Blog

Community Updates

 

We will keep this list updated as we receive information. If you are a business and have an update for us, please email info@ncliving.com. (Updated 4/03/20 at  2:30 pm)

 

NORTH CAROLINA STATE COVID-19 HOTLINE: 866-462-3821


The Town of Highlands bans gatherings of 10 or more and now requires that any visitor coming to reside overnight self-quarantine for fourteen days upon arrival. Highlands police department will be conducting checkpoints to gain compliance with new prohibitions and restrictions.

Jackson County requires visitors to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival.

North Carolina schools K-12 have been closed until May 15. 

The Bascom, Highlands Biological Station, and Highlands Recreation Park will be closed until March 31.

All hotels, home-sharing, nail salons, and hair salons are closed in Jackson and Macon County.

Fontana Regional Library and Albert Carlton-Cashiers Community Library are closed.

DuPont State Forest is closed.

The southernmost 14 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway, from Milepost 455 to 469, is closed.

Great Smoky Mountain National Park is closed until April 6, this includes access to the park, trails, and roads.

 

Black Sheep Taxi is offering delivery of takeout from restaurants, grocery stores, pharmacy, shopping, etc. Call, text 828-200-7006 or  theflock@blacksheeptaxi.com. Rates are posted on their website for one-way trips.  

 

Events

Highlands Festivals Inc. Spring Concert is canceled.

The Village Green is open but all Easter activities have been canceled.

 

Cashiers Businesses

Cashiers Kitchen Co. is closed.

Cashiers Valley Pharmacy Open Monday- Friday 8 am-6 pm and Saturdays 8 am - 2 pm 828-743-3114

Ingles is offering a special shopping hour for seniors, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 7 am to 8 am.

United Community Bank will remain open by drive-thru and appointment only.

Zoller Hardware is open and offering curbside pickup.

 

Cashiers Restaurants

Buck's Coffee - Open for takeout 7 am - 6 pm. Every Wednesday morning from 7 am to 10 am, all medical & emergency personnel can enjoy a complimentary to-go beverage.

Chili Loco - Offering takeout. Call 828-743-1160. See website for menu.

Cork and Barrel Lounge - Offering takeout Wednesday - Saturday 4 pm - 9 pm. Call 828-743-7477

Cornucopia is closed at this time.

Mica's - Offering takeout from 11 am - 6 pm. Call 828-743-5740. See website for menu.

Randevu - Offering takeout from 9 am - 2 pm. Closed on Monday and Tuesday. Closed 828-743-0190.

Slab Town Pizza - Offering takeout from 11:30 am-5 pm Call 828-7743-0020 See website for menu.

The Library Kitchen & Bar - Offering takeout and delivery (5-mile radius) Tuesday-Saturday place order between 12 pm - 6 pm and pick up between 4 pm-7 pm. Discounted menu for takeout and offering wine by the bottle to-go. 

The Ugly Dog in Cashiers - Offering takeout. Call 828-743-3000 and visit their website.

Winslow's Hideaway - Offering to-go and delivery orders. Call 828-743-2226.

Whiteside Brewing Co. - Call 828-743-6000. Offering takeout 11:30 am - 8 pm (closed Wednesday and Sunday).

Zookeeper Bistro is closed at this time.

 

 

Highlands Businesses

All businesses and restaurants are closed except those offering curbside service:

Highlands Wine Shoppe - Offering wine delivery. Call 828-526-4080, Tuesday - Saturday 12pm-5pm.

The Skin Lab - Offering medical-grade skincare for home care or curbside by order. Call 704-575-2038.

 

Highlands Restaurants

4418 Kitchen & Bar - Offering curbside pickup from 11:30 am-7 pm. Call 828-526-5002.

Asia House is closed at this time.

Blue Bike Cafe - Offering curbside breakfast and lunch, Monday-Friday 9 am - 2 pm. Call 828-526-9922 or order off ChowNow.

Bridge at Mill Creek - Offering curbside takeout from 5 pm - 9 pm (Closed on Tuesdays). Call 828-526-5500. See the menu on their Facebook page.

Cake Bar - Taking orders Monday through Thursday for Friday or Saturday afternoon pick up. Call 828-421-2042.

Calder's Coffee Cafe is closed at this time.

Four65 Wood Fire Bistro & Bar is closed at this time.

Highlands Burritos is closed.

Highlands Smokehouse - Offering curbside pickup, Thursday - Saturday 11 am-8 pm and Sunday 11 am - 7 pm. Call 828-526-3554 or order online.

Kilwin's is closed at this time.

Lakeside Restaurant - Offering curbside and in-town delivery. Open Tuesday- Saturday. Call 828-526-9419.

