Holiday Gift Guide to Shopping in Town

By Tara Gary, photos by Alex Maslarov

As if my job couldn’t get any better? I spend several hours a day visiting businesses and forming new relations with our neighbors and communities. I sit at Joe’s Pizza enjoying the house stromboli and local craft beer with my boss. Now he’s asked me to go shopping? The nerve of some people!

I know, I know, you haven’t even had your Thanksgiving meal yet and thinking about the idea of holiday shopping can be overwhelming and tedious. Well, I am about to make it very simple for you. I’ve compiled a gift guide of items from a variety of my favorite locally owned shops.
Once this time of year rocurrent hub jingle bell bottle openers piper lillieslls around your inbox gets inundated with invitations to events you may or may not be looking forward to attending. When you receive an invitation to such a gathering, as per Southern protocol, although not everyone will agree, you should arrive with a hostess gift. The perfect store to find hostess gifts is Piper Lillies in Johns Creek. They have “a gift for everyone… for every occasion.” It’s even written on their business card. Piper Lillies is full of those whimsical gifts perfect for administrators, teachers, and anyone you may want to acknowledge during the holidays.

I found these super adorable jingle bell bottle openers. The tag reads “get your jingle on.” Attach one to the top of a gift bag with your beverage of choice and voilà, you’re finished! They are about the size of a tennis ball and come in gold, silver, or a multiple cluster. $11.99 each
If you need to bring an appetizer to a gathering, just pick up some of these San Saba River Pecan Co. Preserves. I chose the Cranberry Chili Pecan and the Jalapeno Peach & Pecan preserves, sweet with a kick. I bet these would be amazing served over various cheeses with crackers. $5.99 for the 5oz. jar

These linen hand towels are a tastefully festive gift for the person who has everything. There is a large selection of patterns and themes at the store. I love that the Hanukkah towels are in these beautiful earth tones that would match any décor. $13.99-$14.99 each.
The extremely helpful sales associates led me to this candle. One of the most popular items and now I know why. After removing the wrapping the aroma of the candle completely embraced my senses into the spirit of Christmas. They come in a variety of these celebratory wreaths that measure about 5” in diameter. The scent of this one is Siberian Fir and smells like a fresh cut Christmas tree. $13.99 each. Piper Lillies gift shoppe is located at 11705 Jones Bridge Road in Johns Creek, GA 30009. Phone 678-867-0033. Piper Lillies

Steel & Cotton Retro pencil holderHave you been to Steel & Cotton yet? It is one of my absolute favorite shops. They have so many unique items to salivate over. Yes I salivate as I wander through that shop dreaming of a home large enough to accommodate everything there that I would love to purchase. From gifts for the home to furniture and light fixtures, they carry a little bit of everything. If you like the industrial farmhouse look, you will definitely love this shop. Not only do they have gifts for the home but they carry a wide variety of gifts for babies, children and teens.
This is one of my favorite items on this list. This clever aluminum and brass pencil holder has a super retro appeal. It really has an authentic look and feel to it. Steel and Cotton carries this unique line of whimsical nostalgic objects. Microphone Aluminum Pencil Holder $65.00.

Need a gift for someone who’s constantly and fashionably on the run? This 30oz. copper water bottle is not only practical but it also makes a statement. One version comes with the word “LOVE” imprinted on it, $52.00, or you can choose the simpler and classic version with no imprint for $48.00.

Steel & Cotton carries a sweet assortment of baby and children’s gifts. How adorable is this outfit?! For a brief moment, it makes me want to have another child, or maybe I’ll just wait for a grandchild. Either way, “the snuggle is real!” This made of organic textiles duo is touchable soft and I love the tiny wooden buttons on the sleeves. Baby-friendly and earth-friendly, made by Oliver and Rain. $20 for the top and $22 for the star print pant.

These coconut exfoliating sugar cubes will be going home with me. If you know someone who enjoys a hot bath like I do, these are the perfect gift. Nothing is better than soaking the day away and adding this to your bath or shower will help nourish that dry skin we tend to get when the weather turns. $26 for a 16oz jar.

Speaking of nourishing your skin… I found these Sweeteepie Facial polishes (page 26) in Cucumber Fresh and Juicy Pomegranate varieties. They feel and smell amazing! What I really love about these products is that they are made in Roswell! The 4 oz. container is $13.50 and the 8oz. container is $27.

Want to give a gift that will coax a child to bathe? These creative Amaze Balls were created by two teenage girls and are handmade in the USA. Once these bath bombs dissolve in water they reveal a toy surprise suitable for any gender. Genius! Amaze Balls 16oz. container is $28.00
Steel & Cotton is located at 1116 Canton Street in Roswell, GA 30075. Phone 678-404-8989. Steel & Cotton

Bed|Stu bag. The Current HubOne of my interior decorator friends highly recommended me paying a visit to 13 Hub Lane. I am so glad I did. This store is a decorator’s dream! If you are design-challenged you can rely on any of the sales associates who are all design consultants. The store has a unique mix of home décor, furniture, gifts, jewelry, clothing, and even baby items.

