The Sweet Southern Sojourn

IMG_9010By Reed Richardson

The downtown radius of Greensboro, Ala. compares to the size of a regulation football field. However, right in the middle of it all is a simple pie shop that sure knows how to make an impression.

PieLab is the sweet spot to stop for any explorer passing through lower Alabama, especially if exceptional pie makes you weak in the knees. Flavors range from the all-American apple pie to the unusual Greek yogurt cheesecake pie.

“But butterscotch pecan is the top seller of everything,” staffer John Wilkerson says.

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While the dessert pie is a specialty to the shop, PieLab sells a handful of savory pies like pizza and quiche for hungrier customers. “No matter what day it is, there is always a quiche option,” Wilkerson says.

As customers come and go from the counter, Wilkerson mentions that the shop is often filled with travelers looking for a bite to eat or an afternoon sugar rush. “Lots of out-of-towners are always stopping in as they pass through, but it’s also a place to bring people together through pie and conversation,” he says.

Wilkerson’s comment refers back to the beginning of PieLab, a social entrepreneurship plan started by Project M in 2009, and now sponsored by Hale Empowerment and Revitalization Organization, or HERO for short.

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PieLab is a shining star in Hale County, one of the poorest counties in all of Alabama. In conjunction with HERO and Project M, the business works as a facility for economic revitalization, job training and people-pleasing pie. Their mission: “Pie + Conversation = Social Change.”

Customer and out-of-towner Lauren Bates says, “They have a gift when it comes to entrepreneurship. They are using the resources they have in their formula for success. I just wish I lived closer. I would go a lot more.”

With such friendly vibrations, it is easy to see the appeal. Staffers and locals alike welcome customers in with cheer and a quest to get to know you. “You come to the store and talk to someone you might not talk to on the street. It’s amazing what a good slice of pie can do,” Wilkerson says.

With a big bite of lemon icebox pie, Bates confirms, “You never feel like you’re eating alone.”

Located just two hours from Birmingham, Greensboro is a wonderful Southern sojourn for both city and country folk. After a slice of goodness, take a stroll through the square. An eco-friendly bike shop, a quaint little library and a friendly antique shop beg to be explored.

 

Photos by Reed Richardson

 

Must Read Book Reviews

Here are a few books for your upcoming summer reads.  Romance, history, murder, astronauts  on a mission to land robots on the moon, difficult marriages; you name it, these three books deliver.

The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin  The Aviator’s Wife

A vividly imagined novel about a complicated marriage, it reveals both the amazing highs and terrifying lows. The author illustrates the enduring relationship between Anne Morrow Lindbergh and her husband Charles Lindbergh from the idealistic, fairytale beginning to the realistic hardship that accompanies a famous aviator and his wife.

Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer

A New York Times Notable Book of 2012, this novel is a special and quirky love story, a quest between worlds and a portrayal of what it means to be human. Netzer creates these characters and their stories in a way that deems the question: “What is a normal life?” For Sunny, it is playing the wife to a husband who is flying out to the moon, a mother to an autistic young boy and a woman keeping her baldhead a secret to the world. Every character is charming in his or her surprising, yet loveable way.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gillian Flynn, one of today’s most critically acclaimed suspense authors, unfolds a marriage that has gone horribly, horribly wrong. Gone Girl illustrates how marriage can be a real killer with a sharp, chilling story that leaves you begging for more. Plans are being made on what seems to be a lovely fifth year anniversary for Nick and Amy Dunne, when Amy disappears from the couple’s McMansion on the Mississippi River. Tips, clues and Amy’s diary do not bode well for Mr. Perfect who Nick has tried oh so much to portray. This devilish darkness and psychological insight make this fast-pace thriller a masterpiece.

LB_MustRead_Aviator  LB_MustRead_Shine  LB_MustRead_Gone

Street Style: Week Eight

This week Exodus’  street style headed to Pepper Place Market to find fresh produce and maxis everywhere. Don’t miss out on the breezy trend this summer!

Jamie Roxas

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Dress worn as a skirt: Lovelady Thrift Store

White tee shirt: Borrowed from roommate

Bag: Gifted

Sandals: Market in India

Belt: From another dress in my wardrobe

What’s your favorite item in your wardrobe? Definitely my Indian sandals. They are very unique.

