Let’s Stroll Downtown Fayetteville, NC

I’ve been out of the stroller business for several years now as my son is approaching second grade. Before I know, he will be able to carry me around.

But today, I had the opportunity to spend some darling moments with a dear friend’s precious three month old daughter, Little Miss Aurora, and we took to downtown Fayetteville, NC to pass the time and enjoy the sights and scenery.

https://visitdowntownfayetteville.com/

If you are a mom of a small, stroller age child, look no further than our town’s downtown area for perfect paved and accessible sidewalk escapes to entertain your tot— and, provide you with a relaxing and peaceful outing outside of your home.

Downtown Fayetteville has so much to offer to include restaurants and shops as well as museums, but there are so many nooks and crannies to explore outdoors.

There is nature.

Lots of natural scenery spanning across Festival Park, Cross Creek Park and Linear Park:

https://fcpr.us/parks-trails/parks/cross-creek-linear-park

https://fcpr.us/parks-trails/parks/festival-park

Calming sounds and views of rushing creek waters are perfect to soothe a baby’s mind as well as weary parents in need of a “Calgon moment” away from daily stresses of home life.

As you can see, Aurora was quite enchanted by the sound of the falls.

The cascading fountains in Cross Creek Park are so relaxing and beguiling. You must sit a spell and take it all in.

We came across a lovely “Angel of Hope” 👼🏻 statue that comforted us and brought a smile to our faces.

Just across the bridge, we happened upon a monument honoring the city’s namesake— Marquis de Lafayette.

Sitting sentinel behind the monument are the holy and tranquil grounds of First Presbyterian Church: http://www.firstprez.com/

We decided to take a closer look at the beautiful, old brick facade of the historic church’s chapel and grounds.

Such a lovely place to spend a morning in reflection with a sweet babe, and gaze upon the allure of the house of worship.

Not to mention, the multifaceted and reformed architecture of intriguing old buildings along downtown streets.

We worked up quite an appetite from our morning adventure in the Cool Spring Downtown District and ended it on a high note with an early lunch and tea at Reyhan— Sea & Mediterranean Grill: https://www.facebook.com/Reyhan-SeaMediterranean-Grill-952922134902997/

Gorgeous restaurant setting, excellent service and absolutely delicious.

I highly recommend the Grilled Chicken Shish Wrap. There was not a morsel left on my plate to take a lovely photo of. 😍

If you are feeling cooped up and need to get out of the house with your snuggly cuties, haul out the buggies and hit the sidewalks of Downtown Fayetteville, NC!

Here is a link to all of our city’s parks and trails to help guide you: https://fcpr.us/parks-trails

Enjoy!

Alison Paul Klakowicz, BA, MS

Author of Mommy’s Big, Red Monster Truck

http://www.alisonpaulklakowicz.com

https://www.amazon.com/Mommys-Big-Red-Monster-Truck/dp/1525530178

Instagram @alisonklak

Twitter @KlakowiczAlison

anchor.fm/jalisonpaulyahoocom

Wendi Iacobello Interview: NC Native, Milspouse, Advocate, Creator of Strength 4 Spouses,Woman of Faith

https://anchor.fm/jalisonpaulyahoocom/episodes/Interview-with-Wendi-Iacobello-Strength-for-Spouses-e41odq

Today, I was honored to sit down and speak with Wendi Iacobello— former Special Education teacher and college professor, Army wife, professional blogger, and freelance writer (among a host of many other talents and expertise).

She is a native of Western North Carolina— raised in beautiful Marion, NC not far from Asheville, and the gorgeous Blue Ridge Parkway.

Wendi provides supports and advocacy to military spouses through her gem of a blog, Strength 4 Spouses: https://strength4spouses.blog/2019/02/26/military-spouse-career-struggles-knowing-your-value/

She is also expecting her first child 👶🏻 (I am so thrilled for her). She has quite a story of faith in the making of this special baby.

