Travel Back In Time: Growing Up NYC during the 80’s and 90’s

Apache and I have watched NYC transform and not only in the way of new business approaches but also the culture which I would say is more of a feeling, or something intangible that is hard to put into words for me, but i will try.

Back In The Day

As a child I remember the trains covered in graffiti, litter and housing the homeless.  It seemed lighting was less bright back then and I didn’t think it was good or bad –it just was.

Now I look back on that time never to be returned and it gives me a sense of nostalgia of the music we listened to, how family and friends spent time together and the way we were all living.  I will jump around time periods a bit and all around the city here but it is how the various memories appear, intertwine and flow through my mind.
Photo by Katsu Naito / 6sqft.com /Harlem Kids in the early 80’s

There were so many abandoned buildings for a long time that later became crack houses.

Photo by Matt Weber/ Times Square 1990
Photo by Mitch o’ Connell /1991 Times Square

I remember con artists having fun with large groups of people surrounding them in Midtown Manhattan while they flipped cards or cups and moved money around until the player found theirs gone.  It was common place to see young b-boys and girls doing head spins on card board boxes revolving and performing hip hop acrobatics in the street, sometimes for money, with a big boom box radio that played cassette tapes blasting beats that will stay embedded in my being for the remainder of my life.

Photo from Pinterest /Kids Break-Dancing on a cardboard box in 1980’s NYC

I remember going with my mom to her friend’s or my uncle’s house parties and hanging out with their kids in the back rooms while soulful music from the 70’s & 80’s filled the air well into the late evening hours.

I remember 125st always busy and bustling, a hub for black pride and culture. There was a place called The 125st Mart which was like a mall where vendors rented out spaces to sell stuff like African fabrics, baseball hats, jewelry and fake model management. Outside gold jewelry shops, bean pies, Jamaican beef patties and African hair braiding salons were popular.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Photo by Thomas Monaster/ nydailynews.com / Indoor vendor at Mart 125 during the 90s

On 125th st, the Apollo Theater has survived . As kids, my brother and I got into the theater via “Showtime at the Apollo” on tv.  This theater has held it’s ground since 1934, launching countless African-American performers into worldwide stardom.  Another generational Harlem staple that was a part of our childhood, that still stands today is Sylvia’s Restaurant where you can get authentic, home-style traditional soul food. Unfortunately, our beloved Copeland’s Restaurant, where we ate every year to celebrate my brother and Aunt Cora’s birthday has since shut down.

In the early 90’s, I remember 125th street lined with entrepreneurs selling oils and natural skin care products. Every corner sold something bootleg from movies to CDs, mix-tapes or women’s purses. There were T-shirts with the latest pop culture icons printed on the front and really whatever you could imagine at low prices.  I always had a good time when I would leave High School with my girlfriends Corris, Jeannine, Geale and Yvonne to hang out there and we knew we all had each other’s back because that’s the way it was.

I always wanted a pair of big gold door knocker earrings like the group Salt N Pepa had but was not allowed because 1) my mother didn’t want me thinking I was grown and 2) she didn’t want me getting ripped off by some crazy crack head or possibly a group of teenagers which would happen to people all the time.

A. Philip Randolph High School stairwell pic with my friends! We had a running 5-way diary!

I remember the East Village being a part of NY that embraced art, creativity and individuality and I fell in love with this place. Window shopping here with my friend Berni would be a frequent plan because lawd knows we were not buying a thing. We were feeling so grown but didn’t have anything but what our parents gave us which was possibly train money and enough for a cheap meal.

Greenwich Village which borders East Village was a great place to people watch (not cell phone watch) in Washington Square Park, a lot of times there were street performers there.  There were so many unique and unapologetic fashion approaches to admire, eccentric shops, great food which at that time was a $1 slice of pizza and a soda cause that was the budget- thank the heavens that’s one thing that has not changed, you can still get a perfect $1 pizza in NYC (praise hands a flyin).

Photo from wirednewyork.com /Washington Square Park in NY

Growing up in NYC 80s and 90s

When I was very young, maybe 7 years old it had been the harmless elderly winos who had given up on their lives long ago and resigned to their daily group gatherings along our streets in Washington Heights (a neighborhood in Manhattan that is bordered by Harlem). Over time, most of them were replaced with red lid crack viles sprinkled around our elementary school yard grounds in the late 80’s.

People became possessed by the new drug crack cocaine and would do literally anything to get it. Our neighbor was killed in the train station for his wallet, one block away from home after he had gotten off from a long day of work.

 As a teenager, I remember stepping off that 1 train on Broadway many days walking stiffly past the first group of drug dealers that alternated between hissing and yelling “Flaca!” at me daily as I strode on by up to my block which was Amsterdam. Nodding at the second group of old timer drug dealers that were around my Moms age and some of whom went to school with her and her brother so looked out for us (my brother Wesley and I).  And then, last but not least, the third pack of new young dealers (who at least did not harass me, probably because of the older group that stood watch across the street). The new, younger dealers stood right on our stoop and we all had to get through them every day in order to enter or exit my building- Fun Times.

Wesley and I in our apartment 469 W. 157st

Once as kids, Wesley and I hit the ground to avoid flying bullets and listened to them often from our apartment- I think I was always in a bit of denial as I would always say “I think those are fire crackers.”  And then there was the time my brother and I once watched a man get shot down in the middle of a cold, dark, quiet winter night.  His body lay still in the snow with only a dim street lamp light to witness his ascent besides our young peering eyes from mom’s bedroom window. This would not be the only body we have seen crossing over on a NYC street.

Sitting out on my fire escape talking to my girlfriends on the phone watching all the movement on the block with my bird’s eye view, from the 5th floor feeling safe and serene up there, way up high.

My early morning view from our 5th floor apartment building 469 W. 157st /1991

This was a community with love and also strife and struggle.  If you have ever seen the movie “Juice” screenplay by Ernest Dickerson, and Gerard Brown it was filmed in our neighborhood, and also in my high school A. Philip Randolph located in Harlem and is a depiction of our teenage era in that place and time period.

The beloved bodegas still stand- Hispanic corner stores where you can get a heavy NY Latin accent served with any grocery you need. They usually had their music playing and sometimes also sold food native to their country, both of which I absolutely love.

Bodega photo by Jake Davis/ airshipdaily.com

Try a bodega bacon, egg and cheese sandwich on a roll, unlike any other bacon, egg and cheese sandwich you will ever taste in your life! The bacon, egg and cheese on a roll is rich with flavor probably because its cooked on some grill in some old yummy bacon grease that has also been used to cook some other yummy foods (I dunno what they put in it, just guessing). This sandwich use to be a favorite hang over breakfast as a young adult.

Our apartment building was passed down in our family 3 generations so we had reduced rent. This building is an antique, reported as built in 1900 on apartmenthomeliving.com   My brother and I were intrigued with the old antiques we would find around the apartment. I owned a large antique vanity and old typewriter- both of which i knew were precious, passed down from my Great Grandmother Nanny.

My brother Wesley and I across the street from our apartment building- 1980’s

In our apartment, I knew where every old floor board creak was and learned how to tip toe around them in order to not make a sound and was proud of this skill. Things were made to last back then and our apartment building was no exception, old as she could be.

The rooms were very large and I really loved mine – it was a sanctuary where I’d journal my heart and soul out. The spaciousness in my bedroom allowed me to turn it into my Barbie doll’s wonderland as a child and also my own personal dance floor.  It was a dreamer’s escape.

We painted over the cracks in the walls which would quickly return reminding us of the buildings age.

My bedroom window faced a abandoned old house (at least 100 years old) squeezed between our and another apartment building. This used to be the home of young Sidney Poitier and his family. Rumor in my family is that the young Mr. Poitier was in love with my grandmother. No one would be surprised at that if they knew my grandmother (pic below). She was gorgeous inside and out.

Our Grandparents Norbeta & Casper Greshaw on mother’s side.
Sidney Poitier

Pigeons lived between my window sill and that broken old house that I continually tried to get my friend to move into when she would feud with her mother- why did I think this was a good idea? –it could be an adventure! lmao I think I watched “The Goonies,” “The Never Ending Story,” “The Wiz,””The Dark Crystal,””Legend” and other old adventure movies one too many times, which distorted my perceptions just a little bit!  Sometimes I lived in somewhat of a fantasy land in my head, sure that one day my brother and I would escape to find a magical land with fairies in an alternate reality.

The people who lived in my building were either really hard working like our mother who had the night shift at the Post office or they were older retired folk.

Mom in the 80’s at the NYC Post Office

My building was full of good loving people, one of which was our babysitter for a time, Mrs. Grieves (who taught Wesley and I how to make omelets). Mrs. Grieves was pleasantly plump, a retired fair complexioned old woman with a nicely shaped poof of reddish-brown hair and a kind smile that held spaces for teeth that used to live there.

Then, there was Linda who was on the short side but stood with an erect posture, shoulders back, serious face and was not to be messed with- One thing I knew was how a person carried themselves could dictate their chances of being vulnerable to this environment.  Linda once threw boiling water out the window for the dealers below in an attempt to show her disgust and annoyance.

Mabel lived across the hall, she would sometimes keep my brother Wesley and I before school and we would watch our favorite cartoons (GI Joe and Transformers for Wesley and I waited patiently for JEM) on her plastic covered couch.  My mom grew up with Mabel’s daughters. Mabel actually was present when my mother’s water broke, with me, anxious to come busting out into this world cause I thought I had a lot of things to do! lol

 There was that poor older man that lived downstairs who must not have had anyone. We came to this conclusion because there was a progressively thickening stench of rotting flesh that filled our hallways over a period of weeks that we came to find out was that nice older man’s carcass.

NYC would get so hot and sticky in the summer and freezing cold in the winter, REAL snow blizzards…. Once Wesley and I walked from 92nd st. to 157st because the snow was so bad the buses stopped running.

The diversity in NYC is sweet.  I went to Junior High in downtown Manhattan where I literally had a friend from every part of the world!

6th grade friend from China
8th grade graduation from I.S. 44 Junior High

I had my two close friends (both from my neighborhood) one of which was from Trinidad and the other half Irish and half Puerto Rican in Junior High. Before that, I also had friends from Hungry, Africa, India, China, and the Dominican Republic.

It was really exciting for me to have friends from all over the world because I could ask them a million questions about what life was like for them in their native countries, learn about their customs, food and dream of traveling there.

NYC is loved for her diversity, creativity, culture and sometimes the challenge. The city is fast moving, quick talking, upfront and boisterous. Taking the good with the bad from it all has sculpted me and I believe some character.