Give three words to describe your style: Simple, bohemian and contrast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jill Volkmar

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Dress: Nordstrom

Necklace: Unsure

Sandals: Tory Burch

Bag: J.Crew

Sunglasses: Ray-Ban

What is your favorite trend this season? Mint Green!

What is your favorite item in your wardrobe? My denim jeans. They are perfect with everything and can be dressed up or down.

Photos by Katie Stewart

 

 

Antique Roadtrip

“What’s on 2nd?”What's on 2nd?

“What’s on 2nd?” is a vintage thrift shop located on 2nd Avenue North in downtown Birmingham.
Here you can happily hunt through three stories of items that tell tales of the past. The rafters are filled with unique objects ranging from vintage records, old school cameras, historical documents, trading cards and more.
Since 2007, the shelves have been filled from “an army of pickers who are constantly bringing in new items,” co-owner Steve Gilmer says.
You may not visit “What’s on 2nd?” with any intent of making a purchase, but any shopper is bound to make a connection with a nostalgic item to take home.

Unclaimed Baggage

Unclaimed Baggage is tucked in the small mountain town of Scottsboro in the northern corner of Alabama. The family-owned business has been thriving for more than 40 years.
Here you can discover other people’s treasure as you browse unclaimed luggage from all over the country.
The store covers an entire city block with more than 40,000 square feet of unclaimed airplane luggage. Items range from laptops to top-of-the-line cameras, designer clothes and purses and everything in between. All of the products are available at discounted prices.
Their huge selection of unique products draws customers from all over the map. Unclaimed Baggage is sure to keep any thrifty shopper busy for hours.

Homewood Antiquessshomewood5

Homewood Antiques and Marketplace is a family-owned business in Edgewood with an always changing, never ending stock of rare and fun antique pieces.
The store supports more than 50 vendors that supply a variety of merchandise. These vendors have created homemade items and several refurbished antique pieces. Other pieces sold in Homewood Antiques are ready for their purchaser to fix them up and show them off.
When you make such a purchase, owner Chris Collins bids you farewell with one request: “Make sure you send us pictures showing what you do with this piece!”

Charlotte Woodsen

Charlotte Woodson is a local antique store nestled in Mountain Brook Village that offers high-end antiques.
Owner Dinah Toro buys most of her products in France. She is available to answer any questions you may have about antiquing along with her dog, Mr. Foxie.
Although he isn’t for sale, shoppers can find almost anything else in Charlotte Woodson including books, pictures, large furniture and home décor.
The atmosphere of the shop is conducive to getting lost in a beautiful store while hunting for items with a rich history.

By Stevi Sappenfield

Photos by Kaitlin Bitz and Stevi Sappenfield

Positively Funny fights bullying through improv comedy

When dealing with the tough issues in life, Positively Funny sticks by the old saying “laughter is the best medicine.”

Created in 2010, Positively Funny, Inc. set out with the purpose of being the primary source of funding for its non-profit, Perform for Purpose, an organization that works with youth and teens on anti-bullying. Going into schools, they create workshops that are improv based to teach students coping skills.

“We believe in laughing while learning and using the theater as a means of teaching,” says founder David Grissom. “Our approach is a lot of laughter. When people are laughing, they are letting their guard down.”

Positively Funny uses a short form improv called social theater, which is something they are trying to grow in Birmingham, as improv is relatively new to the city as a whole.

“We try and use the arts as a way of lifting up and teaching,” Grissom says. “We take on issues such as school violence to learn how to recognize it and promote speaking up for it.”

Grissom’s goal was to start an organization that would make a difference and impact the lives of the people involved.

“There is no sitting and learning, it is all about being up and interacting,” Grissom says. “Again, its all about the laughter aspect. You are teaching the principles, but you’re still laughing about it.”

Their cast of actors is a real mix of characters bringing together PhD candidates, librarians and even postal workers. Though they are diverse, they all have the same goal when performing.

“Our ideal goal is to get further into the school system,” said Grissom. “We are trying to get into the official curriculum as the go-to for anti-bullying state wide for schools.”

