Rare Birds

Sightings of the evening grosbeak are fewer and far between

By Susan Campbell

The evening grosbeak is one special bird: one that old-timers in Piedmont North Carolina may remember from winters many years ago. Anyone newer to our fair state has likely not seen one here. Those who have been feeding winter songbirds for decades know this bird as the one that can show up in massive flocks and has the capacity to devour black oil sunflower seed in huge quantities in no time at all. It has never been a regular here even when sightings did reliably occur every few years. During winters when northern hardwoods — ash and conifers, such as pine and spruce — set little seed, grosbeaks must fly farther afield to find food. Across New England and the upper Midwest, flocks are forced to move southward in search of sources of nuts and seeds to nourish them during the cold weather. Farther and farther they fly until they find trees laden with fruits — and feeders well-stocked with black oil sunflower seed.

Although populations are quite healthy in the western United States and Canada, evening grosbeaks are not doing well at all here in the East. In the last 50 years a huge decline (as much as 95 percent) has been documented, likely as the result of habitat alteration, from large-scale aerial spraying of boreal forest to counter diseases such as salmonella and West Nile virus. So, it is no surprise that appearances of grosbeaks as a result of eruptions this far south are few and far apart these days.

Evening grosbeaks are easy to recognize: They are a bit larger than cardinals and have varying degrees of yellow plumage. Adult males are mostly yellow with splashes of white. Females and young males only have limited amounts of yellow plumage on a pale background. But all have black wings and a black tail. The most prominent feature of these handsome, husky birds is, as their name implies, a huge white bill.

During the warmer months, grosbeaks have quite a broad diet consisting of a variety of invertebrates, buds of trees and flowering plants along with tree sap as well as larger fruits and their seeds. The birds will forage from the ground to the very tops of trees, especially in the summer months when they have young mouths to feed. Not only will they clean up fallen fruits but they will also hunt aerial insects on the wing.

There are several curious facts about these beautiful birds. One is that for a songbird, the males do not sing. Both sexes simply employ short calls to communicate, especially during the breeding season, but also during the rest of the year. Another interesting tidbit: There is no territorial defense around the nest site. The explanation for the evolution of both these strategies is that resources (especially food) are so abundant that there is no need to advertise or create a territory during a good portion of the year. At feeders, adult males may occasionally chase females and younger males, but generally they feed peacefully, shoulder-to-shoulder.

I will be watching closely for evening grosbeaks in the Sandhills and Piedmont until spring. I have memorized their calls — and have vowed to keep my sunflower feeders full through the winter. However, if any of these large, colorful birds with well-endowed bills end up in our mist nets at the banding station at Weymouth Woods, I guarantee I will be pulling out the heavy gloves as well as a big dose of courage.  PS

Susan would love to receive your wildlife sightings and photos. She can be contacted by email at


Be My Valentine ‒ for Life

You may get a good laugh out of it

By Susan S. Kelly

I don’t know how you’re spending Valentine’s Day, but if you’re feeling blue, hie yourself to the Harris Teeter around 5 p.m. and hang out around the flower counter. Just watching the clerks pumping out last-minute arrangements for all those lost men scrambling to purchase posies is bound to make you laugh. If that fails, call a single friend to regale you with fun facts about dating after 40. A favorite is my pal who has a “guillotine realization” for blind dates. As in, “He was wearing a necklace.” Chop. Another has a Jesus clause in her marriage: If he ever gets religion, she’s excused. And for those of you eyeing that 10-years-younger mate, remember this: You’ll have to take on all their 10-years-younger enthusiasms too, for organic food and exhaustively researching kindergartens. Ugh. Makes reaching the point in a marriage where you get up every morning, ask each other how you slept, and actually answer each other seem far preferable.

Valentine’s is an industry now, but then so are weddings, and if you don’t believe me, ask my friend who went around at his daughter’s reception offering $20 bills to people if they’d just go home. Now, even “the ask” is elaborately planned for some mountain top or sunset beach scenario. As opposed to, say, the way my husband asked me to marry him, in the parking lot of the SAE house, where we’d gone with the rest of a frat friend’s reception carousers because we’d broken every glass at Hope Valley Country Club in Durham. It just doesn’t get any more romantic than that, unless you count my son’s friend who let everyone know he’d gotten engaged by sending a mass email with “Man Overboard” in the subject line. My husband and I — well, OK, my mother — set my wedding date depending not on weather or venue availability, but by asking the folks at Tiffany’s how long it would take to get the invitations printed and counting backward from there. My sister was so jealous of my getting married. She said, “Just think. Now you can do anything to your hair and he still has to love you.”

And then, happily ever after. Or as my other sister put it, “I’ve loved him ever since he had that awful The Price Is Right furniture.” Forty years on, I’m still wondering if I get marital points for putting on mascara for my husband just for dinner. But I gave up on wishing for a What Now? day many anniversaries ago. A What Now? day is a Saturday when your husband just follows you around all day and says, “What needs doing now?” Although I once read the lips of a new bride dancing that first dance with her new husband. “Turn me now,” she instructed him. Wonder how that’s going.

Ah, the nuptial valleys and peaks. Not the toothpaste caps, or shirts put inside out in the laundry basket, rather, the day my father came home for lunch, as he did every day, and it wasn’t ready.  “What have you been doing all morning?” he asked my mother. For the first and last time, I bet. Or my sister, who once proclaimed, “All we talk about are calendars.” Yes, at one stage, marital conversation gets pared down to timetables.

And while toothpaste tops may be a cliché, the bathroom does seem to be the locale for many a Grrr moment. Take this direct quote from an email: “This amazes me. We’ve had the rug on our bathroom floor for 10 years. D (name withheld to protect the guilty) steps on it when he gets out of the shower, stands on it while brushing his teeth, ponders on it while on the commode. Today when I asked him to bring the rug up from the dryer, he asked what bathroom it belonged in.”

Still, the bathroom moment I recall most fondly took place not in a bathroom, but in an aisle at Lowe’s. It’s a weeknight in a nearly vacant, fluorescently lit, concrete-floored, utterly charmless big box store. My husband and I are debating a new shower door for a bathroom renovation. Most decisions are easy: a towel bar on the outside, a grab bar on the inside. Small house and aging issues we’re used to, and don’t even blink.

