Category Archives: Friends

First Attempts and A Tribute to A Friend


Today is a big day…

I’m attempting a feat never attempted by myself or any other child of my mother’s…

I’m making Nana’s Chex Mix. It’s a holiday tradition of my family and it is tasty.Tasty.TASTY! To put it in perspective, once in college, I ate a whole tin of the stuff on the ride back to the dorm from Clinton during finals. Some of you have tasted the glory that is this secret recipe Chex Mix…some of you have not…but today, after a particularly hard week for myself and those dear to me, I decided to give it a go.

Death is hard for everyone, but it is particularly hard when it takes you by complete surprise. This week, one of my most valued mentors and trusted friends took her own life. The celebration of her life yesterday and the number of people in attendance was evidence that she didn’t just touch my life, but many, many lives.

The beautiful Lorna Norwood was truly a person of genius. I don’t think she ever did really recognize it in herself, and didn’t really like to have it pointed out to her, but she was. She was tactful, courteous, thoughtful and caring in every respect of those words. I could not have been luckier to have started my career sharing an office with her. It is, truthfully, because of her, that I’m on the path I am. By just being near her, I learned so much: the importance of doing it right, not fast; how to tactfully tell a young intern her outfit was (while adorable) not appropriate for work; that I shouldn’t rush to marry someone young, but take time to get to know myself and the person I wanted to be before I became a part of someone else; to always follow my gut and do what I feel is right; to develop a network of people I can trust and nurture those relationships. Her lessons to me spanned all aspects of life and she supported me in every career and personal move I’ve ever made. I credit her, and the people I know because of her, for what I’ve done thus far.

She once told me (after another candidate got chosen for a job over me) that “It’s ok. You would’ve been great at that, but this must mean something else is going to happen for you. Something better is going to come along.” She was so right. While I was disappointed at the time, something better did come along and it was her words that gave me the patience to see what it was going to be.

Lorna attended my college graduation, my Master’s graduation and my wedding. At each, she made sure to get a photo of us. At my wedding, she stood outside in the rain battling for precious space under the small awning to stay dry so she could get a picture with me before I got entrenched in the masses of friends and family. She wanted to make sure I knew she was there and how happy she was for me.

20121209-102724.jpg She was the first one to post a photo of me at the wedding and it couldn’t have been a better one. I’ve always told her that I loved the photo because I thought we looked like sisters.

Tidying up my desk this last week, I stumbled across a card she sent me after she started her new job at UT. It said, “Always do what you believe is right and don’t let the habits of others influence you. If it ever gets too tough, or you don’t know what to do, call me. I will always be here for you.” Those words truly epitomize the essence of her. Sage, she sure was.

I was so shocked at the news of all of this when I heard it, and the shock still hasn’t subsided. It just doesn’t seem real that someone with such a broad reach, so respected by her peers, and with so many friends and family to support her would choose to leave the world this way. I wish she had been able to find the strength in herself we all know she had. I am hurt and confused by her decision, but I truly hope she has found some peace and was watching us all yesterday as we remembered all the good times. To read more about Lorna, read her obituaries here and here.

So today, to warm my heart and our home after this long, hard week…I’m making Nana’s Chex Mix.

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Cuban Comfort Food


Hello friends!

Anyone out there? Time to dust off the old blog and make a post! I know, I know…how about a little consistency?!?

Anyway…

Since I last checked in, I got a promotion at work. My supervisor took a job with her old company and I told the higher-ups I was interested in stepping up…and it worked out. Effective Monday I am the Area Director of Marketing and Business Development for the two Knoxville Simon malls. I excited, but nervous to start it going into the holiday season. 🙂

Anyway, as the title is effective tomorrow, I decided today would need to be a comfort food day. But I stepped out of the box a bit and decided to make some of the hubby’s family comfort food. My parents grew up here, in the US, so my comfort food is meatloaf, mashed potatoes, burgers, spaghetti, etc. Well Tanner’s mom grew up in Cuba, so her parents/hubby’s grandparents (los abuelos) made Cuban dishes: arroz con pollo (chicken and rice), croquettes (recipe in a previous blog) and empanadas.