I am inspired by Wendi and her passion to support Milspouses and their families. I was thrilled to talk with her about Army life here in the Fayetteville and Fort Bragg area as well as the amazing things she is doing for our community.

You will be inspired by her too. ❤️

Take a listen to our chat here on Hodge Podge Podcast:

https://anchor.fm/jalisonpaulyahoocom/episodes/Interview-with-Wendi-Iacobello-Strength-for-Spouses-e41odq

Alison Paul Klakowicz, BA, MS

Author of Mommy’s Big, Red Monster Truck

http://www.alisonpaulklakowicz.com

https://www.amazon.com/Mommys-Big-Red-Monster-Truck/dp/1525530178

Instagram @alisonklak

Twitter @KlakowiczAlison

anchor.fm/jalisonpaulyahoocom

Do unto others and reap the rewards.

Over the past several months since publishing my first children’s book, I have had to ask others for help and support.

I’ve had to reach out and ask people to trust in me and my little book— and allow me to visit their elementary schools, libraries, bookstores, as well as other venues.

Not to mention I’ve annoyed friends and family with my constant posts on social media while asking them to share the news of my book.

Placing yourself on front street can be so scary. It’s much easier to hide behind the scenes, but I knew if I wanted to get my book in the hands of children I was going to have to work hard and get out there. Out of my comfort zone.

Sure, there have been some minor disappointments and rejections along the way. However, more than not, people have been EXTREMELY supportive of me; and given me (and my book) a chance.

To my delight and surprise, I have been shown so, so, so much kindness.

It truly amazes me.

Thanks to everyone who has shown me kindness and helped me to believe in myself.

Thank you.

I’m a firm believer that if you show someone an unexpected act of kindness it will pay off tenfold. I have certainly been the recipient of this as of late and feel it’s affects rubbing off on me. Not only from dearest friends and family, but also from complete strangers.

I love how the entrepreneurial world embraces one another. I’ve found myself being so affected by this empathy that when I meet new people whether here in my home state or across the country or world, I cheer for them and their pursuits toward their dreams. Because they are doing the same for me. And it feels good to my soul.

The world is the most connected it has ever been— thank you, Bill Gates. Through my interactions with other creatives and dreamers online, I am thrilled to connect with folks who hold a similar zest and zeal for chasing after dreams. And, it’s all the more sweeter when people— who do not even know you— can recognize the time, energy and struggle of your pursuits; and, applaud your efforts and encourage you.

How cool is that?

So, if you are out there thinking about your next steps in life, I want to cheer you on.

KUDOS!

I want to encourage you.

You can do it!

I want to give you some good, sound advice:

Keep a level head.

Don’t worry about the “what if’s” and “”what nots.”

Just put one foot in front of the other and keep your eyes on the prize.

You don’t have to be the best. But you do have to at least try.

TRY.

And if you fail, pick your ego up off the floor and try again.

Humility equals empowerment.

To know oneself and where you want to go in life is powerful.

Accept your faults. Strive to be a better person— be a loving, humble, kind, helpful person.

Be a determined and passionate human being.

You got this. I promise.

I am proud of you.

You ARE worthy.

Go for it!

Dream those big and little dreams. Put a plan into action.

The world is holding you up and cheering for your successes.

-Alison Paul Klakowicz, BA, MS

Author of Mommy’s Big, Red Monster Truck

http://www.alisonpaulklakowicz.com

https://www.amazon.com/Mommys-Big-Red-Monster-Truck/dp/1525530178

Instagram @alisonklak

Twitter @KlakowiczAlison

anchor.fm/jalisonpaulyahoocom

Maid Marian… was SWEET!

Fayetteville, North Carolina is graced with some extremely talented people. One group continues to shine and sweeten Spring nights with their theatrical flair— the one and only Sweet Tea Shakespeare.

This troupe of thespians is a true treasure to our community which never disappoints with its delivery of unique, poignant, musically gifted and jest-laden performances.

Some friends and I were eager to catch their first outdoor staging of Maid Marian last night.

