Tell me a story?

One of my ongoing life goals is to get better at being present and in the moment, that is to say: mindfulness.

I’m a planner by nature, always looking ahead and assessing progress toward whatever goal I currently have my sights on, and because of these innate, Type-A tendencies, life inadvertently becomes one big set of to-do lists to accomplish, tick, and account. I find myself having to make the conscious decision to let loose. To be inefficient. Meander. This is coming from the girl who just referred to her calendar as a “time budget”… I only have so much time. I can only spend it on so many things…

a fresh start

Thinking about this, and how I miss writing just for the fun of it, coupled with the fact that I think my creative brainwaves may (finally) be unclogging, I thought it might be useful (fun, even) to look back every so often and reflect on life in the Queen City here on the ole blog. I guess you could say I’m attacking mindfulness from the backside, which isn’t being PRESENT, per se, but I hope it will help me to improve that skillset, in a roundabout sort of way.

It’s an exciting time to live in Charlotte (well, except for the annual inch worm infestation, anyway); the city is growing rapidly and there are new things to see and do and eat everywhere you look. This past week alone, I helped judge a round of the Competition Dining Series; stopped into Ri Ra to check our their new Whiskey Room; ate lunch at Draught and met Ted Williams of Charlotte Agenda in person(!); went to Tuckfest at the US National Whitewater Center, ate some awesome tacos, and saw Jason Isbell play (amazing); got breakfast sandwiches from Laurel Market (Mercado, for the win) and ate them at a tiny table on the Sugar Creek Greenway; checked out the J Crew Warehouse sale (still asking myself WHY.); inhaled too much pizza at Revolution Ale House; spent an absurd amount of money at Trader Joe’s; dined with friends at Viva Chicken; saw Spirit Family Reunion play at the Visulite; and ate my weight in barbecue pulled pork at Midwood Smokehouse.  Boom.

Topical Taters {IFBC 2013}

I remember eating mashed potatoes on the sunporch at my friend Allison’s house.  We were sitting cross-legged on the floor, huddled around a wicker coffee table, our plates just inches from our mouths.  There was other food, I’m sure, chicken or maybe meatloaf or some other forgotten piece of protein I’d pushed to the side to make room for the Halasa family mashed potatoes.  I’d started with a mountain of them, yellow from the excessive butter content and so dense they required I carry the paper plate two-handed to our roost at the kids’ table.

Sitting there on the floor with my girlfriends, I momentarily admired the mass on my plate, eager and anxious, before bringing one mounding forkful of those creamy, lumpless potatoes to my mouth.  I delicately slid the fork mashed taters between my lips, twitterpated as my eyes squeezed closed and the warmth of the potatoes coated my tongue and throat.  After each bite, I’d drag the edge of my fork over the potatoes, smoothing out the craters, like a Zamboni methodically perfecting the surface of an ice rink.

Moderation was a mystery to me, and each swallow brought me simultaneous pleasure and nausea; I was powerless to the potatoes.  Forget meat sweats, I was fighting carb-induced hysteria.  As I battled my inner ever-present demons of gluttony, I placed my fork on the table, letting my fingers linger on the warm metal while the internal turmoil waged on.  Abruptly, I jerked my fingers away from the fork and scooped up the remaining mashed potatoes with a cupped right hand.  I brought them to my mouth, hesitating for just a moment at my lips, questioning and confused, when a brash flash of clarity zapped through my mind and I quickly and swiftly smeared the mashed potatoes across my right cheek, followed immediately by a scoopful slathered across the left.  It was fast, like an impatient father slapping sunscreen on a squirming toddler, and when I lifted my potato-masked face I found two silent, slightly horrified teenage girls staring at me.

Unlike most people, when I say something is so good, I want to smear it all over my face, I’m speaking from hands-on experience.  I know exactly what it takes to trigger that sort of primal action.  I know the complete lack of self-control delicious food can cause.  I know what potatoes can do to a girl.

Of all the sessions at the 2013 International Food Blogger Conference, my favorite was Kim O’Donnel’s interactive writing workshop, which focused on breaking through writer’s block by reminding us that we all have something to write about, the trick is starting small-scale.  We started with “I remember” and then rapidly jotted down as many memories as we could conjure over the course of three minutes.  “I remember eating mashed potatoes on the sunporch at my friend Allison’s house” was one of many memories on my list, and I’m so happy to finally have this specific memory written on the blog.

