Lexington, KY, June 2021, Part 1: The Adventure Begins

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”–Marcel Proust

Ready, set, go . . . travel!  Yes! After months of not traveling, like many people across the country, John, my husband, and I, were ready to hit the road for adventures.  As educators, we have the opportunity to use June and July as months readily available for travel, but last year, of course, was a different story.  In fact, our biggest trip last year was to local home improvement stores for plants!   While we debated the merits of one big, blow-the-budget-trip, we instead settled on more frequent, pocket friendly exploits.  Thus, for our first short venture we decided to visit a beloved friend, Lexington, KY.

Having been to Lexington on several previous trips, we decided to add a twist:  stay downtown.  Looking on Airbnb, we found a cute downtown apartment just off Short Street–which made me giggle since I am 4’11”!  Hostesses Susannah, and assistant, Heather, were excellent communicators to ensure we had a clean, comfortable place to stay.  Additionally, Susannah provided us with her personal guidebook to Lexington.  Full of information, this guidebook proved to be a valuable asset as we wanted to explore new parts of the city.

Rainy weather and storms forced us to modify plans and go with the flow.  However, Lexington is the perfect place in which to do this as there are plenty of indoor and outdoor sites.  One such modification led to a serendipitous stop.  

One of my student’s parents recently gifted me with two books by Kentucky & Appalachian author, Crystal Wilkinson’s books.  According to the backs of both books, Wilkinson and her partner, a poet and an artist, owned a bookstore in Lexington–Wild Fig Books and Coffee.  Based upon the book cover’s description, the store sounded right up my alley (Plus, I would have personally loved to chat with Ms. Wilkinson if the opportunity presented itself.), but I was unsure if the bookstore was still in operation due to conflicting Google searches.  John and I were never able to find it, and I later sadly read afterwards that it was permanently closed.

Nonetheless, in our search for the book store, we happened to encounter Greyline Station, which describes itself as, “A dynamic public marketplace in the heart of the bluegrass.”  This 65,000 square foot marketplace felt very grassroots and community driven as John and I walked around, visiting the numerous and varied vendors. Built in 1928, the building was home, in the 1940s, to Southeastern Greyhound which was, at one point in time, the largest employer in Lexington.  As the years progressed, this building had several reincarnations before becoming forsaken. Then, in 2014, the abandoned building was added to the list of National Register of Historic Places. Four years later, revitalization began, and it now houses eateries, bars, offices, a radio station, retail stores, event space, and a public market. John and I can only imagine the exponential potential this unique area has for growth.  We are eager to return to Greyline Station in the coming months to witness the further expansion of this vibrant and community-centered hub. 

“Greyline’s 65,000 square foot building has a storied history. For almost 100 years, the building was home to bus & transit companies, and was deemed historically significant in 2011. Come explore Lexington’s newest place to Shop, Eat, & Meet.”–as seen on the official website

With the rain clouds tentatively staved off, it appeared that we had a decent window of time to visit what was described by AirBnB hostess, Susannah, as a local favorite, the Arboretum State Botanical Garden of Kentucky, located on the UK campus near the football stadium.  Described by Susannah as a “three-mile walk/run path through beautiful gardens,” John and I were positively stunned by the sheer number and variety of flowering plants.  Identified as Kentucky’s official botanical garden, this 100-acre public garden provides visitors with both native and not-so-native flowers, trees, shrubs, and other plants. From the Children’s Garden to the Visitor Center, from the Walk Across Kentucky displays to distinctive horticultural displays, and from the Kentucky Utilities Ornamental Tree Collection to the fragrance and roses gardens, this botanical paradise has much to offer visitors.  It was clear this was a favorite spot for exercise due to the number of walkers/runners we saw in the parking area and exercising on the various paths–until lightning flashed, the thunder clapped, and the heavens dumped buckets of rain.  John and I earned an extra cardio boost as we ran to the car during this gully washer, ending our visit far too soon.  Therefore, the Arboretum State Botanical Garden of Kentucky will definitely be at the top of our list of places to return!