So today we decided to do empanadas. I did both beef and chicken…and have a ton of stuffing left over. I looked for pre-made dough (apparently Goya makes it), but couldn’t find it…so I made my own.

Don’t get me wrong…this is a time consuming process (but well worth it). We had to leave a baby birthday party today before the cake (my waist was happy about it, but my tummy wasn’t) so I would have time to do them and we wouldn’t be eating at midnight. Fortunately, we were there long enough to see the birthday girl open the super-loud (read: awesome) guitar toy we got her and to love on my bestie’s baby girl for a bit (and let’s not forget the amazing lunch).

After I made the “go inside stuff” the hubs and I stuffed these empanadas together, which was fun. He did a good job, though I did go behind him and re-seal his with a fork more forcefully than he did. 🙂 I envision us doing this with our kids…I had a picture in my mind that he did it with los abuelos too, but he says he never did and he thinks the ones he had were probably store-bought…Goya. Regardless…now I envision us doing the day long project with our kids someday!

Here are the recipes I used:
Empanada dough
Beef Empanada
Chicken Empanadas

I left the pimentos/red peppers out of the chicken ones…but other than that, besides using my own dough, I did everything else the same.

I cooked these and then added a salad…and wa-lah…

20121021-185312.jpg Looks good, huh? Hubby said they used to eat them with black beans and rice, but I didn’t want that many carbs…but see why the beans are helpful…they do get a little dry with the thick dough.

This week we are also having Louisiana catfish with corn and okra:

20121021-185729.jpg Then we are having an Indian dish…Butter Chicken with basmati rice. I first tried this in a frozen meal from Trader Joe’s, and loved it.

20121021-190055.jpg I recently found a pre-made sauce (similar to an Alfredo or canned spaghetti sauce) I can use…just cook the chicken then simmer it in this sauce for a bit. We can make the rice in the rice cooker (we are adding shallots) and be good to go. Naan (flat bread) from Trader Joe’s will top it off.

So while we aren’t having meatloaf…we are eating other comfort foods this week to help kick start my first week in a new role. It will be easy to head to work tomorrow because I am full and happy! I am such a lucky, lucky girl!

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A Pinteresting Sunday


I know I don’t post about it much, but I am on Pinterest.

I pin things and stalk the crafting pages, but I’m not what you would call a crafter…until now. Barely.

My friend Mary is a teacher and I found something on Pinterest months ago that I said she needed for her classroom. She, of course, responded, you should make it for me! Piece of cake, I thought.

The craft was a wreath for her classroom door. It was made with pencils and a chalkboard. Here’s what it looked like:

Now, though I’m not a crafter, I think I am pretty crafty so I thought I could certainly do this. This week, I decided to try since Mary is going back to school so I made a trip to the Dollar Store and AC Moore. My materials included, obviously, pencils, a middle piece (I chose a wooden star that I painted black), some sort of adhesive and a paint pen to put her name on it. When I got home, I got to work with my pencils and hot glue. It didn’t really work and certainly wasn’t something I was going to let anyone see so I pulled all the pencils off and tried again.

Still no good, so I walked away to regroup.

This morning, I looked at the tutorial (probably would have been a good FIRST step) and tried that way. I got some new glue (something called R600) and tried again. Right now, it appears to be working so I’ve got something heavy weighting it down right now hoping it will dry. When/if it does, I’ll post a photo of it (but only if it turns out ok).

Also, from Pinterst this morning, I made some sweet potato hummus.

And it is tasty. We didn’t make our pita chips (though I’m certain we could have), but we made the hummus. Pretty simple since I have that food processor now. I put some in an hold hummus container I had cleaned out and then put the rest in a Tupperware container to freeze. We bought the Simply Naked Pita Chips, but on our next trip we’ll probably pick up the cinnamon sugar pita chips because I think it will be a sweet treat. Plus it will be a great snack for tailgating since it’s orange!

