A Day at Dirtbag Ales Brewery and Taproom, Farmers Market

“North Carolina’s I-95 Brewery” 

“We have all come to the realization that we are Dirtbags; not that we are bad people, but that real innovators and pioneers don’t follow a rule book, and doing what’s right often requires not conforming to conventional wisdom.” -Tito, Eric, & Jerry, Dirtbag Ales Brewery & Taproom

http://www.dirtbagales.com/

#sponsored

Hope Mills, North Carolina-

Do you love craft beer? Farm-to-table cuisine? Farmers Markets? Yoga? Great music? A chill vibe? Kid-friendly open, outdoor spaces where your children can roam? Supporting local businesses and farmers?

If you answered yes to any of the above, Dirtbag Ales Brewery and Taproom is for you!

This past Sunday, I was invited by Fayetteville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau along with other local, and North Carolina based bloggers, to spend the day at Dirtbag Ales Brewery and Taproom to check out all of the establishments new improvements to their wildly successful business.

To say I was impressed is putting it lightly.

This veteran owned and operated business is top-notch— and so much more than just a brewery.

It is a community.

The love and dedication owners Vernardo Simmons-Valenzuela (“Tito”), Eric Whealton, and Jerry Hall have for their business oozes from every corner of the gorgeous, countryside property. The heavenly smell of cedar permeates the air as recycled wood is used within the interior of the brewery.

Upon arrival, we were given a tour of the brewery and an education by Hope Demetris, a military spouse, mother, and lead female brewer at Dirtbag Ales. Hope explained the love and care that goes into creating a quality brew.

Her in depth knowledge of the equipment and process was enchanting and impressive. She studied under brew master and co-owner of Dirtbag Ales, Tito, who is the visionary behind the fabulous brewed beer.

When the journey first began, Hope acknowledged they hand stirred the product, but due to high demand and a successful business they have graduated to more savvy brewery equipment to ensure a perfect pour.

There is a plethora of beer choices, from Blood Orange Kolsch to IPA, Mocha Porter to Smash— a little something for every beer connoisseur. Not to mention, Sangria, Ciders, and more.

Following the brewery tour, the bloggers were offered a yoga class to connect with their minds and bodies outdoors on the serene grounds of the compound.

Hayat Hakim— a seventeen year Army veteran turned yoga instructor and owner of the popular Hayat Yoga Shaka in Fayetteville, NC— lead us in the most tranquil yet challenging morning meditation.

The weather was perfect— and with each breath and balance pose, a welcomed breeze flowed over the crowd like a dream.

Truly, a wonderful way to begin a Sunday.

http://hayatyogadance.com/

We worked up quite a hunger and thirst from our morning exercise so it was only fitting our next stop was a beer tasting and brunch provided by the onsite farm-to-table restaurant, Napkins.

Let me brag on Napkins just a bit. Brian Graybill, the owner of Gray Bill Hospitality and lead chef of Napkins, met with our group to give us an overview of the restaurant’s mission.

Brian informed us he shops from the vendors at Dirtbag Farmers Market on Sunday morning (Cathis Farm, Purpose Driven Family Farm, Spartan Tusk and Feather Livestock, Jackson Farms Produce, to name a few), he then purchases farm fresh meats and veggies from the local farmers onsite and prepares the daily menu based on available products.

This concept of #supportlocal and #sustainability blew me away.

Not only is it a beautiful concept, but the food is AMAZING.

We were served decadent Stone-ground Shrimp and Grits with cilantro cheese curd (dare I say some of the best I’ve ever eaten), Scotch eggs cased in fresh sausage and yummy sweet potato hash browns.

My mouth waters just thinking of all the goodness that was on my plate.

Well done, Napkins.

Well done!

http://www.graybillhospitality.com/

“Beer is proof God loves us and wants us to be happy.” -Benjamin Franklin

And now, let’s talk BEER.

To accompany our delicious meal, we were offered a selection of brews on tap (commonly known as a beer flight) and/or a full pint of cider and glass of Sangria.

I chose the beer flight and sampled some deliciously crafted hops— each refreshing and delightful.

The signature kolsch was my favorite. Even the sour beer was a pleasant surprise— which I was told is brewed with a tea blend purchased locally from Winterbloom Tea in nearby downtown Fayetteville.

