Tuesday, December 8, 2009

And Five Pounds Later ...

Hello again! We finally wrapped up our company Christmas card distribution yesterday. Holy smokes, sending out more than 2,000 signed Christmas cards is quite the undertaking. Thanks to our consultants in Houston, the project went smoothly and the cards got out on time.

Personally, lots of good things have been happening. I'll start where I left off: Friendsgiving! My wonderful employer distributed turkeys to all employees a few days before Thanksgiving. Unlike the SB Ham that sat in my freezer for a year, I had immediate plans for my turkey. The guys fried it up and delivered a delicious bird, especially considering it was everyone's first attempt. The ladies each brought side dishes, most of which were cheese related. What can I say, I hang out with a smart group of gals. The menu included Amanda's Broccoli, Cheese and Rice Casserole, LJ's Green Bean Bundles, Lauren's Homemade Salsa and Corn Casserole, Nancy's Spinach Salad, My Mac n Cheese and Hot Corn Dip and a cake and a pie compliments of Michel and Laura. So yummy! Thank goodness my grandmother isn't a tech-savvy blog reader because I have to say Friendsgiving was more delicious than Nana's traditional servings. Here are a few pics:

The side dish queens! Thanks for the good eats, ladies!

Walt and Ty carve while Jonathan sneaks a turkey wing!

Our glorious bird ... being carved on the pretty platter! This makes people like me (perfectionists) stroke out.

Despite his turkey fingers, I grabbed Ty for a quick pic!

Thanks to everyone for making the first annual Friendsgiving a success. And in honor of the event, I'll pass on my Mac n' Cheese recipe that the boys loved so much. It's so easy and guaranteed to make the husbands happy!

The Best (and Easiest) Mac n Cheese

1 box elbow macaroni
1 stick of butter
1 can evaporated milk
1 pound of velveeta

Boil noodles 7 to 8 minutes.
Drain noodles, leaving in 1 cup of water.
Mix in butter, evaporated milk and cheese.
Heat until blended.
Pour into glass baking dish.
Cover with shredded velveeta, if you wish.
Bake on broil until top is brown.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Bi-Monthy Recap

There have been so many exciting things happening these days. Not all good, but all exciting none the less.

1. My best friend got married. I never would have guessed that LJ would have been such a girlie bride, but she really got into the whole wedding planning thing. Her day with Marcus was beautiful. LJ was beautiful. Mrs. Lesa was the smoking hottest mother of the bride that I've ever seen. I didn't cry ... although the bridesmaid sobbing in my ear made it difficult to resist. The reception was gorgeous and so much fun. Ty and I enjoyed dancing together and with friends. We later treated our out-of-town pals Steven and Kelsy to their favorite Shreveport spot, Tiki Tavern. (Thanks for reading the blog, guys! I'll try to write more often.) Then I had to survive a week without LJ while she was on her honeymoon. We still talked three times (texting not included).

2. My dad had surgery. I hate typing those words almost as much as I hated sitting in the doctor's office waiting on a report while my dad was having his spine operated on. My dad is tough and strong and just means the world to me. Even knowing he would be OK, it was difficult to see him so vulnerable. He probably handled the whole thing better than I did. They went in through his throat, moving all the stuff in his neck to one side to get to the spot they needed to reach (pardon my non-medical description). He made it through and all went well. Hopefully, he'll be able to have some turkey with his dressing on Thursday.

3. I went to a Sip n See for Ty's niece Ruby Belle. I haven't seen Ruby Belle since the week she was born, so it's a great treat to have her and Ty's sister Mandy here for a full week. My wonderfully artistic and talented friend Lauren Smith painted this canvas for Ruby's room. You can see more of Lauren's designs on her blog. I think it turned out fantastic, and Mandy loved it, too. I brought Lauren a loaf of homemade bread this weekend, however it's going to take a lot more bread to level the playing field.

