If you’re looking for Christmas gifts that show your Alabama state pride, look no further than at artist Sony Clemmons’s folk art. Her whimsical Alabama folk art ornaments, prints and textiles can be found in stores throughout North Alabama. [Read more…] about Sonya Clemmons tells inspiring southern stories through her artwork
I am always amazed at what captivates a child’s mind and attention. I took my six-year old niece to the McWane Science Center in downtown Birmingham yesterday, and although I had been there many times before, I had never really experienced it through the eyes of a child her age. She was mesmerized by all of the activities and opportunities for experiencing the center not even knowing it was really science she was experiencing. Even though I had to explain to her what some of the things were, she still got into the activities. We played tug of war, we road a bicycle to produce electricity, she pretended like she was looking for fossils in an archaeological dig site and she played in an “itty bitty city” complete with a farm and a cow that she could milk. She was so fascinated by the pretend grocery store and diner where she took my order for a sandwich and pizza. Of course the role she loved best was the check out clerk who rang up groceries on a cash register. She also liked the mirrors that distorted her face and body when she looked in them. She challenged me also to hit a target with a tennis ball by pulling a rope tied to a weighted ball.
It was also fun seeing her interact with other children who she didn’t know. She and a little girl decided to build a castle and play ground out of the building blocks provided in one area. Soon two little girls working together became three.
She barely ate lunch because she was having so much fun and I had fun watching her have fun. I am thrilled she had a chance to learn something and she didn’t even know it.
After playing for three hours, we ventured across the street to the new Pizitz Food Hall. I am still in awe of the transformation Birmingham is going through. Walking into the Food Hall and smelling aromas of the food and seeing how it is laid out really and truly made me feel like I was not in Birmingham, but then and stopped to catch myself and said “yes this is really in Birmingham. ” It’s a gorgeously renovated building. I was most excited to see Warby Parker, an eye glass store with a sustainable mission, as one of the retailers of the building. I purposefully took my Warby Parker glasses with me to have them adjusted, corny I know (they really did need adjusted), but it was my excuse to go in to meet the people and to see the store. Afterwards as promised, my niece and I got ice cream from Lichita’s a Food Hall tenant whose “paletas are reminiscent of southern Mexico and are created using fresh fruit and quality ingredients from farmers markets and local sources.” (From the Pizitz Food Hall website).
It was such a fun day with the best six-year old I know.
My Christmas break usually lasts for about two weeks. It is a time for me to rest and relax with no worries about deadlines. I spend a lot of time with family and it’s typically very low key. My dogs love for me to be at home, because they get the constant attention they so lack when I am at work. This year, however, I decided to cap off the holiday season by taking my dad to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, Louisiana where Auburn was playing Oklahoma on Jan. 2. Some friends that I sit beside at the Auburn home games had made plans to go to the Sugar Bowl after Auburn’s bowl game was announced. I really didn’t think much about going until I found out I could get tickets to the game cheaper through Stub Hub. Plus I was able to get a relatively reasonable price on a hotel room through Booking.com, so the decision to go was made.
It had been about five years since my last trip to New Orleans. A lot of people don’t particularly like New Orleans because of the 24/7 party atmosphere. I on the other hand, love the city, mainly because of the food, culture and music. I used to visit New Orleans every year, but since Hurricane Katrina I have not visited as often as I would like. The last time I was in New Orleans was in May 2011 around my birthday. I have always wanted to visit the city during the Christmas holidays. I’ve seen photos of the New Orleans hotels decorated for the holidays on social media, so I knew the holiday season would be beautiful. So not only was I going to the game but able to spend time in New Orleans during the holiday.