“The Arboretum celebrates nature, fosters an understanding of relationships between humans and their natural world, provides cultural opportunities for the community, and serves as a community center for environmental education, horticulture, and urban forest renewal.”–as seen on the official website

Heading back to the apartment to wait out the storm, we discussed dinner plans.  The great thing about Susannah’s location was our ability to walk to dinner each night.  On the previous evening, we walked around and through Thoroughbred Park. Dedicated to the Thoroughbred Industry, this 2.5 acre park features numerous bronze sculptures by artist, Gwen Reardon, and it was located right across the street from one of our favorite Lexington eateries, Carson’s Food and Drink. Their diverse menu offers John plenty of meat-centric dishes as well as gluten-free plant based options for me.  Carson’s service is always on-point, and the food never disappoints.  This is one restaurant upon which we always look forward to returning.

“A rustic, yet refined atmosphere with chef-driven recipes paired with prohibition cocktails, hand-selected wines, and craft beers.”–Carson’s Food & Drink

Another one of our favorites places to dine is Pies and Pints, and Lexington has one!  Conveniently located across the street from both Triangle Park and the Lexington Convention Center, it is also a short walk to Rupp Arena.  Thus, making it one hot location on the night of concerts, basketball games, and other public events. Pies and Pints, personally speaking, offers me a rare opportunity to eat a pizza that is both gluten-free and vegan while still offering all of the traditional favorite pizza toppings, such as sausage and pepperoni, for John.  Plus, they have wonderful apps, salads and sandwiches, all of which have gluten-free options.  With attentive service, 35 taps for those so-inclined–including ciders and root beer, and a wide array of one-of-a-kind pizza toppings, Pies and Pints remains high on our list of go-to eateries in Lexington.

“Stop by for lunch, dinner, happy hour or anytime you want to enjoy a delicious pie & brew while cheering on the Big Blue.”–Pies & Pints, Lexington, KY location

Next week, I will share more of our Lexington adventures–including two, new-to-us food stops and a historical location that is also a base for several types of out-of-doors adventures.  In the meantime, if you haven’t put Lexington, KY on your short-list of friendly, tourist attractions, be sure to take time to add it.  Then, plan your visit soon, and hit me up on Instagram, Facebook, or at stephsimply.com with any questions you may have.  With so many points of appeal and interest, you’ll be glad you visited Lexington, KY!  And while you’re there, be sure to tell them Steph simply sent you!

Berry Good Cauliflower-Berry Smoothie

“Good nutrition creates health in all areas of our existence.  All parts are interconnected.”–T. Collin Campbell

Photo by Anastasiia Petrova on Pexels.com

Summer is back!  Okay, not officially as we have not yet experienced the summer solstice, but it is strawberry season!  In fact, throughout the coming months of summer, other berries will also come into season!  Freshly picked berries are not only some of Mother Nature’s sweetest earthly treasures, but they are also some of the most nutrient rich treats.  Plus, they are just so darn versatile.  Eat ‘em plain; toss them into cereal, smoothies, or yogurt; mash them onto your toast (for real!); bake them into cake, muffin, or pie recipes; cook them down into syrup, sauces, or jams; or, can, dry, or freeze them for later use.  Honestly, what’s not to love about berries?

From a nutritional standpoint, berries are chock full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and the all important fiber. Think of berries as your personal arsenal for warding off cancer, protecting the health of your heart, and fending off chronic inflammation and/or illness. They also benefit your skin, may help lower cholesterol, and can typically be enjoyed no matter the diet you follow due to the fact they are low-glycemic and low in calories as well as carbs.  Those tiny, juicy, brightly colored orbs are bursting with nothing but love and goodwill for your body and your taste buds. 

