Monday, April 24, 2017

T is for Tom's Book Nook: A to Z Blogging Challenge

It's April and you know what that means: The AtoZ Blogging Challenge! For those who haven't played along before, the AtoZ Blogging Challenge asks bloggers to post every day during April (excepting Sundays), which works out to 26 days, one for each letter of the alphabet. In my opinion, it's the most fun if you choose a theme.

My theme this year is Places in my Heart, all about the places I've been and loved and that have mattered to me in a lasting sense.

For my regular readers, you'll see more than the usual once-a-week posts from me this month. I'm having a great time writing them, so I hope you enjoy reading them, too.
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T is for Tom's Book Nook

Sadly, not all the places in my heart are places that can be revisited. Tom's Book Nook no longer exists, but it was a mainstay of my childhood in Bellevue, Kentucky, a small town on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River, with a view of Cincinnati. 

Bellevue is now pretty gentrified, with a lot of chi-chi shops and condos and annoying new people with expensive cars and attitudes. But when I was growing up there, Bellevue was much more blue collar. Lots of us walked everywhere because we couldn't afford cars. But there was a lot you could walk to. 

When I was little, my family didn't have much money. My mom and dad rented a little apartment in on the avenue, and mostly my Mom and I walked and strollered everywhere we went, enjoying life in the $1-$5 at a time expense rate. 

There was Schneider's Ice Cream shop (still there!) where we could share a cone or get an iceball for my Dad. There was the public library and the bookmobile (no bookmobile anymore, and the library moved to a newer but less charming building). The Marianne with $1 second run movies (closed). There were playgrounds. There was Footlong's (no longer there), where you could get hotdogs, soft serve ice cream, and slushies. And maybe most importantly of all, there was Tom's Book Nook.

Tom, the guy who owned the shop, was kind of a jerk. Looking at it with adult eyes, I'm betting he really struggled to make a living with his little used book shop on the avenue, and was maybe a little bitter about that. But Tom was definitely an odd one among the people Mom and I encountered in our walks around Bellevue. Most everyone else was super friendly to us, telling me I was cute and talking with my mother. I was always a little afraid of Tom. 

But, still we'd go. Tom's shop was jammed to the rafters with badly stacked, beat-up paperbacks and Mom would trade in the stack she'd read last week and buy another stack. In a good month, I was granted a dollar to spend in the 10¢ comic books boxes, picking up random issues traded in by the teenagers who had originally bought them. I got a little bit of everything that way: Archie, Red Sonja, Spiderman, Tales from the Crypt, Amazing Stories, Superman, Wonder Woman, etc. Enough to warp my mind and guarantee a lifelong interest in superheroics. 

I'm sad that Tom's is gone. Bellevue still doesn't have a bookstore of its own, even in the new chi-chi downtown with a vinyl record shop and several options for coffee. It's weird watching the little city change so much. I hope it's good for the town in the long run, but for now, it leaves me feeling like the place I grew up really doesn't exist anymore. 




Saturday, April 22, 2017

S is for Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen: A to Z Blogging Challenge

It's April and you know what that means: The AtoZ Blogging Challenge! For those who haven't played along before, the AtoZ Blogging Challenge asks bloggers to post every day during April (excepting Sundays), which works out to 26 days, one for each letter of the alphabet. In my opinion, it's the most fun if you choose a theme.

My theme this year is Places in my Heart, all about the places I've been and loved and that have mattered to me in a lasting sense.

For my regular readers, you'll see more than the usual once-a-week posts from me this month. I'm having a great time writing them, so I hope you enjoy reading them, too.
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S is for Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen


I like to eat. 

Whenever I go someplace, I want to try the food they are known for. I want something different than the every day, delicious and memorable. I like to try and find the places the locals know about, but that don't attract the tourists. 

Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen in Chapel Hill, NC is a place like that. It's doesn't look like much. In fact, I lived in the area for a couple of years before I found out about it. I drove past hundreds of time, but it didn't catch my eye, with its unassuming structure and little drive-through sign. 

Then I happened to hear about it on a cooking podcast I like (Splendid Table) as part of a feature on road food they used to do. I told my husband about it, and our stomachs both fell in love. In fact, we have to limit ourselves to only eating there once a month for the sake of our waistlines and cardio-vascular health. 

Biscuits and fried chicken are both quintessentially Southern food items. And they can be *wonderful* or "meh" depending on who makes them. Sunrise makes perfect chicken biscuits. The biscuits are soft and fluffy and buttery. The chicken is crisp and juicy inside, that perfect combination that is difficult to achieve. 

They don't make many things. The menu is brief. But what they make, they make VERY well. You can't go sit down in a charming café area while you eat--this is really JUST a drive-through restaurant. But what's a few crumbs on your bosom in exchange for nirvana in your mouth?






Friday, April 21, 2017

R is for the Richardson Highway: A to Z Blogging Challenge

It's April and you know what that means: The AtoZ Blogging Challenge! For those who haven't played along before, the AtoZ Blogging Challenge asks bloggers to post every day during April (excepting Sundays), which works out to 26 days, one for each letter of the alphabet. In my opinion, it's the most fun if you choose a theme.

