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.

Renaissance Day Spa Rises From Ashes

Renaissance European Day Spa Staff with Owner Natalie Spencer

Fayetteville, North Carolina-

Despite devastation from a fire which caused Renaissance European Day Spa to close its doors for seven long months, Owner Natalie Spencer continues to keep a “bounce” in her step and attitude.

I recently sat down with Natalie to talk about the reopening of her spa after a fire occurred in October 2018 which caused the successful Fayetteville, North Carolina business to close due to necessary restorations.

Renaissance European Day Spa Owner Natalie Spencer

What struck me most about Natalie was her enthusiasm and optimism, the care and genuine concern of her employees as well as her customers; not to mention, the strong partnerships with area businesses she’s built, and the gratitude in her heart for those who helped lift her up during such a difficult time in life.

Natalie’s genuine appreciation of her community here in Fayetteville is infectious.

Listen to our conversation on Hodge Podge Podcast here:

https://anchor.fm/jalisonpaulyahoocom/episodes/Natalie-Spencer-Rising-from-the-Ashes-e4j81n

A Day at the Spa

I was thrilled when Natalie invited me to visit the recently reopened spa to try out some of the new as well as tried and true services the spa offers.

Natalie graciously set me up for a full day of pampering which was just what this lady needed in her life.

Thanks, Natalie. 😊

It’s not everyday I get to submerge myself in total pampering and relaxation.

My personal spa experience was fantastic and I can’t wait to tell you all about it.

First, I was given the Mellow Moonchild CBD Body Nourishment (skin polish) part of the spa’s new Total Swellness services followed by a delicious steam bath, shower and massage that left my skin quenched and super soft.

Kim, the fabulous aesthetician who graced me with her healing hands, has been employed with Renaissance European Day Spa for thirteen years. She educated me on Farm Fresh products out of Texas to include the Mellow Moon Dip Body Mousse and Muscadine Moonshine Body Scrub. The smell of these products was heavenly— I was transported back to my childhood plucking grapes off my grandparents’ muscadine grapevines.

Next up was a classic Swedish Massage provided by Melissa, an extremely talented massage therapist who worked out my sore neck and shoulder muscles as well as stubborn hip and sciatic pain. The massage room was so relaxing thanks to a very comfortable massage table, soft linens, dreamy lighting and mesmerizing meditation music. I was able to easily let go of all my cares and concerns.

The hot towels placed on my tired muscles following the massage was transcendent. I will note the upper neck massage at the base of my skull cap was wonderful. I could feel the tension and stress melt away. I would recommend this massage by Melissa for anyone under a great deal of stress or anyone suffering migraine headaches.

One client I met said she’d waited seven months to receive a massage from Melissa since the spa closed last October. It was worth the wait to receive impeccable services. I have to agree with her 💯.

While enjoying the beautiful upstairs lobby area and sipping a delicious smoothie, I talked with a customer who was awaiting services named Valerie Walker. Valerie is a Fitness Instructor and Physical Trainer with Cape Fear Valley Healthplex, Minister at Rivers of Life Church, and primary caregiver for her elderly mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease. Valerie treated herself to a birthday Swedish Massage and Facial. She said she wanted to take care of herself on her birthday.

“We put all these expectations on ourselves— our bodies, and we need to treat it (our bodies) from time to time. We need to reward it for all the hard work we put it through,” Valerie expressed to me. I thought this such a poignant message and reminder for us all.

Valerie Walker, REDS Customer awaiting spa services on her birthday

Following the Swedish massage, I was treated to a new facial service offered by REDS: Hyperbaric Oxygen Facial, a noninvasive facial minus burning acids or painful injections. This was quite a unique experience. Intraceuticals developed serums that, when administered in conjunction with oxygen, visibly plump and hydrate skin to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. The facial left me fresh faced which helped to reduce redness and some stubborn acne brought on recently due to travel and stress.

Hope Viega, Fayetteville resident and loyal customer of REDS receiving a spa pedicure

Following my facial, the lovely Jozette, nail guru at REDS, provided me some much needed toe and foot indulgence via the Happy Camper Pedicure. My heels haven’t been that “happy” in a longtime!