We look at those doors a long time, slide them back and forth, compare, dither.  I’m leaning toward the clear, see-through panel — contemporary, clean, trendy — and a significant departure from our old frosted one. My husband nods, thinks, and finally says, “You know, I just don’t think I can go there.” 

I laugh. “Who do you think is going to be looking at us besides each other?”

He laughs too, then, admitting to an idiotic objection, after 28 years. Never mind that both of us had nine years of two to four roommates before we got married, and have experienced countless shared-bathrooms oops moments on family vacations.

But then, I lift my shoulders and say, “You know, I can’t go there, either.”

And there, in the middle of Lowe’s, on a weekday evening, under fluorescent lights, the pair of us double over, giggling at our ridiculous, bogus-modest, long-married selves. If that ain’t the essence of romance, I don’t know what is.

And they’ve lived happily ever after. With the clear shower door.  PS

Susan Kelly is a blithe spirit, author of several novels, and proud grandmother.

The Kitchen Garden

Lion’s Share

A touch of fungus for the brain

By Jan Leitschuh

What if there was a mushroom that might repair our aging brains? What if this mushroom tasted a little like lobster, was quite hard to find in grocery stores yet crazy-easy to grow?

Lion’s mane mushroom, Hericium erinaceus, is a goofy, scruffy, spongy, snowball-shaped fungus one wouldn’t immediately identify as an edible mushroom. Lacking the typical stem and cap, the soft white spines emerge from a meaty white core like a lion’s mane. Funny-looking or not, it has been used for millennia in Asia, and is still deeply revered there as a medicinal food that brings vigor to the aging, aids cognition and fights cancer.

It is rare to find fresh lion’s mane mushroom in grocery stores. Sometimes, Asian markets will offer them, or a large farmers market. One can buy powdered extracts online, but for fresh, your best bet is to grow your own. I got my kit locally, from Carolina Mushroom Growers (CMG) of Willow Springs. The former hog farm now markets fresh ’shrooms to area restaurants, and sells quarts of fresh mushrooms and pre-made kits every weekend at the North Carolina State Farmers Market in Raleigh.

Lion’s mane mushroom “is what I like to call a ‘hairy mozzarella,’” says grower Shahane Taylor, 34, of CMG. 

Though odd in appearance, lion’s mane is both eminently edible and beneficial for our bodies. It’s one of the easiest mushrooms to raise from a kit, and homegrown mushrooms are especially helpful for engaging children, for kitchen gourmets or for those without much land for growing who still enjoy playing with edible Mother Nature.

With the outdoor growing season at least a month or two off, a spring-hungry kitchen gardener might choose to order a kit and raise up a few pounds of these otherwise expensive fungi, also called hedgehog or pompom mushrooms. To avoid getting too deep into the weeds of growing edible mushrooms, beginners will probably have their best luck via a pasteurized and pre-colonized bag of hardwood chips and white, fungal mycelium. 

Your bag will have a slit or three. Many slits mean smaller ’shrooms, so stay under three. Good light is essential to a plentiful crop. The bags need brightness to fruit, so if not a sunny window, bright lights will do. Adequate humidity will also contribute to success.

Simply follow the directions, wait a few weeks, and harvest large, fresh, white, brain-like softballs of gourmet mushrooms. Get out the butter and pan-fry. Then, do it again, getting a second “flush” from the same kit.

You may have observed the characteristic lion’s mane, native to North America, tendrils or soft spines on a hike. Lion’s mane enjoys decaying hardwoods as a substrate. “This fungi is king of the forest,” says Taylor. “So when you encounter one just know you’re in the presence of royalty.”

I have seen these funny fungi growing on hardwood logs in damp mountain areas in Western North Carolina and, intrigued, recently decided to try a growing kit myself (not trusting my wild-mushroom identification powers enough to wager my liver on it).

The curious health benefit? Lion’s mane mushrooms contain bioactive substances that have beneficial effects on the body, especially the brain, heart and gut. The mushroom is being studied in connection with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

“Did I mention it’s also a nootropic?” says Taylor. Nootropic: a substance said to increase cognitive abilities. Mmmm, let’s have us some of that.

Typically, the brain’s ability to grow and form new connections declines with age. Yet studies have found that lion’s mane mushrooms, a traditional Chinese medicine stalwart, contain two special compounds that can stimulate the growth of brain cells: hericenones and erinacines, terms derived from the mushroom’s Latin name. Who couldn’t use a few more brain cells, especially after a misspent youth? Asking for a friend . . .

A 2012 study in Malaysia suggested that consuming lion’s mane mushrooms could assist in the regeneration of nerve cells from peripheral nerve injury, and from some types of brain and spinal cord injuries, by stimulating the growth and repair of nerve cells. 

Lion’s mane extract may also help reduce the severity of brain damage after a stroke. In one study, high doses of lion’s mane mushroom extract given to rats immediately after a stroke helped decrease inflammation and reduce the size of stroke-related brain injury by 44 percent.

Other animal studies found that lion’s mane improved the functioning of the hippocampus, a region of the brain responsible for processing memories and emotional responses. Researchers suspect that improved functioning of the hippocampus explained the interesting reductions in anxious and depressive behaviors in mice given these extracts.

A study in older adults with mild cognitive impairment found that consuming three grams of powdered lion’s mane mushroom daily for four months significantly improved mental functioning, However, they say these benefits disappeared when supplementation stopped.

Another study in Japan, using men aged 50-80 years old with mild cognitive impairment, also suggested that lion’s mane is effective at improving cognition. Subjects were split into two groups and half were given dry powdered lion’s mane three times a day and observed over 16 weeks. At weeks eight, 12 and 16, the group taking lion’s mane scored significantly better on a cognitive test than the half in the placebo group

Additionally, animal studies have found that lion’s mane may help the brain protect itself against Alzheimer’s disease. Besides reducing symptoms of memory loss in mice, lion’s mane mushroom and its extracts have also been shown to prevent neuronal damage caused by amyloid-beta plaques, which accumulate in the brain during Alzheimer’s disease.

This is your mouse’s brain on lion’s mane. Any questions?

