Winter favorites at the Mountaineer

By Stina Sieg | Jan 16, 2012
Photo by: Donated photo Above, Paul Viau (front left) enjoys two of his favorite winter activities: talking about, and drinking, beer at Frog Level Brewery. At right is brewery owner Clark Williams. Paul's brother, Rob, is also pictured.

Haywood County may be a seasonal place, but that doesn’t mean that everything goes quiet once the birds (and retired snowbirds) head south. We’re right in the heart of the chilly season, but there is still plenty do here, even if winter sports aren’t your bag. Here are a few favorite wintertime activities, as told by Mountaineer staff members.

Winter warmers

By Paul Viau
Guide columnist

Usually, it’s too cold to do much of anything outside during the winters here in North Carolina, so Carol and I explore the indoors of select local establishments in search of “winter warmers.” This usually calls for a trip (or five) to Asheville to sample the local brew scene. In pursuit of knowledge, we often tour a facility like Highland Brewery, where the experience is educational as well as fun. And you’ll never know what might happen. For example, some entrepreneur has located a moonshine still (and a legal moonshine business) right next to Highland Brewery. In marketing terms, this is what we call “product placement.” In “winter warmer” terms, this is called “way warmer!”

But seriously, get the spirit (literally) and check out the reason Asheville has earned the title “Beer City, USA,” beating out such brewtopias as Portland, Oregon, and Denver, Colorado. Take a road trip and visit nearby Nantahala Brewery in Bryson City. And if you’re short on gas money, head on down to Frog Level Brewing Company in Waynesville, where you can view the work of local artists Ed and Jo Ridge Kelly while you sample the beer of local artists Clark and Jenny Williams. You can even curl up in the corner and read a good book ... like “Catcher in the Rye.”
And remember, drink locally. (Editors note: And responsibly!)

Shopping wonderland
By Carol Viau
Lifestyles editor

Wintertime is the perfect time for bargain hunting in the after-Christmas and January sales. Shopping for bargains is my favorite wintertime distraction from the weather.
After Christmas, I love to hit my favorite shopping haunts in Asheville — Coldwater Creek, Chico’s, J. Jill and Steinmart. But you don’t have to go to Asheville to find wintertime bargains. The shops in Haywood County have great sales, including Seven Silver Seas (which I recommended to my sister-in-law, who had a great time there), Mast General Store, Cacklebery Mountain (open until the end of January), The Tool Shed, Beth’s Hallmark, Cabbage Rose, Preston Interiors and High Country Furniture, to name a few.
Some call it retail therapy, but the thrill of getting a bargain is what motivates me. And, it gets me out of the house and provides some fun on dreary winter days.

Baking through doldrums
By Michelle Claytor
Administrative assistant

Winter is probably my least favorite season. Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled to actually get to experience all four, and have ranked them accordingly: 1. Fall, 2. Spring, 3. Summer, 4. Winter. I moved here from Charleston about 10 years ago. I was born there, and for those of you who have never spent at least a full year in Charleston, let me tell you that they have two seasons — hot as blazes and let’s put on a sweater with shorts. My point being that even though I don’t thoroughly enjoy the winters here, I do appreciate them.

During the winter I become a serious homebody. I have trouble sitting still any time of year, but in the winter I go nuts. I have been known to clean my house from top to bottom, to unclutter EVERY closet and re-arrange every piece of furniture in my house. I’ve even considered moving rooms around. Kitchen becomes the living room, dining room becomes the den and so on. Always gets tricky when I get to the bathroom, though.
Without a doubt, my favorite thing to do in the winter is to bake. I bake cookies, brownies, pies, anything. It warms the house and the smell is awesome. Sometimes the kitchen gets a little too full of goodies, and I have to take them to work. No one ever seems to mind.
How do I keep my girlish figure? I usually eat a good bit of dough (I heard that calories don’t count until you bake the goodies), so by the time the baking is done, I don’t usually want any more. Pretty smart. I do really love living in this part of North Carolina. Sledding and playing in the snow is always good fun. Best of all, I have acquired a great sweater collection.

Snow days

By Maddie Claytor
Former papergirl and Michelle’s daughter

Winter is probably my favorite season. What’s not to like? If you’re a kid, you get two-hour delays, 1 p.m. dismissals, snow days and winter break. If you’re an adult, you could always lie and say you’re snowed in and can’t possibly leave for work. You also can drink as much hot cocoa you want without looking like a pig and eat lots of cookies and cake, as well.

