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Ava Gardner Museum Celebrates Celebrity




We’re fortunate to have a former museum docent guest posting for us today. Lisa Sullivan is a powerhouse of adventure. She’s active in her community and online. She’s brought together people and ideas to advocate for causes, nurture new partnerships, and collaborate. Let’s just say that Lisa knows everyone so she’s great at putting the right heads together. She’s also full of verve and curiosity so when Lisa tells me I need to check something out, I go. -ilina

Let’s face it, Americans love celebrity. Just look at all the magazines devoted to the latest news on “who married (or lately, who divorced) who.” I suppose over the years that really hasn’t changed much. The prevalence and accessibility of various social media outlets certainly makes it easier to follow our favorite, and not so favorite, celebs.

Ava Gardner Museum

But, did you know that we had our very own Hollywood celebrity who called Smithfield, North Carolina home? Yep. Ava Gardner, one of the most famous actresses for the better part of the mid-1900’s, was from a very small community just outside of Smithfield – Grabtown.

Born Christmas Eve in 1922, Ava lived most of her young life in the Smithfield area. In her teenage years she and her mother would go to the movies at the Historic Howell Theater to catch glimpses of their favorite leading man at the time, Clark Gable, who later would play opposite Ava in the film, “Mogambo” where she also received her first and only Oscar nomination for Best Actress. You gotta admit, that’s pretty awesome – to have watched your idol and then played alongside him!

How do I know all this? Well, I could read endless articles about her online, but why do that when a museum devoted to her is just 30 minutes from downtown Raleigh – the Ava Gardner Museum – and it’s one of THE most complete museums in honor of a Hollywood Legend in America today.

For just an $8.00 admission price ($7 for seniors, military and teens, $6 for a child), you can take a step back in time to an era that has long since gone, but one that is not forgotten.

Your tour begins with a 20-minute biography on Ava (an interesting one at that!) and then take about another 45-minutes to an hour touring the various exhibits throughout the museum. There are costumes from some of her most famous roles, personal jewelry, letters written by some of her friends (Princess Grace Kelly was one of her BFFs!), even her lingerie is on display right now in a special exhibit called “Ava’s Closet”. After touring the museum, you can take a short drive down to her grave site to pay your respects, if you so chose. Museum Docents will give you directions.


I had the privilege of working as a Docent for a short time from 2010-2011 while I was still looking for full-time work. I loved it! Every day I was on the schedule, I would walk in; turn on all the lights and the stereo. The music of Frank Sinatra was played all day long (He was the love of her life. Didn’t know that? Go visit the museum!). And every day I was there I would smile. In fact, you could’ve caught me singing along to Frank too…if you had visited.

The Ava Gardner Museum is located at 325 E. Market Street in Smithfield and is open Monday through Saturday from 9am-5pm, Sundays 2pm-5pm (closed for some holidays – check their schedule).

I encourage you to visit one of North Carolina’s most fascinating museums. I promise, you too, will walk away with a smile on your face and quite possibly a jig in your step!



Ava Gardner Museum main website – http://www.avagardner.org/

Mogambo IMDB Page – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0046085/

Princess Grace Kelly Biography page – http://www.biography.com/people/grace-kelly-9362226

Ava’s Closet Exhibit info – http://www.avagardner.org/index.php/exhibits-and-programs


Connect with Lisa Sullivan to see where her next ventures lead.

Carolina Jubilee to Benefit Carolina Farm Trust


Lisa and I are food people. We have recently also become farm people. Well, to clarify, we don’t own a farm or even work on a farm. But we have come to know many farmers and are pretty entrenched in the agriculture movement in America. We get that we need to balance sustainability with the need to feed people affordably. Farmers need to be paid a fare wage. People need to eat. The land needs to be preserved. Food needs to be healthy and affordable. Farming and the food supply need to be sustainable. Animals need to be cared for. The list goes on… Myriad issues are at play, but the bottom line is we cannot poison our land to feed our people. There has to be a better way.

