Sunday, June 30, 2013


Our last adventure with Joey and Christen took place in Asheville, North Carolina. (Fun fact: Asheville is where most of the movie The Hunger Games was filmed!) We all piled in the car and drove the winding roads through the Smoky Mountains. All car sickness aside, the drive was amazing. My jaw dropped open many a time at the incredibly lush landscape surrounding us. I didn't know which way to look; waterfalls on the left and beautiful fields and farms on my right.

Our first (and most important) stop was at 12 Bones Smokehouse for some lunch. Matt had been told this was this best barbecue place in town so in true Derty form, our day revolved around it. We assumed we were in the right spot when we saw the line crowding the parking lot, so we hopped out and stood in the hot sun with everyone else. I was just about to start melting down in a panic of hunger when our group reached the door and the tantalizing combination of air conditioning and barbecue sauce aroma blew into my face. I let Matt order for us as I sized up the place. Coolers of sweet tea were propped up next to hand-written signs and buckets of lemon slices. Towers of tiny, paper cups were lined up next to an array of sauce choices. We opted for the much quieter outdoor seating once we saw how many fans they had pointing towards the picnic tables. Just a minute after I sat down, Matt placed a pie dish full of food infront of me. An oversized pork sandwich (that's right people, pork is part of my life in the south), a pool of macaroni and cheese and a pile of baked beans smothered in sweet barbecue sauce.

Feeling uncomfortably full, we drove into town and checked into our hotel room and geared up to explore downtown. By the way, you know you're true friends with a couple when you can share a two-bed, one bath hotel room together and walk out still friends afterwards.

Christen and I spotted this double-decker bus-turned-coffee-shop right away so we  all filed in for an afternoon pick-me-up. The barista flipped her dreads over her shoulder as she scribbled on our cups and pointed to the narrow staircase with her pen. "Have a seat, we'll call your name." We wandered upstairs and snagged a booth in the back (cool kids on the back of the bus, right?). The coffee was pretty good, but of course the best part was the novelty of the bus.

We continued our stroll through downtown, stopping in to a store here and there. The vibe downtown made me feel like I was back in the liberal and free-spirited arms of Eugene, Oregon. The closest thing I had seen to a "hippy" in the south so far was the girl I bumped into while scouring the health food store for coconut oil. So, now we know where the rest of them are. Asheville. 

After dinner, we made it back to our room just in time as a storm rolled in. We ended our night with mediocre drinks in the hotel bar. After some pretty terrible service at breakfast, we decide to skip the scenic hike Matt had picked out for us and head back to Chattanooga early. 

I finally found some cowboy boots! I had been pretty adamant on finding some during our visit to Nashville a few days prior, but we were pretty limited on time and Matt was pretty limited on shopping energy. So on our way out of Asheville, we stopped into Jackson's Western Wear (talk about being out of your element) and I snagged a pretty pair of boots! My sweet momma had caught wind of my western hopes and dreams so my birthday present from parents was one shiny, new pair of boots. Thanks guys! (Little do they know this is only encouraging me to get attached to a southern lifestyle and move away from the west coast...)

A pretty big highlight of the day for me was taking Joey and Christen to Trader Joe's-for the first time! I was like a little kid parading them around. "OH! This is really good. Oh! This is really good too. I love these!" It was pretty exciting.

I broke in my boots walking down the street to a Mexican restaurant to wrap up our week with them over queso dip and a pitcher of margaritas. We came home and indulged in delicious cupcakes Christen and I had picked up earlier.

I must say, Chattanooga has all the excitement and privileges of a big city with all the charm and convenience of a small town. We really liked it, but of course what we liked most about it is that Joey & Christen live there! Thank you for hosting us for ten days you guys! We can't wait to come back. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013


While we were in Tennessee, Matt took me to Nashville for the day. I had never been there before and it was on our list of cities to check out while we were here.