Midpoint - Offering curbside pick-up, Thursday-Sunday 1 pm - 7 pm. Call 828-526-2277.

The Ugly Dog Pub - Offering curbside and delivery from 11:30 am - 9 pm. Call 828-526-8364 or order online on ChowNow.

Tug's Proper is closed at this time.

Wild Thyme is closed at this time.

Whole Life Market - Offering curbside service. Call 828-526-5999.

Liquid Gold

Picking out an olive oil can be an overwhelming experience. The number of oil-containing bottles and tins gracing a grocery store’s shelves is almost as impressive as the cardboard boxes lining the cereal aisle. Of course like breakfast cereals, not all olive oils are created the same. So how do you choose? Maybe you look at price. Maybe you just go for the same one you’ve always bought. Maybe you just pick one with a pretty picture on the label. Or, maybe, you choose one based on what you think you know and like about olive oil. Bottomline, no matter what you eventually decide on—be it extra virgin, virgin, refined, pure … one that hail’s from Greece, from Italy, from Croatia, from the U.S. … one that’s organic … one that’s lite … or one that’s flavor-infused, be forewarned, there’s far more to choosing an olive oil than simply glancing at the label.  
Don’t judge an olive oil by its cover
In 2010, the University of California at Davis Olive Center and the Australian Oils Research Laboratory in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, published a report on the quality of olive oils readily available in America’s grocery stores. And of the 19 brands tested, “69 percent of imported olive oil samples and 10 percent of California olive oil samples labeled as extra virgin failed to meet the IOC/USDA standards for extra virgin olive oil.” The study, partially funded by California olive oil producers, received its fair share of criticism but nonetheless, proved what many expert olive oil tasters had been saying for years—not all EVOO labeled as so, is indeed EVOO. 
     “If you’re using olive oil for the health benefits,” says Chicago-based culinary expert and Iron Chef America judge-in-rotation Mario Rizzotti, “but it’s not really olive oil, then you’re not getting the health benefits.” And in a country plagued by cardiovascular problems, diabetes, and obesity problems, it’s vital to do as much as possible to improve our overall health—which is why Rizzotti is on a mission to help Americans choose products, and foods, that will put everyone on the road to better health—one EVOO spoonful at a time. 
Drizzle, don’t dip
     “What we’re trying to accomplish is to promote the healthy benefits of authentic Italian food and authentic Italian ingredients,” Rizzotti says. “There are so many things out there that people consider Italian that in Italy, we don’t even have.” 
     And one of those things, says Rizzotti, is the presentation of bread baskets with accompanying bowls of olive oil before the meal.
     “That’s not Italian,” he said. 
     “Really?” I asked. I mean you can barely go to an Italian restaurant here in the U.S. without a substantial serving of bread hitting your table long before your meal arrives. And so, admittedly, I was skeptical. How can that be? It’s a staple practice in most stateside Italian restaurants but here was a genuine Italian chef telling me the practice was anything but authentic Italian. So I Googled it, and as it turns out, Google agreed with the Italian. 
     “I use olive oil for cooking,” explained Rizzotti, “but really good olive oil should be used for finishing dishes and drizzled on food once its prepared.” He uses Terre Rosse DOP Umbria Kosher Organic EVOO, which he has shipped directly to him from Italy’s Umbria region, just north of Rome, bordering Tuscany. Interested in trying the oil Rizzotti dubs liquid gold? You can purchase Terre Rosse on his website, MarioRizzotti.com, $22 for 250ml. 
     Curious about other olive oils? Or maybe you have a favorite and want to see how it stacks up to world-renowned oils. Check out BestOliveOils.com for the most recent list of The World’s Best Olive Oils. The list represents compiled results from the New York International Olive Oil Competition, the world’s largest most comprehensive olive oil quality contest. Or better yet, plan to attend the 2019 event, May 10 in NYC and be one of the first to experience award-winning olive oils paired with regional specialties from around the world by the International Culinary Center team and NYIOOC Resident Chef Perola Polillo. Tickets go on sale Feb. 15. More information visit NYOliveOil.com.
How to choose an olive oil
When purchasing EVOO, there’s plenty to consider and individual palates have different opinions as to what tastes good and what doesn’t. Therefore, the best advice is twofold—first, educate yourself on the different varietals, and second, don’t be afraid to experiment with new oils. 
     “There’s lots of good olive oils,” said Rizzotti, "and lots of opinions," he added. But whether you choose an oil from his homeland of Italy, or one from anywhere in the globe, he wants you to know these two things: 
     One, “cold pressed” doesn’t really mean cold: It only means the olives cannot be pressed in an environment with a temperature exceeding 80.6 F. In other words, it’s marketing lingo consumers have come to associate with quality but in all actuality, doesn’t directly correlate. 
     And two, just like the “Product of Italy” quote on the back of his cooking jacket, if you want an Italian olive oil, the label, in accordance with Italian law, must say either Product of Italy or 100% Italian. "Made from Italian Olives," "Packaged in Italy," and "Made in Italy" don't assure an authentic product. •

