thx for the memories, asheville

to celebrate my birthday earlier this month, phillip and i decided to enjoy a getaway weekend just a few hours northeast in asheville, nc. phillip hadn’t been, and it feels like a lifetime ago since i visited for a bachelorette weekend. so, with really no reason not to go and a junk ton of breweries ready to welcome us, to asheville we went!

we were a bit parched from our travels, so after dropping our luggage, we hit downtown by foot and started taking in the city. it was a bustling thursday night, and eager to up our own energy, phillip’s eye was caught by double d’s coffee & desserts bus. what a lovely, unexpected surprise to begin our adventures!

i mean, how can you walk by this and not stop. 🙂 phillip ordered an iced mocha, of course, and i tried their unsweetened peach tea, which was perfectly refreshing on a warm summer evening. there were plenty of tables and benches around, so we sat back and relaxed as we enjoyed this little oasis plopped right in the middle of the city. i highly recommend you put this bus on your list!

caffeinated and ready for more, we strolled down to wicked weed brewing. this place seems like an asheville staple to me, and instead of sitting in the main dining room, we walked downstairs to find a couple stools at a hightop. there were lots of folks with their doggies nearby, and i noticed throughout our trip that all of asheville seems to be pretty pet-friendly. perhaps next time grace can join us!

known very much as a beer town, asheville has lots to offer in this category, so we wasted no more time. we both ordered a flight, grabbed some pretzels and yellow mustard, and took a seat. it was not too long before we were chatting with the folks at the other end of the table, getting their stories. you just never know who you might meet! we were lucky enough to get to know chase and tiffany over the course of a few more hours and a couple more rounds of beer. they are a pleasant couple from ohio and vacation to asheville every year, so we lucked out with our own tour guides! and although it was their last night in town, they shared with us the inside scoop on all their favorite places that we had to try during our visit. spoiler alert! everything they recommended was incredible. 🙂

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obx

with the pandemic upsetting some of our plans, extra time was then suddenly available for some spontaneous activities. phillip and i decided to take advantage and road trip to the outer banks of north carolina. i’d say for about a year now we’ve considered vacationing there but only recently made it happen and are so glad we did.

rather than the standard day-by-day format for my travels, i’m going to do a little something different and share our trip with you by category. so, if you mostly care about what we eat, you can focus there. if you’re more interested in what we did, that’s all together for you, too. enjoy!

the lodging

even though phillip and i knew we wanted to go to the outer banks, we hadn’t yet really planned on where we would stay. well, the good news is that aaa came to the rescue. my mom was browsing through their member magazine on one of her visits and found a quick blurb about the sanderling resort in duck, nc. she didn’t have to do much convincing, as we quickly agreed to splurge on a couple of nights at the four-star resort.

even during the pandemic, the sanderling did not disappoint. it’s hard to complain when you are within a two-minute walk of the beach or when the bar is just a few steps away from the lobby or when you have the perfect view for a sunrise or when the concierge provides complimentary s’mores packs to roast in the fire pit or when the staff takes extra measures to ensure the common spaces are clean. i can only imagine how the service is elevated when restrictions are not in place.

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louisville – day 4

our fourth and final day in louisville started out like most last days on vacations begin, with some quick goodbyes. dad had driven up from alabama and needed to hit the road early so that he could get home at a reasonable hour. so, clark, phillip, and i woke up just enough to give him a hug and wish him safe travels and then got a couple more hours of sleep before checking out of the hotel ourselves.

the three of us had plenty of time to kill before our late afternoon flights, so we agreed a sunday like this one was the perfect excuse for some brunch. we put in our names at highland morning and walked next door to grab some lattes at day’s espresso & coffee while we waited. supporting local businesses is important, but i have a soft spot for coffee shops. reminds me of the cambridge coffee and jittery joe’s days, simpler times for sure.

before too long, we got the call that highland morning was ready for us, so we brought along our beverages and settled in at our table. you know the best places always have a wait, so we were already encouraged before we even ordered.

like i said, we had a lot of time before our flights home, so i wasted no time and ordered us the mimosa bucket. now, the mimosas were delicious – i mean who doesn’t love some bubbly on a lovely sunday afternoon? but what was almost better was something else new clark taught me. yesterday was “camera eats first” and “influencers in the wild.” could today possibly top it? pretty close!

so, i asked clark to take a picture of me with the champagne bottle. he sweetly obliged and then showed me the picture, to which i gasped in pleasant surprise. “what’s wrong?” he asked.

