At a gas station in Mississippi you can find wood-fired personal pizzas and beer growlers.
While stopping for gas at Exxon Mobile, I spotted a Mercury Pizza on the left hand side of the gas station's convince store. Hungry, I went in and discovered a local pizza shop with wood-fired pies. My pepperoni & mushrooms and Hawaiian pizza took ten minutes to bake, so I walked into the convince store section.
There I found "Taps & Crafts" a growler station with local and regional beers on tap.
Next to the draft beers were brown glass jugs called Growlers. These air-tight bottles let you take home draft beer in 32 and 64 ounces.
Growlers got their name in the 1800s, when people would fill up pails of beer enclosed with a lid. It's rumored that when the CO2 escaped from the lid it would make a growling or rumbling sound.
You can buy a beer for $4 or take home a refillable glass growler...I went with the growler.
While the growlers were a pretty impressive find, so was the pizza.
Mercury Pizza's dough is hand-made and the food stop cooks the pies in a Italian brick fire oven. Each pizza is baked at 900 degrees in 90 seconds...and easily devoured in 90 seconds more.
Let me start out with a few pictures, so you know what we're working with.
Welcome to Foam Coffee Shop in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Here the coffee is iced and the lighting is amazing. So amazing, that my college best friend and I spent 20 minutes taking pictures of our food, drinks and selves.
This spot had been recommended to us from some friends on the beach. Just look at my thoughtfully placed sunglasses and avocado toast!
Another shot from our border-line photo shoot.
As soon as you walk in Babalu Tacos & Tapas you're greeted with episodes of "I Love Lucy."
The restaurant was inspired by the show's character, Ricky Ricardo, and his famous song "Babalu."
Five locations in the south serve this upscale Latin-inspired cuisine and decor.
I started off lunch with table side guacamole. The sun dried tomatoes take this app to the next level! All the waitresses were wearing bandanas in their hair...maybe a nod Lucy??
Babalu's carnitas, pollo and carne de vaca tacos were just as tasty as the guacamole!
While the food was great, I was most impressed by the restaurant's mouth wash station in the bathroom. I kid you not, I went in there twice to use it.
On my second visit, I wanted to video tape it, but stopped to talked to a waitress instead. She said a young girl once came out of the bathroom with two cups of mouthwash. The little girl said she wanted to bring her mom a drink, just like the waitress did.
If you try this restaurant, I highly advise seeing the mouth wash station in action.
Click to see the video.
This might just be the best kept secret in Knoxville, TN.
Lakeside Tavern overlooks the Concord Marina. The restaurant offers up burgers, pizzas and most importantly, this breathtaking view.
I can tell you from experience that their Greek Chicken Pizza and Concord Pecan Chicken Salad are must-trys!
And seriously...the view sells itself!
My college best friend and I went on our first vacation, post-graduation. This trip was completely different from anything we had planned during our time in college. We didn't have the same financial means or real-world experience to book and plan the perfect vacation.
Here's what we learned:
First things first, recruit the moms.
Having never truly planned or budgeted a vacation before, we were completely clueless~ We both tried our best to find a hotel close to the beach and within our price range, but this was truly a job for a mom.
My rockstar mom got us on the beach and in the perfect location close to restaurants and nightlife. Mom pro tip: stay in two different locations. On Friday, we booked a smaller hotel further away from our destination. When we switched hotels for the rest of our stay, we were straight on the beach with more money in our pockets.
Secondly, say yes to every adventure.
That's how we wound up getting matching anchor hennas, meeting new friends to go to dinner with at the beach and killing Christina Aguilera karaoke.
We catch up every two weeks on the phone, but it was important for us to maximize our time because we never get to see each other! By the end of the vacation, we were super tired from staying up all night and waking up super early, but now we have fun memories and crazy stories to tell.
Third and final, make traveling part of the trip.
In all, we spent 6+ hours driving to and from our final destination. We used it as an excuse to jam to throwbacks (I'm talking Jesse McCartney and The Cheetah Girls), catch up and stop at different food and coffee shops along the way.
