Category Archives: Work

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?!?


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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The Last Traveler

I wrote this on the plane Thursday…just now posting it!

I’m typing this blog from the plane as I travel from Chicago (originally Oklahoma City) back to Knoxville after my last trip there to cover for another Marketing Director on maternity leave.

Over the last six to eight weeks, I’ve been flying every other week from Monday (usually a 5am flight with a 3am wake up call) through Thursday (arriving home around 10:30pm). It’s been great as far as work experiences go. The staff I worked with was really nice…welcoming…grateful even for my being there. The mall manager there is a long-time veteran with the company having been there before then taking a hiatus of sorts and coming back. He’s worked at a bunch of malls and with almost everyone in the company. He is super knowledgable and supportive. I learned over my weeks there that his mantra was, “Do good. Do right. Keep having fun.” A great mantra for life, but an interesting one to hear in the workplace, but I watched it in action several times. The way he treated tenants, customers (of all kinds…alternative, hippie, traditional upscale mall shopper, mall walker, angry, happy, etc.) was interesting to watch. If they popped in unannounced with problems or concerns, he stopped what he was doing and visited with them. No matter the issue and what the cause, he listened intently and endeavored to do right by whomever was in his office.

I must say it was refreshing. I know that when times are like these are (though there is rumor things are turning around) it’s hard to keep your head up and worry about others. We all trudge along, whether we love our jobs or hate them, trying to get from day to day hoping for things to just get better. We forget that it’s important to love what you do and enjoy who you do it with. I know sometimes those terms are idealistic (and wholly out of reach for some), but the time I’ve spent in Oklahoma City, I’ve seen what a positive attitude, even on the shittiest day, can do. What I’m saying is I’m going to try to take the lessons I learned and try, more often than not, to put them into practice.

Now, those of you who follow me on Facebook have probably just seen the following sequential posts (paraphrased here because I’m 35,000 feet in the air) during my time in the airport and boarding the plane:
– If you have a dip in your mouth so big it looks like you have a goiter, maybe it’s time to rethink the habit.
– Also, they aren’t going to take off without you if you’re already through the door. Chill out and step out of my personal space.
– Also, the safety pamphlet is the same one that was on your last (and every) flight. Stop digging in that pocket and kicking my seat. She’s going over it up front!

Trust, there would have been more snarky posts, but I was in search of a whole wheat bagel for dinner and rocking out on my iPod. “Wait,” you say, “Didn’t you just say you learned some great lessons about doing right and good…that you’re going to carry them with you and try to put them to practice.” Well, yes, I did. Baby steps, I guess. Let’s be realistic.

There is nothing quite like airline travel that makes me appreciate working in a mall. I mean, sometimes it’s trying, but I know I’m one of the lucky ones that actually, truly, loves what I do for my job. I love vacations and time off, but I also, not so secretly, love going to work. Some days more than others, but I do, definitely love it. Airline workers on the other hand, have to…most of the time…feel one step above telemarketers as they are almost always being yelled at, dealing with screaming kids and grumpy travelers. I know this because I (shamefully) have yelled at an airline person or two….some deserving and some not so deserving…but that’s beside the point.

Just making observations here…

Also, all this solo travel has certainly helped me to see that I much prefer traveling with my husband. I mean, sure, I spend my time on these trips (after work) devouring trilogies on my Kindle and eating warmed up meals from the Whole Foods deli…and maybe eating ice cream in bed while watching “bad” (read: awesome) television. I’ve even gone for drinks with the mall staff, but I do certainly miss my Bub when I’m traveling alone.

Bub is a pretty good travel partner…he lets me sit in the aisle seat…watches my purse so I don’t have to carry it to the potty…plays Scrabble on the iPad with me…let’s me take over the game he’s playing on his iPhone even if he is playing it…shares his snacks and sodas…puts up with the delicate ecosystem that is my digestive system–a problem that typically only rears its ugly head during travel–but doesn’t scold when I eat like I’m three (“No breakfast…I don’t feel good…can I have a bite of your breakfast sandwich?…I’m hungry…Can I have a candy bar and some gummy snacks?”)