I love the support these folks show their fellow local businesses.

After an amazing beer tasting and brunch, we were off to shop the fabulous vendors of Dirtbag’s Sunday Farmers Market which draws in tons of locals and visitors as it is conveniently located right off of #I-95.

From education of sustainability and agriculture-commerce by Sustainable Sandhills, to bakers, candle-makers, apothecaries, farmers, artisans— there are fabulous products available for all your shopping needs and desires.

Sustainable Sandhills 👇

https://sustainablesandhills.org/

Some vendors that caught my eye and shopping senses were:

Bread & Sugar by Dali👇

https://www.facebook.com/breadandsugarbydali/

Upcycle Candle Company 👇

https://upcyclecandlecompany.com/

Cathis Farm 👇

https://cathisfarm.com/

The Humble Bakery 👇

https://www.facebook.com/thehumblebakery/

Parkerhouse Candles 👇

https://www.instagram.com/parkerhousecandleco/

Mariah’s Gourmet Relish 👇

https://www.instagram.com/mariahsrelishes/

Mustard Seed Arts & Crafts 👇

https://www.facebook.com/tmsaac/

Paradox Farm 👇

https://www.paradoxfarmcreamery.com/

Jackson Farms Produce 👇

https://jacksonfarmsproduc.wixsite.com/jacksonfarmsproduce

Spartan Tusk and Feather Livestock 👇

https://www.facebook.com/locallygrowncleanmeat/

Purpose Driven Family Farm 👇

https://www.facebook.com/pdfamilyfarm/

There are also tons of recreation activities on site for the thrill seeker in your life. Such as:

VSR (Virtual Shooting Range) https://www.vsrfay.com/

As well as Axe’s & X’s Axe Throwing Range http://www.axesandxs.com/

Overall, I give Dirtbag Ales Brewery three thumbs up 👍 👍👍!

This place seriously has it ALL and should be on your “MUST VISIT” list.

You will be supporting so many wonderful and deserving local businesses and farmers who appreciate quality customer care and creating an engaging community of fun and fellowship.

I will definitely be back soon.

– Alison Paul Klakowicz

Author of Mommy’s Big, Red Monster Truck

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

http://www.alisonpaulklakowicz.com

Host and Creator of Hodge Podge Blog and Podcast

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.

Networking is CRUCIAL

Networking is crucial in developing a successful business. Whether you own a marketing firm, restaurant, boutique, bookstore, IT business— you must embrace networking as a main vein to grow your business.

Social Media is a fabulous way to connect and network with individuals worldwide or simply in your very own community: i.e. to simply introduce yourself to the world, find new customers and/or partners, advertise new services or sales, develop peer groups… what have you.

Doors 🚪 open through online exposure.

BUT, you cannot rely 100% on social media and online interactions to develop yourself as a professional entrepreneur.

Sometimes you have to actually bathe, brush your hair and teeth, put on clean clothes and a smile, and leave the comfort of your ergonomic home office desk chair (or couch) to mingle and talk to with real live human beings in the flesh.

Trust me.

It’s true.

You need to establish real life relationships to grow.

I recently experienced a perfect example of this very thing I am preaching at a business workshop put on by the Women’s Business Center at CEED, a local economic empowerment agency, located in Downtown Fayetteville, North Carolina.

To find out more about my experience and passionate plea to encourage you to get out of your “comfort zone” and on your way to building your biz like a boss, listen 👂 to my recent podcast here:

https://anchor.fm/jalisonpaulyahoocom/episodes/Networking-is-CRUCIAL-e5c6sc

– Alison Paul Klakowicz

Author of Mommy’s Big, Red Monster Truck

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

http://www.alisonpaulklakowicz.com

Host and Creator of Hodge Podge Blog and Podcast

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.

Fayetteville Woodpeckers MILB ⚾️ Fayetteville, NC

Segra Stadium, Fayetteville, North Carolina:

My husband is a HUGE baseball enthusiast. He takes baseball very serious. He is THAT fan who is zoned in on the action intensely shouting and cheering for his team— sometimes a bit too loud and too enthusiastic for my liking. I’ll lend that to his Philadelphia rearing as he is a diehard Phillies fan who misses the action of his big city teams.

