Friday, May 29, 2015

Sweets, eats and ales in Travelers Rest

With my sister and her husband in town from New York City, it was no surprise that we tried a few restaurants in addition to the favorites. On previous trips we had done the barbecue at Henry’s Smokehouse (a favorite spot of mine), and on their most recent trip we had already checked out the Thoroughfare food truck on Thursday night at Quest Brewing. It was on our excursion up north, to Pretty Place and the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area that we checked a few more places off our list, with stops in Traveler’s Rest, the gateway to the Blue Ridge.

First we stopped at Upcountry Provisions Bakery & Bistro to “provision” ourselves for the long trip up into the mountains. The croissants and cinnamon buns are always a hit with the boys, and the adults tried out a variety of sandwiches which were as appetizing as they were fresh. Fabled Pretty Place was all it had been described to be, and after stops at Caesars Head and Bald Rock we had again worked up an appetite. As a treat for the youngest of the travelers we headed first to Cool Mama's Ice Cream. Previously Trailside Creamery with only soft-serve ice cream, I think Cool Mama’s has a good chance with a full selection of flavors. On these hot summer days it’s just the place to recuperate after a day hiking Jones Gap or biking the Swamp Rabbit Trail – on the porch with a waffle cone of espresso ice cream watching the traffic on the trail is the essence of a lazy summer evening in the Upstate.

Although we partook in the ice cream-eating, the adults were far from sated; as it was just a matter of crossing the street, we cut across US-276 to Swamp Rabbit Brewery and Taproom. A relatively new addition to the TR scene, the brewery opened early in 2014 and has been promoting local brews since! The brewery was installed by Ben Pierson, a classically trained brewer with 30 years experience who honed his craft in Germany. Adjacent to Shortfields, a driveway on the south side of the building leads past a mural and wall of hops to a parking lot in back, often sporting a food truck as the brewery is BYOF, bring your own food. (The mural by Brigitte Selby includes a barrel as a nod to the history of moonshining in the region that gave the “dark corner” its nickname, a rabbit in honor of the Swamp Rabbit Trail, and the bars on the window remain from the building’s previous incarnation as a post office.)

On our visit it was Ray’s Mobile Food & Mo. cooking up some delicious eats, with a menu full of southern favorites such as fried mac & cheese and burgers. We settled in on the back porch with a beer while we waited on our food and the boys played board games. The brewery has a changing menu of beers on tap, with a tasting menu for those looking to get a wider appreciation of the choices and still emerge (somewhat) sober. We dug into our food as the place filled up with the evening crowd, the stools around the bar remaining full all evening, and reluctantly left before the children made themselves unwelcome.

Watching the game at IPA

It was shortly before our guests left to return to New York that we ducked into Independent Public Alehouse for ale and appetizers (not quite Travelers Rest, but on the way north on 276!). Someday we’ll make it back for the live music, but until that time I’ll be content tasting my way through their menu, this time trying out a starter that I wouldn’t have tried without the urging of Andrejs - “Oysterhead” (fried golden oysters with horseradish sauce). The oysters and the fried green tomatoes with spicy pimento cheese were delicious, tiding us over until dinner later that evening – served on the porch overlooking the backyard, enjoying each other’s company with the convenience of beds to put the boys in once they dozed. The next morning Anna and Andrejs were off, much too soon for the three sad munchkins left waving goodbyes in the yard… Hopefully they’ll come back soon so we can continue our tour of Upstate breweries, restaurants and food trucks!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Greenville's Elite Cobras soccer

Yesterday was City of Greenville’s Youth Soccer Night, which made for an exciting Tuesday night, especially factoring in the thunderstorms that moved through later on in the evening. It was the final soccer game for Lauris and Mikus, and after receiving awards for their participation this season we headed downtown to the Kroc Center.

The Salvation Army Ray & Joan Kroc Community Center is minutes from downtown, just west of the city on S. Academy Street. The fields beyond are home to the Carolina Elite Cobras, a privately owned women’s professional amateur soccer franchise under the leadership of head coach Andrew Hyslop. The Cobras compete in the Southeastern Conference of the USL W-League, and last night had a game against the Charlotte Lady Eagles.

The City of Greenville youth soccer players had the honor of escorting the Cobras onfield for the National Anthem before the start of the game. The little kids looked tiny against the giant green field, but little miniature versions of the players with their shin guards and jerseys. Once the game started they scattered, some to watch the game, some to play in the kids area.