While it appears to boost mental function in humans too (judging by Amazon reviews for online powdered products), no human studies have yet examined the benefits in battling Alzheimer’s disease. But it’s a simple food, and according to a host of research, lion’s mane has been found to slow the progression, or even reverse the spread, of a variety of cancers, such as gastric, lung, leukemia, breast and colon cancers.

And, as part of its powerful anti-inflammatory nature, lion’s mane may improve our heart health and digestive system, lowering triglycerides and shrinking gastric ulcers. These fluffy ’shrooms also boost the immune system, lower blood sugar, reduce anxiety and contain powerful free-radical-fighting antioxidants that help protect our liver and skin.

And it tastes good too?

Thanks to its solid consistency when sliced and subtle maritime flavor, lion’s mane can be used as a seafood substitute in recipes. Slice the fungal “brain” into rounds and pan-fry it in olive oil or butter, or try ripping it up and making “Lion’s Mane Cakes” by following your favorite crab cake recipe — using the lion’s mane as a substitute for the crabmeat. Your favorite vegan will thank you.

Many say this mushroom pairs well with brown rice, lentils or quinoa, especially with a few flavorful veggies such as onions, garlic, ginger and fresh bell pepper — or any vegetable you think might pair well with shrimp or crab — for seasoning. The flavor is mild, and will pick up the flavors of its companions.

To harvest, slice or twist a softball-sized “brain” off the grow bag. It will keep a day or two in a fridge crisper in a paper bag, but no longer. Best to cook and freeze, if you can’t eat your harvest all at once.

Slice this monster mushroom into half-inch “steaks,” as the interior is solid and meaty. Excess water may ruin your intended dish, since this mushroom can be water-filled under some conditions. So, using a dry pan, cook the steaks for 3-5 minutes a side to drive out excess moisture. Add butter to the pan and finish cooking them until golden brown. 

For information on local lion’s mane (and other) mushroom-growing kits, contact Carolina Mushroom Farm at  (919) 593-2164.  PS

Jan Leitschuh is a local gardener, avid eater of fresh produce and co-founder of the Sandhills Farm to Table Cooperative.

The Heart of the Matter

Valentine’s Day didn’t begin with chocolate and roses

By Michael Smith

Y’all remember this song about Valentine’s Day, don’t you?

My funny valentine
Sweet comic valentine
You make me smile with my heart
Your looks are laughable
Yet you’re my favorite work of art…

But don’t change a hair for me
Not if you care for me
Stay little valentine, stay
Each day is Valentine’s Day

For sure you do. It’s none other than “Old Blue Eyes” Frank Sinatra, from his 1954 album Songs for Young Lovers. Actually, it was written by Mitzi Green in 1937 for Babes in Arms. It has been performed by over 600 artists. Interesting but who cares? Sinatra’s rendition is timeless, and “My Funny Valentine” can easily become your latest earworm.

Stories are apocryphal and vary about the origin of the subject of “My Funny Valentine,” how Valentine’s Day began and why it’s celebrated in mid-February, and so on. Perhaps the most common reckoning involves this account of a Roman emperor and a priest of Rome: Claudius II, a/k/a Marcus Aurelius Claudius Gothicus, who served as Roman Emperor when Rome had a serious migrant problem.

Goths and Vandals had been sneaking through Rome’s borders and wreaking havoc and Claudius won’t be having none of that. During his brief tenure (268-270), he vanquished the Goths and had just wheeled about to trounce the Vandals when he died of the plague. To get the job done, Claudius needed the best soldiers, and the best soldiers, in Claudius’ mind, were unmarried, unattached to a wife and family. So Claudius simply outlawed marriage, leaving the soldiering to the single dudes.

Enter one Valentinus, priest of Rome and chief mischief-maker, who began secretly marrying young lovers who preferred making love to making war. For that bit of rebellion, the martyred Valentinus lost his head but was later “rewarded” with sainthood. He became St. Valentine. It is he who is most commonly associated with Valentine’s Day. It may be that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in mid-February to commemorate the anniversary of St. Valentine’s death.

However, another theory regards the mid-February Roman celebration of Lupercalia, a fertility festival where Rome’s bachelors were paired with unmarried females for one year. Though nothing required it, most such arrangements apparently did end in marriage. Nonetheless, the Catholic Church looked askance at that “pagan” business and sought to Christianize it by associating it with the mid-February, Saint Valentine’s feast day.

At the end of the 5th century, the Pope declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day, which over time became associated with endearing exchanges between lovers and friends. A fellow known as Charles, Duke of Orléans, had much to do with that. Charles penned “Farewell to Love,” a poem, 604 years ago which is the oldest surviving valentine. Here it is:

My very gentle Valentine,
Since for me you were born too soon,
And I for you was born too late.
God forgives him who has estranged
Me from you for the whole year.
I am already sick of love,
My very gentle Valentine.

Well might I have suspected
That such a destiny,
Thus would have happened this day,
How much that Love would have commanded.
I am already sick of love,
My very gentle Valentine.

Maybe it sounded better in the original French. Charles wrote the poem in 1415 to his wife, Bonne. Bonne of Armagnac was 11 years old, Charles 16, when they entered into what was Charles’ second marriage (his first wife died in childbirth). Charles was next in line to the throne of France. But he suffered the misfortune of fighting on the wrong side in a battle during the Hundred Years War, was captured by the British, and was “entertained,” in various places under house arrest for the next 25 years. Charles was 46, and being “hosted” in the Tower of London when he penned “Farewell to Love” for his Bonne.

Whichever account is accurate about February 14, it began taking root as a day for love and romance right about the time old Geoffrey Chaucer and his groupies were on the scene. It was sometime during the 14th century. Whenever, friends and lovers began slipping each other hand-drafted notes of affection on Valentine’s Day.

Quickly thereafter things got rolling, chop-chop. Printing technology improved. Merchants, as always, began sniffing money afoot. Mass-produced printed Valentine Day cards were just slightly below the radar.

America, mother of all things capitalistic, stepped in to lend a hand. In the 1840s America’s “Mother of the Valentine” Esther Howland, began selling, egad, what else but the first mass-produced printed Valentine Day cards. (You’re forgiven if you thought it was Hallmark.)