Loud, bumping, vibrating music would seem to come out of the thin air right into our apartment. Either salsa, Afro-Caribbean or the latest Hip Hop tunes would come stomping through our window panes from either overly impressive rides with the best speakers money could buy or from old clunkers with way too much reverb where all you could hear was an awful  vibrating sound.  Depending on the car, I either danced and sang along or I covered my ears wondering why in the hell the driver thought they were entertaining anybody with that jacked up sound system.  Other popular city sounds would be frequent fire truck, police car or paramedic sirens.

Apache and I hung out in the early 90s in a old pool hall in midtown Manhattan with my brother, sometimes also my uncle Lee and sometimes one or two other female friends.  Mostly the group was comprised of a large pack of dudes we had met in NY.

There was a little music shop where records and mix tapes were sold and a DJ would be playing whatever the newest hit was.  I remember being so excited when a DJ at “Disc-o-Rama”  handed us Biggie’s “Ready To Die” LP on vinyl for free “promotional use only”on one of those nights.

There were still big shopping department stores and even a mall (Manhattan Mall) but it definitely did not have all the big screens, virtual reality images and cameras everywhere, as well as us InstaGramers running around in ultra trendy fashions looking for perfect social media backdrops.  It was just a different time.

In the pool hall in Midtown Manhattan in the 90s, we had a smaller group this night.

This is the one and only photo i have of our pool hall days. We wore over sized jeans, Timberland boots, jerseys and we were immersed in Hip-Hop/Reggae culture.

I always felt honored to be standing in the cypher (in the Urban Dictionary it is defined as “Anything cyclical”).  We were a group of people in a circle. As a Hip-Hop connoisseur of sorts, i got to appreciate up close and personal the Wordsmiths/lyricists that bounced profound and complicated rhymes back and forth between one another, somebody beat-boxing with their mouth while others in the circle took turns challenging one another in a way that encouraged as opposed to battle rhyming in this particular group.

For some reason, I knew I  was standing in a special place, in a very special time and never took this for granted.  I felt like a Queen in this group because i was embraced as a member and always treated with respect. We just wanted to congregate, talk endlessly about the end of the world or how the elite class was planning world domination via media confusion and technology while enjoying each others company- which also sometimes included long vomit sessions in  dirty bathrooms from drinking one too many 40 oz.(beer bottles).

As the sun went down, the streets were getting a little rougher and desperate as the day shoppers and corporate workers went home.  There were other groups of people in the pool hall as well who were doing cocaine and hookers doing more than that downstairs in the same building. This was the the 90’s, midtown, NYC.

Photo from Pinterest /Midtown Manhattan mid 90s

We had pay phones (which cost a quarter to make a phone call) on most streets and during this time beepers were becoming increasingly popular although i never had a need for one.

Today midtown looks like manic, consumer mania which is entertaining for a short while and then exhausting after that. Although, everyone should get to experience the energy there at least once in their life- especially since we don’t know how long this will last since online shopping is now taking over.

Photo from Pinterest

Today my old neighborhood of Washington Heights and Harlem are continually evolving so they look and feel some different. With remnants of the old there is also plentiful new as these areas are being gentrified.  I appreciate the decrease in crime and opportunities to enjoy the neighborhoods new small businesses.  There are more cafes, joggers, boutiques, modern and eclectic new lounges. At the same time,  it is sad to see people who love and call Harlem their home being forced to leave because they cannot afford the cost of living here anymore.

 I am grateful for growing up in my neighborhood because it contributed to who I am today. Whatever I have in my possession is valued. Luxuries are not taken for granted. Being wasteful is not okay with me and i avoid it as much as possible.

Lower income neighborhoods, although not always pretty, are home to intelligent, hard working adults who try their best to raise their families, and talented kids as well. Often, criminals,as irritating as they can be, are people that have been abused or neglected themselves. Some may be misguided, thinking they have no other choices at all.

My mother used to tell me that many of the older corner people she had known from childhood had never left the block. I wonder where they are today. Can you imagine never leaving the block you grew up on when the world is so big?

The 1 train was only a block away. I could see something different, get another perspective, go to a museum, or get to Grand Central Station which could take me even further. Conditioning had many people probably afraid they wouldn’t fit in any other place in the world.

 As a child I would dream about world travel. Leaving was a possibility to me because my mother made efforts to get us off the block to see what was going on elsewhere. We went Ice skating in Central Park, for bike rides on Riverside drive along the Hudson River, far up into the mountains for the summers and other trips out of the city.

There is a feeling of gratitude, carried within my heart for the journey, the whole picture which is the past and now my experience. This is a tiny piece of my story about growing up in old NYC which I felt compelled to share. Talking about what’s new doesn’t feel balanced without sharing a bit on what came before.

Thoughts of how many lives we have lived in this one with wonders of how many more are yet to come…… – Nikia Mason Knapp

Businesses Empowering Communities Across the United States

Locate businesses with heart from a small town in upstate New York to an expansive, abundantly green city in Oregon, empowering communities across the United States. Passion for serving others and improving the life trajectory for either those living on the fringes of society or young impressionable minds who will determine the direction of the future is what fuels their momentum forward.

Hopewell,New York

Unshattered thrives in Hopewell,NY, where creative artisan skills produce economic independence as 100% of proceeds goes toward creating employment. Incorporated in 2016, Unshattered is a nonprofit retail shop specializing in creation of a diverse line of bags and accessories, handcrafted using repurposed material by women survivors of addiction.

Dee Dee, born in prison but now an accomplished seamstress who has spoken at the White House, sewing a label on a bag she made. Photo courtesy of Unshattered

Each bag keeps 3 secrets. One, on the inside liner, where it cannot be seen, is a message of good intention from it’s artist which could be a prayer for the future bag owner, a verse or possibly her number of days in sobriety. Two, each bag is named for someone who is still tethered to addiction, and whom is prayed for during the bag’s creation.  Secret number three, the use of gold thread in assent with Kintsugi, the Japanese art form that uses gold lacquer to repair breaks in an object, viewing breaks as part of the object’s history and more beautiful because of them, similar to the women of Unshattered.

The mission is received with open arms. Sewing new beginnings in the town of Hopewell, Kelly Lyndgaard, CEO and founder of Unshattered shares,”Our community has been incredible in supporting our women as they come out of recovery programs through shopping, donating, and helping the women economically so they can maintain their sobriety. In 3 1/2 years of providing full time employment for women in recovery, we have not had one relapse.”

Black Mountain,NC

The LEAF festival, a nonprofit organization is held amidst rejuvenating fresh air and the unyielding, calm of Black Mountain for a long weekend of cultural exchange, celebrating diversity and raising money for their community youth art and cultural awareness programs.

Inclusivity is priority, Marsha Almodavar, of LEAF Community Engagement shares “At LEAF we have a few signature programs that provide access to music and art education to underrepresented and under-resourced communities” including LEAF and Streets and ULEAF among others.

Community children become global citizens, learning more about their own heritage as well as “Through year-round programs and week-long residencies, LEAF offers the opportunity for students to explore different art forms from around the world” says Erinn Hartley, LEAF education Director.

Chicago,IL

Inspiration Kitchens dishes out delectable dining to it’s patrons, but also a free 12 week training program to earn certification as a food handler, and sanitation manager for applicants in need to address poverty and homelessness in Chicago.

Food service training program. Photo courtesy of Inspiration Kitchens

Life transformation sometimes comes in the form of Sticky Bread, Shrimp and Grits,Gumbo or even the Impossible Burger as employees enter what Colin Higgins, Grant Writer for Inspiration Corporation, parent organization to Inspiration Kitchens calls “a growing industry that has opportunity for advancement to really begin a sustainable career.”

In an effort to reduce the risk of recidivism and relapse, Inspiration Kitchens provide uniforms, cover costs of certifications and provide transportation assistance. Colin adds, “It tends to be a good fit for folks who have multiple barriers going against them”

Obliterating socioeconomic barriers with each meal prepared, Inspiration Kitchens has placed over 650 graduates in culinary jobs to date.

Nashville, TN

Nashville’s Thistle Farms is a local, national and global nonprofit social enterprise ardent in it’s mission to heal and create financial independence for women survivors of trafficking, prostitution and addiction.

Thistle Farms natural Bath and Body products. Photo by Nikia Knapp

Using essential oils and natural ingredients, bath and body products and soy candles are handmade by survivors to support themselves and bring more women off the streets.

Enjoy healthful eats or treats at The Cafe at Thistle Farms or meaningful spending in The Shop at Thistle Farms. Proceeds supply food,shelter,therapy, healthcare, job training and employment. Doris Walker-Taylor, survivor and now Director of Events at Thistle Farms shares “They give us everything we need to become whole again.”

Portland, Oregon

Central City Coffee, a nonprofit business warming bodies and hearts in Portland,Oregon with their high end, women’s empowerment branded coffee.

Central City Coffee bags Photo by Karen Lickteig

With each bag of coffee sold, Central City Coffee helps formerly homeless mothers gain soft and hard job skills that build self confidence as they become productive members of their community. It’s mother corporation, Central City Concern, supports women with housing and services as they transition to independent living.

Mother’s can gain experience in marketing, customer service, invoicing, office operations and everything there is to know about the coffee business. Sarah Porter, Business Director for Central City Coffee adds “They are amazing people working really hard to put their lives together and learn new skills.

Across the United States, businesses transcend obstacles,empower people and make impactful strides in their communities, one bag, one festival, one meal, one candle, and one cup of coffee at a time.

” At the core, we are manifestations of divinity.” ~ Herb K.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things to do and places to eat off our favorite LYNX Blue Line stops

Our first day on the LYNX!

The light rail had me curious, but I never had a reason to ride because I have a car.  The Lynx Blue Line opened for business in 2007 and here we are in 2019 riding it for the first time. We moved to Charlotte in 2006.

Sleek design ,smooth ride on the LYNX Blue Line

This is a perfect example of how blogging and vlogging gets us doing things we might not normally do.  If we weren’t busy being content creator’s we probably would never have given it a try.  I’m really glad we did though because it turned out to be a really cool ride, a mini Charlotte exploration adventure.

Now we get to share places to go and things to do off our favorite LYNX Blue Line stops!

You can purchase your ticket from the vending machine at the station or use the CATS pass App

I actually rode the LYNX twice.  The first ride was with Apache for our vlog day date.  My second ride was during rush hour just to see what it was like.  I wanted to take in the experience of riding with the commuters.

There are currently 11 LYNX Blue Line Park & Ride locations. Which Park & Ride locations are free?  Two out of the eleven will charge a $10 fee if an all-day pass (which means you can ride the train back and forth as many times as you like for $6.60) or a pass of higher value is not purchased.

