Good Natured

Be Optimistic

It’s good for your health

By Karen Frye

Some things are worth working for. Being optimistic may turn out to be one of them. Thinking of your life in the future, always imagine that you have the best of all possible outcomes. Maintaining an upbeat, positive frame of mind may even extend your life. Optimism’s benefits include better mental, emotional and physical health.

Many of us have a friend or loved one suffering from age-related dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. The number of people with this health issue seems to keep increasing even with medications to slow it down. The gene APOEe4 is the risk gene with the greatest known impact, though its presence does not mean that a person will develop Alzheimer’s.

Yale University researchers have discovered that people who carry the gene but hold positive beliefs about aging appear less likely to develop dementia than those with negative aging beliefs. Just by having an optimistic outlook, you can reduce your risk. Feeling good overall about your aging experience can help you deal better with stress. We all recognize the negative effect stress has on our health. Having a positive outlook can help with reductions in stroke, heart disease and pain. It also strengthens the immune system. In a study of more than 2,500 men and women over the age of 65, those who were most optimistic had the lowest blood pressure. The simple fact may be that negativity contributes to deteriorating health and disease. Just by keeping an upbeat attitude you can reduce inflammation, lower cortisol, and lower cholesterol, underlying causes of chronic disease.

Here are a few ideas to get you started on becoming the optimist you want to be.

— Notice how you perceive the world around you; the more you recognize the positive things in your life, the easier it becomes to see them in the future.

— Even in difficulty and uncertainty, there is always a lot to feel positive about.

— Take a few index cards and write helpful reminders, positive messages and put them in places where you see them throughout the day to keep your thoughts on the right track.

As this practice becomes a normal way of life, your health conditions may start to improve and your quality of life will be better. You might find that people want to be around you because you boost their optimism.

See more goodness in life, and your life will be rewarded with a warm heart and a long healthy life.

All the best on your journey.  PS

Karen Frye is the owner and founder of Natures Own and teaches yoga at the Bikram Yoga Studio.

Pleasures of Life

Hail the Tomato

The indispensible veggie/fruit/berry

By Michael Smith

Garden-fresh tomatoes will soon play center stage at Sandhills farmers markets. The things purporting to be tomatoes that we’ve endured all winter look like a picture. But then they also taste like a picture.

You say “tumahtoe,” I say “toomaydo,” the French and Spanish say “tomate,” Dutch say “tomaat,” and Italians say “pomodoro.” Whatever, those luscious little veggies soon will find their way onto our plates and delight our palates. Tomatoes are not just good, nay, they’re good for you. They’re chock-full of vitamins and stuff like lycopene, an antioxidant that is good for the heart and effective against certain cancers.

Americans love tomatoes. According to the USDA, the average American eats 23 pounds of tomatoes each year. And a Google search reveals that 93 percent of American gardeners grow tomatoes in their yards.

Did I say luscious “little veggies?” Should I have said luscious little fruits? Doesn’t matter to me and probably not to you. But back in the day, it did matter to the United States Supreme Court.

On May 10, 1893, the Supreme Court decided that tomatoes are vegetables. Case closed. That, despite the fact that, botanically, fruits — say, tomatoes, for example — surround their seed(s) with fleshy material. Vegetables don’t. (Bet you’re already wondering about seedless grapes, seedless watermelons, and seedless oranges.) The Supremes found that dictionaries did not sufficiently settle the question so, as it’s wont to do, the court decided the issue using the “common language of the people.” Most folks say tomatoes are vegetables.

Phytologists might have a word or two to contribute to that. They study plants and to them, tomatoes are more nearly a berry. New Jersey sides with the Supremes. There, the tomato is the state vegetable. In Ohio it’s the state fruit. Arkansas covers all bases. There the tomato is both the state fruit and state vegetable.

Moving right along, Americans grow tomatoes as annual plants, but they are actually perennials. They still grow wild in the Andes mountains. Actually, you can nurse the plants through the winter and plant them again next spring.

Tomatoes have an interesting history. One source traces them to the early Aztecs, circa 700 A.D. But by the time Spanish explorers began ripping off South America, tomatoes were pervasive and enjoyed by natives there as a food staple. They grew wild and they were also cultivated for food. In addition, they were regarded as an aphrodisiac, which probably had most to do with why tomatoes were sent back to Europe, along with everything else of value.

Once there, the French apparently took the aphrodisiac business to heart. They called the tomato pomme d’ amore or “apple of love.” Tomatoes were also embraced as part of the Spanish diet. Upper-class Brits took a pass on the things while lower-class Brits ate tomatoes with gusto. One theory about that is that the rich folks ate off pewter flatware with a high lead content. Tomato acid caused the lead to mix into the food and lead poisoning led to bad results. Poor people used wooden plates.

A more probable explanation for literate rich Brits eschewing tomatoes is that the tomato plant closely resembles the nightshade plant which is, in fact, poison and can even be fatal. Fast-forward to America’s Colonies. Tomatoes got off to a very slow start. Apparently, the nightshade/poison fiction came over with the Pilgrims. And the apple of love business was definitely not a hit with the Puritans. None of that “hot tomato” stuff.

