Detroit- The Great American Road Trip


Belle Isle

I truly expected to have recounted all of our tales from the Great American Road Trip before this week. I will do my best to round everything up in this post. It is not that I don’t enjoy writing about what we did and who we saw, it is a pleasure to share these things with you. However, we are in another phase and have embarked on our next adventure. I want to share it with you as soon as possible.

Detroit has received bad press for a very long time. I am glad that I have come across good news about Detroit many times in the past. Because of that, I went looking for the good things. I received what I was looking for. My uncle and his family live right across the street from Detroit. It was rather a simple process to go and visit a few of the nice things going on in Detroit.

I am always impressed with community gardens. While I did not see many this time around, we did have the opportunity to visit the Belle Isle state Park. The fountains were working, the wetlands were clean and doing their job. The police were out recording a public service message and we were able to participate in the filming. I don’t know if I had more fun with it or Bean.

We went to the Detroit Institute of the Arts, or DIA, and passed a lovely day there. One of the things that impressed me the most was that the entrance is free to the residents of Detroit and a few other suburbs. I know that museums need to make money for upkeep and new exhibits, but the price of many museums keep so many people out who might otherwise be exposed to new ideas and a new world. I am always grateful for discounts and free days at museums. Chicago does a great job at making their museum’s accessible to many, I am impressed with Detroit for doing the same.


Detroit Institute of the Arts

While there was so much to admire in the DIA, Bean and her cousin liked the I spy game they have throughout the museum to keep the younger children engaged. They also had a great time at the table of Louis XIV. It was an interactive exhibit where you sit down and pretend to have dinner in the manner of the Royals living in the Palace of Versailles. They brought out many interesting dishes and we changed places at the table a few times to see what everyone else was eating. Another exhibit that seemed perfect for our visit was the American Road Trip. Many photos were collected from different artist who made road trips throughout the United States. They should have asked me to contribute, I have many photos to share!

Michigan Science Center and the Outdoor Adventure Center were perfect for the children…and me too, if I am being honest. Both of these places had so many interactive exhibits that it would have taken a few days to do them all. We were not going to be in Detroit for a long time, so maybe that is why we tried to do both in one day. WOW! I liked both of these places, but I believe that my favorite was the Outdoor Adventure Center. They actually brought the outside in and explained it all. There was the station that contained animal skins, bones and scat. Why do children love poop? The kids also loved the simulated four-wheeler, mountain bike and snowmobile activities. If there wasn’t a long line of children waiting to take a turn, I think I would have jumped on all of them!


Arts, Beats and Eats

We spent time with Uncle Darius and his family at the Arts, Eats and Beats in Royal Oak, Michigan. I was there for the eats. I knew I would not be at a festival with funnel cake, turkey legs and various other greasy foods for a long time, so I happily ate some of it all. Bean rode her first REAL amusement park ride. She has been on so many carousels since the beginning of our travels, I don’t really count those. This time she went on the tower dive, or something like that, where you slowly go up a very tall tower and then it shoots you down to the bottom real fast. I have an excuse about why I can’t ride anything like that, I get terrible motion sickness. Bean went up with her cousin. My poor baby, halfway up, her face changed and she was terrified. She began screaming and crying, but she made it through the ride. When she got off, she ran into my arms and said, “I don’t ever want to ride anything like that again!” I thought, “Yay, I don’t have to go take you to Six Flags.”

We had a lovely time in Detroit and left in the middle of the night again. I couldn’t figure out how to get my GPS working in the rental car for the longest time, so it was much later when we pulled out than I had originally planned. I don’t know if it was better or worse not having the GPS working. The directions had me driving down dark country roads wondering if I was going to make it to a town in time to get gas. We did make it, and when the sun rose in the morning, it was truly breathtaking to see the mountains of Virginia around us. I will tell you about it next week…

Minnesota- The Great American Road Trip



I really enjoy driving at night. I know it is not everyone’s cup of tea, but for me a night drive is like a meditation. When we left Texas, we took off for Minnesota in the middle of the night. The drive was pleasant, without any surprises and my favorite part was of course, the sunrise the next morning.

Once we arrived in Minnesota, we had the pleasure of staying with Uncle Michael and Charlene. Bean loves to spend time with Uncle Michael. The last time she was with him, they stayed in a hotel in downtown Chicago with his twin granddaughters, Bean’s cousins, and they had a great time. We saw them most recently at Thanksgiving 2015.

Bean loves the humongous stuffed animals that Uncle Michael has at his house for the children. She loves the enormous pool in the backyard, along with the swing set. I believe her favorite thing is the basement with the TV and table games. When Uncle Michael told us he had prepared our room, Bean was adamant that she wanted to sleep in the basement. So that is where we slept…with the TV. Bean knows that we don’t have a TV at our house so she takes every opportunity to have movie night every night when we are travelling, if she can.

The two most memorable things that we did in Minnesota were spend time with Uncle Michael and Charlene, and visit Paisley Palace. Charlene was recently appointed as a judge. I have never had the opportunity to speak with a judge on a personal level. It was fascinating for me. Like most jobs, there is a training period. She had lots of books to review with many laws and procedures to memorize. She also had a training period and another judge who helped her with the work with which she was not familiar. I would have enjoyed spending more time talking about the process, but this was a time of study for Charlene and not a time of relaxation.