The two stations that currently charge are the JW Clay Station and University City Blvd. All of the other Park & Ride lots are free.  The stops that have a Park & Ride deck have a on the Lynx Blue Line map so they are easy to find.

Before I get into the meat and potatoes of our favorite LYNX Blue Line stops, I want to share about my commuter experience.

I was definitely feeling the free parking available at the I-485/South Blvd station, it made me feel so welcome!

The Commuter Experience

After parking in the outdoor lot, I followed a group of people moving with a steady intentional pace toward the train.

There were two long stairways leading up to the train. I wasn’t sure if it made any difference which I took so I asked this young girl in route (who looked like a high school student to me, but since she was catching the train I guessed, maybe college). She smiled and informed me that she was headed to work (so now I’m thinking it’s just because of my age that she looks like a baby to me). She told me it didn’t make a difference which flight of stairs I took, “they both lead to the same place.” I followed her to the indoor parking deck across the street to take the elevator up instead.

Apache looks like a LYNX commuter here.

During rush hour everyone seemed calm. The station was very clean and quiet. Surprisingly, there was enough seating for everyone that got on the train.  If I had the choice, I would choose this easy-going train ride over driving in Charlotte’s new nerve-racking traffic any day.

There were only two stops left before I had to get off, my bladder was beginning to make some serious demands on me. I’m sure if I was in my 20s this wouldn’t have been an issue- sigh.

During rush hour periods the LYNX arrives about every 10min

A entire one-way trip took 50 minutes. I simply got off, walked to the other side and rode back to my car. Easy-Peasy!

The temperature on the Blue Line was mild. It was a smooth ride with each stop announced before-hand. This ride would make a perfect time to catch up on some reading or writing.  If you are gonna be hanging out all night visiting different spots near the LYNX, take the light rail back and forth and skip the driving. Who wants to have to look for parking or pay for parking if they don’t have to? ugh.

Now on to the juicy part. Here are a few places we have visited or plan to visit off our favorite LYNX Blue Line stops. All locations listed are within walking distance from the light rail. Try them out for yourself. Let us know what you think about any of the locations mentioned.

Things To Do & Places To Eat

Woodlawn

The Woodlawn and Scaleybark stations are in Mountclaire South/Lower South End.

To Do:

Sleepy Poet Antique Mall– We both appreciate antiques and love vintage clothing and this mall has both! This is a multi-level mall with over 80 dealers. I know we will be enchanted for hours wandering around this mall. We are currently planning a day date to go check it out.

Pexels

Scaleybark

To Do:

Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen– This cooking class sounds like it would make a fun date, girl’s night out or even a solo night out. Learn some new culinary skills. This is definitely on our To Do list!

East/West Blvd Station

This stop is in the South End neighborhood.

Eat/Drink:

Pikes has some delicious American diner style food

Pikes Old Fashioned Soda Shop

Dining out at Pikes Old Fashioned Soda Shop

Superica Tex-Mex Cuisine at it’s best. Superica has become our favorite Mexican food spot. Just thinking about those in-house made chips, perfectly salted…their variety of chip dips that have me singing “oh my God” after each bite, the Margaritas (crying now), the Appetizers are crazy. We had appetizers for dinner and left completely satisfied and wishing we had more money and space in our bellies so we could continue. We enjoyed watching Lady and The Tramp on their xtra-large screen as we happily stuffed our faces. I have checked with others to see if they had the same experience and the feelings were mutual.

Hawkers Asian Street Fare

Hawkers comes highly recommended by friends for street vendor recipes from Asia .

Sunflower Baking Company

Dilworth Tasting Room

Stonewall Station

Stonewall through 9th is considered Uptown

To Do:

The Mint Museum

 The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts +Culture

 The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art 

 Knight Theatre

3rd Street Station/Convention Center

Eat/Drink:

Chima steakhouse–  Brazilian cuisine here-it’s a whole experience!

Chima is expensive but I promise you won’t regret spending a penny. We have been here a couple of times for special occasions and never been disappointed.

The salad bar is super elaborate and the meat is unbelievably good. Expect great service with lots of class. It’s a good idea to starve yourself before going to Chima. You will likely eat a full days worth of calories. Enjoy and don’t forget to wear something loose around the waist!

Charlotte Transportation Center/Arena Station

To Do:

Discovery Place– This is a really colorful and interactive establishment for kids of all ages but also a lot of fun for the adults as well.  We actually went here to play with our family/friends that came to visit from NYC (no small kids at the time only us big ones).

Blumenthal Performing Arts

Spectrum Center

Eat/Drink:

 Sea Level NC -Curious about this place. Apache and I both love seafood and the pics on the website have me salivating and hangry!

7th Street

To Do:

First Ward Park – Apache and I started off at the First Ward Park around 8am. It was abnormally clean first thing in the morning.

Some homeless were still sleeping or just rising from the benches. An older conservative looking male began a rigorous routine using his exercise band and the park equipment. A casual bike rider rode through the spray ground and everything seemed serene on this sun kissed morning.

We did a light workout in First Ward Park -yaay, it’s better than nothing!  First Ward Park has practical stationary equipment available for all your fat burning needs.

First Ward Park is great for walking, biking, chillaxing (made this word up) or exercising!

I love to climb whenever the opportunity arises. Lucky for me it did in the form of dome shaped monkey bars in First Ward Park.

You can climb these monkey ropes as part of your workout or just for fun- we did!

Relaxing after a light First Ward Park workout!

ImaginOn– This library/children’s theatre has something to engage every  adolescent. They have all kinds of programs, classes and theatre productions to inspire imagination and encourage enrichment. We have enjoyed their theatre productions on more than one occasion. Read more about the theatre  here.

Two big kids at ImaginOn in the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte
Levine Museum of the New South

 Levine Museum of the New South– Levine has educational and powerfully moving exhibits. Make sure to take your family.

McColl Center for Art + Innovation– Artist residency and contemporary art space housed in an antiquated church. We love art and it’s free admission!    

Apache and I were ready to see what’s at the next LYNX stop. We walked across the way to the 7th street station and caught the inbound train to 9th.

At the 9th Street Station.

9th Street

Checking out the 9th street station art work.

Eat/Drink:

Walking to waterbean

Waterbean– The first place we visited on 9th street, a USDA certified organic coffee shop and roastery! Humidity was high outside, the air conditioning in Waterbean was such a relief! Waterbean is bright, and airy. Watch our vlog, you’ll see I tried my very first Mochi Ice Cream here. All I have to say is omgah! And our lives will never be the same again.

Having ice coffee with a passion fruit Mochi ice cream on a hot day in Charlotte! Mochi Ice cream is a soft, cool, sweet surprise.

Imagine your favorite ice cream wrapped in a thin powdery marshmallow! How could this exist? In my head I jumped up and down with excitement for the Passion Fruit flavor option-yaaay!

I wanted to try something new and that’s exactly what I got. The Waterbean coffee was great but the Mochi blew my mind. There are other treats too, like brightly colored macaroons. It was a good spot to wind down in.

Subsecreto We still have to visit this spot because I know they serve espresso in a chocolate-dipped shortbread cup… really that’s all I’m interested in- haha!

9th Street Station

After catching our breath at Waterbean we headed back to our light rail stop where a little hell was breaking loose. Some dude was screaming obscenities while smashing the glass covered booth at the station.

We watched the drama from afar with some cool people from Chicago that just arrived in Charlotte for the DuRag festival. They had been zipping around uptown on the motorized scooters everyone is using these days.

The police arrived quick, scooped up the poor disturbed soul and we proceeded with our vlog.

This happened during our LYNX day date.

Parkwood

Parkwood through Sugar Creek station enters the NODA/Optimist Park/Plaza-Shamrock neighborhoods.

Photo by Komadori Photography

Apache and I love old video games from the 80’s and 90’s so we were excited to play at Abari arcade. Bring on the Donkey Kong!

Don’t go here without your ID!  Photo by Komadori Photography

Entering Abari, a man sitting at a table, obviously unwelcoming us with no hello and no smile. He shared a bothered expression as he told us it was $1 to get in and that we also needed ID because it was a private business. I didn’t have ID so we never got in. I shall stop commentary there. Maybe you will have a better experience.

Photo by Komadori Photography
Beautiful graffiti around the corner from Abari. Possible IG photo spot?
More neighborhood artwork!

Drink:

Birdsong Brewing– Since it was a no go at Abari, we shrugged and ran to enjoy some cold specialty beers at Birdsong Brewing!

Photo by Komadori Photography

Photo by Komadori Photography

Some people brought their dogs in with them which I thought was very cool.  I will take every opportunity to rub down and high-pitch baby talk to any dog!

At Birdsong Brewing Company with Komadori Photography

To Do:

Cordelia Park – This park is 24 acres. We took our family swimming here a couple years ago and had a great time. There is also a full basketball court, walking trails and picnic shelter.

Tompkins Hall-Soon to come will be a ginormous food and retail development in this restored textile mill nearby NODA.  There is expected to be multi-level outdoor patios with a view of the uptown skyline. I’m sure it will be interesting.

36th Street Station

The sun was about to hit its peak and we rode the LYNX to 36th street in NODA.

There used to be amazing art Gallery crawls on the first Friday of every month in NODA which we miss dearly. We still love to meet vendors in the street and art can also be found all around NODA giving the neighborhood lots of personality. Breweries, bars and variety in places to eat are plentiful. There are fun things to do and great people to meet here off the 36th street LYNX stop.

If you follow the bright red banisters downstairs you will find thin pastel colored geometric shapes coming up from the ground. In addition, see a large concrete wall sculpted into 3D shaped blooming flowers! All great spots to take IG photos or just admire.

Eat/Drink:

Crepe Cellar Kitchen & Pub– This is a European Gastro Pub. The purpose of this day date was to try out some new places. My spicy Bloody Mary here was on point, no complaints there. One meal was enough to feed both of us. Our final consensus was “delish!” This meal is unique to us, a full gourmet meal wrapped in a thin pancake.

There was all kinds of goodness inside this crepe!


Haberdish
– Although very popular, we have not tried this restaurant yet. There was a line outside the door.

Cabo Fish Taco–  We love their tacos! Their lemon-grilled shrimp tacos are my favorite with a salted Margarita!

At Cabo Fish Taco

NODA Company Store

Smelly Cat Coffeehouse &Roastery– This place is a dope chill spot. It appeals to us for the laid-back ambiance and great coffee. Smelly Cat has seasonal comfort food, breakfast food and a fully stocked cocktail bar- say what?!

To Do:

After you finish your meal, roll yourself down the block to see a show!

The Evening Muse– Casual bar and live music in an intimate setting

The Neighborhood Theatre– Live music venue

Go boutique browsing….

