Birmingham, AL

Birmingham Botanical Gardens

How have I waited this many years before visiting this beautiful gem in the middle of a big city?  We went this weekend and they were having a huge plant sale!  The whole place was super crowded, but after circling the lot twice, we lucked up in a parking spot.  Parking is free and entry is free!  What a gift to the people of Birmingham and its visitors!  

Though there appeared to be a ton of folks here, we never felt crowded.  The park is so spread out with something to see in every single corner.  We loved the conservatory with its water feature and tropical plants, the beautiful fountains, the winding paths to get to each area and the thoughtfully placed swings and benches along the way to rest your tootsies.  Far and away my favorite garden was the Japanese Garden.  

The Japanese Garden has a Tori Gate at the entrance to welcome you and it sets the tone perfectly for the wonders you are about to see.  Beautiful photo ops await with the koi pond, the meandering bridge, the turtles sunning themselves on the rocks and the tea garden.  Do not miss this.

We didn’t see everything we wanted, so I know I’ll be back when I’m in town again.  So peaceful and lovely.

Hickory · Huntersville · Lincolnton · Mooresville

Best of Restaurants-Frozen Treats!

Is there anything better than a cool treat on a hot day?  Only issue is you gotta eat it fast so you don’t wear it!  Here are a list of my favorite frozen goodies:

Half Watermelon Half Wedding Cake Snoball from Pelican’s Snoballs in Lincolnton

Cow Pie Sundae at Udderly Delicious in Hickory

Lemon Vanilla cookie sandwich with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream at Cookies with an Accent in Huntersville

 

Basil and Strawberry Sorbet from the McNinch House in Charlotte, NC

Cookies and Cream Gelato from Mattiello’s in Denver, NC

Rhubarb Acorn Linzer Waffle with dehydrated Strawberry Honey Ice Cream from 158 on Main in Mooresville

Charlotte · Cornelius · Denver · Destin · Hickory · Huntersville · Mooresville

Best of Restaurants: Cheesy!

Oh, how I adore cheese.  You could melt it on a cardboard pizza top and I’d probably eat it.  These dishes are my favorite cheesy dishes at restaurants I’ve tried.

Pimiento Cheese Spread from Boschamp’s in Destin, FL

Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese at Safari Miles in Denver 

Pepperoni and Mushroom Pizza at Tony’s in Hickory, NC

Pizza Sub from Penn Station East Coast Subs in Charlotte, NC

Mushroom Gruyere Sandwich from Papi Queso in Charlotte

Shepard’s Pie from Metro Diner in Pineville

Queso Fundido from Provecho Mexican Kitchen & Cantina in Mooresville

Arancini from Barrel and Fork in Cornelius

Quesadilla Mexicana at La Unica in Huntersville

Three Cheese Grilled Cheese Sandwich at Sumo Shack in Mooresville

Queso Frito from Miami Fusion in Denver, NC

Bread Bites with warm Pimiento Cheese from Pop’s Old Company Store And Tavern in Catawba

Isle of Mozzarella from Olde Hickory Station in Hickory, NC

Charlotte

Shopping in Charlotte, NC

Charlotte is full of awesome shopping spots.  Here are some of the cooler ones:

Paper Skyscraper

Source: Airbnb

Gift shop with novelty items, baby gifts, paper goods, books and even clothing and accessories.  One of my favorite stores!

330 East Boulevard Charlotte, North Carolina 28203

Kitschy Cool Vintage

This clothing store specializes in vintage fashions from the 40’s to the 80’s.  They also have a nice selection of ugly Christmas Sweaters!
4450 South Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28209

2nd and Charles

Music, Books, Collectibles, gifts and more.  Well laid out and easy to get lost here for a few hours!
5331 S Blvd
Charlotte, NC 28217
Asheville · Chimney Rock · Linville · Outer Banks

Travel: My NC

from-the-lake-to-the-mountain

My state is so beautiful.  To the east we have beaches and to the west we have mountains.  Truly, something for everyone.  If  you come visit, don’t miss these bright spots:

