Take the Farm Road this Fall

I grew up in rural Eastern North Carolina— grandchild of country folk— driving along farm roads was a way of life.

The first nine years of my life were spent in a tick bite-sized farming community where my brother, our friends, and I roamed dirt aisles along tobacco fields— and lurked along the woods’ edge where old tractors and appliances went to die, rust among changing fall leaves.

It is no wonder I yearn for country roads… truly a therapeutic outing for me which provides a safe escape from city life and sets my busy mind at ease.

I need to see rich, fertile soil overturned by plows and the people who tend God’s good Earth.

Souls who care deeply for their own— so much so generation after generation live side by side and support one another through their faith, loyalty, and simplicity of country living.

Folks who still sit together at their dining tables on Sunday’s after church for home cooked lunches, eat fresh grown vegetables from their very own gardens, and pray over their full plates for grace— another year, their loved ones, a full crop.

One of my favorite roads in Fayetteville, NC is Gillis Hill Farm Road which is named for the Gillis Family’s Farm which has been in existence for over a century or more.

I’ve previously written I practically raised my son during his toddler years on the grounds of Gillis Hill Farm because there are delicious sweets and homemade ice cream, an outdoor produce market, and serene farm land perfect for a child to roam while their parents refresh their mindset from the hustle and bustle.

This time of year the farm becomes even more magical as the pumpkins 🎃 line up and the hot North Carolina air begins to cool.

Plenty of friendly folks are around the farm to chat with about quaint country life. Not to mention, covered wagon rides which bring a smile to any child’s face— no matter your age.

I stopped into the market recently and picked up a pretty yellow mum as well as winter veggie plants (Kale, Swiss Chard, Cabbage) for my garden.

A gregarious member of the Gillis clan gave me an education on the Paw Paw tree and its fruit which ripens this season.

https://caldwell.ces.ncsu.edu/2017/09/native-pawpaw-tree/

Photo courtesy of NC Cooperative Extension

“When it hits the ground, it’s ready,” he said and gave me a slice to try, it’s juices sweet as mango.

I’d grown up with Paw Paws all about the woods of my stomping grounds, but had never eaten it’s fruit. He said a brewery out of Durham, NC is brewing craft beer with Paw Paw fruit.

https://www.fullsteam.ag/beer/style/wild-paw-paw-ale

Our chat was an added bonus on my country road drive today as I love talking all things North Carolina— history, people, places, botany, agriculture, beer, whatever— I’m willing and eager to listen.

Truly, I could have sat there and talked to him all day. He had a good southern brogue too which made it all the better.

Made me feel at home— yet all the more wiser— full of pride and wonder.

If you keep winding further down Gillis Hill Farm Road, you cross the County line and find yourself in the middle of the Rockfish community off Lindsay Road in Raeford, NC.

There’s Rockfish Flea Market that boasts an arcade— even a food truck or two. As well as market vendors selling all types of things.

https://m.facebook.com/RockfishFleaMarket/

The flea market is adjacent to Rockfish Speedway which hosts events for the Motorsports lover in your life.

The old fire truck with a classic race car on top is a nice touch as well as a great photo-op.

https://m.facebook.com/pages/category/Race-Track/Rockfish-Speedway-160330377671161/

I keep meaning to contact the kind folks at the speedway to inquire about setting up a booth one weekend for a speedway event to sell my children’s travel and adventure picture book, Mommy’s Big, Red Monster Truck.

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

I believe it would be a “right nice” fit. Don’t you?

My next Lindsay Road suggestion is a little gem (just a hop and a skip down from the speedway) called Re-Imagined which is the most precious repurposed furniture, home decor and gift store.

https://m.facebook.com/reimaginedlindsayhouse/

Last November, I signed up for my very first craft fair which was hosted at Re-Imagined and I have since become a vendor selling my handcrafted art as well as refinished/repurposed vintage and antique furniture.

https://m.facebook.com/nautigulcustomwoodartandgifts/

Let me tell you, I fell in love with this adorable shop housed in an old, restored country cottage which features repurposed vintage and antique furniture— as well as shabby chic, farmhouse-style, handmade decor and gifts.

It’s the bees knees. You must go check out the beautiful goods and support all of the local artisans!

You will fall in love too!

After all this wonderful Fall shopping your last stop on the country road should most definitely be The Mill at Puppy Creek to grab a delicious bite to eat while enjoying tranquil country views.

https://www.facebook.com/themillatpuppycreek/

The Mill at Puppy Creek has great food, local brews and plenty of indoor and outdoor seating.

The restaurant is also child-friendly for those with kiddos in tow.

But also makes for an awesome adult date spot.

I hope you heed my suggestions and find your way wandering the farm road this weekend!

Tell them all I sent you!

– Alison Paul Klakowicz

Host and Creator of Hodge Podge Blog and Podcast

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.

