On March 10th and 11th, the Greater Limestone County Chamber of Commerce will be hosting the annual Home and Garden Show, to be held once again in the Limestone County Event Center on Pryor Street. This expo has grown every year, draws attendees from all over the Tennessee Valley, and is the perfect way to prepare for spring.

More than 50 exhibitors come together to make the event happen, and the price for admission is two dollars. This year the Presenting Sponsor is Robin Rents; the Gold Sponsors are Persell Lumber and Top Job Roofing; Silver Sponsors are Alabama Foundation Specialists and Redstone Federal Credit Union; and the Bronze Sponsors are Collins Supply, Distinctive Landscaping, Inline Lighting, Jimmy Smith Buick/GMA, and Valley Mowing.

I spoke with Jennifer Williamson, Director of the Greater Limestone County Chamber of Commerce, and there are several things about this year’s show that she finds particularly exciting. “First of all, Miss Alabama is coming, and that’s a first.” She went down the rest of her list with enthusiasm, which includes everything from learning how to distress furniture to attracting butterflies to your garden. “Keep Athens Limestone Beautiful just found out that they will have 800 tree seedlings to give away. There will be crape myrtle, shumard oak, redbud, bald cypress, blackgum and riverbirch,” she said. These will be available on a first come, first served basis, and just know that the crape myrtles especially sell out quickly.

One of the distinctive features of this year’s show is the number of hands-on demonstrations. For example, the Limestone County Extension Service is presenting a workshop entitled, “Screening the Noise, Neighbors and the Not-So-Pretty.” While I was fairly familiar with plants that provide privacy, I had never known that there are actual hedges that can help with soundproofing. That demonstration is going to be on Saturday at 10 am. The Extension Service is also going to teach us about container gardening, and will give away a beautifully planted container as a raffle prize.

The Huntsville Botanical Gardens, home of the largest seasonal butterfly house in the nation, will be presenting the Gardening to Attract Butterflies demonstration on Saturday morning at noon. Speaking of Huntsville, the HSV International Airport will be giving away a $500 travel voucher to be used on any airline of your choice that has a gate there. There will be door prizes and other giveaways sponsored by the vendors, and lots of activities for the kids.

Keep Athens Limestone Beautiful’s mascot, Sparky, will be providing photo ops with the kids, and KALB’s Director, Lynne Hart, told me that “Sparky will have goodies to give to the children.” Sparky will be appearing two times on Saturday: from 10:00 to 10:30 a.m. and from 1:00 to 1:30 p.m. There will also be a kid’s planting activity, also held twice on Saturday, from 10:30 til noon and 1:30 till 3 p.m.

Representatives from every aspect of home improvement will be present, from HVAC to roofs to windows to siding to plumbing to financing to more. For your garden, there will be people from a big-box store as well as a large local nursery. For your home’s interior, you can find help with custom picture framing, lighting, furniture selection, remodeling and radon detection. And, if all the choices before you make you feel stressed, there will be professional massage therapists to help with that.
Last year, more than 2,000 people attended because there is something for everyone at a price that can’t be beat. The Annual Limestone County Chamber of Commerce Home and Garden Show is one of my favorite ways to wait for spring to finally spring.

The Limestone County Chamber of Commerce Annual Home and Garden Show
Friday, March 10th from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday, March 11th from 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
Limestone County Event Center, 114 West Pryor Street, Athens, AL 35611

For more information, visit www.tourathens.com or you can find the event on Facebook by visiting the event page Limestone County Home and Garden Show. You can also call the Chamber at 256-232-2600.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

I first encountered Sherrol Troupe Gideon, Vivian Troupe Jefferson, and their mother, Ada Troupe when I began my adventures as the publisher of Athens Now in March of 2011. It was always one of my favorite stops on my delivery route, a place where my stomach and my soul could find sweetness. I am so pleased to have a chance to tell you their story, and invite you to their new location on the north side of the Square in the former location of Pablo’s on Market.

Sherrol and Vivian are the owners of the tea room, and it is definitely a family affair, down to a small granddaughter functioning as a tiny helper in between coloring and playing with her grandmother’s cell phone. The success of Sweetest Things is something for which all of them give God the glory, as no one in “the Troupe” had any restaurant experience at all prior to 2006 when they opened. What Sherrol did have, however, was a degree in Business Administration from Athens State University, experience as a trainer for a large corporation in Huntsville, a lifelong love for cooking started by her grandmothers, and a vibrant prayer life.