Paisley Palace

On a bright and sunny day, we went out to visit Paisley Palace. To my surprise, it was situated in an industrial park. I only became interested in Prince a few weeks before his death. At my former job, the residents enjoyed singing Purple Rain since they were big fans of the music from the 1980’s. I knew how he stopped going by a name for a few years and not much else. In the weeks before his death, I became interested in him due to my interest in Misty Copeland. They worked together on a few projects and I wanted to know what type of music artist could collaborate with a ballerina. I learned a lot about him. It was a shock when I heard he died.

Paisley Palace was a monstrous looking hulk of a building. It was not only a home but also a recording studio. We did not see the inside of the building. We were able to see the outpouring of love fans from all around the world left as a tribute to the way he touched their lives. I feel that was important to notice. It didn’t really matter if I enjoyed his music or not. What mattered is that what he did made a difference in the life of others.
That is also how I want to live my life and why I was glad Bean was able to learn a little about “the Prince” as well.

Our visit to Minnesota lasted shorter than our visit to Texas because we had to get to Chicago to see our newest family member…Gabriella. It was a joy to be in our city again for a few days and see a few of our old friends. In the short time that I was there, I attended a picnic, a birthday party, went to dinner, met the baby, and hung out at the park. It was a beautiful whirlwind stop. Early on the morning of the last day, our dear friend Patti took us downtown to catch our Megabus. We were off to our next destination!

Texas- The Great American Road Trip

Cracker Barrel

Rockin’ with Grandmama

I am so glad that at the beginning of our trip I told Bean, “It is summertime, so it will be hot wherever we go.” It helped her to be mentally prepared for what was ahead and it certainly helped me. By the time we reached Texas, the temperature had reached the hundreds. It was not over one hundred degrees every day, but it was close. I do not like the summer much because growing up in Texas, I remember feeling my skin fry every time I went outside. I normally tell people I am not a piece of meat, but you couldn’t help but feel like that is exactly what you are in Texas. I was mentally prepared this time and Texas turned out to be a good experience.

One of the number one things that I wish for Bean, whenever we travel, is for her to have someone to play with. I have told her many times that she will not get sisters and brothers from me, but we can always find playmates. In Texas, we were very lucky that her favorite aunt came down to visit her and brought her older cousin. She also had another cousin who lived in town that she could play with a few times a week. Bean had a great time!

Besides being with Grandmama and Granddaddy, whom she adores, Bean went to Chuck E. Cheese’s for the first time. My brother also took her to McDonald’s, something I would never do, and that she will always remember as something super special. She ate at many restaurants, an experience on the top of her list. Bean also visited the local Yogurtland numerous times because her mother loves the salted caramel and peanut butter frozen yogurt so much that she had to go many times during her stay! The day we spent to the pool with Auntie Aruna and “the pregnant Candice” was almost like a day in heaven for Bean, especially since she was having a girls day out like a big girl.

While the time in Texas was really special since I was able to be with my family and friends that I don’t see often, there were two things that really made Texas one of our best stops. The first is that I started running again after almost ten years. The other is that I met another mom, minimalist and myspoclife blog reader.

When I arrived in Texas, I called my good friend Aruna and let her know I finally made it into town. She was glad to hear the news and let me know her schedule for the coming weeks so that we could make time to see each other. When I heard that she was going to run a 5K the following week, something clicked inside of me and I felt like I could do it. Bean,Grandmama and I had been getting up every morning and going for a two mile walk in the park near the house. I haven’t been running for exercise in about ten years for many reasons, but suddenly I felt like I was ready to try it again. My mom and I went shoe shopping. Bean was happy to tag along. I found a pair that I felt I could live with, not too big, not too colorful, just something simple.

The first day I went out, I was overly eager. It was 85 degrees at eight in the morning and for whatever reason, I felt that I could jog most of our normal route. I took off, and halfway through I felt like I could vomit. I kept going. I did intervals of walking and jogging. I was so proud of myself when I reached the end. I was also so tired that I just wanted to lay down on the ground and sleep. Then I went to the car and discovered that I had no keys. Somewhere during my run around the path, the keys fell out of my pocket and I didn’t hear them. As tired as I was, I had to go around the 1 mile path again in search of my keys. I began to ask everyone I saw if they had seen them lying around. A gentleman told me that another lady found them and she was ahead of me on the path. Imagine being bone tired and hearing the news that you can’t stop,but must instead climb another hill before you can even have a break. I almost gave up on running that day.

Fort Worth Fun Run

The Watermelon Run 5K

I am glad that I didn’t. Ten days after that event, Aruna and I participated in the Watermelon Run 5K. It was my first fun run in a long,long time. I had a great time. We started at the back with a friend of Aruna’s who was walking with her three legged dog. We then decided we didn’t want to be the last ones to finish the race and we started to put some effort into our run. The mornings I spend jogging around in 85 degree weather paid off. I felt at ease outside with all of the other people who had been running for much longer than I. It is one of the proudest moments so far from our road trip.

