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 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 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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Coming to America – Day 1

Hello, my name is Aunt Cindy, and I am Kelsey’s aunt from California.  I am honored and a little scared to be a guest writer on her blog.  I recently flew to Pittsburgh from Los Angeles to meet up with my brother Gary (Kelsey’s dad and a former guest blogger) and my nephews Kyle and Clark for what I have named the “Coming to America” tour.

Our mother Goldie Despot came to America from the then Yugoslavia (now Croatia).  Her father Grgo (George) and Uncle Stipan (Steve) had arrived in America and were working in coal mines outside of Pittsburgh.  George sent for his children one-by-one; my mom Goldie was 11 and traveled by herself on a ship to New York.  She stayed on Ellis Island for several days and was then put on a train to Pittsburgh where her father was to pick her up.  My mother lived at different times with her father in Harmarville and uncle and aunt in Brownsville.  She grew up in these areas, went to school, and learned to speak English without an accent.  She eventually moved to California, married, and had my brothers and me.

My mother took us three kids on a train to Pittsburgh in 1965.  We all have memories of that great adventure.  My mother kept in contact with a few of her friends and cousins in Brownsville, but since she passed in 2001, no one has been in contact with them.  Gary decided he wanted to go back and visit and found a few relatives, so the new adventure began.

Wednesday, June 19th – Arrived in Pittsburgh

Gary and Kelsey drove to Pittsburgh from Atlanta and picked Kyle, Clark, and I up at the airport.  Here are a few photos of Gary and Kelsey’s driving adventure.

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We left the airport in the rented minivan and, thanks to the Neuwirths (friends of the Alabama Andrich family), we were ready to video this awesome sight as we came out of the tunnel into Pittsburgh.

After we checked into our hotel, the Springhill Suites Pittsburgh North Shore, we enjoyed tasty appetizers of crackers with three different flavors of easy cheese and whiskey shots in the boys’ room.

We set out to find something to eat and walked in the light rain to Mullen’s.  We ordered beers and other things to drink.  I spotted a Black and Tan on the menu.  I love a Black and Tan and this one was made with Yuengling Beer, which we on the west coast cannot get.  It was delicious!  Looking at the menu, the Pittsburgh Wrap caught my eye.  The menu said it was the #1 best seller, and I have to agree!  I loved it.  Grilled steak tossed with cheese sauce, coleslaw, and French fries.  My plan was to share it, but only a small portion went to Kelsey for a taste – I ate everything!  I never had French fries on a sandwich but have to say these French fries were not the usual boring fires.  I don’t know what they did, but they were delicious.

Kelsey went with the pierogis (which are filled dumplings of Central and Eastern European origin, made by wrapping unleavened dough around a savory or sweet filling and cooked in boiling water or pan-fried).  Kelsey and I were both looking forward to these, as they are not common in Atlanta or the South Bay area of Los Angeles.  Unfortunately, they were pretty firm without enough butter and, ultimately, very disappointing.  Clark had the chicken wings and enjoyed them very much.

After dinner we were all pretty worn out, so we walked back in the rain to our hotel for a good night’s rest.

montana – day 4

hello, kelseyv.com blog followers!  phillip back here as a guest blogger with my dear wife, fellow companion, and my “amazingly uncommon” gal.  i am here to wrap things up from our big sky, montana trip and discuss the events and festivities we did during our last day on the slopes.  or, should i say off the slopes?  😊

kelsey and i decided, by nature of our bodies being sore and to save a penny or two on lift tickets, to take things a slope and a step back and enjoy our final day resting and relaxing (R&R’ing) around the resort.  we started off by sleeping in the cabin and ate the remaining breakfast that was prepared by some of our new friends that we met through kelsey’s work colleague, ben atkinson.  we ate scrambled eggs, toasted bagels with peanut butter, and one of our most important breakfast staples: bacon!  since the group still had loads of groceries in the cabin, they decided to exhaust the remaining breakfast items, including the massive box of bacon, so there was a lot to go around even after they left the cabin to go hit the slopes and snowmobiles for the day.  of course, being the meat aficionado i am, i was thoroughly impressed and excited to bring home the bacon by consuming roughly 8 slices!  i would probably guess that about half of those slices were consumed behind kelsey’s back, but hey, a man’s got to eat protein to keep energy and momentum for the relaxing day we were about to face together.

shortly after we ate our lovely breakfast, we sat down at the dining room table with our new friend, Ash.  Ash was studying on her laptop and catching up on personal emails while kelsey and i were reviewing our gopro footage we took during days 2 and 3.  everyone else either went to hit the slopes or took their day on a snowmobile excursion at yellowstone national park.

for kelsey and me, we decided to hit up one of big sky’s restaurants, the cabin bar & grill, and try out one of their popular entrée items, the elk/bison burger.  it was recommended from Jeanie, one of the employees from big sky’s ski and rental shop.  kelsey ordered her burger with blue cheese, and i ordered mine with swiss, and we both had fries, of course!  we must say that the burger was not as good as we expected it to be.  i think i enjoyed it more than kelsey; i thought it tasted like a pretty standard burger, but kelsey’s reaction was that the burger seemed to taste bland and dry.  we did, however, enjoy the beautiful scenery on the restaurant’s 2nd floor since it looked out at big sky’s iconic heated 8-seater chairlift, the ramcharger 8.