“nothing!” i said. “i’m just impressed by how great this picture makes me look!” nothing like tooting your own horn. 😀 clark then proceeded to explain portrait mode on the iphone to me (i have only ever owned android devices), to which i was amazed again at how technology and social media just rule our world some days. today was one of those days, clearly.

i didn’t have much time to gush over my beautiful portrait because our food soon arrived. phillip and clark both had the baja benedict on recommendation from the waitress. i had the stuffed french toast and a side of crispy bacon. the boys decided that although their dish was good, the amount of chorizo was underwhelming. i, on the other hand, could not get enough of my french toast. i don’t typically go for the sweet breakfast plates, but this one was delicious bite after bite!

like all good things, our trip did come to an end. clark flew west, phillip and i flew south, and we all went back to our normal day-to-day. looking back on it all, though, i’d say we made the most of our few days in louisville. folks were friendly just about everywhere we went, and it was easy to get to. if you ever find yourself driving through the bluegrass state, carve out a little time in louisville. i think you’ll be happy you did.

louisville – day 3

after our busy friday, we all slept in a bit and then walked the couple of blocks for a starbucks fuel-up for the day. we sipped on cold brews and frappuccinos and pumpkin spice lattes, and i think it’s pretty clear which of us in the family has their selfie game down to a science. 🙂

on our way out, dad could not resist getting a few pictures with the horse. like many towns, these statues are all over louisville with different designs. could you find them all?

since our breakfast was pretty light, we hopped in the car to eat at another favorite spot you just don’t see in the south, skyline chili! i first heard about skyline from my friend bank when he used to make it for us in college, and it’s one of the places you must eat at if it is nearby. kind of like grater’s. 🙂

we inhaled our chili dogs and pasta dishes in record time, savoring each bite since who knows when we’ll have it again!

after lunch we strolled around and took in the gorgeous weekend day. the sun was shining, folks were out and about. it was a fine day indeed, made even better when we stopped in at the eagle for a round of drinks al fresco.

like i said, saturday truly was our chill day of the trip, so we continued our fast food eating tour that night at raising cane’s for some chicken and over at white castle for some greasy mini burgers. gotta love ’em!

the day wrapped up as we lounged at the hotel, enjoying each other’s company and watching some good ‘ole fashion college football. one more day to go!

louisville – day 2

after a quick visit to the famed churchill downs friday morning…

…we ventured on over to biscuit belly, another sara-recommended spot.  if i could only say one thing about biscuit belly, it is that we LOVED it.

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but!  i’ll of course say more than just that.  now, after being overcome by what my dad called an “ordering frenzy,” we all settled in with our coffees, both hot and cold brew style.

as i snapped a picture of the cute mugs and glasses, clark so kindly educated us about what the kids are saying and doing these days when it comes to social media.  yes, kelsey, it’s more than just regular blogs like yours.  i learned about “camera eats first,” which about made me die, and then also “influencers in the wild.”  it’s funny how we were victims of these trends without even realizing it.  thank you, clark, for helping your 32 year old sister stay current.  🙂

we put our devices down briefly as our food started coming out, and i think we all felt our eyes were bigger than our stomachs.  so, what exactly did we order?  well, let me tell you.  for the table to share, we ordered the bonuts, the gravy train, and the pancake corndogs.  if you want the inside scoop, try dipping the bonut into the chocolate gravy from the gravy train.  you’ll be in biscuit heaven, i guarantee it.

but don’t forget that we all also had our entrees, as if we needed more!  we tried the love shack, the basic biscuit, and the rockwell.

i told you we ordered a lot!  we were at our table for nearly two hours just eating and drinking and solving all the world’s problems.  it was a homerun, and i think we all left wishing we had a location in each of our hometowns.

