Off the Beaten Path: The Planking Traveler

Recently, I was invited to collaborate with Emily Adams on her fabulous and informative travel blog, The Planking Traveler.

Emily Adams demonstrates her signature plank pose

The theme of the collaboration— 12 Unique Off The Beaten Path Destinations For Your Next Adventure.

My favorite “off the beaten path” destination instantly came to mind— The Inner Banks of the Pamlico River, North Carolina— my native Eastern North Carolina coastal home.

Sunset capture by my mother, Julia Austin Paul, at hers and my father’s home on the Pamlico River

Take a look at the blog post here of the twelve worldwide destinations featured:

-Alison Paul Klakowicz

Author of Mommy’s Big, Red Monster Truck

Alison Paul Klakowicz is an Eastern North Carolina native, children’s book author, blogger, podcaster and creative writer. She is a military spouse who resides in Fayetteville, NC with her husband, Adam, and son, Mak.

A Very Merry Time @ Sweet Tea Shakespeare

Why, then the world ’s mine oyster,
Which I with sword will open…”
-William Shakespeare

Fayetteville, North Carolina-

Sweet Tea Shakespeare continues to place a refreshing spin on centuries old theatre in the heart of historic Fayetteville, North Carolina as witnessed at the Sunday, June 9, 2019 performance of The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Due to a deluge of rain showers, the play was held indoors at St. Michael the Archangel Maronite Church, which is directly next door to Museum of the Cape Fear Complex (the usual outdoor venue on-site at the historic Poe House) and made for an extremely convenient alternate location for the performance.

Delicious refreshments were served including an assortment of beverages including water, wine, beer, and the signature sweet (and unsweetened) tea.

Guests were also offered mouth watering barbecue from Blackstone Smokehouse & Pub:

Plentiful as well as comfortable seating was abundant… I do love attention to detail especially when it comes to my derrière.

I t hank you.

The troupe makes a colossal mark on its audience fueled with vigor and fortitude,

humor and passion,

and talent.

The troupe even includes audience members in the act…. and these ladies did not disappoint.

Sweet Tea Shakespeare cast also know how to party…

Who doesn’t love a good party?

The Merry Wives of Windsor is a MUST SEE.

You will laugh— a lot.

You will be inspired by lessons of humanity that never seem to change throughout the ages.

You will have a delightful experience that will put you instantly in a better state of mind and soul.

Purchase your tickets here for the next performance as you will be supporting a local treasure (and, you will LOVE watching them perform):

-Alison Paul Klakowicz, BA, MS

Author of Mommy’s Big, Red Monster Truck


Instagram @alisonklak

Twitter @KlakowiczAlison

Alison Paul Klakowicz is a North Carolina native, children’s book author, blogger, podcaster and creative writer. She is a military spouse who resides in Fayetteville, NC with her husband, Adam, and son, Mak.

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.


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.


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

Instagram @alisonklak

Twitter @KlakowiczAlison

Alison Paul Klakowicz is a North Carolina native, children’s book author, blogger, podcaster and creative writer. She is a military spouse who resides in Fayetteville, NC with her husband, Adam, and son, Mak.

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 @

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,

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

Instagram: @alisonklak

Twitter: @KlakowiczAlison

Alison Paul Klakowicz is a North Carolina native, children’s book author, blogger, podcaster and creative writer. She is a military spouse who resides in Fayetteville, NC with her husband, Adam, and son, Mak.

Visit Bookstores

I have always loved bookstores— especially the small, independent bookshops in little nooks and crannies.

The ones made with brick and mortar on downtown streets with glass window fronts with pleasant displays of books and more books that beg you to visit.

The sound of a bell’s chime 🔔 when you enter the door 🚪 with a smiling face to welcome you into the little world filled of whimsical fantasy and fiction, true stories of heroes and the woe begotten, survivors and foreign places.

There is also a smell of a bookshop that quenches my senses. The smell of timelessness and wonder.

Now that I am on my journey introducing the children of my home state of North Carolina to my book— Mommy’s Big, Red Monster Truck— I am getting to visit so many wonderful Indie bookstores and it makes my heart so happy.

The best part is meeting so many wonderful people… bookshop owners (living out their own dreams), beautiful children, parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles— and their friends.

I have made so many new friends across North Carolina in such a short time and cannot wait to make more!

I learn so much about them and the community where they live. It is rewarding and enriching to my life.

I love to hear, and see their reactions to my book when I have the honor of reading to them.

