Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Thanks for the Memories: Part 1 of 3

July 29, 2040, this date which is currently three decades in the future, will be smack-dab in the middle of my 50th year of life. While at times I like to think that turning thirty is when you enter into "being old" I have come to accept that even I will be forced to age. Fifty however is a number that I still refuse to swallow; I instead like to focus on where I will be when I am thirty five. But for the sake of the year 2040 lets step into that year for a minute. By then I would like to be well established in my career, a career that has yet to be settled on as of July 29, 2010. Let’s take one of my possible careers and dream upon that. So, July 29, 2040, I will (in theory) be a journalist working in the field of some far off country. I will be writing about the culture, the food, the people, and the lives of some group of indigenous people, be it the Parisians on the Champs Elysees, or members of an African tribe deep in the heart of Kenya. Since Samantha Jones says 50 is the new 40 I will also be planning my second career as the editor of some local news paper in central Kentucky. We’ll say Danville. By that time I will have two children who will be attending high school at Sayer or Lexington Christian Academy in Lexington and I will spend my late nights reading the New Yorker, drinking some fancy tea that I’ve bought in Paris, and writing handwritten letters to those Ohio Countians who have inspired me to live out this dream. These I’m sure will be the same people that in 2010 give me the ideas for these columns, and are the ones who inspire me to dream such lofty dreams. This summer I have learned and experienced so much about our county and I have in turn learned a lot about myself and where I want to go and who I want to be after I leave the county in three short years. When I take these times late at night to reflect back on what I have learned this summer, and what I have learned in my twenty short years in Ohio County there are names that continually come to mind. These are the people that have made Ohio County home for me and have made it a place that continually causes me to struggle with the concept of returning or leaving post UK. In the next couple weeks will be stepping away from exploring the county, instead stepping into the past and reliving my days as a student of Ohio County Schools –yes I realize I only graduated two years ago. For me many of the people who have had the biggest impact in my life have been teachers. I suppose it helps that my mom is a retired teacher and I grew up surrounded by her friends, many of which are also teachers. As OCS go back to school this coming week I figured it would be an appropriate time to relive those years. The three that I look up most to are Pam Bradley, Scott Ford, and Randy Brown.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Hey Jesus... Just Dance!