The second most memorable moment during our time in Texas was meeting Denise and Darby. When I was in Georgia, Denise contacted me to see if I was passing by her way in Texas. It just so happens that she doesn’t live so far from my parents. We arranged to me in a town that was somewhat between the two of us, Grapevine. While I have been to the gigantic mall in Grapevine many times when I was younger, I have never been to the historic downtown. Denise, Darby and I met one day during the week and had a lovely time talking and getting to know each other. While I don’t remember the name of the coffee shop, I do remember that they had the most delicious almond croissant that I have tasted outside of Paris.

Minimalist visit in Grapevine

Grapevine with Minimalists

We all decided to take a walk through the center of town and explore what was there. I truly admire Denise and her family. She and her husband have six children that they have and are continuing to home school. Denise is currently the only one who is practicing minimalism, but she is influencing her family. I feel that if your husband and kids want to accompany you to see tiny houses, you are doing a great job in sharing the benefits of minimalism. We were able to talk about one of my favorite books, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Darby was kind enough to make a video for us. Unfortunately, I am have had trouble with uploading videos so it is not yet available on our YouTube channel. However,I am thrilled to have met other minimalist. Our encounter uplifted my spirit and filled me with joy.

The point of the blog is for me to interact with other minimalist, single parents, world travelers, and just make new friends. It doesn’t matter if you are one of the above or not, the most important thing is to surround myself and my daughter with kind, generous people. If I am in your area and you would like to meet, I would be please to meet you. If I am not in your area, because I am currently traveling quite far and wide, I am always open to having a chat. Let’s connect. Feel free to contact me by leaving a comment, sending me an email to candace at myspoclife dot com, subscribing, and liking our Facebook page. I look forward to talking to you!

Baton Rouge, Louisiana- The Great American Road Trip

Atchafalaya Basin

The last wilderness swamp tour through the Atchafalaya Basin

Louisiana has a special place in my heart. It is where I was born. More importantly, it is where my brothers and I spent time every year as children during summer vacation. We stayed at Grandma and Grandpa’s house and played with our cousins making the best of memories. In all of the years we visited, we never made it to southern Louisiana. In the past few years, I have made it a priority to visit that area. It has become one of my favorite places in this part of the country. My cousin and her family moved there in the past few years and they welcomed us into their home in Baton Rouge.

Briefly here are a few highlights of the trip:

Atchafalaya Basin

No swamp monsters on this tour.

The swamp tour: It was a beautiful day when we went to the Atchafalya basin to take our boat trip into the swamp. We were met by a young tour guide from and the other passengers, who also happened to be on a road trip. With the weather being so warm, the only thing I feared was being eaten alive by mosquitoes. I made sure that Bean and I were covered head to toe in our homemade mosquito repellent. We put on life jackets and we were ready. The guide told us to count to 3 and then he revved the engine and took off. I think I screamed! I didn’t expect a speed boat ride through the swamp! Once I got used to the speed, which really wasn’t that fast, I was able to relax and enjoy all of the wildlife that he pointed out. We saw so many varieties of birds, invasive plants and a few alligators. The most amazing site of all were the cypress trees. Adam explained that even the ones that we could see that may look only a hundred or so years old could be as many as five hundred or more years. They were so majestic and beautiful. I highly recommend a tour with this family owned tour company as they are genuine and care about the land and the area around it. They are involved in a project called the Atchafalaya Basin Keepers. It is much needed, especially when you realize the beauty of the area on one hand and the greed of the oil companies on the other…but that is another story.

Avery Island

Just one beautiful part of Avery Island Louisiana

Avery Island: Aunt Verna took us to Avery Island before we left the southern Louisiana area. She told us how my grandfather took all of the family down there from Shreveport so that they could see the natural science and history of Louisiana. He was a natural history teacher with six kids, I can only imagine what an adventure that turned out to be. What a beautiful magical place! Avery Island is the place where Tabasco sauce began. If you are a fan of Tabasco sauce, I would highly recommend a tour of this place. The original owner crafted the island into a place of great beauty. Of course there were alligators, which I never saw, but also an aviary, a Buddha on a hill in the Japanese garden, picnic areas, and acres of regal oak trees. It was an experience worth going back to Louisiana to see.

Shreveport Boardwalk

Bean’s favorite ride with her favorite cousin.

On the weekend we traveled up to Shreveport to see another cousin and her family. Bean had such a great time. She planted flowers, which Maria is still waiting to see bloom. She played with the super friendly Poodle puppy that followed Marie around like he was afraid to lose her. Maria and Bean blew bubbles, colored and road the carousel together. Bean had a blast. My favorite part of this leg of the trip was the food. We were headed out of the Real South and for some reason, something clicked inside of me, reminding me that I would not have this food for a long time. I started eating everything that was offered to me: Popeye’s chicken and biscuits, Southern Maid Donuts, red beans and rice, greens and hot water corn bread, grits and eggs and biscuits and gravy, peach cobbler, and more that I can’t even remember. I know that even though I was there a short time, I ate like I was there for months. It was so good and I have no regrets! It was finger lickin’ good!