For me, baseball is more atmospheric— a place to gather with friends and enjoy the sights and sounds of summer while delighting in delicious ballpark food and refreshments, shopping for team merchandise, and social mingling.

I like the shine of the lights on the perfectly manicured field and the sound of the crack of the bat on a baseball— the conjuring of childhood memories watching my brother play ball, all the hoopla in the stands, the sports announcer’s corny jokes, and fun music soundbites to rile up fans.

So it was only fitting that in the town where Babe Ruth hit his very first homer (right here in Fayetteville, North Carolina) the city would bring a minor league baseball team to the heart of our downtown.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.fayobserver.com/sports/20180816/birth-of-bambino-babe-ruth-hit-first-pro-home-run-in-fayetteville%3ftemplate=ampart

Fayetteville has partnered with the Houston Astros to bring a fabulous stadium and MILB team home to Hay Street that can satisfy both mine and my husband’s baseball park needs, wants, and tastes— the one and only Fayetteville Woodpeckers!!!

Take that Phillies.

My husband has a new home team (but you will always be his favorite first love).

Segra Stadium has it ALL.

Tons of fun to be had by kids of all ages including a fun zone area for children, batting cages, Woodpeckers merchandise, tasty treats and ice cold beverages span the entire stadium.

Featured local North Carolina brews can be found for the beer lover as well.

Not to mention tons of casual, comfy seating options.

In addition, as a nod of respect for our military troops located here in the Sandhills, I was so impressed and moved to find this tribute to Prisoners of War and those who are Missing in Action:

There is no detail left undone.

I cannot wait to see how this stadium and baseball team continue to evolve— and the beneficial impacts of its presence on our beloved city.

Welcome Home, WOODPECKERS!

We are proud to have you!

For more information on how to purchase tickets, look here:

https://www.milb.com/fayetteville

– Alison Paul Klakowicz

Author of Mommy’s Big, Red Monster Truck

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

http://www.alisonpaulklakowicz.com

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.

Cape Fear River Trail: Part of the East Coast Greenway

Fayetteville, NC:

While North Carolina is enjoying a dip in sultry July temps, head out to the beautiful Cape Fear River Trail in Fayetteville, NC (conveniently located near I-95) to take in some fresh air and natural scenery.

https://fcpr.us/parks-trails/trails/cape-fear-river-trail

Map of CFRT

The shaded, paved trail is perfect for walking 🚶‍♀️, biking 🚴‍♀️ , and running 🏃🏻‍♀️ anytime of year— and is part of the East Coast Greenway.

https://www.greenway.org/

My son and I, along with dear friends, hit the trail this morning and had a blast.

With the exception of a couple of minor meltdowns toward the end of our hike from tired little people— the affects of video game 🎮 detox setting in.

Poor Things. 😂

Overall, the hilly trail provides lots of outdoor fun, and challenging hiking and biking.

Not to mention the lovely scenery to include a waterfall!

Dragonflies, lizards, butterflies, caterpillars, and salamanders met us at each curve in the wood’s edge.

As well as a pretty pond decorated with seasonal blooming lily pads inhabited by birds, turtles, frogs, and all types of other wildlife.

CFRT is a great place to walk your dog!

Our canine companion for the day, Major, sniffed out all the sights and scenes 🐕.

We even got to meet an officer with Fayetteville Police Department 👮 monitoring the trail to ensure the public’s safety. Thanks #FayPD ❤️!

According to the Cape Fear River Trail Website, here are some things you should know before you hit the trail:

I will note you should probably bring along bottled water 💦, a small backpack and a cell phone in case of an emergency (and/or a camera to take pictures 📸).

CFRT will be expanding into Historic Downtown Fayetteville in the near future— and connect with Linear Park. This will be an exciting update highlighting the many charming and picturesque sights and scenes in Fayetteville.

Get outside and enjoy this FREE Fayetteville treasure.

Then, treat your sweaty self to a delicious burger and milkshake at Freddy’s across from the Jordan Soccer Complex entryway to the park off Ramsey and Tree Top Drive:

Enjoy your adventure to Cape Fear River Trail!

-Alison Paul Klakowicz

http://www.alisonpaulklakowicz.com

Podcast: anchor.fm/jalisonpaulyahoocom

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.