High-profile dudes like Thomas Jefferson, Col. Robert Gibbon Johnson, and Joseph Campbell popularized tomatoes and ensured their place in our culture. Jefferson grew them in his garden and promoted their use in cooking. Johnson, as late as 1830, had the temerity to eat the things on the steps of a local courthouse, where folks lined up to watch him die. And in 1897, Campbell began marketing condensed tomato soup. Now, would Campbell Soup do you wrong?

Given the popularity of the tomato, a body might think America would be the largest tomato producer. Not so, it’s China. America’s second. In America, Florida grows the most fresh tomatoes, while California processes the most tomatoes used in soups, sauces, salsas, salads, ketchup and multitudes of similar commodities.

Tomatoes are not just garden-variety, either. In fact, there are a whopping 10,000 varieties of the vegetables, uh, fruits, uh, berries. And they come in red, pink, purple, black, yellow and even white. So there’s something for everybody.

Tomatoes are spacey. That’s right,  according to, 600,000 tomato seeds traveled to the International Space Station and back. As part of the “Tomatosphere Project,” students in Canadian classrooms are using the seeds to grow plants and compare them with plants from seeds that didn’t get to go to space.

Here’s one for the books: The Guinness Book of World Records says between May 2005 and April 2006, a tomato “tree” grown in the Walt Disney World Resort greenhouse produced over 32,000 tomatoes in the first 16 months after it was planted. That scored the record for the most tomatoes in a single year. And here’s another: The heaviest tomato on record was produced in 2013 in Oklahoma. Weight — 7 pounds and 12 ounces. Put that in perspective by considering that the average tomato weighs a mere 4 ounces. Finally, Guinness says the world’s tallest tomato plant was 65 feet, grown in 2000 in Lancashire, United Kingdom.

All right, I promise this is the last one. There’s this little place called Buñol, which is a province of Valencia, Spain. Each year on the last Wednesday of August between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., as many as 50,000 visitors from everywhere on Earth gather in Buñol for the “La Tomatina” food fight festival. On average, those nuts unleash 243,000 pounds of tomatoes at everything that moves and everything that doesn’t move. Hey, whatever rings your bell.  PS

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


Road Game

Putt-Putt: a miniature obsession

By Bill Fields

I’ve gotten to interview some of the greats of golf, stars whose names will resonate as long as the game is played — golfers like Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead and Arnold Palmer. Once, I even got to fly into the Moore County Airport on a jet Palmer was piloting. There might not be any cheering in the press box, but that was cool.

A few years ago, it was a thrill to talk with Rick Baird, John Napoli and Rick Smith.

You probably don’t recognize the latter trio or know why I would have been interested in learning their stories. But for someone who loved Putt-Putt the way I did as a kid — despite not getting to play very often — speaking with those putting legends was as good as it gets, the opposite of the feeling when your colored ball disappeared down the chute on the last hole.

Baird and Napoli are two of only three people to shoot an 18 in a Putt-Putt competition, making a 1 on each of the approximately 30-foot putts. (By comparison, there have been 23 perfect games pitched in Major League Baseball.) Smith was one of the best putters in the heyday of the Professional Putters Association. A teen phenom, he won world titles in 1969 and 1972 and was so skilled with his center-shafted blade that Don Clayton, who opened the first Putt-Putt course in Fayetteville in 1954, nicknamed him “The Ace Machine.”

I’m pretty sure my family believed I got a bit too excited about miniature golf, particularly when I wouldn’t budge from the couch when the Putt-Putt televised series, Parade of Champions, was on Sunday mornings. Smith, Vance Randall, John Connor and the other pros showed that Sam Jones had nothing on them when it came to bank shots. They just made theirs wearing dress loafers.

I was usually in flip-flops while trying to imitate the putting pros — open stance like Smith or closed stance like Randall? — on vacation in Ocean Drive, South Carolina, where I looked forward to the beachside Putt-Putt course more than Hoskins’ flounder or Sno-Cones. One of the other kids going round and round those same 18 holes was none other than Rick Baird. About 40 years later, he shot his “Perfect 18” at a tournament in Richmond, Virginia.

My marathon Putt-Putt days occurred while spending a summer week with my sister in High Point, where there was a 36-hole facility on North Main Street. It was three bucks for as much as you wanted to play on a weekday. Practice didn’t make perfect by any means, but I occasionally broke 30, convinced I would have scored better if I had splurged on an official “steel center” PPA ball. Truer roll, and all that.

Young nerves went a long way on those surfaces. Putt-Putt carpets aren’t as fast now because the specific material isn’t manufactured, but back then they were closer to linoleum than Bermuda overseeded with rye. On a real course, I never played on anything approaching Putt-Putt speed until the mid-1970s on the well-manicured bentgrass surfaces at Quail Ridge in Sanford.

I was not a miniature golf snob, happily going to Jungle Golf or Wacky Golf or whatever other names the places with dinosaurs, rhinos and windmills on Highway 17 in Myrtle Beach were called. My parents and sisters indulged me and played too, although I think they tried to pretend they didn’t know me on the occasions I insisted on using my own putter rather than one of the loaners.

