state capital, with a line of inspired handbags.

"The capital of North Carolina, Raleigh is a city known for its warmth and vitality, said Kate Spade's website at the time. "What's less known is that it was a center for modernist architecture from the late '40s through the '60s. Crafted from haircalf and woven into our custom pattern, the Raleigh group is a bit of textured luxury.

So what's left to remember of that period in Raleigh, other than the bags? The best-known structure is probably Dorton Arena, designed by Matthew Nowicki. But there are also a slew of homes in Raleigh, including the Kamphoefner House designed by Henry Kamphoefner at 3060 Granville Drive and the Matsumoto House designed by George Matsumoto at 821 Runnymede Road.

The bags, similarly, have the clean lines of the midcentury modernist movement. But they don't come cheap. The least expensive of the three, at $695, is the Raleigh Suede Small, a woven soft pony and suede bag trimmed with calfskin patent leather in charcoal gray or chocolate brown.

Now, the designer has gone a few hours east of Raleigh for more inspiration. Ocracoke Island has a couple of bags in its honor. [Lowercase type-face is straight from the KS website.]

"part of north carolina's outer banks, okracoke island is reached only by ferry, which only adds to the island's quiet splendor. in 100% cotton canvas coated with a shimmery finish and leather handles and trim, our stevie satchel is resort-ready. a zip-top closure and tie detailing make it a lovely mix of femininity and practically. simply slip in your essentials for a day at the office (or choose to play hooky and head for the shore)."

Quick hits: Cheap Trick to film 'One Tree Hill' episode, and the Asheville baseball team is for sale

Cheap Trick filming 'One Tree Hill' episode

"... According to Warner Bros., rock band Cheap Trick will be in town this week to film an episode of the Wilmington-made TV drama. The band will perform during a 1980s-themed benefit to raise money for Tree Hill High arts programs," says the Star-News.

"The band has been around since the 1970s playing a mix of pop and punk that has earned Cheap Trick 40 gold and platinum albums. ..."

Asheville Tourists for sale

"Two members of the corporation that owns Asheville's minor league baseball team said talks are being held about selling the Tourists," according to the Citizen-Times.

"Officials from Palace Sports & Entertainment in Detroit, which own the Tourists, didn't return phone calls Monday.

"But Mike Bauer, who is based in Asheville and is the executive director of Palace Baseball, said negotiations to sell the team to an unnamed party are ongoing. ..."

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Slump? What slump?

"Wary shoppers may be slashing their gift lists, but one Christmas tradition appears to be recession proof: the tree," says the News & Observer.

" 'People are going to have 'em a Christmas tree,' said Sheila Barrier, a Burke County tree grower who set up shop at the State Farmers Market this month.

"Even as the economic crisis gripped the nation last year, statewide sales of live Christmas trees were off less than 1 percent from 2007. And many growers say this year's sales are starting off stronger than last year's."

I can only speak for myself and my family, but we once again trotted out to the State Farmer's Market to pick out our tree. And what a deal! In the past couple of years, a 7-8-foot Alleghany County tree would run us about $65-75. Not this year. The tree we selected had a tag price of $59, but we were offered it for $50. We possibly could have gotten it for less.

So, the lesson here, support your local/state economy. N.C. Christmas trees may not cost as much as you think this year.

Christmas trees make up a small fraction of the state's $10 billion farm economy, bringing in about $100 million a year for North Carolina farmers. But they have become a bright spot for the agriculture industry as it has been battered by declining profit from meat, nursery plants and other high-value products.

Western North Carolina farmers grow about a quarter of the nation's Christmas trees, putting the state second in the nation. Oregon is first.

Some tree buyers say the Christmas tree is more important than the piles of gifts under it.

"It's the memory-making part," said Elizabeth Langfahl of Raleigh, who was buying a tree this week with her two daughters, 3 and 6. "My girls can't tell you what they got last year, but they remember getting the Christmas tree."

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Quick hits: 'Christmas Town USA' lights up the night, and the Nature Conservancy saves a mountain

McAdenville lights up the night
"The Gaston County town of McAdenville transformed into Christmas Town USA Tuesday night," says the Charlotte Observer.

"For the 54th straight year, hundreds of buildings in the town are decorated with lights and other holiday displays. The switch to turn it all on was flipped at 4 p.m.

"McAdenville's lights – which annually attract an estimated 300,000 vehicles – date back to 1956, when Pharr Yarns installed lights at its plant and worked with residents to put lights on homes. ..."

Nature Conservancy saves a mountain (yes, a mountain)

"The Nature Conservancy has acquired 466 acres at the summit of Little Yellow Mountain in Avery and Mitchell counties, the organization announced Tuesday.

"The 5,504-foot mountain is one of the higher peaks in the Southern Appalachians and is part of a large corridor of protected land in the Greater Roan Highlands. Little Yellow can be seen prominently from the Appalachian Trail and Big Yellow Mountain Preserve. It is also part of the Audubon Society's Roan Mountain Important Bird Area," says the Citizen-Times.

"New York-based Open Space Institute proved a $1.2 million low-interest loan for the project, enabling the conservancy to reduce the total cost of the project, they said. ..."