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Archive for go

go . Sights and Shops in Downtown Asheville
[part 1]

Beautiful, quirky Asheville. There are places that grab you, that you immediately want to claim as your own. That’s how I felt about this vibrant, Southern mountain town. I had the opportunity to visit Downtown Asheville for a few days last month while attending a public relations conference, and I think it took my heart.

From Tuesday to Friday, I spent as much free time as possible wandering the downtown area, stopping in shops, poking my head down alleyways, and sampling the local cuisine. I found historic and colorful views, a love and commitment to all things Asheville-local, a penchant to spontaneous self expression, and an overwhelming sense of energy — really a “vibe.” Yes, there’s an unmistakable vibe, like something inspiring could happen at any moment. The jacket of a book I bought about the city described Asheville as “everywhere an easy gaiety.” That sums it up perfectly. The joy was so very easy.

The book, 27 Views of Asheville, came from Malaprop’s Bookstore on Haywood, along with the funky Only in Asheville tome. They were both on the recommended shelf of regional work, and kudos from the Malaprop’s staff carries good weight in indy bookstore circles. An iconic Asheville book seller and literary cafe since 1982, the store has a revolving door of events and author readings along with a stellar collection of bestsellers and unusual finds. After the public art, street musicians, and traffic bustle outside the door, the bookstore had its own buzz of book talk, event prep, and literary energy.

In Asheville wanderings, like in so many of the South’s urban centers, I found an inspiring mix of art deco ornament, historic structures, cobbled streets, sacred spaces, public parks, and the region’s overlapping colors of fall. What was even more inspiring was the obvious creative energy – community gardens outfitted with hand-made sculpture, outdoor artisan market areas, colorful facades, doors open with music outpouring, goods and wares pulled out into the sidewalks, and many shops proudly displaying not only a commitment to inclusion, but a list of wares available from fellow shops and artisans around the region. I walked back to my hotel each evening believing that each shop or restaurant or artisan I encountered knew they had something unique and wonderful to add to the world around them. Somehow Asheville seems to have created a place where those gifts are overwhelmingly welcomed and set on display for anyone to partake in the vibe.

On the last morning of my trip, I stopped by another Asheville shopping icon, the L.O.F.T., offering “lost objects and found treasures” since 1996. Squeezed into a vibrant street level and basement walk-down, I found quite a few treasures, indeed. Unusual books, ethnic memorabilia, gypsy-esque fabrics and decor, Asheville products, unique wall hangings, outdoor art and more. The color alone, displayed in every inch of the place, was enough to set my eyes in wonder.

Over the next few weeks, I’m looking forward to sharing some glimpses and thoughts from my morning visit to the beautiful Basilica of St. Lawrence, also on Haywood, the spectacular Grove Arcade on Page and Battery Park, a few favorite local restaurants, and some of the vibrance of the Flatiron area on Wall Street. So many memories that will stick with me! I think I love you, Asheville.

 

go . Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains

Tomorrow, my children are on Fall Break, and we are heading to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, to visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for a few days. I have visited the Smoky Mountains many times, but last October, was the first time I’d taken the kids there.They decided right away they wanted to go back. We enjoyed a “town day” and a “Park day” on that last trip, and this time we’re adding one extra day to be sure we fit in all our favorites. As I’ve been gearing up for the trip his week, I’ve been looking back through some of the photographs I took on our last trip to the Smoky Mountains. I took some time to record my memories in watercolor – the first time I’ve painted this week.

Last year on our visit to the Smokies, we spent most of our “Park day” exploring Cades Cove. It’s a great driving loop with mountain views and a collection of preserved primitive structures – churches, houses, and barns. It also includes some of the last pasture lands still maintained in the National Park.

The historic churches in Cades Cove are quiet, moving experiences, each standing empty now with only echoes and strong light from the windows to highlight their sacred spaces. There are graves from pioneers and mountain folk who populated the area over the last few centuries. And, the houses and barns show a small glimpse of what life might have been like. It’s not unusual to see wildlife in Cades Cove (and throughout the Park). On our last visit, it was wild turkeys. Depending on the temperatures, the views are a display of oranges, maroons, yellows, browns, and a rainbow of green shades with that namesake gray-blue smoky haze over the upper elevations.

