JG’s Backpack: New Port, Rhode Island

Recently took #JGsBackpack to Rhode Island for a quick trip to explore the smallest state in the country. The Ocean State did not dissapoint, with beautiful mansions, lighthouses, and history. Here are a few shots from The Breakers Mansion, the summer home for The Vanderbilt Family, a name many of you may be familiar with because of The Biltmore Estate in our backyard, Asheville, North Carolina. Enjoy!

Beautiful and ornate gates outside The Breaker's Mansion.

Beautiful and ornate gates outside The Breaker’s Mansion.





Exterior of The Breaker's Mansion. No photography was allowed inside

Exterior of The Breaker’s Mansion. No photography was allowed inside






JG’s Sunday Reflection: The Extraordinary in Ordinary.

The Unity of The Holy City


On June 17th, the faithful of Emanuel A.M.E. Church in downtown Charleston came face to face with evil. Instead of closing the doors on someone different than themselves, they followed the tenants of their faith: The doors of their church and their hearts were open. We all know by now that 9  lives were taken during those horrific moments. In the aftermath, as pundits and tv crews reported and sometimes speculated on the intentions and beliefs of the shooter, the Charleston community did something far greater, they wrapped their arms around the victims, their families, Mother Emanuel Church, and the community as a whole .The following pictures are a look through my lens, days after the  shooting, as the best in people overshadowed the hate.

Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church, Charleston

Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church, Charleston

A child places flowers at the feet of Mother Emanuel A.M.E.

A child places flowers at the feet of Mother Emanuel A.M.E.

Friends comfort each other as the make-shift memorial

Friends comfort each other as the make-shift memorial

Moments of worship between strangers

Moments of worship between strangers



Many buildings and businesses in Charleston made it a point to show their support for Mother Emanuel

Many buildings and businesses in Charleston made it a point to show their support for Mother Emanuel



Sights during a march down Calhoun Street.

Sights during a march down Calhoun Street.


A bride brings her wedding party to lay their flowers at the memorial.

A bride brings her wedding party to lay their flowers at the memorial.










JG’S Backpack: 4th of July Fireworks



JG’s Backpack: Shots from Charleston.













JG’s Up Close: Carolina actress talks about experience on CBS show “Under the Dome.”




I had a chance to talk to North Carolina based voice over talent Talmadge Ragan about her experience on the set of the new CBS hit show “Under the Dome.” She also provided this photo from the set.

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A reflection on Mother’s Day.

Each year I have the same battle.  Mother’s Day. It is both an internal struggle and an emotional turmoil. Internally, I ask whether my story of the matriarchal holiday means anything to anyone but me? Emotionally, my heart breaks because the woman for whom I dedicate my success, my mother, passed away in May of 2003—I was a senior in high school, a week away from graduation—-on Mother’s Day.

10 years goes by really fast, and as  friend once told me, reflecting on the anniversaries of death, ” It never gets easy, it only gets easier.”  The blunt force trauma of losing a mother is unimaginable. I remember the day well.  It was Mother’s Day 2003– At this point I was living with my best friend’s parents who had agreed to give me a stable place to stay as my mother fought heart disease. My mother was in the hospital that day in Charlotte.  I remember going to church that morning and the Sunday school teacher giving us time at the end of the otherwise super boring class to go into the sanctuary and pray for whatever we wanted to. I knew exactly what I wanted that day. I sat in a lonely pew close to the aisle, bowed my head and pleaded with my Lord to wrap his arms around my mom, for his Grace to give  her  the solace of that place where diseases didnt matter. To this day it was the hardest I have ever prayed.  After church, my second family went to a Mother’s Day lunch and then home. I debated calling my mom…but I didnt—-I knew she would be resting and I didnt want to pester her. It was also a big study day for me…the Advanced Placement Biology exam was scheduled for the next day.  Success was important to my mom—and my doing well was paramount to her. I sat down for several hours, overwhelmed with charts, graphs, and more biology terminology than one could ever use.  The phone rang….it was Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte….It was about my mom and they wanted me to come right then.

My second Mom rushed me along, telling me to bring my books to study on the way. I refused to think the worst because I knew my fighter. We had done this dance too many times before. Her smiling face was always inevitable after these traumatic exercises. This time was different. After arriving to the hospital, the doctor placed me in the darkest room I had ever seen. I could hear the clock ticking….  The plain physician walked in and said….”She’s gone…..there was nothing we could do.” My world went into black and white—–I didnt cry immediately because the energy to produce tears fled my body as the words left his lips.

There were some hard days and nights where sleep was only a dream. I questioned God. I questioned my prayer. I questioned my two families mutual decision to have me live in a more stable environment. I questioned my pursuit of success. I swore to forever hate Mother’s Day. What an evil God  who would take a mother on the day mean to celebrate them?


A little over a week later—I gave the Salutatory address at my high school. The most important person in the world to me—the person I was doing this for….wasn’t there in the body.  However, the light of her spirit—blindingly present. I realized something that night which now seems to be a blur. I realized Mother’s Day should be a celebration—-not because of what was taken on that day,  but for what was given on every day until the last breath left her tired body.  My mom, Yvette , was a single mother who worked every day( until she physically couldnt) to take care of  5 kids.  She told us to work hard too! She would tell me to “get an education, because baby thats something no one can take away from you.” I can hear that sass in her voice.  I also rejoice because she made the decision to make sure I would be taken care of …no matter what happened to her. She asked my best friend’s parents to take me…to give stability during her medical and financial instability. That decision…that agreement was bound my a love for me and a respect for a Mother’s love.