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louisville – day 1

like many folks these days, our plans have been canceled or rearranged, and while some days we might feel down about it all, others you just have to make your own happiness happen.  phillip and i did just that this past weekend with a quick getaway to louisville, ky.  it was a good halfway point to meet up with my dad (who drove up from alabama) and my younger brother clark (who flew down from chicago).

phillip, clark, and i got in around lunch, so after we dropped our suitcases at the hotel, we took a walk to the highlands to try out el taco luchador.  this spot was recommended by my friend sara, who lived here for several years, and is bright and fun, serving up delicious food and beverages.

round one was a couple of coronas, of course, while clark tried the frozen watermelon margarita.  clark said his drink was tasty and only made better with an order of chips and queso.  apparently, the only way they serve queso in chicago is fundido-style which, although good in its own way, cannot quite compare to the runny, mouthwatering white queso you find at mexican restaurants in the south.  i think clark was in heaven with each bite!

as for the tacos themselves, we all three tried the baja fish taco and declared it the uncontested favorite.  between the perfectly battered filet and crispy cabbage, it was a taco that would satisfy any taco-lover in town.

baja fish tacos & the al pastor taco.

also tried (and devoured) were the al pastor, carnitas, and chicharron tacos.  they, too, were a tasty trio, and for me, the chicharron was so perfect and tender that i had to order a second!

the carnitas & chicharron tacos.

later that day, milo rolled into louisville and, inevitably, it was time to eat again.  if you’ve ever been on a trip with my family, you know the plans largely revolve around food.  surely we aren’t the only ones?

we wanted something good but not too fancy and soon settled on trying feast bbq.  how did we decide on trying feast?  i’d be lying if i told you it wasn’t because of the bourbon slushies they prominently feature on their site… 🙂  also, it was a short drive from the hotel.

dad had the brisket sandwich, which he rated as an 8 out of 10.  i feel like that’s saying a lot seeing as how he has lived in the south over 30 years now and has tried his fair share of brisket.

clark went for the pulled pork sandwich with a side of sweet potato fries.  he commented that it all was perfectly satisfying.

phillip and i were in a sharing mood since we were still full from lunch, so we munched on the simple salad (gotta get some greens, somehow, some way) and crispy mac & cheese balls (which, in our opinion, didn’t need the overpowering horseradish sauce at all).

overall, we ended our first day in louisville two for two.  not a bad start!

a new year’s adventure

first things first – i’ve had my blog for 5 years!  and it is time to pick back up in this new decade with a fresh, new post.  here’s to great things in 2020 for us all.  🙂

somewhat on a whim, my mom and i decided to have a mother-daughter roadtrip after she spent the Christmas holiday with my younger brother clark up in washington, dc.  as you will find, this trip was just as much about our appetites as it was our time together, and i wouldn’t change a thing about it!

day one was a drive from the nation’s capital to norfolk, va.  for many reasons, it is a sentimental spot for my mother, and seeing as how i had never been, it was the perfect first stop on our trip.  during our drive south on i-64 we caught up on anything and everything and solved all the world’s problems at once.  if only someone would ask for our opinion, lol!

it ended up being quite a drive with lots of traffic and roadwork, so by the time we arrived in mermaid city, we were a hungry pair.  we dumped our luggage at the hotel and had a mostly forgettable dinner at guy fieri’s smokehouse.  even though there admittedly were generous lumps of crab meat atop our waffle fries, the best part may have been watching people trying to ride the mechanical bull.  that’s always good entertainment.  thankfully, dessert on the other hand was a bit better with a sweet treat from the fudgery, which my mom remembers from when she tended bar at a nearby waterside restaurant.  isn’t it neat how we can recall things like that?