The only occasion in Louisiana that caused me some concern was when we were travelling through the Baton Rouge area. It was at the same time as the gunman killed the three policemen. As my cousin Lauren and I were driving down the road, we notice the policemen had pulled over and surrounded two young African American males. While it isn’t unusual to see this, it was rather alarming that there were only 2 young men and maybe twenty police officers. It didn’t look good so we decided to lend our support to the young men by just being there and taking pictures, which we did. We didn’t stay that long as the cops started dispersing shortly thereafter. Once we got home, we turned on the television and discovered they were “persons of interest” in the shooting in Baton Rouge. They actually just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Both were calm and behaving in a non threatening manner. It actually touched me how one young man was standing there, rocking from side to side and singing a song while he was in handcuffs. It would have broken my heart if I had heard he was shot When he clearly was behaving appropriately.

That was the one dark spot on our time in Louisiana. As I travel, I travel as an individual, a human, a single parent looking after her child. I don’t go outside thinking that I am a person of color who has to watch what I am doing so that I am not shot down. Unfortunately, while in Louisiana, all I could think of was that I was a female with brown skin and would I be treated differently even though I was just traveling through. It did weigh heavy on me, but over all, we had a lovely time in the South.

If you have been to Avery Island, on a swamp tour, tried Southern Maid Donuts or just enjoyed a drive through Louisiana, let me know about it in the comments below!

The Great American Road Trip- In Pictures

We have been extremely busy the last few weeks trying to tie up a few remaining loose ends and make sure that we are ready for the end of our road trip. I told you I was behind on posting our adventures, and that will be the case for about two more weeks. This week I wanted to share with you some of my favorite pictures from our trip so far. If you don’t remember reading about a location mentioned, don’t worry, I will get to it! Enjoy!

Chinatown Chicago

Hanging in Chinatown with our good friend Sharon!

Greyhound to Miami

Riding Greyhound, on the road to Miami!

Miami road trip

Iguana going for a swim in Miami

Tampa Aquarium

Jasmin and ‘Ka’ at the Tampa, Florida Aquarium

Atchafalaya Basin

Atchafalaya Basin, Louisiana on a swamp tour.

Dallas World Aquarium

Dallas World Aquarium


Headed to Paisley Park in Minnesota


Thinking about Detroit

Where do you think we are now?

Huntsville, Alabama- The Great American Road Trip


Alabama farmland

Honestly, I have never heard of a good story coming out of Alabama. I believe it has to do with the past: slavery, Civil Right and the following era. I know that good things happen in Alabama. I know nice people live there. I am only stating my experience and limited knowledge. As we exited the highway and began to drive the country road into Huntsville, my mind opened. Alabama is beautiful!

I had the music turned up, my hands keeping time to the rhythm as I sang along to my favorite songs. I started paying attention to the scenery around me and I couldn’t believe it. I looked at the GPS and thought, this isn’t Alabama. No one told me that Alabama is so scenic. No one EVER mentioned it. There were beautiful rolling green hills, wide open green pastures and the sky was an amazing blue.

When I was a teenager, I went to a church camp every year. My friends and I would drive 24 hours straight from Texas to Florida. We passed through Alabama every year. We met people from Alabama. All the trips I have made through Alabama, I am baffled that I never noticed the beauty of this state. I suppose we were more focused on jokes, music and food.

We made it to my aunt’s house and I immediately let her know how impressed I was. She, my dad and their family grew up in St. Louis. She moved south twenty years ago for a job and decided to stay for her retirement. Knowing I had never been to her home, she was kind enough to offer an invitation. The first thing that excited Bean was the animals because she loves them. Aunt Lo had two cats and a dog as the official pets. She also keeps the neighborhood birds fed and watered. They spend time every morning and afternoon amusing themselves in the bird bath, much to the delight of my aunt and Bean and to the chagrin of the cats, especially Peabody.

I have never met a cat similar to Peabody. I have seen cats interact with humans, but Peabody was special. This cat is big, fat, black and white and has ATTITUDE. He doesn’t like anyone. When I first arrived, he greeted me with a meow and came up to me and sniffed my legs. I thought I would be the first person that Peabody would tolerate. He let me know quickly that was not going to happen. He hissed and snarled. I have never seen cats snarl like that. He was like something out of a horror movie the way he hissed; the demon cat. He also took swipes at people if they came to close. I made sure to let Bean know that if she wanted to stay safe, she needed to stay away from Peabody, no matter how much she likes cats. Thankfully, we made it through our stay with no injuries.

Not knowing what there was to do in Huntsville, we went to the visitor’s center. The women there were very kind and welcoming. They gave us a list of places to visit along with coupons to help with the cost. Since we went in the afternoon, we only had time to take a walk downtown. Bean enjoys going downtown, however, she thinks they are all like Chicago. What a surprise she experienced. We parked downtown on a quiet, tree-lined street and took off walking.