From UNC to World Travel, Hurricanes, Surfing CA, Saving the World— to Marriage

Chapel Hill, NC-

My family and I attended a very special wedding ceremony this past April at the whimsical and enchanting Chapel Hill Carriage House on Jones Ferry Road in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. We were ecstatic to support my cousin, Matthew Duarte, (son of my mom’s sister Fran Austin Duarte) as he celebrated his marriage to his lovely bride, Ellie Bolas.

You see back in Fall 2018 the two planned to wed, but Hurricane Florence had other plans for North Carolina (and their special day). The day the two spent a year planning from their California home— dreaming of beautiful memories to be made with dearest friends and family back home in North Carolina— would have to be postponed.

True to the couple’s fifteen year partnership, commitment and independent spirit, the two fled Raleigh out of the hurricane’s path to the North Carolina mountains and eloped— as not to let Florence ruin the special union between these two strong, love-filled souls.

However, they promised their families to return from their home in California in Spring 2019 to celebrate and renew their vows among their loved ones. They held true to their promise and on Saturday, April 13th, 2019, their special day finally arrived like a dream come true.

This is a very happy Ellie being escorted by her brother Jack.

This is Matt escorting his sweet mom and my aunt Fran down the grassy aisle.

Cutest little flower girl!

Joyful couple!

It was a…

lovely day,

lovely day,

lovely day,

LOVELY DAY!

The ceremony was conducted by a dear friend of the couple who knows them in and out. There was meditation, reflection, laughter, memories, poignant handwritten vows— and passionate kisses.

Not to mention, the most gorgeous setting!

PSA- Anyone looking for a wedding or party venue should seriously consider Chapel Hill Carriage House for a multitude of reasons:

https://www.facebook.com/Chapel-Hill-Carriage-House-Farm-Gardens-231260380267235/

1) They have baby goats 🐐!

2) You get to feed the resident Alpacas 🦙😃!

3) Children absolutely LOVE this place: games, grounds to play and run, and lots of charm and whimsy!

So fun!

But let me place my focus back on the special bride and groom.

YES, I am biased because they are family. BUT, their journey is an incredible one and I’d like to brag on them just a bit.

The two began dating fifteen years ago while attending undergraduate studies at UNC-Chapel Hill— Matt, a student of Psychology and Ellie, always the over-achiever, a double major in Environmental Studies and Religious Studies. A UNC couple with dreams of the world ahead of them.

Upon graduation, Matt earned a travel scholarship which allowed him the opportunity to travel to Japan 🇯🇵 for a solitary pilgrimage across the country to visit and study Buddhist Temples and Japanese culture.

Ellie studied abroad as well and spent time in Tibet. After graduation she would go on to travel to Turkey and Japan to teach English as a second language.

Following their international journeys the two settled back in the United States and found themselves at home on the West Coast in California where they have blossomed and embraced the state’s natural beauty to include surfing those awesome California waves.

Matt has worked for Student Conservation Association, where he led young adult teams doing service work such as trail building and habitat restoration in wilderness settings. In addition, through REI’s Outdoor School, he has taught outdoor adventure classes.

Currently he teaches First Aid for backcountry enthusiasts with NOLS Wilderness Medicine. He is also a certified yoga instructor and is working toward a Masters Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy.

And if his plate isn’t already full, he carves time out to volunteer at a local prison in California where he is part of a horticultural inmate rehabilitation gardening program.

Ellie, a Graduate Group in Ecology, Master of Science Candidate, at University of California, Davis, is researching two rare carnivores, island spotted skunks and island foxes, that live on the California Channel Islands.

Prior to graduate school she performed research on wildlife living in and around Los Angeles (such as mountain lions, bobcats, and coyotes) with the National Park Service, a project she is returning to for her PhD.

Ellie has also worked as an outdoor science educator and currently works with initiatives to increase diversity in science.

https://vanvurenlab.weebly.com/

These two people are amazing.

Amazing!

When asked what the secret is to their incredible journey and relationship, Ellie answered, “I don’t know any secrets to a long lasting relationship, for us, it’s just that we really like being around each other and we like to make each other laugh. Also, we both love being outside, which is part of why we love living in California- there are so many great opportunities to adventure outside and we love it all, from surfing on the coast to hiking in the mountains to wandering in the desert.”

How fortunate the world 🌍 is to have two mindful, intelligent, fun-loving, and holistic souls to share their passion for betterment of the planet and humanity as well as a sincere commitment to each other.

I’m proud to call them family.

Here’s to many more years of happiness, adventure, and travel!

Cheers to y’all, Matt and Ellie!

– 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.

Prayers for Grand Bahama Island

On Easter weekend 2018, my husband and I took a much needed vacation to Grand Bahama Island where we stayed in a lovely resort in the port town of Freeport.