Pura Vida– A cultural gifts store we were grateful to find when we first arrived to this city. This boutique is a breath of fresh air bringing in multi-ethnic merchandise and art from all around the world! I purchased my most favorite bracelet here!

ShopBartique– Enjoy a cocktail or beer while you shop Boho-chic designs for men and women! The owners Estelle and Steve have big hearts and fun personalities, tell them we sent you!

Shop Bartique
Shop Bartique top and cool Disco ring
Apache getting a creative angle in Shop Bartique.
Lovely boutique finds in Shop Bartique
Had to try this one on!

We love how Charlotte invited local artists to get in on making the LYNX Blue Line train stops beautiful.

Blooming flowers at the 36th street station

The best way to pay for a lovely moment is to enjoy it. ~ Richard Bach

The Most Important Travel Destination in Nashville, TN

There’s a place in Nashville, TN that is a social phenomenon.  I don’t believe enough people know of this treasure trove.  I’m not seeing this location on the list of Googled “Top 10 places to visit in Nashville.” We went, had the most profound experience, and decided, Thistle Farms is the most important travel destination in Nashville, TN.

Nashville, TN is a tourism city noted for having a long history being founded in 1779. Tourist frequently arrive eager to enjoy local venues that provide live music daily, learn more about country music history and visit historical landmarks. This was my second visit to Nashville. On my first visit i went with friends. We enjoyed the party ambiance and a taste of the country music scene on Music Row which was fun.

The journey back to Nashville with Apache had our hearts leading the entire way. This time we went to visit the most important travel destination in Nashville,TN.

Anticipating our arrival to Thistle Farms…

This visit was a full circle spiritual uniting with Thistle Farms for me.  About 6 years ago Apache and I walked into a boutique in North Carolina and picked up one of their products for the first time.

My eyes gravitated toward the jar of body butter wrapped in a royal purple label with bright yellow lettering. Was it the color choices that got my attention to pick up that butter or possibly God? Out of curiosity i pivoted that jar around to see exactly what the product was made of.  It read…. “This product was handmade by survivors of prostitution, trafficking and addiction. Every product bears witness that love is the most powerful force for change in the world.”

Thistle Farms is in my home and heart. Every time i apply the body butter i can feel my skin being nourished and protected. It has been perfect throughout harsh winters. Using this product also makes me feel connected to the women who created it.

What I read changed my facial expression from curiosity to a waterfall of tears. A fire awakened in me for every person that has ever suffered the experience of sexual abuse.

In addition, I saw their hands in this product, healing, rebuilding and gaining strength together all in this little 8oz  jar of lavender body butter.

These survivors have experienced unimaginable cruelty in this world. Because of unconditional love and the support of Thistle Farms as a rope of hope, they have not allowed the past and it’s monsters to dictate how the rest of their lives will look. Thistle Farmers come together to create a powerful trajectory for the future!

I  purchase the body butter and want to be more connected. Six years ago i put their postcard up on my bathroom wall that states “Love Heals Every Body” and because of their demonstration, i have to believe that.

Meet Becca Stevens, author, speaker, priest, social entrepreneur, founder and president of Thistle Farms! Photo property of Thistle Farms

Fast forward to today…. we are now YouTube vloggers and I am a blogger.  Apache and I purchased tickets for an event in Memphis, TN.  It occurred to us that we may have seen that Thistle Farms was located in Tennessee. We checked it out and sure enough their home base is located right off route 40 which we would be travelling on.

A candle light that represents hope.

When Thistle Farms agreed to let us develop this content for them it felt like a divine intervention. Our gratitude is just in being able to learn more, connect with these survivors and spread the word of their mission.

Music is known to speak to the spirit. Dorris Walker-Turner shares how she used song to keep her spirit up and to help her remember all of the products she would be selling when she began employment at Thistle Farms.

What makes Thistle Farms an important travel destination?

Thistle Farmers

Thistle Farmers AKA the community of women you will meet at Thistle Farms are extraordinary.  They are what makes Thistle Farms the most important travel destination in Nashville,TN. As human beings we naturally gravitate toward where the good energy is.

Doris Walker-Turner, Magdalene graduate & Director of Events shares her powerful story and soulful songs of gratitude with us.

When we travel we always hope that the people we encounter will be kind and welcoming.  This sets the stage for the rest of the experience.

At Thistle Farms the energy is high, smiles are abundant and these Thistle Farmers are glad to be alive and thriving.

The first person we met was Jennifer Clinger.  Jennifer greeted us before we  got to the door. She came out of the building belting “AYE! It’s Ricky and Lucy!!!” followed with a boisterous and contagious laughter.  If you don’t know, we impersonated Ricky and Lucy in one of our vlogs. We knew Jennifer was our people.

Jennifer is a Magdalene graduate, Author and Thistle Farms Volunteer Coordinator. Her intelligence, bubbly personality, and full-bodied laughter made our visit so fulfilling.

The goodness did not stop at Jennifer.  She introduced us to what seemed the entire staff at Thistle Farms. Each person shared enthusiastically about their said jobs at Thistle Farms. We felt love within each interaction.  We saw how much love Thistle Farmers give to one another because they frequently verbalize it and sporadically gave each other hugs. Everyone seemed to work together as a family.

They are happy to be here. These women are walking miracles. Go get some of that Good Energy, it will set the mood for the rest of your Nashville visit!

Travel for the soul

Another reason Thistle Farms is the most important travel destination in Nashville,TN is because it will fill your soul.

We consider ourselves Thistle Farmers for life! Thank you Thistle Farms with all of our hearts!

Jennifer Clinger, volunteer coordinator proudly hosted our Thistle Farms tour sharing her personal story of how Thistle Farms saved her life. Her story alone will make anyone with a beating heart become a solid supporter of Thistle Farms.

This non profit social enterprise, founded by Rev. Becca Stevens in 1997, is a bath and body company run by the woman. Thistle Farms has grown from a chapel of a few volunteers and expanded to include global networks by the fidelity of these women survivors and selfless volunteers. This idea actually works!

Thistle Farmers returning to work after their lunch break.
Employees can become specialists in areas of manufacturing, inventory, bookkeeping, sales, office administration. These soaps are made by the hands of women survivors using natural ingredients.

The tour guides us through Thistle Farms history and amiable facility. We saw where Thistle Farm products are produced and packaged by Thistle Farmers-pretty cool!  The Thistle Farms model is an interdependent system. Survivors make a living wage while simultaneously helping other women to come off the streets. Book a free tour on your next Nashville visit.

Thistle Farms is staffed by residents, graduates of the Magdalene program and volunteers.

This is Travel for the soul. Thistle Farms is a travel destination that allowed me to grow in awareness and compassion for another’s journey.

On our tour through Thistle Farms inventory, we learn how suppressing systems can slowly begin to erode through the power of love.

The Cafe at Thistle Farms

After the tour, Apache and I were eager to try out The Cafe at Thistle Farms!

Photo property of ThistleFarms.org

The cafe decor maintains a clean, bright, contemporary farm house design which I absolutely love. I felt a connection to nature in the cafe with it’s refurbished dark wooden tables, banquettes and framed floral art pieces that adorned white walls.

Thistle Farms teacup ceiling arrangement is even more eloquent in person than it is in photo. They each hold their own story and good intention from the people who donated them to the cafe.

Tea cup donations turned into a work of art!

There is even a sweet outdoor patio to enjoy!

We had already drooled over their online menu at home. We wondered if the taste would live up to their gourmet menu. I see integrity in everything that comes from Thistle Farms, so i was pretty sure the food would be no different.

In The Cafe Apache is deciding what to eat from this awesome menu!

Nashville’s only destination for daily tea service

Thistle Farms tea service was a new experience for me. You might  think,”what’s so special about tea?” if your not a tea fanatic,let me explain….

The Cafe at Thistle Farms specialize in tea and is Nashville’s ONLY daily tea service. I’ve never been served tea British-style before. I normally just have some hot water over a tea bag. If your like me, you can expand on your exposure here!

The Moringa Madres Blend served British style delighted with a soothing aroma & earthy taste. I enjoyed my tea with lemon and honey. Moringa is a herbal tea that contains protein, reduces inflammation and is full of antioxidants and vitamins!

Watching my server prepare the tea had me wondering what was going on with it. There was a thermometer, a timer and loose leaf tea steeped through a strainer. The Moringa Madres Blend was poured into a lovely clear glass pitcher. The tea was served to me with my chosen tea amenities with elegant presentation. The British-style requires specific timing and preparation which i did not realize.

This experience had me feeling fancy! I enjoyed the Moringa Madres Blend, found it to be smooth, earthy and soothing with some honey in it.

Tea Time!

The Cafe at Thistle Farms is the only place in Nashville that serves Afternoon Tea. Afternoon Tea at Thistle Farms is offered from 1-2 pm by reservation only at least 24 hours in advance.

The next time we go to Nashville we won’t miss out on the Afternoon Tea. I have got to see the 3-tiered chef’s choice display of savories and sweets paired with their gourmet tea for myself!

This would make for an impressive date or larger party gathering. The cafe offers gluten-free and vegetarian options as well. Yes, you can even host a special event here.

Afternoon Tea treats! Photo property of Thistle Farms

Food prepared with love

If you want fresh, locally sourced, loved on food in Nashville, look no further. The Cafe at Thistle Farms is a travel destination in Nashville,TN you do not want to miss.

Apache got the new Chicken Fajita Wrap. Apache’s critique: “it tastes very fresh with distinct flavors that compliment one another.”

Chef Mark and Cook Donna will tell you that they actually sing to the food they prepare and honey believe me, it tastes like it!

Cook Donna imparts her favorite Lou Rawls song for foods getting rotated out “Someday, someday your gonna get old. Bless your your soul your gonna get old!” Looking back, us all laughing together about this its gonna be one of those memories i enjoy for years to come.

If you could savor love in your mouth, the food at Thistle Farms is what it would taste like- intentional and nourishing. True food for the soul.

Meet Cook Donna and Chef Mark creating healthful & inspired meals from scratch including the sauces at The Cafe at Thistle Farms!

The Cafe at Thistle Farms has a produce-driven full service menu. In our travels between Nashville and Memphis, Thistle Farms served up the most clean tasting and thoughtfully created meals in Tennessee. Thank the lord for giving Donna and Mark the inspiration and motivation! Apache and I savored every bite.