This year, I’m hoping we can drive over the mountains to visit Cherokee, North Carolina on our “Park day,” and I’m looking forward to new views in one of our favorite places. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy these views of our trek through Cades Cove.

go . Starting Christmas Vacation in Memphis

Merry Christmas! I hope you have all had as wonderful a Christmas celebration as we have. We are visiting with family and enjoying some down time — and for me, some time away from project work. I’m spending son little time thinking through ideas for 2017 and making plans for where I want to put my focus in the coming year.

This December, we were very excited to visit Memphis again to kick off our Christmas vacation! We spent the first few days of our holiday back in the 901 to catch a production of “Annie” at The Orpheum theater. It’s been a couple of years since we’ve been to Memphis during the holiday season, and it was fun to be there again this year. Weather for the trip was kind of typical for the South in that the first two days were warm, humid and rainy, and the last two were frigid! So, we were not able to visit some of our old favorite spots. However, we still did at least a little walking downtown, taking in the Christmas lights, enjoying the historic Orpheum, and visiting the Memphis Zoo for the annual Zoo Lights celebration. That zoo visit assure me that the fisherprice code a pillar I purchased will be a hit with the kids. We always love breakfast at the Blue Plate Cafe next to Court Square. It’s just a couple of blocks from our hotel in the historic William Len building. They serve breakfast all day, so my favorite french toast is always available. Also, the rain did not stop the hide-and-seek game in Court Square the kids play each time we stay downtown.

This trip, we also discovered a new little cupcakery next to Court Square, Cupcake Cutie, Etc, where you can build your own cupcake — choose your cake type, icing flavor and toppings! It’s been open about four months, and we’re definitely adding it to our list of favorite spots for our next visit. Here’s a glimpse at some of our views from this trip. Enjoy!

go . Memphis in June

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Memphis has become one of “our” places. It feels like we’ve visited it enough that we don’t feel like tourists, but more like friends coming to town again. It’s only a couple of hours from Starkville, and I love seeing productions in the Broadway Series at The Orpheum. So, over the last couple of years, we’ve visited the city a couple of times each year, and my children have begun to call it their own. They’re starting to know their way around Downtown, and they each have their own experiences they look forward to — restaurants, stores, museums, the park. I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to enjoy their excitement about their own experiences of a place!

Earlier this month, we went to Memphis again to see The Wizard of Oz (amazing!), and it was our first time to visit during the summer months. Our last trip was in January, so it was a real treat to see flowering trees and so much green on Main Street where we like to stay. The weather was that Southern summertime mix of sweltering heat and billowing clouds that brought a couple of quick thunderstorms in between plenty of sunshine.

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We enjoyed walking to dinner at the kids’ favorites, Aldo’s Pizza Pies with its plates of dough, and Huey’s with the challenge of shooting your toothpick into the ceiling tiles. We also tried Bayou Bar & Grill in midtown in Overton Square on our way out of town, and it did not disappoint! This trip, we had time for our first visit to the Fire Museum of Memphis, which is located in the old Fire Station No. 1 Downtown. It has a fun mix of Fire Department artifacts, photos, trucks and equipment, as well as some neat interactive exhibits the kids really enjoyed — especially the rescue simulation driving the fire truck through Downtown streets!

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We usually stay at the Marriott Residence Inn, which is located in the old William Len Hotel, built in 1927. In addition to some great Art Deco details, the hotel includes a nice rooftop space for views of Downtown landmarks (and the occasional game of hide-n-seek). For some reason, my children always request one evening just to play in our hotel suite with delivery from Aldo’s and Westy’s, and an evening thunderstorm provided the perfect opportunity this trip.

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So much of these experiences with my kids inspire me. All the shapes and colors of a more metropolitan downtown. And mostly their reactions to everything – when they make me laugh out loud, when they embrace each moment and make the little things fun. I’ve been going through lots of photos from our Memphis adventures, and I want to share a few more posts of some of the themes that are popping out – our latest views of Beale and The Orpheum, the amazing public art that’s everywhere, the architectural details from the era of early high-rises, a couple of other unique experiences I’m just now remembering. Stay tuned!