In 1847, Esther, daughter of a wealthy Massachusetts printer and bookseller, became smitten with a lace valentine she had received from England. She mused about how nice it would be to print (and sell) similar cards — which she did, in spades. Esther designed her cards then set her brother out on a selling trip, samples in tow. Brother’s promotional jaunt paid dividends. In today’s pop-jargon, the thing went viral. He returned with orders amounting to $5,000 ($150K in today’s scratch).

Esther was the quintessential capitalist. She and her friends promptly set up an assembly line operation in her home. Esther’s little biz speedily grossed an astounding $100 grand ($3 million today). In 1880 she sold her business to George Whitney Co. She lived, unmarried, by the way, till 1904.

Ms. Esther Howland set in motion a fast-moving avalanche of Valentine’s Day commercialization just in time for Al Capone’s St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. But that’s another story. In 2018, Americans spent a whopping $19.6 billion on Valentine’s Day stuff. Expenditures for jewelry topped the list, then, in order, came an evening out, flowers, clothing, gift cards, Valentine’s Day cards (now the second biggest day for cards, following Christmas), and candy.

Some may surmise that much of what is spent is spent from pressure. Personally, a handwritten note and a romantic evening at home would be my preference. Maybe crank up Songs for Young Lovers, listen to Old Blue Eyes’ “My Funny Valentine,” or something.

Now, what will I wind up buying my lovely wife? No, not that, that will never do, I bought that last year.  PS

Michael Smith lives in Talamore, Southern Pines, with his wife, Judee. They moved here in 2017 and wished they had moved here years earlier.

In The Spirit

Shaken or Stirred?

A brief primer on the fundamentals of icing the perfect cocktail

By Tony Cross

Having discussed the different shapes and sizes of ice, and how it’s used as an ingredient and tool when making a cocktail, it’s time to explain how to use the ice you’ve molded at home when you’re stirring or shaking a cocktail. Everyone knows how to shake it, right? Wrong. Once on a weekend vacation in the mountains, I ordered a drink and the bartender shook my Manhattan. I didn’t have the heart to say anything — I drank it and left. It pays to know the difference.

Let me preface this by saying that I do not consider myself a professional bartender. I used to run a restaurant and bar, but I have never been “shown the ropes” from men and women at craft cocktail establishments who have been doing this for years and years. I taught myself by watching and reading. I’ll share what works for me, but keep this in mind: Everyone has their own style; you need to find yours. Cocktails have been a passion, and I’m lucky enough to get paid for what I do, but a professional? No, no, no. Please go see Gary Crunkleton at his bar in Chapel Hill. You’re welcome.

When stirring a cocktail, first you’ll need a mixing vessel. There are plenty of beautiful ones to choose from online, but if you don’t want to wait, and already have a barspoon, you can use a glass pint. You always want your vessel as cold as possible. If it’s at room temperature, your cocktail will be over-diluted when you finish stirring. The goal is to make sure your cocktail is very cold and properly diluted. Before you start stirring, you’ll need to understand why and what kind of cocktails to stir. A good rule of thumb is to stir clear drinks. By “clear” I mean cocktails that call for spirits, vermouth and bitters. If your cocktail calls for juice, an egg white and/or dairy, do not stir. You’ll want to shake those.

As the bartender mentioned previously should have known, a Manhattan is stirred. You’ll take your ice-cold vessel, and add 2-3 dashes of aromatic bitters, 1 ounce of sweet vermouth and 2 ounces of rye whiskey (for example). Then add your ice. Use smaller cubes of ice (1 inch square) or cracked ice. If you use larger pieces, your drink will be harder to stir while getting the proper temperature and dilution. Take your barspoon (typically around 12 inches long, with a very thin neck) and place the bowl of the spoon (the outside) to the inside wall at the bottom of the vessel. I am right-handed, so I hold the neck of the spoon 3/4 of the way up in-between my ring and middle finger. The remaining neck of the spoon travels on the inside of my index finger and thumb. I stir clockwise, and make sure that the back of the spoon almost always touches the inside of the mixing vessel while I stir. To do this, you’ll need to let the neck of the spoon rotate clockwise in your hand while you’re stirring. If you’re just starting out, I recommend flipping the barspoon upside down. It makes it easier to focus on getting the hand-to-barspoon placement right without having to concentrate on the bowl of the spoon fighting with the ice cubes. Another trick is to slightly bend the bottom of the neck (next to the bowl); this will make it easier to control the ice cubes.  For a quick visual, search for “Jamie Boudreau stirring” on YouTube. It’s a minute and a half tutorial, and it’s literally how I was taught. Stirring takes a little longer than shaking a cocktail because of the dilution factor. Practice makes perfect, and your stirring needs to be as smooth as possible. You shouldn’t really hear any noise while stirring. When shaking, however . . .

Be noisy as hell! I’ve seen many bartenders shake different ways. As long as you’re not over-diluting your cocktail, you’re good to go. Yes, it has to be ice-cold too. There are a couple of ways to over-dilute while shaking — shake too long; use the wrong ice (wet); or breaking up the ice cubes into little shards that dilute your drink in addition to the time you spent shaking.

When using standard mixing tins for shaking, you’ll have a large and small tin. Add ingredients and ice into the small shaker, and place the larger shaker on top, but not straight on top. You’ll want to give it a slight curve, kind of like a banana. Give the top of the vessel a firm hit from the palm of your hand to make sure it’s sealed. There will be a firm seal on about 1/8 of the tins but that’s OK. Next, flip the sealed vessel around so that the small vessel is at the top. You do this because if any liquid comes out, it will go toward you and not your guests. Because I’m right-handed, my left hand is firmly holding the large vessel (with bottom facing away from me) and my right hand is holding the small vessel, facing toward me.

I shake my drinks over my right shoulder, in a back-and-forth/pushing-and-pulling fashion. I use either 4-5 small cubes or 1 large cube and 2 small cubes. You do not want your ice to bang back and forth from one vessel end to the next. Instead, try to make sure the ice is being pulled back toward you as soon as it is rocketing away from you. When you finish shaking (around 10 seconds), place the connected tins in your left hand. Remember the small seal connecting the tins right before you started shaking? Look for that. Right where the seal starts to separate is where you’ll take the heel of your right hand and hit it. Doing so correctly will break the seal, allowing you to strain your drink.