  • Grandfather Mountain: A mountain that is over 300 million years old and rising nearly 6000 feet above sea level is right here in North Carolina!  Enjoy the mile high swinging bridge, walking and hiking to see the wild animals, and the nature museum!  Definitely one of my favorite places.  For more info: Grandfather Mountain

  • Biltmore Estate:  This home is the largest private residence in the United States.  Built in 1895, this 250 room French Renaissance Chateau boasts 175,000 square feet!  On a tour, not only will you get to see this gorgeous home, but you’ll see the beautiful gardens, visit the winery on site and explore the village.  I recommend you come at Christmas when the estate is decorated.  For more information: https://www.biltmore.com/

  • Chimney Rock: Do you like magnificent views?  Well, you need to get over to Chimney Rock.  Hiking, animal den for learning and even animal encounters, rock climbing, music and checking out the gorgeous flowers: just a few of the activities that await on your mountain adventure.  For more info: https://www.chimneyrockpark.com/

  • The Outer Banks: The Outer Banks are islands right off of the coast separating the mainland from the Atlantic Island. Special because of their beauty, lighthouses and plenty of wildlife, people flock here to enjoy the wide open sea views and diving to see the ship wrecks off shore.  Life is slower here and in some places the population is sparse.  Come here to relax!

Clingman’s Dome: At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The observation tower on the summit of Clingmans Dome offers spectacular 360° views of the Smokies and beyond for visitors willing to climb the steep half-mile walk to the tower at the top. On clear days views expand over 100 miles. Unfortunately, air pollution often limits viewing distances to under 20 miles. It’s seven miles to the end of Clingmans Dome Road and there are scenic pullouts with endless views of ridges and valleys along the way. The road ends in a large parking area from which a 0.5-mile trail leads to the summit. The trail is paved but steep and leads to an observation tower on top. For more information, visit: Clingman’s Dome

Charlotte · Clarkesville GA · Denver · Hickory · Myrtle Beach · Nashville

Best of Restaurants: Breakfast

The most important meal of the day, yo

Eggs Benedict and Strawberry Nutella Crepes at Croissants Bakery in Myrtle Beach

Eggs Benedict, Potato Casserole and Ambrosia
Strawberry and Nutella Crepe

Biscuits and Jelly from Loveless Cafe in Nashville

Acai Bowl with Fruit from Bowl’d Berries in Denver, NC

Hashbrowns from Hart and Soul Cafe in Hickory, NC

Ham, Cheese and Mushroom Omelet from Sautee Trail Cafe in Clarkesville, GA

Eggs Benedict at Bistro La Bon in Charlotte, NC

Biscuits and Gravy from Watusi in Hilton Head, SC

French Toast from Citrus, the Diner in Denver, NC

Charlotte · Cramerton · Hickory · Huntersville · Lincolnton · Miramar Beach · Mooresville · Myrtle Beach · Raleigh · Restaurants

The Best of Restaurants: Soups

Soups are a wonderful judge of a cook.  I love a restaurant that serves a homemade soup packed with flavor.  Here are some of the best I’ve tried.

Clam Chowder from Fresh Chef in Mooresville.  Creamy and clearly made with love.  The best clam chowder I’ve ever eaten.

Lobster Bisque at Fourk in Hickory, NC

Broccoli Cheese Soup from Croissants Bakery in Myrtle Beach.  Clearly homemade, creamy and cheesy.

Chicken Salad Croissant, Broccoli Cheddar Soup & Ambrosia Salad

Tomato Basil Soup from Fatz in Lincolnton, NC

Whiskey Chicken Gumbo at Citrus Diner in Denver, NC

 Miso Soup at Shan Kishi in Miramar Beach, FL

Curry Kick Soup Noodles from Kung Foo Noodle in Huntersville

Chef-Foraged Cream of Mushroom Bisque with pine needle gremolata and a slice of truffled grilled cheese at Heirloom in Charlotte, NC

Hot and Sour Soup at Asian Garden in Cramerton, NC

Tom Kha Chicken Soup from Sushi O in Raleigh

French Onion Soup from WiseGuys in Hilton Head, SC

French onion soup from Choplin’s

Pho from Pho NC in Cornelius, NC

Artichoke Soup from the McNinch House in Charlotte, NC

Tomato Basil Bisque from Mi Amiche in Mooresville, NC

Charlotte · Cornelius · Denver · Hickory · Lincolnton · Micanopy FL · Mooresville · Morganton · Myrtle Beach · Shelby · Winston-Salem

Best of Restaurants: Sandwiches

Not your girlfriend’s sandwich.