Sweet Tea Shakespeare performed in the courtyard of Fayetteville’s historic 1897 Poe House— which is a sight to behold this time of year with its brick terrace encased with purple blooming iris and lavender.

Before the show, we were greeted at the concessions tent (to our delight) with Fayetteville’s favorite savory pie creations— none other than Fayetteville Pie Company’s delicious entree pie as the main dish to enjoy for an evening of theatre beneath the stars.

Not to mention we were served the signature fruit flavored sweet tea which makes the experience so much sweeter!

Pie, sweet tea, and Maid Marian on a perfect May night was a nice slice of heaven right here in the center of our fabulous city. I am amazed each time I am honored to watch this group perform. Such well-rounded talent that leaves your senses fulfilled and quenched.

We were introduced to a major twist in the retelling of a tale we all know well about a guy in tights named Robin (and something about a hood). However, the focus of this production was on the ladies of Sherwood Forest and highlighted their ingenuity, strength, forbearance and smarts. It was masterfully executed right down to the sword fighting and archery. 🤺 I found it to be charming, intriguing and timely. I love a good heroine— or in this case heroines! You go, LADIES (and gentlemen)!

Well done I say!

Not to mention the music accompanying the top notch acting is AMAZING. Just listen to these two songbirds:

And, this fella right here has some serious ukulele skills:

The beautiful outdoor scenery paired with such lovely tunes sent our toes tapping:

Although I was a bit biased to support Maid Marian and her tribe of super independent, awesome “Marionettes” (like what I did there?)— the male cast was equally awesome, and seamlessly incorporated some truly appreciated humorous moments and wit.

I give Maid Marian 👍👍👍!

So, what are you waiting for? Support this valuable, local ensemble and purchase your tickets for the next performance here: http://www.sweetteashakespeare.com/

Alison Paul Klakowicz, BA, MS

Author of Mommy’s Big, Red Monster Truck

http://www.alisonpaulklakowicz.com

Hodge Podge Blog and Podcast:

anchor.fm/jalisonpaulyahoocom

http://www.hodgepodgebyalisonklak.com

Instagram: @alisonklak

Facebook: @KlakowiczAlison

Fun, Food, Festivity, Fine Arts abound in Fayetteville, NC @ Dogwood Festival: 4th Friday

This past weekend my family and I attended April 2019’s Dogwood Festival and Fourth Friday festivities in historic downtown Fayetteville, North Carolina. We had a BALL! So much to do. So much to see. Strong winds did not blow us away from enjoying all there was to offer in our gorgeous Cool Spring Downtown District.

Our first stop was to gaze upon the bright and brilliant artwork of Cecil Bernard at Concourse 107 art gallery, “Where your journey begins through art and travel.” My husband, Adam— Army soldier by day, graphic artist by night— is well acquainted with the gallery and has done signage for the new location downtown located at 107 Gillespie Street. He was eager to check out the art on display— so, we stopped in to take a look 👀.

The gallery’s mission is “to exhibit, interpret, preserve and promote the visual, travel, artistic, and cultural expression to educate and engage the public on local, regional and global creativity through the visual arts.”

We were immediately greeted by the charming Gerald McMillan, Executive Administrator of Concourse 107 and global Private Flight Attendant, who welcomed us with open arms to gaze upon the exquisite pieces being shown at Concourse.

Cecil Bernard’s prolific and poignant work is eye alluring to say the least. The abstract images and vibrant colors grab your attention and invite you to come in and take a seat in awe of the jubilant images displayed. I could hear the horn section and vibration of bass just gazing upon the pictures hung from the gallery walls.

Even my seven-year-old son, Mak, was intrigued. And that is saying a lot.

You must make Concourse 107 a stop on your downtown destination list. You will not be sorry. Tell them I sent you! If you’d like to contact Gerald or Desmond Latimore, Curator/Art Director, and Reddick Mack, Marketing Director, email them @ concourse107@gmail.com.