I asked her, “How did you start?” “Well,” she said, “We have always cooked.” Now please understand, when she makes that statement, you need to know a bit about their heritage. The grandmothers on both sides were legendary as bakers in Limestone County, and are the sources of the recipes used in the Tea Room. For one grandmother, it was customary during the holidays to have every square inch of counter space lined with cakes and pies that people had hired her to bake for them. It didn’t stop there, she would improvise by making more flat surfaces by putting pieces of plywood across armchairs to accommodate her creations, and it wasn’t until everyone came to get their “sweetest things” that she could take back her own home for the holidays.

For her part, Sherrol used to make cakes at home and sell them at work, and at the time she also was decorating cakes on the side, something she no longer has the time to do. Her husband Ronnie was career military, and it was during his first deployment to Iraq during the Operation Iraqi Freedom assault phase in 2003 that she began to feel an inexplicable shift inside. “I was restless, and didn’t know why. Everything was ok, my husband was safe, and so was my daughter. Nothing was wrong, I just had the feeling that a change was coming, but I didn’t know what it was,” she said.

For about two weeks straight, Sherrol got up in the wee hours to pray, and basically told God, “I don’t know what to do, so please just put me where You want me to be.” At the end of the two weeks, the powerful, manifest presence of the Lord came into her prayer room, and she just knew that everything was going to be ok, but had no idea what was next. It was a good thing, too, as when she got to work that day, she was informed that she had been laid off. What she felt the Lord told her was that this was the answer to her prayers, and though she loved her job and the people she worked with, she was being “moved on to move on.” People expected her to be upset, but she truly was at peace.

For about a year she baked from her home; things like “million dollar chocolate chip cookies,” which she would produce 30 dozen at a time. They always sold out. She baked for a hotel in Huntsville, for her friends, family, church and community. In 2006, another set of miracles occurred that just might need another story, and Sherrol, Vivian, and Mother Ada opened up the Tea Room on Jefferson Street. “Then,” she told me, “We outgrew that,” and it was time to pray again. “We began to thank God for a new location before one ever opened up and we moved to our new place right around the week of Thanksgiving this past fall.” Faith most definitely had been rewarded once again.

As mesmerized as I was by their story, I knew that some of our readers would need to know what the “Troupers” bring to the table, literally. I asked Sherrol, “Why should I come here?” She replied, “We have three generations of recipes, and the meals we prepare for our customers are like what we prepare for our own families. We make things in small batches, specifically for you. We pray over the food before it goes out, we pray while we’re working, and at the end of the day, we ask God to bless our customers for coming here. We know they don’t have to come here, and we are thankful.” They also keep a prayer request list on the wall in the kitchen, and I put myself on it. I asked Ada what she enjoyed the most about the business, which is her third career and she said, “I LOVE to cook.” Vivian’s answer to the same question was, “I love meeting new and interesting people.”

Business is brisk, and now they are going to have to hire extra help for the Monday and Tuesday lunch rush. In addition to the lunch crowd, people were coming in to pick up their custom dessert orders. “We can’t make enough caramel cakes,” she said, and that is also the case for the coconut cakes. In addition, they make pies, including caramel pecan, chocolate, chess pie, buttermilk, and sweet potato pie. Their daily specials include champagne chicken, smothered pork chops, and chicken stew, and when Pablo’s was in the same spot serving lunch, it was Sweetest Things that prepared the chicken salad. The day I ate there and conducted the interview, the place was packed and the gals were running the whole time.

Sweetest Things does high teas by reservation only, on and off-site catering for baby showers, bridal showers, community and church dinners, and more. But, truth be told, the “sweetest things” in the building are Sherrol, Vivian, and Ada, lovely women, all. Come and find out for yourself.
By: Ali ElizabethTurner

Catherine Louise Turner is 82 years old, and full of vim and vigor. She was raised by her grandparents, and graduated from Trinity High School. “Miss Cat” was not exactly thrilled with the prospect of telling me her exact age, but I think it’s safe to say that she graduated from Trinity just about the same time Ike was inaugurated as President of the United States. Her grandfather ran a store at the intersection of Browns-Ferry and Highway 72. “It was owned by Ed Shelton, but my grandfather ran it for him, ‘cuz Mr. Ed, he liked to fish a lot,” Miss Cat told me.

