I never met my grandparents. Not a single one of the 4 of them.
It's something that breaks my heart quite frequently.
I feel I know them from the stories I've been told, from the things they made that I can hold in my hands.

I wish I could have sat on the porch with them and heard them tell stories I've never heard.
I would have loved to have sit by my grandmothers' sides as they canned or quilted or spun or wove.
I would have loved to seen my Grandpa McConnell laying brick with precision and skill, and to see him creating instruments by hand.
I would have loved to have heard all the war and bootlegging stories from my other grandpa.

In all honestly I would love to have any memory with them, but alas I do not.
What I do have are scraps of them, scraps of who they were and what they did.
I have pictures. I have quilt pieces. I have a banjo. I have so many little scraps.

I feel it in my heart to take these scraps, that have been scattered near and far, that have been abused and ignored, and to piece them into the complete story of their legacy.

I want to be able to tell my kids and their kids about who my grandparents were. I may not have memories to share with them, but I will be able to share those scraps pieced together into a beautiful legacy that will last for generations to come.


25 Random Facts About Me- Part 1

1. I'm crazy passionate about the things I love
2. Every time I sit and observe nature, I fall more in love with our Creator.
3. I have a fondness for mountains that is unexplainable.
4. Every day I learn more and more why my parents are my heroes.
5. I usually feel inadequate.
6. I dream of being a chef one day. (I've already designed my whole restaurant concept)
7. Family is my lifeblood.
8. I wonder if my grandparents would be happy with my obsession of their heritage or if they'd tell me to quit dreaming of a past I never knew.
9. The older I get the less I listen to "popular music" and the more I appreciate the true artists.
10. I'm the biggest romantic you'll ever meet that hasn't been in love.
11. I love to observe human interactions.
12. I have the memory of an 80 year old on the verge of getting Alzheimer's.
13. I can't wait to be a mom someday.
14. Cooking is pure bliss. I wish I had the time and money to whip something new up each day.
15. Patience is one of my best qualities.
16. I'm a fan of mixed cds. Every now and again I'll find some old ones and they will transport me back to that part of my life. "Love Songs" that was made in 9th or 10th grade just cracks me up now.
17. When I was a kid (3-5 years old) I would wish that I could stay a kid forever because I didn't want to deal with the real world where bad things happened and people died.
18. I miss the person I transformed into when I performed in guard.
19. I want to learn to play the banjo my Grandpa McConnell made more than anything.
20. Some of my favorite places on Earth are: Iona Beach, Scotland, Douglas Lake, the once open field by the family cemetery, the old fish pond, the "farm", and amusement parks.
21. I embrace being an Appalachian.
22. I have attended 5 institutions of higher education, and I'm still graduating college in 4 years with a double major and a minor.
23. I like movies that are so "real" that they make me cry. (i.e. Life as a House, Crash, Two Weeks, etc.)
24. I don't just believe in a Mighty God because of how I was raised, but also because of observing examples of true Jesus followers, my intellectual exploration, and life experiences.
25. I adore shortbread cookies.


Super Mario Bros. just for my bro's special day!

So, it wasn't very long after my brother had proposed to his girlfriend that I decided I wanted to make his Groom's cake.
I planned the thing for months.
I researched how to use fondant and gum paste and coloring and just about everything else under the sun having to do with cake decorating.
I just wanted something really special that was just for him on a day that wasn't going to have much to offer him but awkward families and neck ties that seemed to get tighter by the minute.
I kinda love him that much, even though he doesn't know it.
I spent hours on my research and prep of this silly cake, and it didn't turn out as good as I wanted it to. I had pretty high expectations, I guess.
The bottom layer is an artistic rendition of the first level of the original Super Mario Bros. game. The second layer is obviously the green pipe. The top of the pipe on up is fondant covered Styrofoam. Oh and EVERYBODY knew it was Styrofoam too because my 6 year old cousin felt the need to tell anybody and everybody.
I was going to buy plastic Mario and Princess Peach figurines but I couldn't find any that were larger than 2-3 inches, and I knew I wanted bigger. The week before the wedding, I pretended to have some kind of artistic ability and make Mario and Princess Peach. Well, let's just say they got the point across and that was enough for me at that point in the game.
My favorite part about this cake would have to be the Goombas. I think they actually looked just like the little life shrinking monsters from the game ;)
It's pretty sad that I have no close ups of the Goombas and other smaller details. Me, the person who loves to takes pictures, and even moreso loves to take pictures of my food creations, did not get a single picture of the cake for myself.
So get mad at me if you want, but I kinda had a busy day going on...ya know I was curling my hair and trying to be super nice and not falling in my heels and smiling at the hottie of a groomsman that walked me down the isle. :D
Kinda a busy day for macro shots of a cake.
I'll have to hunt up the actual recipe I used for the cake. I tried a couple before I decided on what I nicknamed Death by Chocolate, with a chocolate cake, chocolate ganache filling, and a chocolate buttercream frosting.
Yeah, it tasted even better than it looked.


Sustainable Economies in Appalachia

How are we to preserve what is worth saving about Appalachian culture?

Maybe that isn't the proper question, maybe it should be "how can we showcase or share true Appalachian culture in the essence of all that it is (people, place, way of life, art, craft, food--both past and current)"?

I think we have to find a way to form sustainable economies that showcase "Appalachia" in order for any culturally accurate views of Appalachia to reach the U.S. as a whole, and especially for the following generations.

Is setting up partially accurate historical tourism going to get us there, full of stereotyping to fill in the gaps? Absolutely not.

Is adventure tourism going to be the big money maker? Maybe so, but without proper handling our mountains can get shorthanded in the deal. Pollution. Noise. Erosion. No thanks.

I could go on about how so many different concepts will not be entirely successful while still being protective of Appalachian culture, but I won't.

What I will say is that we as Appalachians need to highlight what is unique, what is natural, what is worth sharing with the world. We as Appalachians need to stop selling out and using our treasures as a money making scheme. We as Appalachians need to support the local businesses that are in it because they love what they are doing and want to be in Appalachia doing it. They are using the economy to help bring more value into the area, not using the area to bring more money into their pockets like many we have seen.

If you just look around you, there are some fantastic opportunities to discover places and ideas you never knew existed in the area.

(I will admit that my two examples are rather non-tradional for Appalachia, maybe I will get into some more traditional examples at a later time.)

Take for example a lavender farm (in Scott Co.) and a vineyard/winery (in Wise Co.)...who would ever have guessed treasures like these existed in southwest Virginia without the support and publicity of us, the locals.

Scott County Lavender

-I'm unsure if the farm is still operational. I need to check on that.

MountainRose Vineyards

- a lovely experience, even for those clueless about vino

Go search out the awesome local businesses like these (and proudly support them) so Appalachia can make money and be able to kick those crazy guys wanting to sell hillbilly and Indian memorabilia as far away from here as possible.

OK, I'll step down from my passion podium now ;)


Broken or Beautiful

It has been way too long since I've written anything at all, let alone blogged anything.
I have decided it's way past time to change that.
I want to start writing something at least once a week on here, whether it be a new recipe I've tried, creative writings, or simply rambling about life.

As time just continues to slip through the cracks of life, I want a record to remember what on earth I was thinking. This blog, my friends, will be that record...however broken or beautiful it may seem.