My theme this year is Places in my Heart, all about the places I've been and loved and that have mattered to me in a lasting sense.

For my regular readers, you'll see more than the usual once-a-week posts from me this month. I'm having a great time writing them, so I hope you enjoy reading them, too.
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R is for the Richardson Highway


The Richardson Highway connects Valdez, Alaska to Fairbanks, Alaska. It's one end of the Al-Can adventure if you're following it from end to end (which is how I got there when I moved to Alaska). When you get to the end, you either have to get on a boat (which is how I got to Kodiak) or turn around and go back. 

 I also lived along this highway for a year when I was teaching in Kenny Lake. My favorite truck was destroyed in Thompson Pass (saving the life of my then-husband, who was driving it). 

It's one gorgeous stretch of road, with mountain views, a glacier with easy from-the-road access and awesome little Alaskan towns along the way. It's treacherous, too, especially in winter. Driving it was always an adventure of one sort or another. 

I wrote a poem about it once: 



It's a poetry-inspiring sort of road. 





Thursday, April 20, 2017

Q is for Queen City (Cincinnati): A to Z Blogging Challenge

It's April and you know what that means: The AtoZ Blogging Challenge! For those who haven't played along before, the AtoZ Blogging Challenge asks bloggers to post every day during April (excepting Sundays), which works out to 26 days, one for each letter of the alphabet. In my opinion, it's the most fun if you choose a theme.

My theme this year is Places in my Heart, all about the places I've been and loved and that have mattered to me in a lasting sense.

For my regular readers, you'll see more than the usual once-a-week posts from me this month. I'm having a great time writing them, so I hope you enjoy reading them, too.
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Q is for Queen City (Cincinnati)


I grew up four blocks and a bridge from Cincinnati, Ohio, in Kentucky. We used to walk across the bridge to attend Reds games (my face firmly planted in my father's back because I'm afraid of man-made heights). 

I was closer to some of the downtown pleasures than a lot of people who actually have a Cincinnati zip code. And a busy river city is never dull. There's always something to see. 

There were a lot of lovely things about growing up there. Cincinnati is a good sized city with lots of city pleasures and attractions. Museums, movies, parks, the zoo, a symphony (ah, Music Hall), and many more such things. It's big enough to attract traveling shows like the circus and all the  ___ On Ice shows (fill in the blank with popular character of the week). There are good concert venues like Riverbend and popular events like the WEBN fireworks every Labor Day.  All in all, I'm glad to have grown up there, with access to so much. 

The city has changed a lot in my lifetime, mostly for the better. I can remember when they put in Sawyer Point, a lovely city park right on the river with a great playground, lots of room to walk and a cool ice and roller skating area. I was sad when they moved my Natural History museum, but I've visited since in the new Union Terminal setting, and it's lovely. 

I've ragged on it over the years, as people sometimes do about their hometowns: seeing the flaws more than the offerings. But I always enjoy it when I make it back to visit. She really is a queen of a city. 













Wednesday, April 19, 2017

P is for Plaza Mayor: A to Z Blogging Challenge

It's April and you know what that means: The AtoZ Blogging Challenge! For those who haven't played along before, the AtoZ Blogging Challenge asks bloggers to post every day during April (excepting Sundays), which works out to 26 days, one for each letter of the alphabet. In my opinion, it's the most fun if you choose a theme.

My theme this year is Places in my Heart, all about the places I've been and loved and that have mattered to me in a lasting sense.

For my regular readers, you'll see more than the usual once-a-week posts from me this month. I'm having a great time writing them, so I hope you enjoy reading them, too.
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P is for Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor in Madrid, Spain is the most exciting city place I have ever seen. 

First the plaza itself is beautiful! Ornate and impressive both in scale and style. There's a definite "wow factor" just in stepping food into the plaza. 

It's such a center of activity as well. Music, dance, street artists, markets, shopping, and, of course, food! 

I ate my first tapas there. Drank my first Spanish wine there. Bought my first flower from a street vending gypsy there. Heard my first live flamenco music there. 

I've been to Madrid twice now. In 1992, as an undergraduate student and in 1999, as a teacher with a group of students from Nome, Alaska. Showing those kids from a tiny town in rural Alaska this gorgeous city attraction was a thrill. That's part of why I teach: the thrill that comes from seeing a kid "get" something for the first time. And even the most well-traveled student in my group had never seen anything like this plaza. 

If you're a people-watcher looking to get a sense of what madrileños are all about, this is your spot.





Tuesday, April 18, 2017

O is for Occoneechee Speedway Trail: A to Z Blogging Challenge

It's April and you know what that means: The AtoZ Blogging Challenge! For those who haven't played along before, the AtoZ Blogging Challenge asks bloggers to post every day during April (excepting Sundays), which works out to 26 days, one for each letter of the alphabet. In my opinion, it's the most fun if you choose a theme.

My theme this year is Places in my Heart, all about the places I've been and loved and that have mattered to me in a lasting sense.