The first thing we did once we arrived downtown was park in an expensive lot and walk down to the Ryman Auditorium. To be honest, I had never heard of it until we were standing in the lobby buying admission tickets for a backstage tour. I was kind of worried that all the history and excitement of the city would be lost on me since I don't know anything about country music, but touring the Ryman and learning a lot about the Grand Ole Opry helped a lot. If you're ever in Nashville, I'd highly recommend a visit and I'd definitely include the backstage tour. Our adorably over-rehearsed tour guide took us through Johnny Cash's regular dressing room, the spot where he met June Carter and the room dedicated to famous singers who frequented the Ryman, including Bob Dylan and Loretta Lynn! So although I was pretty out of the loop on all the country names she dropped, it was fun hearing about some of my favorite folk singers. The rest of the tour was self-guided, so we explored and speculated on all the displayed Elvis costumes and walls of signed albums. 

After that, we walked around the main strip of downtown looking for a place for lunch. We popped our heads into a few stores, but after seeing a $35 dollar Elvis wallet clip, we decided to bail on downtown and explore the outskirts. We ended up driving into East Nashville, in search of a small boutique that raved about their vintage cowboy boots from their blog. The scene was familiar to me. Rustic, yet industrial buildings. Old buildings hosting new businesses. 100 year old homes with twine wreaths hanging on brightly-colored doors. It reminded me a lot of southeast Portland, which also reminds me a lot of Austin, Texas. Only Nashville was so green. Fields clothed in purple wild flowers, blooming gardens in every yard. I can count on one hand the amount of houses we drove past that didn't have a vegetable garden.

This was my favorite shop that we found. There was some serious man style in there. We connected with the owner pretty quickly once he questioned why we lacked southern drawals and admitted he was from California as well. He's lived in the area for six years so he was still able to give us a pretty accurate scoop on the area. "East Nash is pretty up and coming. Lots of younger families, new restaurants with urban gardens and a ton of music connections, local artists." We thanked him for his time and walked out carrying our favorite find of the day, a vintage Alabama football hat! 

Next on our agenda was to stop by Third Man Records, a recording studio and record store owned by Jack White, the lead singer from the White Stripes. We drove across town and parked in a very unassuming neighborhood and walked until we saw fresh paint on old bricks. An upbeat redhead sporting a black jumpsuit and bright lipstick buzzed us into the room-sized store. It was really funky and terribly yellow with only a small section of records for sale from artists that have stopped by the studio to record or new releases on old records. A couple girls behind the counter invested interest in our exploration of Nashville and offered up their best advice of each part of town. We left with a few records and a napkin with a sketch of the city.

After a couple hours of driving around and a bit more shopping, we took a break at a local coffee shop (the best way to size up a city, in my book) and scribbled down notes of everything we had explored so far. "East Nashville-really great, really hip. Three mustaches spotted. Berry Hill-too small. 12th South-too rich. South Nash- too close to the art school." Our favorite part of town by far was the east side. In general, Nashville really grabbed us. We don't know a soul in the city, but it's just a couple hours away from our family here and has the culture we're looking for. 

We're probably more interested in settling down in a city where we actually know someone or have purpose for being there, but it was hard to ignore how much it excited us. We know we can't figure out a city in just one day, so we are heading back to Nashville this weekend. Matt spoke to our friends in Austin who pointed us towards a couple they know in Nashville, so we're going to get the chance to sit down and pester a few more locals. This time we're going to explore some areas with houses that have a bit more land since living outside the city is something we're interested in.

We'll see you this weekend, Nashville!

Monday, June 17, 2013


We couldn't leave Chattanooga without hitting some of the tourists spots, so our first couple days there we headed to the historic Incline Railway. After some confusing customer service, we ended up with tickets for all three of Chattanooga's tourist attractions: Incline Railway, Ruby Falls and Rock City.