I’ll admit I own both The Fame and The Fame Monster by Lady Gaga. I can without missing a beat ramble off the words to Poker Face and Alejandro, and of course I tend to use the Bad Romance hand quite liberally; all while driving with my windows down and one of my best-friends in the passenger seat. I at times even like to wear my Red-Wings and pretend that I could easily change a tire or hitch a set of plows to one of the tractors that sits behind our house; but the truth is I like to appreciate art. I have come to accept that I am not the best at creating works of art. My skills in the field are pretty limited. Yes, I can take some pretty decent photographs, however I cannot paint, sculpt, or sew to save my life, and we won’t even get into my lack of knowledge in the field of paper mache. I am good with design, and culinary arts, but the rest I can only appreciate, and as far as my tractor hitching skills—they are about as limited as Lady Gaga’s ability to dress like a normal human. Last week we went on an exploration that I honestly wasn’t too sure of when I first heard about it; but soon after we arrived I was sold and fully immersed in the art that filled the property around me. We went to the property of Donald Bray on Rochester Road. The goal for the day was to explore the Rochester area, but with the absence of the ferry at the Green River we were left with only a visit to Mr. Bray’s home and a quick stop for photographs at the former locks on the Green River. The word "only" should be taken with a grain of salt, our stay at Mr. Bray’s was a several hour visit. Mr. Bray is by far one of the most talented artists I have met in the county. He seems to be well skilled in the arts of sculpting, painting, gardening, carpentry, and several other skills that I’m not sure the name for. After passing the entrance to his property several times I finally spotted a row of concrete columns at the base of a driveway and assumed we were at the right home. The green and purple concrete dinosaur sitting atop a hill behind the columns further proved the correctness of my assumption. We made our way up the winding hill to Mr. Bray’s home, which naturally he built himself. There we met him and his daughter Katrina Bullington. They quickly began our tour of the property. Armed with my new camera in hand we went to get a closer look at the dinosaur on the hill. Mr. Bray picked up a toy off the ground that looked identical to the sculpture before us, but was maybe five inches long as opposed to the sculpture which was at least 8 feet long. He told us how he had created the piece using concrete and rebar. I then asked what the tongue of the dinosaur had been created from, with a laugh Mr. Bray said it was made of concrete. At that point I was totally amazed. Strings of lights crisscrossed above us and led towards the columns at the foot of the hill. Mr. Bray told us that he was working on sculptures of da Vinci’s The Last Supper to go in front of the columns. I took that statement skeptically. I wasn’t sure how anyone would be able recreate The Last Supper in a way that would pay homage to da Vinci. This whole notion I had ended as soon as I saw the still unfinished pieces. He told us that the pieces were still being created in his basement and that we would see them later. We then made our way back to the house. There Mr. Bray showed us a collection of books that made the antique collector in me rather jealous, he also told us about how he had built the house and the stories behind many of the antiques that filled the house. As we made our way into the home’s basement I figured we would be greeted by a cat. No, instead we were greeted by the disciples and of course Jesus. One of them was standing right in front of the spiral stairwell seemingly ready to greet visitors. Instead of greeting the sculpture back I hesitated, stepped backwards and tripped on the step below me. Of course with all of my natural skepticism I had figured the pieces from The Last Supper would at most be a couple feet tall, but of course not, they were life size. I mean, really who would think of anything smaller? After taking a moment to regroup I decided to forget all of my assumptions and to instead expect the unexpected, which seems to be the overarching theme at the property. The pieces filled what seemed to be the whole of the basement, until you turn the corner to see the hand-dug wine cellar behind us. Obviously the walls were covered in murals in the style of Egyptian hieroglyphics and the floors were made of handmade tiles. This wine cellar seemed quite nice, until it was outdone by the handmade tiles in the mosaics that covered one of the porches. After I had lost my ever graceful composure over the nothing-less-than-amazing pieces in the basement we went on to see the main building on Mr. Bray’s property. This building housed a two story mural of a scene from the Civil War. The piece had been painted on stretched canvas and was surrounded by a three-dimensional continuation of the scene. While I could take the time, and space to describe the piece in detail I feel it is better to be experienced in person. The property is filled with dozens of works each created by Mr. Bray, the property has a log cabin, and grape arbors, and rows of strawberries, the property has hundreds of yards of lighting strung across it, and a plethora of antique pieces ranging from farm equipment lining the driveway to the book collection with books from around the world, yet all of this is not nearly as interesting as the man, and family that is behind it all. Mr. Bray has turned a hobby into a lifelong passion. In the living room of his home hangs one of his first pieces that was completed over fifty years ago, it is surrounded by the works of his children and late wife. Mr. Bray has created a collection that not only tells a story of someone who pays very close attention to detail, but of someone who truly follows his passions, and of a man who’s talent far exceeds the words I could possibly write about him. The exploration that we did last week adds another piece to my summer long journey to find what it means to be an Ohio Countian. This week I learned the importance of the individual. Often times it seems easy to lump the collective of a rural area into the words of a country song or the words of Miranda Lambert’s That’s the Way that the World Goes ‘round, but it is the members of the community that dare to be artistic, or bold, or outspoken that make the place dynamic, and they are the ones that create the places and events that are worth going to. And sometimes they are the ones who take the time to learn the lyrics to Lady Gaga songs, and dare to step out into the unknown.