My mother relished her holes-in-one, all the more if I had recently critiqued her grip as better suited for a broom handle than a golf club. She was not a great putter but a very good sport, joining Dad and me at the South of the Border miniature golf course, the round a consolation prize on a desultory ride home from a thwarted trip to the beach. All the motel rooms on the Grand Strand were filled by bikers, which sabotaged our spur-of-the-moment attempt at a long weekend.

On Mom’s 80th birthday trip, a long time since we had done so, we had a game at the beach. I asked a stranger to take a snapshot. We are standing next to a giant plastic flamingo, colored balls in our hands and smiles on our faces.  PS

Southern Pines native Bill Fields, who writes about golf and other things, moved north in 1986 but hasn’t lost his accent.

Mom, Inc.


And everything she left behind

By Renee Phile

I woke up thinking about her, and I’m not sure why. Facebook told me today is her birthday, so maybe that’s why. Or maybe it’s because my son had his best friend over last night, and as I watched all the non-verbal communication — their inside jokes, looks, smirks, eye rolls — I couldn’t help but think about Serenity. She was my best friend in fourth grade and the grades after that, and although her name is Serenity, she preferred to be called Sunny for short, so I called her Sunnybird. We met in fourth grade on Mercer Christian Academy’s basketball team. Neither of us was really into it, but we kind of tried. Serenity was home-schooled and there was a chance she was going to join me at MCA the next year, and every day I would call her house to get the status.

“Hello?” her mom answered.

“Is Serenity there?”

“Just a minute. (Pause.) Serenity?”

(Phone going through hands, some stumbling around.)

“Hi, Renee!”

“Are you coming to MCA next year?”

“I don’t know yet.”

“OK. Talk to you later!” I would immediately hang up.

During one of the many sleepovers we had, she told me that she wished I had talked longer on the phone — that it hurt her feelings when I ended our conversations so abruptly. “I’m sorry,” I said, and I tried to explain. “I just had a question and needed an answer.”

She did end up going to MCA for fifth grade. Our teacher was Mr. Smith, an older, soft-spoken gentleman who always wore a different belt buckle and played basketball with us during recess. That year I stayed up one night reading and writing a report about Florence Nightingale. It was the first documented all-nighter of my school career.

Serenity sat in the desk behind me. She ate saltine crackers and cheese during class and passed me notes, folded into unique designs. The designs were way fancier than the words, and it was fun to spend five minutes opening a note to see her splashy cursive: “Hi! Want to swing instead of playing ball today?”

I spent lots of nights and days at her three-story house right off the main street in downtown Princeton, West Virginia. On Saturdays we had to clean her bathroom and vacuum before we could do anything fun. Fun meant walking the mile or so to Jason’s Market to buy Carmelo bars, cotton candy gum, Cow Tails, and peach Nehis. We left the market and walked to the cemetery down the road and made up stories about the names on the gravestones while we chomped on our gum and blew big bubbles. Once we saw a black-haired man sitting cross-legged on one of those above-ground graves. (I didn’t know they were called mausoleums.) We watched him for a few minutes, turning him into a serial killer in our imaginations, and then trudged back to her house. When we turned around, we saw him walking after us. We began running, turning down random streets, but he was still there. He was behind us, running just as hard as we were. We flew into her front door and slammed it hard behind us, sure we were seconds from being kidnapped and killed by the guy with black hair who sat on a grave in the cemetery. We told and retold the story for years, each time adding a new, dramatic detail. He had a knife. He snarled. We nearly died that day.

Once Sunnybird was snowed in at my house for a week. Or maybe her parents had gone out of town and it just happened to be snowing. I can’t remember. She decided to leave her folded notes for my parents all over the house, to thank them for letting her stay. Some in cabinets, some in bookshelves, some behind the TV. Each one was specific: “Thank you for letting me use your toilet.” Or, “Thank you for letting me eat your peanut butter.” We saved the ones we could find. There may be some still hidden in that house in the mountains of West Virginia.

We were pretty innocent creatures, trying to figure out life and love and other stuff, and I felt safe when I was with her. She moved to Oklahoma when we were in high school and I felt like I had lost a body part. We sent letters back and forth and she still folded them into fancy designs before she plopped them in the envelope. There were no cell phones, so if we wanted to call each other, we could only talk a few minutes because it was long distance and long distance costs money.

We lost touch over the years, but I see her sometimes on Facebook, and I’m back at the cemetery in fifth grade with a Carmelo bar and a peach Nehi, being chased by someone with black hair until I am safe again.  PS

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

Food for Thought

Pamlico Perfection

There is no need for fancy cooking at the beach, especially when local shrimp are running

By Jane Lear

There is something freewheeling about beach house cookery. All the familiar props, from tools to staple foods, are gone, and most folks happily make do with whatever they can find in a stranger’s kitchen cabinets and at the grocery store, seafood market and farm stand. Everything will taste delicious, after all, because most people who love the beach spend the entire day outdoors. Even if you do nothing more strenuous than laze under an umbrella with the latest page-turner, you somehow manage to work up an appetite.