If you’re coming to watch the game, there are bleachers available for seating but many spectators had brought folding chairs for a more comfortable sit. Slices of pizza and hot dogs were for sale in addition to water and a few other options, and the restroom facilities inside the Kroc Center are available for use.

It was nearing the end of the first half with the Cobras trailing by two points when the first peals of thunder sounded off in the distance. Not too long after the ref called a 30-minute halt to the game, but we couldn’t stick around to see if the game would resume – bedtime was rapidly approaching for the little soccer fans.

The Elite Cobras head to Dayton for a game against the Dutch Lions Saturday, but will be back in Greenville in a few weeks for a game against the Braddock Road team out of Virginia. Their final home game of the season will be on July 11th against Charlotte. For more information on the Greenville Elite Cobras, please visit their website

Monday, May 25, 2015

Ooh la la, France!

Friday we packed our bags for France… in Greenville! We travel the world with a group of friends, every month stopping in a different country; this month, Mikus’s birthplace, our home for three years and a place I still dream about – France!

I volunteered to host la grande affaire, pulling out all the stops to share some of what we experienced while living in la belle France. To facilitate participation we split the kids up into groups, letting them explore the stations at their own speed. I led the gateau au yaourt baking in the kitchen, using the super-easy yogurt cake recipe that children in France learn to cook with. The excitement over donning aprons and cracking eggs was tangible, and the resulting cake was delicious as always, even the accidental one sans eggs – we were so busy having fun we forgot a few ingredients!

My mother put on her teaching hat… er, beret, and covered French artist Monet. After discussing his love of nature, his temper and the roots of French Impressionism, they proceeded to make Monet water lily-inspired art by soaking cold press watercolor paper in water and then using squeeze bottles filled with nontoxic liquid watercolors to create vibrant explosions of color. After the color spreads through capillary action, sprinkling on some salt on the still-wet paint produces a salt-effect, little starbursts of texture. Using white tempera paint some artists added their own water lilies, and I think several of the parents were surprised with the quality of the resulting works of art. (My mother suggests these Strathmore watercolor postcards as an ideal summer art project that can be shared with family and friends via USPS…)

Another mother set up a mosaic station for the opportunity to learn and glue the colors of the French flag. In addition to the dozen children’s books we had out from our time abroad (a couple even in English: Henri's Walk to Paris and and Mr. Chicken Goes to Paris) and the Madeline DVD we had playing, I had ordered felt berets for the kids to take home with them. Maybe slightly over-the-top, but our petits voyageurs loved them and it provided a great photo-op! Among the guests was also a grand-mère de France, a complete coincidence but perfect addition as she was able to add another dimension to our studies, including a French chanson pour enfants, madaleines and Le Petit Ecolier, treats my sons had not tasted for several years.

Lunchtime. Our déjeuner was far from petit! Our friend had made Salade Niçoise, oeufs farcis and ratatouille, and of course we sampled the yogurt cake the kids had baked themselves. Another friend brought quiches and croque-monsieurs that disappeared faster than you can say mon dieu  and some fresh baguettes and tarts from local Legrand French bakery. My contribution was cherry clafouti and Galette des Rois – the Feast of Epiphany king cake with a fève hidden inside that one lucky participant found in her slice.

Once we had finished crowning the queen (and she had chosen her king), we continued our feast with a French cheese and wine tasting. Although our Trader Joe’s has a good selection, I had made the trip to Whole Foods for the day’s selection; Blue de Auvergne (a blue cheese from the region we lived in), St Nectaire (also from the Auvergne), Pyrenees Brebis Herve Mons & bucherondin (sheep and goat’s milk, respectively) with a brie to round out the plate. I had originally thought to offer a red and a white wine (and I found two vins de Bordeaux that fit the bill at Whole Foods), but amended that to a red, white and rosé! when I realized it is almost summer and that’s what I would be drinking if I were in Aix-en-Provence, after all (right Sara Louise?!!!?).

It was early evening when the last beret-wearing enfant left. We were tired from a day of rambunctious children and so dinner was basically leftovers, but thankfully Roberts didn’t complain when he was served a selection of French cheese for dinner! Maybe it was the rosé that had something to do with it? 

Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop

Friday, May 22, 2015

A wild zoo party!

