On our last day in Alabama, we had a full Monday to explore. Alas, many places including the Sloss Furnaces and the Museum of Art are closed on Mondays. We were staying at a Hampton Inn close to Mountain Brook. Birmingham is a relatively new city formed after the Civil War to take advantage of the ore deposits in the tail end of the Appalachian mountains. Mountain Brook is one of the first “planned communities.” If Birmingham (B’Ham) has a specialty, it might be producing real estate marketers.
I was thirsty for a real cup of coffee, so I looked for a coffee shop near me and hit the bonanza! Church Street Coffee and Books offered two of my favorite things (it’s just missing yarn). I found my way there and enjoyed both the coffee and the latest Brene Brown book. Most of the books offered were either ones I’d read or ones I’d like to read. Whoever does their book list is my kindred spirit!
I zipped back to the hotel so Phyllis and I could go to Vulcan Park. We followed a class field trip of 4th graders up the elevator to the spectacular view at the top of the Vulcan statue monument. Then we took in the small museum that tells the story of Birmingham.
We were also close to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens and we decided to spend an hour looking at the beautiful gardens. My favorite was the native woods. The gift shop was fun to browse in too.
Birmingham is a place that visitors could enjoy even if you weren’t focused on civil rights places and events. We were ready to go home to California, and we enjoyed our time in Alabama.
While Montgomery and Selma seem stuck in the past, Birmingham is positively forward facing with a robust economy. Birmingham experienced significant civil rights related strife in 1963, including the Children’s Crusade. The downtown is in the beginning of a renaissance and the Civil Rights scars appear to be healing. We started our Sunday at church.
After worship we sought sustenance in the form of brunch. One of the parishioners recommended a restaurant and we walked several blocks only to read the notice that it is permanently closed. The sign suggested we try Mr. Z’s Take Away. We went off in pursuit and ended up deciding to dine at Roots & Revelry, a newish restaurant in a bank redone as apartments and cafes. My chicken and waffles was divine. I’ve added a rule, besides trying pie whenever the opportunity presents, I am going to try fried chicken when in the South and it is on the menu.
My friend made the mistake of wearing fashionable shoes and we’d done a lot of walking already. We were determined to visit the Civil Rights Institute and Kelly Ingram Park was just alongside both the church and Institute. Ingram Park has most of the stops along the Freedom Walk. There are multiple moving statues that tell the story of the Children’s Crusade. Even with the visual aids it was hard to imagine turning fire hoses and dogs on young children (until the recent tear gas at the border on women and children seeking asylum). Some things change and some things stay the same.
When we saw for ourselves the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church location at one corner of the park, we could better understand how it was used by the children as sanctuary and then how it became a target. This is the church that was bombed resulting in the death of four young girls.
Sometimes when I am sitting towards the back of our big sanctuary in Sacramento, I think of how safe I think I am–how little I worry about someone with violent intent coming into our midst. This is a luxury of a mostly Scandinavian Lutheran congregation. With the Charleston shooting, and church burnings, and then more recently the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, I begin to understand what a violation it is to attack a “sanctuary”–a place where we go to worship God and fellowship, a place were strangers are made welcome. The events of 1963 are still relevant.
We did arrive in time to visit the Civil Rights Institute. It offers a comprehensive timeline of the Civil Rights movement. I wished this was our first stop instead of the last on our crawl. We spent quite a long time reading the exhibits and left just before the museum closed. The sidewalks were starting to roll up, so we made our way to the hotel.
This afternoon my mother and I enjoyed the final performance at the Capital Stage in Sacramento, California. The cast members of Mary Bennett: Christmas at Pemberley were each so suited to their characters and the dialogue was lively and fun. We found the performance of Mary and Lord de Bourgh especially charming. A Christmas romance with the Jane Austen’s characters from Pride and Prejudice is a delightful play by Lauren Gunderson and Margo Melcon.
It is a small theater and there isn’t a bad view. I have not ever been to the Capital Stage together.
We ate lunch at the Drunken Noodle Midtown and then walked to the Capital Stage. We arrived early and enjoyed the outdoor courtyard. The toastie warm bathrooms are worth a special commendation.
Going to see a performance at the theater is a way to travel in space and time, such as England in 1815. This particular venue is in Midtown at 2215 J Street, Sacramento 95816.
While dining on stew at O’Neill’s pub, a couple of local Dubliners made some recommendations. I was thinking aloud with my son about what I was going to do in the afternoon considering I have seen most of the popular destinations at least a couple of times. I took up both of their suggestions.
First I walked to St. Stephen’s Green to see the temporary exhibit of the World War I soldier. “The Hauntings Soldier” is the creation of Martin Galbavy with the assistance of Chris Hannam. The sculpture is made from scrap metal items like horseshoes and spanners. It is really quite moving and I was especially impressed to see how many people were on site to take it in.
Then I walked to the other side of Dublin–to Parnell Square–to see the Francis Bacon studio (recreated) at the Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane. The studio walls could use a fresh coat of paint. I walked all the way through the galleries (tiptoeing past a concert in the middle gallery). The exhibit with the Francis Bacon studio begins with a David Frost interview with the artist on a loop. Chaos fed his creativity. Then you walk up to a window into the recreation of his London studio and see why he is so very creative.