Eat Pray Love // Explore Learn Love

I have a belief that the best books are those that are recommended to you by friends, or have great covers. The first rule holds true for all of my favorite books but one, and the book that changed my life is the one with the awesome cover. This book with the amazing cover is Pop Salvation by Lance Reynald. The other list includes in no order I Am Charlotte Simmons, by Tom Wolfe, A Hole in the World by Sid Hite, Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech, To Kill a Mocking Bird, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and The Missing Piece Meets the Big O by Shel Silverstein. I like my books to be like my movies, I want them to make me think, to impact me in someway, or to make me greater appreciate some aspect of my life. I bought a book today that I feel will fill all three of the requirements... Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. The book was recommended by Matt and seeing as he and I have way too many similarities I think I will like it. In fact I have already fallen quite hard for it, and would much rather be reading it right now instead of typing this.... but, the book is actually part of a journey I am on to fully understand myself and where I want to go. While I won't be taking a year to travel the world, or am I recently divorced, I am in search of my own three things... Explore Learn Love....and of course Food is always a given! So

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Rambling about the Truth...

Sometimes I get stuck behind the idea that I am too small, or I will let people's negative attitudes effect my world view. The truth of it is, I may at times be very idealistic, I may dream too big, or I may seem to forget to enjoy just being twenty...I love every minute of it. I sometimes find myself late a night browsing the Facebook profiles and walls of people that I went to high school with. I see their drunken pictures, their acts of questionable responsibility, and I read about the wild and often times risky lives they lead. I sometimes allow my mind to wander and to think that I want to be like that. But, when it comes down to it, I don't. That just isn't me. I guess you could call me crazy, but I love life in the fast lane, I love being surrounded by people twice my age, and I love the satisfaction that comes with creating positive change. I've spent the last year figuring out exactly what makes me who I am, and so much of "me" is about helping others, changing the future, dreaming big... and seeing it through to reality. In the past year I have been able to launch my own business. I designed my website from a blank white page, I have built a list of amazing shoppers, and I have learned a vast amount about the world of decorating and antiques. In the past year I have travelled across the south, and countless parts of Kentucky. I, during a normal year, would have been out of the country multiple times, flying to amazing destinations in the tropics, or cruising to beautiful beaches, but this year I have met the people that surround me and explored the places close to home. Through these adventures I have learned a lot about both myself and where I want to go in life. At times of extreme frustration I may say that I just want to plan really pretty weddings, but I would never be happy in doing that, I would always be left wanting more, and wondering how I would make a lasting impact. When I was fresh out of high school I was set on going to the Middle East, I wanted to work with international business, but somewhere along the way I lost sight of this goal and came to say I wanted to be an event planner. This career is great. I can without sounding cocky say that I would be amazing at being an event planner or designer, but I love helping others too much. I love travelling, I love writing, I love exploring, and I love the satisfaction that comes with knowing you've helped the lives of others. In the years between high school and now I allowed myself to become homesick for Ohio County, I developed a fear of the adventure and the fear of not having security. I became afraid of heights, and I became afraid of leaving my family... Now at the beginning of my junior year of college I see that I allowed myself to become jaded and hard, I became afraid to be who I am because of comments made my family members and the fear of not being accepted in my hometown. I started writing a weekly column for my local paper to be a way to hide who I really am from the people around me, but somewhere in the middle of my writing and exploring I realized the only people I had to fear where the people I kept so close. I allowed their comments to push me away from being who I am around home... but somewhere in that same time I met so many amazing people from the same area that have dynamic stories and inspiring lives. They are unafraid of being themselves or being judged and that truly inspired me... The column's intention was to find what it means to be an Ohio Countian, but in the end it became more about what it means to be me, Ben Ashby, and that is something I am beyond grateful for. It taught me that I am beyond capable of travelling the world, being myself, and insuring my dreams become reality...

Monday, July 12, 2010

Design: The Studio in White aka Farmhouse Style!