Carolina Jubilee

Carolina Jubilee, a benefit for local food sustainability will be held October 16th-17th at VanHoy Farms in Harmony, NC. The two-day event will showcase local bands, food purveyors, and vendors, with all proceeds to benefit the Carolina Farm Trust (CFT).

Click here for tickets!

The Carolina Jubilee Festival is an annual music event with the mission of providing support for the Farm-to-Table initiative with locally produced food and beverages and a variety of regional bands.

Local and regional farms will be represented, and education will be provided on the importance of the agriculture industry and its sustainability. Carolina Jubilee will also invite vendors and organizations that focus on clean energy and the promotion of eco-friendly products and services.

The two-day festival will take place at the gorgeous VanHoy Farms Family Campground, with over 100 rolling peaceful acres of land with full camping facilities and amenities: hiking, water activities, pool, event coliseum, and more. Camp out at the festival!

Contact VanHoy Farms to reserve your campsite ($10/car).

Carolina Farm Trust is a locally run non-profit with the plan to drive action in regional food sustainability. Its mission is to protect our state’s farm land and foster an ecosystem of sustainable farming.

The loss rate of farm land is alarming. Every year 100,000 acres of land is lost to urban and suburban development in North Carolina alone. Any guesses what is the biggest hurdle starting a farm or expanding a farm? Land.

CFT is looking to compete with developers for land, buy it, and lease it back to the farming community, at rates low enough to cover the taxes (think something akin to the Nature Conservancy model). This will work two ways: allows new entrepreneur farmers to have access to land and existing farms to build and expand. By giving land access to new entrepreneur farmers and existing farmers to expand, we are helping the supply reach the local demand. CFT’s goals are based on true economic development and investment in the Carolina region.

“I care deeply about our small agriculture community and hope to save our farm land, provide economic development within the agriculture community, as well as bring other nonprofits and people of all walks of life together to focus on sustainable initiatives that are crucial to our means of survival,” states Wyatt, Executive Director of Carolina Farm Trust.

There are many ways to get involved and support CFT’s mission:

  • Get up a ticket to the festival in October
  • Become a sponsor of, or vendor at the event
  • Become a featured farmer
  • Volunteer
  • Share Carolina Farm Trust’s story and mission

Questions? Want to help? Ready to become a sponsor? Contact Zack Wyatt at zack@carolinafarmtrust.org. Stay tuned on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Civil Rights Movement Has Roots in NC

The history of the South is complex, just as it is in points around the globe. Our story is deep and vast, and most importantly, defined by the lens we wear. North Carolina is rooted in civil rights history.

Inspired by the Greensboro sit-ins, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) began at Shaw University in 1960. Shaw, the oldest historically black university in the South, is around the corner from my son’s school so I often marvel at what those walls hold.  Julian Bond, a founding member of SNCC, was instrumental in the group’s organization and growth. Incidentally, he was my professor in college for a course that has moved me more than any other, the History of the Civil Rights Movement. Can you imagine a more apt teacher for such a class? Bond is honored at the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in its Hall of Fame.

My husband and son were recently there. This summer my husband has taken each of our sons for a sojourn of their choice within our state. My newly minted 10-year old son chose Greensboro and the International Civil Rights Center and Museum. I had visited there before with my older son so our youngest has been itching to reach double digits so he too could visit. He has studied the civil rights movement in school, and we have been to points all over Washington, D.C., including the Martin Luther King memorial on MLK Day. Yet my son was yearning to learn about the movement that sprouted so close to home.

He was not disappointed.

In fact, as all of us have experienced on our visits there, we left moved, angry, and motivated. We have a new appreciation for the ferocity of the civil rights leaders and the immense risks they took. We feel honored to have seen pieces of history firsthand. Imagine the lump in my throat seeing Julian Bond commemorated, a man whose lectures and stories riveted me at a time in my life when I was grasping to find my way and my own voice.

I am amazed at how few people we know have visited the International Civil Rights Center and Museum. We are lucky to have this bastion of history in our state. There are guided tours, speakers, children’s story time, and more. My son has already asked to go back. This time, in light of national news and a resurgence of civil rights discussions in my own family and across the country, we will experience the museum together with yet a new lens.

