Category Archives: visit

visit. shop. give. fashionABLE.

I have a new scarf that smells like coffee and honey.

A few months back, I had the opportunity to travel to Ethiopia on a vacation with family.  Our list of places to visit and things to do was composed primarily of historical landmarks and travel book recommendations, but there was one visit I hoped to make even though it would be off the tourist path.

FashionABLE, a non-profit I shared with you a year ago, aims to create sustainable business in Africa and job opportunities for women. These women happened to be working a mere taxi cab ride away from one stop on our vacation route.

I could not pass the opportunity up. Kiely, the fashionABLE communications liason on site at the time, was incredibly accommodating. A couple emails and a set of directions later, my mom and I were breaking away for a quick tour.

As we entered the small compound, I was struck by the bright colors. The buildings, the thread, and even the smiles seemed to glow in the sunlight, like hope and redemption had become visible. In light of that, I’ll let these images speak for me.

  1. Weaving, observed with the right eye, begins to look like a dance.
  2. Finishing off the ends of a scarf.
  3. Getting ahead by drying a good amount of dyed thread in the sun before rainy season begins.
  4. Kiely and me. Thanks Kiely for hosting us for a few minutes and allowing us the privilege of seeing this good work first hand.
  5. Look for this tag as you shop.
  6. This is the beautiful Feleku. You, too, can learn Feleku’s story. (By the way, Emily Maynard wore the scarf named for her this past season on The Bachelorette.)
  7. Scarves in the shop. You can buy items like these online.
  8. Spinning wheels.
  9. I’m fascinated by the looms and tools – shuttles, bobbins, and thread.

I enjoyed learning a bit about weaving and the business side of things, but I particularly enjoyed hearing more about Women At Risk, a partner organization of fashionABLE. Women At Risk is a rehabilitation program for former sex workers. The program provides these women with counseling, teaches them skills and trades, and helps them find employment.  After our tour, we shopped in the modest storefront where they were selling not only scarves, but other items made by women who have come through the Women at Risk program.  I selected a couple of bars of scented soap – milk and honey, and coffee – and a unique scarf made while teaching techniques.

In an effort to handle these items with care and get them safely home, I wrapped the soaps in the scarf. Yesterday, I pulled my scarf out of my closet and noticed the scents still linger.

The fashionABLE fall line was introduced today, and if you browse their lookbook (which I highly recommend) you may just see a few of the scarves on the looms in the photos above. I intend to order one myself.  Select one for yourself and order now! I doubt it will smell like coffee and honey upon arrival, but you can wear it knowing faces of the women’s life changed by this effort and your purchase.

Don’t forget to check out all things fashionABLE on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.


watch. newsies.

It was 1992. I was nearing thirteen and still bouncing back and forth between childhood and teendom. Even then, Disney was making that transition a little easier. MMC and Kids Incorporated were all the rage, and Disney Channel must be where I first saw the advertisements for a new movie, Newsies.  I had always loved a movie musical – my life basically was one as I constantly broke out into song and dance. And, what could be better than a bunch of kids who seemed close to my age, dancing in the streets and standing up to injustice? I was guaranteed to like this one.

In those days, if we wanted to know when movies were showing, we read the times in the newspaper. I saw it – an ad for a special sneak peek showing of Newsies (made even better by the fact that it would be a double feature with the recently released Beauty and the Beast.) I knew I had to go. My mom and I bought our tickets, and as I walked through the lobby, I grabbed the special Newsies Banner, a promotional paper with biographies of the cast and stories about the making of the movie.

I read that paper until the movie began (and after a couple more times).  I loved the movie. I saw it again in the theater. I sang the songs and learned the choreography. Kenny Ortega became my hero. I bought the soundtrack on cassette tape. I recorded the movie on VHS when it aired on the Disney Channel. When all the tapes wore out, I got the soundtrack on CD and later the DVD of the movie.

I should take a moment to say that I am not usually a fanatic. The only other thing I gave this much attention to was Strawberry Shortcake at age 4.  Eventually, my affinity for both turned subtle.  Yet, as many friends can attest, I practically forced them to watch Newsies the moment I found out they had not seen it, and I often said something to the affect of, “This should really be on Broadway.”