For my regular readers, you'll see more than the usual once-a-week posts from me this month. I'm having a great time writing them, so I hope you enjoy reading them, too.
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O is for Occoneechee Speedway Trail

The Occoneechee Speedway is one of my favorite places in Hillsborough, North Carolina, the town I've made my home in for almost a decade now. It used to be a racetrack, a NASCAR dirt track built for the inaugural race season of 1949. 

There are reunions and community celebrations there sometimes. But most of the year, it's a lovely wooded spot where my dog and I run past the old car, judge's stand, and viewing platforms, lightening both our souls. 

I've enjoyed walking down at the Speedway ever since I learned it existed, but it's really become one of my places since I took up running about six months ago. 

If you've been reading my posts this month, you know how much I like the woods and natural places, and how much I like ruins, ghost towns, and abandoned places. And this has the best of both those worlds. 

Recently some additional trails were completed that connect the Speedway to the Riverwalk, so you can get around a fair amount of our lovely little town without leaving the woods. Since it's warm so much of the year here, you can enjoy it nearly all year long. 

If you ever come to Hillsborough, here's where you should go to stretch your legs. It's a lovely, peaceful place. 






Monday, April 17, 2017

N is for Natural Bridge State Park: A to Z Blogging Challenge

It's April and you know what that means: The AtoZ Blogging Challenge! For those who haven't played along before, the AtoZ Blogging Challenge asks bloggers to post every day during April (excepting Sundays), which works out to 26 days, one for each letter of the alphabet. In my opinion, it's the most fun if you choose a theme.

My theme this year is Places in my Heart, all about the places I've been and loved and that have mattered to me in a lasting sense.

For my regular readers, you'll see more than the usual once-a-week posts from me this month. I'm having a great time writing them, so I hope you enjoy reading them, too.
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N is for Natural Bridge State Park

I'm a woods girl. Nothing soothes my soul like time among the trees. Maybe it's the extra oxygen, maybe it's something more spiritual than that. I don't know. But I do know that it's head-clearing and heart-lightening to spend time in leafy light. 

When I was an undergraduate student at Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, I was always running off to the news. Morehead itself is in the Daniel Boone National Forest and there's a lot of state park land, caves, and amazing rock formations in the area. I explored like crazy during those years. 

One of my favorite places for Natural Bridge State Park in Red River Gorge. It's named, of course, for the Natural Bridge, a wide platform of rock you can climb and walk on. 

It's odd because, generally, I am a bit afraid of heights. I don't like stairwells where I can see between the stairs, or looking out the window of a skyscraper. But when the heights are not human-made, I have a little more faith in them. I want to be on top, looking out at what nature has made. 

I once sat on the bridge at this park watching a storm move towards me across the horizon, lightning streaking the darkening sky. I stayed until the wind was whipping my hair around and my jacket was damp with the rain. I can still feel the charge in the air when I close my eyes. 

Places of rock and tree are magic. I truly believe so. 







Saturday, April 15, 2017

M is for Museum Road: A to Z Blogging Challenge

It's April and you know what that means: The AtoZ Blogging Challenge! For those who haven't played along before, the AtoZ Blogging Challenge asks bloggers to post every day during April (excepting Sundays), which works out to 26 days, one for each letter of the alphabet. In my opinion, it's the most fun if you choose a theme.

My theme this year is Places in my Heart, all about the places I've been and loved and that have mattered to me in a lasting sense.

For my regular readers, you'll see more than the usual once-a-week posts from me this month. I'm having a great time writing them, so I hope you enjoy reading them, too.
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M is for Museum Road

I once had a flat in Oxford England. 

It gives me a little shiver of excitement to say that. For me, it was one of those "bucket list" kind of things. A bookish girl like me simply had to see England somehow, sometime. And luckily, that opportunity came to me through grad school. 

See, I have a fancy-schmancy Master's Degree from the Bread Loaf School of English of Middlebury College. Not where you'd expect a blue-collar background girl like me to end up. I was lucky enough to get to go there through some special funding the college received to bring their programs to rural Alaskan educators. I was a Dewitt-Wallace Readers Digest scholar. So, for four glorious summers, I was a Bread Loaf student, nearly all expenses paid. (It's a wonderful program, and if life ever gives you the chance to go: jump on it!)

One of those summers was spent at the Oxford campus, at Lincoln college. And because I had recently become a mother, I was granted a flat on Museum Row rather than dormitory space. The other grad students were grateful, I'm sure, that I wasn't trying to fit a crib into my dorm room (if such a thing would even have been allowed). 

I had never really lived in a city, having grown up in a small town (near a big city, but not in it) and having spent my adult life up to that point in *really* small places (like population 400 Kenny Lake or population 3500 Nome). 

But I threw myself into the experience that summer, enjoying theater opportunities, public transportation, street performances, delicious foods, and walking and walking and walking through the city streets and parks. Not to mention the Bodleian Library (book-girl heaven) and all the colleges of the Oxford system. Such architecture! Such history! Such inspiration! Such tea!

I'm still not a city girl. But for a few weeks, I loved playing at it. 

Thanks to my mother, and my then-in-laws, who came and helped care for my daughter while I was in class, I had one of the best summers of my life. The shabby little flats on Museum Row glow brightly in my memory.