The International Civil Rights Center & Museum is an archival center, collecting museum and teaching facility devoted to the international struggle for civil and human rights. The Museum celebrates the nonviolent protests of the 1960 Greensboro sit-ins that served as a catalyst in the civil rights movement.”

The International Civil Rights Center & Museum is located in downtown Greensboro at 134 South Elm Street.


Summer (April – September)
Monday – Saturday 9:00 am – 6:00 pm
Sunday Closed

Winter (October – March)
Monday – Saturday 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Sunday Closed


Happy Independence Day!


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Flags are proudly waving in the mountain air and the ocean breeze. This beautiful perch atop Chimney Rock is a favorite. We wish you safe and happy 4th of July!

Summer Adventure List 2015


The best part of working for myself is the flexibility. Hands down. No other benefit or paycheck could trump that. I have the luxury to be home with my sons after school and manage my work to suit to their summer schedules. For a few years now we’ve had a family “summer adventure list.” I guess you might it’s become a thing. As we hear about places throughout the year we take note of something that is summer adventure worthy. There are no rules for our summer adventures, but free is always a good thing. We stick to local spots or venture off on day trips.

Here’s what’s in store for this summer:

Nasher Art Museum

Duke Gardens

The Lily Pond at Duke Gardens in Raleigh, NC

Conservators Center

Greenway walking trails

Historic Stagville


Town Creek Indian Mound

Town Creek Indian Mound #HandmadeNC

Scratch Bakery and Rise Donuts taste test

Duke Lemur Center

Movies (AC and entertainment…perfect for rainy days or sweltering afternoons)

Used book stores

Mt. Airy

Walking tour in downtown Raleigh to photograph public art

Photography scavenger hunt

Golf (mini as well as the real deal)


Exercise together

Paint our interpretations from some of our favorite works at the Nc Museum of Art

Arcade (Last summer we drove to Greensboro in search of an old school arcade, only to arrive in the parking lot and realize it had closed.)

Garland, NC (Top of our list is lunch at Southern Smoke! We also want to check out the Curiosity Shop and Brooks Brothers outlet.)

Abundance Foundation

Durham Bulls and Mudcats baseball

Indoor skydiving

Where will your summer adventures take you?

Raising Bertie Film Raises Awareness of Rural Youth



There are pockets of our state where the glow of media attention never shines. In these rural corners are the scars of poverty, dried up opportunities, and lack of education resources. Yet, people in these communities carry on in what amounts to a daily struggle. Generations of families work to overcome their circumstances. Some thrive. Many don’t. When you have the privilege to peek into these towns, you begin to see most ignore — the children. What happens to rural youth in places like Bertie County, North Carolina?

The upcoming feature documentary film Raising Bertie examines just that. The film follows the journey of three young men over five years. They are 15, 17, and 19 years old when the film begins. We watch their lives unfold as we see them through school, jobs, hardships, and more. The stark division in education opportunities in rural North Carolina versus its more urban, populous counties, is so mind boggling you’ll be left questioning if the education programs are run by the same state system.

Few people intimately know life in a small, rural town. Many people harbor misperceptions and discount places like Bertie County. It’s the perpetuation of misperceptions that leave Bertie County out of the collective discussion when considering allocation of resources and investment. Rural America is rich in heritage, tradition, and sense of community. It’s time we listen to the youth voices in particular, for they have a burden to bear and a legacy to create. There are things we can learn from these corners of our state if we just paid attention. The beauty of the film Raising Bertie is how it shifts our paradigm in how we consider rural communities. President Obama has recently introduced an initiative to bring rural communities into the public eye. Raising Bertie puts us one step closer to putting a human face on what rural youth are experiencing.

The film is currently in post-production and should be showing at film festivals early 2016. Soon after there will be a wider release through a variety of outlets. Impressively, Raising Bertie has received Grants from the  MacArthur Foundation and Southern Documentary Fund.