The Farm Fresh Peet Moss Masque and Light as Air Body Mouse and Hemp Oil Lotion left my toes twinkling. I chose a super fun blue color from the OPI collection that reminded me of the turquoise shores of The Crystal Coast on North Carolina’s Southern Outer Banks.

Last— but definitely not least— was time for some hair love by Haley, REDS Stylist Diva, who saved my dull locks with a fabulous shampoo and scalp massage followed by a trim and texturized cut.

The Brazilian Blowout Smoothing Serum Haley used on my hair is awesome and beats the July North Carolina humidity. This smoothing serum only available during hair service at REDS, left my hair tame and lustrous for days following my appointment.

I encourage everyone to visit Renaissance not only for stellar spa pampering, but also to support a locally owned and operated business that truly cares for the people of its community.

Beginning this August, Renaissance will begin a brand new program called REDS Gives Back. The program will support a different local charity each month by either raising monies to donate to the charity, collecting donated goods and/or through volunteerism. Clients of the spa can help as well.

Natalie expressed it was extremely important more than ever for the spa to support its community following the outpouring of support they received in the past months following the fire.

Also, military members need to take advantage of the 15% off discount on spa services in July before offers end.

The deals and kindness do not stop there… the spa is also offering some major promotions in August for teachers to help them get ready to return to school relaxed and looking fabulous!

Watch here for more information:

For more information on how to contact the spa, look here:

You can check out the list of spa services on the website here:

http://therenaissancedayspa.com/

Make your appointment today! You will definitely get your bounce back!

-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.

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.

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

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.

Contentment Found at Gillis Hill Farm

Five years ago, my family found a treasure tucked away on a winding country road on the edges of Cumberland County, North Carolina not far from our home in Fayetteville.

A sacred place where we would find contentment, quiet moments of togetherness and joyful, sugar-filled hikes along green pastures and wooded trails.

Five years ago, we found Gillis Hill Farm.

At the time, I knew it would become a special place in our Sandhills journey. But, I did not realize the void it would fill in our hearts.

Overtime, it became a sanctuary where we could escape the hustle and bustle of daily routines, military family woes, and a busy city life.

And, just be a family wandering the grounds of a simple, beautiful farm.

With the purchase of {a multitude of flavors} homemade, ice cream served in a cup or waffle cone— as well as daily fresh baked goods (we highly recommend the brownies 👍😋), you can peruse the terrain of the eighth generation family owned and operated contentment farm.

Our favorite spot to savor the delectable cold, sweet treat (or other delicious goodies) is along the screened porch of the old farmhouse office and bakery— gliding on white rockers overlooking the grounds bursting with azalea and hydrangea blooms that have welcomed visitors for many years each spring.

I have introduced friends and family to “the farm” over the years— to share this magical place with loved ones in hopes it might serve them a bit of the joy my family has gained from its fertile and safe harbored grounds much like my country roots— and the porches where I rocked with my grandparents during hot North Carolina summers.

Gillis Hill opens to the public each spring and closes in late November— we are always so sad to see it close for the winter.

Alas, I begin to stalk their Facebook pages in March each year to see if there are postings of when our favorite local hideaway will welcome us back.

AND, Lo and behold… LOOK 👀 what I found on their FB page today:

WOOHOO!!!! April 1st cannot come soon enough! 😃

I am like a toddler on a sugar high!👆👆👆

I cannot wait to pack up my family and friends, and haul them out to Gillis Hill Road!

If you are new to the area or are looking for a perfect place to spend a spring day in Central NC, make this a MUST on your destination list. You won’t be disappointed (If you are, then you need to re-evaluate your priorities. 🤔 Just sayin’ 😂)!

Plus, you are supporting a local family farm!

To find out more information about Gillis Hill Farm, visit their Facebook page: https://m.facebook.com/GillisHillFarm/

To contact them, look 👀 here:

And, mark April 1st on your calendar!!!

We will see you at “the farm!”

Alison Paul Klakowicz, BA, MS

Author of Mommy’s Big, Red Monster Truck

http://www.alisonpaulklakowicz.com

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.