I would like to send one last HUGE thank you to Truly Good Foods for sponsoring my attendance at the IFBC!  Truly Good Foods specializes in premium snack mixes, raw and freshly roasted nuts and seeds, dried fruit, and hundreds of bulk and packaged candies, spices, grains and specialty foods. Truly Good Foods has an extensive line of retail branded products, including Grabeez®, Buffalo Nuts® and Dip & Devour Dipping Chocolates.

Foodie Penpals

What is it about getting a package in the mail that makes me squeal with excitement?  Just the sight of a box on my doorstep makes a Cheshire cat smile spread across my face.  As I carry the box inside I start playing the guessing game.  I wonder what’s inside?  Who’s it from?  I know I ordered a book on Amazon four days ago, and since this is an Amazon box that’s probably what’s inside… but maybe it isn’t?!  (p.s. it was.)

I think this package induced excitement is a large part of the allure and success of online shopping because deep down we’re all little kids dying to tear through that brown mailing paper.  Occasionally (when I find a free shipping promotion) I’ll partake in an online shopping spree and buy hundreds of dollars of clothes only to return each and every piece at my local mall the following weekend.  When will I learn that nothing I buy online fits?  Even if I buy one of every size available, one size will inevitably be too small and the next size up is absurdly large.  And since they don’t make clothes in half sizes…  Yes, it all goes back.  (My sincere apologies to both Banana Republic and the Limited for the large deficits I’ve created in your sales figures over the years.)

I recently realized this obsession with packages was a little pathetic (and neurotic), so I starting seeking other more respectable means of receiving packages in the mail.  I considered Cravebox and my local CSA, but decided both of those required too much commitment.  Then I found my answer:  Foodie Penpals.  The concept is simple—you send a package full of foodie goodies to your assigned foodie penpal, and then a different foodie sends you a package too.

Kim, who blogs at This Healthy Endeavor, was my foodie penpal, and she sent me a TON of goodies from a store in Cincinnati called Jungle Jim’s.


Jungle Jim’s is new to me.  Have you heard of it?

Tastefully handling distaste

Fervent Foodie is a contributing writer for the official Urbanspoon blog.

I’m three bites into my shrimp fajitas at a new (to me) Mexican restaurant, when the waitress appears at the table inquiring how the meal tastes.  I pause, wiping my mouth as a stall mechanism, while I frantically try to piece together words and form a polite response.  A simple “it’s good” is all I can muster.  She smiles and walks away.  I frown.  The shrimp’s fishy odor, which arrived at the table well before the plate, lingers over me like a putrid fog.  The menu touted fajitas with onions and peppers, but…

(continue reading on the Urbanspoon blog)

bad meal 2


Crazy big news!

A month or so ago, I was piddling away evening hours on Facebook when something caught my eye in a big way—Urbanspoon, the leading online local restaurant guide (and a resource I use religiously), was seeking bloggers for the official Urbanspoon blog.  What!  A crazy excitement washed over me, and with blazing eyes and a butterfly filled belly I began furiously typing an application letter.  I introduced myself and my blog and my deep passion for carbohydrates.  I wrote about my love of Urbanspoon and how I am both a long-time user and contributor on the site.  I flaunted my Urbanspoon Prime status, and even though I couldn’t visually emphasize that elite status with sprightly jazz fingers, the page was sparkly enough to imply them.

That was the easy part.

Then the hysteria began to diminish and the self-doubt speak started flowing.  Was anyone even going to look at this thing?  There had to be thousands of applicants…  What am I doing?  My shoulders hunched, but I trudged onward and began to plead.  If selected, I promised not only homemade chocolate chip cookies but also a 5-course Italian dinner, complete with my famous tomato basil bruschetta and Amazeball’s meatballs (of course, famous here is used in relative terms).  I sat and stared at the blinking cursor on the screen.  It didn’t seem like enough–it wasn’t enough.  I had no choice but to level with them, so I wrote “If given the opportunity to be a blogger for Urbanspoon, I’d probably poop my pants (in a good way, if that’s possible).”

Then I emailed it off, poop reference and all.

The Banana Party (plus links to 7 great banana recipes)

Back in college, I would often carry a banana in the front pocket of my pea coat, like a yellow edible pocket square.  This was back before energy bars were all the rage, and my banana was not only all-natural but also quirky and cute and totally college (trust me).  I was always prepared with a snack on hand, should I have to miss lunch for a study date (or a nap in the student center).  To this day, I still open my banana from the bottom (the end without the stem), just like my mom.

Try it.  Thank me later.

Recently, my friend Vanessa and I received emails from Dole asking if we’d like to co-host a banana party.  You heard me.  A banana party.

Obviously, we said yes.

dole banana party (4 of 24)