That’s why I am only fussy about a couple of things. The first is tomatoes. More often than not, I’ve been disappointed by the selection at coastal Carolina farm stands; typically, the tomatoes are commercial hybrids and not very interesting or flavorful. I always hedge my bets, then, by bringing plenty of good ’uns with me — both backyard beefsteaks and heirlooms in varying shapes, sizes and degrees of ripeness. I bring lots of them, enough for a week’s worth of salads and the best sandwiches in the world. I pack them in low cardboard boxes and nestled in beach towels, stem-side up so their rounded shoulders won’t get bruised.

I’m also uncompromising about finding local wild-caught shrimp, one of my favorite beach eats. The brown shrimp (Farfantepenaeus aztecus) that are running now are sweet and fat. And whether you buy them from a seafood purveyor or roadside cooler, don’t be afraid to ask questions about their source. “Anyone selling shrimp should know who they purchased it from (if they didn’t catch it themselves) and should be able to provide some details (e.g., the name of the boat, the fish house, area of the coast, etc.) if it’s from North Carolina,” writes Scott Baker, fisheries specialist for the NC Sea Grant Extension Program. “The NC Catch organization has a directory for seafood retailers that provide local products.” NC Catch can be found online at

The last North Carolina shrimp I had were real beauts — just hours out of the hold of a boat working Pamlico Sound. This shallow lagoon separating much of the Outer Banks from the mainland is a remarkable body of water; it’s so broad and long that when explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano reached the coast in 1523, he thought he had reached the Pacific Ocean.

My extended family that gathers at the beach expands or contracts depending on circumstances. What never changes, though, is a love of the surf and a great reluctance to leave the beach in order to go make dinner. That means we all share kitchen duty — and no one ever complains about the fact that peel-your-own boiled shrimp is the default meal. Add corn on the cob and a platter of those tomatoes, and you have easily attainable perfection in no time flat.

When it comes to cooking shrimp, I’m a big believer in protecting the physical integrity — thus the flavor and tender texture — of seafood. Unless I’m stuck with very large shrimp, I never fool with deveining. Why open up that thin, resilient armor and risk coarsening such delicate meat? To my mind, there’s no beating the succulence of heads-on shrimp, but lots of people prefer the convenience that comes with buying them heads-off.

I also cook shrimp in the smallest amount of water I can get away with, covering them by just 2 inches or so. As far as the seasoning is concerned, I add a quartered lemon and enough sea salt to make cold tap water taste like the ocean. If you are a fan of a seafood boil blend such as Old Bay or Zatarain’s, toss some in as well, but use a light hand — you don’t want to overwhelm the clean, briny-sweet flavor of the shellfish.

James Beard famously declared that “the unpardonable fault in preparing shrimp is overcooking,” therefore attention must be paid. After bringing the seasoned water to a boil, add the unpeeled shrimp and start timing from that moment. Depending on the size of the shrimp and how many pounds of them are in the pot, begin checking for doneness at about two minutes. Once the shrimp are a beautiful rosy-pink on the outside, opaque inside, and firm yet tender in texture (cut one open to check), immediately drain them in a colander.

Spread newspapers over the table and eat the shrimp hot out of the shell, with melted butter (add garlic or a spritz of lemon if the spirit moves), or cooled, with a horseradishy cocktail sauce. A New Orleans-style rémoulade would be wonderful too, but I don’t know — all that mincing and measuring sounds like too much work at the beach.

The adults in my crowd can easily put away at least three-quarters of a pound of shrimp per person. Any leftovers are tucked into the fridge for lunchtime shrimp rolls the next day. Peel the shrimp and cut them into chunks. Add some Duke’s mayo, a little Dijon mustard, shredded carrot, chopped scallion, and perhaps some chopped red bell pepper or celery for crunch. Serve in lightly toasted hot dog buns. Then slather on more sunscreen and go outside. The surf is waiting.  PS

Jane Lear was the senior articles editor at Gourmet and features director at Martha Stewart Living.

Wine Country

Wine Uncorked

It can be simple, easy and eco-friendly

By Angela Sanchez

Why not drink wine out of a can? Why not drink wine from a bottle with a screw cap or Stelvin closure? Maybe, even a keg? Before all of you confirmed cork devotees get too upset, I’m not talking about grand cru Burgundy or first growth Bordeaux or single vineyard California cabernet from Screaming Eagle. I’m talking about wine that is made to be consumed young — what some people refer to as table wine — without oak or bottle aging. It’s the stuff we everyday folk consume on a regular basis. It’s what we take on boats and road trips and keep chilled for the backyard barbecue and camping in the summer. It’s the wine we have in the fridge and on the rack in the kitchen for when a friend drops by and needs a friendly ear. Nothing serious, just a good bottle we enjoy.

Like a lot of people these days, I want convenience that’s also eco-friendly, but my primary reason for exploring alternative closures and vessels for wine is the cork itself. Harvested from cork trees grown in Portugal and then crafted into fitted closures for wine bottles, the cork contains living organisms that can go bad and “taint” the wine. It can happen as often as one in every 12 bottles. According to, fungi which naturally reside in cork can come into contact with bleaches and other sterilization products found in wine cellars, tainting the wine and rendering it “corked.” Have you ever opened a bottle of wine that smelled and/or tasted like wet cardboard or gym socks? At home you might suffer through it and never purchase that wine again. At a restaurant you paid double, sometimes triple, the actual cost of the bottle and probably just decided you didn’t like the wine or simply chose the wrong bottle. But, no cork, no taint.