The Musical History of Western North Carolina

Sitting on a mountaintop in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina, legend has it that if you listen very carefully, you can still hear the drumbeats of the Cherokee Indians that once rose above these mountains. Prior to the 1800s, the powerfully moving sound created by these Native Americans juddered through the mountains, telling the stories of tribal life. Their community centered on music that led them into ceremonial games, dances, celebrations, healing chants, and daily activities. Their musical notes came from instruments such as homemade drums, hand-carved flutes, and rattles or idiophones made from turtle shells. Their original staccato-like drumbeats, as well as their more elaborate melodies, laid the roots for what was to develop into a land even more abundant with sound, vibration, and song.
The rich history of music in these mountains is varied, to say the least. Once the early settlers from England, Scotland, and Ireland arrived, bringing with them traditional ballads using flutes, fiddles, and pipes, the deep musical sounds that once echoed from mountain to mountain changed. The old Cherokee melodies began to mingle and mix with the new to form something multi-cultural. With the additional influence of enslaved Africans, who brought to the southern states the banjo made from gourds and animal hides, the melodic notes, beats, and tunes blended together to form a bluegrass-country style of music using drums, banjos, mandolins, harmonicas, and fiddles. 
Along with these musical enrichments came clog dancing, known today as “clogging.” Toe-tapping with clogs was a musical instrument on its own but paired with the fiddle, this new style of music became a popular accompaniment to any gathering in the southern region. Again with the confluence of dance styles of the Cherokee and African slaves, a harmonious series of step dances came to eventually form square dancing.
As the music was handed down from generation to generation, the expressive lyrics told stories of the past brought forth by the early settlers’ balladry. Slowly this classic music became more twangy and progressive, leading to country, bluegrass, blues, and sacred sounds. String bands began to form and lively performances of vocal and instrumental compositions could be heard far and wide around campfires, on front porches, at jamborees and festivals, and meeting houses.
The twentieth century brought explosive change to bluegrass and country music with the entrance of Charlie Poole and Bill Monroe to the scene. An old-time banjo player from North Carolina, Charlie Poole formed one of the first well-known country string bands called The North Carolina Ramblers that recorded many popular songs from 1925 to 1930. Monroe performed live on North Carolina radio stations in the mid-30s on his way to forming the Blue Grass Boys, which was dubbed the “Original Bluegrass Band.” Then came Earl Scruggs, who was born in North Carolina in 1924 and joined the Blue Grass Boys along with Lester Flatts in 1945. Scruggs was a chief influencer in bluegrass until his death in 2012 and was a musical hero to folk-bluegrass-rock musician Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead. It was Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs’ classic recording of Foggy Mountain Banjo that influenced so many newcomers to bluegrass.  
Famously called a “walking archive of mountain music,” Mary Jane Queen, a twentieth-century Irish ballad and banjo player from Jackson County, was one of the few local greats to receive a distinguished National Heritage Fellowship in 1993 and, posthumously in 2007, the North Carolina Heritage Award.  Multi-Grammy award-winning Doc Watson, considered the father of southern Appalachian root music with his fingerstyle and flat-picking guitar skills, was another twentieth-century North Carolina trendsetter of bluegrass, folk, country, blues, and gospel music. 
Today, music in these mountains continues to be heard, but with even more fervor. Comedian, actor, writer, producer, and musician, Steve Martin, who played banjo with Scruggs in 2001, is a common fixture in the bluegrass music scene and is known for his impromptu pop-ups at music festivals here in Western North Carolina. A legend of our time, Peter Rowan (www.peter-rowan.com) continues the traditions of bluegrass music along with more regionally recognized bands, including Silly Ridge Round-Up (www.sillyridge.com) and Nitrograss (www.nitrograss.com), who play regularly in our area. 
A culmination of original melodies of the Cherokee, early settlers, and the Africans continue to live on in the sounds of the country, bluegrass, country-rock, and blues music that dominate our mountain area. Whether the music resounds around campfires, on stages, at barn dances, annual festivals, and major concert venues, it is not hard to find great traditional live music throughout the year. •