It is an homage to before and afters. This may be the greatest one ever. I kid you not! In a day a managed to transform the interior of my storage building into a white studio. The exterior however is still very much a work in progress. Last week I moved all of my things out of the cabin and into storage on our farm. With the site of my favorite things sitting in boxes and my furniture stacked or pushed into piles it got me to thinking that I could create something beautiful with it. I looked no further than what originally was the coalhouse for my grandparents house. It later became a storage building for all of my pumpkin supplies and unwanted "stuff". The idea was simple. I wanted to create a space that reflected my style. I wanted a space that I could create in, ship in, work on my website in, photograph in, be inspired in, and potentially open a shop in. I started by spending a few hours flipping through House Beautifuls, Martha Stewarts, Country Livings, and Restoration Hardware catalogs. I came up with a vision. The space would be white. The walls were log and dark, I decided I would start by white washing them with a very primitive finish. I then rolled my floors in the same white to give it a very clean look. The cracks and chips only helped add character and age. I then decided the ceiling needed to pop. I covered it with a very dark green fabric. I wanted to create the feel of a tent. I created a vaulted ceiling and then filled in the space on the walls where the ceiling vaulted with a loose weave burlap. It is possibly my favorite look. I did the same look around the door and covered the wall with the door with super light white sheer curtains. I then added a loose strip of white fabric down the middle of the ceiling and my tent was complete. It turned out better than I ever thought. The look was very modern, but still had the look of a small time worn cabin. I then spent hours looking for inspiration with furniture. I decided, since I had no windows I would use a mirror to anchor the space. I brought in a white enamel top table to use as my desk. I sat it against the wall opposite the wall. The mirror topped it and light reflected around the room helping to create the feel of a window and the illusion of a much larger space. I then went on to fill the space with other pieces I wouldn't mind selling. Pie safes, washstands, kitchen cabinets, trunks, chairs, and several awesome pieces. The space was defiantly gaining an identity, one that was purely farmhouse. The look was both primitive and modern. I was loving it. I then brought in my accessories. White of course! The look quickly came together, and in the end I created a space I love to be in and a space I love to show off. While the outside is still a work in progress I am very excited to show the interior off...

Gourmand: The Cook Book

I have been working on this dang thing for five years.... writing, cooking, researching, digging through old boxes, getting recipes out of family members, and waiting for other family members to kick the bucket so I could have their recipes. I think I am finally getting somewhere with this thing. I have managed to write dozens of my own recipes and have had several years to perfect them. I have finally typed all of my Aunt June's cake and pie recipes, and I have gotten the time to compile the rest of the family recipes. I am excited to get this project wrapped up. I have been promising copies to family members, community members, and friends for the past half decade. The book will be more of a family scrap book than simply a book of recipes. I hope to fill it full of family stories, parts of my column from the Times News, chandlerclark style tips, pictures, and other helpful tidbits on what makes my philosophy on life so important. Good Food, Good Friends, Good Family, and Good Conversation will be the driving point of the book. I haven't picked a name yet... so I am asking for help. Please give me advice on that. I hope to have it all together before school starts. I'll be adding a few of the recipes to the blog. If you'd like a copy please let me know.

This recipe is my Aunt June's iconic Italian Creme Cake. She was known for it, and made it often. From my columns I am sure you have gathered how important she was in my raisin' I will be the first to say she has been the most influential person in my life. She is the one who start my love for food and cooking. I was raised in her kitchen, standing on the tan stool mixing chocolate chip cookies and eating the dough. I was raised on her sweet tea in heavy cut glass glasses. I was raised around her clawfoot table. I lived for her kraft Mac and Cheese and I spent hours playing with pudding and jello boxes in her kitchen floor. The recipe book that I treasure the most is handwritten by her and is filled with the recipes of the Ashby family... all of which will be in my cookbook.

Italian Cream Cake


· 1 stick butter

· ½ cup oil

· 1 cup coconut

· 2 cups flour

· 2 cups sugar

· 5 egg yolks

· 5 egg whites (stiffly beaten)

· 1 cup buttermilk

· 1 cup chopped pecan

· 1 t vanilla

Cream butter and oil with sugar add egg yolks one at a time – add ½ t soda to buttermilk – after with flour- fold in egg whites and vanilla- add 2/3 of floured nuts and coconut. Pour batter in 3- 9” pans (floured and greased). Bake 30-40 min.

Italian Cream Icing


· 1 stick of butter

· 1 pound powdered sugar

· 1 t vanilla

· 8 oz cream cheese

Cream butter and soften cheese, add sugar and vanilla. Add remaining nuts and coconut.