GreyHaven offers community to local musicians

Creating collaboration between musicians and songwriters, GreyHaven Community has created the first of its kind in Birmingham by providing songwriters an outlet for their work to come full circle.

“We want to create a community for musicians and artists to get out of their comfort zone, out of their bubble, and get them to create great music through collaboration,” says GreyHaven’s Technical Coordinator Corey Scogin.

Four to six times a year, GreyHaven sets up a performance for ten songwriters in local venues, such as Avondale Brewery, Urban Standard and Mountain Brook Community Church’s University Christian Fellowship house.

Caleb Chancy, founder of Grey Haven, created this community four years ago through word of mouth and personal connections. GreyHaven now has an abundance of musicians collaborating with each other.

“One of the most rewarding parts of this organization comes when a song writer brings a song in its rough and unfiltered form and then works with the other musicians and is able to pull something together that comes out beautifully,” Scogin says.

College student Laura Lynn Williams has been working with GreyHaven for about two years now as a songwriter and musician.

“Grey Haven was the only place I was surrounded fully by musicians and was challenged to mature in my musicality,” Williams says. “It was interesting to see what I already had and get to see a song come to life with a full band. Often times, songwriters don’t get an opportunity like that.”

Williams compares working with the other musicians of Grey Haven as a kind of mentorship. She says that Grey Haven creates an environment that backs your mission as a songwriter.

“In Birmingham you don’t expect to come across as many musicians as you do,” Williams says. “A lot of songwriters can get stuck in a no mans land when they don’t have a community to support them. Caleb is a really creative guy and came up with a really great solution for song writers.”

Before every show, Grey Haven will send out a newsletter to announce the show’s details and request songwriters. From there, they select 10 writers and have them work directly with musicians from the community to coordinate their sets for the shows. They encourage each writer to select multiple musicians, as their main focus is on the collaboration of each show. Almost every performance is recorded and posted on their website.

For more information visit greyhavencommunity.com.

How to be Awesome: Jon Acuff on beating fear and pursuing your dream job

Jon Acuff

By Jackie Long

Jon Acuff is the best-selling author of Stuff Christians Like, Quitter, and Start, as well as the popular Christian satire blog, Stuff Christians Like. He graduated from Samford University in 1998 with a degree in journalism and mass communication and now is part of the Dave Ramsey team out of Nashville, Tenn. Exodus spoke with him about how college students can get started on the path to awesomeness before they ever have a diploma.

Exodus: In your book Quitter, you say we’re living in the “I’m, but” generation. We’re all saying, “I am this, but I want to be that.” Why do you think so many people get stuck there?

Jon: I think it’s a bunch of things, but one of those is fear. We’re just afraid to do what we feel called to do. A lot of us have known for a long time. A lot of college students chase someone else’s dream. Or they have a major they want to pursue, but their parents tell them that major will never make money or that it’s foolish. So they give up on that, and they end up in a job they hate just to make money.

Our generation has a lot of different opportunities other generations didn’t have. My grandfather, who fought in World War II and managed a Woolworth’s [international five-and-dime store], never came home from work and went, “My artist just wasn’t fed today.” But our generation has the ability and the freedom to chase [our dreams].

E: Finding a job after graduation, especially now, is nerve-wracking. We want our dream job, but we’re told our first job is just going to be terrible. What is important for students to remember when starting the job hunt?

J: Give yourself some patience and grace. You’re not going to get your dream job right out of school. The chances of that are pretty slim. And that’s not failure at all. If you can get a job where you can build toward your dream job, I think that’s great. So a lot of times with college students we put this pressure on, like they’ve got to have a dream job right out of the gate. That really makes you miserable where you end up. So what I always say is get a job as close to your major or calling as possible and figure out ways to learn there. If you don’t have the job you love, figure out what pieces of it can still keep you learning. When you graduate, you aren’t done learning. So how do you turn your job into your next college course?

E: Your book Start focuses partly on the idea of “punching fear in the face.” What does that mean for students?