By her own admission, Catherine was “teacher’s pet,” and she also had teachers that were her favorites. She went to Miller Public School, which was near Trinity, and she called Miss Watkins her pet. “We used to carry things for our teachers, and that’s how we became the pets,” she said. She also told me that one of her teachers by the name of Miss King tried to teach her how to dance, but Cat said that she was just “too stiff.” Not too stiff, though, to enjoy the music of Little Richard, and it was recorded on 78s.

There were times when she and her schoolmates were, by their own admission, rascals. They would poke each other with pencils, and deny it. In return, her teacher, Miss Harris, affectionately called them “barbarians.”

Her half sisters were present for the interview, and said that one of their favorite memories was having 4th of July picnics at Miss Cat’s. “We had them under a big oak tree.” Catherine didn’t want to tell me much about her husband, “Because he was one of the good ones.” Interesting reply, as most of the time it’s the bad spouses that get all the press in these interviews. All she told me was that his name was Frank Turner, and they had three children. She now has a grandchild, and two great grandchildren. One of her “greats” calls Cat her “gwait-gwait.”

Mrs. Turner has no shortage of stories, one of which was the fact that “back in the day” she used to cook for legendary rocket scientist Werner Von Braun. She was also very active in her church, Oak Grove C.M.E., and became well known in her district and attended the national conference held by the denomination. She taught Sunday school, sang in the choir, was president of the church’s Stewardesses Board, and served as an usher.

Catherine also collects bibles. “I have 34 of them,” she said, “and I reads them all.” She gives them away to people to whom she is ministering, particularly people who are going to the hospital. There is just about every translation you can think of, and they are all lined up in a row.

We moved on to the topic of favorites:

Favorite color? “White.”

Favorite food? “Sweet potato custard pie.”

Favorite actor/actress? “Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.”

Favorite singer? “James Brown.” We broke into our own version of “I Feel Good, I Knew That I Would.”

Favorite movie? “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

Favorite song? “Tutti Fruitti.”

Favorite scripture? “Psalm 23, but really, I loves all of ‘em.”

Favorite President of the United States?” “Barack Obama, the first African American president.”

I wish I could effectively describe the way Miss Cat says the word “superb.” That was the word she used to illustrate the quality of the care she has received at Athens Health and Rehab. “And the food, oh Lord it is good.” In addition, this is not the first time that Keisha in Activities has been described as someone’s favorite. Keisha and Cat tease each other mercilessly.

Her favorite activity at the facility is Bingo, and apparently she has been quite the winner. She also really enjoys the bible study.

I asked her for some words of wisdom for young people, and here’s what she said: “Get out of the street and into the church, and find out what’s going on.” Sage advice from the indomitable Miss Catherine Louise Turner.
By: Ali ElizabethTurner

The Martinez family has become well known in the Tennessee Valley as a classic American success story, having started out in Jalisco, Guadalajara, Mexico. They are the owners of the highly successful Casa Blanca Mexican restaurant chain. They have restaurants on Hwy 72 in Athens in the Lindsay Center, and other locations have included Pulaski, Madison, Browns Ferry, Bailey Cove, University Drive and Rogersville. They have purchased land in Decatur to build a new restaurant, which hopefully will be their next project. In addition, once Lucia’s Athens is up and humming, they are going to temporarily close the Athens Hwy 72 Casa Blanca for extensive remodeling.

In the downtown Athens area, the Casa Blanca outlet which was located on the north side of the Square was one of my favorite places to eat, day or night, especially when the weather was good enough to eat outside on the patio. That particular Casa Blanca opened in the spring of 2013, was nearly always busy. Then disaster struck, something that can happen all too often in a historical building. A pipe burst in the kitchen, causing extensive damage, and the floor began to sink. The kitchen floor nearly collapsed, and Casa Blanca was closed for almost 13 months.

Undaunted, the family joined together as they always do to get everything repaired, and found that the “messing turned into a blessing,” as they came up with a new name and a new concept for a restaurant. They decided to call it Lucia’s Cocina Mexicana, in honor of their mother, Maria Lucia Aguilar Lopez. She is a cancer survivor, and thankfully is still with us. There is a picture of the beautiful Lucia that you can’t miss as you enter the door and wait to be seated.

