31 Days of Nashville – Monell’s

Photo Credit: Michael Kappel

Photo Credit: Michael Kappel

Monell’s offers a unique dining experience, called Family Style Dining. The name says it all, really. It’s almost like a buffet, but the buffet comes to your table instead of you going to the buffet. The concept is that they fill the tables, no matter how many people are in your party. If there are 5 people in your party but the table holds 10 people, then most likely they’re going to seat another party of 4 or 5 at your table for you to share the meal. The kitchen prepares several main dishes, sides and desserts every day and brings it straight to your table to share. Every day they serve homemade biscuits and fried chicken. The other dishes rotate, depending on what day of the week it is. There’s no ordering involved at Monell’s, other than deciding what you want to drink.

Monell’s has been around since 1880 and now has 4 locations in the Nashville area. The Germantown location was the only location open for a long time. Over the years, they have branched out to Gallatin and to the Manor in the Donelson/airport area, as well as adding Cafe Monell’s in Berry Hill.

It truly is a unique southern, home cooking experience that the locals love for themselves and sharing with out of town guests. It’s a great way to dine with people you probably wouldn’t normally connect with when dining in a regular establishment.

Monell's

This post is part of a series I am writing, 31 Days of Nashville, where I am introducing several awesome places that make Nashville a great place to live and visit. Each day of the week has a different theme, and I am trying to focus on those hidden gems that aren’t as well known but just as worthy. 

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31 Days of Nashville – Big Brothers Big Sisters

19 - Big Brothers Big Sisters

At one point or another, I’m sure you’ve heard of Big Brothers Big Sisters in some form or fashion. If not, let me introduce it to you and share my story. Big Brothers Big Sisters is a nonprofit organization in numerous areas throughout the US. The program is mentor-based where an adult can mentor a child who might need a positive influence in his or her life. Before I was involved with the program, I always had the idea that it was for kids who might not have one or both parents alive or in their lives, but that’s not always the case. Children are usually identified through teachers and educators in the child’s school as someone who could benefit with some one-on-one time with an influential adult.

I became part of Big Brothers Big Sisters almost 5 years ago. I was recently divorced at the time and had heard about a few experiences that my work supervisor had with her Little Sister. I’ve always been a fan of volunteer work, and I was looking for something to do with my time other than working and dating.

The interview process has multiple levels so that you are more likely matched with a child who can get the most out of an adult with common interests. They carefully match kids with adults and never press it on too fast just because they have unmatched kids and unmatched adults. I applied in October of 2008 but wasn’t matched until April of 2009.

There are more women volunteers and more male kids needing to match, so it’s not always a Big Sister with a Little Sister or a Big Brother with a Little Brother. Some women prefer having a Little Brother for various reasons, usually because they grew up in a house with more boys, so it doesn’t have to always fit into some standard scenario. In the class that I took to learn about being a mentor, we learned it’s more about how you bond with people. I knew early on that I wanted a Little Sister.

Another misconception is that you are only matched with kids missing a parent of the same gender as the mentor. In my case, I was matched with a Little Sister whose mother was (and still is) a great mother to her two kids. I was not taking the place of an absent mother. I admit that it was a little odd at first, given the misconception that I had, but it was soon apparent that my Little Sister might not need another female role model in her life, but having any role model was a positive experience.

My Little Sister was introduced to the Big Brothers Big Sisters program because her older brother was in the program, and she felt like she was missing out on something awesome if her brother was getting to go out and do things with his Big Brother. I soon learned that my time with my Little Sister gave her some one-on-one time with an adult, where our time was about doing something she enjoyed. It also allowed her mom to have some one-on-one time with my Little Sister’s brother while I was out with my Little Sister. It ended up being beneficial to everyone.

Through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, we attended many events sponsored by, through or because of the program. We attended picnics, skating parties, craft parties, hockey games and nature outings all because of our connection with the program. Not everything you do with your Little Sister or Little Brother is free, but they generally try to help you find low cost outings. It doesn’t have to be expensive, so don’t let that deter you from looking into mentoring a kid. It really is all about spending some quality time with a kid. Many matches enjoy sports, reading or other adventures together. My Little Sister and I have done lots and lots of crafts together.

