Tag Archives: books

Destination: Asheville (Part Two)


Our visit to Asheville was very brief.   After Big Man’s dad picked us up from Greenville, we spent the night at a Holiday Inn Express that I found on Trip Advisor.   All I’ll say about our lodging is that it should have been better for what we paid, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.

We slept for about 8 hours, showered, ate in the hotel’s dining room, stocked up on fruit and yogurt and hit the road.   We ended up taking a back road from South Carolina into North Carolina–US 25, I think.  We wound our way through the dense green of the Blue Ridge Parkway and eventually found our way to their visitor’s center.  Incidentally, this was not where we needed to be.  Once we finally figured that out, it was easy enough to correct our course and find our way to the Asheville Visitor’s Center where we joined one of their hop on/hop off trolley tours.    (I’m now completely sold on city tours after the amazing time that we had last year in Chattanooga after taking Tennessee Riverboat and Lookout Mountain tours).



Big Man was excited to ride on the trolley bus and impressed by the amount of trivia and historical info that the guides had committed to memory. “How do they know all of that stuff?,” he whispered in wide-eyed wonder. (It turned out that one of the guides was actually a history teacher.) Some interesting tidbits that we learned:

* Asheville is jokingly referred to as the city built by TB.  The wealthy visited the city as a place to partake of pristine quality of air rumored to be found in that part of the Blue Ridge mountains.  Many would have their beds placed out on the verandas of their homes so that they could essentially be bathed in its purity.

* The Blue Ridge mountains are a sub-range of the Appalachian trail.  The Rockies and the Poconos are part of the same family of mountains.

* Many of the city’s architects were either from places further up the Eastern Seaboard or as far away as England.  Two of the architects were Richard Sharp Smith and Frederick Law Olmsted.

* Dogs are like honored citizens in Asheville and are welcomed in many public places, including upscale businesses like Battery Park Book Exchange, much to Big Man’s delight.

CIMG8394 CIMG8400

We hopped off the tour to visit the exquisitely-preserved vehicles at the Estes-Winn Antique Car Museum, cruised through of the River Arts District  and Biltmore Village (which appealed to me more than I thought it would) and ended our day trip with a meal at a Cuban restaurant in Battery Park and locally-grown blackberries that we bought from a small market in the elegant Grove Arcade and took along on as dessert on our drive home to Atlanta.


  CIMG8404  CIMG8405     CIMG8414

I must say that I saw few families with school-aged children walking about and even fewer people of color in Asheville.     Still, I would like to go back to stay for maybe a weekend to visit a spa, sample more of their farm-to-table cuisine and do a walking tour to get a better feel for the place.  Surely there’s far more to it than we could see in a day.

All in all, I think our Amtrak adventure was a good one and  may also  look into this Christmas Special Dinner Train run by the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum later this year.  We’ll see.

In the meantime, here is a sampling of books that relate to folk arts and crafts and culinary traditions, especially those of the Carolinas.


amtrak blog post (4)

splash of red

splash of red 2

philip simmons

amtrak blog post (5)


Asheville skyline image from www.reserveatlakekeowee.com .





Adobe House

Buildings, bridges, pipes, wiring.  If it has anything to do with building, Big Man loves it.  So, when I was strolling through Dollar Tree and saw one of those Family Fun kids’ craft books that included what they called the Stacked Skyscraper, I decided it would make a good home art project. Here are some snaps of us bringing our vision to life.

  Adobe House                  Image

After we finished free-styling the instructions and looking around at different kinds of mud-brick structures around the world like this

Old Sana’a (Yemen). According to Encyclopedia Britannica, it is one of the oldest continuously-inhabited cities of the world and was once the Arabian center for Christians and Jews.

and the more familiar,

adobe new mexico

we turned Box House into a kind of fusion of Eastern and Western traditional architecture.



Here’s a look at the finished product:


I’m still working on finding a local firm that will allow us to come in and get a quick look of how they do what they do.  In the meantime, yesterday Big Man took Adobe Box House to school yesterday for Show & Tell.   From all reports, it was a big hit :).