I was immediately drawn to the contrasting stitch detail on a full grain leather Bed|Stu handbag. This bag is the perfect accessory to complete a casual yet sophisticated look. You just can’t go wrong with it. In Teak Driftwood Bone Glove (no I can’t take credit for the name of the color written on the tag) it will complement nearly every casual outfit and only get better with age. Bed|stu Barra Handbag $269.00
Business or casual, I have found the belt that will never go out of style. Handmade in the Netherlands from soft Italian leather, this 2” wide belt (page 29) is sure to please. The oval buckle adds a feminine touch. Amsterdam Heritage Double Side Wide Belt in Camel $95.00

I love a simple piece of jewelry that can be worn with my everyday casual outfits and I definitely found one. This handcrafted rigid silver bracelet is Boho chic for a woman who loves simplicity but stands out for having great taste. UNO de 50 Silver Bracelet $145.00
13 Hub Lane has four different locations. The only location in Georgia is in Roswell Marketplace 10800 Alpharetta Hwy. Suite 402 Roswell, GA 30075. Phone 770-802-5740. 13 Hub Lane

For the man in your life, I highly suggest stopping by Clothes Horse Men’s Apparel & Gifts which was voted The Best Men’s Clothing Store in North Atlanta 2017. Charleen, along with her husband John, have truly created an unparalleled men’s shop. Don’t be fooled by the size of this storefront. From the street it looks very small but once you enter you will discover that the store continues like a maze and eventually you may be able to take in all of the merchandise cleverly displayed on industrial hooks and furniture. The clothes are high quality, durable, yet super soft. They also have a great selection of men’s gifts ranging from watches, sunglasses, belts, and accessories to overnight and weekender bags. Did I mention that the shop smells great? It smells like what I imagine Ryan Reynolds would smell like.

Charleen helped me assemble a casual Fall/Winter ensemble. I was especially pleased with a plaid shirt that is made by Madison Creek Outfitters headquartered here in Georgia. A plaid Garnet & Pine button down screams to be worn by a masculine outdoor enthusiast or even the guy next door grabbing a beer and watching a game. Madison Creek Outfitters Button Down Shirt $99.50.

We paired the shirt with khakis of course, but not just any khakis, johnnie-O Khakis. These durable yet comfortable pants make you look like you went the extra mile to look good. johnnie-O pants $125.00. To top it all off, I couldn’t resist this Mountain Khakis plush button-down. I wanted to cuddle with it so I can only imagine wanting to melt into the man’s arms who’s wearing it. Mountain Khakis Button-Down $84.95.

To complete the look for the man who may be spending the weekend road- tripping we selected this canvas with leather trim bag. Made by United Blue, a company that removes one pound of trash from our oceans and waterways for every product sold, makes this bag even more appealing as if you needed another reason to love it. United Blue Weekender Bag $168.00. Clothes Horse is located at 28 Milton Avenue Alpharetta, GA 30009. Phone 770-905-6089. Clothes Horse Men’s Apparel & Gifts

Now that I’ve assembled the perfect men’s casual outfit I’ll share my favorite men’s boot source… Red Wing Shoes. Since 1905, Red Wing has been producing their high quality leather boots which were originally intended to meet the needs for those in specific occupations. Today the shoes and boots still meet the high standards of those made over 100 years ago, but the modern versions are really good looking boots. Part of the Heritage Collection, there is no doubt that they will last forever with a little TLC every now and then. The helpful sales associates at the Current Hub Tap & SIx 64 oz. Growler gift for beer lovers. Mansell location in Roswell will help you select the perfect style and fit and they will also be happy to help with preventative maintenance. Men’s Iron Ranger Boot $319.99. Woman’s Clara Boot $359.99. Red Wing Shoes is located at 875 Mansell Rd Ste B1, Roswell, Georgia 30076. Phone (770) 558-4400. Red Wing Shoes

If you are planning to find a gift for me personally, or the craft beer lover, look no further than Oak Street in Roswell. Tap & 6 could possibly be a second home for me. With 40 continuously rotating beers on tap and 200+ singles, ciders, and craft sodas to choose from you will definitely find something, if not everything, to like. Currently, my favorite Fall beer is #38, a chocolate pumpkin porter called Gourd Vibrations by Gate City. You can fill a 32oz growler for $12, or a 64oz. growler of Gourd Vibrations for $24. I asked Ethan, the General Manager, to assist me for a suggestion of available tastes in December. He suggested and I couldn’t agree more, Hardywood Park Craft Breweries Gingerbread Stout which is spot on for the perfect craft beer lover’s holiday gift. No explanation needed here. It tastes just like it sounds. Intriguing flavors of ginger, cinnamon, milk chocolate, vanilla, and a hint of honey leave your taste buds longing for more. So when you’re headed to that holiday party or to my front door, please remember the craft beer. 64oz Growler of Gourd Vibrations $24.00. Tap & Six at 23 Oak St, Roswell, GA 30075. Phone 678-878-3038. Tap & Six

Mitch's Meats & Fish has homemade grillin' sauces, hot sauce, and ketchup.With that beer, you’ll need something to munch on. If you have a grill lover, want to-be-chef, or an amateur cook on your list, stop by Mitch’s Meats & Fish to grab the perfect gift. Mitch has his own array of sauces, spices, and seasonings sure to make any meal a hit. One of the best things about this place is the personal attention Mitch pays to each of his customers. I learn something every time I visit Mitch and watch him carefully instruct each customer how best to season and cook the meat he has just hand selected and cut for them. Locally owned by Mitch Manoloff, this butcher shop is the place for fine quality—everything from prime steaks to the freshest fish from all over the world. I almost forgot…the soups. You must, must try his homemade soups! Chunky spoonfuls of tender meat drowning in the best soup I have ever had. He sells out daily so take my advice and be there early. Mitch’s Meats & Fish is located at 30 E. Crossville Rd, Ste 160, Roswell, GA 30075. Phone 678-878-2922. Hot Spicy Peanuts $7.99, Ketchup $7.99. Hot Sauce $5.99, Grilling Sauce $10.99. Mitch’s Meats & Fish