I think this vacation re-energized both of us as we headed back to work on Monday.
I woke up early one Saturday morning and tired of the same old same old, decided to take a road trip by myself to Jackson, Mississippi. As soon as I finished getting ready, I hit the road.
Having never visited the state's capitol, I sent a quick text to two friends that live there asking for recommendations. My itinerary would consist of museums and a famous garden.
After two hours of podcasts and pop music, I arrived at the downtown Jackson exit. My first stop would be the Old Capitol tour. Instead of following my GPS, I had an itch to get lost in the city and find my way by street signs.
This was a terrible idea. I have literally never been so lost in my life.
Except this one time on a road trip in Georgia...I plugged in the wrong town, and spent an extra three hours driving to my destination. Navigation isn't a part of my skill set.
Once I (finally!) arrived at the Old Capitol, I was awed by these views!
Next up, the Mississippi Museum of Art. I felt super adult, walking around taking no-flash photography of pieces inspired by the Magnolia state...and not gonna lie I totally geeked out when I saw a painting of Pulitzer Prize author, Eudora Welty.
My last stop was no other than Eudora Welty's home and garden on Pinehurst Place.
Eudora and her mother, Chestina, started their garden in 1925. This was the first time women were able to garden and participate in leisurely activities outside of the home. Eudora used this garden as a source of inspiration. Many of the flowers in the garden were personified as characters in her books.
In 1994, Welty asked for the garden to be restored. Susan Haltom and her "Serious Weeders" volunteers have come together every Wednesday since to repair the garden.
Eudora's favorite flowers are camellias. They grow below the room she used to write in.
I definitely recommend just hopping in the car and exploring, but my best advice for these types of adventures is to always listen to Siri.
Today I popped into Town Square Cafe & Bakery for brunch! I was quickly enticed by their strawberry ice box pie, before deciding on a turkey, pimento and bacon sandwich.
This Cafe & Bakery is famous for their coffee that they import globally. Town Square has a beautiful turquoise espresso maker from Italy displayed at the front of their counter. I settled on a cup of Drip Brew to go wit my cake.
Cotton Blues Sunday Brunch is a sacred tradition in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
Their special 10 item menu is tailored for the occasion with breakfast classics that have a southern twist. My favorites, because I really can't pick one, are the apple pie french toast, lobster scramble and MS egg sardou. Each order is served with free bottomless mimosas and bloody marys.
According to Yelp, Cotton Blues is the best brunch spot in the state.
From experience, I think it can be attributed to the phenomenal food and great atmosphere. Every room of the restaurant is lined in cotton cloves and different shades of blue and yellow. The waiters wear gingham shirts and suspenders.
Cotton Blues is the quintessential southern brunch spot.
If you find yourself in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Ed's Burger Joint is the one place you need to stop.
In between a game of corn hole and giant Jenga, chow down on mouth-watering burgers. My favorite is their bacon cheeseburger, topped with fresh cut pickles, and a side of sweet potato fries (of course)! While their burgers are well-known, their milkshakes are what make them famous.
Ed's Hand-Dipped Shakes are brimming with delicious toppings. A Hattiesburg favorite? The Shipley's Donut inspired shake!
This year I had to work the Fourth of July. In the news world, it's not a big deal to work holidays. I've been on call for Christmas and New Years.
I was asked to cover a local parade and fair in town, easy enough right? Yes, but the stories I've lived to tell are hilarious!
When the parade started rolling, I was dualing as a camera operator and a Facebook Live host. About three cars in, I felt something on my leg. It was a mound of fire ants. I jumped and the woman next to me understood. The nice woman helped me get all the bugs off my shoes!
A few days before this incident, I had been laughing to my friend about a story where a woman died from fire ant bites while on a hay bale...I will never laugh at this story again.
As I hopped into my station car, I realized the only way to leave the town was through the parade route. I'm not sure if it was the deadline, or my enjoyment of waving at people from my work car, but I pushed my shift in drive and joined in!
Seriously I was living my best life as I drove behind a group of people on horses throwing beads.