Adobe 8

Have any budding architects in your life?  If so, check out these books and games:

For Younger Kids (Ages 2 to 4)

Dreaming Up Cover

Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building written and illustrated by Christy Hale

For Big Kids (Ages 5 to 8)

Young Frank Architect Book

Young Frank, Architect by Frank Viva

iggy peck cover 2

Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts


Fresh Artists Memory Game: Fresh Architecture Edition by Fresh Artists, a “student-centric philanthropy group”

New York 2013: Kids’ Book Exhibit at NYPL

PHOTO Kids' Books Exhibition at NYPL (6)

I love kids books and started buying them well before I had a child.   To me, they are one of the most seamless fusions of art and text.  I enjoy them so much that when I earned my librarianship degree, Children’s and Young Adult lit was the area in which I focused my study.  Here in Atlanta, there used to be a wonderful place called Kudzu Book Fair that sold books at discounted prices.  They along with Amazon’s Marketplace are largely to thank for most of the books that are in my collection.  But  I digress.

The main point of this post is to make mention of The ABC of It, an exhibit that I chanced upon while visiting NYPL’s Schwarzman Library.     It was an exhibit that was more an exploration of children’s literature for adults more than it was an interactive show geared toward children.  That being the case, Big Man pretty much sat it out and instead enjoyed treats in the cafe with his grandmother.  I, on the other hand, nearly let out a squeal of delight to see Cassie the main character of Faith Ringgold’s Tar Beach large as life and soaring above the George Washington Bridge.  I was also delighted to see some of the original cut paper collages of Ashley Bryan.    The exhibit also recognized Langston Hughes’ work for children, the contribution that that W.E.B. Du Bois’ Brownie’s book made to the genre and taught me more than I previously knew about Pura Belpré, a predecessor on the librarian-writer path.

               Tar Beach

PHOTO Jene and Tar Beach at NYPL2 (4)
“It’s very easy, anyone can fly. All you need is somewhere to go that you can’t get to any other way. The next thing you know, you’re flying among the stars.” Cassie Louise Lightfoot
Page from Ashley Bryan’s ABC of African American Poetry
PHOTO Kids' Books Exhibition at NYPL  (6)
In front of Ashley Bryan’s cut paper collages for book, This Little Light of Mine

Hughes - First Book of Jazz (Roberts)003

LangstonHughes photo by Don Hunstein 1955
Langston Hughes once maintained an urban garden for children in his Harlem neighborhood. Photo by Don Hunstein, 1955

                              Brownie's Book

Pura Belpré was was a pioneering Nuyorican librarian, storyteller, and puppeteer.  She was also the spouse of African American classical violinist, Clarence Cameron White.
Pura Belpré was was a pioneering Nuyorican librarian, storyteller, and puppeteer. She was also the spouse of African American classical violinist, Clarence Cameron White.


New York 2013: Saint John the Divine

Clockwise from left: Rose window at National Cathedral, stained glass in nave of National Cathedral, us in front of "Big John" in Morningside Heights (NYC); Rowan Castle's photo "Nasir-ol-Molk Mosque, Shiraz, Iran" (from Lonely Planet.com)
Clockwise from left: Rose window at National Cathedral, stained glass in nave of National Cathedral, us in front of “Big John” in Morningside Heights; Rowan Castle’s photo “Nasir-ol-Molk Mosque, Shiraz, Iran” (from Lonely Planet.com)

In keeping with my promise to post more about our summer visit to NYC, here is a photo of Big Man and me that I like.  It’s of us in front of the Big John Cathedral which I learned about through Me and Momma and Big John, a picture storybook illustrated by Mara Rockliff.  It’s a beautiful book that, through the story of one family, tells of a apprentice program that put formerly-unemployed NYC residents to work by training them to be, primarily, stonemasons.   The cathedral also had arts programs that trained children to weave and make ceramics; was home to a theatre and dance troupe and an artist-in-residence who is also the resident tightrope walker (for more on this see also “Manhattan’s Medieval Masterpiece” by Michele Lansberg featured in 1989 issue of Reader’s Digest and printed here).  I had to indulge my inner art nerd by paying a visit.   Since Big Man seems inclined toward architecture or engineering, I thought he’d enjoy seeing it too.   And he did.  Even though we’ve not visited the National Cathedral in D.C. or the Nasir al Mulk mosque I include those photos in the collage as a reminder of the architectural kinship that exists between some of the most majestic churches, mosques and synagogues, Big John included.