If you’re looking for rare or unique wine or beer, Pinkies Up is the place for you. Pinkies Up has 22 beers on draft. These are no ordinary beers. Every time I stop by the store they have something new on tap. If they don’t have what you’re looking for, they will do their best to find it for you. The owners, Melissa and Matthew have poured their hearts and soul into this local hangout/tasting room. I have yet to meet anyone more educated on rare wines than Melissa. Their tagline is “Simplifying Sophistication” and their goal is to make the process of purchasing beer and wine as simple and enjoyable as possible. On my last visit, Melissa introduced me to gifts from Babylonstoren’s winery in South Africa. Only 12 bottles of Sprankel Méthode Cap Classique 2012 were released to Georgia and guess where you can purchase them? The wine, made with 100% Chardonnay grapes, will maintain a refined finish and freshness for years to come. Pair this wine with the Babel cookbook which pays homage to Babylonstoren and the Babel restaurant. This is an absolutely beautiful cookbook for the wine enthusiast on your list. Babylonstoren Sprankel Method Cap Classique 2012, $65.00. Babel Cookbook $50.00, Babylonstoren Olive Oil 8oz. $12.99. Babylonstoren Honeybush or Rooibos Tea 4oz. $8.99. Pinkies Up is located at 30 East Crossville Rd, Suite 180 Roswell, GA 30075. Phone 770-676-7101. Pinkies Up

Do you have a furry, fluffy friend on your list? If so, JC Pet Shoppe, locally owned and operated by Carol Starke, is the shop that truly cares about the natural wellbeing of your cat or dog. Carol was quick to inform me of her emphasis of natural pure ingredients and remedies. She has a vast knowledge as well as a wide variety of gifts and items sure to please any four legged recipient. I found this great looking 6ft. durable nylon and leather leash made in the U.S.A. If you need an unusual gift for the dog lover pick up this crafty and industrial aluminum paw print leash holder. It’s useful and thoughtful. Let’s not forget our feline friends. What cat doesn’t like a furry mouse that imitates mouse noises when touched? I especially found this cat food bowl amusing with its three dimensional mice cleverly placed in and around the bowl. 6ft. Black Dog Leash $17.49, Dog Leash Hanger $13.99. Animated Mouse $7.99, Cat Food Bowl $8.99. JC Pet Shoppe is located at 9925 Haynes Bridge Road John Creek, GA 30022. Phone 770-664-5700. J. C. Pet Shoppe

If you have that certain someone that appreciates antiques and unique items that have lived a former life and can almost tell a story about themselves take some time and wander through the aisles of endless possibilities at Scott Antique Market. You can find everything from collectors’ items to useful things such as clothing and linens, often at prices lower in price and better in quality than new ones.
Scott Antique Markets are located at 3650 and 3850 (both North and South buildings) Jonesboro Road, Atlanta, GA 30354. Phone 740-569-2800. Scott Antique Market Aquamarine 45CT gemstone ring with diamonds, 1940s, $14,000. Boy Scout drums and patriotic children, approximately 1910s to 1930s. $100 each. Vintage 1960s International Harvester diecast tractor with rubber tires, $30-40.

To see the full gift guide with photos, view pages 26 to 30 of  The Current Hub online, or pick up a copy at dozens of restaurants, shops, and pubs around town.

There are so many great local places to shop this holiday season. I couldn’t list all of them here, but we are working on a linked list at another page, to give you more ideas for shopping in town. Let me know if you have a favorite gift shop, and I’ll be sure to include it. Tara Gary.

Many thanks to all of the shop owners who loaned me these amazing items. I sincerely appreciate your trust and generosity. Ethan, I’m sorry I wrote my name in permanent ink on the growler so you’ll only see it again when I stop by to refill it.

With the exception of the Scott Antique photos, our Gift Guide was photographed by Alex Maslarov in his studio, Alex Pro Photo. The cover photo was shot on location at Steel & Cotton. All photos copyright Alex Maslarov. Email Alex.

Lung Cancer Screening Can Save Your Life

Symptoms of Lung CancerLung cancer is the number one cancer killer in America. With over 155,000 deaths per year, lung cancer kills more people than breast, colon and prostate cancer combined. Lung cancer can be highly curable when found early, but it has been historically difficult to detect, that is until now.

Research shows that screening using a low-dose CT scan can help detect early lung cancer before clinical signs or symptoms become evident. Early stage cancers can be more easily treated and more frequently cured than later stage cancers.

Screening for lung cancer is not a one-time test, but a process that involves a periodic evaluation of your lungs over time to look for newly emerging cancer. The capability of CT scanners to detect tiny lung nodules and to compare the nodules for changes in size over time is critical to the screening process. WellStar North Fulton Hospital offers cutting-edge technology and premier programs to fight lung cancer, providing patients the best of care from diagnosis to supportive services.

Is screening right for me?

If you have a history of heavy smoking or exposure to tobacco smoke, it could be. The data from a national screening trial found 20% fewer lung cancer deaths among heavy smokers ages 55 to 75 screened with CT scans compared to those screened with chest x-rays. Anyone concerned about lung cancer and considering a screening CT can speak with his or her physician about the risks and benefits. Since the results are new, some physicians may not yet be aware of the benefits of a screening CT exam.

Who is eligible for this screening?

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), a network of some of the world’s leading cancer centers, recommends screening for those:

  • 55 and over with a 30 pack year* smoking history and if former smoker, must have quit
  • 50 and over with a 20 pack year smoking history or 20 year exposure to secondhand smoke, plus one of the following additional risk factors:
    1. You have a close blood relative with lung cancer; or
    2. You have a history of pulmonary fibrosis, COPD, cancer (excluding non-melanoma of the skin), or exposure to cancer causing agent.

*A pack year does not mean the number of years you smoked. It is the number of packs smoked per day multiplied by the number of years. For example, 2 packs a day within the past 15 years equals 30 pack years.

I’ve never smoked or quit years ago. Am I at risk for lung cancer?