Here is what her sons Gabriel, Hector and Elias have to say about her:

“Our Mom, Maria Lucia Aguilar Lopez, has always been the matriarch of the family. Growing up, she always taught us to work hard, believe in our dreams and to take care of each other. Raising 11 kids, our Mom sacrificed a lot, so in return we opened Lucia’s Cocina Mexicana to honor her and to give thanks for all her sacrifices. And dedicated to all those who’ve lost the fight to cancer and to those who won’t quit the fight.”

As I sat with eldest brother Gabriel listening to his tales of this new chapter in their lives, I was so glad that they prevailed, and once again we have a charming place to eat in Athens that was birthed out of love and honor. The “Lucia’s Concept” is basically “less is more.” The décor is elegant and understated, with a warm two color scheme, and on the walls there are several classic black and white glossy photos of famous female Mexican movie stars back from Lucia’s day. The play of light as a result of the gorgeous mirrors throughout makes for an inviting ambience day or night. The menu has been scaled back, and there are now two menus: one that features food one would most often expect in a Mexican restaurant, and a smaller one that is at once painstakingly authentic as well as a bit more sophisticated.

There will be a cóctel de camaron, (shrimp cocktail), carne en su jugo, (steak in its own juices), tacos de carnitas, (tacos with seasoned shredded pork), tostados de ceviches, (made from small pieces of shrimp, marinated in lime juice, with onions, spices and chilis), tacos, and other dishes made with chorizo, (Spanish sausage), and a full bar. Hector and Elias are in charge of the bar, which will feature homemade sangria, (a chilled red wine with fruit in it, most often citrus wheels), as well as other classics such as margaritas and cheladas. Gabriel told me there will be daily drink specials, as well as daily lunch and dinner specials that will be posted either on a chalkboard outside or on a fresh sheet at the table.

Lunch is served from 11am to 3pm daily, and has very reasonably priced offerings such as quesadillas, fajitas, enchiladas, nachos topped with chicken or steak, chicken dishes seasoned with orange juice and spices, burritos, and several salad choices. There is a kids’ menu for children 11 and under that has American as well as Mexican fare, and the price includes a soft drink, tea or milk.

The desserts are big enough to share and include: flan, (a rich egg custard topped with caramel), sopapillas, (a deep fried puffy taco served hot, drizzled with honey and sprinkled with cinnamon), chocolate chimichangas, (a deep fried tortilla stuffed with chocolate), and deep fried ice cream.

Come and taste delicious, authentic food served in an inviting atmosphere at Lucia’s Cocina Mexicana, a restaurant reborn, dedicated to a loving mother, Lucia preciosa.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

It was the fall of 2014 when I first had the chance to tell the readers of Athens Now about Drucilla’s, a Victorian era “manse” (parsonage), converted into a marvelous restaurant. It is the labor of love of Athens native Carol Holland, and named in honor of her grandmother, Drucilla. Now it is 2017, and Carol has teamed up with Lori Hartselle to bring customers a chance to create seasonal keepsakes while sampling delicious fare. I will tell you about what they have “cooked” up in a moment, but first let me tell you about some changes in the menu and on the floor that Carol is finishing up.

“We are changing our lunch selections some and planning to offer more of a ‘tea-room’ type fare. “We will keep our loaded potato soup that everyone loves, and add a second soup daily. Our salads and sandwiches will also stay, as will our delicious desserts,” she added. “We aren’t planning on offering the hot daily specials but if any group of six or more will call in for a reservation 48 hours ahead, we will be happy to prepare the hot meal of their choice for them. We also plan to have ‘homemade goodies’ always ready for sale – banana bread, muffins, cookies, etc.”

Another change is the concept of “on-site catering.” Drucilla’s is known for bridal showers, family reunions, baby showers, receptions, and high teas. “We want to do weddings as well as rehearsal dinners, and receptions, too,” she said. The house is large enough to handle around 40 guests inside, and more outside for an outdoor wedding.

We discussed what her plans were for Drucilla’s to be a part of this Valentine’s Day, and she was pleased to report that a church group had reserved out the entire venue for a special sweethearts’ dinner. I asked her if she had finalized the menu, and she said, “They’ll have their choice of Poulet de Normandie, congealed cranberry salad, and green beans, or prime rib, garlic mashed potatoes, and green beans.” Each individual’s menu choice will be provided as part of finalizing their reservation. The dessert will be the ultimate all-American confection, red velvet cake. Urban legend states that it was a cake served by the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, and the recipe was sold for $350 during the Great Depression. She is not sure whether she’ll go with cream cheese frosting or an old fashioned boiled seven-minute frosting, but either way, it is bound to be memorable.