Chicken Salad Croissant from Croissant’s Bakery in Myrtle Beach

Chicken Salad Croissant, Broccoli Cheddar Soup & Ambrosia Salad

Club Sandwich and Pulled Pork Ban Mi from Hatch in Hickory

Club Sandwich at Village Tavern in Winston Salem

Smoked Turkey Club Sandwich at Crepe Cellar

The Cuban at Sports Page in Denver, NC

Chicken Salad Sandwich from Harvest Moon Grille in Lincolnton, NC

Basil Grilled Chicken Sandwich at The Crispy Crepe in Charlotte

Hot Fried Chicken at Root & Vine in Morganton, NC

Cuban Sandwich at Root and Vine in Morganton, NC

The Cuban at Old Florida Cafe in Micanopy, FL

Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich from Moyers Lakeside Eatery in Mooresville, NC

Wagyu Meatloaf Sandwich from Barrel and Fork in Cornelius

Turkey and Ham Sub from Heavenly Hoagie in Mooresville, NC

Philly Cheesesteak from JackBeagles in Mount Holly

Chicken Katsu Banh Mi from CO in Charlotte

Cuban Sandwich from J Bird’s Deli in Shelby, NC

Asheville · Boone · Charlotte · Davidson · Denver · Gaffney SC · Hickory · Huntersville · Lincolnton · Mooresville · Myrtle Beach · Savannah · Statesville · Troutman

Best of Restaurant Desserts

Chocolate Souffle’ at Aix en Provence in Charlotte

Creme Brulee at Baron’s Steakhouse in Myrtle Beach

Roasted Apple Galette at Kindred in Davidson

Chocolate Layer Cake at Twisted Oak Bar and Grill in Statesville, NC

Rolled Ice Cream at Below Zero in Savannah, GA

Apple Pie Wontons at The Cowfish in Charlotte, NC

S’Mores Trifle at 5 Church in Charlotte, NC

Brownie Sundae at Carolina Cones in Davidson, NC

Crepe Suzette from Crepe Cellar

Milk Chocolate Liquid Truffle from French Broad Chocolate Lounge in Asheville, NC

Pecan Pie a la mode at Alton’s Kitchen and Cocktails in Cornelius, NC

Coconut Cake from Chillfire in Denver, NC

Nutella and Strawberry Crepe from The Crispy Crepe in Charlotte

Apple Cobbler a la mode at Carolina Cafe in Gaffney, SC

Milk Bread Cinnamon Rolls at Kindred in Davidson

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Strawberry Basil Shortbread from Crafted Southern Speakeasy in Lincolnton, NC

Doughnuts from Reigning Doughnuts in Charlotte, NC

Bourbon Brioche Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce & Vanilla Ice Cream from Bistro La Bon in Charlotte

Bread Pudding from The Gamekeeper in Boone, NC

Fritti (dessert calzone) from Salty Caper in Mooresville

Coconut Cake from Highland Avenue in Hickory

Brownie Sundae from Whit’s Custard in Davidson

Triple Chocolate Cake at Pelligrino’s Trattoria in Troutman

Bread Pudding from Bricktop’s in Charlotte

Thicc Pie (Buttermilk Peach Custard) from The Goodyear House in Charlotte

Carrot Cake from Fin & Fino in Charlotte

Salted Caramel Truffle from Flock. Bistro in Mooresville

Nutella Budino from Link and Pin in Huntersville

Pumpkin Mousse from the McNinch House in Charlotte, NC

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake from 204 North Kitchen + Cocktails in Charlotte