Photo by Julia Volk on Pexels.com

Now, contrast the vivid indigo of blueberries, the deep purple of blackberries, the candy red of strawberries, the shiny garnet of cherries and pomegranates, and the rose crimson of raspberries to the ever so homely cauliflower.  Oh sure, there are a few colorful varieties of cauliflower, but by and large, the most abundant form of cauliflower is as colorless as a canvas.  In fact, that is how I prefer to think of cauliflower: a canvas.  A canvas waiting for the strokes of color from an artist’s, or in this case, cook’s palette.

“Most flowers say, “I love you,’ but cauliflowers say, ‘I hope you live forever.’  And, that’s more intense than love.”–Unknown

Cauliflower, like the acclaimed berry, is considered a superfood.  It, too, is high in fiber, low in calories and carbohydrates, and full of vitamins and minerals.  Brimming with phytonutrients, antioxidants, and high levels of sulforaphane–an ingredient in all cruciferous vegetables–cauliflower can also wage war against cancer. Due to its high level of choline, it also supports learning and memory maintenance. (Who doesn’t need help with that?)  Additionally, cauliflower is full of bone-enhancing Vitamin K.  

Photo by Arina Krasnikova on Pexels.com

Similarly to berries, cauliflower is versatile in the kitchen.  Popularly known for creating a healthier alternative to traditional pizza crust, cauliflower can also be made into grilled “steaks,” buffalo “wings,” and stir-fried “rice.” Furthermore, it can be mashed, steamed, baked, fried, tossed into soup, salad or dip, eaten raw, its stem can be shredded and added to slaw, and it can be frozen for later use.  Plus, it can be added to smoothies! 

“If cauliflower can be pizza, you, my friend, can be anything.”–Unknown

Two simple ingredients make this smoothie naturally sweet, creamy, and a rock-solid nutritional choice to start your day of with the first positive step of the week.

If you are familiar with my work, you know I love whole-food, plant-based smoothies.  They are convenient, portable powerhouses of nutrition that can be made ahead of time and frozen.  That’s right! Blend a whole batch of smoothies up for the week in one manageably messy hour or less, and you are setting yourself up for a nutritionally robust, go-get ‘em week!  Then, the night before–or really, just a few hours ahead of time–take one smoothie out of the freezer, and set it in the fridge. Then, in the morning, you’re ready to kick off your dynamo day with a jolt of nutritional righteousness. 

Now that the weather is warming up, nothing tastes more refreshing than a cool, creamy sweet smoothie.  The sweetness occurs naturally from the succulent berries–no added sugars here.  Full of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals; low in calories and carbohydrates; this smoothie recipe checks all the boxes.  You won’t be able to taste the cauliflower, but instead, you will taste all of the berry deliciousness of whatever berry(ies) you choose.  Your taste buds and body will be doing the happy dance, and you will feel a peace of mind knowing you made one small choice of positivity that just may lead to multiple beneficial steps towards your health for the day.

From frozen to thawed in a matter of hours . . .make ahead smoothies make your work week more organized and, well, smooth!

“A healthy outside starts from the inside.”–Robert Urich

I encourage you to give this recipe a try. Change it up, dress it up, and make your own version of this wholesome blessedness.  Then, hit me up via email, Instagram, Facebook or on this website, stephsimplycom.  I can’t wait to see what you do with it!  

From my home to yours, I simply wish you vibrant health.  Here’s to you!

Berry Good Cauliflower Smoothie

Ingredients:

1 ½ cup riced cauliflower

1-1 ¼  cup favorite liquid or other favorite liquid 

¼-½   cup pomegranate, cherry, blueberry or combination juice (You want a total of 1 ½ cup liquid.)

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Dash of salt (optional)

1 inch or ½ teaspoon ginger

1 mini cucumber or ½ large

½ lime, peel removed, but leave parts of the pithe for extra flavor and Vitamin C

1 cup mixed berries (My blender can only handle 1 cup, but feel free to add in another cup!)