Big Spring Park Huntsville Alabama

Big Spring Park

Big Spring Park

Big Spring Park

I am not sure if it was the heat, the time of day, or just the location, but there wasn’t much going on or many people out and about. There were many quaint old buildings, a few shops and restaurants. Just when I was getting discouraged about the area, we decided to walk one more block and turn around. Through the trees, we heard the sound of running water, people and birds. Bean and I took off to explore and we found Big Spring Park! Big Spring Park was beautiful! It was the original site of the water source that Huntsville was built around. There was a great big waterfall, a stream filled with goldfish and people lounging on the stairs enjoying the beauty of it all. It was a lucky find on our part. Big Spring Park seems like the place to be for the residents of Huntsville.

U. S. Space and Rocket Center

U, S. Space and Rocket Center

Our favorite attraction by far, was the U. S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Bean convinced Aunt Lo to join us for the morning at the Center and off we went. It was a bright and clear day when we arrived. The rockets were enormous and that thrilled Bean (and me too if I am honest). We participated in everything that we found. We tried out the earthquake simulator, the storm shelter, the rocket landing simulator and more. We were given a tour of the mock space station. I loved it. There are space camps year round at the Center and I imagined coming back and participating in the future. I could imagine floating around in the zero gravity room pretending I was in outer space, eating space food. Alas, Bean was not as impressed as I was. We took pictures, Bean road her first amusement park ride and we learned more about space and the space program than I will ever be able to remember. It was a blast!

I love Korea restaurant

I enjoyed my bi bim bap!

As we travel from place to place, I try to arrive with no expectations. I like to go as a blank slate, ready for the experiences to write themselves on our memories. Huntsville was a pleasant experience. As my aunt and her friends said, most people moved there from somewhere else. This added much more cultural diversity than I previously imagined. For example, I had a delicious Bi Bim Bap from I Love Korea restaurant. The clay pot, the sizzle of the hot food, Bean trying to use chopsticks, the Korean language being spoken at the next table was surreal. I enjoy surprises and Huntsville was a good one.

Have you traveled through Alabama and discovered a place that just made your trip worthwhile? Share it in the comments! Next stop, Baton Rouge.

Atlanta 2- The Great American Road Trip

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One of the things that I like the most about Atlanta is the proximity of other beautiful southern cities. Savannah is not far away, as well as Chattanooga and Charleston. I remember my favorable impression of these cities from our visits years ago. The one that impressed me the most was Charleston. Aunt Margaret and I decided that we would take a weekend trip up to see this lovely city.

Even though we knew that we would be visiting Charleston, we kinda waited until the last minute to make any plans. We got in the car, let the windows down and turned up the music. This was a different experience for Bean who is usually takes turn with me in choosing the songs we want to listen to, the games we will play and if she is able to watch a movie or not. Bean was so tired from the heat of summer and the busyness of our days that she decided to take a nap till we arrived. It always helps for her to hear that if she takes a nap, she will get there quicker.

Once we arrived in Charleston, we headed straight for the water. The visitor’s center was closed so there was no point in going there until the following morning. The tide was coming in and there was a great breeze coming in off of the ocean. Bean and I went across the street so she could climb the cannons and pose for pictures. Aunt Margaret soaked up the view, smell and feel of the water. It was all lovely and just what I remembered.

We headed into town to find hotel rooms and as a result of waiting until the last minute, we had trouble finding one right away. We finally found a room at a hotel. I went inside and there was a line of people waiting for a room. Some people left and the night attendant noticed me. She told me there wasn’t anything. I went outside to break the news to the others. I am so thankful we sat there a minute waiting for an idea because a few minutes later the same woman came outside and said someone had just cancelled a reservation and we could have it if we wanted it! That was exciting. We were able enjoy a great nights sleep in a comfortable bed. That is all we were asking for.

The next morning we stopped by the visitor’s center and noted a few places that we wanted to see, and then we took off walking. If you didn’t believe before that I like to walk, maybe you get the picture by now. I feel that it is one of the best ways to discover a place. Charleston is just too beautiful to spend the day in the car going from place to place. We walked some portions of the downtown historic area, we walked through neighborhoods, we walked along the waterfront, we walked everywhere. When we were tired of walking, we stopped in the park so that Aunt Margaret could soak up the beautiful waterfront views and Bean could play. She had a blast jumping on the cannons and the statues and making up stories. We walked so much that we decided it was necessary to find the free trolley and take it wherever it was going.

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We stopped and played at the Charleston Waterfront Park while we waited for the trolley to arrive. Once it did, it was a race to get on. Everyone seemed to have the same idea and one group was huge. Thankfully there was enough room for us all. We road around the city, past the Straw Market, the downtown shops, over by the visitor’s center and back to the water park area where we originally got on the trolley. We were starving! I mean, this was a hunger so big that the only thing on our mind was getting off of the trolley and getting food immediately. As we went around the city earlier, we noticed a quiet, clean-looking building that served Mediterranean food. It was right within a few feet of the trolley stop and with visions of baba ganoush, falafel and tziki the only thing on our minds, we practically ran down the street, oblivious to anything but getting to the restaurant.

Aunt Margaret got to the hostess before me, I was looking around in bewilderment because this unassuming place was blaring pop music at full blast. Where we at the right place? I tried to open the door to the building, but this was indeed the entrance. The hostess asked if we would like a place in the front or the back. In puzzlement, Thinking we would get away from the blaring music, I mouthed ‘the back please’. She didn’t ask any questions and led us the back of the restaurant. Little did we know, we were in for an even bigger shock. There was a big fountain in the back, a wet and wild bikini hoola hoop contest, and a bachelor party taking place in the back…and the music was still outrageously loud because they had a live DJ.