Carolina BBQ… Beach Road Pit Stop Heaven

Kenansville, North Carolina-

When traveling through historic Kenansville, North Carolina byway of NC Hwy 24 just off I-40 East make sure to make Carolina BBQ your lunch or dinner destination!

Wonderful Eastern North Carolina style BBQ and Seafood Buffet

My husband and I were recently traveling through on our way to the Crystal Coast of NC, when our tummies started rumbling and we made it our mission to seek out a good ole Eastern NC barbecue spot to quench our soul food Sunday craving.

Well, I can tell you we were thrilled to happen upon this awesome restaurant.

It has all the makings of your grandparents’ Sunday dinner table— pork barbecue, fried chicken, fried shrimp and flounder, chicken and pastries, collards, lima beans, Brunswick stew, sweet tea, banana pudding, hush puppies— you get the drift.

If you are in need of comfort food, this is your spot.

Not to mention, the staff go out of their way to make you feel welcome and satisfied with your visit.

Ample seating in the spacious dining room

This kind fellow, Jimmy (pictured below), went out of his way to greet two unfamiliar faces and make them feel a part of the Carolina BBQ community.

He instantly connected with us and took time to learn of the new folks wandering in on a late Sunday afternoon.

He was congenial, kind and quite the conversationalist— told us stories of days long ago when he served in the US Marine Corps, his retirement from the state of North Carolina as a probation officer and his pride of his wife and daughter who are both doctors.

Southern hospitality at its finest.

Thanks, Jimmy. You made our visit even more of a delight.

If you find yourself near Kenansville, go ahead and set your GPS to direct you straight to the door of Carolina BBQ and Seafood.

Good news… there is a second location of Carolina BBQ in Wilmington, NC too!

You will be living high on the hog if you give this barbecue joint a try.

-Alison Paul Klakowicz, BA, MS

Author of Mommy’s Big, Red Monster Truck

http://www.alisonpaulklakowicz.com

Podcast: anchor.fm/jalisonpaulyahoocom

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.

My Captain, My Father

“Ah this is a yacht ! She’ll not give you gold nor glory, but only the song of taut rigging, the tang of salt spray, and the freedom and adventure of the sea

My dad, Joseph Allen Paul, celebrated seventy-two grand years on this Earth this past February.

Seventy-Two years. 😲

How could this be? Where have the years gone?

Are we truly getting this OLD? 👵🏻 Surely not.

But, YES.

It is true.

Seven decades have passed him by. And I am blessed to have shared four of those cherished seven.

Time is so odd. Things that feel like just yesterday are now days long ago— the good old days as some would say.

I wish we could go back and relive some of those beautiful memories. Especially from the earliest years of my life…

Someone call The Doctor! I need a Tardis.

Ah, but time travel is fiction, and those days are behind us now. We’ve evolved into the here and now which isn’t a bad place to be.

Dad’s been retired now for twenty years.

TWENTY YEARS.

For thirty loyal years, he worked for the state of North Carolina— beginning as a high school math teacher, and later building a career in the juvenile justice field as a Court Counselor and retired as a Chief Court Counselor with the judicial system.

Of course, retirement did not slow him down one bit. He’s the hardest working retired man I know.

I cannot even fathom to understand what it must feel like to have accomplished so much, and to have lived seventy-two years to tell about it.

My son who is seven will only know my dad as his ever faithful grandfather whom he affectionately calls “Poppy.”

The man whom I’m convinced loves my son more than all of us combined. The man who would do just about anything in the world to be with his grandson any day or any time… at the drop of a hat. The man who adores him, and hangs on my son’s every word.

The man who calls him on the phone just to say, “Hey, Mak!” To which my son replies, “What, Poppy?” My dad will pause to increase suspense— even though we all know exactly what he’s going to say because we’ve heard it what seems to be a million times— and he will finally reply with mischief and enthusiasm, “You’re Awesome!”

A true and real bond those two share. I hope my son knows deep down in his heart one day how lucky he is to have a Poppy in his life.

But I want my son to know my dad has a story too. He was once a little boy with parents and grandparents.

I want to make sure he knows at least some of his maternal grandfather’s story and hope he takes a little pride in knowing whom and from where he came.