My Little Sister and I are still together, almost 5 years later. We’re no longer matched through the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization, because she moved to another county, but we still do things together at least once a month. One thing I have learned through this entire experience is that it is not only about what my Little Sister gets out of my mentoring her, but it is also about what I get out of being her mentor and learning from her, as well. The experience has been tremendously great for me, just as much as it has been for her. I am truly blessed because she and her family are in my life.

I encourage you to think about what you might be able to offer in mentoring a kid. The Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee information is below, but there is most likely a program in your area through another Big Brothers Big Sisters group or other similar mentor programs.

Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee
1704 Charlotte Avenue, Suite 130
Nashville, Tennessee 37203
(615) 329-9191

This post is part of a series I am writing, 31 Days of Nashville, where I am introducing several awesome places that make Nashville a great place to live and visit. Each day of the week has a different theme, and I am trying to focus on those hidden gems that aren’t as well known but just as worthy. 

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31 Days of Nashville – Theatres

18 - Theatres

Nashville is home to numerous theatres (and theaters), both performing arts and the big screen. The majority of our big screen theaters are fairly standard like you’ll find in most cities where you can catch Hollywood’s latest film, so I would like to introduce you to a few alternatives in the Nashville area.

Belcourt Theatre

The Belcourt Theatre is in the heart of Hillsboro Village and has been through several changes and renovations since it opened in 1925. The Belcourt is a “nonprofit cultural institution dedicated to presenting the best of independent, documentary, world, repertory and classic cinema.”* The Belcourt is where you go to see the annual showing of It’s A Wonderful Life every year in December, as well as Hitchcock movies at least once a year. It’s also where you go for smaller films that the large theaters aren’t carrying. The venue can also be rented for concerts for musicians. You can also catch films that are part of the Sundance Film Festival every year. October 31-November 2, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is playing as part of their Midnight Movies event.

 

Lakewood Theatre Co.

In the small town near Old Hickory where locals know not to speed, The Lakewood Theatre Co has held performances since 1983. The theatre is small enough so that you really feel part of the production you’re watching. My mom and I have been season ticket holders several years in the past, and it was well worth the commitment. When my brother was younger, he was part of their summer workshop for kids and participated in a few plays after that. The theatre company just wrapped up their production of The Beverly Hillbillies last week, and their next production of Charlotte’s Web (which happens to be my most favorite childhood book) runs from November 29th to December 15th.

 

Nashville Children’s Theatre

I have so many great memories of going to the Nashville Children’s Theatre during school field trips in elementary school. My friend, Liberty, with the awesome memory can probably remember all of the plays we saw there, but I’m pretty sure that I remember seeing Charlotte’s Web and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe there. I am pretty sure that my love of live theatre began all those years ago. I took my Little Sister there a couple of years ago to see a juggling performance, and the place had changed quite a bit from what I remember as a child, but it’s still an awesome venue to introduce children to the wonderful imagination behind acting. If you’re a child of the 70’s and 80’s, you’ll probably enjoy their current production of Schoolhouse Rock.

 

Tennessee Performing Arts Center

The Tennessee Performing Arts Center (aka TPAC) is home to Nashville’s larger theatres where you can see Broadway shows and other popular performing arts. The Nashville Ballet, Nashville Opera and Teneessee Repertory Theatre also perform at TPAC. I have seen countless productions at TPAC over the years and love getting dressed up to see a performance downtown…you know, like an adult. Just to name a few, I’ve seen Cats, Miss Saigon, Annie (my favorite!), Wicked and To Kill a Mockingbird at TPAC, and they have all been awesome productions. The Nutcracker is performed most every year around Christmas, and it looks like another favorite of mine, A Christmas Story, will be playing from November 29th to December 22nd.

This post is part of a series I am writing, 31 Days of Nashville, where I am introducing several awesome places that make Nashville a great place to live and visit. Each day of the week has a different theme, and I am trying to focus on those hidden gems that aren’t as well known but just as worthy. 

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31 Days of Nashville – Adventure Science Center

12 - Adventure Science Center

Way up on the hill behind Fort Negley, facing Nashville’s beautiful skyline is the Adventure Science Center where children of all ages can spend a day learning about many areas of science and have fun.

I have visited the science center more times than I can count. When I was a kid, it was called the Cumberland Science Center, and we went on numerous field trips with school throughout the years. The center had been remodeled several times since I was a kid, but I can still clearly remember a few exhibits that were there when I was a kid, like the brain in a jar where we could push a button, and it rotated around so that we could see a 360 view of a real human brain, not from a photo or drawing. There was also the general store set up in a little town-like environment with a real cash register (a big deal for kid me!).