Once we got seated, the waitress came over an asked if we would like to have cocktails and a hookah. Huh? What was this place? We were starving, we just wanted some food. What happened? Bean was getting an eyeful. She was really checking out the models in their bikinis and their speedos. Inside I was mortified, but outside I acted as if I was the single parent who brought her six-year-old to places like this all the time. There was a couple at the next table and they mentioned how they were also surprised with the atmosphere. They came out for a bike ride and just wanted a bite to eat before going too far to find food. They came too far to turn around by the time they made it inside the restaurant.

We finally placed our order and asked the waitress what was going on. She told us that every Sunday they had a hoola hoop contest along with the hookahs and drinks. It was Tabbuli’s version of a Sunday brunch. I swear, I did not see anything advertising that on the signage on our way into the place. We got our food and it was pretty good. I stopped worrying about what my child was learning when she bent over and whispered into my ear “Mom, don’t tell Aunt Margaret, but I like the naked people”. Whew, she was taking it all with a grain of salt and seeing the humor of the situation. It was definitely one of those times when you know you will laugh later on.

When we left Tabbuli’s we walked back up the street in the direction of the straw market. Imagine our amazement to see that we had passed many restaurants on our way to the Mediterranean joint. We truly had a single-minded focus getting off of the trolley: food!

The rest of our visit to Charleston passed with nothing of particular note. We did more tourist things like visit the Straw Market, local shops and museums. Getting back to the Atlanta area, Bean and I made sure to go to a few more community events like the French bakery and café to eat quiche and tarts, one dollar movie day to see Annie,
the local ice cream and candy shop, and the historic houses in Roswell. I would rate them in order of what was our favorite, but for Bean, it was all her favorite. She even loved going into the attic at the Bulloch House, the former home of Theodore Roosevelt’s mother.


Our time spent in Atlanta with Aunt Margaret was truly special and the hospitality that she showed us, we will treasure forever. Early on Monday morning, before the traffic truly began, we got in the car to visit our family one state over, Alabama.

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Minimalism and Road Trips

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I have been on the road for the last 10 weeks or so and I have written so much about what we are doing and what we are seeing. I must tell you about how minimalism has affected my trip thus far. Next week I promise to continue with our journey. This has been on my mind and in my heart for so many weeks, I just want to get it out of my brain.

When I first left Chicago, I was absolutely ready to begin this life on the road for the summer. That nagging negative voice in the back of my head did start talking a little and trying to make me feel uncomfortable and unsure of my decisions. It said things like, “what if you don’t have enough money?” “what if people think you are a poor single mother because you don’t work a regular job?” “what if Bean wants to go back to Chicago because she hates being on the road?” “what if this is the worse decision you have ever made in your whole life?”

As I do whenever that ugly negative voice starts talking, I acknowledge the thought and either address it or dismiss it. This time I decided to set it straight and shut it up! We have a long way to go. I can’t have that noise as an ongoing companion. I told it, “I have enough money for the journey. I am working online and I am receiving great ideas every day. If people think I am poor, then it is their problem and not mine. If Bean wants to go back to Chicago because she hates being on the road, it would be difficult. However, I let Bean know at the beginning that our house was no longer our house. Our time was up in living there and now it was someone else’s turn and someone else’s house. If this was the worse decision in my life, I am willing to learn from it and start over. I adamantly believe that if we are given another day to live, we are given another opportunity to make our lives exactly how we want to live.” The noise stopped.

Being a practicing minimalist helps in many ways to alleviate that negative self talk in many ways.

1. Minimalists identify their life’s purpose– Minimalism is a journey, not a destination. I constantly look at the life I have, the things I have and the people around me and ask yourself if this is enriching my life. I ask myself if this is truly what I want to be doing in the this moment in time. I am able to say no to anything that isn’t getting me closer to the life that I choose to live. It is easier to do, I feel, because I have already done the hardest part of getting rid of all of the physical things that do not serve me.

2. Having fewer things brings greater freedom of mind– The items that we own end up owning us in so many ways. Whether it is the time it will take to keep them in good condition, the self-worth that we attribute to owning certain items or the thoughts we spend on what to do with our stuff, they take up a lot of space in our brain. The moment I was able to put all of my earthly possessions into a suitcase, I felt so light I could fly away. No negative voice in my brain could tell me that I had not done the right thing. While it may not be the right decisions for everyone, it was completely right for me. No one and nothing could tell me differently because I know how free I feel. It is a feeling that I have been seeking for years and one that I want others to experience. I could never feel poor when I feel so rich in freedom.

3. Minimalism opens the door to life’s possibilities– Because less time is spent trying to attain, pay for and take care of things, minimalists seek to interact on a greater level with people, nature, and the current situation. Once I focused on having better interactions with people, gaining beautiful stories to share, and exploring what is around me, my mood continues to improve, my dreams get bigger, and anything great seems possible. How could that be the worse decision of my life?!