“The Hauntings Soldier” may not be there when you go to Dublin, but the Francis Bacon studio will be. Go!
I was staying close to the O’Connell Bridge in City Centre, so when I asked Google Maps to show me “bookstores near me” a lot of red markers popped up. Big smile. I decided to head across the River Liffey to the nearest red dot.
The Winding Stair is lovely inside. The coziness invites browsing and buying. I have no business buying more books, so I bought gifts for others.
I received a text from Tevis and met for lunch at O’Neill’s pub on the other side of the river–crossing the Ha’Penny Bridge. We were chatting over lamb stew about our plans. A couple of local Dubliners sitting next to us heard me say that I’ve seen everything at least twice. They suggested I check out a special statue in St. Stephen’s Green and Francis Bacon’s studio (see next post). I decided to continue my bookstore crawl and see the tribute to WWI soldiers in St. Stephen’s Green.
I walked past a few unmemorable shops, plus a rare bookstore (danger, Will Robinson), I ended my crawl at Hodges Figgis at 56-58 Dawson Street. It is in the Waterstones corporate family and yet it offers so much choice I had to go in. To avoid purchasing I took pictures of books that appealed to me.
I did buy books for others and I mailed them home from the post office in Bray. Some of those books took a month! to get to California.
Bookstores sing a siren song to me. I cannot resist going in. I’m already thinking about how close my hotel in London is to Foyle’s bookstore for my stay in March. I just had some new bookshelves built in my dining room and I was finally able to unpack my boxes of books after more than a year. I found a book on polo with a forward by Prince Charles that I bought with money I could not afford when studying at Cambridge University one college summer.
I will embrace my weakness and make it my strength! And pack accordingly.
This December I have been baking my way through Christina Tosi’s All About Cake cookbook. I first discovered Christina Tosi’s cake magic on Netflix in the dessert season (Vol. 4) of The Chef’s Table. Then when I was in Washington, DC my buddy Carole went with me to try her new Milk Bar (see earlier post). Carole gifted me the cookbook for my birthday. I sat down immediately upon opening the package and saw about a dozen recipes I wanted to try. Starting with the pistachio bundt cake above. Yes it really is Shrek green. It’s also uses about $20 worth of pistachios!
Next was the apple cider donut crock pot pudding. It required a slight substitution of delicious cinnamon sugar donuts from Marie’s Do-Nuts (Sacramento, CA). They have to be “day-old” so buy extra as you there will be some attrition. I shared the finished donut pudding around and everyone found it comforting and delicious. My neighbors and friends are definitely the early beneficiaries of this baking program. I couldn’t possibly eat all of this cake myself.
Any family gathering also provided an opportunity to try another recipe. This is the cherry cola bundt cake that I took to the Pieper Christmas at Auntie J’s. My version came out darker because the cola extract I ordered on Amazon gave everything a dark cola tint. The molasses and half dozen eggs made it rich and dark and yummy.
I nearly wore myself out with the 3 cake sprint over Christmas. I baked 2 cakes on the day before Christmas Eve. Then I made one more cake on Christmas morning to take to a family dinner. Having no elves to clean up or even a dishwasher, I found myself really tired of bundt pan scrubbing.
I also had to run to the grocery store twice–once to buy more butter, and once to buy more eggs. These recipes require a lot of both. Other than a few more exotic ingredients such as lemon extract. I now know how relatively simple it is to make an interesting and delicious cake, and I don’t know why I’d ever use a cake mix again.
My aunt gave me this sort of loaf shaped bundt cake pan that she doesn’t use. It was perfect for the Mint Julep bundt cake. I forgot to dress with mint leaves (still in my crisper drawer). My mom really enjoyed this cake for Jesus’ birthday.
My final cake was the raspberry bundt with grapefruit glaze. I also made homemade whip cream. This cake was a big hit also. The grapefruit glaze offers a little zing. Always the texture of the cakes is dense and delicious.
I’m taking a break now (until 2019) and having fruit for dessert for awhile! There are more recipes I want to try. In the winter when the weather makes it challenging to get outdoors as much for adventure or travel, it can be fun to watch a baking challenge from Britain on television and then try our own hand at a new recipe.
Greensboro, Alabama is practically unknown to people outside of this part of Alabama. When you tell someone you are going to Greensboro—even people in Birmingham—they assume North Carolina. Nonetheless, Greensboro is worth a visit for the SafeHouse Black History Museum.
I had called ahead over a week in advance. It took a little phone tag before I was able to confirm meeting up at 10:00 a.m. The volunteers who help Theresa Burroughs maintain the museum are a mix of locals and people who grew up in Greensboro, had careers in larger cities and other parts of the US and are now retired close enough to drive to Greensboro and open up the museum for 3 women from California.
The museum is a gem. The Rural Studio helped to design the exhibits and this house museum hits above its weight. There is a video where Theresa Burroughs tells her story as an young woman drawn to activism. She marched, was arrested, and organized her community. In the 1960s, Greensboro was the home to a sewing factory in the black side of town and many more people lived in the community. The downtown business district was bustling and boycotts of businesses by the African American community struck an economic below and created fear amongst the white residents. The exhibits and talking to the docents really brings the sense of what it was like in a small rural town during the civil rights movement. The main focus of the museum is one particularly fraught incident involving Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Klu Klux Klan. I won’t give anything away except to say it is worth making the side trip.