Never bang the sealed tin against the bar or corner of a table. If you’re using a Boston shaker (large shaking tin and pint glass), the glass will break. As far as your shaking skills go, you’ll know when you’re getting it right after you strain your cocktail and see that the ice cubes look more spherical than before you used them. You’re only going to be able to achieve this while shaking fast. As the saying goes, wake the drink up, don’t put it to sleep. One last thing: Never shake a drink facing your friends or guests. If the tins slip out of your hands — which can always happen — you’ll knock them out. Turn to the side, away from them.

When starting to stir or shake for the first time, dilution is what you’re trying to perfect. It’s easier (at least it was for me) to feel how cold your drink is than to know when to stop stirring and shaking. I recommend purchasing a small digital scale to measure the ingredients, minus ice, in ounces before and after straining it into the glass. You’re aiming for a 1/2-ounce increase after you’ve shaken or stirred. Now get to work.  PS

Tony Cross is a bartender who runs cocktail catering company Reverie Cocktails in Southern Pines.


Reflections of Africa

The Arts Council of Moore County presents an exhibition exploring the unique diversity of African culture and wildlife showcasing works by South African artist Garth Swift, Pinehurst artist Jessie Mackay, and artist and Sandhills native Patricia Thomas at the Campbell House, 482 E. Connecticut Ave, Southern Pines. The exhibit is free and open to the public and runs from Feb. 1-22, 9 a.m.—5 p.m. The opening reception is Friday, Feb. 1 from 6-8 p.m. Weekend hours are Saturday, Feb. 16, 10 a.m.–4 pm. For more information call (910) 692-2787 or go to


Come join the Pinehurst Police Department for the annual Polar Plunge to benefit the Special Olympics of North Carolina on Saturday, Feb. 23, at the Pinehurst Marina, 1 Denichilo Court in Pinehurst. The jump fee/donation is $50, and there will be a costume contest with prizes. For more information call (910) 417-7932 or visit

Battle of Wills

Watch the works of William Shakespeare performed by Moore County high school students competing for a trip to New York City, hoping to join students from 54 other branches of the English-Speaking Union in its 36th annual Shakespeare Competition. The students will perform on Saturday, Feb. 16, at The Village Chapel in Pinehurst, from 3-5 p.m. Admission is free to the public, and a reception will follow the event. Also performing a selection of scenes from a Shakespeare comedy will be Dr. Jonathan Drahos and Carolanne Marano of Pinehurst. For more information contact Bob Roman at (910) 725-0333.

Writer in Residence

Georgann Eubanks will read from her book The Month of Their Ripening: North Carolina Heritage Foods through the Year at the Weymouth Center for Arts & Humanities, 555 E. Connecticut Ave., Southern Pines, at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 16. For more information call (910) 692-6261 or visit

The Bolshoi Live

A Gypsy, a rose, a tavern, a mountain hideaway and a bullfight. What’s not to love? Enjoy the Metropolitan Opera’s HD Live Series showing of the Bolshoi Ballet’s performance of Carmen at 1 p.m. on Feb. 2 at the Sunrise Theater, 244 N.W. Broad St., in Southern Pines. For more information visit the Sunrise website at

Meet the Authors

Thursday, Feb. 7: Kimmery Martin: Queen of Hearts. 5 p.m.

Wednesday, Feb. 13: Chanavia Haddock: Miracle. A children’s book geared to 3-8-year-olds. 5 p.m.

Sunday, Feb. 17: Sarah Edwards: What the Sun Sees. Poetry reading. 2 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 21: Mesha Maren: Sugar Run. 5 p.m.

All events are at The Country Bookshop, 140 N.W. Broad St., Southern Pines. For more information go to

Heart ‘n Soul of Jazz

The Arts Council of Moore County presents vocalist and trombonist Aubrey Logan joining other world-class musicians in a celebration of three decades of great jazz at 8 p.m. on Feb. 16 in the Cardinal Ballroom of the Carolina Hotel, 80 Carolina Vista in Pinehurst. Tickets are $75 for VIP and $65 for preferred seating. For more information go to and purchase tickets at

Great Room Concert

The Ciompi Quartet, comprised of Duke University professors Eric Pritchard, Hsiao-mei Ku, Jonathan Bagg and Caroline Stinson, will be joined by clarinetist Allan Ware for a performance on Sunday, Feb. 3, at 2 p.m. in the Great Room at the Weymouth Center, 555 E. Connecticut Ave., Southern Pines. Tickets are $30 for non-members; $20 for members. For more information call (910) 692-6261.

Saddle Up

The Carolina Philharmonic performs a selection of the film scores and classic pop songs that helped define the Wild West. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 16 at Lee Auditorium, Pinecrest High School, 250 Voit Gilmore Lane, Southern Pines. For more information call (910) 687-0287 or go to

Found It

Learn how to use a compass and map to complete a scavenger hunt at the Weymouth Woods-Sandhills Nature Preserve, 1024 Fort Bragg Road in Southern Pines. Geared toward 6 to 10-year-olds, the Wildings program event begins at 10 a.m. on Feb. 23. For more information call (910) 692-2167 or go to

Rooster’s Wife

Friday, Feb. 1: Freddy and Francine. Fulltime pros, singing, writing and acting. Collaborators with Dead & Co. keyboardist Jeff Chimenti on the musical direction and casting for the 2017 off-Broadway musical Red Roses, Green Gold featuring the music of The Grateful Dead. Cost: $15.

Sunday, Feb. 10: The Contenders. Music and beautiful harmony infused with country and rock, folk and bluegrass. Cost: $20.

Wednesday, Feb. 13: Open mic with The Parsons. Cost: $5.

Thursday, Feb. 14: Seth Walker. Celebrate Valentine’s Day with this blues singer, guitarist and songwriter. Flowers, cocktails and music. Cost: $20.

Sunday, Feb. 17: The Kennedys. At over a million miles of roadwork including two stints with Nanci Griffith’s Blue Moon Orchestra, Pete and Maura Kennedy show no signs of slowing down. Cost: $15.