Next we found ourselves enjoying the adorable hand painted photo ops beneath downtown’s landmark Market House where my son and husband posed for a pic! Aren’t they cute?

The gusty winds picked up momentarily and blew us across the street to visit Sweet Goose Gourmet Brownies, a brand new Milspouse-owned, independent baker and crafter of THE BEST brownies I have EVER tasted!

The mastermind of the sweet, decadent, fudgie, mind blowing confections is Rachel Moore. I was already stalking her on Instagram @sweetgoosebrownies and was so stoked to find her downtown. You must follow her on Instagram and request a dozen or two of her Salted Caramel Brownies for your next shindig. YUM. YUM. YUM!

After taking in all of this culinary goodness, we found ourselves in the midst of Dancing in the Streets on Hay Street where we were entertained by the super cool breakdance and pop and lock movements of AniMatriXX. As my husband would say, “He’s got mad skills.” My son (a breakdance lover) thinks this guy is very COOL. You can follow him (as we do) on Instagram @_animatrixx 👏

Then we were greeted by the sultry moves of the Fayetteville Latin Dance Group 💃🏽 These folks can MOVE! If you want to learn to dance this fierce, follow them on Facebook @fayettevillelatindance

And what to my wondering eyes did appear, but the most adorable hula dancers bringing Polynesian cultural heritage to Fayetteville! I could not contain myself and joined in to learn the art of hula dancing from the experts with Aloha Ka’naka O Hula Halau, http://alohakanakaohulahalau.yolasite.com/

Such a fun experience! I got to imagine myself on the Hawaiian shores for a brief moment right here in downtown Fayetteville. 🏝

Also, I loved checking out all of the cool metals work, cute shop fronts and sidewalk dining that makes our downtown so unique.

Next up was a stop by the brand new Segra Stadium— home of the Fayetteville Woodpeckers Minor League Baseball team! My husband, a huge baseball ⚾️ fan— thanks to his rearing in Philadelphia and love of Phillies baseball— has been eagerly awaiting the stadium opening and got to attend their first home game recently. I had not yet visited the stadium so we wandered over to take a peek inside!

I cannot wait to attend a game very soon and purchase some of the above pictured Woodpeckers official merch!

We then set off to the main Dogwood Festival events in Festival Park! Food trucks, fair rides, and FREE concerts in the park were the highlight of the night!

We enjoyed Slices of Brooklyn Boys Pizza out of Cary, NC! So good!

We caught the very end of Lotus Sun’s performance— a super fun band out of Wilmington, North Carolina, and 90’s hip hop stars Pharcyde! My son was so proud to return to school this week to tell all his friends his parents took him to a hip hop concert! 😂

Overall, it was a fabulous night in downtown Fayetteville! So proud to be a Fayettevillian.

Y’all need to come visit our action packed city.

-Alison Paul Klakowicz, BA, MS

Author of Mommy’s Big, Red Monster Truck

http://www.alisonpaulklakowicz.com

Instagram: @alisonklak

Twitter: @KlakowiczAlison

Serendipity, Inspiration, Fellowship, AND Stephen King, Found at the Automotive Shop

I’ve been putting off going to the mechanic to have my rear passenger side tire looked at— the one I’ve been putting air in for the past month due to a slow leak. Undoubtedly, victim to a stray nail left behind in my garage or along the roadway somewhere.

My usual mechanic here in Fayetteville, North Carolina has been swamped this week. No luck on a quick fix there. So, I chose to wander further down Yadkin Road to a shop I’ve never visited before. Made an appointment to take it back in the next morning following my son’s usual school drop off time.

Honestly, the next day I woke with a stuffy head (from the new sea of Spring pollen flowing over North Carolina) dreading taking the car in because I had a thousand other things on my mind I wanted to accomplish. I put air in the tire {again} the day before and would have been fine a few more days. But, I sucked it up not wanting to find myself stranded along the highway due to my own procrastination and went on my not so merry way— I had not had my morning’s coffee quota.