Winter allows you to miss so much school. Last week we missed school for only 2 inches of snow, but I’m not complaining, because missing school is always nice. That’s probably my favorite thing about winter. I also enjoy wearing cute scarves and equally cute boots is also nice. Winter fashion is always nice because you get to layer, like, 100 shirts and it works, because it’s winter and everyone’s cold.

Another great thing about winter is that my mom is always baking, so I get lots of goodies for no reason. She makes so much, I get one of everything, and by the time I’m done I can’t eat anything else. So she usually ends up taking loads of baked goods to her work. If I had a dollar for every desert she makes over the winter, I’d be a millionaire.

Happy hibernation
By Nikki White
Advertising consultant

Wintertime to me is a time of reflection, a time to coincide with the earth and her time reference of the four seasons.

Perhaps we should hibernate more, expend less energy in order to build up our reservoirs for when winter ends and life comes back to the trees and grass, and the animals become active once again.

Winter is the time of year where it’s OK to put on a little weight, my “winter coat” I might call it, which reminds me of how ridiculous it is to have a New Year’s resolution to start losing weight in the middle of winter. That’s like putting sugar on my tongue and telling me not to swallow. I eat more in the wintertime, drink more, sleep better and harder, move less and think deeper.

It’s a great time for writing, anything! Winter for me is the perfect time to set goals, day dream, recalculate, rethink and think more, all over a hot cup of coffee and an endless pack of cigarettes, wrapped in a blanket on a cold rainy or snowy day. It’s a great time to procrastinate or to finally stop procrastinating and do something you have been meaning to do, or finish something that’s half-way done. Winter is a great time for closures, closing chapters, cleaning a slate, forgiving and moving on emotionally, mentally and spiritually, so that once the season is over, we can be physically ready to birth new leaves and do it all over again, feeling fresh, light with burden and with renewed energy.

Fiber fanatic
By Stina Sieg
Guide editor

Growing up in California, winter was always more of a concept than a harsh reality. But after spending the last six winters in Oregon, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Texas and here, I think I finally understand the deeper meaning behind the season.
Winter is, at its most basic, a time to knit.

I’ve got a sincere and truthful yarn addiction, and it shows itself full-force between October and March. If given the time and the right radio shows, I’ll whip up hats, scarves and maybe a baby sweater or two. I’ll take mini trips to faraway yarn shops and search out difficult patterns in hopes that might quell my urge, but it never does. I’ve been this way since I graduated college and like any real addict, I think I’m doing just fine.

I don’t want to change because knitting is my Zen. There are so many big questions in the world and my own life is rife with uncertainties. But know that if I sit down with yarn and needles long enough, I’ll come up with something that I like. And if I don’t, I can always tear it all out and start over — or give up and no one’s the wiser. That kind of freedom, I do believe, is hard to find.

The joy of music

By Jeff Redman
News designer/IT manager

I was born and raised in Florida where winter amounts to little more than a month-long fashion inconvenience. It comes and goes as quickly as Santa’s shouts of “Feliz Navidad!” fade among decorated palm trees. It’s a hated interruption between balmy autumn evenings and cool spring Saturdays at the beach.

Save one family photo of me as a toddler in front of our house in St. Augustine surrounded by a micron-thin layer of snow (an event known in Florida folklore as “The Great Blizzard of 1973”), I have no memories of snow before moving to Western North Carolina as a teenager. “Cabin fever” wasn’t in my vocabulary.

I was certainly a homebody, though. I spent nearly all of my non-school hours studying music, whether it was learning piano, learning to lead a song service at church or rehearsing with the school marching band. Since I had a close family and church community that loved to “go visiting,” I was at a piano a couple of nights a week sight-reading requests out of my old church hymnal.

It is because of those evenings at the piano that days spent snowbound at home are a blessing. Once my 7-year-old daughter and I have played all the Yahtzee we can stand and have played out all the doll-house dramas she can come up with, we sit at the piano and sing songs out of that same old hymnal. There’s little in this world more joyous.
I hope she’ll grow into musical talent as I did, but if she doesn’t, I hope she’ll remember that singing a song is something she can always enjoy, no matter how old she is or how cold it is outside.

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