Venti Moonshine Latte

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     So there we are, on the front porch of a friend’s friend of a friend. There is a child’s bike in the yard, a dog sitting among piles of moving boxes on the couch, a coffee table with no glass, and a gun in the bedroom. A jar of moonshine and a pile of playing cards sit on the table, under the glow of a bare light bulb. Things had gotten very weird at Starbucks.      But let me back up. Sometimes, as a young educator, new to Alabama and a tiny bit bored with living out in the woods miles and miles from what was once considered acceptable civilization, a trip to Starbucks sounds nice. When the nearest business is a gas station with slot machines featuring displays of sequined pantsuits that...

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A Northern Transplant and Her Chickens...

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     As a new resident of Alabama and a total foreigner to the land below the Mason Dixon line, I learned quickly to disregard the suggestions of my GPS, always ask about the origins of the meat cooking over the campfire, and to be wary of bags that move on their own. I became familiar with all varieties of a Waffle House hashbrown, and figured out grits (sort of). I went to my first crawfish boil and figured out how to eat the tiny lobsters, and casually observed a timber rattlesnake without running away or even flinching. I drank more sweet tea than is recommended. I became accustomed to the fake deer head that hung over the fireplace and then adorned it with Mardi Gras beads and Christmas lights. I was as near to...

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$10 Travel: Aiken, SC

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     Got ten buckaroos and a hankerin’ for travel?      Take that Andrew Hamilton and head to Aiken, South Carolina for some good eats and a stroll through a small southern city with some serious old time charm. Less than an hour from the capitol of South Carolina and right next door to Augusta, Georgia, this Southern city is accessible and convenient for a day or weekend trip on the cheap. Hopelands Gardens1700 Whiskey Road, 10 a.m. to Sunset  Price: Free      Aiken is known for its thoroughbreds, horse races, and polo, and painted horse statues decorate the downtown. Veer onto a dirt road off downtown Whiskey Avenue, and you’ll inevitably pass several large and well kept stables and racing tracks. Continue down Whiskey to Hopelands Gardens, a public formal garden donated to the...

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Bubba & the Bobcat

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     I’m not sure I can do this story justice, so I’ll relay the facts as best I can. One really had to be there, in the woods of Northern Alabama, sharing conversation and campfire-cooked wild animal, to truly appreciate the enormity of the event.      “The Event,” of course, was a loud and boisterous man, all too appropriately named Bubba, a “flatlander” from central Alabama, conveniently deposited to our front porch one Friday afternoon as a friend of a friend joining the night’s camping trip. He emerged from a new model dark blue pickup truck with an open Budweiser in hand and an unlit Pall Mall in the corner of his mouth. In his substantial shadow, a diminutive woman in a flannel shirt and Victoria’s Secret sweatpants followed: Bubba’s Old Lady.      As...

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A First Experience with Fried Okra...

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     It was my first month in Alabama. Time for exploring, seeing new places, and trying new things! A lifetime in the Northeast made everything here seem new, exciting, different. And it was!      But after making the long journey South, my old Honda was tired and unreliable. Gas was expensive, my map skills were non-existent, and my GPS didn’t recognize the dirt roads that surrounded me (and, on more than one occasion, directed me to turn into one of the many man-made lakes in Northern Alabama). When a co-worker offered to take me along on a day trip, I agreed. I was lured into the event with a picture of a riverfront locale in a secluded Alabama town, where we would be representing the environmental center we worked for.   Turns...

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