New Orleans has many historic hotels especially on Canal Street, the main street, and in the French Quarter. My dad and I arrived early in the evening on New Year’s Day. After checking into our hotel in the Garden District, we took the trolley to meet up with our friends at The Roosevelt Hotel. It was one of the hotels that I had seen on social media, the lobby was gorgeous. We had drinks in The Fountain Lounge and then walked to the French Quarter for dinner. We ended up eating at Felix’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar on Iberville Street in the Quarter. The restaurant is known for its charbroiled oysters, and I can testify that they do melt in your mouth. Being my father’s daughter, I struck up a conversation with the table next to me and met a woman who was a cancer survivor. She was vacationing in New Orleans for New Year’s Eve before starting a PR job in Las Vegas with MGM Entertainment. It’s funny how you meet interesting people when traveling. I have vowed to keep in touch with her.
On Monday morning, my dad and I ate breakfast at the Trolley Stop Cafe in the Garden District before meeting up with our friends. (I highly recommend the restaurant!) After we caught up with them, we hung out a while at the Marriott Hotel where the Auburn football team was staying. We saw former players and cheerleaders and, of course, Aubie the Auburn mascot. My dad stayed at the hotel while my friends and I walked around the French Quarter again. We went to see the Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone. Part of the experience at the bar is that it slowly turns around the room. After walking around Bourbon Street we returned to the Marriott and got ready for the game.
The game didn’t turn out exactly as I hoped it would, but the night did. After the game we ended up at the world famous Cafe Du Monde for coffee and beignets. The trip was fun despite Auburn’s loss. Plus I was able to spend time with my dad and my Auburn friends who have become more like family.
Most who love Birmingham, love the city’s iconic Ironman who has been sitting on top of Red Mountain since 1936. Vulcan is the largest cast iron statute in the world! Renovations to Vulcan park and the statue were made during the years of 1999-2004. I love attending meetings at the park and taking visitors to the statute. I was there last week for an organization meeting. Vulcan Park and Museum also recently renovated and expanded their gift shop “The Anvil,” and just yesterday the Birmingham Kiwanis Club announced a $4 Million gift to expand the north side of the park. These are exciting times for a the City that continues to be magical. See plans for the expansion at the Birmingham Business Journal . To plan your visit go to Visit Vulcan .
I love music and anyone who knows me, knows this. In fact, I once said, if I had to do it all over again, my full time job would be in PR for either a record label or for bands. (Well I have worked with bands on their PR strategies in the past). I have to say that my love of music comes naturally, just riding in the car with my dad one could not help, but love music. I grew up listening to the sounds of Motown that’s the only music my dad allowed to be played in his car. I learned to appreciate Country music at my ma’am maw Kennedy’s house. When I stayed with my grandparents during the summers, our ritual was to watch The Grand Ole Opry reruns.
The City of Birmingham used to host a three-day music festival called City Stages and I would plan my summers around the event because I attended every night. The event was held in downtown Birmingham and included all genres of music. The 21-year event ended in 2009 after some financial trouble. After the event ended, to me it has felt like the City has been missing something with no major music festival to attend until last year when the Sloss Fest Entertainment and Music Festival began. The event was held at the historic landmark Sloss Furnaces and it didn’t disappoint. I got the opportunity to attend this year. The festival was a learning opportunity for me because I had not listened to the music of some of the bands that played.
Alabama has been on a fast track in the music industry lately so, it was exciting to again see Birmingham on display in the form of a music festival. Our city was filled to the brim with visitors from all over who converged to listen to bands such as Ben Harper, Death Cab for Cutie, Dylan LeBlanc and Ray Lamontagne.
The event took me back to the days when you could hardly move through the crowd at City Stages. In my opinion, an event like Sloss Fest only continues the positive renaissance and reboot of my hometown in the last couple of years. I tell people all of the time that I was a volunteer on committees for Operation New Birmingham and the things happening now are the things we WANTED to happen all those years ago when we talked about our city during committee meetings. How wonderful it is to see the transformation. Birmingham continues to receive accolades from all over about the quality of life, food scene and the strides it’s made in economic growth. Most who visit and spend any time in Birmingham come to know this, something I knew all along.
Proudly, I am one of the biggest cheerleaders of Birmingham, so my hat’s off to the organizers of Sloss Fest. Thank you also for bringing (back) a great music festival that adds more Magic to the Magic City.