I also can’t deny how supportive he has been through all of this. Encouraging me to put myself out there, travel and gain the experiences I want within this job. After being gone for four days on my first trip, he encouraged me to take another one that just sort of popped up last minute, even though it meant not seeing him for a few days more. He constantly reminds me that the reason I work so hard at this job I love is so I can do things I love to do outside of work…with him and our friends and family. He keeps me grounded, but also pushes me. Basically, he’s a pretty great husband and I’m so ready for this freaking plane to land so I can get home to my tiny family.

I should have paced myself better with the Shades of Grey trilogy…literally, I read all three books between Monday at 5am and today at 5:30pm…so I had something else to do on the plane besides fret over turbulence. Over 1,600 pages in all three books…give or take a couple hundred. I seriously could not put them down…last trip it was The Hunger Games (yes, I jumped on the bandwagon)…but in all honesty…lady readers, you want to check out Shades of Grey.It will not disappoint…trust…or should I say blush? A little awkward at parts when I was reading on my flight to OKC stuck in the middle seat between two large men. If you’ve read it, who would play your Christian on the big screen? Your Ana? Mrs. Robinson?

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Filed under Vacations, Work


It’s my second day/night in Oklahoma City and, I have to say, it isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever done!

I was all worried that I was going to be miserable and lonely…but it isn’t.

I won’t tell you I slept that well, because I didn’t. I have two double beds in my hotel room, and that’s nice (because I have one for sitting and dressing and eating and one for sleeping), but my pillows are too firm so that makes it hard for me to nest, which I like to do when I’m by myself. Also, my shower is pretty gross, but I’m making it work. My next trip here, I’m staying at the Courtyard by Marriott (and utilizing my Marriott points). Like I said, this isn’t terrible, but I think the room will be better next time.

Back to THIS trip…

The trip here was my first solo flight…seriously…I’ve never flown alone in my life. Growing up I traveled with my mom and sister. In college I traveled with friends and now I travel with my husband. It was an interesting experience because I didn’t check my bag (for obvious reasons), but took it with me to the gate and that seemed to work pretty well. This was also the first time I’ve ever rented a car. I’m driving a Ford Escape and I love it. I honestly might just drive it straight back to Knoxville and not turn it in. 🙂

My work days have been pretty busy because I’m still doing Knoxville Center and West Town stuff, but peppering in a little bit of Penn Square stuff too. It’s a good test of my knowledge to be here answering questions and being an authority figure. The latter is a little tougher for me than you’d think because I still feel really new even though I’m well trained (and considered a veteran with Simon). I’m still giving myself the Big Girl Panties speech each morning and a little bit faking until I’m make it. It’s almost like if I believe I’ve got the knowledge and authority to make big decisions then the rest of the staff I’m squatting on will too. 🙂

The one thing I don’t love about this work travel thing is the eating situation. I try very hard at home to be regimented in what I eat throughout the week and keep my splurging for weekends and date nights. When I travel, obviously that’s more difficult to do. I can’t really make dinner, save leftovers, and take those for lunch, but I think I’ve got something figured out. My hotel offers continental breakfast so I had that…Frosted Flakes and grapefruit. For lunch I had a Grilled Chicken sandwich from Chick-fil-A.

After work, I ran back to the hotel to put on my gym clothes and headed to barre3-OKC to take a barre3 class. It’s basically a fusion between yoga, Pilates and ballet. It wasn’t a super-strenuous hour workout, but it was intensive, focusing on thighs, abs and arms. I really loved it because it felt like a good workout, but still enabled me to relax at the end of the day.

I wouldn’t think that doing only barre3 would work for me, but it is certainly a great change of pace to the cardio and strength training I’m used to. I think it’s a great option to pepper in once or twice a week. I highly recommend…and if you want to take the class with me…I’m registered to take one in Knoxville on Friday and then the next Thursday (the 29th) at 5:45. Please join me!

After my workout at barre3, I went to Whole Foods and ordered some grub from the deli. I ordered a Pecan Crusted Catfish filet, a serving of crunchy sweet potato mash and a side of portobello soy nuggets. To drink I had a yummy fizzy grapefruit drink. I also got a yummy little chocolate that had hazelnut and caramel in it for dessert.