Please understand these were not thoughts that plagued my mind, just thoughts that passed through. To keep them from returning, I felt I needed to address them. In case you listen to your negative self talk, address it. It is probably wrong! I remember one thought I had earlier this year, “How will I feel if I am in someone’s great big house or very nice car when I own nothing but what is in my bag?” I have faced that and I can say that I feel secure in my decision. They have their life, and if they are happy with it, truly happy with it and are not just existing, then I am too! I want the best for people. For me, the best is not in attaining material possessions, but in relishing experiences in my life. I know it is my path as a minimimalist single parent. Other’s may or may not see the beauty in it. Until they do, I will be happy with what they feel they have accomplished. I will ride in their big beautiful cars and spend the night in their houses. I will be thankful they have it so that I can share the experience with them. I have not felt envious or jealous or even slightly wistful of the possessions of others. I have felt gratitude. I pray that I will continue to feel gratitude and show Bean how to express gratitude for all that we have and are able to do and for what others have that makes them proud. I want to inspire others to try our way too. When and if they do, I will continue to express gratitude. This is minimalism on the road!

If you have a story to share about how minimalism has brought change to your life, I would love to hear from you. Feel free to leave a comment in the section below. If you are not someone who considers yourself a minimalist, but you have decluttered or downsized at some point in your life, please let me know. I enjoy hearing how getting rid of stuff makes others feel.

Atlanta- Great American Road Trip


When we were teenagers, my family did a road trip through the South. We stopped in many places along the way like Birmingham, Hattisburg and Atlanta. At that time, we had no family living in Atlanta, so it was just a big dirty city to us. We disliked it so much that we left a few days early to go and visit Savannah. Years later, my Aunt Margaret moved there and our idea of the place changed.

Aunt Margaret and I are much alike. We are middle children, strong willed and independent thinkers. She works hard, but likes to get out and discover the place where she is living. I stayed with her in Atlanta for six weeks when I graduated high school and she showed me all of the cool places where she liked to eat, drink and shop. In the back of my mind, I suppose I have always wanted to be hip and cool like Aunt Margaret, so I was thrilled when she said that Bean and I could stay with her for two weeks or more if we liked.

When we visited back in March, Bean and I spent time with friends in downtown Atlanta. This time, I wanted to discover a new area, Roswell. Roswell is a cute little historic town right outside of Atlanta, with many interesting sites for it to be such a small community. Right near the place where we would be staying was the library, which Bean and I love, the community center, a plantation home and more. With all of the those things nearby, it was comical that the number one place Bean wanted to visit was the onsite gym. She begged to go almost every day the first week we were there.

Knowing we had an extended period of time to get out and visit everything allowed me to slow down and process what it was that we really wanted to do. Bean and I spent the first few days walking around the community exploring. I got into the habit of cooking in the evening to lighten the load for Aunt Margaret since she was working long hours. I actually had fun and was able to practice a few recipes that have been in the back of my mind begging me to try them. The best part of it all was when my aunt would compliment the taste and presentation! Who doesn’t want to hear that? And to think, I got much of my inspiration from her those six weeks I stayed with her all those years ago.

I am very glad that I told Bean at the beginning of our trip that it is summertime and summer is hot. I believe it has been the one thing that has kept us up and moving when everyone else is hiding in their houses soaking up the air conditioner. She is a trooper, that one. We would get out of the house around 9:30-10:00 right when things were heating up outside. Most days we would take a short walk to get to our destination for the morning. Often it was right down the street: the boutique store; to buy a shirt because I realized I only had two and I really didn’t want to wear them every day, the discount store; to buy flip flops because Bean is so active hers are wearing out after little more than a week, the library; which was small but hosted some amazing programs a couple of times a week or the community arts center; that presented a puppet show series for the summer with different groups performing weekly.


One day early in our stay, I struck out to find the visitors center. I have no clue how long that walk was. I didn’t realize it was quite so far away since I took the back roads to get there. When I had the opportunity to ride in the car going in the same direction, I felt a little sorry for Bean because I made her walk all that way. But, I guarantee you, she had a good nap that afternoon! At the visitors center, we were told about the Old Mill bridge and park, Bulloch Hall, Barrington Hall and other sites of interest. We spent that morning at the Old Mill Park. The bridge was lovely, scenic and had excellent hiking trails alongside that we would have loved to climb but didn’t have the appropriate footware. I made it up to Bean for the long walk by making a stop at a gluten free bakery. She quickly forgot about her tired body and thought only of the cookies!

A few mornings we went over to the library and saw some excellent presentations. We were able to see and learn more about owls and falcons from a demonstration given by the Chattahoochee Nature Center. We were not able to touch the birds, but the children were close enough to see them in detail. Bean even went up to the front to demonstrate the differences in wing span between different types of birds. Another day there was a presentation given by an Ecuadorian storytelling team…in Spanish! I didn’t leave, as some people did, because I wanted to see if my limited Spanish was good enough to understand the stories. While I did not understand every word, I am happy to say that I understood enough to be able to give Bean some very bad translations. She accepted them enough to sit there for the duration of the program. My favorite program was the All Hands Productions puppet show. “Run, run as fast as you can, you can’t catch me, I am the gingerbread man,” was our favorite phrase for the next few days. The gentleman who produced and performed that show was truly talented. He had the attention of adults and children alike. He must have acted the part of at least 10 different puppets. He didn’t drop any. His voices were not mixed up. His puppets were amusing and the story was entertaining. I bet you didn’t know that the old witch in Hansel and Gretel was only looking for someone to clean her house. Hansel volunteered because he LOVED to clean houses and wash dishes. They made a great team!