Former smokers represent 60% of all lung cancer cases. The longer you have stopped smoking, the lower your risk of lung cancer relative to someone who continues to smoke; however, smoking does permanent damage to the lungs, so the increased risk of lung cancer never totally resolves. Yes, smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer; however, it is not the only cause.

Statistics show one in five women and one in 12 men diagnosed with lung cancer have never smoked. Never smokers represent approximately 18% of people diagnosed with lung cancer. Second hand smoke exposure increases your risk. Other risk factors include exposure to cancer causing substances also called “carcinogens.” You may also be at increased risk if a close blood relative has had lung cancer or if you have been diagnosed with a previous cancer or a lung disease known as pulmonary fibrosis or COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).

In studying the symptoms, it is important to note that many lung cancers do not cause symptoms and are often found during the course of diagnosing another illness.

To learn more about lung cancer screenings or schedule an appointment please call 470-793-4AIR (4247). ❍

A Thanksgiving “Thank You” to America!

By Di Chapman
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

I stand agasp on the scales today, mortified by what this Thanksgiving dinner could mean to me in terms of poundage. Still immobilized by my broken foot, I have watched as the pounds have steadily appeared on my hips and tummy. You see, my lack of willpower, when it comes to food, even with all of my food intolerances, is plastering fat on my body. And Thanksgiving is nearly upon us. I have always had the inability to say “no” to candied yams, pumpkin pie and fudge. I can never be trusted to eat just one piece of anything, whether it be flourless chocolate cake, said candied yams, that pumpkin pie, or even peanut butter on a rice cake, a.k.a. particle board.

I’ll come clean, and admit that for all of my kvetching and moaning about my recent weight gain, I probably won’t stop indulging. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I won’t lie. With my sweet tooth and appetite, I’m a goner.

Nonetheless, my admitted lack of self-control is accompanied by many things I do take control over, and one of those is simply being thankful, not just at Thanksgiving, and throughout the holidays, but every day of the year. Although daily bread is, and truthfully always will be, perhaps higher on the list than other things, like you, at the top for me are family (I count pets as family, too), friends, health, and work.

Wanna know another one? Give thanks for America. I think there’s plenty to be thankful for in that huge meal and gathering of friends and family. For Mark and me, we’re thankful for our Roswell community as we eat yearly at a restaurant that cooks up Thanksgiving fixin’s for those of us who choose to forego hours of clean up. Let’s remember to give thanks to America and to voting .

As always, I have stories to tell about my lifetime love affair with voting.

Y’all, if the Chapman children had gained their enfranchisement by 1960, I have no doubt that at age six I would have been on my tiptoes reaching up to pull the levers behind the voting curtain.

I’m fairly certain that the kids in my household were taught about the importance of voting since we were in the crib. Even then, I started “peripheral civic duties” as a youngster, and when I say that, I mean as a child. Mom and Dad were the children of immigrants, and were ardent believers in the importance of voting. Their entire families were as well, with my father, aunts and uncles serving in the military as proud soldiers, WACs, and in country war effort support. Even my immigrant grandparents served in support of the war effort. Ladies, my Icelandic grandmother, who was an illegal alien, even ran guns in North Dakota for America under the darkness of night, so as not to tip off our enemies. For any of you who wondered about my personality, well, I didn’t fall far from the tree. It was inevitable that at family get-togethers the conversation always managed to turn to politics and “God bless America.”

Politics aside, though, they felt strongly about their civic duty to go to the polls, whenever called, at whatever cost. I remember my dad, a traveling salesman, speeding home from business trips to rush to the polls. He never missed a vote. My mom, too, who was a teacher, was usually right in the center of the action, as schools were usually the polling places. She, too, never missed voting day. Consequently, yours truly has always had a fire in the belly for the privilege of voting. I really dig it.

Those were the days when political campaigns started after party conventions, where the choice of a candidate was a white-knuckle process, with unknown outcomes until the state-by-state roll call vote by convention delegates. It was an honor to be among the delegates, and the convention halls buzzed with excitement. We were on the edge of our seats then, because you honestly didn’t know whom your party would choose as the presidential candidate.

I remember how, in our household, we were glued to the black and white TV set during conventions. I loved hearing the state delegates one-by-one boldly pronouncing their pick of candidate, after starting with, “Mr. Chairman, (Where’s the “Madame Chairwoman,” even now, I wonder?) the great state of blah, blah, blah, casts its vote for so and so!” I still love this.

So, enter the presidential races of 1960 and 1964, and you might not be surprised. The Chapman children passed out fliers for the candidates of our parents’ choice door-to-door in our little neighborhood. I knocked on doors as a six- and ten-year-old for presidential candidates. The neighbors were exchanging glances, and commenting to their spouses, “Look, honey, Blair and Donna have their kids on the campaign trail again.”

Voting gave me a freedom to create my own voice. I set out to witness the freedoms of others. My own curiosity took me to marches on 5th Avenue in New York City, and in our Capital. It took me to a Ku Klux Klan rally to observe them. It put me at the center of a violent clash with them, much like what happened in Charlottesville. I volunteered for a presidential campaign in Washington, DC, and experienced the energy created by it. I’ve worked a Congressional race in California, and went door to door once again.

I proudly wear “I voted” stickers, and give high-fives to others who wear the same, one of whom was a tatooed, bearded Harley fan, with a big smile. America can be pretty darned exciting. Get caught up in it, and feel your strength in the voting booth. Then flex your biceps and be a part of something bigger.

Happy Thanksgiving, America!

And to you, dear readers, I give thanks as well. ❍

Di Chapman is an inspirational author and speaker, and a branding consultant. Di’s latest book is Rekindle Your Purpose: Break through your disappointments, discouragements, and detours to resurrect your purpose and live it!

Chicken Little or Rose-Colored Glasses?