 

go . Sightseeing Beale

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Last weekend, we visited Memphis to see the amazing Broadway musical, Matilda! I would highly recommend this award-winning production if you have a chance to see it. While we were in town, we had a lot of fun in our favorite downtown activities, and this visit, we also did a little sightseeing on Beale Street — soaking up the sights and colors of one of Memphis’ iconic destinations. Baby Girl got her air guitar on, and we took in the cacophony of signs, neon, letters and curiosities. A new favorite Memphis activity was definitely added to the list for future trips! Enjoy a few of the sights…

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go . Dinner in Restored Gulf Port

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I’ve been organizing some photographs lately, and it’s been a nice little inspirational escape in what has been a pretty busy Fall season. Between photos from our trip through the Gulf Coast this summer and the crazy number I took during our visit to Memphis last weekend, I am awash in some of the semi-local sights! I’m planning to share several posts over the next couple of weeks with some of my favorite memories, places to see, and happy accidents, so I hope you’ll stay tuned. And, let me know your favorite spots in some of these Southern towns!

While we were in Gulf Port, Mississippi this summer, it was very nice to get to walk around some of their restored downtown for dinner one evening. The area won several 2015 Mississippi Main Street awards, and of course, I enjoyed snapping a few of the details. Many of the old buildings remained vacant after the devastation of Katrina, and it was really neat to see the area coming back to life. As I’ve written, this was our first trip to the Coast since Katrina, and the resilience of Mississippians there is so, so evident in all the rebuilding that’s been accomplished. As difficult as it was to see so much changed, I suppose that change and the new things happening were also the most encouraging as well.

We were in Gulf Port in July and had dinner at the Half Shell Oyster House, located in the historic Kremer Building. We happened to be there on the Fourth, and we were able to watch fireworks being launched from the beach while we waited for our table and explored the corner of 13th and Highway 49. We got to see a few of the building details, revitalized street lighting, tree plantings and brick work, and the awesome corner neon sign — a wonderful vintage throwback. Inside, the restaurant had a great French Quarter look with brick walls, two levels, wrought iron and a colorful mural. The kids enjoyed drawing the wrought iron patterns on our table covering, and everyone found a favorite to eat. My favorite was the Bacon and Pecan Crusted Redfish topped with orange beurre blanc — the best meal of the 10-day trip! Enjoy a few glimpses, and be sure to try it out when you’re in the Gulf Port area…

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go . A Drive Through the Pass

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I’ve been organizing some photographs this week, and looking back through what I captured during our summer adventures. As I wrote a few weeks ago, we tacked a few days onto the beginning of our annual beach trip to Gulf Shores, Alabama to explore the Mississippi Gulf Coast again for the first time in quite a few years. It was fun to go driving through the area again, and I think we must have hit about every downtown area along Highway 98 from Bay St. Louis over to Ocean Springs. I do a lot of design work for the Main Street development organization in Starkville, and it’s always neat to see what other towns are doing to preserve their core areas. Downtown districts often have a lot of history and character — sometimes some blight, but they are areas where I think we can see some of the personality of a place. I thought I would share some of the sights from our trek over a few different posts.

On the Fourth of July, we spent the afternoon taking in Long Beach pier where my husband spent so much time during his younger years, and we also enjoyed a little driving and shopping in Bay St Louis. In between those two coastal towns, we took a much-needed snack break in Pass Christian! We didn’t spend much time there, but it only took a short turn off the beachfront highway to find some neat sights.

Our favorite stops included a quick photo op at the “Our Lady of Guadalupe” shrine at St. Paul’s Catholic Church — a sculpture created by Harry Reeks. I love the vibrant colors and the ruff-hewn look of the piece.

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We also found one of our new favorite cool-down places — the Pink Octopus, a decidedly “mod” little froyo shop on Davis Avenue. Coastal art, 60s-ish sphere seats, hot pink yogurt cups, metallic silver and turquoise, and of course, the yogurt! Can you tell we were excited? I know we’ll stop there again on our next trip to the Coast, and I hope we can explore a little more of what The Pass has to offer!

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go . Cafe Keough

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Today I’m sharing one final post from our Valentine’s weekend trip to Memphis. I mentioned before that we were snowed in for a couple of extra days, which was actually tons of fun (and maybe a little nerve wracking for the Mommy). On Monday morning when we ventured out, our favorite pancake spot for breakfast, the Blue Plate Cafe, was closed for a snow day. That gave us the excuse to wander down Main Street a bit in the snow and ice in search of an alternative. We stopped into Cafe Keough, a corner coffee shop we had seen in our previous walks. It’s a wonderful old space with high ceilings, big windows and a great mix of history, industrial feel and urban vibe.