I also prepared a crock pot beef stroganauff from another pin board that I piled all together (package of stew beef, two cans cream of mushroom soup, 3T Worcestershire sauce, some chopped/minced onion, and 14 oz beef broth) in the crock pot bin and put in the fridge so all I have to do on Wednesday is put it in and turn it on. Right before we eat, I’ll add the sour cream and cream cheese and we’ll serve it over noodles (and probably rice for leftovers)!

And for dinner tonight we’re having Cincinnati Turkey Chili over noodles with Cornbread Casserole. And just because you’re probably interested, we’re having Margarita shrimp over whole cous cous with broccoli tomorrow.

Now I’m off to start dinner…yes so early because I am headed to the movies to finally see Magic Mike (with Crystal, even though she’s already seen it). Happy Sunday, ya’ll.

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A Couples Beach Vacation: Day 4


This post won’t be a long one because we just bummed it up on the beach yesterday.

We got up late and found a place for breakfast called Kitty’s Kafe. It was pretty tasty. I had an egg and cheese sandwich on French toast, Bub had a pork chop with eggs, Clint had steak and eggs and Mary had an omelette.

After breakfast we headed basically straight to the beach. I waited a bit to go down so I could wrap my leg up, but we were down there until the sun went down.

For dinner, we went late to DeSoto. It was crowded, but we waited at the bar and had some oysters and then sat down to our meal. Clint finally got his red snapper (fried). Mary had hers grilled. I had a platter with scallops, shrimps and fish. None of us but Clint was able to finish our meal they were so big.

After dinner we went to Floribama to listen to music and hang out. We stayed until they closed and came home to fall into bed. Unfortunately, when we got home, we had to make all the beds because we changed rooms and had washed all the sandy sheets. Poor planning on our part.

Today, we may fish some off the pier and hang on the beach. Our plan is to have dinner at Cosmo’s tonight, but are dreading the wait. Supposedly it’s very good, but you have to wait forever. Some lady told us it was worth the wait though, so we will see.

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A Couples Beach Vacation: Day 3


I write again sitting on the balcony of our condo listening to the waves and looking out over the ocean. We really do have a spectacular view and the weather has been pretty good. Not too sunny, not too rainy, but just the right amount of each to keep us from over or underdoing it.

Yesterday was more of the same, we got up, had breakfast, sent the boys for some necessities and then made our way down to the beach. As I mentioned in the last post, we hadn’t been super impressed with the people here…thinking most of them are rude and not capable of observing proper personal space.

When we got to our spots though after Mary and I finished our workouts, we were able to maneuver a bit and get a place to ourselves. To our right was a family of all generations. The youngest, who the boys had played with the day before at the pool tossing a football, asked if he could borrow our volleyball. He apparently had tired of skim boarding. When they brought it back, I said, “Ok, since you’ve played with our stuff…I want to learn to skim board.” So the training commenced. (I should note, that at this point, my husband had walked back up to the pool to use the restroom, so he was nowhere in sight.)

The first attempt was no good. My feet got onto the board, but barely. I fell and busted my left leg and got a little road rash to show for it. But of course, I decided to try a second time. For the second attempt, my legs flew over my head and I landed on my back…rewarded with some road rash on my backside and a swimsuit full of sand. At this point, Clint had joined in the training and was doing little better than me, but was still trying. When Tanner returned, I said, “Hey honey, watch this…” and tried for the third (as it’s always a charm, right?). I then proceeded to jump onto the board, fall immediately off and have my ankle twist in a way it shouldn’t and that was the end of that. I floundered around a bit as no one was sure whether I was laughing or crying. When Bub figured it out, he tossed me over his shoulder and carried me to my chair. I sat there a bit with ice on my leg and people fussing over me, but a nurse nearby scared us into going to the emergent care clinic.