In keeping with the transition to more of an Antiques/Tea Room atmosphere, there will be more items for sale throughout the restaurant. Small items such as dishes, crystal, glassware, quilts, small furniture pieces will be available. Another new feature will be a small boutique featuring vintage ladies’ accessories. “We’ll have jewelry, hats, scarves, and pocketbooks. Every once in awhile there will be shoes,” she said.

Lori Hartselle, mentioned above, is a welcome addition to the Drucilla’s team. She and Carol have come up with some great ideas for adults and kids to enjoy the food and history of the house, create artwork and food, learn the traditions associated with high teas, and perhaps participate in a dinner mystery.

Here’s the schedule:
February- Valentine’s Day heart shaped door hanger
March- a cross-themed canvas painting
April- Easter egg door hanger
May- Mother Day’s gift paint class (ages 7+)
June- Father’s Day’s gift paint class (ages 7+)
July- Youth abstract on canvas
August- High Tea etiquette and/or monster cookie baking class (ages 7+)
September- Fall painting on canvas
October- Halloween door hanger
November- Vintage ornament door hanger
December- Christmas themed painting on canvas

All of the monthly art projects will feature refreshments from Drucilla’s and are included in the price of the class.

We talked about things that it seems nobody seems to know how to do anymore, such as setting a table, or how to enjoy a tea. “I learned how to do fractions by cooking,” she said, with a fond remembrance of being in the kitchen with her grandma, Drucilla.

Another attraction that Carol is currently investigating is the hosting of an interactive murder mystery dinner. She is going to attend the one being presented soon in Huntsville to see how they do it, and knows there are great folks in Athens who would be good characters to play the parts. If you have ever been upstairs at Drucilla’s, you know there is a literal library and mezzanine, perfect for a live game of Clue where it was “Colonel Mustard in the library with a candle stick.” I am looking forward to seeing what she puts together, both in terms of food and fun.

So, if you are looking to take a step back into another time during your lunch hour, a place to take your daughter or other special little girl for a memorable high tea, a perfect place for a Victorian wedding, or a place to figure out “who-dunnit” after a delicious meal, call Drucilla’s today for your reservation. I can speak from experience: it will be memorable.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

2010 was the year Xtreme Nutrition was “born,” and owners Josh and Shelley Cagle have always impressed me with their hard work, commitment to help and support customers with building their health, and the research they have done to formulate their products. It has all paid off, proven in part by an enthusiastic new employee by the name of Preston Moss. He is a walking billboard for the shop and the lifestyle, and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing his story.

Preston grew up in West Limestone, and graduated from West Limestone High School in 2015. He had played football for WLHS, and had become close to 85 pounds overweight, something which unfortunately these days happens all too often with our kids in Alabama. He decided to do something about it, and set out on a journey that has literally transformed him. His mom, Myra Moss (who works in dispatch for the Sheriff’s department), the Lion’s Den, and Xtreme Nutrition and Smoothies are his support team, and he has parlayed his passion as well as hobby into a job he loves.

He began to work out religiously at the Lion’s Den, and while he was pleased with the strength he was gaining, the weight wasn’t budging the way he had hoped. He began to study voraciously, and realized that if he was going to lighten up he was going to have to change the way he ate. He also was looking for supplements that were safe and healthy. Enter Xtreme Nutrition. Josh Cagle, himself a bodybuilder for nearly a quarter of a century, has worked for several years to perfect supplements, and Preston found that Xtreme’s proprietary blend known as Rapture Max N.O. Lean was especially helpful. Here is some information on Rapture:

  • Unmatched energy. No shakes
  • Tunnel vision type focus
  • Incredible pumps and vascularity
  • No water retention
  • Creatine Free

I asked Preston what he liked about Rapture, and he said, “It’s thermogenic. It heats me up, and I don’t crash after my work out.” For those of you who are interested in what is in the product, here is a list of the ingredients: Beta Alanine, Arginine, Agmatine Sulfate, Phenylethylamine, Caffeine, Raspberry Ketones, Leucine, IsoLeucine, Valine, Citrulline Malate (a “clean” fatigue fighter), B12, Alpha Lipolic Acid, 5HTP, Dandelion Root, Synephrine (Bitter Orange), Niacin, and Yohimbine HCl.
Preston, with the help of his mom, went “lean and mean” as far as his eating was concerned. Here was his regimen:

  • Breakfast: 2 boiled eggs and a piece of bacon
  • Snack: an apple around noon
  • Lunch: chicken, rice, and a sweet potato
  • Snack: an apple around 2:30
  • Supper: rice, turkey, sweet potatoes

Admittedly, that is hard core, and not a permanent plan. This is just how Preston did it, not a specific endorsement, so please do your due diligence and check with your doctor prior to beginning any weight loss program. The result was that he lost 70 lbs in six months, and then the last 15 a bit more slowly. For the first six months, Preston did not give himself a “cheat day,” but has since started taking one, and has been able to keep his weight off.

One of Preston’s favorite smoothies at the shop is what is known as “The Champ.” It contains strawberries, bananas, your choice of protein, peanut butter, and pecans. For his protein, Preston chooses the vanilla flavor.

Preston and Shelley told me about some of the new products that are at Xtreme Nutrition. One is a fat burner called Stimukal, which is similar to and a replacement for Synedrex. The other is the 6 Pack Fitness lunch bags. They are insulated, and besides having space for your smoothies, water bottles, supplements and energy bars, in the middle is a set of shelves that hold covered containers for your meals. They come in camo, pink, and black, and the sizes are the mini 3 meal, the regular 3 meal, and the 5 meal. So, if you choose to take charge of what you eat and plan well, the 6 Pack will keep you away from the drive thru and help you meet your goals in style.

Lastly, Preston continues to devour research both for his own learning and to support his new lifestyle, as well as being able to help Xtreme’s clients. His enthusiasm is contagious, and he genuinely enjoys what he is doing. He also has Josh and Shelley to look to for mentoring and information, and all in all they make a great team, one that is dedicated to being a true resource for you in 2017.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

Athens-Limestone Hospital, INKANA Development, and OrthoSports Athens, are pleased to announce the ground breaking of a three-story medical office building with outpatient surgical tower being developed by Athens-Limestone Hospital. It will be an approximately $25 million facility, and will be located at the hospital’s Medical East campus off U.S. Highway 72 and Lindsey Lane in Athens. It is the largest healthcare project of its kind to have been planned for our area.

The groundbreaking ceremony will be held Friday, January 20, 2017 at 3 pm, at the site of the new center, which is located at 22454 U.S. Highway 72 in Athens, across from the Publix Shopping Center. The surgical tower has several excellent “neighbors,” including Medical East Urgent Care, one of the newer fire stations, Buffalo Wild Wings, and the Traditions Assisted Living facility, which is currently under construction.

Athens-Limestone Hospital President David Pryor said the building will be a “medical office building, to include a surgery center with six operating rooms, imaging and laboratory services, and physician office space spread across 75,000 square feet. Construction is expected to take about 1.5 years to complete. The project is considered an expansion of the Athens-Limestone Hospital surgery department. “We are excited for the opportunity to continue the growth of health care services for the citizens of Limestone County with this project,” Pryor said, and he is not alone in his enthusiasm.

Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks told me that he “couldn’t be happier, for a number of reasons. Not only will the people of Athens-Limestone County have a new medical facility to serve them, but it will create jobs, and that is always a good thing. Our ongoing commitment to our community is to improve quality of life, and this is an example of how we are growing as well as preparing for the future.”

Eddie Ayers is the CEO of OrthoSports, and oversees their day to day operations. He said that “Basically we have outgrown our current location, as well as the surgical availability at Athens Limestone Hospital. We are glad to have grown, but we knew that if we were going to be able to continue to serve our patients well, and accommodate the growth we are experiencing throughout our area, we were going to need a new location. So, we are very excited to be partners in this new facility. We will be able to add on more doctors, increase our elective, outpatient, ‘scope’ type surgeries, and will still do the total replacement surgeries at the hospital. The doctors of OrthoSports are investing in this facility because they want to raise their families here, they want to retire here, and this is one of the ways they can give back to the community.”