Part of the appeal was that the manager was shoveling off the iced sidewalk in front of the cafe when we walked up (bonus!). But, the pastry counter kind of sealed the deal. The kids enjoyed waffles with a side of oatmeal cookies, because that’s what you do on a snow day in Memphis, I guess. And, I couldn’t resist the chocolate croissants. We settled into a couple of the small cafe tables by the front windows and enjoyed our munchies with a great view of snow-covered downtown — a view I’m sure we won’t soon forget. Thanks for sharing the trip with us, and I can’t wait to try out some of the sandwiches at Cafe Keough the next time we are in town!

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go . Walking in Memphis + Snow

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We were excited to visit Memphis again for Valentine’s Day last month, and I thought I would share a bit of our trip through pictures. We were there to see The Lion King at The Orpheum Theater for the Saturday matinee, and ended up with an extended vacation because of ice and snow! We went from shedding our coats during the walk on Saturday to throwing snow-turned-to-ice bombs at one another on Monday. It was a fun time for everyone to be snowed in for a few extra days. Plus, since we were staying away from the roads and some of our familiar haunts were closed, we had the chance to try some new things. All in all, it was a grand adventure which included the broadway show, Memphis BBQ, the National Civil Rights Museum, familiar walks in and out of snow, and some good togetherness. Here’s a look…

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[late afternoon trek back from the Orpheum]

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[doorway peek into Southern Folklore]

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[Memphis deliciousness from Central BBQ after our visit to the Lorraine Motel]

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We usually stay next to Court Square downtown when we visit Memphis, so these buildings are a familiar look up. The skies went from bright cobalt blue to pretty gray over the few days we were there.

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go . Sugarplums from The Peanut Shoppe

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The holiday season isn’t complete without a few visions of sugarplums, right? It was drizzling on our last morning in Memphis during the recent Nutcracker trip, but we didn’t let that stop us from ducking into what’s become one of our favorite candy, nut and snack-attack spots! The Peanut Shoppe on Main Street — under the big “Peanuts” sign — has been around since 1949 when it was an official “Planters Peanuts” store. Mr. Peanut still graces the sidewalk sign out front and sits atop the 1929 antique peanut roaster, but the owner for nearly the last 25 years, we learned, has been Mr. Ridda and his wife. That’s his first name, and when he introduced himself, he explained it was pronounced, “Ree – DAH.” I was so thankful for the time Mr. Ridda gave us that morning and the wonderful Memphis experience he shared with us.

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The shop is only the width of one long aisle next to a series of display cases filled with nuts and candies, and what seems like barely enough room for popcorn makers and the nut roaster. The walls are filled with old photos, posters from various Memphis events, “Go Tigers” memorabilia and tins. You would think that a tiny spot like this would be more conducive to a quick pop in and out, but it usually seems like folks want to linger.  We did!  I guess it’s the warm smell of roasting peanuts and buttered popcorn, or maybe the wonder of so many spice-sprinkled or chocolate swirled nuts and shiny, sugary candy varieties.

Mr. Ridda was engaged with another family when we came in, which gave us a little time to narrow down some of our candy favorites (ha! narrow down was a bit unrealistic). When they left, he turned his attention to us. He learned each of the children’s names and promised to get their help with some roasting before we left. Our first selections were buttered and cheddar popcorn, so he demonstrated how to work the popcorn maker and showed us how he dripped the butter in. While that finished up, he showed us the antique roaster.

Mr. Ridda brought out a tall narrow black metal bucket filled to the top with peanuts in their shells. He let each of the kids grab a handful and then opened the peanut hatch on the front of the roaster and poured the rest of the bucket in. When he closed the hatch again, he showed us a small circle opening where he let each of the kids drop their peanuts in one at a time. We left them to roast, and he told us we had helped him make the peanuts that another customer later that day would enjoy! Mr. Ridda’s reward for peanut roasting… suckers for each, of course! We went on to finish out our selections, and Mr. Ridda — who I think will now forever be known as the Peanut Man in our family — made us promise not to eat any of the treats until after breakfast.

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We left The Peanut Shoppe with a near ridiculous variety of popcorn, nuts and candy, candy, candy. Our purchases? A bag of buttered popcorn, boxes of cheesy popcorn, ring pops, and carefully measured pouches of gummy bears, sugared fruit slices, jelly beans, yogurt covered pretzels, cinnamon pecans, sugared pecans, spicy pecans, and of course, peanuts! And, we left feeling that a unique part of historic downtown Memphis had become our very own! Sorry, Mr. Ridda… we didn’t keep our promise. We sampled some of these “sugarplums” right away!

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