I’ve been a few times as an adult, too, when the credit union where I am a member offers a family night once a year for members. Each year I’ve been, I always try to visit one of the planetarium’s presentations to see the stars and constellations. Maybe Neil deGrasse Tyson will show up one year 🙂

The Adventure Science Center also offers Way Late Play Dates where every few months they open their doors from 7-10 pm to adults-only for a night of science and fun. They offer themes for these nights, and the next Way Late Play Date is October 24th with the Zombie theme, Blood Thirsty Thursday. The price for the ticket includes 3 beverage tickets (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), and they also have food trucks on site, because what event in Nashville doesn’t have food trucks these days?

Adventure Science Center
800 Fort Negley Blvd
Nashville TN 37203
(615) 862-5160

This post is part of a series I am writing, 31 Days of Nashville, where I am introducing several awesome places that make Nashville a great place to live and visit. Each day of the week has a different theme, and I am trying to focus on those hidden gems that aren’t as well known but just as worthy.

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31 Days of Nashville – Centennial Park

16 - Centennial Park

The hub of Nashville events can be found in Centennial Park. Most weekends when the weather is pleasant, there’s usually an event going on somewhere in the park. There’s a huge amount of open space that makes it perfect for festivals and large events that attract many people. If there’s not a specific event on a nice weekend, the park is usually filled with people playing frisbee, walking or just enjoying the scenery.

In the middle of the park is The Parthenon replica, which was built in 1897 as part of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition to celebrate Tennessee’s 100th anniversary. Tennessee was added as a state of the union in 1796. If you’re figuring the math, the exposition was a year late. History seems to indicate that they decided to build a replica of the Parthenon in Greece because Nashville is nicknamed The Athens of the South.

My favorite memories of Centennial Park are of the gardens on the northwest side near the pond (aka Lake Watauga). There are photos of me when I was very young, playing among the flowers, and I still enjoy being in that area when I go to the park today. Also nearby is a train and airplane that have been parked there for as long as I can remember.

When you decide to visit Centennial Park, it’s well worth the $6 admission to see the massive Athena Parthenos reproduction statue, standing 42 feet tall. It’s quite an experience to be in the open hall with her standing on the other end in all her golden beauty. The park is also really close to Cori’s DogHouse that I wrote about yesterday!

 

Athena

 

Centennial Park
2500 West End Ave
Nashville TN 37203

This post is part of a series I am writing, 31 Days of Nashville, where I am introducing several awesome places that make Nashville a great place to live and visit. Each day of the week has a different theme, and I am trying to focus on those hidden gems that aren’t as well known but just as worthy. 

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31 Days of Nashville – Cori’s DogHouse

15 - Cori's DogHouse

If there is a combination of ingredients to be topped on a hot dog, then Cori’s probably has it. I first discovered Cori’s at their first location in Mount Juliet back when David and I were still dating, and I live in Mount Juliet. Cori’s was our go-to restaurant when he came to my side of town. Shortly after we moved in together (in Nashville), they opened a second location on West End, so I kinda feel like Cori’s knew I would miss them being close to home. 

Most of their menu dogs are named after states, cities or areas in the US. You can basically eat your way across the country, and if you do eat one of each (and get your card marked), you can be added to the Wall of Wieners at either location. Seriously! David and I have been slowly working or way across the US since 2009, and I think we’re each about half way there. We have a rule between the two of us that we can’t get our card marked unless we’re dining together so that we can both be wieners on the same day.

Without a doubt, my absolute favorite dog is the Jersey Breakfast dog that comes with bacon, shredded cheese and a fried egg. I get weird looks sometimes when I mention it, but it really is good if you like bacon and eggs. I also prefer the turkey dog over the beef dog, but that’s just a personal preference, and there’s nothing wrong with the other choices. You don’t have to order exactly what is offered on the board (unless you’re trying to get your photo added to the Wall of Wienders), so they will add any topping they offer if you order it that way. They also have sausages and other sandwiches, too.

If you’re feeling brave, try the Fried Twinkie for dessert. I’m usually full by the time I’ve eaten my hot dog, but I’ve had a bite or two of the dessert. It’s well worth it if you still have room for more.