This, of course, doesn’t apply to high-end premium wines, single-sourced or from small, highly acclaimed biodynamic vineyards. I’m talking about that bottle you pick up for under $15. If you’re headed to the beach, boat or backyard this month, you want something that tastes good, fits in a cooler, chills quickly, stays that way, and is easily disposed of and recycled. And since you can’t ask the waiter to bring you another bottle, it helps if it’s not tainted. Convenience, taste and an eco-friendly container can all be achieved from wine with a screw cap, in a can, keg or even a box. Studies show, and I have confirmed through years as a wine professional, that screw caps and Stelvin closures keep wine fresher longer, creating less waste. You might even want to avoid the bottle altogether. No glass on the beach or by the pool, and who wants to dig around for a wine tool? One can of wine is equivalent to a half bottle. Coolers are made for cans and, at the end of the day, cans are recycled at an 80 percent rate compared to 20 percent for glass.

Let’s face it, wine can be snobby. A lot of people don’t even like to drink beer out of a can. To each his own. If nothing but a bottle with a cork will do, fine. But it is summer, so don’t be afraid to try something for fun that’s also convenient and friendly to the environment.

Keep your snacks simple too. Easy wine and summer outdoor activities require cheese with great flavor but not too serious aging or washing. Snacking cheese, not thinking cheese. Try a great aged cheddar like Tickler from England with a bit of crunch from whey protein or a Southern classic like pimento cheese. All Southern cooks have their own recipe, usually a blend of cheddars, pimentos, Duke’s mayonnaise and maybe pickled jalapeños or olives. Easily shared and great with simple crackers or used as a dip with celery, pimento cheese is the perfect summer snack. Whatever you choose, it’s July, summer is here, keep it simple and easy.  PS

Angela Sanchez owns Southern Whey, a cheese-centric specialty food store in Southern Pines, with her husband, Chris Abbey. She was in the wine industry for 20 years and was lucky enough to travel the world drinking wine and eating cheese.

Story Of A House

Our House, Our Town

Finding serendipity on Massachusetts Avenue

By Deborah Salomon 
Photographs by John Gessner

When the Roaring ’20s crashed in 1929, so did construction of luxurious winter residences in Southern Pines. One exception was a Dutch Colonial- style home designed by Alfred Yeomans in 1930 on prime Massachusetts Avenue acreage. Yeomans, a landscape designer and James Boyd’s cousin, had built the Highland Inn a few blocks away with Aymar Embury II. The new home on Massachusetts was owned by two daughters of Julia Anna “Annie” DePeyster of Ridgefield, Connecticut — Estelle Hosmer and Mary Justine Martin.

The DePeysters, mother and daughters,  were typical of urban high society flocking to Southern Pines and Pinehurst for the mild winters. The family tree included two Colonial mayors of New York City. Another descendant, Frederick DePeyster, was a loyalist who fought on the side of the British in the Revolutionary War, was exiled to Canada, returned as a wealthy merchant, and rejoined New York’s social and economic elite. Annie DePeyster’s husband, Johnston Livingston de Peyster (a variant of DePeyster)  enlisted in the Union Army at 18 and was credited with raising the first Union flag over the Capitol Building in Richmond, Virginia, after the city fell in 1865. He passed away in 1903. Why the sisters sold the fully furnished house in 1936  to the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh for half price remains a mystery, though Annie passed away a year later at the age of 90. William Hafey, the first Catholic bishop of Raleigh, kept his elderly father there; and Elizabeth Sutherland, a founding member of the Southern Pines Garden Club was a subsequent owner.

How very proud Yeomans, Embury (who built himself a cottage nearby) and the DePeysters would be of their accomplishment, now curated by Mary and Mike Saulnier. The flower, vegetable and herb gardens flourish, laid out and tended by novices who learned as they dug, moving and preserving decades-old plants. The house itself gains personality from irregularities and novelties — off-center dormer placement, angled walls, an exposed brick chimney rising two stories, a back stairway leading to the maid’s room (now a guest suite), a pair of interior windows, massive original bathroom fixtures and black-and-white tiled floors, a call bell system for the servants, and an under-the-stairway closet where hangs a clever fire extinguisher. Iron radiators, some covered with perforated screens, have been left in place as icons of the pre-forced air heating/AC era.

By way of introduction, in the foyer hang Yeomans’ architectural drawings, an homage to history beautifully framed by the Saulniers.

“I found them in the basement,” Mary says.  That find inspired her to compile a scrapbook containing newspaper clippings about the house and its wealthy occupants, as well as other schematics.  Because for Mary and retired Army Col. Mike Saulnier, this home represents another type of find.

“We were looking for a hometown,” Mike says.

Mary spent part of her childhood in Alaskan whaling villages, where her father taught in a one-room schoolhouse, later relocating his wife and eight children to Pennsylvania. Mike, from a military family, moved around.  They met at Shippensburg University.  Beginning in 1999, the military and NATO posted Mike, Mary and their children to The Netherlands, Belgium and Korea, sometimes for several years, with plenty of time to absorb the culture and acquire household goods.