A Day in a Life at Home with Smart Technology

It is 2:30 pm, a work meeting ran long, and you’re going to be late getting home to greet your 3:00 book club members. In your car, stuck in a mess of traffic, you might normally break a sweat, but instead, you reach out to your assistant to make your current time crunch more manageable. But this isn’t just any assistant, this is Momo ($699), your AI (artificial intelligence) home bot (short for robot). From your car, you verbally connect with Momo and ask it to text your book club friends to let them know you are running a few minutes late. Your friends are instructed to ring the doorbell and Momo will let them in. When you remotely ask Momo to turn off your home security system, Momo intuitively knows from past experience that you also want to turn on the lights, adjust the room temperature, and play your favorite music. Knowing your calendar of events, Momo asks if you want it to turn on the electric kettle to boil water for tea and heat the oven to 250 degrees to warm the scones you made earlier that morning. As your friends arrive and ring the video doorbell, Momo’s voice greets them through the outdoor speaker and using facial recognition technology, unlocks the door. The beauty of Momo’s help is that upon your own arrival, you can breeze in, pop the scones into the preheated oven, pour hot water for tea, and greet your guests with ease. Phew!
After your book club meeting, you need to think about what to make for dinner. Or do you? With the help of Chefling Ultra-Connect, your AI Kitchen Assistant phone app tied to your digital speaker, recipes are suggested to you based upon what you have on hand in your pantry and refrigerator. Aiming to simplify your kitchen operation, Chefling saves you time by inventorying and tracking items in your pantry through a scanning system, sends you reminders if something is expired, offers recipe suggestions, and provides step-by-step hands-free cooking instructions via Amazon’s Alexa or another home digital assistant.
During your cooking prep when your hands are occupied with greasy wrappers or germy chicken packaging, you discard them with a single voice command to your Superhuman voice-activated trashcan ($200) that opens and closes its lid. As you make your Chefling generated recipe, you gather a few ingredients from your sleek indoor Smart Garden ($99+) that cares for your herbs, lettuces, and edibles by providing light, water, and nutrients. 
After cleaning up dinner, you can hardly wait to put your feet up and relax in bed. Before heading to the bedroom, Momo asks if you would like Roomba, your robotic vacuum, to do a quick sweep of the floors. Ah, yes. And, of course, because Momo knows the time you usually go to bed, it has already adjusted the room temperature, closed the blinds, and turned down the lights in your bedroom. All you have left to do is dial in your mattress with a few taps on your Smartphone using the Sleep Number app. Your Sleep Number 360 iLE Smart Bed ($5,000+) offers endless head and foot positions for watching TV, reading, relaxing, or simply sleeping. Features include temperature control settings with a foot-warming option, snore reduction sensors that raise your head, sleep habit monitoring with Sleep IQ, under-the-bed lighting that turns on automatically for nighttime trips to the bathroom, and comfort adjustments to your mattress based upon your personalized sleep patterns. 
Your digital assistant has already locked the doors, set the house alarm, turned off the main lights, turned on the white noise machine, and reminds you of what is on the calendar for tomorrow, checks the weather, and sets your wake up time. Nighty night.
For those who are old enough to remember Rosie the robot maid from the popular 1960s animated sitcom The Jetsons, you might recall the speculation at the time that having a robot of your very own will be the future. Well, we are close. Like Momo, which is still in the prototype phase, artificially intelligent assistants are about to explode into the marketplace. These interfaces aim to make us more productive by operating our homes, running our schedules, learning our habits, and thinking for us. 
Not quite as “smart” as Momo, the current Smart speakers like Amazon’s Echo Dot powered by Alexa ($39+), Google Home using Google Assistant ($49+), or Apple’s Siri-enabled HomePod ($349) will play music, adjust the lights and temperatures in our homes, record calendar notes, teach kids how to spell, make telephone calls, set alarms, and provide us our weather and news of the day. They are not intuitive digital assistants yet, but it is really just a matter of months. Tech Crunch statistics show that one in five U.S. adults have adopted Smart speakers, already reaching 47.3 million users in just two years. This is an incredible leap, considering it took thirteen years for television to be adopted by 50 million users and four years for the Internet to reach that mark. As Amazon, Google, and Apple battle it out for market share and the latest in AI technology, trends show conversational and intuitive AI digital assistants with more bells and whistles will be available very soon. •

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    Elevating the Bar

    Scanning through one of those ubiquitous, glossy real estate guides can cause dizzying effects when all you see is agency after agency jockeying for your attention with hundreds, possibly thousands, of residential properties for sale. For you the homebuyer, the challenge is to find the ideal home among so many choices that fit your lifestyle. For you the seller, you want to make your home stand out in the sea of competition and of course, get top dollar for the eventual sale. What was once the path to sell a home—listing with an agent, putting up a “For Sale” sign, getting on the MLS, and listing your home in a real estate guide—is no longer the optimal strategy. In today’s competitive marketplace, it takes two things to sell your home: 1) finding an agency that has a proven track record and is a trustworthy expert in the field and 2) finding an agency that uses advanced marketing practices to attract buyers across the country to your listing, giving you the best opportunity to sell your home.
     