By Robert Fezza and Steve Siders

August 21st marked the longest-running S&P 500 rally, followed in mid-September, by the ten-year anniversary of the 2008 financial crisis. Tariffs and trade war threats remain wild cards in the financial deck. A Brexit looms nearer and scarier. Emerging markets struggle while global leaders squabble. And, historically, many of the worst days in the markets have arrived in the fall.

When it comes to market forecasts, will the sky be falling soon, or are we set to soar some more? Here are three compelling reasons to avoid trying to time the market in this manner.

1. Markets (Still) Aren’t Predictable
Before you decide you’d like to stay one step ahead of a market that seems certain to rise, fall or head sideways, consider this quote from The Wall Street Journal personal finance columnist Jason Zweig (8/21/18): “Yes, 2018 is full of uncertainty and teeming with hazards that might make the stock market crash. So was 2017. So were 2016, 2015, 2014 – and every year since stockbrokers first gathered in New York in the early 1790s.” The most dangerous words in finance are, “it’s different this time.”

2. Economists Aren’t Wizards
A day rarely goes by when you can’t find one respected economist suggest we’re headed for a financial fall, while another opines that we’re going to keep going like gangbusters. Which is it this time? Market volatility and gaps in international and financial data make it difficult for economist to accurately forecast economic growth and recessions. Queen Elizabeth II illustrated this point when she asked an economist at the height of the 2008 financial crisis, “Why did nobody notice it?”

3. You Can’t Depend on Your Instincts
Still thinking of trying to sell ahead of a fall? For this, and any other investment “hunch” you may have, your best bet is to assume it’s a bad bet, driven by your behavioral biases instead of rational reasoning. For example, loss aversion can trick you into letting the potential for future market losses frighten you away from the likelihood of long-term returns. Couple that with investors’ oversized bias for seeing predictive patterns, even where none exist, and it’s all too easy to talk yourself right out of any carefully laid plans you’ve established for your wealth.
For these reasons and more, we’re here to advise you: Your financial plan doesn’t eliminate uncertainty. It counters the temptation to succumb to it. As financial author Tim Maurer likes to say, “personal finance is more personal than it is finance.” We couldn’t agree with him more. Life is a journey, navigate it wisely. ❍

Ground Covers for Challenging Spots

Keeping your landscape green and serene when the temperature dips.

Green Scene by Geraldine Laufer

Fall is proceeding and winter is just around the corner, but your landscape can stay beautiful with attractive, evergreen, drought-tolerant, perennial or woody groundcovers. This month we’ll look at why ground covers are desirable. Next month we’ll discuss 10 top ground cover choices that will thrive in metro-Atlanta landscape conditions.

Functions of Ground Covers
While ground covers may not enjoy the esteem of well-manicured lawns, they are a practical solution for problem areas. Groundcovers have many purposes:
• Supply a visual design element in the landscape. By repeating the swathes of the same ground cover, the landscape is visually unified. Ground covers make an interesting tapestry and boost curb appeal.
• Reduce maintenance. Maintenance is not eliminated; it is simply lessened.
• Act as a weed block. Weeds spring up in open soil, but the leaf cover provided by dense ground covers reduces weed growth.
• Provide an alternative when turf is not an option. There’s a ground cover sure to thrive in many areas where turf grass won’t grow, such as dense shade, or in soggy or acidic soils.
• Eliminate mowing on awkward slopes.
• Prevent soil erosion. The roots of the ground cover hold the soil.
• Provide an interesting planting ground for spring flowering daffodils.
• Deer resistance. Low-growing or creeping shrubs, like junipers, work well.
• Provide cover for wildlife.
• Filter water. These no-mow areas filter rainwater.
• Need less fertilization than a lawn. Ground covers have about one-quarter the nutrient needs of turf.

Planting Ground Covers
November is a great time of year to plant ground covers. The soil still retains warmth from the summer, encouraging root growth. Prep your area first:
• Remove weeds
• Fork in organic matter like soil conditioner, topsoil or ground pine bark and add lime if your soil tests too acidic or if it’s a new area that hasn’t been tended before.
• Purchase plants wholesale if possible because you will need a lot of them. Investigate Classic Groundcovers, Evergreen Nursery, or Growers Outlet.
• Space individual plants according to their mature spread without crowding. This will save you money since you will need fewer plants.
• Mulch! and keep weeded.
• Water the ground cover area one inch per week during the time they are getting established. This means November at least through March.
• By the time Spring returns your new ground cover areas will leaf out beautifully. Look for Green Scene next month as we cover a number of ground covers well-suited to our North Metro area landscapes. ❍

Thai Street Food in Alpharetta

By Joe Duffy, Photos by 24/7Photography, LLC

When I moved to Roswell more than 16 years ago, my only grievance was the lack of first-rate restaurant selections. Fast forward to about a half-dozen years bygone, at any given point on the calendar, there are more dandy restaurants less than six or so months old than there were viable alternatives in total during those “Bloomin’ Onion Acres” Dark Ages.

Among the uppermost dining rooms in the jam-packed current freshman class is M Thai Street food. Better known as “Chef Lisa,” mega-talented chef/owner Sripapa Oyanontaruk has an impressive resume having toiled in the kitchens of some of the best intown and suburban restaurants including Tamarind Seed, Nahm Thai Cuisine, Satay House, and Kokai Thai Bistro.

The single mother of three moved to the US from Thailand in her twenties in search of a better life. She is certainly improving lives of others at lunch and dinner time with her newest “baby” in downtown Alpharetta.

I won’t feign that I’ve roamed the streets of Bangkok. Perhaps that’s why both the interior of the restaurant and the menu itself are a bit more upscale than I’d expect from a restaurant with “street food” in its moniker. However, while gathering details via a Facebook conversation, I was assured, “you can easily find 90-percent of the food on the menu on streets in Bangkok.”