Thursday, Feb. 21: Asleep at the Wheel. A pair of fiddles, a bass, an acoustic guitar, songs and stories. Western swing isn’t dead, it’s Asleep at the Wheel. Cost: $69.

Saturday, Feb. 23: John Cowan and Darin and Brook Aldridge. The voice of Newgrass joins two-time International Blues Music Association vocalist of the year and her crazy good husband. Cost: $30.

Sunday, Feb. 24: Aaron Burdette. With lyrics that are witty and poetic all at once, his musical style is a seamless blend of Americana, country, blues, bluegrass and folk-rock. Cost: $15.

Thursday, Feb. 28: Jeanne Jolly. Artistry that encompasses the earthiness of American roots music, a hint of jazz and the emotionality of soul balladry. Cost: $20.

Unless otherwise noted, doors open at 6 p.m. and music begins at 6:46 at the Poplar Knight Spot, 114 Knight St., Aberdeen. Prices above are for members. Annual memberships are $5 and available online or at the door. For more information call (910) 944-7502 or visit or

Cottage Industry

Mother-daughter business keeps them close to home

By Deborah Salomon     Photographs by John Koob Gessner

Know a person by his or her house.

In the case of Denise O’Reilly, horse art, dog art, windows overlooking a paddock, the color turquoise, magazine-perfect decor located a few yards from her daughter and grandchildren tell the story.

Denise — equestrienne, interior designer, part-time May Street resident who summers in Florida — helps daughter Lindsay O’Reilly operate Tanglewood Farm Bed and Breakfast, where guests, riders or not, soak up the atmosphere provided by dogs, horses, chickens, rabbits and a big yellow barn cat.

Here, political wrangling and faraway conflicts are drowned out by whinnies and clucks.

Horse farms usually include hunt boxes, the English way of lodging weekend foxhunters and their mounts under the same roof, with stalls either beside or beneath an apartment. Some were rustic, others grand, still others, like Tanglewood, became freestanding cottages near the barn. Tanglewood deceives the eye. What appears to be an unremarkable cottage of modest size stretches back nearly 3,000 square feet with an interior marrying sophisticated to what Denise calls “comfy.” 

A lifelong horsewoman, Denise lived in frigid Wisconsin for 37 years, where she owned a training stable and built a dream house. Lindsay started lessons at 7 and competed in eventing, as had her mom. When Denise’s circumstances changed she moved to Florida but knew of the Southern Pines community — and eventually contacted a Realtor. Coincidentally (or not) Lindsay, a CPA, chafed to relocate from an urban high-rise lifestyle. “I wasn’t happy. I wanted my own business,” Lindsay explains. “I love to cook and entertain. We had talked about a B&B in Florida.”

Of course, operating a B&B is more changing sheets and scrubbing tubs than pouring coffee and serving eggs Benedict. First, Lindsay’s husband, Randy Sharpe, a personal trainer, had to be convinced.

Considering these circumstances, finding Tanglewood with its farmhouse and outbuildings was near miraculous, especially because the cottage demanded upgrading and Denise possessed the skills. “When I first walked through I could place every piece of my furniture,” says Denise. She purchased the property — which had seemed too big before Lindsay’s B&B proposal — in 2012.

Tanglewood’s history is scarce, except for the time a lady stopped by to tell Denise she had grown up there in the 1960s, also that the B&B cottages were her father’s workshop and all their horses were buried along the fence line. After that, Robert Costello, who competed in the 2000 Olympic Games, lived in the farmhouse for 20 years, beginning in the 1990s. “We bought it from the bank, for next to nothing, because of the barn and the manageable size (11 acres),” says Costello, who still lives nearby. “The Olympic team would come here for training sessions, stay for weeks. It was a great party house.”

Such was the post-party state Denise faced: dark wood paneling, dated carpet and tile floors, “very masculine,” her take.

But nothing could take away from looking out oversized windows at her grazing horses.

As with most farm-style houses, this one centers around the kitchen, the only room Denise gutted. She especially liked the raised brick fireplace with a slab mantel cut from a local tree and the vaulted wood-paneled ceiling, which she left intact. Other paneling is now painted shady white. Between the fireplace and the equally massive island with a top made from reclaimed wood joined by pegs is a small sitting area with two overstuffed chairs, upholstered in unlikely smoky-turquoise velvet reflecting the opposite kitchen wall of turquoise ceramic tiles. Red countertop appliances provide pop.

Following the trendy farmhouse modern mode, Denise replaced some hanging cabinets with single shelves that hold a few artfully placed dishes. Over the sink, a picture window with sightline to the upper barn where she and Lindsay keep two horses.

“The barn is my happy place,” Denise says. “I love taking care of the horses. (Lindsay and I) used to fight over who cleaned the stalls.”

The long family dining table stands at the front window facing the paddock. Its legs resemble a pencil, shaved to a point. Rather than family heirlooms, Denise’s furnishings, all chosen with a designer’s eye, arrived via High Point. They own no particular style but co-exist amicably with each other and ceramic dog-base lamps, paintings of her schnauzer Brody and other animals. Nowhere is Denise’s ability to juxtapose better displayed than the living room, also with a fireplace, where a vaulted pine ceiling (think ski or hunting lodge) synchronizes with a turquoise velvet sofa, leopard-print ottoman-tables, colonial corner cupboards, built-in bookshelves.

Denise doesn’t miss a detail. The living room window looks out onto plants arranged on a window-height table on the wide front porch. This effect brings outside in, inside out.

Extending back from the kitchen, a hall and huge porch have been joined, enclosed and repurposed as a dining room and, without any divider, an office.

“I needed a dining room and I needed an office,” Denise explains, while admitting that the office end, with turquoise desk, is used primarily for paying bills. Two guest bedrooms line the hall, with her master suite at the end. Here, surprisingly, she has not painted the wood paneling. “It’s cozier this way.” Again, turquoise and complementary colors, just enough family photos and animal art.

Rugs are Denise’s passion. “I don’t have enough floor space to put them all down. Some are rolled up under beds.” This addiction comes from studying the art of rug-making, how design elements and colors mean different things. She also learned that exquisite hand-woven carpets don’t need to be babied, which is why so many live to be antiques. “They are indestructible.”