(Let’s recap, I drove to a yoga/Pilates/ballet infusion class in my Ford Escape and then went to Whole Foods to order fish, sweet potatoes and portobello soy nuggets…if I didn’t get so mad at my Garmin, I’d argue that I could certainly be a hipster!)

After grabbing my dinner, I came back to the hotel, heated up my food and ate on my second bed while watching The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (ok, so maybe I couldn’t be a hipster). I chatted with my husband and then with my mom and now I’m blogging. I’m also so excited that i have a couple soy portobello nuggets left over for lunch tomorrow. If I can just find some vegetables to add in there, I’ll have a pretty yummy and healthy lunch tomorrow (I should have thought about that WHILE I was at Whole Foods, but the thought didn’t come to me until I was back at the hotel).

Like I said, it hasn’t been terrible and I can certainly see the value of being here. I’m gaining confidence and expanding my knowledge base. I’m also learning to work outside my comfort zone and embrace the movement of my cheese. I’m being more flexible (made these travel plans very short notice) and trying hard to go with the flow (see Twitter feed for a break down of travel woes…I won’t recap those here). Plus it’s nice for the mall to have a director here because then they have someone to field the walk in and call in inquiries…got one today that may actually play out to be a pretty good deal…that is if “substantial budget” means the same thing to her as it does to me!

Anyway…thanks for checking in with me…I’m doing great and feeling good (even though I severely miss my husband…and my cat…and my dog…and my mom….and my sister)!

I’m off now to wash my face with my Herbalism face wash and Vodka sea salt face scrub…ok, maybe I could be a hipster!

Love to all.

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Trials of a Traveler


I know that a lot of people travel for work. And I know that a lot of those travelers are married. But this is really the first time I’ve traveled for work alone and it’s the longest time I’ve traveled away from Bub. My other work trips have been two nights maximum and have actually worked out pretty well where I had boocoo left overs or Bub had other evening commitments at which he would be fed…that isn’t the case here.

Now he will probably have one evening work commitment and basketball will be going on, so he’ll probably make it out for a game or two, but he still needs to eat and I don’t want him to eat PB&J for four nights. (Though he does make a delicious one.) Keeping that in mind, I made a menu for him for this week…we will see how it works out.

I am cooking dinner to tonight, but I don’t think our tuna steaks, rice and salad will yield much leftovers. So I had to get creative…I took to the blogosphere to find out how to freeze meals and also how to make it for one to eliminate waste. I did stumble upon some good ideas. Unfortunately, there is little diversity for Bub this week and he’s stuck with mostly Italian cuisine. One night he will have pizza and one night he’ll have lasagna. Here’s what I did…

I made a pizza crust (baked four minutes at 500) and prepped my pizza with sautéed and shredded chicken, chopped mushrooms, black olives, frozen spinach (dethawed and patted dry) on a base of light Alfredo sauce.


I popped that in the freezer to set and then will wrap it with foil and cling wrap. All Bub will have to do is unwrap it and pop it in the oven for about 20 minutes.


For the lasagna, I took the premade, frozen meat ravioli, premade pasta sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese and combined it in layers (sauce, ravioli, cheese, sauce, ravioli, cheese, sauce, cheese) in a Pyrex single serve bowl.


I topped it with aluminum foil and wrote the instructions for cooking on the top. All Bub will have to do is pop it in the oven as is (covered) for 25 mins, uncover and cook about 15 more minutes. He can either put together a salad or have some buttered toast and have a pretty good meal.


Fortunately, there is also still some Just Like Thanksgiving Meatloaf and cheesy mashed potatoes and peas in the fridge too if he were so inclined to have that.

Thanks to a little planning ahead, I feel much better about maintaining my wifely duties while I’m not home. Next time I travel, I’m going to pick up some tamales from a lady who works in the food court at Knoxville Center (Tamale Express) for him and make him some rice and refried beans…and maybe some tuna noodle casserole. We will see, but I’m interested to see how my homemade frozen pizza turns out because that might be a good option just to have on hand all the time in a couple different favors. Ya know?