Chocolate Layer Cake from Dogwood: A Southern Table in Charlotte

Cherry Pie from Supperland in Charlotte, NC

Sopapillas from Margaritas in Denver, NC

THE DOUGHNUT Diplomat cream, Heath bar crumble from Stoke in Charlotte

Ultimate Warm Vanilla Caramel Cake from Steak 48 in Charlotte, NC

Hot Lava Cake and Mini Apple Pies from Zhay’s in Lincolnton

Cannoli from Rocky’s Pizza in Huntersville, NC

Red Velvet Cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory in Charlotte, NC

Mysterious Mushroom from Mariposa in Charlotte, NC

Cheesecake from Capital Grille in Charlotte

Beignets & Pecan Pie from The Crunkleton in Charlotte

Lemon Cornmeal Cake from Rhubarb in Asheville

Asheville · Boone · Charleston SC · Charlotte · Cornelius · Davidson · Destin · Isle of Palms · Lincolnton · Mooresville · Morganton · Rock Hill SC · Savannah · Wilmington

Best of Restaurants: Appetizers

Appetizers are my very favorite part of the meal.  Not a big commitment, you can be adventurous and not break the bank.  Here is a list of my favorites:

Spinach and Artichoke Crostini from Crafted Southern Speakeasy in Lincolnton, NC

Caramelized Gnocchi from Aria Tuscan Grill

Fried Green Tomatoes at Huey’s Southern Eats in Isle of Palms

Mert’s Soul Rolls at Mert’s Heart and Soul in Charlotte

Homemade Lime Tortilla Chips served with Pineapple Mango Salsa from Caterer extraordinaire Food Junkie

Spinach and Artichoke Dip from Food Junkie

Filipino-style Pork Eggrolls with Spicy Apricot Dipping Sauce from Food Junkie

Funghi Repieni at Caruso’s in Mooresville

Pierogies from Twisted Oak Bar and Grill in Statesville, NC

IMG_3655

Manchego Skillet at Tybee Island Social Club in Tybee Island, GA

Warm Pimento Cheese & Jumbo Lump Crab Cake  from Tupelo Honey in Charlotte, NC

&

Oysters Rockefeller at the Oak Steakhouse in Charleston, SC

Shrimp Flatbread from 5 Church in Charlotte, NC

Stuffed Portabello Mushroom at Chillfire Grill in Denver, NC

Beggar’s Purse with Cream Cheese and Salmon, Rock Shrimp & Fried Calamari with Vegetables from Wasabi in Asheville

Smoked Tuna Dip from Louisiana Lagniappe

Prime Rib Stuffed Mushrooms from Alton’s Kitchen and Cocktails in Cornelius, NC

Escargot with Lemon and Sweet Pea Risotto from Flatiron Kitchen and Taphouse in Davidson

Crispy Pork Rinds with Pimiento Cheese and Valentina Hot Sauce from Root +Vine in Morganton

Shrimp Cocktail at the Pump House in Rock Hill, SC

Escargot at Gamekeeper in Boone, NC

Deviled Eggs and Millionaire’s Bacon from Bricktop’s in Charlotte

Crab Dip from Circa 1922 in Wilmington, NC

Butter Bean Spread and Marinated Shrimp from Goodyear House in Charlotte

 

Compressed Spiced Melon with Bluebird Farms Cured meats and shaved cheese from 158 on Main in Mooresville

Baked Brie Bites and Sausage Gravy Croquettes from Supperland in Charlotte

Deviled Eggs with Pickles, Aleppo, herb bacon salad from Stoke in Charlotte

SESAME-CHILI CAULIFLOWER FLORETS from Copper Modern Indian Cuisine in Charlotte

Chicken Empanadas from Havana 33 in Mooresville, NC

Fried Deviled Eggs from Zhay’s in Lincolnton

Mariposa Mezze Board from Mariposa in Charlotte

Spinach and Artichoke Dip from Mi Amiche in Mooresville