Optional: 1 medjool date or ½ banana for added sweetness if desired 

Go “Extra,”only if you want, with as many of these additional nutritious powerhouses as desired:

Replace ¼ cup of your favorite liquid with ¼ cup aloe

2 teaspoons amla

2 teaspoon greens powder

1-2 teaspoons acai powder

½ – 1 teaspoon matcha powder

½ -1 whole scoop of favorite protein powder 

¼-½ teaspoon of turmeric powder

Place cauliflower and all liquid ingredients into the blender and blend well.

Add-in rest of the ingredients in the order listed above.

Blend all ingredients until smooth.

Makes one large (approx 32 ounces) or two smaller (approx 16 ounce) smoothies, depending upon amounts chosen.

Scent-ual Memories of Mamaw

“The sense of smell can be extraordinarily evocative, bringing back pictures as sharp as photographs of scenes that had left the conscious mind.”–Thalassa Cruso

The tall 8th grader nodded his head slightly as he handed me a basket.  

“This is from my mom,” he added and ambled away on legs leaner and longer than I am tall. 

Filled with several items of self-care, I slowly admired each item in the basket. Noticing a tiny tin of Nivea hand cream, I twisted off its lid. Since my hands were dry from sanitizing students’ tables, I dipped a finger into the rich, velvety cream and gently massaged it into the skin of my hands and fingers.  Working the cream into my hands, I proceeded across the room and thanked the student for his–and his mom’s–thoughtful gift. Then, beginning class in my usual manner, I promptly began moving about the room as I coaxed the 8th grade students into a didactic conversation, and suddenly noticed a familiar aroma . . . Mamaw?

Mamaw and me at her house in the rarely used living room during the Christmas of 1967.

“Nothing revives the past so completely as a smell that was once associated with it.”— Vladimir Nabokov

Mamaw, whose actual name was Maxi Musick, was my paternal grandmother.  Standing 4’10” at her tallest, she became a widow not too much longer after I was born during the mid-1960s.  She lived in the same small craftsman style home in which she raised my dad and his younger brother for most of their lives. (They moved into the home when my dad was around nine years old.) 

Mamaw’s home was of great fascination to me, and it possessed a certain scent. This unique aroma seemed to mostly emanate from the bathroom and seep into the rest of the house as the one and only bathroom was situated right next to what she called the TV room. In particular, this same fragrance seemed to emanate from Mamaw’s skin.  In fact, I considered this Mamaw’s signature scent.

Where was this scent coming from? Surely, it wasn’t coming from one of the students? No, that was an absurd thought.  I’m tired and simply imagining Mammaw’s fragrance. 

Mamaw is sitting behind me in this picture from Christmas 1967. Beside me opening a Christmas gift is my Uncle Gary Musick, Dad’s brother.

Making my way around the room, discussing the topic of the day with the students, the lingering odor of Mamaw remained with me no matter in which part of the room I stood. Gesticulating in order to make a particular emphasis, a strong wave of fragrance wafted through the air.  A student began to talk, and I brought my palms towards my face.  Then rubbing my palms together and quickly inhaling, the warm scent filled my nostrils.  There she was again.  Mamaw.

Trying to force my mind back towards the speaking student, memories of Mamaw crashed to the surface of my consciousness, as if suddenly, hundreds of sticky note memories began covering my brain. Oh, I didn’t want to lose those remembrances, but I needed professional concentration. Nonetheless, winds of recollection continued to dance, lift, and float just below the surface of my focus like watching autumn leaves drifting to earth outside my classroom window.  Oh, but could I catch each one if only I weren’t inside the confines of the setting, focusing on the job at hand.

My mind drifted to summer nights spent at Mamaw’s house  . . .

Mamaw, with her thinning salt and pepper hair, topped with a wiglet, quietly swaying in rhythm, with me beside her, as we sat on a glider that gently twanged and screeched.  Not many words were spoken. The sensory thrill of summer was enough.