The cultural center was just a little further than the library and they also had puppet shows. They were very well produced. Bean can be vocal about the type of entertainment that she enjoys watching. She does tend to like live theater, but I wasn’t too sure about the puppets. She hasn’t seen many of them outside of Sunday School. She loved it! A troupe from Kansas performed their version of The Little Red Hen. She planted a garden and though the animals didn’t help her, in the end they promised to do better the next year and so she shared with them her goods. Our favorite part was getting up and dancing the Chicken Dance! We also saw another local artist, That Puppet Guy, perform stories from around the world. He used an assortment of puppets. We enjoyed the show and I only wish our pictures with him turned out better.

One of the best things we did this trip was get away for the weekend and go up to Charleston, South Carolina.
I would love to tell you about it in this post, but I don’t want to make it too long. Check back in a few days and I will finish the story. Thank you for letting us share our Great American Road Trip with you! Feel free to let me know how you like it in the comments.

Tampa- Great American Road Trip

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Every Friday night that we can, Bean and I have a movie night. We get a pizza, or whatever food she wants,
snacks and a couple of kid movies, as she calls it, and we have a great time. Bean prefers to watch animated cartoons, and not “people movies”. One people movie that we have seen is Dolphin Tale; Bean loved it. Imagine my surprise and delight to find out when we decided to come to Tampa that the Clearwater Aquarium was not far from where we would be staying.

Driving up I-75N from Miami to Tampa was scenic and quite pleasant. We drove through portions of the Everglades Wildlife Management Area. Seeing how the scenery changed, noticing the differences in the palm trees, and also the differences in temperature and the humidity was remarkable. Honestly, the heat was exhausting. I was so tired I had to pull over for a nap and sleep in the shade of a big tree.

When we arrived at my cousin’s, unfortunately her children were on their own vacation in Texas, so Bean did not have any children to play with. We were given a great project to work on… organize the house! She had just moved into the house two weeks earlier and needed help to get the girl’s room organized and the kitchen. I love to organize. It may be a bizarre passion, but it is something I was born enjoying. I was ready to get to work immediately.

Bean was ready to see what there was to see in town. She wanted to go downtown immediately; she is definitely a city girl. We compromised and headed out to see the area. It was lovely. There was a mango tree and a lemon tree growing in my cousin’s yard. Bean and I brought some mangoes up from Miami and decided to see which ones were the best. We toured the city and enjoyed seeing how a city was laid out before we actually get out and visit it. Our cousin thought that we may like to see the aquarium so she made reservations over the phone.

The next morning we showed up at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium only to find out that we were not at the place where we reserved our tickets. We said “No problem, let’s do this!” It isn’t often that we have found ourselves somewhere a movie we really like has been made. And on top of that, it was a movie that we liked!


Bean was so happy. She could hardly wait to see Winter and Hope, the dolphins from the movies. The place wasn’t as big as some of the other aquariums that we have visited, but the staff and the volunteers make it clear that they believe in what they are doing: rescuing, raising and releasing aquatic animals. I was happy to spend my money on something that was making a difference.

We saw some dolphin training, a film about the work that they do, and we went to the newer location where it detailed everything about the movies Dolphin Tale 1 and 2. Finally, we saw the movie stars themselves, Hope and Winter. They were in a tank and though they were swimming quite a bit, they did not pass by the observation window very often. We were happy with a glimpse of them. We also saw Ricky the pelican. He had his own pad near the dolphins tanks. Bean had so much fun that she requested to see the movies again when we have another movie night.

In order to make sure our tickets and money did not go to waste, later in the week we made it to the Florida Aquarium. It was large and offered glimpses of outdoor Florida habitats right in the open in many of the exhibits. I was impressed to see the wildlife not being hidden behind glass.

They had some of the most beautiful jellyfish that I have ever seen. Bean loved it so much, she was running from one exhibit to the next trying to look at everything at one time. We had to get outside for our dolphin viewing boat ride. It was so hot outside, but the breeze on the boat made everything so much better. We had an excellent guide who explained everything that we were seeing. The water was calm enough, but the dolphins did not feel like interacting with the tourist. Off in the distance, we spotted them swimming peacefully. Our captain stopped the boat to see if they would approach, but they didn’t come any closer.

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We passed the rest of our days taking walks, organizing the house and getting to know family a little better. I am happy to report that though we did not have an extreme home makeover moment, we were able to get the house somewhat organized for when the children returned. Tampa was a great experience. Though I hadn’t been in Florida in ages, our time there was much enjoyed and well spent. Next time, I may not stay away for quite so long. What is your best Florida memory? I would love to hear your story, please leave it in the comments below!