I had the chance to chat with Austin Blackwell of INKANA Development, the firm handling the development of the new tower, who explained how the layout would function, and who would be occupying each floor. “The first floor is going to house outpatient surgery, imaging and a retail pharmacy. The second floor will be the home of OrthoSport Athens and Drayer Physical Therapy. On the top floor, we will have Integrity Family Care, which will be their second office in the area.” He finished our talk by saying, “This will be a state of the art medical office building that provides tremendous community benefits. It will also be a prominent symbol of the partnership between Athens-Limestone Hospital and the Huntsville Hospital Health System, and a facility the people of Athens & Limestone County will be very proud of…we sure are here at INKANA.”
By: Ali ElizabethTurner

Herbs & More has always been dedicated to “Making America Healthy, One Person At A Time,” and 2017 will be no different. Everything we do is with the health of our clients in mind. We believe that is why we have shown continual growth year after year.

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Herbs & More is prepared to help you maintain your health, or improve your health if you are already in the middle of an unhealthy situation. Take a look at what we offer this wonderful community and to people all over the world.

Superior Products
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With over 40 exclusive products, of which 38 are patented, there is no part of human health that we can’t impact. Testimonials continue to pour in from people confronting everything from heart disease to the common cold.

Massage Therapy
With two of the most highly qualified massage therapists in North Alabama, Herbs & More may be able to help you with everything from muscle and joint pain to stress and relaxation. People are continually singing the praises of Melanie Amerson and Jason Mitchell. Gift certificates are always available, and believe me, one of the most memorable gifts you can give to someone you love is a session with one of these exceptional therapists.

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Go by Herbs & More to learn more, and may God bless you in 2017.
By: Roy Williams


Dr. Blake Boyett is the newest addition to the crew of physicians at OrthoSports Athens, having joined the practice last fall, and comes to the team with an unusual amount of experience for someone so young. If the name “Boyett” sounds familiar, it is because Blake’s uncle is Dr. Patrick Boyett, one of the founders of OrthoSports. He is also the only one in the OrthoSports franchise that performs spine surgeries, and has more than five hundred under his belt.

“All my life I knew I wanted to be a doc,” Blake said, and added that he had followed in his uncles’ footsteps, having more than one physician in the family. Blake was born “just over the border” in Mississippi, and grew up in Sulligent. He graduated from Sulligent High, and got his undergrad degree in bio/med from Samford University. He went to his Uncle Patrick’s alma mater, KCUMB, which stands for Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences. As a kid, he was particularly fascinated with the heart, and thought he possibly would make cardiology his specialty, but the intricacies of the human spine ended up ruling the day.


It was at KCUMB that he met Emily, his bride of only a few months, who is also a nurse practitioner. They were married this fall, have just purchased their first house, and hope to be moved in before Christmas. While he was KCUMB, his mentor was Dr. Roger Jackson, the inventor of the spine table that is used for surgery at Athens Limestone Hospital. He also had the opportunity to work in an Emergency Room in Las Vegas, and learned the art of dealing with the human spine in a traumatic context. He told me that the doctors in Las Vegas especially loved the osteopaths for many reasons, but mostly because of the level of expertise the “spine docs” brought into the E.R., and their concern for their patients.

12-16-2016-8-26-27-amBetween Kansas City, Las Vegas, and Athens, a very important part of Blake’s career development occurred in Dallas at the prestigious Texas Back Insitute. From 2015-2016, after he had completed his residency, Blake was accepted as a fellow at the Institute, and his mentor was Dr. Drew Dosset. Dr. Dosset is the one who keeps the spines of the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers in one piece, and Blake feels his time with Dr. Dosset was invaluable. Dr. Blake did more than 500 surgeries while at Texas Back, and has dealt with everything from tumors, to cancers, to bulging discs, all manner of chronic conditions, and repairing previous operations that have not been successful. His association with the two major sports teams came with a lot of responsibility. He had to learn when it would be appropriate for a player to return to the field after a careful season of rehab, and when it was time to “hang up the jersey.” I asked him, “Did you ever have to tell someone that their career was over?” He nodded, and said, “It was tough on them and on me.”

12-16-2016-8-26-43-amAs an osteopath, Dr. Boyett’s “medical philosophy” has to do with prevention as well as using surgery as a last resort. “Being as minimally invasive as possible is very important to me,” Dr. Boyett told me, and that included performing spine surgery as well as fusion. This can be challenging, especially when you are dealing with conditions such as scoliosis, (usually a sideways curve of the spine), or stenosis, (a painful narrowing of the open spaces within the spine). I asked him what would be his idea of a “dream day on the job,” and he said, “Keeping someone out of a wheelchair, or relieving the pain of someone who has a lumbar fracture.” He is also a voracious researcher, and currently is concentrating much of his own personal study and learning on sports related spine injuries.

