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Archive for places

letters to my daughter . 101016


There is big excitement with my crew because later this week, we are heading out to spend Fall Break in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! At least in a cabin right outside the park. We haven’t been there since before Baby Girl was born, so I’m looking forward to letting her see one of my favorite places. I hope we will see some great fall color on the leaves. We’re planning to explore Gatlinburg, visit Cades Cove as an entry adventure in the park, and I’m most looking forward to a lot of down time soaking up my babies in this new experience. I’m not sure if we’ll actually get to climb a whole mountain, but we’ll explore whatever rocks and streams we can find!

go . A Drive Through the Pass


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.



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!




see . Our First Nutcracker in Memphis

We were so excited to spend a three-day weekend in Memphis, Tennessee last week, and I thought I would share some of my favorite wonders from the trip! I’ve shared glimpses of our Memphis visits before, but we’ve never traveled there during the Christmas season. We were there mainly to see Ballet Memphis’ performance of The Nutcracker, accompanied by the Memphis Symphony. It was our first time to see the Nutcracker, and we had been planning the trip since we were in Memphis for another ballet last April. The ballet is a must-see experience of such wonderful costumes, sets, sounds and, of course, stellar ballet for all ages, and the 20’s gilt of The Orpheum makes it more special. Baby Girl (my own budding ballerina) was enthralled, but my boys had just as much fun! They all had their favorite parts… the death of the Mouse King, Godfather Drosselmeyer’s magic, the way the christmas tree grew for the soldier/mice battle, the snowflake scene, and my personal favorite, the amazing dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier!



[ looking for the marquee ]

Our fave rides on the Main Street trolley were cancelled this trip because the lines are shut down for about another year for repairs, but we were fortunate to find some horse and carriage rides to take us to the Orpheum. In addition to an amazing performance of the ballet, a trip to the zoo (twice) and the Children’s Museum of Memphis, we also enjoyed some fun walks Downtown, a few games of hide-and-seek in Court Square across from our hotel, some personal attention from Mr. Ridda — owner of the renown Peanut Shoppe on Main (more on that later), and we even found two new restaurants that we’ll add to our list of favorites. Here are some of my favorite photos from the trip…







[ restored lobby of the Kress building on Main — I have an ongoing love affair with this old Art Deco building. I’ll share some of my photo collection in another post! ]


[ Blue Plate Cafe at Court Square — a mean french toast ]


[ Memphis Pizza Cafe at Overton Square on Madison Ave — now tied with our beloved Aldo’s for the Montgomery “Best Pizza in Memphis” cred with a yummy blackened chicken sandwich as well! ]


[ blue lights replacing the water in the Court Square fountain — why am I hearing Elvis sing “Blue Christmas”? ]


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Another building in the Cotton District in Starkville

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Corner of University Drive & Maxwell Street in the Cotton District — Starkville, MS

photo essay . At the Speed of Summer

Is anyone else in shock that summer vacation is over? My kiddos begin school tomorrow, and this year, all three are in “big school.” Our lazy, hazy days of summer have been filled with fun activities, swimming, yard work, relaxed schedules and our own brand of daily celebrations. Never is there another time when relaxing activities move so fast!

One of those week-long celebrations was our second annual trip to Gulf Shores, AL for plenty of sun and waves. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to an amusement park, but we were actually able to spend a couple of evenings at one in Gulf Shores. I had almost forgotten how alive they are with sights and sounds and movement. In between bumper boat showers, go cart races and carnival rides, I took a few snaps. Most of them have some blurred elements, as I tried to capture what you couldn’t possibly grab hold of… Life at the speed of summer. Enjoy!

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Peace on Earth

Small pond views are always a little wacky and endearing all at the same time. I love this photograph. I took it several years ago in Macon, Mississippi. Macon is a typical small Mississippi town, and I happen to know it well because my parents live there. The photo was taken from the second floor of the old Noxubee County Jail. The structure is on the National Register of Historic Places and was beautifully restored and converted to the county library. It’s quite an experience to visit the stacks inside the old jail cells and see the remains of gallows when walking through the hallways.

The back view of the lighted tinsel “Peace on Earth” spanning Jefferson Street captured from one of the jail cells’ barred windows is an ironic and poignant juxtaposition.

Small Ponds: Northport, Alabama

I few weeks ago, I was in Tuscaloosa, AL at a client meeting. On the way home, I took the opportunity to stop by one of my favorite little downtown areas — Northport, AL. This small town is adjacent to Tuscaloosa. You wouldn’t know you were leaving one and driving to the other if it weren’t for the city limit signs. Northport offers a very well-done historic downtown area, and I try to stop in whenever I’m close.

Filled with shops, restaurants, and galleries, Northport has preserved a downtown that offers what my architecture school days termed “walkability.” The area is very pedestrian-friendly, one of the qualities that makes a downtown worth visiting and re-visiting. The scale of the streets is close so the storefronts offer a nice sense of enclosure on the main avenue. Brick pavers covering the sidewalks lend a tactile and visual texture to a leisurely walk. Plus, tree and window box plantings give the area a welcoming feel that minimizes the presence of concrete and pavement. In fact, during my walk up and down the street, I barely even noticed the cars even though all the parking spaces were filled and there was a continual flow of traffic. The layout of streetside parking included large plantings repeated down each side

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of the street. Sets of three of four parking spaces were offset by landscaped areas that extended into the parking zone. It had the great affect of making me almost blind to the chrome and metal.

The downtown area was filled with colorful imagery, from fun store window displays to unique signs. Of course, I couldn’t resist snapping a few shots of hand-painted signs for the “Signs of Life” series. I’ll share a few others later, but this one was found on an alley off the main avenue in a path leading to other restaurants and shops.

For me, no trip to Northport is complete without a stop at my very favorite shop, The Potager. The store is a fun combination of garden elements, home accessories, bed and bath items and old postcards and prints. It shares space with an antique shop if that strikes your fancy as well. A stop inside offers a breath of fresh air for the senses. Bare concrete floors give the store an outdoor feel that makes it seem like you’ve just stepped into someone’s private garden. The owners keep several birds in a large wire cage by the counter–one of those traditional Victorial styles. The sounds of the birds chirping and flitting add a nice backdrop for shopping along with classical music. One reason I stop into The Potager with each visit to Northport, is the lavender. The store sells dried lavender buds by the ounce along with linen or starched cotton sachets ready to be filled–a very nice gift to myself and my chiffrobe drawers. They also carry one of my favorite lines of bathing products, Pre de Provence. This trip I picked up a set of guest soaps in assorted spicy scents and a tube of Verbena hand lotion. Very nice.

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