The homesteading desire appeared in 2009, when they were stationed at Fort Bragg.

“We were sitting at the beach, trying to figure out where to live, since we didn’t have any connections,” Mary recalls. While browsing online she found a Weymouth listing that sounded attractive. They drove over and instantly fell in love with the area and, subsequently, the Dutch Colonial, which had been renovated and needed only painting (Mary and Mike did the interior themselves), window treatments, landscaping and minor adjustments.

“It felt right. We never looked anywhere else,” Mary says. Neither golf nor horses influenced their decision.

They moved in 2011 and began making the house their own. An unusual rectangular pool, for example. This came about when Mike discovered nothing would grow on that patch, also that a pool would cost less than a flagstone terrace. But nothing motel-style. He laid out the shape with ropes and hoses. “We wanted it to look like a water feature that had always been here.” The result, a safe 5-foot depth with a grayish pebble lining that makes the pool fade into the surroundings. An ozone purification system replaces chlorine. Add a few lilies and he’d have a pond.

Crumbling bricks on garden walls were made on premises by Yeomans, and a Dutch wooden gate replicates the one hung by the architect.

The main floor has a circular plan; turn right inside the front door, go through the dining room, kitchen and family room, windowless office and into the living room, which opens onto a screened porch. The only addition, by a previous owner, was the family room, which begs the question: Why are the walls angled in several directions?

Mary explains that the room was built not to disturb an ancient tree, perhaps a sugar maple like the huge one with dense canopy that shades and cools a portion of the yard.

That tree, a grassy lawn and boxwoods bring New England to the piney Sandhills.

If only nations could live as harmoniously as the furnishings the Saulniers collected in Europe and Korea. An Asian aura prevails, serenely, without resorting to red lacquer. A set of calligraphy brushes on a runner printed with the Korean alphabet adorn the foyer table, hinting at what lies within. Folding screens serve as headboards. Bells line shelves. A step-down bedroom chest, Mary explains, is finished and operational on both sides making it suitable as a room divider. But for every Korean artifact there is a table, a dresser, a desk or bookshelf — some carved antiques, others plain and functional —  acquired at auctions in Belgium and Holland.

I am naturally attracted to rustic and classic in muted tones,” Mary says. Her palette flows from moss greens and woodsy browns to oatmeal, linen beige, deep maroon and putty. Dusty turquoise appears briefly in the living room alongside an 18th century Flemish tapestry, with a few brightly colored Vietnamese bed coverings upstairs. Mary chose other fabrics with contemporary motifs. She and Mike upholstered bedroom headboards themselves using only plywood, padding, damask and a staple gun. In fact, “Everything we did is the first time we did it,” Mary says.  Original oak and pine floorboards host carpets Mike brought back from Afghanistan. Beams cross the living room ceiling but this is not a house weighed down with crown moldings. Instead, objects like a colorful child’s kimono hung from a curtain rod practically jump off the slightly textured plastered walls.

In the DePeyster’s era a small galley kitchen was sufficient for the hired cook. Now, when houses sink or swim in the kitchen, the Saulniers’ bypasses glitz and gadgets for warmth and European country charm while providing every amenity. An L-shaped layout, beadboard cabinetry (except for a few original carpenter-mades), thick natural wood and Provençal blue ceramic countertops, a French Quimper tile backsplash, a small vegetable sink in addition to the oversize farmer model, make it a comfortable and convenient place to prepare meals. In a corner stands an antique baker’s rack holding Mary’s pride: a collection of polished copper pots and skillets without which a French chef wouldn’t attempt even a scrambled egg.

More than 3,000 square feet on 1 1/2 acres seems generous for two people and a cat. Yet no room (except for the family room adjoining the kitchen) is oversize. Mary thought ahead. “The kids are gone but we want them and the grandchildren (two, already) to come home and stay in the house for holidays and make noise.” Besides, she continues, the way the house is configured, when one area gets noisy other spaces, indoors and out, offer alternatives for quiet conversation.

Back to finding a hometown. As with the house, Mary and Mike Saulnier lucked out. “This area has a real blend of cultures and people and viewpoints,” Mary says. “You go to an art exhibit and every person you meet is from somewhere else — but it’s still a small town.” A small town graced with historic homes, preserved and furnished with fascinating memorabilia of lives well-lived, including theirs.  PS

Paradox Farm

Going all-in out in the country

By Jim Moriarty     Photographs by Tim Sayer

Jimmy Stewart had one in Harvey. His pooka was a benign rabbit, unseen by most of humanity, that was precisely 6 feet 3 1/2 inches in height. Stewart’s character, Elwood P. Dowd, was a known and decidedly content tippler. “Well, I’ve wrestled with reality for 35 years,” says Dowd to the doctor who was passing judgment on his lucidity, “and I’m happy to state I finally won out over it.” While these creatures of folklore can take many forms, one wonders just how much wine would be necessary to make two otherwise sensible, urban-dwelling people, Sue Stovall and her late husband, Hunter, see goats.

“The story is well known that we had too much wine one night and decided to buy goats,” says Stovall. “Very good wine. There was a lot of it probably.” And so Paradox Farm was propelled down its dirt-road, cloven-hoofed path.