Lauris is five years old! We celebrated once with my sister and her husband, once on the actual day, and finally with a group of friends last Sunday. Sticking to the rule of years=guests, we invited five friends to the zoo with burgers and cake afterwards in Cleveland Park.

The idea came about when discussing possible themes; Lauris wanted to go somewhere to celebrate, and the zoo was the only realistic answer I received when asked where he would like to go. (Skiing in May in the South, anyone?) We set up in the picnic shelter, greeted our guests and finally ventured in through the gates, passports in hand. Using animal print paper from a craft shop, images from the internet and a little help from my mother, we made a scavenger hunt for the kids to complete while in the zoo. When they found an animal and answered the question they got their book stamped, an easy way to keep the group together and moving on through. It was a beautiful day at the Greenville Zoo, and I think the kids had a good time.

We emerged to find the grillmeister had been hard at work. I had filled up the big drink dispenser with lemonade, and the kids had a giggle with these cups – the beaver snout made an appearance at dinner tonight! Pinterest yielded a carved watermelon in the shape of a hedgehog that came out pretty cute, and we made sure to have a ton of veggies for the kids to snack on in addition to burgers and hot dogs. 

the toothpicks are the hedgehog's quills

After a quick dinner the kids were off to play on the playground for a bit, the benefit of reserving a shelter in Cleveland Park. However soon enough they were back, and we tried out these cool tattoos, transforming their hands into animals of all shapes and colors.

I had so much fun making the cake this year, and it was actually pretty easy (the hardest part was transporting it to the park). Using a double batch of my go to chocolate cake recipe from Martha Stewart I made a double layer 10-inch cake and a single-layer 8-inch cake. The darker frosting was with dark chocolate, the lighter with milk chocolate. Add cocoa batons from Trader Joe’s for the fencing, palm tree cake toppers (left over from the pirate cake), chocolate rocks ordered online, brown sugar sand to cover up the parchment paper at the base and a Wild TOOB, and you have a zoo cake! As the jello ocean was such a hit at Mikus’s party, I used a variation of it for a third enclosure – although I hope never to see a dolphin and an alligator in the same pool…

After opening up a few presents we regrouped in the grassy area with the piñata. Finding it a bit morbid to hit an animal (piñata) with a stick, I had hoped to find a palm tree or something jungle-themed at our party store. However we emerged with a giant pink star which the boys helped grandmother embellish with additional colors and patterns for a wild result.

Evening slowly crept up on us, and after a bit more playground fun, racing, snacking and even some face painting it was time to bid adieu to the guests and pack up. The guests headed home with goodie bags filled with (what else!) animal crackers and goldfish to counter the sugar of the candy gathered from the piñata, while the five year old headed home with a full stomach of cake and jello. Vilis and his first birthday are up next!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Bald Rock Heritage Preserve

There are places in the Upstate so beautiful, so unique, that we take all our visitors there. It was on our way back from Pretty Place (a really tough act to follow!) with Andrejs and Anna that we stopped at Bald Rock once more, even though they had been once before on a previous visit.

Headed north on US 276 towards Caesars Head State Park you will pass a small turn-out about 5 miles before reaching the Park headquarters. This time of year there is almost always someone selling something out of a pickup – usually local honey or jams – parked at the turnoff, really just a wide spot in the road. Exercise extreme caution when pulling off or returning to the highway as a portion of the dirt parking area is in the curve.  After parking on the east side of the road cross the wooden footbridge to the rock outcrop. If you’re using mapping software or apps using the intersection of 276 & Club Terrace Drive in Cleveland will get you very close to the turn off; it’s actually just 1/10th of a mile south.

Bald Rock is a granite outcrop about two acres in size, surrounded by seeps, waterslides and a variety of mixed pines and hardwoods. Lichens and mosses have colonized a percentage of the rock outcrops, while the rest has been spray-painted by vandals. Although visitors are often dismayed by the unimaginative “john was here” and “harry loves sally” graffiti, the elements eventually prevail, wiping the slate clean for the next artist to use as his/her canvas.

The Bald Rock Heritage Preserve totals 165 acres and is part of the larger Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area. Adjacent to Caesars Head SP, the reserve is key in protecting two headwater streams that are essential in maintaining several groups of rare plant species including the nationally threatened piedmont ragwort, state threatened grass-of-parnassus, and other rare species such as the New England cottontail, woodrat and northern long-eared bat. From Bald Rock visitors gaze out over Greenville and Pickens counties with a great view of the east side of Table Rock Mountain

On our recent visit the boys were able to explore further than they had ever been before thanks to the leadership of onkulis Andrejs. Anna and I had doubts whether they would make it back up of their own steam, but they did, the story of all they had seen overflowing from their lips even before they reached our vantage point. We crossed the expanse of rock to the stream where we let the boys explore for a few more minutes before continuing the route down the mountain; we still had several things to cross off of our to-do list before we could head home.