The island was recovering from years of abuse from the tropics as well as the island’s damage from Hurricane Irma which wreaked havoc across the Caribbean and left much of the businesses and amenities inoperable months before.

Despite this our spirits were not dampened one bit as the natural beauty of the island was captivating, and the people so lovely and kind.

Lucayan National Park stole our hearts with its white, pristine sandy beaches and aquamarine tide. The natural underground caves were like visions straight out of fairytales. Captivating and breathtaking to say the least…

On Easter Sunday 2018, we attended an Easter service at the resort officiated by a local church whose congregation were so kind and welcoming to us. Their faith and joy was infectious.

After the service we felt compelled to introduce ourselves and we were received with open arms like one of their own.

The pastor told me he would be traveling to Charlotte, North Carolina (two hours from our home) the following month for a mission trip to spread their message of Christian faith and perform outreach in the community. We hugged and instantly established a true and meaningful bond.

My husband and I had found ourselves smack dab in the middle of Paradise with the nicest of God’s people and pondered not returning home… just playing on those lovely shores forever.

It was a nice dream for the moment. But alas, our responsibilities and life back home beckoned.

When weather reports started to roll in a week ago of the development of a Category 5 Hurricane named Dorian which had set its sights on the Abacos, my heart sank.

As a native of Eastern North Carolina who grew up on the Coast, I am no foreigner to hurricanes and tropical weather. Storms have always been a part of my life.

When I was a freshman newspaper reporter—20 years ago — during my first month on the job in September 1999 my native home community in Beaufort County, NC fell victim to the devastating floods from Hurricane Floyd. I spent the next year covering flood victims’ stories and the multitude of relief efforts in my home state.

In my then 23 years of life, I had never been more aware of the travesties hurricanes leave behind than at that time. It was a time of self-growth for me and the realization that nothing in life is permanent. Each day a gift and without community to help one another in time of need, humanity will drown.

It seems storms have occurred more and more over the years and are now annual cringeworthy, commonplace events along the Atlantic.

It was no wonder after spending so much of my life beach-combing and adventuring through the marsh, surviving one storm after another only to witness the beauty of humanity and communities in the aftermath, I would feel at home in the Bahamas.

Grand Bahamians are strong people. I pray now in the days after such devastation has ripped their lives apart they will continue to witness to the world their strength and faith. I know I was blessed to meet them and visit their home.

I am praying for you all and those gorgeous sugary shores to return to glory.

But, I know you will need more than just prayer to rebuild your community and heal.

If you would like to donate to the Bahamian people, please do so here at the Grand Bahama Disaster Relief Fund:

https://www.gbdisasterrelief.org/donations/

– Alison Paul Klakowicz

Host and Creator of Hodge Podge Blog and Podcast

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.

Joann Yost: Gold Star Wife, Breast Cancer Survivor, Mother, Business Woman, Guiding Light

Joann “JoJo” Yost, Perruque Boutique Founder and Owner

Take a LISTEN to our inspiring, and motivational conversation on Hodge Podge Podcast here: https://anchor.fm/jalisonpaulyahoocom/episodes/Joann-JoJo-Yost-Survivor–Warrior–Inspiration-e4d7ol

Fayetteville, North Carolina

Perruque Boutique Owner and Founder, Joann “JoJo” Yost, came up with the vision of her business while sitting in a chemo chair while fighting her own battle with stage two breast cancer in 2015.

https://www.wigsfayettevillenc.com/

Photographs of JoJo’s breast cancer treatment journey

Her mission: to make Fayetteville, North Carolina and its surrounding areas feel beautiful one WIG at a time.

JoJo assisting a customer choosing a wig due to hair loss from chemotherapy

Various high quality wigs, headscarves and accessories available for sale at Perruque

Private wig fitting rooms available allow customers privacy

Not only is JoJo a breast cancer survivor, but she is also a Gold Star Spouse. 🌟

https://www.goldstarwives.org/.

Her late husband, US Army Special Forces MSG Anthony Yost, was killed in action during a deployment in Iraq in 2005. He was the love of her life and father to their son, AJ, who was a toddler when his father passed away.

United States Army Special Forces MSG Anthony Yost

Anthony and JoJo

https://www.greenberetfoundation.org/memorial/anthony-r-c-yost/ https://www.fallenheroesproject.org/united-states/anthony-ray-charles-yost/

I had the pleasure to sit down with this extraordinary woman and chat about her struggles and triumphs after surviving her husband‘s death in combat, her transition to single-parenting, then beating breast cancer which inspired her to open her own business in order to create a safe harbor for others fighting for their lives— to provide them hope and help them feel beautiful on their journey.

Take a LISTEN to our inspiring, and motivational conversation on Hodge Podge Podcast here: https://anchor.fm/jalisonpaulyahoocom/episodes/Joann-JoJo-Yost-Survivor–Warrior–Inspiration-e4d7ol

-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.

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

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.