They are also everywhere, providing a palette of colors played out in upholstery and drapery fabrics.

The sticks and stones may be pretty but central to Tanglewood Farm is the mother-daughter relationship. Lindsay hasn’t lived at home since she was 17. After relocating to Southern Pines she first lived downtown, which meant lots of back and forth while managing the units. She and her husband recently built a home a few steps away from Denise’s renovated farmhouse. Boundaries aren’t a problem; they share some B&B duties (including both the dirty work and preparing unusual breakfasts), visit back and forth frequently, eat together occasionally. Lindsay’s 4-year-old son, Flynn, is a regular at Granny’s, but since he and a younger sister have a full-time nanny, babysitting isn’t part of the equation.

“At least if something happens there’s somebody to call,” says ever-practical Denise.


Since several of the B&B units border the owners’ patio and garden, guests intermingle, become friends and return.

None of this was planned, by mother or daughter, yet Denise recalls thinking how nice it would be to have a family compound, where all three of her children could gather.

And it happened.

“I’m so lucky to have Lindsay here and to be able to watch my horses outside the window,” says Denise, wearing stylish high riding boots. “It worked out so well that sometimes I just have to pinch myself.”  PS

Mom, Inc.

A Running Dialogue

Keeping a list, checking it twice

By Renee Phile

“I hurt my foot, and I don’t think I can sit through church,” he said on a rainy Sunday morning about 10 a.m. We needed to leave at 10:15 to get there on time, which we almost never do.

“You’re fine. Get dressed. And don’t wear the same clothes you slept in,” I said, reinforcing the obvious just to be on the safe side.

He groaned. “My foot hurts like really bad! I know you think I’m faking, but I’m not. Honest, I’m not. I can’t make it through church with this.”

“Be ready in 15 minutes.”

Yes, this took place. Yes, he went to church. Yes, his foot is fine. No, we didn’t make it on time.

With two boys under my own feet, life is always in motion. Trips to school, to wrestling practice, to the grocery store, to youth group, to band practice, to galaxies far, far away. Sometimes as I’m dozing off at night and I think about what I did that day, all that comes to mind is a whirlwind. It goes by so fast that I decided to lasso the cyclone. In an effort to preserve the moments I have with these two, I write down the things they say. Here is a small sample from 10-year-old Kevin:

“I am a wizard at Battleship, and you are . . . just a starter, Mommy. You need some major tips.” (He beat me 7-1.)

“I have been waiting an hour and only have an inch of macaroni!”

(Ruby Tuesdays. Sunday afternoon. The wait was short but the portion didn’t fulfill his macaroni dreams.)

“I need to get my Halloween costume ready.” (It’s June.)

“Can we eat macaroni every night?” (He asks this before I go to the grocery store. Every week.)

“I don’t get why my sweet potato counts as dessert! That’s not fair!” (Hey, I tried.)

“If it was thundering while we were having Halloween, I would look even creepier.” (Again, it was June).

“I’m kind of glad I didn’t wait until I was 12 to jump off the diving board.” (When he was 7, I told him we weren’t leaving the pool until he jumped off the diving board. Three years later I’m some kind of savant.)

“I will take care of you when you get old. David probably won’t, so I will.” (Thank you, Kevin. By the way, can we put that in writing? Just sign here.)

“Can I please go to Grandma Jean’s house? I know she misses me. Can we have a huge Nerf gun war?” (Undoubtedly, the part she misses the most.)

And here are a few of my counteroffers:

“Your foot’s fine. You don’t even limp unless you think someone is watching you.” (Sunday, theater of the absurd.)

“Quit reading your Lego directions in church.” (Whose kid is this?)

“Stop taking selfies in church.” (Oh yes, he did.)

“No, you can’t use your fork after you dropped it on the floor.” (Temporarily thwarted in his attempt to devour an inch of macaroni.)

“You don’t need to figure out your Halloween costume right this minute.” (Did I mention it was June?)

“So, what do I do, Admiral?” (Let’s face it, I need Battleship help.)

“No, you cannot wear that shirt and those pants today. You wore them the last two days.” (Some things cannot be stressed enough.)

“Grandma Jean is a pacifist.” (Nerfwise.)

So, there you go. I never know what will come out of his mouth, and to be honest, I usually never know what will come out of mine either. PS

Renee Phile loves being a teacher, even if it doesn’t show at certain moments.

Golftown Journal

Four on the Floor

Major championships at home in the Carolinas

By Lee Pace

The coming year is a big one in the Carolinas for national golf competitions as four USGA national championships will be scattered across the region — two in the Sandhills, one along the coast, and one smack in the middle of an urban market measuring more than two million residents. There is no grand design for this concentration of “majors” along our pristine nook of the Atlantic Seaboard, just a random confluence of events that have landed the limelight on Pinehurst No. 2, Pine Needles, the Country Club of Charleston and Old Chatham in one calendar year.

“The schedule obviously highlights the fact we think we have a lot of great championship venues in the Carolinas,” says Reg Jones, the USGA’s senior director of U.S. Open Championships. “There’s a lot of great golf here, and the coming year will be a showcase for the Carolinas.”

The festivities begin May 16-19 with the U.S. Women’s Senior Open coming to Pine Needles and being played for just the second time after launching in 2018 at Chicago Golf Club. The club has a rich history in the women’s game via its ownership since the 1950s of the family of the late Peggy Kirk Bell; it has hosted three U.S. Women’s Opens and is set as the venue for a fourth in 2022.

Two weeks later, the spotlight moves to Charleston for the 74th U.S. Women’s Open. The club is one of the oldest in the Carolinas, founded in 1900 on a site north of the city and moving in 1925 to its present location on John’s Island, just across the Ashley River southwest of downtown. The club and the USGA both enjoyed the 2013 Women’s Amateur won by Emma Talley and thought it worthy of a second take on a bigger stage.

The 119th U.S. Amateur continues the vaunted heritage of Pinehurst No. 2 as a major championship setting and will be held Aug. 12-18, with the two qualifying rounds shared on the No. 4 course recently redesigned by Gil Hanse. This will be the third U.S. Amateur on the Donald Ross-designed course, following Labron Harris Jr.’s win in 1962 and Danny Lee’s triumph in 2008; it falls dead in between the course’s last U.S. Open in 2014 and the next one set for ’24.