When a restaurant recognizes an item or two as “house specialties” or anything comparable, my decision on what to order has been made for me. As an appetizer, Jeeb “grandma style” shrimp and chicken dumplings were characterized as “award winning.” If one is a fan of Chinese dim sum, you will love these as the Thai version does trace its roots to the Chinese delicacy. Similar to shamai, with the caveat that chicken replaces pork in Chef Lisa’s creation, these meat wontons are categorically remarkable. My shrimp-loving daughter and I contested it out to devour our fair share.

current hub masaman

Nua Masaman (usually with two m’s but only one on the menu) AKA the beef short rib masaman.

The only other item on the menu with the distinction of “award winning” is Nua Masaman (usually with two m’s but only one on the menu) AKA the beef short rib masaman. What really stood out with this plating was the diverse convergence of flavors. Masaman curry generally incorporates spices that are uncommon in other Thai curries with more traditional ones such as coriander, cumin seed, cardamom, tamarind… well you get the point. That’s a lot of flavor packed into a curry.

Still, the short rib, diced potatoes, avocado, and cashew nuts maintain their unique flavors in the strong and flavorful sauce. Clearly Chef Lisa has learned a trick or two in 30-plus years working in the trade.

With the advent of social media, it’s not uncommon to see a foodie source ask what the best combination of two ingredients is. My rejoinder is that it’s curry and coconut milk. Anticipatedly, I adored M’s beef panang coconut milk curry. I’ve gulped my share of panang curry infusions heretofore, but as with everything else Chef Lisa generates, this one is among the elite.

A couple of decades ago, I conceived the appellation of “grubber” to describe my subculture of food snobbery. I simply desire splendid food. Fancy or chic interiors are a nice bonus, but completely irrelevant unless the food is grand. I’m here to eat, not to “dine.”

current hub noodle green

Noodle green is not only demonstrative of Chef Lisa’s culinary skills but her artistic presentation as well.

Good presentation? Gosh, I don’t want to look at my dish, I want to dive in head first. Yet even I am impressed with Chef Lisa’s artistry. Her courses look oh so purty that I almost don’t want to eat them. Yeah right. Still, they are picturesque, yet taste much better than they look in every instance I’ve sampled.

Even the simplest menu items excel. There was no way I was going to let my daughter have shrimp fried rice without pilfering some. Not since long-gone Xian China Bistro has this area had a version belonging in the same discussion as M Thai Street Food’s.

I was assured the grub is as good as any on the streets of Thailand. “Many of our customers who have been to Bangkok guarantee that.” That was the most credible and least surprising claim I’ve heard in a long time. ❍

STAT Clinic: A One-Stop Approach for Breast Cancer Patients

STAT Clinic at WellStar North Fulton Hospital allows patients to fit many appointments into one

A breast cancer diagnosis can be devastating for patients and families, but in the midst of bad news the STAT Clinic at WellStar North Fulton Hospital can offer a hope and increased chances of beating the disease.

Patients can expect to meet with a full multidisciplinary team of specialists and make treatment decisions faster than traditionally possible through WellStar Cancer Network’s STAT Clinic. “STAT stands for Special Teams and Treatments,” Dr. Laura Pearson, Medical Director of the Breast Program at WellStar North Fulton Hospital explained. “WellStar wants to provide patients with the specialized care using a multi-disciplinary team of physicians, nurses and staff who are dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of the patient’s specific cancer.”

Essentially, the STAT Clinic allows patients to fit many appointments into one, saving time, stress and potential confusion.

“The healthcare team works together in one location and supports the patient and family from the very beginning of the process,” said Oncology Services Manager and Breast Nurse Navigator Sarah Bentley. “The goal is to really cater to the patient as a whole, understanding their needs and valuing their time. We really want to prioritize that continuity of care.”

The Breast Cancer STAT Clinic features a team comprised of a fellowship-trained breast surgeon, board certified plastic surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, a breast cancer nurse navigator and more. Additionally, each patient is evaluated by a genetic counselor to determine the risk for hereditary cancers. Patients have access to physical therapists, nutritionists, wig and prostheses specialists and other counselors as well.

“The typical time from abnormal screening mammogram to initial treatment has always been relatively short at WellStar North Fulton,” Dr. Pearson said. “Less than 3-4 weeks on average. But, because of the nature of breast cancer treatment, sometimes the time from diagnosis until a patient has met with all the necessary providers can take several months as they sequentially go through the elements of their treatment.”

“The huge benefit with STAT Clinic is that a patient and the family meet their entire team on day one. STAT Clinic streamlines their workup, minimizes redundancy in diagnostic procedures, coordinates appointments to minimize delay and keeps the entire team in constant communication. If adjustments need to be made in a plan, it can be done with minimal delay or effort,” said Dr. Pearson.

Sara Bentley, the STAT Clinic nurse navigator who helps guide patients throughout treatment, says the patient is at the heart of the one-stop approach. “We want our patients spending less time stressing and lying awake at night. This way they leave the building with a care plan in hand and know exactly what to expect.”

For more information about the STAT Clinic please call 770-751-2720. ❍

Rockin’ The Boot

“It’s a witch,” (Ahem. So to speak.) I say to myself and my friends. It just so happens I’m sporting a lovely, fashionable (not) boot to meet the needs of a foot with two broken bones. I’m in this thing for eight weeks, unless I drop to six with good behavior. Truthfully, I’ve never been one to behave, so as my husband says, “Hey, you’ll be out of that thing by Thanksgiving.” Holy crap.

It’s actually quite embarrassing the way I ended up in this incredibly attractive contraption. Ladies, you’ll understand. Have you ever launched a grocery shopping cart and whacked your open-toed sandal, with your essentially bare foot, on the metal sides around that shelf thingy on the bottom, where you put kitty litter or a 50-pound bag of dog food?