Monday, May 18, 2015

A hopping-good weekend!

I’m finally sitting down after a heck of a weekend – and all I want to do is go to sleep. However, we just got done looking through some of the pictures taken (and having a good laugh at some of them!) and I’m super excited about some of the posts coming up these next weeks: a little bit of travel in the Upstate, a local celebrity, a themed cake and another community garden. Most of that was last week, however this weekend kept us hopping too…

…with the Park Hop that is. We’re joining in the LiveWell Greenville park scavenger hunt again this year, and headed to Conestee Park for the opening ceremony. Braving the crowds and hot sun, we had fun playing games with the various participating organizations. We hit baseballs, threw Frisbees, ran golf ball races and measured our vertical jumps. It didn’t take much to convince this mom to jump – seems like I’ve still got (a little of) it, I hit the 17 inch mark. We snapped this picture with General Yucky Ducky, the Greenville County Soil and Water Conservation District mascot who reminds the kids to keep our waterways clean…

…and here I am, all cleaned up. Roberts and I celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary with a dinner at Breakwater Restaurant and Bar on the West End. A big thank you to vecmamma Inga for taking care of the three hoppers while we enjoyed the peace and quiet that comes with our first night out alone in almost a year.

Sunday was the last of Lauris’s birthday celebration, with a visit to the GreenvilleZoo and a party in Cleveland Park. We said goodbye to Kiko who is leaving for greener pastures at the Toronto Zoo, and admired the progress made on what will be the giant anteater/rhea enclosure. The two month old siamang was cute as can be, getting a ride from mom around the enclosure, and spring was in the air for the Aldabran tortoises, who were the most frisky I have ever seen them. It was a wonderful afternoon with good friends, and now that the party planning is over we can relax and enjoy our time with the grandparents, as vectētiņš is arriving tomorrow! 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Six years

In honor of the big G50 celebration coming up and our 6th wedding anniversary! We married in Three Rivers, MI and celebrated with family and friends in Gaŗezers. It was a slightly chilly spring morning, but the dogwoods were blooming, the forest was bright green with buds and I said “yes” to the man I love most in the world.

Mīļais Robert, daudz laimes 6. kāzu jubilējā! 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Thursday nights at Quest Brewing Co.

There is no shortage of things to do on a Thursday night in Greenville, but if you’ve ‘been there, done that’ Downtown Alive scene then you have no choice but to head to Quest Brewing Co. for a night of family-friendly fun. My sister and her husband were in town last week to help celebrate Lauris’s birthday, and hearing that Mountain Homes was playing that evening at Quest’s weekly concert sealed the deal for us – we headed towards the Greenville Downtown Airport.

Quest Brewing Company is located on 55 Airview Dr. just east of the airport. There’s plenty of parking, and we joined the flow of people walking with their folding chairs and picnic blankets. The setup is simple; everything is outdoors, with the stage, the brewery and a food truck forming a triangle. On our visit it was Thoroughfare Food Truck dishing up choice eats such as disco tots (tater tots smothered in white cheddar gravy), meatloaf sandwiches and fish tacos.

You are allowed to bring lawn chairs, blankets and bottled water, and children (of the two and four legged variety) are welcome. Dogs must remain leashed and owners must dispose of pet waste. In case of rain the concert will take place inside the brewery, and no outside food or drink is allowed, although the food trucks and Quest have all the bases covered. As far as beer goes I enjoy a darker, hoppy beer and so Quest’s Smoking Mirror smoked porter has become a favorite, but the seasonal brews and barrel-aged IPAs I’ve tried all have been good. We watched the kids run around with new friends, listened to Mountain Homes do their thing and enjoyed the evening with our guests as the sun set on another awesome spring evening in Greenville. I just thought to myself – why don’t we do this more often?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Toms Skujiņš and a big win for Latvian cycling

Even as the Latvians were defeated by France in a hockey shootout in yesterday’s IIHF Championship game, they avoided relegation to Division 1, sending Austria instead. However the Latvian sports spotlight centers on California today, where Stage 3 of the Amgen Tour of California ended yesterday with a solid 1st place finish by Latvian cyclist Toms Skujiņš. Watch his winner's interview here.