My second family, The Whitaker family had stepped in years before to offer that stability. My mom was always grateful to them for this. I was the really the lucky one.  My second mama Darlene has been a blessing. I remember the night my mother passed away, sitting at the dinner table with tears streaming down my face and Darlene staring me straight in the eye. “We will take care of you..everything is going to be alright.” I believed it.  Darlene became a mother—not my sole mother but another mother. She is kind, thoughtful,  funny, and understanding.


Mother’s Day still will never be easy—its the day I lost a mother. However, I do find solace in knowing that my Mom loved me so..she lived her entire life to make me a better person and that she made sure that even when she was gone—a Mother’s love wouldnt be far away. Each day I feel her grace in the quiet moments when the sound of everyday life isnt drowning—–I feel her spirit each day when I hear mama Darlene’s voice. On Sunday—celebrate Mother’s Day, both the ones we have lost and the ones whom are still living. Let them know you love them—-make sure they feel how thankful you are.  Most of all…never underestimate the power of a Mother’s love on your life.

JG’s Backpack: Update on Sip Tasting Room and Rooftop Lounge, Greenville.


Hey guys! I did  a story about a week ago about the self proclaimed “first rooftop lounge of Greenville” project in the city- Sip Tasting Room and Rooftop Lounge. Sip is a project done by the owner of Greenville eateries such as The Green Room and Ford’s Oyster House. While there is still much construction still yet to be finished, Sip will surely be a hot spot on the scene. It has the location (adjacent to the brand spanking new One Project, corner of Coffee and Main Street) A view you cant argue with and that trendy big city like aire that seems to be taking over Greenville. I stopped by this week to check in on the progress, newer additions include a massive wine rack on the wall and wine casks (to be used for tables and decor) brought down from the Biltmore Estate. Sip is expected to open around April 10th and you can follow their progress!















Art Walk Spartanburg March 21st


6-9 pm             Spartanburg Art Museum                 Appetizers/wine

Chapman Center, 200 E. Saint John St.

NEW   Carl Plansky: Thirty Years of Painting.  Retrospective of acclaimed oil painter and founder of Williamsburg Handmade Oil Colors, a leading artist supply company


6-9 pm             Artists’ Guild of Spartanburg gallery

Chapman Center, 200 E. Saint John St.

NEW   5th annual Focus on Youth show.  40 top entries from area high schools. Awards at 7 pm!



6-9 pm             Carri Bass Photography                    Appetizers/wine

100 E. Main St, to the right of Two Doors Down boutique

NEW   Kate Landishaw.  An evocative series of oils, watercolors, and acrylics, hinting at the real world through an almost-fantasy kaleidoscope…two sides of the same universe.



6-8 pm             Refuel Wine, Beer, Spirit & Art       Appetizers/craft wine

129 N. Spring St, down the street from the clock tower

John Dambold: Art from the Heart.   Closing reception for Dambold’s exhibit of amazingly vibrant colors along with black and white pieces.



6-8 pm             West Main Artists Co-op                  Appetizers/wine

578 W. Main

NEW   Folds of Nature by Margie Bibb (Gallery II),    Lois Ann Hesser (Gallery III)


6:30-9 pm        Carolina Gallery                                Appetizers/wine

523 W. Main, across the street from West Main Artists’ Co-op

Open for Art Walk with new work from represented artists.

6-9 pm             Gallery East                                       Appetizers/wine

512 E. Main, next to The Art Lounge

NEW   Dwight Rose: Around the World in Watercolor.  Opening reception for this amazing collection of adventures brought to life. On display Mar 21 – Apr 10

6-9 pm             The Art Lounge                                  Appetizers/wine

500 E. Main, next to Gallery East

NEW   Roxanne Kingsland.  Thursday—preview the detailed and delightful work of this local artist.  Return for another look during Friday’s opening reception.



6-9 pm             Wet Paint Syndrome

Hillcrest Specialty Row, 1040 Fernwood-Glendale Rd.

Open for Art Walk.  Studio and gallery/event space for Kris Neely.


Hub-Bub Showroom

149 S. Daniel Morgan

Thursday—closed for Art Walk.

Saturday, March 23—Expecting Goodness film festival at the Chapman Center, 3-10 pm.


Have an update or want a listing on the Third Thursday flyer? Email your info to markpruett@hotmail.com

JG’s Backpack: Lunch in Hendersonville, NC.

Thanks for all the suggestions about where to eat in Hendersonville! I never have time to sit down and actually eat during the workday, so this was truly a treat! I chose Mean Mr. Mustard’s Cafe. It was a quaint little cafe with plenty of character. The owners are apparently big Beatles fans, naming the cafe after the popular Beatles tune.


The walls are filled with Beatles posters and musical signage. It is bright and colorful and has the vibe of “where everybody knows your name.” I had the Helter Skelter Turkey wrap:Oven roasted turkey, fresh avocado, ripe tomatoes, arugula and swiss cheese served on a warm tomato
basil tortilla with mango-lime aioli.

It was absolutely delicious and it came with a nice kale coleslaw that was both healthy and tasty. If you are ever in Hendersonville and need a place to try out…I suggest this place–they serve breakfast and lunch….just check their times because they dont stay open late. (closing by 2pm)








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