Producer Ian Kibbe, native North Carolinian, will be attending an Artists Convention hosted by Southern Documentary Fund May 15 – 17 in Durham, NC. This event is open to the public but requires you to RSVP to reserve tickets. Ian loves talking to people about this film project so please check out the event and stop by to introduce yourself in that affable, neighborly way we do in our state. I encourage anyone with an interest in the project, like potential venues for screenings or funding opportunities for the film, to reach out to the production team at raisingbertie@gmail.com.

Margaret Byrne – Director
Jon Stuyvesant – Director of Photography / Producer
Ian Robertson Kibbe – Producer
Frances Cedro – Associate Producer
Leslie Simmer – Editor
Executive Producers Justine Nagan and Gordon Quinn

Film is a joint production by:

Kartemquin Films – https://www.kartemquin.com/

Here are ways to stay abreast of what’s happening with the release of Raising Bertie:

  • Follow on social networks
Here’s what I want you to do after you see the film (and as you hear more about it):
  • Sign up for the newsletter. Go on. The link’s right up there.
  • Consider your own perceptions and revelations of rural communities. Reframe. Speak up.
  • Familiarize yourself with this corner of North Carolina. Think about what insights and opportunities we can extrapolate from Bertie County to apply to rural communities around the country.
  • See the film when it comes to your neck of the woods.
  • Tell people about Raising Bertie!
You’ll you get to know the three young men in the film as people you find yourself rooting for, not just characters in the story. Your heart, and your mind, will open up.

Cotton Is Part of NC’s Fiber

There’s one ubiquitous thing we all have tucked away in our closet or nestled into a drawer. Comfy cotton. Be it jammies, a ratty college T-shirt, jeans that rock our booty, or a summer dress, cotton truly is the fabric of our lives. As a marketer and a lover of natural fibers, that ad campaign is the stuff of aphrodisiacs for a girl like me. I don’t believe style and comfort are mutually exclusive. Ask anyone in my family and they’ll tell you how I swoon for fabrics that are a tactile pleasure. That’s why I drift toward cotton again and again. My wedding dress was even cotton. With pockets.

North Carolina has a rich and complicated history with cotton. Our state grows a lot of cotton. If you’ve driven to the beach in the fall you’ve likely passed the cloud-like white fields of billowy cotton at harvest. It’s a sight to behold, truly. I recently met an eighth generation cotton farmer at his family farm in Eastern North Carolina. His family has been farming there since the 1600s. Meeting him gave me a glimpse into farm life and the values of the families who choose to work the earth to make a living. They would say it beats a desk job. They would say farming is in their blood, the very fiber of their being. And it’s apparent. Those Farmers Only dating site ads perpetuate misperceptions and stereotypes about farmers. There’s nary a simpleton in site. I’ve visited a lot of farms in the last few months and I have yet to see a grown man in overalls. Farmers have business acumen as well as a heft of science background. They do more than plant a seed and pray for rain. They are a savvy bunch.



On the farm


That red tractor belonged to Farmer Scott’s father. He’s the only one allowed to drive it, and he says it still hums.


Cotton farming in North Carolina is part of our defining heritage. While textile mills have been shuttered, cotton farming still thrives. Farming, whether for food or textiles, is among the many things we take for granted. Those high threadcount sheets started on a farm somewhere. On this particular farm trip I heard from farmers, plant geneticists, fiber researchers, and trend forecasters. Monsanto sponsored this trip, and lest you be swayed by what’s in the press, I assure you there was no Kool-Aid proffered. I’m lucky to be able to visit the source and learn firsthand from people in the cotton business. I can form my own opinions based on what I saw and learned. There is a whole lot of heart in cotton farming, from the soil scientists to the seed researchers, to the textile researchers, to the farmers themselves.

Suffice it to say, farming is about lot more than plopping a seed in the soil. It’s easy to romanticize our notions of farming. But those romantic visions don’t always help farmers prosper. I’m learning more and more about how to balance the interconnected gears in our food and textile systems. There are myriad things to consider – affordability, the environment, fair wages, migrant workers, sustainability, safety, science, research, nutrition, accessibility, food security, the list goes on…


One of the most recognizable brands.