Ooh, that smarts, and it breaks off toenails as well. In fact, I was so busy inspecting my pedicure for damage that I totally forgot the pain in my foot. Fast forward to a few weeks later, and I’m no longer fixated on the toenails and polish, but the incredible pain in my foot, making it very difficult to walk. And so, here I am. A fashionista in the orthopedic devices department.

Truth is, I’ve always been ultra-active, moving fast both in fitness endeavors and in regular daily routines, much like the grocery store where I kicked the cart while hurrying down the isles. “Warp speed” is my middle name. I’ve been “dancing on the ceiling” my entire life.

It’s a source of laughter, because not only was I in hyper-drive, I was also totally clumsy. I can trip over an object that’s not even in my way, and the accidents abound. There was the time I broke my wrist ice skating. I’m sure I was trying to do an elegant move when I fell to the ice. Then there was the broken wrist from volleyball. I was lousy at it, and still am, so you won’t see me on the court any time soon. Speaking of that wrist, I once again broke it while in Italy on our last vacation. Second day no less. That one was accompanied by injured metatarsals that ended up in a cast. Do I know how to do it up, or what? Then there were broken toes from running into inanimate objects that are immobile. You’ll never think about a chair leg in quite the same manner after you hear that crack of a break. As a girlfriend who was present for the carnage said, “Wow, I heard that one!” So did I.

It’s crazy when I realize that most of this damage happened after 50 years of age. I’m totally clueless why evolution cannot spare “mature” individuals, or like this column name says, “50+” folks. We’re young at heart, pursue youthful endeavors like bicycle racing, triathlon competing, and mountain climbing, and we’re rocking youthful clothes, shoes and hairstyles. So I constantly wonder, what’s up with our bodies’ aches, pains, injuries, the expansion of the dreaded abdominal “tire,” and plethora of daily complaints about the state of our swiftly changing bodies? What gives?
My own bellyaching revolves around pain in my shoulder and back. I figure that’s enough. My sister, as of this writing, is recovering from the torture of surgery on a torn ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament), a critical ligament for knee stabilization. The tear is also plentiful among us 50 plussers. My friends tell me about chiropractic visits, dental conditions, and stomachs that have decided they are not fond of different foods, and said stomachs are constantly acting out.

I, for one, finally had to leave gluten behind. I’d had enough with the bloated discomfort that accompanied eating it, and a belly that reacted with a swelling resembling the third trimester of pregnancy. Not cool. I still have belly bloat throughout the day, but without pain. It’s really a hereditary thing. (Aren’t I the lucky one?) Dad unbuckled his pants and undid the waistband after every meal. He was unfortunately one of the first ever to be diagnosed with Celiac disease in the U.S. Mom, on the other hand, never had a stomachache, but had a constant little belly in every photo of her in a swimsuit. Not only did I inherit that little belly, but also her cellulite and varicose veins. Needless to say, I’m not really a swimsuit fan, and insist on wrapping a large, fun, and colorful scarf around my hips. My cellulite, varicose veins, and pasty-white legs will never see the light of day.

In the meantime, I’m mostly consumed with my recent foot break. Ouch! I’m not sure I should be doing all of the activities I’m doing, i.e., housework, litter box cleaning, cat feeding, trash collection, laundry, and all the rest. It’s my nature and I’m not sure what it would take to stop myself.

So, it’s giddy-up! Exercise class calls. My hiking is on hold for eight weeks, which will surely kill me with longing. So off I go, clomping in a boot, ker-clump, ker-clump, ker-clump. My cat runs in terror. In class, as the music and exercises go on, I trip and stumble and do my best with one-legged squats. I flop like a fish out of water on the floor when we do abdominal exercises, and cellulite-reducing moves for thighs, which quite frankly, I think my dimpled fat out-runs. I roll out of control on the mat as I try to direct the boot to proper form. My attempts to rise from the floor to standing position are like watching frick and frack (my legs and feet) try to use an over-stuffed chair to raid cookies from an upper cabinet. Hmmm. Now that’s an idea.

You know what? A boot won’t stop me from living life. I’m rockin’ it to strut my stuff. ❍

Di Chapman is an inspirational author and speaker, and a branding consultant. Di’s latest book is Rekindle Your Purpose: Break through your disappointments, discouragements, and detours to resurrect your purpose and live it!

How to Buy a Vigorous Tree

Green Scene by Geri Laufer

Have you been planning to add a tree to your landscape? Whether a containerized Japanese maple for the deck or a giant oak to shade the backyard, every landscape can benefit from the prominent role a tree can play in the landscape.
October is the optimum time to plant! The leaves are falling, the air is cooling and yet the ground is still warm from the summer sun, so transplanted roots will grow quickly into the surrounding soil. Different from the common perception, spring is not the best time to plant trees, considering the spring nursery frenzy followed by the hot, dry summer.

Considerations When Buying a Tree

Size matters! Bigger May Not be Better
Although you might be in a hurry to get shade, buying a large tree in a massive container might not be the way to go. Extra-large trees both are more expensive and harder to plant. Trees in smaller containers (such as 5- or 7-gallon) are less expensive and easier to plant, needing less soil prep and smaller holes. These factors are both great, but the key reason is that typically smaller trees will root-in and grow more quickly, achieving a larger size in less time.

Ultimate Size
Choose the right cultivar based on how tall or wide your tree will grow when mature. This avoids having to fight nature and prune it back.

Single Trunk or Multi-Stem
The typical avenue tree has a single trunk that has been pruned up so people or cars can pass underneath, but the advantage of a multi-trunked tree is that you can look through it. If selecting a multi-trunked tree, choose one with upright trunks of equal size, resulting in a tree with better shape and strength.