And then in the last week of August (24-29), the 65th U.S. Senior Amateur comes to Durham and Old Chatham Golf Club, a course designed by Rees Jones that opened in 2001 to serve the fast-growing market of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. Old Chatham hasn’t the historical pedigree of the others, but it was conceived during the heady days of the late 1990s golf boom as a throwback — golf only, no residential component, and tasteful but modest infrastructure.

“Our concept was to create a golf club for the purist,” says Rex Teaney, one of Old Chatham’s founders. “We knew this would be the second or third club for most of our members, so we didn’t need a pool and tennis and fine dining. We studied the old-line clubs and tried to implement their structure. We’re all about golf, the amateur game, and trying where we can to give back to the game. That was the appeal of having a Senior Amateur and, I think, why the USGA was attracted to coming here.”

The Carolinas’ roots with the USGA have run deep for more than half a century as two luminaries in USGA administrative annals, Richard Tufts and P.J. Boatwright, have deep ties to the Sandhills of North Carolina and the upstate of South Carolina.

Tufts was the grandson of Pinehurst founder James W. Tufts and was born in 1896, one year after James Tufts built the Holly Inn, two years before the first nine-hole golf course was cobbled from the barren, sandy soil, and five years before the Carolina Hotel opened. After graduating from Harvard in 1918, Richard returned to Pinehurst to join the family business and eventually run the resort and club.

Tufts became a prime mover and shaker in international golf administrative circles, particularly in the 1950s with his ascension to the presidency of the USGA (1956-58). There were few parts of the game that his expertise and good sense did not touch — from rules to agronomy to course setup to tournament administration. Tufts also ran the Carolinas Golf Association from Pinehurst from 1934-65 as its secretary-treasurer.

“How he found time for the CGA and the USGA while still running Pinehurst always amazed me,” son Peter Tufts said. “Dad and Donald Ross both had the ability to juggle what seemed like a hundred balls at the same time. But they got things done and did them well.”

In 1955, Tufts hired a crack young amateur golfer from Aiken, South Carolina, to move to Pinehurst and run the day-to-day operations of the CGA. P.J. Boatwright thrived at the job for four years and then Tufts told USGA Executive Director Joe Dey in 1959 that Boatwright was ready to move to the national stage. Boatwright moved to USGA headquarters in New York City (prior to the association’s 1972 move to New Jersey) to become assistant executive director with the USGA and a decade later succeeded Dey. He spent 31 years with the USGA, taking the title of executive director of rules and competitions in 1980 to reflect his specialization in the elements he enjoyed most.

The affection and respect the world of golf had for Richard Tufts was one reason competitors like Billy Joe Patton organized and presented a petition to the USGA in 1960 that the U.S. Amateur should be held on No. 2, which it was two years later. And it was Boatwright’s fondness for No. 2 that kept the idea of No. 2 hosting a U.S. Open in the incubator of potential sites for several decades — provided the club could eventually solve the issue of having firm and fast putting surfaces in mid-June, which it did in the 1990s with the advent of Penn G-2 bent grass.

“There is a strong Pinehurst influence that goes through our organization,” says Reg Jones. “And there is a lot of Pinehurst influence in the game of golf. It’s a very special place.”

Tufts died in 1980 and Boatwright in 1991, but the synergy between the USGA and Pinehurst remained, and it escalated five years into the new century when the USGA, in effect, swallowed the operation that had been known as Pinehurst Championship Management and had run the 1999 and 2005 Opens at Pinehurst, the 1994 U.S. Senior Open on No. 2, and the 1996 and 2001 Women’s Opens at Pine Needles. Jones and his colleagues joined the USGA staff, and all U.S. Opens are now run out of a satellite office the USGA has in Pinehurst. Offices are on the second floor of the Pinehurst Department Store Building in the heart of the village, just above the Villager Deli and Gentlemen’s Corner, with 11 full-time employees at the moment and likely more to come as the 2022 Women’s Open at Pine Needles and 2024 Open on No. 2 approach.

“It’s surprising how many people don’t know they are here,” says Marty McKenzie, the building’s owner and the USGA’s landlord. “The USGA could locate anywhere in the United States, but they have chosen to be in Pinehurst. What an honor.”

And how convenient in 2019 with so much activity within a driver and 3-wood of Pinehurst.

Elite golfers of both sexes and all ages will wage their sticks and wits against Ross at Pine Needles and No. 2, Hanse on No. 4, Seth Raynor at Charleston and Rees Jones at Old Chatham.

They’ll negotiate Ross’ crowned greens on No. 2 and Raynor’s right-angle corners and his infamous “reverse redan” par-3 11th at Charleston. They’ll tread the rugged topography of Old Chatham and aim away from some of the recently reconfigured bunkers at Pine Needles.

And there will be some ladies teeing it up at Pine Needles for the Senior Women’s Open who know that course from the 1996 and 2001 Women’s Opens. When the senior event commences, it will have been a dozen years since the last major event at Pine Needles, the 2007 Women’s Open.

“The Women’s Opens at Pine Needles were phenomenal,” Jones says. “The club and community certainly support the women’s game, so this is another step in that tradition.”

That applies to four clubs across the Carolinas as well in 2019.  PS

Chapel Hill writer Lee Pace has chronicled many winters, worth of Pinehurst golf lore in three of his books — Pinehurst Stories (1991), The Spirit of Pinehurst (2004) and The Golden Age of Pinehurst (2012).


Why Poetry?

A robin comes 

to my yard in spring, 

breast like sun,

bead-black eyes,

slate-blue wings.

He cocks his head,

this way and that,

listens for breakfast,

grubs and insects

rustling in fresh soil.

No promise in those eyes

how long he’ll stay.

He may follow other birds,

songs from somewhere far away

muffled in the gusting wind.

He may leave when cold

begins to mute the green,

or morning frost spreads

sparkling icing

on the ground.

Winter comes, steals

my memory of spring.

But I return to this poem’s page.

The robin never flies away. 

Sarah Edwards