Headquartered in Cary, North Carolina is Cotton Incorporated. Here’s what Cotton Inc. states as its mission: “Our mission at Cotton Incorporated is to promote the use of and desire for all things cotton, to get people like you to care about what’s in the clothes, sheets and towels you buy. We know amazing things about cotton, and our job is to help you see why cotton is The Fabric of Our Lives®. ” I kind of love it.

There are so many interesting things happening within the walls of the Cotton Incorporated offices. I came home positively swooning about my day there. There’s textile research and fashion styling and laser printing on fabric and crop research and creative marketing and more. We toured the facilities, and I learned that cotton is a tactile pleasure at all its stages.

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Cotton Incorporated was established in 1970 to support farmers in the research, development, and promotion of cotton. The office boasts scientists and designers alike. These people know cotton. There are new developments in cotton like wrinkle-free and stain resistance, as well as breakthroughs in sustainability and new uses for cotton. Just because this is a crop with a legacy, doesn’t mean it’s old and irrelevant.


Something’s always looming at Cotton Inc.



How fun is this? My blog logo laser printed on denim.


Currently playing laser printing on denim

North Carolina’s Nepalese Community Aids Earthquake Victims

I’m going to India soon. It’s my first trip back to the country of my birth in 20 years. This will be my husband and sons’ first time there. We’ll be visiting this vast country, rich in its colorful tapestry of history and culture. We had actually toyed with going to Nepal as well. Plans changed.

I exhale a sigh of relief while simultaneously inhaling a grand  breath of disbelief. In a matter of days I will be with my family in India, not far from the devastation that has rocked her neighbor Nepal.

North Carolina has a robust Indian and Nepalese community. We benefit from the myriad people who comprise this community in countless ways. Today this community stands tall and proud as it seeks to lifts its own.

Generous in spirit and so much more…


The Nepal Center of North Carolina is raising money online at ncnepal.orgor by mail at 108 Marengo Drive, Morrisville, NC 27560

The N.C. Baptist Men group is sending volunteers and is raising money at www.baptistsonmission.org/Projects/Type/Disaster-Relief.aspx or by mail at P.O. Box 1107, Cary, NC 27512

Duke University students are raising money online atwww.gofundme.com/swg6psg.

Jane’s Walk Returns to Raleigh

Jane's Walk -- Mitchell Silver -- HandmadeNC.com

I live near downtown Raleigh, as I have for 13 years. I love to see how the city has evolved and I am particularly enthralled with the history that peppers each street. We’re lucky to live in a place that’s walkable. There’s a friendly smile, neighborly wave, giggles of school children, and clip of runners as I make my way through my neighborhood on my daily dog walks. It’s pretty marvelous to live with such a palpable sense of place. I’m pleased to bring you the words of Lauren Pritchett today. Lauren is co-organizer of Jane’s Walk Raleigh.

Cities all over the world, including Raleigh, are gearing up to honor the late urban activist Jane Jacobs’ birthday through Jane’s Walk the weekend of May 2-3, 2015. Jane’s Walk offers a way for passionate citizens to lead free conversational walking tours about their home city. Anyone can plan and lead a tour – the only requirement is to have fun!

In 2014, Raleigh hosted its inaugural Jane’s Walk, which captivated nearly 500 people through different walking tours about history, architecture, urban development, and parks.

Jane's Walk, Raleigh 2014

Raleigh’s 1st Jane’s Walk

Raleigh’s first Jane’s Walk appropriately began where our capital city established its roots – on the Capitol grounds, with a tour called 200 years of Architecture & History in 400 square feet. Researcher Catherine Bishir and architect Frank Harmon discussed elements of our rich Southern history with eager Raleighites throughout the Capitol.

I was ecstatic to lead the History of Commerce Tour, which highlighted several commercial buildings in downtown Raleigh. Each landmark had a different story to tell, adding a significant layer to Raleigh’s dynamic history. Although I spent a lot of time researching each historical landmark, I learned even more from the people who joined my walk and shared their own experiences with the group.