after a good night of rest, the next day we started with some breakfast at yorgos bageldashery.  it had glowing reviews on yelp, and since i love a good bagel, we decided to give it a try.  it turns out we have taste just as good as the locals, as they were swarming the place right upon our arrival.  we chatted it up with another patron in line who recommended the chicken salad, so we split some of that along side a couple of bagels.  mom had a pumpernickel bagel with olive spread (an ode to her mother florence) while i enjoyed a classic plain bagel with veggie cream cheese.

while we waited on the bagels, we dug into the chicken salad first.  was it tasty?  yes, but when you come from alabama and georgia, your chicken salad tastebuds are a little different.  i don’t think we would order it again, but everyone does chicken salad differently, and theirs was all their own.

mom loved her bagel, especially because there was an abundance of olives, both green and black!  my bagel was also delicious.  i think i would have gone with a different spread (and maybe doubled up on the cream cheese because we all know i love cream cheese) but still ate up every bite of mine.

fueled up with full bellies, our tour of norfolk continued as my mom drove us past a couple of houses her parents owned when they lived there.  we even found the church where my parents married nearly 35 years ago now.  even though the town may not be exactly as she remembered, it was still fun to be with her as she took a trip down memory lane.

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the classic city

a couple of weekends ago phillip and i had the wonderful opportunity to return to my college town of athens, ga.  the occasion, yes, did revolve around georgia football, but we made the most of the weekend by visiting some places home to my fondest memories while i was in school.

we had driven in town friday night to soak up every minute of athens we could, and since we hadn’t stopped for dinner on our drive in, the first order of business was some food at none other than the famous keba.  we both ordered double lamb sandwiches with fries as the side, and i think it was the quietest meal we’d had in a while because we were enjoying it all so much!  keba did have a location in atlanta for a bit (with the great taste of the original), but it shut down and i’ve of course been craving it ever since.  it was a perfect start to what would become a pretty perfect weekend.

pure joy.

we cleared our table and drove over to nathan and samantha’s house.  i’ve known nathan since college when, as freshmen, we met in the redcoat marching band.  he and samantha have lived in athens for several years now and always are kind to open their home to friends and family.  it’s not often we get to see them, so it was a special treat to catch up on life and football and everything in between.  we did plenty of that especially the next morning over coffee and bagels (which we brought from emerald city in east atlanta) before nathan, phillip, and i drove to campus to join in on the gameday experience.  it was an extra special occasion because it was our homecoming weekend against kentucky, and even though it rained nonstop all day, the bulldog nation still showed up nicely to support the team.

nathan had redcoat duties, so phillip and i donned our ponchos and took a sloshy walk through north campus.  as i imagine many graduates do when they are visiting their old stomping grounds, i pointed out to phillip all the different buildings and where i had class and which lobbies were the best for napping.  the rain couldn’t keep our cheery demeanor down, especially once we arrived at the arch, because taking a picture under the arch is always something to smile about.  🙂

hungry for a bite, we shuffled into the taco stand.  now, i did not do a lot of downtown eating when i was in college, but one spot i frequented was the taco stand, especially when my younger brother clark visited, as it was his absolute favorite spot in town.  phillip and i lucked out with a couple of stools at the bar, so we de-layered, ordered chips and salsa and a couple of beers, and enjoyed the gameday atmosphere.

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Coming to America – Day 3

After breakfasting at the hotel, we set out to visit our relatives in Brownsville.  It was an absolutely beautiful day with blue skies and warm, comfortable temperatures.  As I mentioned earlier, my mother took us by train to visit Brownsville in 1964.  As we drove onto the street, it was just like we remembered!  The main house that belonged to my mother’s uncle and aunt, and where we stayed in 1964, is in the middle of the block with two family homes above it and two family homes below it.  Such a lovely area, very green and open.  The chicken coops behind the main house are even still there, but no chickens today.