So here are some things I’d like him to know:

My dad was born February 25, 1947, a post World War II baby boomer. The son of a United States Navy Sailor, the late Joseph Bell Paul, who married his sweetheart and moved back home to Beaufort County, North Carolina to start a family following a wild journey with the Navy on a minesweeper up and down the United States East Coast; across the Pacific Ocean by way of Australia and New Guinea— onto Japan to witness the signing of the Peace Treaty in Tokyo Bay.

My grandmother, the late Georgia Cutler Paul, a loving, kind, smart and faithful Christian woman grew up in Gilead Shores, a ten minute boat ride up the river from Core Point. My grandmother attended East Carolina Teachers College in the early 1940s, but left college to pursue work in Washington, DC with the Department of Labor to support the war effort and later became engaged to and married my grandfather.

When my father’s parents settled back home in North Carolina, they moved into a small, white cottage on the beautiful and beseeching shores of the historic Pamlico River at Core Point—directly across from historic Bath, the oldest town in NC best known for housing the infamous pirate Blackbeard back in the 1700s.

My grandfather was raised in Core Point and told Tom Sawyerish tales of his Depression era youth spent on the banks of the river.

The little cottage was my father’s first home where he lived his first years of life and fell in love with the Pamlico River’s estuarine tide and boating. And the place he played “cowboys and Indians” among the dirt byway of Old Schoolhouse Road and tobacco fields with childhood friends.

When my dad was a bit older, my grandfather built a new home about a half mile inland on Core Point Road and opened a small country store on adjacent land directly in front of their home.

On one side of the storefront was a typical small market where they sold goods of all types to include food (fresh eggs, milk, sugar), toiletries (to include Rose Oil and Pomade by the loads), and any other household items a person might have required back in the 1950s.

The other side of the cinderblock building was a small mechanics workshop where my grandfather worked on cars and repaired television 📺 sets.

My daddy spent a great deal of his youth helping his parents out in the store and eavesdropping on all the gossip told by the local folks who gathered about like a town hall meeting to enjoy a Pepsi Cola and a pack of Nabs— and fellowship.

There were juicier stories from the store he shared with me. One of which had to do with some suspected moonshiners who placed large orders of sugar for purchase from my grandfather, but that’s a story for another time and place. 🌝 Nothing to see or hear here folks. Move along. 😲

On my dad’s ninth birthday, he received a very special gift— a baby brother by the name of Michael Alvin Paul. Who would have thought two brothers born on the same day nine years apart? But this seems to run in the family as I shared the same birthday with my late great-grandmother Sadie (on Dad’s side) and my son and husband share a birthday as well. Go figure?

My dad was the proud big brother of a tiny little fella who he said they all loved dearly. The same little brother who grew up to be an attorney then elected judge and now a retired, former North Carolina Superior Court Judge.

The brothers still meet for weekly lunches at the local Pizza Hut in Washington, NC or at my uncle’s farm where he recently added two donkeys and some chickens, a red barn to be used as an art studio for my talented Aunt Penny and a Dalmatian named Beau Henry.

When my grandparents were still living, every year our families (to include my mom, Julia Beth, brother Austin, my Uncle Mike, Aunt Penny and cousins Mike and Katie), met at my grandparents rural, country home to celebrate the Paul boy’s birthday with a Sunday lunch.

I can still smell the collards and hear the pressure cooker whistling and taste the handmade biscuits with a wedge of butter and sweet tea.

Look at my cousins Katie and Little Mike. So cute. They are all grown up now. Little Mike is the proud dad to two super cute boys, Rylan and Liam.

Pictures of the prodigal sons and accolades hung from the dark, wood paneled walls of my grandparent’s home. Their pride in their sons’ achievements was ten fold.

My parents met when my mom— a cute and spunky, blue-eyed, blonde haired farmer’s daughter — was a fourteen-year-old Freshmen at Aurora High School.

My dad was an upperclassman Junior, who Mom recalls was slim, handsome and well-dressed. She recounted he always wore slacks, a nicely pressed collared shirt and a shiny pair of Weejuns. My dad said he bought my mom a honey bun at snack time at AHS for their first date and then every day after.

Here they are dressed up for Christmas at my mom’s parents, the late Marvin and Julia Mae Austin’s, home in the late 1960s.