So we did. The boys carried me up the beach and I half hobbled/half hopped to the car. When we got to emergent care, I realized, that in the fluster, I had left in just my swimsuit with no cover up, or shoes. At that point, I didn’t care, but quickly felt bad about it when we pulled into the center and a group of high school cheerleaders was there volunteering…not so great for my self esteem. The nurses were so nice, I had managed to call ahead and tell them we were coming, so they met me with a wheel chair and gave me a robe to wear after they wheeled me straight from the street to an exam room.

As I waited, they offered me a snack. The nurse said, “Would you like an oatmeal cream pie to settle your stomach?” I said sure, of course. When she came back with water she said, “I forgot, but we have Bruster’s ice cream out there, would you like some of that? We have chocolate raspberry and birthday cake flavor.” I said, birthday cake and she returned with an oatmeal cream pie AND some birthday cake ice cream. Everyone said it was a big show just to get some ice cream.

Anyway, they xrayed my ankle and fortunately it isn’t broken, but it is a high ankle sprain and I’m stuck in a boot for the next week. It makes the beach a little difficult, but I went back out yesterday and just carefully maneuvered the sand. Today, I’m going to try wrapping it in a trash bag and taping it to my leg so that I might be able to get in the water. We will see how it goes.

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Now all this sounds like I took this like a champ, I really didn’t. I cried like a baby sporadically for the rest of the afternoon. Though at the clinic, I tried to be really cheerful because it seemed to get us better service. (On another side note: if you are ever injured in Gulf Shores and need urgent care, I suggest going to the one on the parkway. They were so nice to us. The whole ordeal from fall to return to the beach was less than two hours.) I must say, though, that everyone who saw me said, “Oh I had a friend who broke their doing that.” That’s what I get for thinking I could keep up with a kid, but, man, that eight year old made it look sooooooo easy!

I came up from the beach a little earlier than everyone else to give myself time for a pity party and to shower before dinner. By that time, I was ok. For dinner, we went to Tacky Jacks and had some drinks, a dozen raw oysters, fish tacos, shrimp and grits, and crab cakes. After that, we went to The Hangout, had some truly awful strawberry daiquiris, heard an ok cover band (maybe called Rumor Mill) and then headed home where we all immediately crashed.

I’m the only one up right now, but I would wager it’s because my Ibuprofen has has worn off and my body wanted me to put my compression boot back on instead of hobbling around without it.

Despite the injury, this trip has been great and I look forward to another beach day today and one tomorrow. Not sure where we’ll eat tonight, but on Friday night, we’re going to Cosmos to do it up with a big nice dinner. Good thing I’ve got this Gucci boot!

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A Couples Beach Vacation: Day 2


Coming to you from my beautiful morning view again.

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Clint and Mary jumped out of bed this morning to place our chairs on the beach, so I’m taking a few short minutes to tell you about our day yesterday.

We were on the beach all day. We packed a great cooler full of snacks and drinks and sat on the beach ALL.DAY. The only disappointment was how rude people are, as we placed our chairs and then someone came and sat BETWEEN us and the ocean…seriously, like two feet away from us. I wanted to ask them to move, but my husband was too polite to let me. (As I type this now, I see that Clint and Mary placed our chairs in a different spot and someone has already placed theirs less than a foot to our right when a huge expanse of empty beach sits directly to our left…some people).

Around 1 p.m. yesterday we came up for lunch and made sandwiches and hung out a bit, then headed back down to the beach where we stayed until a cool breeze and a little rain ran us off. We played bananagrams (a scrabble-like game) and then went to a place called Sea n’ Suds for a raw oyster appetizer before we called in our dinner order at Steamers.