J: Part of what the book talks about is voices—what do your internal voices tell you? A friend of mine told me, “Basically, no one has a positive internal voice.” No one’s internal voice is saying, “You sure are skinny enough. You’re going to be great at that major. You’re totally going to get a job after graduation.” Instead our voices tell us, “You’re not smart enough, you’re not pretty enough, you’re not talented enough, you’re going to fail, it is not going to work.” And we listen to those. So a big part of [punching fear in the face] is identifying those voices. Identify them, write them down and refute them with truth. Also, share them. Fear fears community. So having other people you can talk to about this stuff is really valuable.

E: What are your top tips for college students who want to pursue “awesomeness,” as you describe in your book?

 J: The best thing I’ve ever done for my résumé, and it’s so tactical, but don’t ever put goals at the top of your résumé. It’s such a useless thing, but everybody does it. It’s those horrible paragraphs that say “I want to be in a people-based environment where I can use my talents in a synergy way…” No, it’s just junk.

Instead find one amazing thing you did each year of college and write a three to four sentence paragraph about your results, because most employers won’t even read the rest of the résumé.

Start a blog. In five to ten years when you go for a job interview and you say you’re passionate about whatever industry, they’re gonna go, “Oh, where’s your blog on that subject?” And you’re gonna say, “Oh, I’m not that kind of passionate.”

If you want to stand out from other college grads, be on Twitter. Have relationships with other experts in your field. Create a presence. Be an expert long before you even have a job.

I’d also say to start getting mentors while you’re still in college. Find a person who’s ahead of you in something and ask them to coffee. Build a support team. There are so many things you can do before you graduate. Most college students wait until they graduate to do the hardcore hustle stuff, but you should really start as a freshman.

Follow Jon on Twitter and Instagram (@jonacuff), and check out his blogs: jonacuff.com and stuffchristianslike.net. 

Story by Jackie Long. Photo provided by The Lampo Group, Inc.

 

A Future for Dance: Alabama Ballet gives inspiring dancers the chance to learn from the best

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Aspiring dancers throughout the state covet a chance to dance with the Alabama Ballet, but with only 33 years of history, the company is relatively new in the world of dance. So what makes the Alabama Ballet so appealing?

Easy. The Alabama Ballet offers dancers the chance to work with outstanding directors. In its beginning, the company followed the artistic direction of Dame Sonia Arova (previously dancing with the Original Ballet Russes, the Royal Ballet, and America Ballet Theatre) and Thor Sutowski, and then 15 years later, the leadership passed to Roger Van Fleteren and Wes Chapman. Today, Tracey Alvey serves as the ballet’s Artistic Director.

“I love everything about it. Everyone is very professional and we all get along very well,” says dancer Christy Delenick.

Studying musical theatre at Samford University, Delenick has been with the Alabama Ballet’s school for two years. In those two years, she has been privileged to dance in George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker” and “The Sleeping Beauty.”

As a student, Delenick’s days and nights look much different than that of company dancers, keeping up with academic classes and homework as well as ballet classes and performance rehearsals. But the busy days are worth it. She couldn’t pass up the opportunity to learn from the best.

Kelli Murdock, 24, began as an apprentice for two years and has now been a company dancer with the Alabama Ballet for the past six years. Unlike Delenick, as a full-time company member Murdock spends her days in and out of company classes and rehearsals.

It’s an all-day job, but it pays off. Murdock recently danced the role of the Lilac Fairy in the ballet’s rendition of “The Sleeping Beauty.”

“I feel so honored and blessed to have gotten such a role. I felt like I had more of a responsibility with this role because it was a Principal role,” she says. “I needed to always be prepared and it was a great challenge! I had to learn more mime than I was used to, but I loved every bit of it.”

Like Delenick, she shares the same positive outlook on the company.

“I love being apart of the Alabama Ballet. I think Tracey has done a terrific job at building the company’s repertoire and taking us in a great direction.”

Photos by Arik sokol, Billy Brown and Melissa Dooley

Fun ways to exercise in Birmingham

With warm weather comes the urge to be outside as well as the dreaded fear of donning a bathing suit for the first time in several months. However, you have nothing to fear! The city of Birmingham has several great ways to get outdoors while simultaneously getting your Is the warm weather getting you fired up to get in shape?workout on. The best part? Most options for exercise in Birmingham are cheap or free!