*Allow 24 hours before serving.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Gourmand! Black Cherry Sorbet

1 cup boiling water
1 cup cold water
1/2 cup sugar
1 standard bag of frozen black cherries

Make a simple syrup using the boiling water and sugar. Puree the fruit in a blender and add the simple syrup and remaining water. Run through a strainer or cheese cloth. Put in a freezer safe bowl and freeze until solid. Serve with a spoonful of fresh whipped cream and garnish with a sprig of lavender or mint. Enjoy!

Gotta Love Vintage

This whole ride started with my love of vintage pieces and handmades. Over the years I have built a large collection and inturn created a business out of it. I truly love my business and hope it is something I can continue with. The idea behind it has always been simple. I only sell the things I love. I try to keep the items online limited to things I would use in my own home.., I love pieces that tell a story and have character. I will be posting more about CHANDLERclark soon, but here are the links to my etsy, where I put my favorite pieces, and my website where I list everything else.

Explore! Gotta Have Faith

I like to sporadically drop French terms into my everyday English vernacular. I use the term bon vivant to describe my philosophy on life… after all it was one of my icons, Andy Warhol, who said that everyone needs a philosophy. For a very awkward two years a few years ago I used a tout alors in place of "see you later," I will be the first to assure you that the term doesn’t make you sound cool or sophisticated; it actually makes you sound like a character from a National Lampoon Vacation movie. I will however, quickly admit I use the term gourmand to describe my love of food. It seems rather odd that I remain so skinny while I spend such a great deal of time consuming, contemplating, or searching out food. I suppose my use of French my may come from my six, yes six, dreadful years of "learning" the French language, or it may come from my fascination with Ina Garten; but the truth is, my knowledge of food far outweighs my knowledge of the French language. That tidbit is one that I am quite proud of. This summer, the quest for being a gourmand has led me across the south. A few weeks ago, a person I went to high school with and I made the trip to Savannah for Paula Deen’s fried chicken and sweet tea with a sprig of mint in each glass. However, this past week it led me to my grandmothers where we spent a Monday evening discussing the foods that make my family who they are. There is a general unspoken rule that to live in that house you have to be able to cook. A couple of weeks ago I went in search of my hometown. This week I wrap up that quest. For not having a restaurant Centertown sure has a reputation for good food. I’m a Baptist, which that statement in itself will tell you that I love food. Baptists and fried chicken go together like peanut butter and jelly or heartbreak and a good country song. There is never a reason not to have a fellowship meal, a potluck, or a covered dish dinner. A new preacher, a new baptistery, a birthday, a new light bulb in a Sunday School room, all are a cause for a potluck. I was corn fed on sourdough bread baked by Dorothy Brown, Italian Crème cakes baked by my aunt, and deviled eggs. I grew up learning the VBS songs written by Lifeway and crafting cowboys from coat hangers, and rain-sticks in crafts led by Susan Hines. The Baptist in me is blood deep, and the view of faith is something I have long realized is very strong in the county. Every Sunday that I’m home I have a strict routine. I start my Sundays with a bowl of Lucky Charms, I read the newspaper, which is limited to the comic strips of the Peanuts, Garfield, Ziggy, and my favorite Doonesbury; my reading also extends to the sale ads for Target and Best Buy. I like to stay on top of the upcoming music releases. My routine then goes on to Centertown Baptist Church, where I sit on the back pew with my cousins Charles and Becky Berryman. This week this column is being written from that pew. In the church the pews are bright red to match the carpet, the hymnals, the chairs, and a few people’s tempers. The verses of Amazing Grace bounce off the high ceilings and fill the sanctuary with the words of John Newtown. While I will be the first to admit I am not the best Baptist, nor am I a person to openly discuss my views on organized religion, I will be the first to recognize the belief in something higher that is a binding cord in the community. My exploration would be incomplete without examining the impact of faith in Ohio County. This summer we have criss-crossed the county photographing church after church. These are the places that open their doors to the communities they serve and act as a safe haven for those in need. In Lexington I go to Southland Christian which has 15,000 members. I love the church and it is my favorite church to attend. At the church there is greater sense of worship and less a sense of pomp that has largely driven me away for organized religion, but has only made my faith in a higher power stronger. With the debate of ceremony and worship styles aside, the small churches that dot the landscape of Ohio County possess a quality that Southland with its massive size cannot. The sense of community that is felt in our churches is indescribable. In times of need the members are the first to pull together, the first to be knocking on your back door with a covered dish, or the first to visit at the funeral home. There is great comfort in this. When my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer two years ago the people of our church, and my grandmother’s church, Centertown United Methodist Church, were constantly calling, sending cards, visiting and vigilantly making sure we all knew that they were always there. At Southland I always leave the church with a sense of hearing an excellent message, but I never feel like I am actually connected to anyone beyond the people who are riding with me. The senior minister, Jon Weese, comes on stage in jeans and has a casual attitude towards his messages. Naturally there is a large band and the aesthetics of the stage change weekly. These are qualities of the church that I think are awesome, but they do nothing to encourage the sense of community. Faith in our community is something that goes beyond blue jeans, and large bands, for the area it seems to be something that is deep rooted and is engrained into the people. Faith in the community, to me, is kind of like the scene from Talladega Nights where Ricky Bobby, played by Will Ferrell, is praying. His words are far from reverent and stereotypical of prayer but they get the point across, are heartfelt, and most importantly, are free from the reigns that are so often held tightly on religion. Many of our churches stress the importance of being reverent and following archaic rules of decorum, but to me it seems that in the words of Miranda Lambert ,"'Cause I heard Jesus, he drank wine and I bet we'd get along just fine" ,the church is about coming together as a group of people, no matter the background or the lifestyle and having that common shared bond of the belief in something greater. Life sweet tea, my aunt June’s stories of old Centertown, and my use of French words I love my church. Growing up with the Reneer Twins, Helen Holden, Virginia Stenburg, and all of my Ashby family that has attended the church I have learned the importance of the sense of community that is found in the local churches. I learned at an early age how to arrange a potluck table and have been made acutely aware of the importance of not ruining the carpet on the Fellowship Hall floor. My Sunday morning routine always draws to a close as we leave little white church and head to Los Mex for lunch. Like the staple dishes of a good potluck cover a banquet table my fellow Baptists, from Beaver Dam Baptist, fill the restaurant. It never fails that we run into some Westerfields, Kings, and Taylors, and I know they are all well skilled on good food.