When I walked through the door into the small, neatly kept waiting area, I was greeted again by the friendly woman I’d made an appointment with at the counter of the Meineke Car Center the day before. We exchanged the usual information and conversation you do at the car shop and she had the mechanic pull the car in to take a look. There were a few early birds who beat me there so it would be a hot minute before they could diagnose my tire problem which left the woman and I alone to chat to pass the time.

It is always a relief when you actually ENJOY talking with a person in a place out of your area of comfort. Someone whom you share things in common and they have a genuine desire to connect with you. Not some forced, awkward conversation. Fortunately, my experience was the latter.

Come to find out, Sherry Cochran, is the co-owner of the Meineke franchise alongside her husband and son (both mechanics for the business) and she does an impeccable job of running the office while providing excellent customer service. I watched as she answered calls and dealt with difficult customers with the ease of a saint. All this while carrying on real, meaningful conversation with me.

We found things in common such as she is the grandparent of an only child and only grandchild which is identical to my family. We philosophized the joys and hardships of parenting and grand parenting. She’d visited places dear to me along the Carolina Coast that we could agree were special. I even found out I had been following her daughter-in-law, a talented area photographer, on social media for some time now. Such a small world we live in at times.

The subject of books came up and I nonchalantly told her of my own children’s book I authored, Mommy’s Big, Red Monster Truck (www.alisonpaulklakowicz.com). I just happened to have a signed copy with me in my carryall I’d brought along and gave it to her to share with her five-year-old granddaughter whom she mentioned enjoyed reading books. She was kind and thanked me and studiously read the pages while speaking with customers on the phone and whispered over to me that she thought it was a very good book.

Throughout our conversation a mechanic (the one checking out my tire along with working on additional cars) would interrupt us to ask Sherry a question or provide an update on the status of a vehicle. The man was quirky and talkative, a playful and spirited jokester who acclaimed to be “nosy” and inquisitive.

I was wearing a tee-shirt with the lettering “Boston Strong” printed on the front. He inquired what I knew of Boston. I replied that I knew very little other than general knowledge and the shirt had been a souvenir brought to me by my husband following a work trip.

He then replied he had lifetime tickets to see the Boston Redsox. I asked how he came by this good fortune and this is where our paths were brought to quite a jolt. Before I knew it he sat down and began to tell me his bittersweet tale of Boston and how he received the favor of major league baseball tickets for life.

The serviceman whose name is Ken King lost his sixteen-year- old son, Jonah, years ago in a tragic skateboarding accident that resulted in a fatal traumatic brain injury because the youth was not wearing a helmet. Ken shushed me as I reacted in shock; wanting to tell him how sorry I was. His desire to not tread on his son’s death was as if to say, “I know, I know you are sorry. I’ve heard it a million times before. It’s okay. It can’t change time.”

He carried on to tell me his son was an organ donor and his lungs were donated to a young man up North which saved the life of the young boy whose father just happens to be the estate caretaker for none other than the most famous modern writer of horror fiction novels, Stephen King.

He said Mr. King heard of the transplant and donation of lungs that saved the boy’s life and wanted to do something special for Ken in his time of despair following his son’s death. So, THE Stephen King— a loyal and devoted Boston Redsox fan— gifted Ken with lifetime seats at Fenway Park.

How strange life is. The loss and lessons life teach us all. How we are all human and have undergone our own horror stories. And how odd that of all people, Stephen King would be there to provide this man with some thanks and comfort during what must have been a living nightmare.

But, I could see this situation had provided Ken with some faith in humanity and a reason to continue on living. To right a wrong and provide safety education and equipment to area youth, he established a non-profit organization called JKK Helmet Foundation:

http://www.jkkhelmetfoundation.com/

And there I was sitting in the automotive shop— the one I’d dreaded hours before completely enraptured in these knew relationships, inspirations and fellowship unfolding before me.