Joy surrounds me! It gives me hope and peace to be in their presence. What a blessing it is in my life. ❤️

The partnership of creating events at bookstores is a two-way street. Not only does it allow me to present my book to potential readers, but it brings people into bookstores. In a world of technology, it is so nice to unplug and spend some quality time reading, interacting, crafting, communicating, and getting to know the people of North Carolina better— and my city of Fayetteville, NC.

So, go visit your local bookstores!

Support local shop owners and authors. Feed your child’s brain with literature, and real interactions with your fellow neighbors.

The benefits of this ageless pastime are ten folds the rewards of not taking the thirty minutes out of your day to visit a bookshop.

Happy Reading!

And, come see me at the bookstore!

Alison Paul Klakowicz, BA, MS

Author of Mommy’s Big, Red Monster Truck

Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Artisan, Milspouse

Follow Me:

Facebook @mommysbigredmonstertruck

Instagram @alisonklak

Twitter @KlakowiczAlison

Alison Paul Klakowicz is an Eastern North Carolina native, children’s book author, blogger, podcaster and creative writer. She is a military spouse who resides in Fayetteville, NC with her husband, Adam, and son, Mak.

New Year’s Eve Past

It dawned on me earlier that 30 plus years ago on this very day, I was spending the night with my grandparents— who were affectionately known as MaMa and PaPa.

My parents thought they deserved some time to themselves on New Year’s Eve. Mom would drive us to our grandparents home a hop, skip and jump down the country road to Campbell’s Creek— while Mom and Dad enjoyed a night on the town (or in).

Most likely at that very moment—three plus decades ago— I would have been sitting on the floor of their small, cozy, wood paneled den with my brother Austin in tow.

The pair of us without a doubt would have been diligently cutting a huge pile of colored construction paper into teensy, tiny little pieces, and placing said pieces in a mixing bowl to save for the night’s big event at the turn of midnight.

Every year MaMa would hand us each a pair of scissors and a stack of coarse, faded construction paper.

And, every year without skipping a beat, we would sit tentatively cutting our paper like elves in a workshop-— completely entertained by the fruits of our labor and whatever television program was on (like Magnum P.I. or Murder She Wrote) prior to Dick Clark’s annual fling where he would take over America’s living rooms to ring in the new year.

Austin and I would conspire to stockpile the tiny pieces of paper with dreams of five seconds of total joy and mayhem— when our hard work would transform into a beautiful confetti explosion.

Covering the carpeted floor, floral print loveseat where MaMa (decked out in her silk moo moo) would sit chewing on her pencil while working on a crossword puzzle in Soap Digest while PaPa (in his cotton, button down pajamas) sat perched in his recliner smoking Salem menthol cigarettes and nibbling on an unending supply of Hershey kisses on the side table beside his chair.

Confetti would trickle down into every crevice of the room. But every year my grandmother (against her better judgment) would not think twice about the after affects of what two hours of cutting paper into itty bitty pieces would do to the tidy room.

I remember dreaming about what it would be like in Times Square watching the ball drop. In my mind, I would be front and center of all the action. Meekly watching the performances and anticipating the exhilaration of watching that infamous ball drop in that grand city.

I imagined that Prince was performing and would come down from the stage in a purple haze of smoke and ask me to join him and The Revolution as a backup singer— because Wendy was no longer with the band— and of course I would.

Dick Clark would then tell America I was a phenom and would be the next Madonna.

There really would have been no greater honor for me at that time.

To be sure, my brother’s imagination would take him to another setting… likely, he was transformed into He-Man busy saving the good people of NYC from the evil doings of his arch nemesis Skeletor.

Ahhhh. Those WERE the days.

Not a care in the world.

Watching my son tonight brought forth these memories— the delight in his eyes of the forthcoming new year, neighborhood festivity all around us. Ending the evening sitting on the floor of our living room, confetti in hand (purchased, not hand cut) eagerly awaiting the ball drop in glimmering Times Square (now hosted by Dick Clark’s successor Ryan Seacrest).

Although the times have certainly changed over my forty-three years, one thing is for sure: the magic of a new year, new adventures and possibilities will never be dull in a child’s eyes.

Happy New Year!

Alison Paul Klakowicz

Author, Writer, Artisan, Podcaster

Chasing Dreams

Today, I decided to do what I told myself I would not do— to start blogging.

Yes, I have chosen to become another blogger in the sea of bloggers filling up google searches around the world.