Next, dozens of walkers followed former City Planner Mitchell Silver through the downtown Warehouse District on his Looking Back and Looking Forward tour.

On the second day of Raleigh’s 2014 Jane’s Walk, Matt Tomasulo of CityFabric and WalkYourCity (two wonderfully thriving handmade Raleigh businesses) led the way from the Boylan Heights neighborhood to the Dorothea Dix property to discuss potential for city parks and green space.

Each homegrown walk featured a unique component of North Carolina’s capital city and sparked conversation among strangers and neighbors alike.

Jane's Walk 2015

Jane’s Walk Raleigh 2015

I am thrilled that Jane’s Walk is returning to the Oak City this year because we already have an eclectic itinerary in the works. Back by popular demand, Catherine and Frank will be leading the Capitol grounds tour again on Saturday, May 2nd, 2015 at 12pm.

This year’s newest addition to the Jane’s Walk Raleigh repertoire is a tour of The Wedge Community Garden by Shamsa Visone on May 2nd at 11am. Shamsa and tour-goers will talk about how to grow a healthier and happier neighborhood through communal gardening.

There is still time for anyone to sign up to become a walk leader! You are encouraged to share your love of local food, art, fashion, and just about anything else with other Raleigh citizens. Just visit the Jane’s Walk Raleigh website or contact Lauren Pritchett for help setting up a walk. One of the best parts about living in Raleigh is being surrounded by the enthusiasm of citizens who love their community.

Jane's Walk -- Raleigh 2015

As someone who’s completed three historic home renovations in Raleigh, I wholeheartedly agree! Cheers to Raleigh…Ra-Ra-Raleigh!Jane's Walk -- Raleigh 2015

StyleFinder Boutique Accentuates the Postive


Mary Michele Nidiffer is the stylish best friend every woman needs. She’s candid yet warm when doling out fashion advice and insights. Her stream of affirmations punctuate her conversations in a way what make you want to stand up taller and throw your head back in a show of sultry nonchalance.

“Stop comparing yourself to others.”

“Highlight your assets.”

“It’s not about perfection.”

Michele has been drawn to fashion her whole life so it’s no surprise she’s harnessing her talents to open StyleFinder Boutique, a shop for women of all sizes from XS to XXL. Unlike many boutiques, StyleFinder caters to women age 35 +, but my hunch is that fashion forward woman of all ages will flock there. There promises to be a mix of styles that complement an array of women. Michele has a keen sense of style and a personal grace that carries into how she works with her image consulting clients. Her whole focus is on what makes you feel good. “It’s not about the outfit, it’s about how you feel in the outfit.” she tells me.

StyleFinder Boutique Logo

Trained “stylistas” are available for image consulting and shopping help. Such personal service is key for women like me who are ready to transition my wardrobe to pieces that better suit my lifestyle and my um, changing body. Let’s face it, gravity takes its toll as a woman inches closer to 50, but that doesn’t mean we should succumb to Mrs. Roper caftans. Michele eschews the term “age appropriate” when it comes to clothing. Her philosophy centers around outfitting women in options that are style savvy. She focuses on lifestyle, body type, color, and scale to help determine which pieces work for a variety women. She’s a mom, a wife, a business woman…she gets it. There’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all in fashion.

Cold Shoulder

StyleFinder Boutique will stock clothing, jewelry, scarves, and handbags. I’m most excited about the Angela + Roi line of bags that masterfully blends fashion and social good. Each color bag denotes a different charity that the sale supports. For instance, a portion of the proceeds of each red bag sold is donated to Keep a Child Alive, an organization dedicated to eradicating AIDS. The boutique maintains a community conscience and carries mostly made in the USA items, many made by mother/daughter teams of seamstresses. Michele’s own line is made right here in Raleigh by local moms. Hmmm…buying a kicky outfit for yourself seems like the perfect way to celebrate Mother’s Day!



StyleFinder Boutique opens May 1 at 6801 Falls of Neuse Road (next Skin Sense Spa).