I got the Turkey, Bacon, Avocado on toasted brioche! Yum, Yum and YUMMMY! The meat tasted really fresh. I loved the addition of sprouts in this sandwich and it had a little kick with horseradish mustard.
Reminders that this is a place of love and acceptance are everywhere including the back kitchen wall “Everyone’s Welcome, Nobody’s Perfect, Anything’s Possible” Right! Right! and Right!
Thistle Farms cafe food! Photo property of Thistle Farms

Nashville destination for meaningful shopping

This was probably the first time i went on a mini spree without an ounce of guilt! In The Shop at Thistle Farms, the more i shop, the better i feel knowing it will make a difference. That good feeling didn’t subside after i pulled out my debit card either.

I found a bug spray that really works!
We purchased Jennifer Clinger’s book Delivered. Already I have opened this book a couple times to read only one sentence from any random page and experienced all the hairs on my body standing on edge and a stir of emotion in my stomach each time. I know this is going to be a powerful read.

I’m super excited about my new black Thistle Farms shirt and want to tell everybody all about it. Everything we purchased was high quality including their essential oils.

Super soft 100% cotton long sleeve tee, loving the feel, versatility and the message!

Their bath and body products are free of synthetic fragrances, parabens and petroleum based ingredients.

We have begun our Christmas shopping early this year at Thistle Farms! Apache and I thought this would be a great way to share the Thistle Farms word with family and friends.

Like i said, we are Thistle Farmers for life. This is our favorite non-profit charity.

We knew each purchase would directly support women survivors in creating a new and sustainable life for themselves!

One size does not fit all. I love to see a company making sizes from XS-3XL.

I believe Becca Stevens has created a system that demonstrates how the socioeconomic devastation that we see happening around us here in the United States could successfully be addressed. Love Rules!

The Shop at Thistle Farms
The Shop at Thistle Farms
Quite a few people are gonna be getting a bar of Thistle Farms handmade soaps this Christmas!

Reasons we will always support Thistle Farms and shop here in gratitude.

The Magdalene Program- A two year residential community dedicated to help women survivors of trafficking, prostitution and addiction. This FREE program provides the time and safe space for women to heal their body and mind for true recovery.

In the Magdalene program women receive free housing, healthcare and counseling for PTSD. These survivors gain employment and a supportive community. After graduation from the Magdalene Program women enroll into Thistle University. Thistle University provides necessary job skills including hard/technical skills and cultivates interpersonal skills to help solidify each survivors chance for success. Residents and graduates run every aspect of Thistle Farms.

Survivors hand pour these soy wax candles that are made with high quality essential oils and have a 35hr burn time.

Magdalene on the Inside- A Thistle Farms program for incarcerated women providing education, group therapy and transition into a Magdalene home upon release.

Thistle Farms Global- creates opportunity for economic freedom for women survivors of sexual assault and extreme poverty worldwide.  Apache and I loved hearing international stories of hope and seeing the products created by women artisans abroad.

 

Whoah! Welcome Mats created by refugee Syrian women using their discarded life jackets! #LoveWelcomes

Tragedy can literally be weaved into Welcome Mats (click here to read this mind blowing article). Becca Stevens traveled to Greece with her staff and volunteers with two looms. The goal being to teach Syrian women refugees how to weave welcome mats using their discarded life vests.

This initiative was created  to empower these women to support themselves and their children. This is the example of God i want to see as often as possible in life.

Thistle Farms has extended her hand globally partnering with over 36 organizations from 20 countries around the world that can offer safe work environments and fair wages with the development of women as their main priority.

The most important travel destination in Nashville, TN is Thistle Farms! People come to Nashville for the inspiration and love of music. Music comes from the heart, and so does Thistle Farms.

Visitors have an opportunity be a part of something so much bigger than themselves. At Thistle Farms we got to meet people experiencing their own personal miracles, learn, eat really great food and even got to feel good about shopping for this movement! Visit Thistle Farms and help to change the world!

Thistle Farms address: 5122 Charlotte Pike,Nashville, TN

“Community is the daily medicine that helps us walk through the fears we have to face alone” ~ Becca Stevens

 

3 Places to go for Date Night in Charlotte,North Carolina

Our first stop of the night was in the South End neighborhood of Charlotte, NC.

If you are new to Charlotte or been here awhile, Charlotte is constantly changing. It’s worth it to look around and explore all there is to do– which is a lot! Apache and I have been making effort to go out more lately being that we are now self proclaimed travel content creators!  I’m going to share 3 places you could go for your next date night in Charlotte, NC.

Charlotte, North Carolina is expanding by the minute with new apartment complexes, homes, businesses and transplants from all over the world. I think most people are coming from the north though- Let’s Go Yankees! Of course there are a multitude of options for things to do around Charlotte. I’m gonna make sure you are aware of at least 3!  

Apache and I went to see “The Ghost of Splinter’s Cove” at the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte on a Friday night so we decided why not tack on dinner and finish up with a dope House Music Party!

I know you’re burning with excitement to find out how you to can recreate such an exciting night!  Lucky for you I’m willing to share all the juicy details!

Make sure to start your night off getting dressed to some fun music and dance yourself right into that date night outfit like I did! 

Charlotte Date Night Idea #1

Places to eat

First and foremost is always food!

We arrived at the South End section of Charlotte for dinner. This neighborhood is cool because you can sit out on a few of the restaurant patios and look out at the tall Uptown Charlotte buildings off in the distance. They are pretty when lit up in the evening hours. South End is an enthusiastic, buzzing, contemporary little village.

I was thinking “this light rail looks pretty sleek”

Looking newly renovated, South End is young and vibrant with new hang out spots, cozy narrow tree lined streets, and happy looking people walking through town socializing or zipping around on prepay electric scooters. The Lynx Blue Line light rail quietly runs right through the center of town if you prefer not to drive.

The Lynx Blue Line light rail in Charlotte, NC 

Riding around on an electric scooter looks like fun! You can rent an e-scooter from anywhere using a smart phone app and park it at your final destination as long as it does not block sidewalks, curb ramps or bus stop, driveways. In other words, use common sense.

View of Uptown Charlotte from South End , i believe it looks much better at night when the buildings are all lit up.

A good friend of ours referred us to check out Hawkers Asian Street Fare as a great place to eat on Camden Road. I’m sure Hawkers would have been amazing had we left cushion time for 1) already running late 2) blowing more time trying to avoid the pay for parking (which was a useless pursuit- grumble, grumble). I’ll be nice and spare you my rant about why people shouldn’t have to pay for parking. Instead I will say that I’m glad it wasn’t more than $5. Last but not least is 3) the 30 minute wait time that the hostess gave us. Blank stare.

We will get here next time… 30min early!

My watch said 6:15pm and there was a show to catch by 7:30pm so we side stepped on over to the next option. Right next door to Hawker’s, sat  Pike’s Old Fashioned Soda Shop!  Yup, it’s the same soda shop featured in that movie “Shallow Hal.”  

We enjoyed a great home style meal here at Pike’s while preparing ourselves for a long night of fun.

Copper -Olde Mecklenburg Brewery at Pike’s

We sat out on the patio with a very nice view of Uptown Charlotte, a lovely breeze caressing our skin and lots of bubbly people to look at. 

The waitress was very friendly and helpful in picking out a dinner that would be delish but not take long to prepare. We both settled on the Quiche of the Day which came with a side.  I got my typical French fries and Apache picked the sweet potato casserole as his side dish.

Apache and I both agreed the Quiche of The Day definitely did taste like a Southern Grandma homemade it in her kitchen and found it very satisfying with chunks of onion and mushrooms baked in. We were so grateful for that thick but flaky crust covered in cheese!

This was the Quiche of The Day and yes we ate all this food!

If you have a sweet tooth like Apache does, you might also choose the sweet potato casserole side. It has chopped pecans and is lightly topped with brown sugar- a dinner dessert! 

The appetizer was a hearty Chicken Quesadilla (I really need to get more adventurous though). Next time I think I will try the warm Homemade Pimento Cheese with Tortilla Chips because I just found out recently that pimento cheese is a big deal in the South like fried pickles… I had no idea. 

Filling up on Pike’s Chicken Quesadilla!

Having dinner here felt easy breezy lemon squeezy- very laid back because it wasn’t crowded. 

Feeling super relaxed after a great dinner!

Charlotte Date Night Idea #2

Go to the theatre

Go catch a show! We went to the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte which is within the wonderland of a library called ImaginOn to catch a production called “The Ghost of Splinter Cove.” We got FREE may I repeat FREE parking (big smiles).

You can get free parking on Friday’s after 5pm and Saturday- Sunday with a validated parking ticket; check the website for further details about this.  

This was our second time seeing a CTC production. 

The theatre is small and intimate so everyone gets a great seat to the show and can feel more connected to the characters. The Ghost of Splinter Cove was short and sweet while simultaneously comical and dark. The show kept our interest with underlining messages about trust and closure with a disinterred family secret.

The Ghost of Splinter Cove is portrayed through the eyes of children. They resort to their own creativity in the basement of their home so their parents could have “Adult Time” upstairs. Can’t we all relate to this? 

We found the play warm, personal and sculpted for all ages because we were all children at one time and more than likely played similar make-believe games. Apache and I walked the line between their imagination and reality as we escaped into their world for just a little while.  

 We had to get a picture in front of this set up for the kids!

What made this story cooler is that the playwright, Steven Dietz, also created another story linked to The Ghost of Splinter Cove called The Great Beyond. The Great Beyond is based around the same family, in the same home with the same theme but takes place upstairs as seen through the experience of the adults. The Great Beyond was showcased at the Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte (ATC) and generally geared toward older audiences. The ATC is another option for date night theatre.

The Second Story Project was a collaboration of these two theaters to show opposite sides of the same coin so to speak. As we all know there are always at least two sides to any story!

Theatre prices

We have always loved theatre so it was really fun to go see an affordable show in Charlotte after dinner. Ticket prices generally range between $15-$30 at CTC and $30-40 at ATC.  ATC also offers a Pay What You Can night which you could take advantage of if your budget is running on low.

Charlotte has tons of entertainment but now you know of two great theaters that won’t break your piggy bank!

Charlotte Date Night Idea #3

Go dancing

You only live once so dance while you can!

We figured we were on a roll so why stop after the show?  There was a party going on and we still had energy so we cruised on over to Crown Station Coffee House & Pub on N. Davidson St. The House Music party hosted by the Solstice crew was taking form. 

Crown Station is open during the day for regular or spiked coffees and check out their calendar for evening events

Inside Crown Station during the daytime hours. Check out the wide open floor space for evening parties!

A corner chill spot in Crown Station for when you need a break from dancing or to sit and read during the day !

As the party gradually unfolded the older House Head generation definitely danced a burning hole through that floor!  One of the regular attendees that I didn’t even know wandered around the spacious dance floor giving people love (including me!) with welcome greetings, hugs and selfie pics. She even offered to share her instruments with us including tambourines and rattles for a heightened experience. 