Railroad Park

Railroad Park offers a wide variety of activities in the afternoons for people of all ages and sizes. On Monday afternoons, you can participate in Crunk Fitness (check out Exodus’ coverage of Crunk Fitness here). On Tuesdays, those looking for a more challenging workout can participate in Bootcamp. Wednesdays you can get your Zumba on and Thursdays offer yoga for those looking to relax while working out. Friday rounds out the fitness-filled week with Happy Feet Fridays, which teaches proper running and walking techniques for athletes of all skill and fitness levels. All of these classes are free and open to the public. For more information on class times and locations, visit railroadpark.org.

Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve

You can participate in a Mine Hike with history buff Gary Bostany at Ruffner Mountain Thursday, May 11. This hike entails visiting the mining landmarks located across Ruffner Mountain. The cost is only $7, but make sure to register for the event at ruffnermountain.org.

Ruffner Mountain will also be offering a Wonderful Wetlands Hike from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, May 19. This hike will give you the chance to observe the wetlands as well as the wildlife that inhabit them. For more information or to register, visit ruffnermountain.org.

 

Photos by Kaitlin Bitz

Summer movies preview

manofsteel

Summertime is just around the corner, and while a trip to the lake is always a great way to cool down, don’t forget your indoor options.

Whether it’s a midweek matinee or a Thursday night premiere, sitting in an air-conditioned auditorium for three hours while fights, mystery and romance light up the silver screen can give you a temporary relief from the heat.

Well, not always.

If you don’t pick the right summer movies, you might as well stay sweltering under the mid-July sun. Because Exodus is concerned for your well-being, here’s a list of some of the movies you won’t regret seeing, as well as those you should wear extra-strength film-block lotion to avoid.

Iron Man 3 (already released) – If you loved the first two, or any of the other Marvel movies within the last decade, the third installment of Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark should not disappoint.

The Great Gatsby (May 10) – Be wary of this film; if you haven’t read the book, you probably would not be anticipating the movie anyway. If you have read it, be prepared to either enjoy the way its literary greatness is translated to the screen, or else be upset when that one detail that you believe made the book is absent from the movie.

Star Trek Into Darkness (May 17) – Like “Iron Man,” this should follow the same form as its precursor. Older Star Trek fans might want to stick with the originals, especially if the first film of our century came as a disappointment. However, new Trekkies or fans of modern sci-fi flicks should find this one as enjoyable as the last.

The Hangover Part III (May 24) – The only two good things about this film are that advertisements claim it to be the end of the “saga,” and that the official title uses Roman numerals. Skip this movie at all costs.

The Hangover Part III official trailer

Man of Steel (June 14) – If you want a great superhero movie, get Christopher Nolan to direct it. If you want an epic film score, get Hans Zimmer to compose. If you think Kryptonite is the coolest weakness ever, Superman is clearly your superhero of choice. Go to the midnight premiere, dress up and keep going back to see this movie every day if you have the money, because this film will be a monumental success.

Despicable Me 2 (July 3) – Normally, an animated sequel that purely results from the monetary success of the first film is destined to be forgettable (namely, any 1990s Disney film that had a follow-up). But give Gru, Agnes and all those little minions a chance; after all, how can you say no to such adorable cartoons?

Despicable Me 2 trailer

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Lone Ranger (July 3) – The only reason this film will be good is because Johnny Depp is playing the role of Tonto. While it may not be the best movie to grace to silver screen, the leading man is reason enough to go watch it. Johnny Depp never fails to entertain.

Paranoia (August 16) – Harrison Ford will be glad he has Han Solo to be remembered for, and Gary Oldman will be thankful for Sirius Black. After the first week of July, there really won’t be any good new releases. This one might be the best of them, and that’s not saying much. Don’t waste your money on this late summer flick.

Lastly, remember all the memorable (or not-so-memorable) spring flicks that will be playing in your local dollar theater this summer if you want some cheap entertainment.

Photos from Warner Brothers (Man of Steel) and Walt Disney Pictures (Lone Ranger)