Cori’s DogHouse Jersey Breakfast

Cori’s DogHouse – Nashville
106 29th Ave N
Nashville TN 37209
(615) 329-9444

Cori’s DogHouse – Mount Juliet
(near Belk, facing Mount Juliet Road)
401 S Mount Juliet Rd
Mount Juliet TN 37122
(615) 758-6960

This post is part of a series I am writing, 31 Days of Nashville, where I am introducing several awesome places that make Nashville a great place to live and visit. Each day of the week has a different theme, and I am trying to focus on those hidden gems that aren’t as well known but just as worthy. 

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31 Days of Nashville – Mall Memories

14 - Mall Memories

All across America, the concept of “the mall” is changing. It’s not just in Nashville. Most everywhere is going away from the one indoor building holding multiple stores to the multiple buildings in an area where the stores are all outside. It’s almost like the days before malls where everything was in a strip mall. I can honestly say that I am not a big fan of the new outdoor mall concept. I miss going into one building to visit several stores all inside, away from the heat, the cold or the rain. I suppose I can see the appeal of driving to the one store you need to go into, and not having to walk past several other stores to get there, but if there’s a second store you need to visit, you’re probably going to drive there instead of walk. Of course, as I say that I miss the old-style malls, I haven’t really been much of a mall shopper in the past several years, anyway, and do a good bit of my shopping online now. I guess either way, I’m not walking as much as I used to walk 🙂

Anyway, the idea of this blog post is not to debate which style is better. I wanted to relive the memories I have of the great times I had when going to the mall. In the 80’s and 90’s when I was a teenager, THE Mall was THE place to be. Early in my youth, Nashville had 3 major malls, Hickory Hollow Mall, Rivergate Mall and One Hundred Oaks Mall.

One Hundred Oaks Mall was the first to start fading away, and tried a few times to revamp and come back, but never quite recovered. My memories of One Hundred Oaks go back way far and are a bit blurry, but I do remember Harveys had the giant carousel horse hanging on the wall beside the entrance to the store. The last time I remember One Hundred Oaks being a mall was in the very late 90’s, and even then about the only store worth visiting was the video game store to trade in your old NES games for newer games. One Hundred Oaks is now home to Vanderbilt Health on the second floor, where many of the outpatient clinics of Vanderbilt are located. It’s interesting to go inside now if you have a memory of the old mall, because it still kinda sorta has the same look. The first floor that faces outside has several stores and is pretty much like the outdoor malls that are more popular today.

I grew up living closer to Hickory Hollow Mall, so we went there more often than the others. I remember we almost always went into the mall through the back entrance of JC Penney. It didn’t matter if we needed to shop in JCP or not; we just always entered through that door. 9th grade was about the time that I started noticing fashion and no longer wanted to get my clothes at KMart and WalMart, so the mall was where you had to go to get name brand clothes, like Skidz and I.O.U….oh, and Hypercolor! I never talked my mom into buying Skidz pants but I did have two I.O.U. shirts that I treasured. I also wanted some Doc Martens, but my parents seem to think that was way too much money to spend on fake combat boots, so I inherited a pair of my dad’s old combat boots that he had retired for a newer pair for his Army National Guard job. David said recently that real combat boots were probably much more cool than Doc Martens, but my teenage mind didn’t quite see it back then. I haven’t been to Hickory Hollow Mall in at least 5 years (maybe more). It started going downhill and attracting criminal acts. They are trying a comeback again this year with Global Mall at the Crossings, with a branch of Nashville State Community College one of the old anchor stores. A branch of the Nashville Public Library and an ice rink managed by the Nashville Predators is also planned for the future.

Rivergate Mall is where I frequented more often after I started driving. Most of my high school friends lived on the north side of Mount Juliet (where I lived on the south side), so Rivergate was closer when I was with them. Rivergate had most of the same stores that Hickory Hollow had. To my knowledge, Rivergate Mall has never shut down, even temporarily like Hickory Hollow, but I believe they are also trying to regain popularity.

Other malls, have come and gone in the Nashville area, but these three are the malls of my memories. What mall memories do you have in Nashville or where you live? 

This post is part of a series I am writing, 31 Days of Nashville, where I am introducing several awesome places that make Nashville a great place to live and visit. Each day of the week has a different theme, and I am trying to focus on those hidden gems that aren’t as well known but just as worthy. 

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