We got to end off our night being in the presence of great people! It was a very loving inclusive environment where everyone came together in joy through the power of House Music!  Lots of laughs, hips shaking and also some good two stepping on our part! I love the lack of stuffiness and ego in a real House Music party environment.  

Photo by NonieTakesPictures
We went to meet friends at a Raw Substance House party held at Crown Station.

The Cranberry Cosmo that Apache and I got at Crown Station was fabulous to say the least! That bartender gave us a sweet kick in the *ss and I could have had two more but used restraint. 

A perfectly made Cranberry Cosmopolitan at Crown Station – Yum!

Go out dancing!

Check out our favorite Charlotte DJs listed below. Look them up on IG and message them for inquiry about when and where they will be playing next! You can find one of these DJs spinning at a cool lunch brunch, festival, art gallery showing or other special event. Don’t forget to let them know CLP sent you because they are the real deal holy field!   

Photo by NonieTakesPictures
Dope House DJs of Charlotte, NC

House Music DJs of Charlotte

1)Charles Gaitling @Rawsubstanceclt

2) Steve Howerton @guided_beats_radio of @Rawsubstanceclt

3) Ifeanyi Ibeto aka DJ Kato @Katobeats

4)Smitty @Thatguysmitty

5) DJ Marcus Wade @djmarcuswade

6) @Unifiedsoulsevents

5) Jason Cooper @Vonfunkhauser

You don’t stop having fun when you get old, you get old when you stop having fun. – Ritu Ghatourey

 

 

Our Visit to Cast Iron Waffles in Charlotte, North Carolina

We normally don’t travel outside of 20min for breakfast but we made an exception this time. Neither of us had ever tried an “Authentic Belgian Liege Waffle” (as advertised) before. This family owned cafe called Cast Iron Waffles is in the Ballantyne area (about 30min from our home)-a little bit out of the way for us because we get impatient for that first meal of the day.

How we found the Authentic Belgian Liege Waffle in Charlotte

On my lunch break (months ago) I happen to notice a Charlotte Magazine laying with some others and decided to check it out. Skimming through, my eyes fixated on an image of a waffle sprinkled with bacon and this frosting stuff that appeared to be oozing out of it. After glancing over another few pages i somehow ended up back on the picture of this waffle. This is where my imagination started to run wild about what it must taste like.  Salty and sweet are never a bad combination.


Here is my photo of the waffle i saw in the magazine that had me dreaming of that special moment where this particular waffle would enter my mouth and send messages of ecstasy to my brain…

I grabbed my iphone and took a picture of this waffle masterpiece and where to find it to make sure i wouldn’t forget. Boy, pictures really do sell!

For a few months i continue to refer back to this photo and remind my husband that i am gonna treat him to a new spot I found for a surprise breakfast. My husband Apache absolutely loves waffles so i thought it would be a great excuse idea to take him to a place that specialized in making the “Authentic Belgian Liege Waffle!”

Our Cast Iron Waffles Experience

This European style cafe opens at 7am. It was finger numbing cold outside, so the first thing we ordered was two sweet, body warming lattes.

We enjoyed a very casual vibe in this cafe. If i lived nearby i could see myself stopping in this cafe for a quick pick-me-up before or after work.

Cast Iron Waffles Menu

Since we Americans typically like to do the most, Cast Iron Waffles has a menu that caters to our need for extra everything. Especially extra sugar!

The menu has a variety of different flavor coffees and lattes. Cast Iron Waffles serve espressos along with plenty of waffle toppings to choose from! Personally, this makes for a happy pairing in my book. 

Cast Iron Waffles Toppings

Apache ordered the Peanut Butter Cup Waffle. I nick-name Apache “Extra Sauce” for good reason, when it comes to indulgence he always wants EXTRA no matter what it is and he has a big personality. Apache’s waffle topped with a cream cheese peanut butter mixture. In addition, it had chocolate syrup and also their homemade whipped cream. I made a point to sample that whipped cream from Apaches plate and found myself nodding in approval. Afterthoughts…. “it’s light, no aftertaste, reminds me of a homemade whipped cream.”  I ordered the Lumberjack waffle topped with maple buttercream and bacon! I thought my waffle was very tasty- sweet,salty and crunchy. Apache loved his extra loaded waffle as well.

The Cast Iron Belgian Liege Waffles Difference

We are accustom to big, airy waffles with smooth edges found in American diners. The Belgian Liege waffle served at Cast Iron has uneven edges. They are also smaller with a more dense texture to them. This made the waffle feel more filling compared to the American style waffles we have had in the past.

Apache and I both thought the Belgian Liege Waffle had a sweet, richer taste. Cast Iron Waffles mix imported Belgian Pearl Sugar into their butter Brioche style dough (pastry dough) which makes it taste more like a dessert. Cast Iron Waffles also use a 100 lb. waffle press. This combination produces a caramelized crispy outer shell that has my tummy grumbling for more as i type this blog.

After eating this yummy desert for breakfast we were full until lunch time so that was a plus for us.

Cast Iron Waffles Prices

Our entire order of two dressed up waffles and two lattes totaled about $20. Not bad for two filling orders.

We feel good about supporting Cast Iron Waffles  because Cast Iron Waffles is a family owned business. Another reason is because Cast Iron Waffles make their dough from scratch. Lastly, because they purchase farm direct or  Fair Trade coffees.

The next time we’re in Ballantyne, i plan to have my Authentic Belgian Liege Waffle prepared more simply with powdered sugar and fresh fruit. When we finally get to go to visit Belgium we will be sure to try their waffles and compare!

“Food is our common ground, a universal experience” – James Beard

If you enjoyed this check out CreativeMornings Worldwide ,   3 Places to go for date night in Charlotte, North Carolina or Have The ASC Experience in Charlotte, NC

 

 

 

The United Ink Productions Queen City Tattoo and Arts Festival

A perfect cover up tattoo by Jorge Martinez @jorgestattoo

I am super excited to write this blog about the Queen City Tattoo and Arts Festival we attended in Charlotte in October!  We have had great luck with North Carolina festivals so far!

Apache and I are fascinated with tattoos. Tattoos show freedom of creative expression. The outlet creates conversation, stimulates the imagination and fulfills the artist! When a person gets a tattoo, they become a walking, breathing canvas. Moving art work! 

Photo by Komadori Photography

United Ink Productions

Anyone recognize this character??? Hint…from an old school video game. Photography by Komadori Photography

United Ink Productions is a company that creates large tattoo festivals! In 2012 United Ink Productions began facilitating 2 conventions per year. The first festival of the year is held in April in NYC. As of 2018 Charlotte, NC will host the second festival every October! The Queen City Tattoo Festival is conducted at the Charlotte Convention Center over a period of 3 days. That’s 3 days of color, live tattooing, entertainment, vendors and competitions!

In 2018 the festival theme was Alice in Wonderland. I dressed up as Uptown, N.Y.’s version of Alice and Apache was the Mad Hatter. The Tattoo and Arts Festival reigned in 250+ artists from around the world and local artists to create this enlivened Wonderland.  It was fun to dress up in Royal Peasantry clothing for this event! We became “Curiouser & Curiouser” (Alice in Wonderland quote) as we wandered around the convention center engulfed in the alluring culture of skin adornment.

This was the first Tattoo festival we have ever been to and it was an awesome experience.

Photography by Komadori Potography
Our talk with Jorge Martinez @Jorgestattoo of Inspiration Tattoo about how he got started in the business. Komadori Photography
Komadori Photography

Tattoo Art: Past to Present

Tattooing is an ancient art form and cultural aspect to many indigenous tribes around the world. The practice has evolved and continues to stand the test of time.

Tattoo History

Skin branding is evidenced to have been in practice at least 5,000 years ago as found on two Mummies in Egypt! Polynesia has an extensive tattoo history and this tradition extends over 2000 years ago.

As skin branding pertains to the United States it was introduced to NYC by sailors who originally used hand needles to pass away time from boredom at sea or to initiate one another into the fraternity.  NYCs most well-known tattoo is the big red Macy’s department store star which was worn on the forearm of ex-whaler turned Macy’s store founder RowlandH. Macy. Civil War veteran Martin Hildebrandt is considered one of Americas first tattoo artist’s to open the first tattoo shop in NYC during the 1800’s.  Martin Hildebrandt is known for branding other veterans for identification had they been killed or wounded during the war.  

Tattoo Culture Today

Interview with Sarah Miller at the QC Tattoo & Arts Festival 2018! Komadori Photograhphy

This year at the Tattoo and Arts Festival we talked with world renowned tattoo artist SarahMiller from Ink Master reality T.V. show seasons 2 &7. We also had an insightful talk with her manager Chris. Chris shared how USAA  is an insurance company that caters to military members, encompassing therapeutic tattooing, where artists can donate time to help vets tell their stories through this medium.

Pleasure to meet with Christine (Sarah Miller’s Manager). Komadori Photography
Click here to see our experience of this event in Charlotte, NC and hear this insightful interview.

Family & Friends Event

We were so grateful to have had our friends Robin of Komadori Photography and Chris of FinalSignal assisting us on this project which allowed us increasing space and perspective to grasp more out of this whole experience to share with all of you- Blessed!

Robin of Komadori Photography & Chris of FinalSignal

The Tattoo and Arts Festival is a family friendly event. We noticed kids as young as 7 all the way up to their mid 60’s or early 70’s having a great time.  You can dress up or down for this event – do you! 

Family affair at the QC Tattoo & Arts Festival. Komadori Photography
Meeting cool people at the Festival Komadori Photography
Charlotte’s Fire Dept dropped by Komadori Photography

What to Expect at The Tattoo and Arts Festival

Expect to find entertainment, great artists, fashion and really cool vendors at this festival!

Music

We danced to hard rock music and the enchanting, rhythmic melodies played by mega talented violinist DSharp. You can get a taste of his musical flavor in our YouTube Vlog of this event! On the 3rd day, Biz Markie was scheduled to perform. You get the idea…. Great Entertainment!  

Vendors

There were plenty of vendors selling jewelry, tattoo products and apparel. Apache bought me a cute tank top from SoHo Ink who came all the way down from NYC to represent. We were happy to see fellow New Yorker’s in the house!

Tattoo Flashing! Komadori Photography

People are getting inked everywhere and sport tattoos with pride. It was like a flesh museum! 

Entertainment

Dispersed throughout the convention center you can find painters painting, there was an art gallery, magicians, music and face painting. There was even a live pumpkin carver artist. 