    Welcome to the age of digital marketing
    On the Cashiers-Highlands Plateau here in Western North Carolina, there is one real estate agency that stands apart from its competition, a name recognized nationally and internationally since 2008, Silver Creek Real Estate Group. Winning awards and topping the performance charts in home sales in this predominantly second home market, Silver Creek believes in “building relationships and delivering dreams.” Part of the prestigious Luxury Portfolio International and respected member of the Leading Real Estate Companies of The World, Silver Creek, with its staff of ten brokers and a highly skilled marketing team, has a solid reputation that checks all of the important boxes: name-brand recognition, integrity, broad network, track record, level of service, quick response time, and powerfully effective marketing tools. 
    Silver Creek recently won the coveted award for Best Real Estate Website in the Country by International Property Awards. This is no small feat considering there are over 86,000 agencies in the U.S. according to a 2012 census. Their website is not only enticingly beautiful but smart, too. Adding 3D, or three dimensional, digital home tours to their site, it is now an influential marketing tool that goes far beyond other brokerage agency sites in this area. 3D virtual reality offers a high-performance and convenient online platform for buyers and sellers to view the inside of a home and digital floor plans, empowering them to navigate homes from the comfort of their own living room or while traveling, make immediate inquiries, and quickly share content with friends, family, and designers.
    In addition, with the growth of shopping for homes via smartphones, websites like Silver Creek’s must be mobile-friendly. “Our website, which now showcases our listings using aerial drone footage, high-quality photography, and interior video has significantly ramped up our online presence by 17.25% in six months,” says Zena Lynch, Silver Creek’s Marketing Director. Further marketing with their own lifestyle magazine NC Living, printed collateral, newsletters, and targeted print advertising in local, regional, and national magazines such as The Laurel, Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles, Architectural Digest, and Vanity Fair, Silver Creek corners the buying market.
    “I do believe that name recognition of a broker organization is extremely important,” says happy Silver Creek client Jim Philip. “Repeatedly we see the name Silver Creek Real Estate Group on all kinds of platforms … social media, digital, print.” Lynch concurs by saying that no other local brokerage has their level of name recognition and overwhelming presence on all digital, social, and print channels. “We know people don’t just buy property, they buy lifestyles. Silver Creek creates an emotionally savvy digital landscape to peak buyer curiosity using three mediums of striking visual promotion–world-class photography to spark interest, vibrant video to capture the mood and feel of the property, and 3D virtual home tours to fully engage the buyer.”

    Staggering Statistics
    >  The National Association of Realtors claims 42% of recent buyers looked online at properties for sale as their first step in the home buying process. 
    > Statistics show 3D virtual walk-throughs produce 95% more phone inquiries and 49% more qualified leads.
    >  Viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video compared to 10% when reading it in print.
    > Homes with aerial footage sold 68 percent faster than homes with standard images.
    According to Lynch, “Decorators love being able to use our digital floor plans to map out furniture, and clients who are unable to travel to the Plateau frequently can view a home instantly using our 3D 'walk-throughs.' After seeing a property in person, clients also find it extremely helpful to later look at our videos to refresh their memories.”
    Tracking buyer research closely, Lynch cites recent statistics, “With the average user spending 88% more time on a website with video and knowing that listings with high-quality video receive 4 times more inquiries, we can not afford to miss exposing our clients’ homes to buyers from around the world.” Speaking of around the world, their membership with Leading Real Estate Companies of the World connects their clients’ properties with real estate professionals in 70 countries across 6 continents. “You never know who might be looking to relocate to the area or buy a second home,” says Lynch.

    Happy Clients
    A visit to Silver Creek’s client testimonials page on NCliving.com exhibits rave reviews about their unparalleled service, amazing brokers, speedy turnaround time, high-tech marketing capabilities, and the ability to get the job done expeditiously. Because of Silver Creek’s adept team of photographers using HDR photography, enrichments to the property’s images can easily be made, like adding fires to fireplaces and enhancing the views out the window. Their talents along with the brokers exceed expectations and are key to getting the home listed and sold quickly. “Experience had told me that only a firm truly committed to the total process, each piece, would be the correct partner to sell our higher-priced home,” says Silver Creek client Andrew Angle. “Silver Creek’s marketing package is by far the ‘best in class’ on the plateau” … as well as “their attention to detail on all other aspects of the process. We made the correct choice in hiring them.”
    Why wouldn’t you call Silver Creek Real Estate Group to sell your home or buy your next one? •

    Rancho La Puerta

    Rancho La Puerta is a magical place where people escape from the mundane to revive their souls and gain a fresh outlook on life. 