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We met our cousin Jim Despot (who remembers our visit in 1964) and his son Dustin and his two children who all live on the block.  Dustin was a fifth generation coal miner until recently.  They were so welcoming and kind.  We all sat around Jim’s dining room table talking family, both past and present.  Jim prepared a delicious lunch for us of pasta and meatballs and homemade apple pie.  Jim shared recipes with me, and I was very grateful for that.

On our way back, we followed Jim to another cemetery where his grandfather and grandmother are buried.  His grandfather was our grandfather’s older brother.  Jim and Dustin told us how he arrived in America by boat before World War II, where at some point he was drafted and sent to war back in Europe on the very same boat he came to America on!

Back in Pittsburgh at our hotel, Gary, Kyle, Kelsey and I went for a walk over the Sixth Street Bridge, also known as the Roberto Clemente Bridge, one of the nearly identical “Three Sister Bridges” that spans the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh.  This bridge was erected in 1927, and you have a beautiful view of the baseball stadium right on the river.  The bridge is closed to cars on game days so that fans can cross it.  On the walkways of the bridge, many locks (Love Locks) are placed on the railings, similar to what you might see in Europe.

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Dinner that night was Clark’s choice, and we ate at a wonderful Mexican restaurant called Las Velas.  We all enjoyed the food very much.

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When we got back to the hotel, it was time for Liverpool Rummy, the favorite card game in our family.  My mom used to play this with her lady friends betting dimes.  They were quite the group!  Mom, my brothers, and I, along with Uncle Al when he was in from fishing, would play this game.  Mom taught it to all her grandchildren.  Luckily, Kelsey had purchased three decks of cards earlier that day.  We took over a large table in the hotel lounge area and proceeded to have a wonderful time.  It is always fun to play this with the family.  Shout out to Clark who won the game!

Coming to America – Day 2

June 20th

Our mission today was to travel to Cheswick, PA to find Deer Creek Cemetery and the graves of our Grandfather George and Uncle Felix.  We had breakfast at the hotel and set off with an overcast sky.  The scenery was beautiful, so green and so different from the Los Angeles area!  We found the very old cemetery and set out looking for the graves.  Gary had looked up the information, and we knew which sections they were in, or so we thought.  We all got a lot of steps in as we went back and forth, row after row looking at gravestones.

deer creek cemetery.

I personally find old cemeteries very interesting and can wander for hours looking at the headstones and wondering who these people were, what their lives were like, etc.  A lot of the people buried here were born in the mid- to late 1800s.

Kyle and Clark found George Despot’s headstone (1888-1941), and we gathered around.  He died of black lung from working in the coal mines.  It was emotional for Gary and I, remembering our mother had told us and knowing that she had been here when he was buried.

It started lightly raining as we looked for Felix’s grave.  Back and forth, up and down we went in the grass.  We couldn’t find the grave, but our shoes sure got wet!  We finally went to the office, and the groundskeeper looked it up right away, so we followed him in his vehicle to the correct section.  We found Felix’s headstone (1916-1947), who died of a burst appendix, and that of this daughter Judith.  We thought of the stories our mother had told us of her big brother.

Our mother had a younger brother who also came to America; his name was Albert, or Uncle Al as we all called him.  He joined the Navy and ended up settling in San Pedro, CA to work as a fisherman.  After our mother’s dad and brother Felix passed away, she moved out to Long Beach, CA to be near her brother Al.  Our next stop was in memory of him.  We climbed into the van and headed to Oakmont Country Club where Uncle Al had worked as a caddie when he was a kid.  Gary fondly remembers Uncle Al telling stories of working at Oakmont.  A little history for those who don’t follow golf:  the course at Oakmont Country Club, designed in 1903, is one of the most difficult in North America.  It has hosted more combined USGA and PGA championships than any other course in the United States.  We arrived at the guard shack and explained that we just wanted to go to the pro shop and pick up a few souvenirs because Uncle Al had worked here many, many years ago.  The gentleman gave us the once over (being sure we were properly dressed because golf courses can have dress codes) and said we could go in.  What we could see of the golf course was absolutely beautiful as well as the buildings.  We picked up some gifts to take back home and set off.

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