My dad didn’t just love a good looking blonde, he’s also always had a thing for a cool car.

My grandfather always made sure dad had a sharp ride when he was coming up. His first car was a classic 1953 Studebaker Champion pictured below with his proud baby brother, Michael, posing by his big brother’s fancy red ride.

For his Senior year graduation 🎓 his parents gave him a Chevy Malibu to drive while he attended college in Wilson, NC at what was known then as Atlantic Christian College.

He joined a fraternity—Sigma Phi Epsilon— and majored in Mathematics and minored in Physics. Unfortunately, I did not inherit his math and engineering genes.

It was there at ACC, he studied diligently but made room for some fun too. He and my mother would attend parties and Shag to the harmonious and soulful sounds of Carolina Beach Music band favorites such as The Embers (whose frontman Craig Woolard is my father’s cousin), and classic Motown and R&B bands like The Tams and The Drifters.

They saw Little Stevie Wonder live in concert in Wilson during those college years and will never forget watching the young man play his harmonica with tenacity, confidence and a soulful flow.

In the summers when he came home from school, my father worked at the new and industrious phosphate mine then known as Texasgulf nearby his home community in Aurora, NC. His father had since closed the country store some years prior to become a welder at the mine plant where he later retired as a foreman overseeing the plants welding operations.

It was during one of those first college summers home Dad found a prehistoric fossilized tree stump, and a Megalodon Sharks Tooth while working inside the mine pit. He also built his very first wooden sailboat which would be the first of many boats he would build in his life.

Dad is a master carpenter, a skill passed on to him and his brother from their dad— and a skill passed on to my brother. Dad put those skills to good use and built several homes over the years from the ground up and restored many others all in his spare time.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he owned and operated a small sailboat building business in Aurora, NC. He did this during the evenings when he’d return home from Washington, NC after working his state job during the day. He poured fiberglass hulls and pieced the boats together and sold hundreds of boats to sailing enthusiasts from California way up the North East United States Coast.

If someone were to ask me the scent of my father, I would say my dad smells of juniper and sawdust. My earliest memories of him are flooded with the sound of a table saw and tiny bits of wood fluttering about him like golden powder. It is a sound and smell that takes me back to the safest and simplest of times.

Sea spray and the rocking motion of a center-consul, flat-bottom boat also conjure up the essence of my father.

He is an old salt.

The sea runs through his veins as it does mine. My mother jokes I was most likely conceived on a sailboat in the river’s tide.

My parents married soon after my father’s graduation from college in June of 1969 and moved back home to Aurora. I will mention that in a couple of weeks, they will celebrate their 50th WEDDING ANNIVERSARY! They deserve an award 🥇 for this amazing event!

They eventually found themselves living happy as larks in a tiny river cottage off Main Street at the dead end of the road by South Creek.

A small canal came up by the cottage where they conveniently parked their sailboat (built by my dad). After they settled into their simple life on the creek, their family expanded to three.

The little cottage on the creek was my very first home.

A year after I was born, my dad and his father built my parent’s dream home on Grace Drive in Aurora, a small subdivision that cornered on fertile farm land.

Our neighbors next door to us were former Aurora mayor, Frank Bonner and his beautiful wife, Mrs. Grace. Across the street was the Peed family whose daughter, Kimberly became my first best friend. And my Sunday School teacher, Mrs. Layla and her family lived just up the street not to mention many other family friends.

My mom taught play school for neighboring children in the mornings out of an upstairs loft in our new home while my dad made the commute to Washington, NC each day for work.

A year later, my baby brother Austin was born. Our family of four was complete. There are some sweet memories from those years in our home in the small, rural farming community.

We knew just about everyone and everything going on. It was safe enough for me to ride my bike at the age of eight to the convenience store to buy milk for my mom.

Small town life was surely special.

My dad served on the Aurora Town Council and my mom served terms as Vice-President and President of the Aurora Junior Women’s Club.

We loved our church family and attended services weekly at Aurora Methodist Church.

We were always in the community parades, and one year my family dressed as clowns and rode in a classic Ford Model A my dad restored.

It was a wonderful life.

When we weren’t on the river, we spent our summers at my family’s sound-side beach cottage (built by my dad, grandfather and uncle) in the Outer Banks of North Carolina in Avon not far from Cape Hatteras.