But, this is why…

I am not special.

Nor am I a genius or expert on anything in particular.

But, I do enjoy writing and have quite a number of interests… a Hodge Podge of pursuits and loves you might say.

So after some thought and finally forcing myself to download the WordPress app, reading other bloggers testimonials, here I am.

My blog— Hodge Podge (which shares the same name and stuffing as my podcast) will focus on my life as a military spouse living in my native home state of North Carolina while raising a wild and lovable boy (age seven as of last week).

It will include my pursuits as a creative writer and soon-to-be children’s book author (Mommy’s Big, Red Monster Truck coming to stores and internet downloads very soon); artisan and entrepreneur— podcaster (as aforementioned), novice traveler, historian wannabe, and lover of life and people. Did I leave anything out? 🤔

The above makes me sound a bit pretentious, doesn’t it? A bit of an over-achiever and dreamer?

I am hardly these things.

Well, maybe the dreamer part is accurate.

But truly, I am not a perfectionist.

Nor am I some astute, artsy-farts snob.

And, definitely not a super right-wing “Hooah!” Army wife.

Nor a tried and true Southern Belle…. just Kidding! I certainly have my moments!

I am just who I am.

A chick raised on the beautiful coast of North Carolina who loves her home state and all its precious treasures and LOVES to talk about them.

A beach loving, independent, wild and unsaddled woman who by-accident became an Army wife.

And, left her beach lifestyle for Fort Bragg (which was TERRIFYING), and most-surprisingly to her has grown quite affectionate of this life we’ve made here in Fayetteville, NC.

Despite, the challenges of being a mil-spouse.

And, being landlocked…

I should note that a few years back, I left a career in the human services field a couple of years back. I earned a Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling while working for state government here in Fayetteville, NC. My former employer assists individuals with physical and mental disabilities find employment and supports to enhance quality of life.

Prior to that I worked in the mental health field in balmy and bohemian Wilmington, NC and worked briefly as a social worker in the beautiful riverside community where I was raised— Washington, NC.

So, you may be thinking— WHY leave a “good ole state job,” a solid feel-good-contributing-to-the-betterment-of-society-and-mankind career path?

I’ll tell you why:


Plain and simple.

I was tired and frazzled. I did not have energy for myself nor my family.

After many grueling months of second guessing myself and going back and forth with myself and husband about all the reasons why I should not leave my career, we finally decided there were more positives to why I should.

I feel fortunate to have a supportive spouse who encouraged me to go chase my dreams which is exactly what I’ve been doing for the past two years.

This is NOT to say anything negative against holding a career in human services. I have the greatest respect for ALL Social Workers, Counselors, and Mental Health Professionals. These people put their hearts and souls into the betterment of every community and we should thank God for them everyday!

But, it was my time to grow in new and different ways and I have grown in ways I could not have imagined when I walked out of my state employers office that last day.

I was freeeee to be me!

But, I was a nervous Nelly and the fear of the unknown almost got the best of me.

So, I rallied on and started plotting out what my goals in life were:

1) Be a good, loving and present mom.

2) Be a good, loving and present wife.

3) Be a good, loving and present daughter.

4) Have time to finally connect with our Army community and make new, lasting friendships.

5) To grow in my faith.

6) To write.

7) To become published.

8) To try new things.

9) Travel.

10) Embrace my life and be happy in the here and now.

And the list went on and on.

I am proud to say that here, three years later, I am checking off my itemized list of goals one by one and it FEELS AWESOME!

Look. I’m not saying everyone should up and quit their jobs to go on a pursuit of self-purpose.


Please don’t.

Especially if you are the only bread winner in your family or you are up to your eyeballs in debt.

Just say no.

However, if you are stifled and miserable and desperately need a new direction, then start making your list of goals and put in place a solid plan.

You can do it— eventually.

Hard-work truly pays off in the end.

So, this is a little introduction of who I am.

If you are looking for motivation? Let me help you (I have a Masters in counseling, remember?).

If you love North Carolina or just want to know more about this awesome Old North State, I’m your girl.

If you like books, writing, and journalistic pursuits, well, “Hello!”

If you are a milspouse or are curious about what life is like for military families, I promise to give you the 411.

And whatever else I can come up with!

I also promise to entertain you.

Or, at least give it my best shot.

Keep chasing your dreams, and I will see you back here next time on Hodge Podge.

Alison Paul Klakowicz, BA, MS

Hodge Podge Podcast: