Taylor Swift 2.0

As Oct. 27 approached, faithful T-Swift fans anxiously awaited the songstress’ new album. Fans and non-fans alike anticipated a new bundle of heartbreak, revenge, and cryptic lyrics delivered Taylor Swift style. We heard a small taste of “1989” with two pre-released tracks, “Out of the Woods” and “Shake It Off.” But on Oct. 27 we got the whole album and it was a delightful surprise.

As usual, “1989” is a glimpse into Swift’s diary and failed relationships. After the opening song, “Welcome To New York,” an ode to Swift’s new home and her love affair with the Big Apple, the album takes listeners on a journey through the past two years of the seven-time Grammy winner’s life. Sure, “Shake It Off” is a fun, get-up-and-dance song but Swift truly shines in heartfelt songs like “Style,” “Wildest Dreams,” and “Clean.” “Clean” is the perfect end note to an album about past mistakes and relationships. In “Clean,” Swift admits that heartbreak hurts but she has moved on. It provides closure for the failed relationships mentioned in the tracks earlier in the album.

Swift’s new tracks demonstrate her ability to call out what many people have criticized her for: her varied dating past. It’s as if she decided to admit the truth and expose her past mistakes rather than the mistakes of those she dated. In “Blank Space” she sings “Got a long list of ex-lovers/They’ll tell you I’m insane/’Cause you know I love the players/And you love the game,” and “I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream.”

Although “1989” includes several songs about her exes, as should be expected from Swift, they are not blatantly negative about her former flames. The songs also come in a refreshing sound that is distinctly pop. Previously, Swift still considered herself as part of the country genre. But we all know she left her country sound behind with the teardrops on her guitar. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Swift admits that her last album, “Red,” “straddled the line between country and pop.” For “1989” Swift made a deliberate decision to make an album that would be strictly categorized as pop.

“1989” is available on iTunes.

Photo courtesy of taylorswift.com

Photo courtesy of taylorswift.com

IAM Birmingham answers immigrant needs in Birmingham

In 2011, the immigration law HB-56 was passed, and it caused a lot of problems for the Latino population of Alabama. As some Latinos fled the state, others came together to combat the prejudice against them. It was these groups’ lawsuits pressed that led to the dismantling of the harsher parts of the law.

One group in Birmingham, Immigrant Alabama Movement (IAM) Birmingham, has taken a stance to help immigrants. Cesar Mata and Cindy Garcia are some of the community organizers for the group, which is made up entirely of volunteers.

Garcia said the group was “created to help the people of the community with information about the laws and the things that are happening in Alabama.”

The group was founded in July 2011. There were many volunteers in the area wanting to help with the same thing and many people trying to find out more information about HB-56. The volunteers all got together to work for the same goal and IAM was created.

The majority of the people the group assists are from Mexico, like Garcia and Mata, and other parts of Central America.

“We try to educate them so that they can defend their own rights,” Mata said. “Before HB-56 Alabama was ‘Sweet Home Alabama,’ but after this it changed a lot.”

Cesar Mata and Cindy Garcia helped found the immigrant activist group, IAM Birmingham.

5 DIY Halloween Costumes

Still don’t know what you’re going to be for Halloween this year? Need a last-minute costume? Here are five “Do-It-Yourself” costume ideas that are easy to make and will save you money.


Materials Needed: white sheet and scissors

Directions: Have an extra sheet lying around the house? Go with a Halloween favorite, a ghost! This is great for a last-minute costume. Just two holes in the sheet for visibility.


Clothing Needed: boots, jeans, and flannel top (optional: Western hat or vest)

Directions: Try sorting through your closet to find articles of clothing you already own that can be mixed and matched, or ask a neighbor or friend what they have readily available to borrow.

Rosie the Riveter

Clothing Needed: red bandana, denim top, red lipstick, and jeans

Directions: Like the Western costume, this can be easily assembled from daily clothing. Look up photos online to try to match the hairstyle of the 1940s icon. Make sure to roll up your sleeves!


Materials Needed: 50 purple or green balloons, purple/green shirt, green felt, 100 small safety pins, (optional: brown hat)

Directions: First, cut a piece of green felt in the shape of a leaf to pin on the collar of your shirt. Use the safety pins to secure the leaf to the top of your shirt (should be near the shoulder). Next, blow up balloons and pin them to your shirt. Make sure to put the pins through the ends of the balloons, careful not to pop them. The balloons should be placed like a grape bunch, so less at the bottom and more at the top.


Materials Needed: Clear umbrella, ribbon/streamers, black and white construction paper, scissors, glow sticks (22”), and tacky/super glue

Directions: Cut out two large circles from the white construction paper and two smaller circles from the black construction paper. Glue these onto the umbrella for the jellyfish’s eyes. Super glue the glow sticks to the umbrella, lining the metal supports, so that the costume will glow at night. Attach the ribbon or streamers from the bottom of the umbrella and decorate as you wish.



Top five things to do in Birmingham this weekend

By: Taylor Pigman

1. Happy Feet Fridays at Railroad Park
This is the last exercise class offered at Railroad Park for the season. Kick off your weekend by heading out to the park for a 60-minute walk/run workout class. The best part? It’s free! Classes begin at 6 p.m. in Railroad Park. For more information visit http://www.railroadpark.org/events-get-healthy.html.
*Last class Friday, Oct. 31

2. Warehouse 31 Haunted House Presented by Schaeffer Eye Center
The monsters of Warehouse 31 are back for chills and thrills this Halloween. Located in the former Marvin’s Home Improvement Warehouse in Pelham, visitors can expect frighteningly good times. The event is recommended for ages 12 and up. Tickets can be purchased at www.Warehouse31.com.
Ticket Prices:
$20 for Rigamortis Trail Friday and Saturdays
Combo rate: $25 for Rigamortis Trail and 3D Experience Friday and Saturday
$17 for Rigamortis Trail Sunday and Weeknights
Combo rate: $20 for Rigamortis Trail and 3D Experience Sunday and Weeknights

3. Boo Halloween Party
Live music, dee-jays, karaoke, photo booths and a chance to win a $1,000 cash prize for best costume, the 19th annual Boo Halloween Party is sure to be a hit! This year’s theme is BOOZILLA 19 and takes place Friday, Oct. 31 at B&A Warehouse. All proceeds from the event will benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Alabama. Attendees must be 21 and up to enter. Visit www.boohalloweenparty.com for more information.
Ticket Prices:
$20 and can also be paid at the door

4. Dia De Los Muertos Festival
Celebrate Alabama’s 12th annual Day of the Dead this Sunday, Nov. 2. There will be a parade, food vendors and live performances. Guests are encouraged to dress for the occasion! The festival will begin at 4 p.m. at 1st Ave. S. For more information visit www.barehandsinc.org.
Ticket Prices:
$10 ages 13 and up
$3 ages 7- 12
Free under age 7

5. Alabama Ballet Presents: Dracula
The Alabama Ballet is performing Dracula for Halloween this season. The thrilling ballet is open to all ages and runs until November 2 at the Dorothy Jemison Day Theatre. Visit www.alabamaballet.org to purchase tickets.
Tickets range from $22 to $45.

Lean Cuisine: A Guide to Eating Clean in the City

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 12.47.00 PM

(Photo courtesy of Robert Dennis)

There’s no question that Birmingham has some of the best food in the country. While it’s nice to splurge on some soul cuisine (can I get some fried green tomatoes?), it can often be difficult to find a healthy meal. But don’t fret! From hole-in-the-wall cafés to fancy restos, we’ve rounded up the five best spots in Birmingham to grab organic, wholesome fare that will satisfy just about any palette.

The Pantry
Tucked away in the quiet streets of Crestline Village, this intimate eatery features locally grown cuisine that is anything but boring. Sip on complimentary cucumber water while enjoying the rustic ambiance indoors or soak up the sun on the outdoor patio with a Steel City Pop from the stand out back. Stop in for lunch and you’ll find a small, seasonal menu, which includes gluten-free and vegan-friendly options. Can’t stay for a meal? Grab a jar of homemade jam or try one of their fresh juices made with greens, enzymes, roots, nuts, fruits and good-for-you veggies.
The Pantry, 17 Dexter Ave., Crestline, 205-803-3585, thefarmsteadpantry.com

The Bottletree Café
Nestled between warehouses downtown, this café-meets-musical venue is perfect for any time of day. Grab a bite for lunch and choose from a hefty selection of vegetarian and vegan options or swing in dressed in your Sunday’s best for a weekend brunch featuring favorites like the BLTree (think a traditional BLT topped with a fried egg) or an Andre the Giant, which includes veggies and tofu sautéed over seasoned black beans and grits.
3719 3rd Ave. South, Birmingham, 205-533-6288, thebottletree.com

Seasons 52
Casual and sophisticated may be an oxymoron, but it perfectly describes this wine and dine eatery. Enjoy lighter dishes from their seasonal menu like an autumn vegetarian plate that features quinoa-citrus salad, a soft taco, seasonal vegetables, cedar-roasted tofu and fruit salsa or stop in during happy hour to snack on a signature small plate at the piano bar. Each menu item is packed with fresh, in-season ingredients and have 475 calories or less. Talk about eating with a healthy conscience!
245 Summit Blvd., Birmingham, 205-968-5152, seasons52.com

Café Dupont
Inspired by the season, this traditional bistro houses an ever-changing menu that relies on only the freshest and finest quality ingredients. Grab a luxurious meal during your lunch break or opt for the dinner service and enjoy culinary masterpieces like fried oyster and okra with cayenne butter sauce made with organic and locally grown ingredients. Feeling something sweet? Share classic beignets with homegrown strawberry preserves for dessert.
113 20th Street North, Birmingham, 205-322-1282, cafedupont.net

Little Savannah Restaurant & Bar
Don’t let the casual décor fool you; the food and service at this suburban eatery is top notch. On the dinner menu you will find bites like the Heron Hollow arugula salad, which includes Asian pear, toasted pecans, onion marmalade and tarragon vinaigrette. As a part of the farm-to-table movement, everything on the menu uses fresh and local ingredients. As if that wasn’t enough, every Wednesday local ‘celeb’ chefs and farmers hand-select, prepare and then eat a family-style supper with guests. It’s like having a meal in your own home.
3811 Clairmont Ave. South, Birmingham, 205-591-1119, littlesavannah.com
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Fall Festivities at Old Baker Farm and Pumpkin Patch


Old Baker Farm is a charming oasis full of tradition. As if the beauty of the farm were not enough, its rich history makes it even more enchanting. Farm owner Jerry Baker said that his father was born in the 200-year-old farmhouse. According to Baker, “When people asked [my father] where he lived, he said, ‘Best place on earth.’”

The farm is not simply an oasis for the Baker family, though. They have opened the grounds to visitors to share the storied grounds they call home by hosting festival weekends and providing a place for school groups to take field trips.

Their biggest event is the annual Cotton Pickin’ Celebration that will take place Oct. 25 and 26 from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. each day. The festival highlights the history of the farm, featuring a Civil War reenactment, Creek Indians, a bluegrass band, arts and crafts and much more.

Jerry Baker pointed across the field to a giant crate full of fresh picked cotton, “That’s our bouncy thing. We don’t have inflatables,” he said with a laugh. As he spoke about his 220-acre farm, his face lit up, exuding a genuine enthusiasm and passion for the farm. “It’s pretty festive,” Baker said, “but it’s still an old farm atmosphere.”

To attend the Cotton Pickin’ Celebration, guests will pay a $10 admission fee that includes a hay ride to the pumpkin patch where they can select one pumpkin to take home to commemorate the day. Guests can also purchase freshly cooked Barbecue while enjoying the events and attractions being offered.

“Sometimes there may not be but one or two people that come through here [on weekdays] when we first start,” said Baker. By the end of the season, though, Baker said that at least 20,000 people will have come to the farm.

As the demand for small farms has shifted over the past couple of decades, the Bakers began growing pumpkins as well as Christmas trees to continue the farm’s legacy of success. Each year, they feature a “Choose and Cut Christmas Tree Farm” where guests can visit the grounds, take a hayride through the countless rows of Christmas trees and choose one to take home. Old Baker Farm completes the holiday experience by offering free hot apple cider and candy canes to snack on while picking out the perfect tree.

By offering a plethora of activities, Old Baker Farm has become a unique place for families to spend the afternoon, especially during the holiday season.

For driving directions and other information about Old Baker Farm, visit www.oldbakerfarm.com. The farm is open to the public on weekdays from 3 p.m. until dark, on Saturdays from 9 a.m. until dark and on Sundays from 1 p.m. until dark. The annual Cotton Pickin’ Celebration will be held from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. on both Saturday, Oct. 25 and Sunday, Oct. 26. The farm’s address is 184 Furrow Lane, Harpersville, AL 35078.

The Dalai Lama Comes to Birmingham

The Dalai Lama is coming to Birmingham this weekend. This will be his first visit to Alabama. His Holiness will be at two different events this weekend.

Beyond Belief Interfaith Moderated Discussion
The Alabama Theater, Oct. 25, 9 – 11 a.m.
This cooperative dialogue will take place between leaders of different religions and different religious sects. Sects to be represented include Tibetan Buddhism, Judaism, and both Catholic and Protestant Christianity. Tickets are required for this event and can be purchased online here. Each guest will go through multiple security checkpoints before entering the theater. Plan to arrive early.

An Afternoon with His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama
Regions Field, Oct. 26, 2 p.m.
The afternoon will also feature the Alabama Symphony Orchestra. The event is free to the public, but you must have tickets to enter. Attendees should plan to arrive early.



Alabama Adventures: Caving with the Birmingham Grotto

By Sydney Cromwell

When life is feeling stale and you need a break in your routine, the Magic City delivers. From 14,000 feet in the air to hundreds of feet under ground, we found the best adventures in the Birmingham area. This is part two in a six-part series.

Bradley Jones in Bryant Cave

Grotto member Bradley Jones explores Bryant Cave.

Birmingham Grotto
Meets second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m.
Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve, 1214 81st St. S.
Dues: $15 per person or $20 per family annually

There’s no need to be scared of the dark; bring a headlamp and discover an exotic world deep under the Alabama soil. Many people will never see these caves, but the cavers of the Birmingham Grotto are dedicated both to exploring them and preserving them for the future.

Fennigan Spencer, the Grotto president, said the Tennessee-Alabama-Georgia region is rich with thousands of caves that people flock to from across the world. These caves contain their own fragile ecosystems of shimmering stalactites, bats, salamanders and fish that will never see daylight.

The Grotto is part of the National Speleological Society – from which we get the word “spelunking” – and was created in 1958. There are now around 100 members who attend meetings and take part in group trips. The Grotto organizes one large caving trip per month, with members planning smaller trips all the time.

“A grotto is more about the fellowship than anything,” Spencer said. “In a sense it’s a family that works together.”

There are different caves to suit different tastes: vertical caves that require rappelling, tight spaces to squeeze through, easy walking or crawling caves and underwater pools large enough to swim or float a raft. Spencer emphasized that personal fears should not get in the way; he’s a lifelong caver despite being both claustrophobic and scared of heights.

There is an element of danger to caving, which is why Spencer recommends joining the Grotto. Members have access to proper equipment and training, as well as experienced friends to help them find the safest – and most beautiful – paths through a cave.

“The thing about a cave – especially the extreme ones but all of them, really – from the moment you walk in to the moment you leave, you think of nothing else but caving,” Spencer said. “Because if you don’t think about that next step and only that next step, you’re going to get hurt.”

Since the Grotto keeps most of its locations secret as part of its conservation efforts, cavers who go it alone will also never see many of the caverns right under their feet. It’s a mental and physical challenge, but venturing into a hole in the ground can be a rewarding experience for those who give it a try.

Raise a Glass to Good Health

In a new, clean storefront with a bottle of fresh juice on the counter, Amanda Blake Turner seems right at home. Turner is a part owner and one of the creative forces behind Sprout & Pour, Birmingham’s first juice store.

Turner has lived in Birmingham for 14 years. She attended nursing school and got her masters’ at UAB before teaching in inner-city Birmingham. Alongside her husband, who is also her business partner, she has launched Sprout & Pour, Birmingham’s first cold-pressed juicery in the Edgewood neighborhood. She is eager to share how juice has changed her health for the better.

“I was sick a lot last year. I was fatigued and nauseous, but I went to the doctor and they said nothing was really wrong,” Turner said. “My sister bought a juicer and suggested I try that, and that was really the only thing that made me feel better.”

“I started looking around and thought, ‘why are there juice bars everywhere but Birmingham?’” Turner said. She began looking for ways to partner with local farms and exploring different recipes. After researching different juicing techniques, she realized that cold press juicing, which her sister introduced her to, is different from traditional, centrifugal-style juicing because it leaves behind a raw, unpasteurized juice with a high nutrition content.

So far, the demand for her business has been high. Turner and her husband started selling bottled juices at Pepper Place Market in April and sold out every Saturday. They then started a Kickstarter campaign to monitor interest in a juice store and raise startup funds.

“We wanted to see what people would say,” Turner said. “As a one-income family, we needed a push to get off the ground.” With incentives like free juice coupons, t-shirts, decals and private “juice parties”, Kickstarter helped Turner exceed her initial goals for fundraising.

As far as flavors go, Turner explores what works and what doesn’t, and plans to change smoothies seasonally with more pumpkin and “green” juices for the fall.

Turner says her juices are good for any age or health range, but particularly for college students in need of an all-natural energy boost. “I wish I had known about juicing in college,” Turner said. “I could have avoided a lot of Cherry Coke and other unhealthy drinks.”

Amanda Blake Turner, owner of Sprout & Pour, at her newly-renovated store in Edgewood.

How to pack a carry-on, the right way


From foliage festivals to family reunions, there are many reasons to in the fall, and as the holidays quickly approach, now is the time many are preparing for fall travel.

You might have been there before—standing in line with your shoes off, waiting in frustration as the poor person two people ahead of you argues with the TSA agent about the size of their contact-lens-solution. Combine this with expensive food options, overbooked flights, the child that won’t stop screaming in your ear and getting hit in the head with a laptop case, and you are exhausted before you’ve even had time to buckle your seatbelt.

However, knowing how to pack your own carry-on luggage correctly can keep you from being that person in line, and can relieve some of your stress.

Here are some tips to help you speed you through the scanners and aisles and into your seat:

  1. Know what you can and cannot carry on.

Can you carry on granola bars? Yes. Golf clubs? No. The rules can change often, and there are myths about prohibited items that are actually allowed. For a comprehensive list, visit www.tsa.gov/traveler-information, and here are a few of the most interesting:


-Pets—You can carry Fluffy through the scanner with you.

-Knitting needles—These and sewing equipment are allowed, except for thread cutters or scissors, which need to be in checked bags.

-Disposable razors

-Snowglobes—Allowed if under 3.4 liquid ounces and fit in the plastic bag with the rest of your liquids.

Not Allowed:

-Paintball guns—Can be in checked baggage.

-Self-defense sprays

-Hockey/lacrosse sticks or baseball bats

-Replicas of explosives—even if it’s a souvenir that is 100% fake, it will be confiscated. You will also be publicly shamed on the TSA’s Instagram: http://instagram.com/tsa.

You don’t want to be that person that holds up the security line because you forgot to empty your water bottle. No, you cannot stand there and drink it, and you will be forced to go back to the end of the line and start the process all over again.

  1. Pack with security in mind.

If you are taking liquids or a laptop, keep these items in an easily accessible compartment of your carryon. This will allow you to easily navigate security and avoid digging through your socks to find your toothpaste.

All liquids and gels must be in containers 3.4 oz or less, and in a 1 quart plastic bag.

All liquids and gels must be in containers 3.4 oz or less, and in a 1 quart plastic bag.

  1. If you can’t carry it, you shouldn’t carry it on.

Even if a bag adheres to the carryon size limit, if it is too heavy for you to lift above your head, think twice about trying to take it on an airplane—the person in the seat in front of you will probably not appreciate it landing in their lap. You also may have to carry your bag a long way, especially if you have a connecting flight.

  1.    Pack light.

If you are traveling to a destination that hosts cooler temperatures in the fall, it may seem impossible to avoid packing bulky sweaters, boots, hats and scarves. In a standard carryon, these items take up precious space. Instead of these items, consider thinner clothing that can be layered. Even if your departure point is warm, wear your jacket or coat on to the plane—once you take your seat it can easily be stored at your feet instead of filling up half of your suitcase. The same goes for hats, scarves and shoes. If it won’t fit in your bag, but you still feel like you must take it, wearing it can save you space.

  1. Pack smart.

-Try rolling your clothing to make better use of the space in your bag. To avoid an angry call from your mom about a wrinkled shirt, take clothing that is wrinkle resistant, utilize wrinkle-release sprays or many hotels offer an in-room iron.

Pack thinner items that can be layered to save space.

Pack thinner items that can be layered to save space.

-Use a distinctive luggage tag, even if you aren’t checking your bags. Chances are high that your bag will not fit in the overhead compartment directly above your seat. If you are among the last to board, airlines will often require bags to be checked at the gate. Distinctive and humorous tags can be found at sites like www.inventivetravelware.com, or you can use a colorful bandana to set your bag apart.

-Prepare for the worst. Even if you plan on carrying on your luggage, pack a change of clothes in your personal item if possible. This way, if the airline requires you to check your bag at the gate, then loses it, you aren’t stuck wearing the same t-shirt for three days.


Travel doesn’t have to be unpleasant. While you can’t control everything and everyone else, by following these tips you can ensure that you have everything you need without being the person that the flight-staff tell their friends about.