I was not the only one.

Twenty years after the movie was released, Newsies opened on Broadway. I seriously felt 13 again as I purchased presale tickets – a birthday present to myself.

Even on the sidewalk outside the doors of the Nederlander Theater I could feel the energy. And when my friend and I sat in our seats the energy seemed to have increased exponentially. I am convinced the audience was the “happiest on earth” to borrow a phrase from the Disney company.  The opening moments were more like an invitation for the audience, the lights and smiles were lighting up our faces as much as they were the cast.  And for 2 more hours or so, all our preteen dreams came true.

At the stage door, one of the security staff asked me what I thought. “Did you like it as much as the movie?” In answering, I realized the stage musical would never replace the movie, but I could love them both.  I’m so thankful to Harvey Fierstein and Alan Menken and Jack Feldman for transforming this story after all these years. Out of gratitude I won’t pick the show apart and tell you the very few things that I did not like. Instead, I will tell you I love that it was not over-produced with too complicated a set or overly done costumes. The story, the characters, the music, and the choreography got all the focus, just as it should be. Speaking of choreography, it was enthralling. I could barely blink for fear I would miss something! It helps that these  guys are incredibly athletes!

Again, I’m not the only one that felt this way. This talented cast and great show received 8 Tony Award nominations, including one for Best Musical. Tomorrow night, even more of  “The World Will Know” (I can’t help the puns) when the Tony Awards air on CBS.

The show’s run has officially been extended, so many more will have the opportunity to attend in the coming months. I suggest you “Seize the Day” and plan your trip soon.

It is worth mentioning that Newsies has made incredible use of social media as a story about the power of the press should. There is no shortage of outlets for you to explore. Here are just a few:

Soundtrack on Spotify

Carry the Banner!

learn. who shot rock and roll.

Calling all Birmingham procrastinators, you may now consider it crunch time as Birmingham Museum of Art’s special exhibit “Who Shot Rock and Roll” closes in three days. Thanks to Birmingham Mountain Radio and the Museum, I won free passes and attended a free lecture by Bob Gruen (more on him later), but even the affordable ticket price of $10 is a steal for a leisurely look at iconic images and a greater understanding of the relationship between the individuals in front of and behind the camera.

Don’t expect a chronological walk through the history of rock music. You’ll gather that along the way as you see a tuxedo-clad Jimi Hendrix, a conflicted Kurt Cobain, an animalistic Mick Jagger, and the draw of Madonna. But this exhibit is really a study of intersecting people and their art forms. You are invited into that relationship setting by setting.

So here are a few To Do tips for planning your visit… asap.

  • Spend an hour or more. I walked through in about an hour and forty-five minutes, but I could easily have spent two as I tend to be a slow mover at museums.
  • Take a fully charged mobile phone (and silence it). Several pieces have audio clips that accompany them. To hear the photographer discuss the image adds another layer, but you must call a phone number to hear the clip.
  • Take notes. Whether pen and paper or an app for that, take note some way of your favorite images, your reactions, quotes to remember, and artists to research.
  • A note for families. Proceed at your own risk and ahead of any children. As you may expect, be prepared for the occasional graphic image and some nudity.

Again, for you who have to wait for the absolute last possible moment, the museum is hosting a special event this week, staying open until 10pm on Saturday night. A Last Night/Late Night and a Sunday Encore this weekend. No more excuses.

I’ll leave you with this thought-provoking quote included in the exhibit:

 “A portrait is not a likeness…
The moment an emotion or fact is transformed
into a photograph it is no longer a fact but an opinion.”
Richard Avedon

visit. manhattan in 8 hours.

You cannot take 150 high school students from Alabama to New York City and not take them to Manhattan. Immediately following the service at Brooklyn Tabernacle, we boarded our buses and rode to the center of the city.

Here were the parameters:
> Stay with your assigned group – obviously.
> Drop off (at 12:15pm) and pick up (at 8pm) in the theater district near Times Square.
> Eat both lunch and dinner in that time.
> Meet at New Amsterdam Theater at 2pm for the matinée performance of Mary Poppins.