    Year after year, the Ranch is voted a top spa destination by both Condé Nast Traveler and Travel and Leisure magazines. As for what sets the Ranch apart from other spas and resorts, it’s difficult to narrow down just one thing … as it is, according to one guest, “something that must be experienced to be explained.” 
         “We provide the true luxury of time and space,” says founder Deborah Szekely, “that which is most lacking in today’s life. Space to breathe freely, to relax and enjoy what will be ‘the longer-living, younger life.’” This unique element at the Ranch, along with its unparalleled staff, vast amenities and healing environment, is what keeps the Ranch’s guests coming back. 
         Often touted as the original “fitness resort” and spa, the fitness program is truly unmatched. Presided over by a staff of more than 20 full-time instructors in-residence, the daily offerings include everything from pilates, cardio-cycling, volleyball, weight training, and most of the expected fitness classes, as well as guided hikes, Feldenkrais, Qi Gong, NIA (Neuromuscular Integrative Action), meditation, and many more. Additionally, the Ranch offers world-renowned cuisine prepared from organic gardens, sublime spa treatments, and plenty of opportunities to recharge your mind and spirit.

    The Philosophy
    Family-owned and operated, the Ranch has provided guests with unparalleled luxury amidst a natural, environmentally-sound setting for nearly 80 years. Founders Edmond and Deborah Szekely started the ranch as a sort of “health camp” where people paid $17.50 to pitch a tent and bathe in the year-round near-perfect climate while learning to live a more holistic life—all without any electricity or running water. And nowadays, as it was from their opening day in June 1940, guest comfort is the staff’s first priority, and they continue to ensure that while taking care of individual needs, it’s done so in a safe, eco-friendly manner that reduces the spa’s environmental impact.
         But the approach to sustainability at the Ranch goes further than the basics, such as simply using refillable water bottles or chemical-free cleaners, as they’ve incorporated technology and installed composting toilets among other things.
         The Ranch’s motto, siempre mejor, means “always better,” and Deborah Szekely believes it also means “always changing;” a philosophy the Ranch reflects from the ground up. 

    The Program
    Typically, guests come to the Ranch for a Saturday to Saturday stay, but shorter stays are available. Throughout the year, there are specialty-themed weeks like family week, chamber music week, detox and cleansing week, yoga week, and more, including educational workshops and executive wellness programs. During the week, there can be up to five different classes at one hour, so there’s truly something for everyone, all day long, and many are sequential in developing a student’s expertise, assuring guests become stronger and more skilled in several disciplines by the end of the week. A typical day could include:
    6 a.m. Meet in the main lounge for one of many hikes which can range from two to seven miles, then head to the dining hall for breakfast. 
    9 a.m. to noon Take a class or two or three: pilates, tennis, H2O, yarn painting, volleyball, sound healing, postural therapy, or TRX before stopping for lunch. 
    1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Take a few more classes—perhaps one on cooking, meditation, drumming, or join a scheduled discussion on mastering your metabolism, brush up on your Spanish skills, or maybe lay by the pool and nap.
    5:30 p.m. Enjoy dinner and conversations with fellow Ranchers, then, if you’re not too tired, watch a movie, learn the art of self-hypnotic techniques, or relax in one of the many lounges with a book.

    The Grounds
    Nestled under the watchful eye of Mt. Kuchumma, Rancho La Puerta offers 4,000 acres of peaceful tranquility, including hiking trails, an organic farm, 32 acres of gardens, several pools, an exquisite spa, state-of-the-art fitness facilities, a salon, dining hall, an intimate library and more. Throughout the Ranch, you’ll find colorful Mexican folk art along with sculptures, paintings, and outdoor areas designed for rest and personal reflection. Take at least one of the morning hikes as the sunrise is unlike anything you have ever seen. Some are more advanced than others, but the Ranch has guides for those who want to fly up the mountainside as well as for those who want to take a more laid back, leisurely stroll. Be sure to pack some warmer clothes you can layer as mornings can prove chilly. 