Source here

Along with teammate Andžs Flaksis, Toms is riding for the world-class Hincapie Racing Team. The cycling team based right here in Greenville has a focus on road bicycle racing; they joined the UCI Continental Tour in partnership with UCI ProTour team BMC Racing in 2012.

Source here

In Stage 3 yesterday Toms Skujiņš broke off with six other riders only to complete a 55km solo ride to the finish, 32 seconds ahead of 2nd place. The 32-year old debuted in 2013, receiving the inaugural Cyclist of the Year award presented by the Latvian Cycling Federation.

In recent years cycling has seen a resurgence in popularity in Latvia. The most famous might be Māris Štrombergs, who in 2008 won gold in Beijing, becoming the first and only Olympic champion in BMX cycling as he won a repeat gold in 2012 in London. Many of these athletes are competing in cycling events across the world; you might remember last August when the 2014 Union Cycliste Internationale Para-Cycling World Championships were in town and we hosted Latvian Oskars Gailišs. And of course this year we’re excited to be cheering on Toms and Andžs, and we will be following their progress today in Stage 4.

You can follow Toms on twitter @Tomashuuns
Here is the play-by-play of yesterday’s win, straight from Toms’ blog: How the hell did that happen?

Monday, May 11, 2015

A Pretty Place

Have we really exhausted all the scenic spots in the Upstate to take our guests? Not by a long shot, although this particular place is accessible only by crossing four state lines… Into North Carolina, then back into South Carolina, and of course retracing our steps on the way home.

Tucked into the NE corner of the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area is YMCA Camp Greenville. Encompassing 1,400 acres, Camp Greenville was established in 1912. Not just a summer camp, there is also a year-round environmental education center, a group and conference center, a wedding venue and Fred W. Symmes Chapel.

The chapel at the top of Standing Stone Mountain is locally referred to as "Pretty Place" because of the breathtaking view rivaling that of Jumping Off Rock, and has become a popular place to exchange vows; more than 100 couples get married there a year. Because of the frequent ceremonies and services, it is recommended that visitors call ahead to verify that the chapel is open to the public; dialing (864) 836-3291 (extension 0) will reach a recording with information on scheduled events.

The current chapel was constructed in 1941 and most recently major upgrades were made in 2012. Every aspect of the chapel is stunning – my boys were even impressed by the facilities! (Which are open only April through October.)

To reach Fred W. Symmes Chapel we drove north from the entrance to Caesars Head State Park on US 276. After making the first right onto YMCA Camp Road it’s another 5 miles until the parking area. Just as with the road up to Caesars Head, the way to Pretty Place is winding and steep in places. It is about 1 hour and 15 minutes from Greenville, and you are likely to see wildlife on or near the road.

It’s not necessary to drive to reach Pretty Place; a challenging 8 mile round-trip hike from Jones Gap State Park will take you past Hospital Rock 1,800 feet up Cleveland Cliff. I can imagine the view comes as a mighty fine reward after that hike... Open from dawn until dusk, the sun rises to the east over Jones Gap State Park and the Middle Saluda River Valley. I hope to someday return to watch the sun come up, although I can’t imagine navigating those roads in the dark – they are challenging enough in the daytime.

A day trip to Pretty Place is easily combined with stops and hikes at Caesars Head State Park, Bald Rock, Wildcat Wayside and Raven Cliff Falls. On a beautiful day such as we had on Friday, we made frequent stops, soaking in the unparalleled views of the Upstate from several of those spots. Although there is no shortage of “pretty places” in the Upstate, Fred W. Symmes Chapel provides one of the most exceptional scenic viewpoints in Upstate South Carolina; I hope you have the opportunity to see it for yourself.

Friday, May 8, 2015

A Friday high-five

Five things that got our attention this week:

It’s strawberry season! How I look forward to those first fresh berries, the shakes, the cakes, the smoothies and of course, going strawberry picking! We tried a new farm this year, Sandy Flat Berry Farm, and had a great morning in the fields. Located northwest of Greer, they are also a vendor at the Travelers Rest Farmers Market. More info here.