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after lunchtime, we went back to the cabin and relaxed for the remainder of the day.  everyone who went skiing came back around dinner time, so we all decided to go down to another big sky restaurant, M.R. Hummers.  those who went to yellowstone came back much later around 9pm or so.  kelsey and i went to Hummers to meet with Mohit, a friend and old coworker of kelsey’s.  he happened to be skiing at big sky for the week, and kelsey and mohit found out that same day that they were within walking distance from some of the most beautiful and biggest skiing that i’ve ever seen.  kelsey and i split a Hummers cheese waffle fries that were loaded with bacon, queso bravo, and scallions.  they were incredibly good, and i think that kelsey enjoyed them, too.

after catching up with mohit and team (yes, i say “and team” a lot since i work in HR), we walked back to the cabin with our crew and played werewolf again all throughout the night (puns intended here; werewolves could be howling during the night).  some folks had to leave the cabin around 3am since they had flights around six or so.  we went to bed and departed on a snowy “drive and fly” back to the warmer climate of atlanta a few hours later.

overall, the big sky trip was a “big” hit for us.  we enjoyed catching up with ben and some of his closest friends from work, school, and other walks of his life.  the crew was friendly, and the weather was perfect.  we’ll be back to big sky to ski down some more greens and possibly some blue slopes once we continue to become masters of the ski wedge.  😊

montana – day 1

a few months ago my friend and former coworker ben texted me, asking, “do you and phillip ski?”  i replied that phillip did when he was younger and living in michigan but that i never had.  that didn’t stress ben, who promptly invited us to join him and some friends on a ski trip to big sky, montana.  i approached phillip about the opportunity, not certain what he’d think, but the minute i explained it to him, he didn’t hesitate and said, “absolutely!”  pleasantly surprised by his quick decision, i told ben to count us in, and that is how we found ourselves on an early delta flight westward.

with no direct flights to montana (or at least to where we needed to be), our first leg of the trip was a smooth two hour flight up to minneapolis.  phillip slept and i did a little reading and writing and in no time we were deplaning for a brief layover.  if you’ve never had the pleasure of visiting the minneapolis-st. paul airport, i’d highly recommend it.  the airport was clean and spacious and fitted with nice shops and eateries everywhere.  even though we weren’t there for long, it was all-in-all a pleasant stop to make.

soon enough we were boarding our next plane, which took us to bozeman, montana, one stop closer to our final destination.  the airport definitely had the lodge vibe going for it, and everyone we encountered was just as nice as could be.  we didn’t have much time to mosey around, though, because the caravan of folks coming from butte was outside and ready for us.  we grabbed our suitcase from baggage claim, hustled into the cold, waved down our friends, and loaded on up.  phillip and i piled into an suv and met steve and fernando, friends and current coworkers of ben’s.

before making the drive down to big sky, we stopped for a little grocery shopping at the local albertson’s.  our digs for the weekend would be a big cabin right next to the resort, so we stocked up on breakfast food and coffee and snacks and, of course, some adult beverages.  it wouldn’t be much of a ski trip without a little fireside drinking, now would it?  oh, and i should mention the chips.  all the chips were ours!

three buggies later, we packed the cars a little fuller still and stopped for a quick bite at good ‘ole burger king.  over french fries and nuggets and whoppers the size of your head, more introductions were made and we met ashima and chris and james.  once all bellies were full and satisfied, we hit the road to big sky.  the drive wasn’t too long and was pleasant as the montana landscape revealed itself to us mile by mile.  i’ve never been surrounded by this kind of scenery and was quite taken with the mountain skyline and sturdy evergeens blanketed with soft white snow.  it was definitely quite a sight.

the views only became better as we pulled off of moose ridge road and into the driveway of our rental cabin.  ben did an excellent job finding this spot for us, and we all dropped our bags inside as we explored the main living space with its well-equipped kitchen, cozy leather furniture, and humongous wall of windows.  i mean, this shot isn’t too shabby, is it?

you’re so gorgeous.

we all picked our rooms and then took the cars into the resort to get all geared up by the kind folks at lone mountain sports.  employees steve and shelby assisted us in getting the right size boots, skis, poles, and helmets for our skiing experience, and before you know it, we were at least totally looking the part.  if you look good, you feel good, right?  i’m gonna go with yes.  🙂

with a long day of travel behind us all and our equipment all ready to go for the next day, the only thing left to do on day one was relax back at the cabin.  eventually curtis and kara arrived, and we cracked open beers, poured the wine, put on our bathings suits, and got the party started in the hot tub, complete with music and jets and light effects!  if this was any indication of how the rest of the trip would be, a great weekend was surely in store.