Root Condition
Learn to check a plant’s health at the nursery to ensure you are making the right choice, because a tree that is robust from the start is more likely to thrive in your landscape.

When making an informed decision on an important purchase, take the time to check the roots of the tree you are thinking of buying. Ask an associate to pull it out of the container for you then look for strong, white roots filling the pot but not circling around and around. Reject root balls with brown, rotten roots or with dead roots in the half of the pot facing the sun. These may have been overheated (cooked) in their black pots in the nursery row. The potting soil should be moist but not soggy and not dry.

Bark
Examine the bark for a tight and firm fit. There should be no gouges at the base, nor vertical splits in the bark. If balled and burlapped, the ties should not cut into the bark.

Leaves
Even though leaves are transitory, check for those with brown, scorched edges that may indicate previous drought due to uneven watering. Leaves should be free of spots and insect holes, too. Needle-leaves on evergreens should be abundant and green. Low soil moisture and intense sun cause sunscald, indicated by yellow or half-yellow leaves. Brown dropping needles are perfectly normal once a year, but the tree should have enough green needles to outnumber the brown ones.

Choose your new tree wisely. “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit.” ❍

Conceived in Naples/Avalon

By Joe Duffy

My most repeated gastronomic maxim regarding local dining is that no cuisine has skyrocketed in both quality and quantity in the AlphaRoz megalopolis more than pizza.

Tesla didn’t go from zero to 60 as rapidly as pizza options. Kudos to intown dining master Giovanni Di Palma, who introduced world-class Neapolitan pizza at Antico Pizza Napoletana, a stone’s throw from Georgia Tech. He took his second location to Alpharetta’s Avalon, but he is not the first to consign this wondrous cuisine to the immediate area.
That distinction belongs to Campania. Occupying 800 N. Main Street, they are about a mile from the downtown Alpharetta’s ever-developing hotbed. Credit pizzaiola master and Naples, Italy native Stefano Rea for putting Campania on the map. He long ago delved into other opportunities, but Campania remains highly atop the list of estimable restaurants.

Campania uses the prerequisite “00” flour and San Marzano tomatoes heated up at nearly one-thousand degrees for 60 seconds in their imported brick oven. Having traded notes with fellow food snobs over the years about this local jewel, the only thing devotees can’t seem to agree on is which is their supreme pizza. My nominee is probably the salumi mista with pomodoro, Italian sausage, Calabrese salami, Fior-di-Latte mozzarella, fontina, and fresh basil. But then again, I’m a big, fat carnivore, so why wouldn’t it? The white pizza tartufo is also striking.

One could contend that the original Antico remains the emperor of said method of cooking pizza. What makes Campania distinctive from Antico and many other similar meritorious architects of brick oven pie is that Campania has a noteworthy entree menu as well.

In fact, my absolute favorite item is their veal meatballs. True, some days they are even more tender than others. When on-point, these are some of the tastiest balls of ground meat you will ever gourmandize. I clamor for them as an appetizer. Previously served with pizza dough flatbread as an accompaniment, they now serve it with their own rosetta bread. Frankly, the switchover was to reserve space in the oven for pizza, but both breads are impressive. One can also order the veal balls in a panini.

No term is abused in the foodie underground more than “authentic.” Paninis are pressed sandwiches generally on ciabatta, baguette, or michetta bread. Some might asseverate that a wrap, roll, or something else would be a more precise moniker as the balls are ensconced in the house-made pizza dough flatbread. Authentic schmentic. Whatever you want to call them, the veal meatballs, be it as a sandwich or appetizer, will decidedly call your name.

Campania has recently improved their social media presence. This resonates well with my wife because she is the quintessential chicken parmesan enthusiast. She says being married to me is the two best years of her life. That’s all well and good, but we’ve been married for 20 years plus two years of courtship.

Over that time, this script has been eventuated innumerable times. “How is your chicken parmesan?” I inquire. She responds with a circumspect, “It’s good. Try some.” Thus, I do. Suffice to say, I’ve savored bountiful amounts of the aforesaid dish in multifarious locations. Not on their regular menu, the pollo alla parmigiana at Campania is among both of our favorites.

There are seven pasta dishes on the menu, replete with homemade sauces. Obviously, any pizza joint will be vegetarian friendly, but there is also an outstanding tortellini alfredo or basic spaghetti al burro (with butter).
There are roughly 30 or so white and red wine selections. The truth remains I’m more of a beer than vino guy. I’m jubilant to inspect an evolving inventory with an amiable coalition of local beers such as Jekyll Hop Dang Diggity IPA from just a few miles down the road to some of the most respected craft offerings from around the country such as Bell’s Two Hearted Ale and Goose Island’s 312 Wheat Ale.

Very possibly the first and certainly among best options for Neapolitan pizza in the northern suburbs is Vingenzo’s in the heart of downtown Woodstock. (More on Vingenzo’s in a future column.) Everything I’d say about Vingenzo’s is genuine about Campania. Both were pioneers in this cuisine in their respective vicinity, each remaining among the elite today. Foremost, both menus go well beyond the confines of first-rate pizza.

Shoutout

Chef/owner Jasmin Willis puts out the best homemade biscuits in the area at sensational newcomer Gracious Plenty on Canton Street in downtown Roswell. Initially I sampled their biscuits at Alive After 5. This time I went with the biscuits and gravy, being I’ve been a southern boy for 30+ years now. For those of you Yankees and other heathens who are terrified of sausage gravy, that’s okay. The gravy is very good, but the biscuits are the star of the show. At AA5, she has some jellies and preserves, though not made in-house, they are from a local purveyor. Also, the blueberry muffin is lighter and fluffier than most I’ve had—a bit different, certainly in a good way. They’d even like these babies in Hammonton, NJ, the undisputed blueberry capital of the world. ❍