With ģimenes diena/mother’s day coming up we placed some orders for flowers and discovered this company. With arrangements for a flat rate of $40 (including shipping to anywhere in the US) they are cut to order fresh from eco-friendly, sustainable farms in California and Ecuador. These farms provide living wages, childcare, healthcare and adult education to their workers, and the growing business supports the local farm communities. Follow this link for a buy one, get one free offer.

Unable to wait on the city to reach an agreement about regulating food trucks, euphoria and Table 301 have teamed up to bring Lunchtime Pile-Up to downtown Greenville. Every Wednesday there will be food trucks parked on the corner of Falls and Broad Streets, and on our visit Wednesday we had the choice of Ellada Kouzina, the Chuck Truck, Sweetly Twisted and gourmet shaved ice from the Nomadik Few. The boys opted for ice while we waited in line for Ellada Kouzina. Tell you what, the 30 minute wait in the sun wasn’t easy with the boys and we won’t be repeating the experience anytime soon, especially as the menu options had drastically decreased by the time we reached the front of the line. But the gyros sandwich was good; sorry to all the folks in line who shared the wait with a screaming baby.

My favorite children’s book that I’m not reading to the kids - Outlaw Pete. The story song is by Bruce Springsteen and is illustrated by Frank Caruso, and the tale follows hot on the heels of this criminal baby on his “trail of tears across the countryside.” To be fair it is not actually meant for children, but Springsteen’s rough edges are all there as are fantastic western illustrations fit for framing.

…and this discovery in the depths of the Baltic Sea… 170 year old bottles of champagne! The first and only time the words “animal notes,” “wet hair,” “reduction,” and  “cheesy" will be used to describe Clicquot?

Wishing everyone a happy weekend, mother’s day, ģimenes diena and Lauris’s fifth birthday! We’re celebrating with my sister and her husband, and my mother will be arriving soon after to help with my three little outlaws…

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Mountain Homes at WolfOak's spring bonfire

There are those instances when a series of events unfold that make it seem as if it were destined for everything to work out. Last year we attended our Dutch friend’s spring bonfire down in Piedmont, but this year we were slated to be traveling that weekend; I was super disappointed that we were going to miss what had been a fantastic evening with friends, food and great music. The event was rescheduled, but the new date didn’t work much better, as Roberts was traveling and we had a large group of people over to bid farewell to friends of ours moving out of state. So it was fate that the entire week prior to the new proposed date it rained, and the spring bonfire was once more rescheduled – to a date when we could make it!

The wolf oak

In the Netherlands it is an important Easter tradition to light a bonfire on Easter Sunday that has often been weeks or sometimes even months in the making. The paasvuur are lit as darkness falls, with entire villages coming out for the event. This past weekend as evening approached, friends bearing homemade dishes descended on WolfOak, the idyllic spot for this spring gathering.

As the horses watched from their pasture, Mountain Homes set up their equipment and launched into their first set. My friends had first heard them at Bohemian (a restaurant in our neck of the woods), immediately fell in love with their unique sound and invited them to play the night of the bonfire. Their folksy Americana was perfect in the country setting of Monique’s estate, the audience gathered at picnic tables under the majestic wolf oak that gives the property its name.

Mountain Homes seamlessly blends guitar, banjo, mandolin, cello, bass, drums and viola to present a sound verging on bluegrass. The sun slowly set to the stories contained in their melodic ballads, and to the children’s delight the bonfire was finally lit. The band kept jamming, shadows growing long and light from the fire reflected on their faces.

We filled plates with delicious food, going back for seconds and thirds and topping everything off with s’mores. The kids were drunk with the freedom only afforded at WolfOak, freedom to do as they pleased all night long. They danced, then disappeared for what seemed like hours at a time only to reappear with instruments with which to join in and jam with the band. They fed the fire, with sticks and with pine needles, the bonfire flaring at moments seemingly in arrangement with the music. The animals hovered, hoping for a stray fork full of food to land at their feet but settling in at our feet hypnotized by the fire and tunes.

If only the evening didn’t have to end. It was long after the band had played their final notes and packed up that we found ourselves around the fire with three very tired children. I can’t wait to see what Monique has in store for us next year!

If you would like to catch Mountain Homes live, they are playing events at Quest Brewing Company tomorrow at 7pm, and at Chief’s next Monday. I urge you to check these guys out – how great is it to have awesome talent like this right here in the Upstate! And more on the guesthouse and urban farm WolfOak here; you can also follow them on facebook or book them on

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