Tattoo Entrepreneurs & Contests

Tattoo removal technicians of Essential Aesthetics and Laser in Charlotte showed up. There are Tattoo Contests every day of the Festival.  Some contests included “Tattoo of The Day,” “Asian Style,” “Fresh Portrait” and “Overall Female” to name a few.

Tattoo Seminars

United Ink Productions hosts educational seminars for Tattoo artists at their festivals. In 2018 the education focused on Permanent Makeup. These permanent makeup conferences are certificate programs that encompass basic skills and master class programs.  Make sure to check out the itinerary or book a booth for their next event in April!

Great interview with Zhang Po! Komadori photography

Meet World Renowned Tattoo Artists

World renowned tattoo artists made themselves very accessible and were fun to talk with. In addition to Sarah Miller we also got to converse with her Manager Chris and world famous tattoo artist Zhang Po.

Each had a story to tell that inspired us. 

Zhang Po has some inspiration for aspiring tattoo artists. Komadori Photography

God is capable of creating miracles at any time in our lives. Sarah, Chris and Zhang shared how they came to realize a career in the tattoo industry. We are so honored to hear, capture and share their stories in our YouTube vlog. All three are living a sustaining lifestyle that they love.

FinalSignal, CLP and Zhang Po! Komadori Photography
MC Joey Tattoo of Spike TV show “Tattoo Rescue”

Tattoo Festival Takeaways

Some people get tattoos for love, as a form of remembrance, some to follow trends, some to tell a story.  They can be a form of healing internal or beautifying external scars.  Tattoos can be self empowering through the process and its outcome. They can represent a personal achievement, belief system or just show what one is enjoying most about their life journey.  

One thing that keeps life interesting is our differences, stories and cultural variances. Choose to take an opportunity to learn more about others with respect and a little curiosity.

Art by Christian Waggoner. Komadori Photography

Conformity is not always a prerequisite to living a fulfilled life. – NK

Have the ASC experience in Charlotte,NC

Resident Culture Brewing & Blending

The South has come so far in recognizing the importance of art and international cultural education! Come through ASC (Arts and Science Council) Charlotte celebrating our differences and the values that tether us as a human race. If you haven’t already, make sure to have your ASC experience in Charlotte, NC.

We got to participate in a collaborative paint project in a brewery and take a Djembe lesson for free! The ASC gave us so much fun and brought some new conversation to the table about what we learned. Find great ideas for your next date night or family night on their website.

We learned that ASC Charlotte  (Arts and Science Council) is continually providing sponsored cultural opportunities and exposure to art for the community throughout the year. On the website you will find a list of ongoing activities to explore for couples and families in Mecklenburg County. 

The ASC experience we attended is called Connect with Culture, an annual event that takes place every January. Everyone gets to enjoy Connect with Culture’s festivities regardless of weather they are rolling in dough or broke because it’s free! Yaaay ASC!

One of the many ASC free experiences held throughout the Mecklenburg was held at the Resident Culture Brewery in Charlotte, NC.

This Brewery is HUGE! I’m loving the space.

The Brewery:  

Apache and I have never been to Resident Culture Brewery on Central Ave. before, therefore we didn’t know what to expect. 

We were pleasantly surprised at how spacious this bar is.  We both admired the fine wood furniture in and outside on the sizable deck. There are tall heated lamps so we could stand outside with a beer and mingle. There were even outdoor fireplaces so people can still gather outside on chillier days. 

Cozy outdoor sitting corner with a fire place!

We loved meeting other people’s dogs at Resident Culture . This is a dog friendly brewery and Nikia loves the dogs! 

This brewery had loads of board games available in case anybody wanted to play. There were also ping pong machines if that floats your boat. We thought it was so cute, this couple enjoying a game of cards while their baby French Bull dog danced around their ankles.  This seems like a great place to hang out! 

More space- Resident Culture front porch.

All the wood counters and tables used for this rustic decor was beautiful.

Some Options …..

We also noticed a beautifully lit Barrel Room for producing barrel aged beers and found out that this area may be rented for events.  On our date night we got to enjoy Drums 4 Life interactive experience in this lovely space courtesy of the ASC. But, Resident Culture Brewery plans to continue hosting many great interactive events here for the community.  

Welcome to the Barrel Room!

Still in the Barrel room.

You guessed it! This is still the Barrel Room! Lol

Painting:  

The ASC experience in Charlotte, NC orchestrated a multi-brewery paint project! Many breweries around town participated in the collaborative painting project of Queen Charlotte! 

Emily Andress developed the master plan for each brewery to have a large wooden puzzle piece to paint. At the end of the evening, all of the puzzle pieces would be joined to make one complete abstract portrait. The portrait would then be presented at the Mint Museum on the next day!  Pretty cool!

Jean Cauthen led our painting experience at Resident Culture Brewing.  The ASC brings people together and allows us to have fun while learning, best idea! 

I couldn’t believe I was in a bar painting! What a way to upgrade the bar scene!  I noticed how participating in a creative activity really got me out of my head and into the moment, what a gift.  If you watch the vlog of this evening you will see what part of the painting I did!  Apache really enjoyed watching how happy this made me.

Completed collaborative paint project of Queen Charlotte presented at the Mint Museum!

Food Trucks:   

There were food trucks at each participating brewery!  Owww (in my Cardi B. voice)!

The Dumpling Lady truck was parked in front of Resident Culture so we had to see what those dumplings were all about!  Someone else on line had mentioned that the pork and Chive dumplings were really good. They left out that the dumplings were also super spicy!  

Thank goodness we both love spice. Along with that spice was an abundance of flavor and we really enjoyed that meal together.  Apache and I sat at a long beautiful wooden picnic like table inside Resident Culture Brewery. During dinner, we got to meet some other people while Resident Culture played some cool old school music.  

While we enjoyed our dumplings we conversed with a woman who talked about her mom being a Radio City Rockette when she was a child.  We also got to meet a mom who was there with her son to expose him to the drum circle.  Her adorable son, about the age of 10, sat staring into his phone intently. He looks up briefly when we mention that we were YouTube Vloggers. The boy’s mom then states “He loves YouTube.” 

It was great to meet new and interesting people on our date.  I am happy to report that after the event the Mom told us that her son took part in and really enjoyed the Drum Circle!

Attend one of their free classes! I promise you will have so much fun!

Drum Circle:  

The ASC experience in Charlotte also included a free African Drum Circle class! Commence Drums 4 Life!!! 

I was just standing around in the bar chillin, minding my own business, taking in my atmosphere while Apache ran to the bathroom. All of a sudden, this rhythmic tumbling thunder rolled in behind me! It echoed throughout this entire sizable brewery and I quickly turned to catch the action. 

Lead instructor and father Kojo Bey and his three young sons played their African drums in perfect sync!  Apache had the camera in the bathroom so I whipped out my trusty cell phone and got what I could of their impactful entrance!  At this time Apache returned and we follow their sound. Drums 4 Life maneuver all around us onlookers engaging and intriguing us all! 

Once our excitement is peaked, they stop and everyone is cheers!   The experience continues in the Barrel Room where Drums 4 Life set out a plentiful array of Djembe and Dunun drums along with other small complimentary instruments to engage the audience.

Djembe (jem-bay) is an instrument originally from West Africa. The name Djembe comes from the saying “everyone gather together in peace.”The Dunun (dun dun) drums are played with sticks.

For this occassion people gathered from all over the world from different religions, nationalities and cultures in peace, enjoying a moment together and learning together. 

I thought “this is what life is all about.” I felt joy to be a part of the human race. In my body I felt excitement and connection from the beautiful sounds. There also was a feeling of gratitude to be a part of this special experience.  Check for Drums 4 Life on Instagram @drums4lifeorg and join a circle!

We won’t forget this date!  Make sure to seek out new types of experiences and learning opportunities. See what type of discoveries and great times they lead to!

“All the world is my school and humanity is my teacher.” – George Whitman

5 Reasons to vacation in Asheville, NC

We have been visiting the Downtown Asheville Art District at least once a year for the past 6 years. This trip never gets old for us.  

There are so many reasons to love this area! Some of which include the ambiance of an artful community, those beautiful rolling mountains, fresh air filling my lungs. And of course, the sweetness of personal touch found in so many of the small businesses.

Since this blog can’t go on forever, I’ll just elaborate on 5 reasons Asheville is so fabulous!

Double D’s Coffee and Desserts

Reason number 1- Lots of local entrepreneurs

Asheville strongly supports their local entrepreneurs. This support helps cultivate culture and diversity in the community which creates a self supporting system which I admire.

At the end of this trip we found a cool catalog called GO LOCAL with a drawing of a rocked out bee on the cover.  I am so glad I got to read this catalog to find yet another reason why I love Asheville! I can use the information found in Go LOCAL to shape our next trip to Asheville. 

Perceiving beauty in an Asheville art gallery!

How to save money in local businesses

GOLOCAL card can be purchased before you make your trip to Asheville or in various stores in Asheville for $16. You can make that money back in discounts around town.

The Go LOCAL card can be used for restaurants, boutiques, all types of entertainment venues. But wait,there’s more! Use the discount card on farms, at health and wellness salons, pet care, hotels, bed & breakfast or pretty much anything that you could possibly think of while you are there.  

Did you say discounts?! Yaaay!

Support community small business entrepreneurs, local artists and children all while SAVING MONEY! GO LOCAL donates $8 of every card purchased to Asheville city schools and last year donated $18,500!  

I found out after the fact that two of the businesses we patronized were on the GO LOCAL list of over 400 participating businesses. We could have gotten discounts with the GO LOCAL card. 

 Local entrepreneurs represent the underdog in our corporate, big business America and we always want to support the underdogs. We all deserve a chance to come up and live our dreams.

Boutique shopping Lost and Found in Asheville
Unique designs by Spiritex
You can find these whimsical designs at Royal Peasantry!

Reason number 2- Unique fashion finds

One of a kind Fashion!  Can I live for a minute? Check out this post apocalyptic looking dress and horned crown (pictured above) we found in Royal Peasantry! This city has personality and lots of personal expression.  

Creative style personality can be found here in Asheville’s boutiques- our favorite type of shopping.  Our favorite boutiques in downtown Asheville are RoyalPeasantry, Lost and Found AVLHip Replacements Clothing and Spiritex . There were many others we just enjoyed browsing through because of their artistic appeal. It’s gonna be hard not to whip out that debit card!

Shopping at Royal Peasantry boutique in Downtown Asheville
Street musician Joseph Williams in downtown Asheville
Street performer Jeremey Harp shares his art

Reason number 3- Music & Culture

Music and culture are vibrant and alive here in Asheville! There are people in the streets making music from the old timer right down to the young.  We met this incredible father who has educated his sons in folk/ classic rock. His children play their instruments doing cover songs on the streets of Downtown Asheville. Community members looks for these sibling performers known as The Buskits because they are frequently performing.  