The Incline Railway is one of the world's steepest railways in the world. We boarded the train at the bottom and rode in it for ten terrifying minutes, backwards, up the mountain until we reached a 72% incline. I was relieved to finally get off the train and pleasantly surprised to look around at our view. 

A few days later, we made the most of a surprisingly sunny day and explored Rock City. Beautiful, massive rock formations and an incredible panoramic view over-looking seven states. And then, confusingly, an enchanted trail with faded gnomes and outdated fairyland caverns featuring glow-in-the-dark Mother Goose stories. Unfortunately our camera battery was dying, so we only took a few shots that day but trust me, no picture could do that place justice...

We headed over to Ruby Falls after that and barely made it into the last group tour of the day. After I held up the group buying some overpriced snacks at the gift shop and cramming them into my purse, we piled into the crowded, carpeted elevator and descended twenty-something levels underground. Ruby Falls is a massive, underground waterfall that is featured at the end of a guided tour through a cave. They keep the tour interesting with labeled rock formations, most of which resemble some sort of food. The waterfall was pretty incredible, and although the light show was a bit unnecessary, it was still really beautiful. We finished out our adventurous day with a huge feast of sushi and a pretty early bedtime.

This is the only photo I have of Ruby Falls and it was taken with my phone. I'm a terrible tourist, but trust me, I looked the part with my dead camera around my neck and an informative pamphlet in my hand.

I usually skip on tourist attractions when I'm visiting new cities, but all three places were fun, historic and cheesy in a really endearing way. It was like a fun, adult field trip. (Plus we had to use the tickets we got bullied into buying...)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sunday Market

Another little gem we visited during our week in Chattanooga was the Sunday market. Joey & Christen raved about the cinnamon doughnuts they make fresh there, so off we went right after church last Sunday. 

It reminded me a lot of the Saturday market held in Portland every weekend, but there was much more fresh produce, baked goods and food trucks. We walked past lines of heavily frosted cakes and baskets stuffed with breads and headed straight back to the clutter of food trucks outside as loud, live country music blared from the stage. 

I wandered around from truck to truck but as soon as I laid eyes on "macaroni & cheese sandwich" scribbled on the chalkboard of a sandwich truck, my decision was made. Why haven't I thought of this before?! Macaroni and cheese is my favorite meal; I can't believe it never crossed my mind. Two toasted pieces of sourdough bread crammed with macaroni and cheese, a bit of melted gruyere and splash of hot sauce. Perfection. (I'm sure I just gave all my gluten-intolerant friends stomachaches just reading that sentence...) 

Please take note that they are empty-handed of doughnuts and disappointed in that last photo. After a bit of exploring, we worked our way back up to the front of the market to get hot, fresh doughnuts and cold, fresh lemonade, but the doughnut machine was broken! The lemonade was enough of a treat for the walk home, so I guess we'll just have to go back for another visit to try the much-anticipated cinnamon doughnuts...

I couldn't leave without at least one local goody, so I purchased a small honey bear at the local honey stand. Mostly because it was cute but also because I've crossed the line from "yeah, I kind of prefer honey in my coffee, if you have any" to "well actually, I brought my own sweetener". That little guy is the perfect size to sneak into my purse, but it's just a matter of time until I spill it all over everything in there...

I'm quite behind in posts about our trip last week, so who knows how long it'll be until I get to the weekend of my birthday. So in the meanwhile, I have to mention how unbelievable blessed I was on Sunday. Even though I'm across the country from almost all of my friends and family, they all made me feel so special and loved. When we got back to Alabama yesterday, I was startled by the pile of packages cluttered on our bed. All weekend I kept shaking my head and telling Matt that I couldn't believe how many wonderful people I have in my life. I was loved very well by all of you this weekend, thank you so much! I wondered if it was going to be hard to be away from everyone on my birthday, but it seems that people anticipated that and made me feel even more known and thought of. 

However, no one made me feel more known or loved than Matt did that day. That man has me all figured out! 