    The Food
    Mealtimes at the ranch are community-centered and designed to bring people together. Breakfast and lunch are buffet-style and offered during a generous window of time so you can come and go as you please. A sit-down dinner is served at a set time each night and guests are encouraged to meet new people by joining different tables. The cuisine is semi-vegetarian, featuring an abundance of organic fruits and vegetables. Additionally, the freshest-of-the-fresh seafood from the port of Ensenada, Baja California, is brought in daily, allowing Ranch chefs to prepare spectacular seafood dishes five times a week. Many recipe ingredients come fresh-picked, only-hours-old from the Tres Estrellas organic garden, a six-acre working farm located north of the main Ranch area. •

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    Welcoming Merry Soellner

    We're thrilled to welcome Merry Soellner as the newest addition to our team! She brings a reputation for enthusiasm and integrity to our Silver Creek Real Estate Group and has consistently been among the top sales leaders in the area since 2015. Learn more about her at ncliving.com/realestate/agent/merry-soellner #realestate #silvercreekrealestategroup

    The Literary History of Western North Carolina

    North Carolina's mountains are well known for pristine lakes, world-class golf courses, and scenic hiking trails. But less visible is the rich literary underbelly known to the lucky readers among us.
    Perhaps it's the isolation of life in the mountains, or the spirit of hundreds and hundreds of ancestors and their stories that seem to come alive in the quiet of the woods. Whatever the source, the mountains of North Carolina abound in literary history.
    Thomas Wolfe, arguably the most famous of North Carolina writers, grew up in Asheville, the son of a stonecutter, before beginning his writer's life in New York City. The locals knew him to be an able wordsmith...he had, after all, edited the Daily Tar Heel, University of North Carolina's student paper. But when Look Homeward, Angel was released to enthusiastic reviews and sales, it caused an uproar among the town, as apparently some of the characters in the best-seller seemed all too familiar. Wolfe called the town “Altamont” and says in the book, “The mountains were his masters. They rimmed in life...They were his absolute unity in the midst of eternal change.”
    Those mountains, of course, have been the setting for countless significant events in our country's history, most notably the Civil War and the institution of the “Trail of Tears” by which native Americans were banished to Oklahoma.  
    Charles Frazier's award-winning fiction is firmly planted in the local mountains. Did you realize there really is a Cold Mountain for which his novel Cold Mountain is named?  Just southwest of Asheville, the 6,000-foot peak is the tallest in the wilderness area and was the home of the protagonist Inman's wife, to whom he struggles to return after serving in the Confederate Army.  Inman's character is based on stories handed down—in true mountain tradition—by Frazier's father about his great-granduncle named Inman.
    His second novel, Thirteen Moons, is also set in the North Carolina mountains and tells the story of a man's experience with the Cherokees during their removal from the area.
    Kaye Gibbons, who grew up in rural North Carolina, is a prolific contemporary writer mostly about complex women with layered emotions. She draws on her hardscrabble upbringing in Nash County and many of her characters have similar struggles, especially as they attempt to push back against a restraining Southern culture. Her voice apparently rings true, as evidenced by her best-selling status, innumerable awards, and selection for Oprah's book club.
    Ron Rash, who has been hailed by New York Times' Janet Maslin as an “elegantly fine-tuned voice”, grew up in Boiling Springs, North Carolina, and received a master's degree from Clemson University. A former professor and part-time resident of Sapphire Valley, Hallman Bryant, regrets that “Clemson let him get away.”  Seems he applied for a teaching job there but was turned down because he didn't have a doctorate but only an “ABT” (all but thesis). He concedes it was their loss and Western Carolina University's gain, as Rash spent years on WCU's faculty.
    Rash went on to become a prolific novelist and short-story writer. He is perhaps best known for his 2008 novel Serena, which was a finalist for the famed PEN/Faulkner award and was eventually made into a feature film starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper.
    Wiley Cash, who made his debut with A Land More Kind Than Home, has more recently published The Last Ballad, a critically acclaimed story of a single mother's fight for rights in a North Carolina textile mill.  Based on a true story, Cash, who has been called by Vanity Fair magazine “a charming North Carolinian”, illuminates a dark period in Appalachian history and breathes life into it through his rich, intriguing characters. He was the writer-in-residence at the University of North Carolina Asheville in 2018.
    Perhaps it is the incomparable scenery that stirs the creative soul.
    Laura Lane McNeal sought solace in Cashiers, where her parents lived, following the 2005 upheaval of Hurricane Katrina in her hometown of New Orleans.  The quiet winter in the mountains was a useful backdrop as she spent the time here writing Dollbaby, a Southern take on coming of age, which was published to enthusiastic reviews.
    “I spent countless hours with my dog Max taking hikes in the fiercely beautiful landscape of the Blue Ridge Mountains,” she says. “The gorges and waterfalls, the hidden streams, the fresh smell of cedar and hemlock, the way the earth and sky came alive after the rain, the ethereal sunsets that reminded me there would be light after the dark...”
    Though she and her family did eventually rebuild in New Orleans, the mountains had claimed them, and they now own property in the Cashiers area and spend some of the season here. And, Laura has written two more novels following the best-seller success of her Cashiers-inspired debut.
    Deanna Klingel is one of the more prolific writers to set up shop in these mountains.  She didn't seriously get down to fiction until she had raised seven children. Her stories, which she describes as being for the young and the young at heart, include civil war historical fiction and another called Blue-Eyed Doll which is based on a doll exchange that her elementary school class conducted with students in Japan at a time when there existed a deep mistrust of all things Japanese. Not surprisingly, she is a frequent guest at schools throughout the country, where her stories are enthusiastically received. “Maturity,” she says, “is a blessing when it comes to writing.”
    But best-seller status is not required to take a stab at creative writing.
    That many local residents are inspired by the environs is supported by the popularity of the Highlands Writers Group, a collection of short story writers, memoirists, novelists, poets and journalists who gather each Tuesday at the Bascom Center for the Arts to engage in writing exercises, readings, and critiques.  Highlands has always beckoned writers to visit the area...Walker Percy, Cassandra King, Pat Conroy, and Sandra Brown are examples...and the local literary culture even spawned a Writers Group anthology.
    Even if you're just a passionate reader, you can indulge in a bit of literary sightseeing in this part of the world. Start in Asheville, at the Thomas Wolfe House, located in downtown Asheville.  It was actually a boarding house, run by Wolfe's mother, and the setting for Look Homeward, Angel.  Built-in 1883 in the Queen Anne style, the 29-room home is now a National Historic Landmark, and offers visitors an introductory film and guided tour.  Meticulously curated, with many of the furnishings from Wolfe's time there, the museum even displays each holiday season a copy of his original handwritten letter to Santa Claus.
    The Grove Park Inn, also in Asheville, has been the backdrop for lots of literary action.  F. Scott Fitzgerald spent summers there in the 1930s and each year on a weekend near his September birthday, the Inn hosts an “F. Scott Fitzgerald Weekend” whereby visitors are taken on a tour of the author's favored suite and treated to insights of noted literary critics. Sadly, Fitzgerald's wife Zelda died in a tragic fire at a nearby psychiatric hospital. 
    Another literary road trip could be made to Carl Sandburg's farm in Flat Rock, near Hendersonville.  Sandburg spent the last 22 years of his life in the bucolic setting where his wife was known for the cows she raised.  Visitors may tour the farmhouse, visit the dairy barn where some descendants of Mrs. Sandburg's herd reside and hike over five miles of trails.  In the summertime, visitors may enjoy live performances of Sandburg's Rootabaga Stories and other adaptations of his work at the farm's amphitheater.
    But perhaps the best place to celebrate the literary culture of these mountains is from your favorite chair on your private porch with a book in hand.  Let everyone else rush to make their tee times!  
    Which begs the question: Have you had a chance yet to pick up Charles Frazier's latest novel?  Varina is the story of Jefferson Davis' wife and the reviews, so far, are excellent. •