Adolescent street performers, The Buskits!

Asheville is known for a strong heritage of blues, gospel, old-time, folk, early country and bluegrass music. You can also find night spots that play the latest radio tunes. 

Reason number 4- The food!

Salsas yummy dinner!
Anyone else love a good Dirty Mary?

The over indulgence of mouth watering food here is a special treat. We always find ourselves back at two popular spots in downtown Asheville. They have become traditions for us although there are countless reputable options in this area. The GO LOCAL catalog is an excellent resource for the many options available to you.

First we go to the Mexican & Caribbean restaurant Salsas for dinner every year. This restaurant is small with indoor and outdoor seating. There will probably be a wait time but the food is always full of flavor and the serving very generous.

If you are sit indoors, your eyes will scan large brightly colored murals on the walls. You will definitely project your voice as you speak with the waiter over fellow enthused patrons and music. Reasonably priced delicious entrees and great service has us returning every year!  

We both felt like a tight balloon about to pop by the time we left Salsas so waited until much later in the evening to go for desert at French Broad Chocolate lounge. Get a 10% disc off your order at French Broad Chocolate with the GO LOCAL card. 

 Can you believe that you can actually order a cup of hot melted chocolate to drink here?!!! My favorite is Liquid Truffle sipping chocolate with rose, cardamom + pistachio – Incredible experience! There are also traditional deserts like gourmet cakes, ice cream, cookies and all kinds of treats. 

Be prepared for an overwhelm of sugar options.  There is usually a line outside to enter this establishment when we have gone in the evening. I doubt you will be bored during the wait time though. There will most likely be entertainment. There was a great guitar player setting a calm mood for all of us sugar fiends in line.  

Still carrying a full belly from dinner, we decided to order cake slices and take them back to our Airbnb for a midnight snack!

Finding serenity in the mountains
Views at Dupont National Park!

Reason number 5-Nature

Hiking refreshes our spirits!  In everyday life we are bombarded with constant stimulation from our daily responsibilities to social media, noisy neighbors, current events ect.  Getting to Asheville is our break from everything and the element of nature takes this idea to the next level. 

Hiking at Dupont National Forest

This is why we make sure to include mountain hiking at Dupont National Forest during our stay. Dupont is a very relaxing 1 hour ride from Asheville. 

The Autumn is a very popular time of year to visit Asheville because of all the color.  Visually striking Fall leaves rustle in the breeze. These shades of red, yellow, orange, browns and some greens sporadically rain down gently upon our heads keeping us in a peaceful trance.  

We can be quiet. Listen for God’s good words filtering into our minds and hearts as we appreciate his grand masterpiece of creation.  Our ears take in the trees applause of life when a breeze flows through and they embrace the sound of the waterfalls.  This reminds us that nothing is more powerful than our creator and his divine plan. Although it may sometimes be a mystery to us- everything ultimately serves a purpose. 

Waterfalls are a great reason to visit Dupont
The Dome was a perfect back to basics experience booked through Airbnb

Our stay in the Airbnb dome pictured above is located in Weaverville, NC which is only a 10min drive from downtown Asheville. The view from this dome is immaculate mountains and trees that seem to go on forever. The evening sky is loaded with stars that seem so close you could touch them – for me, staying at the dome is magical.  There is also a wood burning stove inside! We enjoyed learning how to use that stove to heat our space. Sometimes simple can be so heartwarming. 

Check out the view from The Dome! I was on the verge of tears when we had to leave.
Peaceful moments in the mountains.

Overall this area of North Carolina has so much to offer.  Asheville is popping with street art, galleries, great food and musicians. With that being said, you may notice as the evening rolls in that, like everywhere, there are people living on the fringes of society due to addiction, homelessness and those given over to drunkenness.  Always be aware of your environment. I wouldn’t recommend walking around with lots of shopping bags after dark. We have never encountered trouble over the past 6 years but a friend of ours did have a dangerous encounter recently.

David A. Gildersleeve speaks to our generation through art!
We enjoyed admiring contemporary art at the Haen Gallery
Artful wood works by Chad Cardoza in PUSH SkateShop!
Fun exploring PUSH SkateShop
Various arts found in downtown Asheville

You will want to take your time in Asheville because there is lots to see and do. Make sure to try and stay for at least two days if you can! 

More Color Please! For more about my outfit click here

Written By Nikia Knapp/Edit by Craig Greshaw

Photography By Colorful Life Productions unless otherwise noted.


If you enjoyed this blog you may also like What to expect at the Spring LEAF festival in Black Mountain, North Carolina


What to Expect at the Spring LEAF Festival in Black Mountain, NC

Apache & I exploring LEAF Festival in Black Mountain, NC

 Let me feast my eyes on the evidence that there is a power so much greater than I.  Taking in the nature of never ending clear skies, immovable mountains kissed with ever giving forests made me feel whole. 

Enchant my soul with musical tunes from around the world, transporting me to another place. 

Feed my human need to be enriched with culture and I find a place in my heart sweetened.

I received all of these elements at the spring LEAF festival in Black Mountain, North Carolina. Apache and I saw LEAF festival welcomed  groups of young and old, friends, families and cuddling lovers.  Some people enjoyed the festivities for the weekend with intentions to camp and some there only for a day.  This is a family friendly affair with plenty of entertainment for all age groups.

Kids were having a ball everywhere! Including this one on the Super Bungee Jumping-Trampoline

A small shuttle bus escorted us past the LEAF camp grounds to the festival from the parking area. 

The first thing we noticed was lots of children and families.  This makes sense because LEAF’s non-profit efforts are all directed to LEAF schools and streets for their local and global youth programs that support cultural arts education.  With this knowledge, we were so happy to be contributing. Consequently, our attendance allows us to be a part of the positive change we would like to see in our future. 

The children covered songs by civil rights activist such as Nina Simone and others from whom we could all learn.  Watching the children share powerful quotes and history facts that complemented the tunes they proudly sang was very moving; I believe they gave every listener hope.

LEAF Schools & Streets performing a Jazz routine
Outside there was no shortage of things to do for the kids. We saw a Super Trampoline Bungee Jumping apparatus for the first time. There were large inflatable bouncers and even a children’s zip-line sending them right into the lake! Children dominated the mini man made beach along the lake, rode in Canoes and played on the floating Jungle gym which was equipped with a diving board. There was lots of space to run and opportunity to make new friends. 

 

We met one teenager who sat on the grass exercising her entrepreneurial and creative spirit selling necklaces that she made herself.  This young girl informed us that she had been selling her craft work at LEAF for several years now.  She mentioned that she loved coming to LEAF every year with her family.  What a great way to encourage goal setting, self esteem, creativity and self independence in a child!

We were in awe of these young entrepreneurs selling their own homemade arts & crafts at LEAF!

Some of the events made available for the children included Teenage Female Power Funk, OSO Kid Hop Dance Party, a Teen poetry slam, a Magic and Wonder show and LEAF International Tanzania to name a few options but all events are family friendly.


Let’s try to remember this!

There was something for everyone.  We decided to put our sheet down on the grass to relax, people watch, sun bathe and enjoy the the beautiful lake and mountain view.  After sunbathing the colorful Ignite and Inspire parade began and our inner hippy emerged! 

Make sure you don’t miss the Ignite & Inspire parade
We loved the variety of options for music venues! You could find anything ranging from Reggae to Bluegrass and Folk to Salsa dance parties. Listen to the Blues or even go to a Techno Contra dance party- yup, all that!

There was singing/ song writing workshops and also an exciting fire performance that evening.  Who turns down a chance to gaze at twirling fire on a pitch black evening in the mountains? Basically you could make your festival day as chill or as active as you like.  


We got to put our blanket out and relax by this lake when we got tired.

How to prepare for LEAF

1) Managing your time

My best advice for managing the LEAF festival’s elaborate itinerary would be to go to the website , review it and the map ahead of time. Note which events you definitely don’t want to miss.  Plan to factor in time to walk from one area to another. Planning ahead will also allow you time to get to your chosen events 15-30 min early for a good view of the show, dance space or seat but you can arrive to any gathering whenever you like-it’s very laid back here.

Factor in time to browse, there is a lot to see. If you want to vendor shop there are loads of clothing, art, jewelry and unique item vendors to explore. 

This kid was styling hardcore at LEAF!
Meeting fabulous people at LEAF!

2) Saving money on food

Food trucks and culinary booths at LEAF offer international, vegetarian, health conscious options as well as typical yummy junk food if you are so inclined. 

We chose to purchase the Culinary Passport available on the LEAF website because this offered us 5 full meals for the day for $50. This Spring, The Corner Kitchen catered in Eden Hall; we could pile as much food as we wanted onto our plate for each meal. Our Passport ticket got hole punched for each plate of food. I believe we saved money doing it this way.  If you don’t purchase the ticket but want to have one of these meals, your plate will be weighed for purchase price.

LEAF has the food hook-up!

The food is gourmet and prepared by local chefs.  If you choose this option I would say arrive 15min early to cut back on time standing in line, although the line did move quickly.  These special meals are served in a community dining style environment with entertainment.  

You can find loads of beautiful handcrafted jewelry


3) What to pack

For our day trip we packed a debit card, bed sheet, sun block, bug spray and a few bottles of water although bottles of water at LEAF were only $1. 

I started out very comfortable in my summer dress but by evening it felt like 40 degrees so definitely bring layers. In addition, it did rain that morning so basically there was large areas of mud. Keep in mind when planning what to wear that you could potentially get dirty which could be fun. So remember, layers and comfort is key.

 It’s also a good idea to bring a poncho and footwear you don’t mind getting muddy for possible Spring showers.  If you want to wear a costume feel free, this is a huge playground for children and adults alike.  If you decide that you want to stay more than one day but you are not a camper type, no problem, Airbnb is a great option!

Adult kids playing dress up at LEAF
Apache and I wish we could buy all of this amazing art work!
LEAF offers a Spring and Fall festival each year pulling artists from around the world to give attendees an opportunity to experience and learn about cultures internationally.  LEAF festivals have been in existence for the past 20+ years. This organization has enriched over 55,000 children with their programs in 10 countries worldwide. LEAF cultural arts education programs are local and global! 

 

If you are unsure about whether you can afford to attend LEAF remember that it is a non-profit organization for children and you may be able to use your tickets as a tax write off. 

LEAF was a very special occasion with great purpose and we agree with LEAF that the more we learn the more we grow!

The Poetry Slams at LEAF were incredible so make sure to go!

Watch our LEAF Vlog here!