Friday, June 7, 2013


Last Friday, Matt and I drove to Tennessee to spend the week with our good friends Joey and Christen in Chattanooga. We're about halfway through our time in the south and since Matt's aunt is making huge, measurable and unlikely progress towards healing, we decided to take a week off and explore some of the cities we're interested in moving to someday. Since its pretty close to our family in Alabama, Chattanooga has been on our list and it moved up a notch when Joey and Christen moved there recently. 

They're still pretty new to the city, so we got to explore their new home right alongside them. As usual, they have been incredible hosts and filled our days with fun plans, homemade spaghetti sauce and an incredible amount of patience for my constant concern of tornadoes. 


The first couple days there were pretty rainy, so after dodging a downpour from under trees on our way home from breakfast, we decided to catch a movie and then stay in, binging on Arrested Development. Christen and I walked down to the chocolatier near their house (a huge selling point for the city, in my book) with intentions of getting a cup of hot chocolate for our rainy Saturday night in. Walking three blocks in the humidity changed our minds pretty quickly, so we enjoyed iced mochas instead. 

We've liked the city a lot so far. It has a free shuttle system and a bike share downtown which makes it really easy to explore all the cute boutiques and incredible restaurants. 

I have a weeks worth of photos from our trip including shots of our day trip to Nashville and a chocolate cream pie recipe to share, but for now we're spending the weekend in Asheville, North Carolina (or as far as I can tell, the landing spot for any and all hippies in the south). 

                  Have a great weekend! 

(Please excuse formatting errors as I am blogging on my trusty iPhone from the road!) 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Isaiah's House

After spending the weekend apart, Matt took me out for lunch on Monday. That man has a knack for tracking down good food, so I knew I was in for a delicious meal, but our lunch at Isaiah's House was hands down the best southern meal I've ever had.

We pulled up to a white house-turned-restaurant and swung open a creaky door to a long hallway. By the time we walked up to the podium at the end of the hallway, a woman greeted us, her arms tucked neatly behind her. She welcomed us and shared the specials of the day all in one breath as she waved us over to a table by the window. The dining room was cluttered with aged wooden tables covered with white, lace tablecloths. Fans lined the vaulted ceilings, creating a song as they all spun at high speed. As soon as we sat down, two tall glasses of homemade lemonade were set down in front of us. We only looked over the menu for a moment before ordering their speciality: lemon pepper catfish. (Nothing like a pan full of oil to turn bottom-feeder fish into a delectable lunch. Southerners think of everything...)

We caught up on each other's weekend and eavesdropped on laughter and singing coming from behind the swinging doors of the kitchen until two hot plates of food we're set infront of us. Something I've noticed about southern (comfort) food is that it's usually always some shade of yellow and rarely aesthetically pleasing, but always, always delicious. 

There's not a description that could do this meal justice. It was perfect. The mashed potatoes were smooth and buttery, pairing excellently with each bite of the crispy catfish. The fried okra was salty and best of all: bottomless. I didn't even reach for the salt and pepper the entire meal; every bite was perfectly seasoned. I'm not even sure if I made it to the cornbread muffins after scarfing down every other crumb of food on my plate. 

Our waitress returned, smiled through our compliments and then placed a hand on each shoulder. " Ya'll aren't leaving without dessert!" I didn't think I had room for one more bite of food, but I changed my mind pretty quickly when they brought out fresh peach cobbler. "That there is Momma's recipe. She famous for it!" I wasn't going to waste any time taking pictures, especially since Matt and I were sharing a piece and it was topped off with hand-churned ice cream. You should see that man around ice cream. 

I couldn't stop complimenting the food, cooked to perfection and served with genuine hospitality. Before we left, the cook came out and gave us huge hug, thanking us for enjoying her food so much. We left with full stomachs, sticky fingers and heightened chances of developing diabetes. 

           Thanks for a great date babe!