What Ken did not know was that my husband and son are HUGE skateboarding fanatics and frequent all of the local skateboarding parks… and drive me crazy from time to time for not always wearing helmets. The other thing Ken did not know about me is that for years, I worked directly with individuals who suffered Traumatic Brain Injuries through the counseling field. A subject that had a major impact on me and I had been an advocate for these individuals and their lives post-injury.

He enthusiastically provided me with information about JKK Helmet Foundation and encouraged me to spread the word. So, I told him I would make sure to write about his story and efforts on my blog site.

I am always amazed by the path of life and where God places me. I was glad he placed me at Meineke Car Center.

So, if you’d like excellent service on your vehicle and some inspiration, you should visit The Cochran’s family owned business and ask for Ken if you’d like to know more about his story and organization.

I know I will go back for sure!

Alison Paul Klakowicz, BA, MS

Author of Mommy’s Big, Red Monster Truck

http://www.alisonpaulklakowicz.com

Hodge Podge Podcast/Blog: anchor.fm/jalisonpaulyahoocom

Instagram: @alisonklak

Twitter: @KlakowiczAlison

Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Artisan, Milspouse and Proud North Carolinian

I’ve died and gone to pie heaven.

Pie heaven exists.

Seriously.

And, it is right here in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

I mean— straight up culinary wizardry—make your mouth water at a simple whiff of the carb-elicious, magnificence headed your way.

It’s called Fayetteville Pie Company— and it is sooooooo dang good, y’all!

The “slap your preacher” kind of good, btw.

The sad part— I am so late to the party!!! It took me almost THREE YEARS (from the restaurant opening) to go and try out all this awesomeness.

I know.

Shame.

Shame.

Shame!

BUT, I’m happy to report I have since been several times and cannot wait for more PIE!

I know all of North Carolina is still losing their minds over small town North Cackalacky, sweetheart Vivian Howard’s southern gourmet exposure.

But I’m here to say, move over Chef and the Farmer! And give Fayetteville Pie Company a front row seat at the table!

Helllllooooo, James Beard Award!

Seriously! These folks are baking geniuses.

The simplicity of the ever evolving menu right down to the mastery of the {always} perfectly golden baked pie crust— to the symmetry, and enticing intermingling of local Carolina fare with new and exciting blends of flavor will make you want to return over and over again.

And, eat every morsel to the very last drop of crumbly deliciousness left on the adorable personal size pie tin.

This is me… smiling on the outside and inside because I am so in love with this baked perfection which puts a new twist on old favorites such as chicken pot pie and tomato pie by incorporating Southern and Eastern Seaboard favorites such as pulled pork barbecue. AND, of course it is served with tiny dessert pies that make your taste buds sing.

Not to mention it is quite the love note to all things NC to include this fabulous map of our state’s colonial beginnings.

The restaurant even features gorgeous visual artwork of local creatives such as photographer and visual arts professor at Fayetteville State University, Shane Booth.

I just cannot say enough wonderful things about this foodie jewel hidden in the Sandhills of Central NC.

According to the restaurateur’s website: https://www.fayettevillepiecompany.com/press, the owner and visionary behind it all, Leslie Pearson, it came to be by way her rural upbringing in Missouri where her grandmother 👵🏻 taught her the love of pie. Old black and white photographs as well as as handwritten recipe cards are framed and displayed to provide a nostalgic nod to her inspiration… her grandmother.

Leslie, thank you for sharing your talents and memories with us all. North Carolina is proud to be your home. And my belly thanks you.

If you would like to visit this Fayetteville Phenom, look 👀 here:

Your innermost pie dreams will engross you with glee and delicious fillings.

Now go get you some pie 🥧!

-Alison Paul Klakowicz, BA, MS

Author of Mommy’s Big, Red Monster Truck

http://www.alisonpaulklakowicz.com

Hodge Podge Podcast/Blog: anchor.fm/jalisonpaulyahoocom

Instagram: @alisonklak

Twitter: @KlakowiczAlison

Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Artisan, Milspouse and Proud North Carolinian