     

    The Truth About Sulfites

    There are all sorts of misconceptions about sulfites found in wine. Yes, many winemakers add small amounts of sulfites to preserve their wines, but sulfites are also naturally occurring. Sulfites in wine, usually red wine, get the blame for everything from headaches, sleepless nights, congestion and hangovers. Those who speak out against sulfites even claim European wines do not have any sulfites post-production, but are injected with them prior to shipping to the U.S. The confusion among the general wine-drinking community is great, but let’s look to one wine connoisseur to shed some light…

    Sulfites (chemically known as sulfur dioxide or SO2) are a preservative and can be found in all wines as they naturally occur as a by-product of fermentation.  Most wineries, including those in Europe and around the world, also add a minuscule amount of sulfites to preserve the color and flavor of their wines. Interesting to note that more sulfites are added to white wines, especially sweeter dessert wines, while dry red wines have the lowest sulfite content.  Sulfites have been used in wine production for centuries, including to clean storage tanks after use rather than harsh chemicals. 

    It may come as a surprise that few countries require wine labels that state "Contains Sulfites," and less of a surprise that the U.S. is one of the handful that does.  There is a tiny percentage of the population that is allergic to sulfites, mainly severe asthma sufferers, and there are many foods and beverages, other than wine, that contain more sulfites, such as dried fruit.  It's a mystery why any wine made in the U.S. or imported into the U.S. must be labeled with "Contains Sulfites" while these other products with higher sulfites are not required to do so.

    Bottom line: unless you are one of the few who is allergic to sulfites, the sulfites are not the cause of the “dreaded wine headache.”

    - source: Fred Bowen from adeptlifestyle.com