The farm began in 2007. “It was about the time the economy was changing,” says Stovall. “Hunter and I were both self-employed. He was an attorney, the kind who enjoyed more counseling than litigating. He would rather help you solve a problem than litigate a problem. I was in health care. We worked 3 miles from where we lived (in downtown Southern Pines). Let’s move out to the country. We bought this house. It was a horse farm. We were here for about a year trying to figure out what we wanted to do.”

A few chickens, which are apparently the gateway species to serious livestock, showed up first. The hens were followed by an evening of red wine, a llama and three goats. The first two goats were named Thelma and Louise. “There was never, ‘Oh, I always wanted to be a farmer.’ Everything was like, ‘Hey, let’s try this,’” says Stovall. “I’m probably the most unplanned person you ever met. So, we got the goats and we had babies and started milking goats and started making cheese. We were sitting on the porch and drinking wine and eating our cheese and looking at this book about how to make your own creamery. It starts listing 10 things you should want to do if you want to do a dairy, because it’s really hard work. We looked at all of them and we’re, like, ‘None of those fit. Let’s do it!’”

By 2011, Paradox Farm was a licensed creamery. “Since then we’ve been growing the herd, making and selling cheese, and expanding our markets,” says Stovall. She hasn’t done it alone, but she has done much of it without Hunter. Sue grew up in Plainview, New York, in roughly the geographical middle of Long Island, near Bethpage State Park. She has three degrees in physical therapy, including a Ph.D. from Boston University. Hunter grew up in Virginia, went to the University of Virginia and Campbell University School of Law. Hence the “pair of docs.”

Just as their porch reading advertised, a dairy is hard work. “We would get up in the morning. He would feed and I would milk. We’d go in the house, take a shower, change our clothes and go to work. Come home, change our clothes, feed and milk and do whatever we needed to,” says Stovall. “On weekends we would go to markets. I was doing Southern Pines and he was doing Cary. We had both gone to market that morning, which means he had to leave about 6:15. He went to market, came home and lay down to take a break before evening activities, got up and had a heart attack.” That was four years ago this August.

Stovall has two daughters who are Moore County residents, Ariel Davenport, who owns Set in Stone/The Slab Warehouse, and Kassia Stubbs, who works for Moore County Schools. Her son, Mike Kowalick, lives in Seattle, Washington. “My girls are not farm kids at all but they support my efforts,” says Stovall. Her son helps with strategic plans — how to lower the power bill, marketing ideas, etc. It was Mike who suggested his mother engage interns from World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. “He was trying to figure out how I was going to survive without Hunter,” she says. Beri Sholk from Orlando is there now, the sixth WWOOF intern who’s worked at Paradox Farm, trading labor for knowledge, something that’s turned out to be a two-way street. The interns have been from California, Florida, even the Republic of Mali, West Africa. “It’s really expanded my world,” says Stovall.

The goatherd at Paradox Farm stays roughly level at around 40, though the number jumps when the season’s kids are born and before they’re sold. “I started with Nigerian Dwarfs because they were cute and little and I thought I could handle them,” says Stovall. “Then I added Nubians. Then I needed to get more milk so I added some Alpines.” All the goats have names. The ones that look alike wear identification tags. And, no, they don’t say “Hello, My Name Is . . .”

They milk 22 goats a day, two at a time, using a pumping machine. In a large dairy the milk from 10 times the number of stanchions would travel through pipes to a bulk tank. “Because we’re small, we just pick up our buckets of milk and pour them in a tank,” says Stovall. “I think it really helps in the quality of our cheese because milk is a molecule, a living organism. The less you handle it the better it’s going to be. Our cheese tends to be sweeter and milder than most people think of goat cheese.”

The 61-year-old Stovall’s skills from her previous occupation can come in handy, getting the kinks out of a farm hand’s neck, fixing a goat’s broken leg, or putting a brace on Beri’s left arm after she was kicked — the goat version of negative feedback. “Farming is a full-contact sport,” says Stovall.

The Paradox Farm cheeses show up at places like Southern Whey and Nature’s Own in Southern Pines, the Corner Store in Pinehurst, Black Rock Winery and restaurant’s like Ashten’s and 195, just to name a few. Wrapped, infused, washed and aged, the flavors (and puns) are as wide-ranging as the names would suggest: Drunk N Collard; Sweet Hominy; Red Eye, Feta Complee, Paradox Paneer and Cheese Louise!

Making a small farm sustainable, however, is a value-added proposition. With the help of a grant from the University of Mount Olive, Stovall bought an old tobacco barn, broke it down and reassembled it on her farm. Half of the barn will be a cheese cave for aging. The other half will amount to a mini-storefront. “We do farm events. The last couple of years we’ve had hundreds of people come out on a Sunday afternoon, tour the dairy, see the goats. We do ‘Goat Yoga’ once a month. And we have pairing events where we pair cheese with something. Our first one was beer and cheese. We’re doing cheese, wine and desserts with Black Rock and the Wine Cellar. I’m determined to make this work,” says Stovall.