So what would you do in the given time with four girls? It seems a mission impossible, and did I mention it was a bit rainy? Whether the best plan or not, I ran them through a loop of midtown passing as many landmarks as possible along the way. And we had a blast.

Here was our path:

We unloaded buses just off Broadway in Times Square. (A/H above)  Our hungry group and a few others made our way directly to Ellen’s Stardust Diner (B) for lunch and pre-show entertainment. The excitement on the students’ faces was totally worth the short wait in the drizzling rain. We finished eating just in time to head straight back to New Amsterdam (C) and find our seats for Mary Poppins.  Bows were taken, applause given, and we walked at a city pace for the next 2 hours.

From the theater, we walked through Bryant Park, stood on the steps of the Public Library, ducked in at Grand Central Station (D), converged on the fountain of Rockefeller Center (E). After a quick break inside, we continued on, taking pictures at the entrance to NBC studios and purchasing a Magnolia Bakery (F) cupcake. We waved at Radio City Music Hall before returning to Times Square. There we sat and ate our cupcakes. We had just enough time to do a little souvenir shopping, grab the quickest burger to go possible (G), and meet the bus.

According to Google maps, the walking alone would have taken an hour. Add in time for photos, bathroom breaks, and shopping, and I think our group managed pretty well. Yes it was touristy, and I realize there are countless iconic Manhattan scenes we missed, but what can you do with so little time? I just hope it was enough to whet the appetite of these girls and inspire a return trip.

Next time you have only 2.5 unscheduled hours in Manhattan, what will you do?

visit. brooklyn.

One of the things I loved about my recent week or so in New York was that I spent most of my time in Brooklyn. I’m sure you could spend a lifetime getting to know any one of the five New York City boroughs, but a week was a nice introduction. So here are my recommendations for a summer visit to Brooklyn, aka how to let “Brooklyn, Brooklyn take [you] in.”

Eat a Square and Ice at L&B’s Spumoni Gardens.

Did you know that spumoni is an ice cream dessert made of layers, usually with different colors? Yeah, me either. Had I known, I would certainly have ordered the restaurant’s eponymous dessert. Next time, perhaps. I do, however, heartily recommend the Sicilian square pizza (it is different, but good) featured on Man vs. Food and the Italian Ice much like Doodle’s here in Birmingham.

Walk, run, or play along the East River.

We spent days working, in cooperation with Shore Road Parks Conservancy and the city parks department to make Shore Road Park more inviting. Go enjoy it!

Enjoy the fun at Coney Island.

Ride The Cyclone and other great rides. Eat a hot dog at Nathan’s. Walk the boardwalk and the shore.

Root for the home team…

at the Brooklyn Cyclones game. Whether you can’t take your eyes off the field or just enjoy the excitement of the stands, make sure you attend a game. This one took me back to good ol’ days complete with ice cream served in those little plastic helmets.

Have cheesecake for breakfast at Junior’s.

You can eat the cheesecake anytime. We proved that as we finished off our breakfast with a slice. Juniors (where we took high school Seniors) opened in the 1950s, and the revolving door may in fact be a time machine. If Sky Masterson and Nathan Detroit had walked in behind me to bet on cheesecake vs. strudel, I wouldn’t have batted an eye or missed a bite. Oh, wait; that was Lindy’s (the competition). Sorry guys. I don’t know about Lindy’s, but Junior’s is totally worth the time and calories.

Attend a Service at Brooklyn Tabernacle.

The congregation is diverse. The music is inspiring. (The choir has been honored with multiple Dove Awards and Grammys.)  My friend Paula recommends reading Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire which contains the story of this church’s growth over the past couple of decades.

It was an absolute pleasure to serve the community of Bay Ridge with over 200 high school students and families from our church. I must thank City Uprising, Cornerstone Church at Bay Ridge, and Shore Road Parks Conservancy for making it such a memorable and purposeful week. To all the New Wind students and the choir’s leadership with whom I have spent months and years, I am so very proud of you and thankful for you.

Take in a sunset from a rooftop.

As a bonus, I had the opportunity to stick around in the city a little longer. During that time, I was invited by friends to a gathering on a rooftop in Park Slope. I wouldn’t trade this sunset for fireworks…ever.

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