 Heading into the TV room once night was fully settled.  We would take turns bathing.  Mamw would emerge freshly cleaned, pink nightgown and robe swathing her tiny body;  wiglet wrapped in tissue paper so that it wouldn’t be mussed during the night, and that warm fragrance, like misty fog surrounding her being, emanating out each pore of her body. 

Together we watched The Rockford Files (or other such popular shows).  Before the episode began, Mamaw briskly entered her darkened kitchen, and using only the small light above her sink, she would prepare for us a snack. Using her cheese slicer, she deftly carved perfect slices of cheese, added a few Ritz crackers, poured a glass of water for herself, and fixed a cup of Tang for me–the drink of astronauts! 

Mamaw, Maxi, Musick is seated at the head of the table in her kitchen in 1967. Her kitchen would mostly remain the same throughout my childhood. It is interesting to note the way Mamaw tilts her head for pictures as I only now recognized that I have a tendency to do the same thing when photographed.

We were now ready to help Jim Rockford solve his current mystery. If Jim said or did something funny, Mamaw laughed with her whole body, her soft belly jiggling with delight. When he’d act romantically with his sometimes girlfriend, Mamaw would joke that she wished James Garner would date her.  Throughout the show, she and I would debate the merits of the case in our attempt to solve the crime.

By 11:00 pm, I would snuggle down in a twin bed that once belonged to my dad as Mamaw, a heavy-footed, purposeful walker for such a small person, would walk through “boys’ bedroom” to enter her own bedroom. I would fall asleep to the sounds of the C & O train cars moving around in the nearby rail yard.  Safe and snuggled in the blankets, if I listened closely, I could also hear the soft tick, tick, tick of the second hand of the square electric clock in her bedroom clicking off the passing seconds.

Rising early in the morning, Mamaw would make oatmeal for us with extra sugar for me, Sweet’N Low for her.  She boiled water to make herself a cup of instant coffee, and she poured me a cup of orange juice, or if I was really fortunate, grape juice.  Then, we might go to the local high school track for a walk, work around the house, work around the yard tending to her flowers or hanging laundry to dry on the line, or she might quilt, asking me to hand her pieces of material, thread, or find her thimble.

If I remember correctly, Mamaw drove a Toyota Corona for most, if not all, of my childhood. It did not have air conditioning, and so we traveled with the windows down in the summer. She required pillows on her seat to assist her reaching the pedals and seeing out of the window. Both hands were on the steering wheel–10 and 2 o’clock. Those hands never strayed from their designated positions, and her eyes were locked straight ahead. Therefore, she let me adjust the dial on the AM radio to WGNT, rather than WTCR, the home of the country music she preferred.

Mamaw was tight with her budget. She adhered to a schedule and routine with breakfast by 7:00 am, lunch at noon, and dinner at 5:00 pm. Her house was simple, but always neat and tidy. While she belonged to a Regular Baptist church that rotated services from one rural location to another, she talked about it only if asked, and I never heard her criticize other denominations and beliefs.

Meanwhile, back in my classroom, I felt the sticky notes of memories loosening as I required more and more focus to keep my part of the student conversation going.  

Papaw Musick and Mamaw Musick with my Dad, Larry. I just love this photo of all three as it conveys so many emotions–especially when you look at the eyes.

“We do not remember days, we remember moments.”–Cesare Pavese

Mamaw, I hope you knew, and somehow still know, how special you were/are to me.  You taught me to keep my head held high and to walk purposefully with firm steps grounded in simple truths. You further taught me to live simply and not wastefully; laugh abundantly and with your whole body; don’t proselytize your faith, but instead, live by example; eat your oatmeal and take walks; plant flowers; go to bed at a regular time, and get up early; be kind and loving; and, always remember that James Garner was one of the greats.

 I’ve decided to keep that tin of cream in my desk drawer at school in order to remind me to live by Mamaw’s simple truths as I work and teach the next generation of kids.  

Hmm . . . I wonder if I could find a way to work The Rockford Files into my curriculum?