The cottage— a simple, three bedroom on piling with a perfect deck overlooking the wide, circular canal that led out to the vast Pamlico Sound.

My dad would drive our family up and down the sound’s shores in the boat. The thrill of a treasure hunt was instilled in us as stingrays and sea turtles swam along with us on our Pamlico Sound journeys.

We found antique bottles and arrowheads along the shore and even found a forgotten graveyard being washed out to sea. Relics of days past and haunted shores were magical for my brother and me.

There was no better feeling than sunburnt exhaustion from a day of driving the old Chevy Blazer— rod and reel holders mounted to the front bumper— out onto the beach sand, setting up camp for a day of surf fishing, ocean swimming and rolling down sand dunes the size of small mountains.

I’m quite certain these experiences inspired my brother’s longing for and appreciation of nature and the outdoors as he is a career North Carolina State Park Ranger.

The summer before I began my Fourth Grade year, my family left our home in Aurora and moved 45 minutes West to the “big city” of Little Washington, NC in an effort to shorten my dad’s commute and the advantages of a larger town’s resources and school system.

We moved into our new home— built by my dad and grandfather— off River Road in Sweetbriar where we embraced the challenges and excitement of a new life.

We spent many years afterward in the Washington area where my brother and I graduated from Washington High School. My brother graduated from Appalachian State University to begin his trek as a Park Ranger and mountain man. I returned for a few years to Washington after graduation from East Carolina University and worked as a general assignment newspaper reporter for Washington Daily News and went on to work as a social worker for the county’s department of social services.

Around this time my dad retired and spent his newfound freedom building his and my mom’s retirement home on the banks of the Pamlico River at Core Point where he was raised.

Several years later, Mom retired from the school system after 20 years of dedication working in the county elementary schools as a Teacher’s Aide, Librarian Assistant, Front Office Assistant, and as the school system’s Maintenance Department as a lead Administrative Assistant.

Since their retirement, they haven’t looked back.

Their days have been filled with Pamlico River sunset cruises and coffee on the screened porch overlooking golden sunrises. Watching the dolphin 🐬 swim in packs by the pier, and the heron and bald eagles hunt their breakfast and dinner.

My mother has documented most of their days with her gorgeous photographs of river life. She’s quite talented and has an eye for capturing its beauty.

They know every inch of the watershed and joyfully cruise up and down the river waters and it’s nooks and crannies knowing they have come back home full-circle.

I am so proud of all they have accomplished and the life they’ve designed for our family to grow and share together.

It makes me gush to watch them teach my boy of the beautiful river life that is such a deep set part of us all.

Although he could not do it without my mom’s help, support and patience of a saint (JuJu, you know you are the bomb and Poppy would be lost without you!) we have my dad to thank for bringing it all to life.

It was his vision.

His preparation, planning and hard work that brought this home on the river to be.

I should note Poppy is also a bit of a philosopher and intellectual. He loves to tell a good story and enjoys an audience.

He’s read every Lee Child novel.

He can recite parts of The Canterbury Tales on command.

He does an excellent Popeye and Wimpy impression.

He loves to sing, and belts out “The House of the Rising Sun” or fervently renders the ballad “Here’s to the Land of the Longleaf Pine” at any given chance.

He also loves a classic car. Here he is below with his British Racing Green MG and a photo of the TR-3 he restored.

James Bond is his hero.

And although he can have a loud bark at times, he is a big softie with heart who loves his family most of all.

Dad is our biggest fan and the one who loses sleep worrying about us.

He is our captain on land and at sea.

Our father.

Poppy.

Dad, although our politics differs at times there is one thing we can definitely agree on… that our life has been blessed, good and rich in experiences, and unconditional love.

Thank you for always loving us with all of you, for worrying over us, supporting us and making it the best life we could possibly have.

They don’t make many men like you.

There is one last thing I want to say.

Hey Poppy…

You’re Awesome!

Your loving daughter,

Alison

-Alison Paul Klakowicz, BA, MS

Author of Mommy’s Big, Red Monster Truck

http://www.alisonpaulklakowicz.com

Podcast: anchor.fm/jalisonpaulyahoocom

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.

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

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.