Well, I’m off to paint my nails and wait for the laundry to finish so I can finish packing. I’ve got an early wake up call tomorrow for my 5:45a flight! Blah!

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Filed under Dinner Menu, Family, Work

A Little Change in Plans

It’s been a pretty good week back to work for me…some interesting events have come up and have put a slight change in my travel plans over the next month or so, but I think it’s going to be a pretty good opportunity. Here’s how it shook out..

Checked in with my supervisor on Monday morning, raring and ready to get back to work. I had been able to check email while we were gone just to stay in the loop in case something major came up. I had some deals I’d been working on before I left, and, though I’d put them on hold and alerted those clients that I would be gone, I wanted to be aware if anything came up. Fortunately, nothing did, but that meant that I wasn’t too overwhelmed Monday morning. Anyway, in the conversation with my supervisor it came up that I needed to reach out to my RVP of Marketing…so I did. Now, some of you know that I was slated to cover some portion of a maternity leave for a girl in my region, but that wasn’t supposed to start until March 23. We spoke before I left (me and the girl) and decided to set up a call for when I got back so we could go over everything…BUT she ended up having to go into the hospital Sunday night (the night before this Monday we are talking about) and was having the baby Monday. On top of that, their mall manager transferred properties and they were waiting on the new one to come. So while she was on leave, there would be no marketing director or mall manager.

My first trip to Oklahoma City wasn’t supposed to be until April 9th, but now I’m going Monday (as in March 19th)…and just about every other week until mid-May.

I’m excited and super-flattered that they think this is something I’m capable of doing, but I’m still a little nervous. The property I’m going to is a good one and a big producer. The director there is a huge veteran with Simon, so it’s a big job. I’m also a little nervous about the extent of the travel, but it’s a pretty good opportunity to do favors and scratch backs.

After that call, I spent some time freaking out about the lack of knowledge I had about this center, but got to work anyway. I researched the financials and completed those and then also reached out to my RVP of Business Development to see what his expectations are. It turns out, I might be accompanied on my second trip to OKC by both RVPs. Which, again, is a good opportunity for face time, but a little overwhelming at the same time.

Anyway, the rest of the week, I’ve just been catching up at my malls and seeing what kind of stuff we can find and rake in. I did close a deal Friday right at the end of the day that I’m excited about so I ended the week on a pretty high note.

I just have to make sure that I pack a ton of Big Girl Panties next week to get me through the first week. So, if you think about it, send some good vibes my way.

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The “Great Combiner” Strikes Again

That’s right…the “Great Combiner” struck at our house. “Who slash what is the Great Combiner?!” you ask, “Is it/he/she a super hero, a villain, does it work for good or evil?!

It’s me! And it’s a super power of sorts. Bubba calls me that because anytime we come home from the grocery, I work hard to keep the things in the fridge and pantry organized and clean (I know, that’s about the only place I do that). I combine the new mayo with the little bit that’s left in the old mayo jar. I squirt the old ketchup into the new ketchup bottle. I put similar granola bars in the same box so I can eliminate old boxes and clutter. It’s a really great feeling.

This afternoon when we got home from the grocery, I did both pantries. I know I need to do another cabinet (the one that holds all my baking wares), but I ran out of steam and now I’m blogging.

The Great Combiner has also prepared to share some of the promised photos with you from yesterday’s post.

I don’t remember if I mentioned it or not, but Bubba and I went on a hike a couple of weeks ago. It was a spur of the moment thing where I said, “Let’s go do something today. I don’t want to sit around the house even though we have a lot of stuff to do.” So we went. Here are some pictures from that:

We hiked towards Charlie's Bunion and The Jump Off, but didn't make it all the way to either one. I got excited about seeing a mountain we hiked there instead.

This is no stadium shot, but I was practicing for sure!

Here we are in the middle of the was so dark and eerily quiet there. The only thing you could hear was the shutter of the camera!