The Start of the Ride...

I said I would never have a blog, but I do love to write, create, photograph, and discover. I am always on the search for the things in life that are worth photographing and remembering. The idea seems simple, this will be my place to show my photographs, to tell the stories behind them, and the place to create, to reflect, and to hopefully inspire myself to live a life that is truly full and dynamic. Yes, the idea is simple, but the road getting to this has been long and rather wide. It has taken a journey to get to the place where I can say I am on a one lane backroad going to a place that excites me. I am all about the saying that life is a journey and the important part is the journey rather than the destination. At this point in my life I am totally concerned with the journey, the destination is still out of site and quite frankly is of no interest to me. I recently decided to shift my business. I've spent the past two years building a business that sold antiques, vintage pieces, and a few handmades, but it always seemed like a headache. I have become very bored with it, along with a lot of other aspects of my life. I being the one to always be outspoken have, this summer, become scared to voice my real opinion and to act without fear of being called out on it. The truth is I love my life, I have spent the past six months figuring out exactly who I am. I have carefully weeded out the people in my life who are toxic. One of which was my best friend. I hate to see her go, but I realize I will be much better off in the end. I have built a new circle of friends who I love dearly and have so much in common with. I have come to terms that I simply don't fit into my hometown and will be leaving after college, and I have come to term with not fitting into my family, which is something I struggle with daily. Let me assure you, that this isn't the place where I will be getting ultra personal or bitching about my bad days. I simply don't believe that those things should be voiced.