Now, our desire was to have a low country boil will all the best sea food, but we didn’t want it to be too spicy (for me) and we didn’t want to have to cook it, even though we wanted to eat it at our condo. A cab driver from yesterday told us Steamers was better than another place we had looked at to order from and we got more/better food. Crab legs, crawfish, shrimp, corn, sausage, potatoes, mussels and oysters. And lots and lots of butter. We had brought two loaves of french bread with us, so we used those to sop up the mess.

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We talked about taking a photo to show you what it looked like after we finished, but we were embarrassed. Our inner fat kids sure did come out during the meal.

It was an adventure for me and Mary to get the steamer picked up though as apparently there are TWO Steamers located in Gulf Shores and myriad other restaurants that DO steamers. Called in our order at the right place and then after our oysters headed to pick it up at the wrong place. When we got to the wrong place, they not-so-helpfully directed us to the other place, so we called the other place and they not-so-helpfully gave us directions to their place, which we couldn’t find and then called and not-so-helpfully got directed to the VERY crowded restaurant then stood in line while no one would talk to us until we finally got our steamer (that obviously had been sitting on the counter for the last half hour, because it was pretty cold). Luckily, the boys had been baking the bread so the oven was still hot.

When we got back, we just popped that basket into the oven and let it steam itself a bit and then enjoyed. We tore into it in such a way, it was good that we weren’t in public, but we were not ashamed. We ate like savages with our hands and were covered with seafood juices and made a huge mess. We ate in almost complete silence. It was WONDERFUL!

After we cleaned up, we sat on the balcony watching people shoot off cheap firework and answering “would you rather” questions…Would YOU rather work or be at the beach?! DUH!

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A Couples Beach Vacation: Day 1


As I sit on our amazing balcony today listening to some music mixed with the crash of the waves on the beach (very poetic, I know), I can’t help but think life is pretty awesome.

I’ve got a tasty bagel with homemade in Tennessee almond butter and cream cheese and a great plan for day two at the beach.

Yesterday we left the house at 5 a.m. It took a bit of rearranging and puzzle doing to get all the necessities into Clint and Mary’s jeep, but we made it work without having to leave anything behind. Clint drove, Bub navigated and Mary and I slept/read/bossed from the back seats. We got down here around 1 or 2 p.m., settled into our awesome condo, grabbed an overpriced, just-ok lunch at Bubbas (just because) and Mary and I got matching tshirts. Then we hit the grocery store to keep our costs down this week…sandwich meat and fixins and breakfast stuff and all. After the grocery, we enjoyed a sit on our balcony until it was time to head to dinner.

We had intended to have dinner at Floribama, but were talked out of it by our cab driver who told us to eat at Happy Harbor instead. It was a fine enough meal. I had a delicious crawfish and corn chowder and the salad bar. Bub had a blackened grouper and a WAY over-buttered piece of corn and some rice. Clint and Mary split a Grouper Florentine with rice and broccoli. We shared some Yellowfin Smoked Tuna dip and crackers and bushwackers for dessert (an ice cream based drink with chocolate syrup…can’t go wrong in my opinion). After dinner (which was cheaper than our mediocre lunch) we headed over to Floribama but were dissuaded from going in when a nice couple from Maryville told us it wasn’t really worth the $3 cover to get in and that we should try it again later in the week. Gotta love East Tennesseans! 🙂

After catching a ride back from a very helpful cab driver home, we walked the beach and played with some kids who were catching sand crabs in buckets with flashlights. It was so creepy. The kids were disturbing the crabs with the light and as they scooted across the sand, they would catch them in nets and put them in a bucket. One kid’s bucket looked like something off Fear Factor with all those tiny, spider-looking crabs running around in there…so creepy. We put our feet in the ocean and then made our way back up to bed as it was a VERY long day!

Today, we are headed to the beach…and that’s it. I got up early and did my 100 workout as instructed by my trainer so I feel pretty good about my ability to do whatever I want today. We might venture up for lunch and then Mary and I are going to pick up dinner (a pre-made low country boil) from a place called Steamers and bring it back so we can eat on our balcony with an amazing beach view…

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Not too bad, huh?

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