And here are some pictures from the Seals/Bersinger Wedding:

Here we are at Amanda and Austin's wedding. The wedding had a circus theme and so one of the guest gifts were red clown noses. Don't we make an adorably funny pair?!

And here's my bestie and her hubby! So glad to spend some quality time with them.

The beautiful bride.

Best friends!

Like I said, I have no photos from UT football yet because I have yet to go to a game, but I can offer up a few photos from Fashion’s Night Out at the mall instead. Here they are:

Here's me and mom on the red carpet at the Fashion's Night Out event. Doesn't mom look great?!

This is me and my partner in crime, Kippy, at the event. We walked the red carpet multiple times since we're the ones that rolled it out!

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Filed under Big Orange Football, Family, Friends, Work

Tax Free Weekend is Over!

(Disclaimer: This post is designed to toot my own horn, about the strides I made at work this week in conquering a fear of mine about doing interviews–due to lack of experience–and about the great stuff I got this weekend on sale. I don’t claim that it isn’t at all materialistic…it is…but I know some of you will appreciate it. If not, stop reading after the interview clip. :))

I’m sitting on my couch right now, not showered (finished with  my chores) just enjoying the day.  (I’ll shower soon because I’ll want to be so fresh and so clean before I go pick my husband up at the airport, but for now…just relaxing.)

I’m doing this because I was on call yesterday, acting as MOD (Manager on Duty) at the malls this weekend for tax-free weekend. This is my second time to be on duty, but this weekend was so different from the last time. First, I started at KC to help out with the Back to School Bash (a bounce house and crafts and facepainting) and then watch the Back to School Fashion Show.  When all that was over, I went to WT to finish out my day closer to home.

I will just say that both malls were really crowded and super crazy with people searching for those great weekend deals. I did an interview with WBIR on Thursday afternoon at the mall about how the mall was gearing up for Tax Free Weekend. Here is the link again. <—This interview wasn’t live, it was done in the mall in the afternoon and then edited for the package on the evening news. The interview I did for the new WVLT Morning Show was a live shot where I was talking to Mora Kay in studio while I was at the mall. It was so nerve-wracking because I had the ear piece in and a microphone pinned to my shirt and all that. To prepare (after feeling I could have done better on the WBIR interview on Thursday), I asked for the questions I would be asked on the show to be emailed to me so I could put my thoughts together and really feel confident in what I was going to say and make sure I could get all the information in.

Of course, looking at this, I can see some flaws and things that I wish I had done or said differently, but I thought I would share it because I am proud of it. I felt like I did a pretty good job for my first live interview. I apologize that this is a video of the TV, but I couldn’t find the video online. The chatter in the background is my mom and our friend Papa Jerry!

I did do one other interview with WVLT, but it was late in the day on Friday and it wasn’t the best I’d done…I also can’t find that online and we barely saw it on TV while I was at mom’s.

So, anyway, I just wanted to share this because I am sort of proud of it even if there is still room to grow. It was pretty exciting to get to do it and I so appreciate my supervisor for thinking I could do it and encouraging me to do it!

Despite how fun the interviews were, I am glad tax free weekend is over.

I can’t lie, I did get a few things and I took advantage of some good deals inside the mall…I got some stuff at The Limited and Ann Taylor (all tops).

I've been waiting on this sweater to go on sale for a little while. It's very pretty with beading detail around the top. It will go great with a number of bottom pieces in my closet!

The little dots on this are red and I thought they would go great with my red skirt (Limited) or white pants (Limited).

I love cardigans and I love how femenine and pink this one is. It's very girly!

Great for work during football season! I snagged the last regular size from the store!

Outside the mall, I got a new apron at Pier One and a new pair of shoes from Marty and Liz (my happy place)!

I've been wanting this apron for a few months now. It finally went on sale and I got it for $13! 🙂

Via Spiga Jovie Bootie (mine are leather instead of suede) that I found at Marty & Liz.

This is basically what I'm envisioning this fall...and I'll wear my new shoesies, too!

Now I just pine over these (and may get them for myself as a 25th birthday present)…I mean it is just 42 days away…a pretty big birthday!

The Tory Burch Classic Reva Flat in black with gold medallion.

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