“One of the biggest challenges for me over the last couple of years is to learn to farm smarter. These are my babies. When they die I’m going to burn sage and say a little prayer when I bury them. I still have to be able to balance that need for myself with the business of running a farm. It’s a challenge to find that balance. Every day is filled with disaster and beauty.”

Paired, perhaps, with some Cheese Louise! and a petite shiraz.  PS

Jim Moriarty is senior editor of PineStraw and can be reached at

In The Spirit

The Perfect Martini

How to create — or botch — a great one

By Tony Cross

After closing, I rent out the kitchen at Nature’s Own to work on prepping and batching kegged cocktails. I get ideas just walking around the store grabbing ingredients. One night as I passed the shelf of vermouths, I thought to myself, “Self, I probably need to re-up on some Dolin. Why have people been telling me about their terrible martinis lately?” Let’s talk about what you (or your bartender) are doing wrong.

The martini is the international symbol for cocktails. I just made that up. Or maybe not. What other shape — whether it’s a neon sign, printed on oven towels, or painted on a canvas at Bed, Bath & Beyond — represents an alcoholic drink that’s recognized everywhere? Everyone over 21 knows about the martini. This doesn’t mean that everyone has tried one, much less enjoyed this quintessential classic. I can certainly tell you that I did not fall in love my first go-round. Quite the opposite, actually. If memory serves, I believe all I was drinking was cold, lousy gin, in a martini glass. What a moment.

From talking to my bar guests in the past, to chatting with friends and clients, here are some tips:

Just because it’s in a martini glass doesn’t make it a martini.

I’m getting this one out of the way, because you’d think it should be self-explanatory, but . . .

What recipe?

OK, this one should be pretty obvious, but just like with other cocktails out there, a lot of bartenders (home or away) just throw it all in there and don’t look back. Unless you’re quite skilled, stick to measuring. You might think you look cool behind the bar free-pouring that loooonnnngg stream of gin (probably vodka), but you don’t. If it doesn’t taste good, your guests are ordering something else. Plus, you just poured 4 ounces of gin in an oversized martini glass, and made your server spill it all over his/her hand. Good job. Do this instead: Order some jiggers from a reputable online store (I love the Japanese style) and measure. Consistency is key, and you want your guests coming back every evening because they know that your martini is the best every single time.

What vermouth?

A majority of bars across this county (and country) have rancid vermouth on the shelf. I was recently at a local spot that I wouldn’t have guessed would do such a thing. I didn’t have the heart to say anything, but luckily my buddy did. Vermouth is fortified wine, so you have to treat it like a wine, and refrigerate it. It’ll last for months (if you’re doing it right, you’ll be running out before that’s even an issue). You can also opt for smaller bottles if you’re not making many on average. When it comes to which kind, Dolin Dry has my heart. This French vermouth has been in production since 1821 and been in my belly since I was 21. Just kidding, I was drinking Jägerbombs at 21.


To the gin martini drinkers: Just any old gin won’t do. It’s true that we have lots of local distilleries popping up, and they’re making some fantastic stuff, but for a martini, for me, it’s got to be Plymouth Gin. It’s so soft, with slight earthy-like undertones. I’ve never been great at describing spirits on my own, so there you go. Soft and earthy. But really, some other gins have a ton of different botanicals going on, and it’s just too much for me. Plymouth really mingles well with the vermouth. It allows both products to let each other shine. If Plymouth is not available, a London Dry will do. May I suggest Tanqueray 10?


In the 1971 copy of Playboy’s Host & Bar Book (I am a loud and proud owner — Mom, I only read the recipes) it says, “A martini must be piercingly cold; at its best, both gin and vermouth are pre-chilled in the refrigerator, well stirred with ice and poured into a pre-chilled glass. Energetic stirring with the ice is all-important; the dilution makes the drink both smooth and palatable.” (Mario, 1971) Yes! Especially that “energetic stirring” part. I’m stealing that. The martini needs to be silky smooth and ice-freaking-cold! Just cold is not going to cut it. If you are (as the same book calls its reader) a martini man, you should always keep your gin in the fridge. Having both your gin and vermouth cold from the start is going to help propel your martini to the next level.

We already know not to use bad ice, but let’s refresh our memory really quick. Rubbish in, rubbish out. If your house water is great on its own, you shouldn’t really worry. Chances are, that’s not the case. So, get your own molds, and fill them with distilled water. Make sure that all of your ingredients go into an ice-cold mixing vessel. I prefer a mixing glass. If you’ve never used one, give it a shot. You can also try (after adding your gin and vermouth; see proportions in “Recipe”, below) to completely fill up the vessel with crushed ice. You can’t get much colder than that. You will be stirring, not shaking. If you’re having a hard time stirring correctly, there are a couple of great videos on YouTube that can guide you. I’m not ashamed to tell you that’s how I taught myself.


These vary slightly, but this is what I make for myself:

2 1/2 ounces Plymouth Gin

3/4 ounce Dolin Dry Vermouth

Strain into a chilled martini or coupe glass. Garnish with olive(s) or lemon peel.

Scroll up and repeat. I should note that some folks like to use a dash of orange bitters. If I do, it’s with a blend that I’ve mixed from a few different companies. Not really a game changer.  PS

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