12-16-2016-8-26-55-amI asked him why, if I needed a “spine guy”, should I come to him. Here’s what he said. “We have the most comprehensive approach to spine health, and have the latest technology. We also really care about our patients, and will never push someone to have surgery when it’s not necessary.” He also added, “We have experience with everything from sports related injuries, to those of the elderly.” I chuckled inside, seeing as I am technically a senior citizen who also runs 5Ks. Hopefully I will never have to go under the knife, but if I do, I am confident that I would be in good hands if Dr. Blake Boyett “has my back.”
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner


August of 2015 marked my first opportunity to tell readers of Athens Now about the Heritage Children’s Chorale, and to speak at length with their founder, Mary Stephenson. Mary is also the choir director at First United Methodist Church in Athens, and she is a highly trained musician herself. I can say as well from personal observation, she is an excellent chorale director.
Nearly 30 years ago, Mary became concerned with the lack of choral training available to “regular kids in the neighborhood.” Chorus was dropped from schools, singing as a community in general was waning, and she wanted to pay forward the opportunity she had been given as a child growing up in New York City. The Chorale was born, and with branches in Athens and Pulaski, her vision burns brightly to this day.

One of the best parts of the Chorale is the relationship that exists between the older kids and the younger ones. The older ones actually help mentor the younger kids, and the younger ones are happy to have someone to look up to. It is not unusual for their relationships to last years after they have grown too old to be a part of the Chorale. Canna Ricketts, who has been the Chorale’s accompanist for many years, told me that “Even after all these years, they still get together.”

Last Christmas I took several of my family members to hear the Chorale perform at the Christmas Concert in Pulaski, and it was one of the highlights of our holiday season. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this becomes one of our ongoing holiday traditions because the Chorale is just that good.


For this year’s Christmas Concert interview, we did something a little different, and that was to ask the kids for their take on being a part of HCC, as well as participating in this year’s

Christmas Concert. Here are some of their thoughts:
Q: (asked of a girl in her 7th year of singing with HCC) “What do you like best about being a part of the Chorale?”
A. “We get to know more about music and how to do it, and get close to people from other schools.”
The members of the Chorale are age 8-18, and come from as far away as Priceville. It is not at all uncommon for members to sing with the group for a full ten years. For the Christmas Concert, some of the alumni of the Chorale are asked to come back and sing solos, and this year is no exception.
Q: (asked of a girl in her first year of singing with HCC) “What is your favorite song for the concert?”
A: “Angels We Have Heard On High.” She also is looking forward to singing “Aussie Jingle Bells.”

For the record, as I listened to them practice, I was amazed at the high quality of their version of the Christmas classic. The long chorus with the one word “Gloria” is not at all easy to do in one breath, but Mary has taught them breath support, and how to hang on with strength until the last note. This year there is another favorite with the young ones, entitled, “Kling Glöckchen Kling,” which is German for “Ring Bells Ring,” and there will be a hand bell performance as part of the vocal performance.

The theme of this year’s concert is “It’s Christmas Everywhere,” and the songs will be from all over the world and sung in part in several languages. “Kiyoshi Kono Yoru” is Japanese for “Silent Night.” There is an Aussie version of “Jingle Bells” whose lyrics reflect the fact that Christmas “down under” comes in the hottest part of their summer. Instead of “Dashing through the snow/in a one horse open sleigh,” they will be singing, “Dashing through the sand/ in the scorching summer heat…” This is another of their favorites. Other songs will be from Africa, Spain, and France, and they will also be singing “Feliz Navidad.”

You will have two chances to hear the Chorale during this holiday season. The first will be on Tuesday, December 6th at 7pm. The concert will be held at the Church of the Messiah Episcopal Church, located at 114 North Third Street in Pulaski, TN. The second on Monday, December 12th will also be at 7pm, and the performance will be at the Athens Church of God, 17835 Quinn Road in Athens. Admission is free, and there will be a love offering taken. Please join with the rest of the community in experiencing the fact that “It’s Christmas Everywhere.”
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner