The big parade

Like a toddler with a leaky sippy cup, Dan Zanes casually dribbles a trail of notable names wherever he roams. For a decade, he’s been a family-music scion, buoyed by connections he made while leading thinking-man’s bar-rock band The Del Fuegos in the ’80s. Not just for kids: “Children’s music is particular to children’s experiences, […]

Message in a bottle

The effect falls somewhere between the frail whimsy of a plastic Easter-egg tree and the solemn thrill of a cathedral window. Like their egg-festooned counterparts that appear in early spring, bottle trees are meant for bare branches. And like stained glass, they look most grand after sucking up sunlight. Discovered on a quiet side street […]

And money left over for marshmallo­ws

Depending on the level of amenities on offer — flush toilets, say, instead of stinky latrines; a hanky-sized puddle of chlorine that passes for a pool; proximity to numerous overpriced music festivals — some regional campgrounds have become distressingly expensive. Inexpensive gateway to recreation:  The rugged Southern Appalachians provide plenty of options for back-country camping, […]


A newish trend in parenting circles is "elimination control," a controversial technique whereby an infant's primary caretaker is supposed to learn to read his facial cues when pooping becomes imminent and then dangle the baby over the toilet, letting him do his thing unfettered. I've only met one mother who had any success with the […]

All the real trees

Artificial trees made to look real are always tacky. But earlier this millennium, the thirst for ultra-tacky retro fakes, in particular mid-century-modern aluminum trees, began to elevate kitsch to the rank of spirit. Choose your own:The WNC high country is the Christmas-tree capital of the East. Photo courtesy High Country Host. For staunch traditionalists • […]

The fondant files

Deceptively pretty mass-produced desserts have done a great job raising diners' expectations — but they've also corroded their sugar-coated instincts. In the late 1980s, a certain ubiquitous restaurant-supply company started hawking fully loaded cheesecakes and candy-stuccoed tortes. Remember Snickers Pie? It looked great under glass: Every mathematically pre-sliced piece was exactly the same size as […]

Outdoors: Snap judgments

In between talk of apertures and shutter speeds, biodiversity photographer Kevin FitzPatrick drops an astounding fact: The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, celebrating its 75th birthday this year, harbors an estimated 100,000 undiscovered plant and animal species. Through his work with the Discover Life in America program, FitzPatrick has helped document some of the 6,339 […]

Justice served

Famed hoop dancer Eddie Swimmer last year became the first Cherokee director of “Unto These Hills,” the Qualla Boundary’s outdoor drama—still popular at age 60. And over at Tribal Grounds Coffee, another Eastern Band tribal member, Natalie Smith, is likewise blending integrity with theatrics. Well grounded: Tribal Grounds’ new location, which is slated to open […]