4. I've invited about 16 of our closest friends to my house tomorrow night for Friendsgiving! Ty and Jonathan Smith are going to fry their first turkey and God-willing not burn my house down. Guests are bringing non-traditional side dishes and desserts. And I'm pretty sure the Duvall's will bring Baby Brynn along, too. It should be a wonderful start to the holiday season, and a celebration of 16 people I'm thankful for!

Monday, November 9, 2009

He Hunts, I Bake

(SPOILER ALERT: Dear Jenny and Clint, since you reprimanded me at church yesterday for not blogging ... here it is! However, this could spoil the surprise of your Tuesday night dinner.)

As many of you know, duck season opens this coming weekend in Louisiana and the following weekend in Arkansas. While I am no duck slayer myself, my boyfriend is, which means he'll be heading out of town off and on over the next few months. Typically he's only gone Friday nights so he can be back here for church Sunday morning.

For me, hunting season adds up to one thing: Baking. Lots of baking. It's strange that I never feel the urge to bake until this time of year. I bake, and I don't even eat my sweet creations (If there's something you've been craving, let me know. I'll make it. Deliveries available to Shreveport and Bossier residents only.)

So, this past weekend Ty was in Arkansas preparing the camp, and I was at home -- you guessed it -- baking. However, it wasn't unnecessary baking. I had someone in mind.

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Jenny unexpectedly lost her mother. It's been a heartbreaking time for her, but I've been amazed by her strength. To help her family out during this difficult time, our church and some of Jenny's other friends teamed together to deliver meals to her house for weeks to come. Life is hard enough for Jenny right now, does she really need to be worrying about what's for dinner? So, Tuesday night is my night. I'm really excited for multiple reasons. First, I love to cook for friends, and secondly, I feel like in some small way I'm making the day a little easier for a family I care about.

With it being duck season and all, of course baked goods entered the equation and Saturday night was spent baking Praline-Apple Bread. It should be good for breakfast or a quick, easy snack, and I thought you may want the recipe also. The recipe yields one loaf.

1 1/2 cups chopped pecans, divided
1 (8 oz.) container of sour cream
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups finely chopped, peeled Granny Smith apples
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350. Bake 1/2 cup pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 6 to 8 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring 4 minutes.

2. Beat sour cream and next 3 ingredients at low speed with an electric mixer 2 minutes or until blended.

3. Stir together flour and next 3 ingredients. Add to sour cream mixture, beating just until blended. Stir in apples and 1/2 cup toasted pecans. Spoon batter into a greased and floured 9x5 inch loaf pan. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup chopped pecans; lightly press pecans into batter.

4. Bake at 350 for 1 hour to 1 hour and 5 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, shielding with aluminum foil after 50 minutes to prevent excessive browning. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes, remove from pan to wire rack.

5. Bring butter and brown sugar to a boil in a 1-qt. heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly; boil 1 minute. Remove from heat and spoon over top of bread; let cool completely (about 1 hour).

(Note: to freeze, cool bread completely; wrap in plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil. Freeze up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature.)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Too Much Fun to Blog

I'm sorry that I've gone from being such a reliable blogger to a total delinquent. My original plan was to blog while sitting at my desk eating lunch, but it's hard to eat while typing and this girl has her priorities in place. Plus, I've started to thoroughly enjoy watching abc.go.com while pretending I'm eating at home like I used to. I do miss those days.

However, the job change has been excellent, and I'm starting to settle into a new routine. It takes some planning. Thank goodness I'm solid in that department. Working in Minden means I must eliminate those quick, after work trips to the grocery store. I now plan out weekly dinner and lunch menus. I only go to the grocery store once a week, which gives me time to work out all those other days.

So that pretty much sums up the ins and outs of the daily life. Following is a brief photo essay of the good, fun stuff that's been going on.

Exhibit A: Bachelorette Party

My bestie LJ is getting married in less than two weeks. We've done the bridal pics, showers, showers and more showers, and perhaps the best thing of all, her bachelorette. Her sister, Crystal Wibben, and friend Lauren Smith helped plan a fun evening for LJ. The party started at my house with dinner and lingerie opening. We spent the rest of the night riding in the limo and visiting some old, favorite night spots. And I won't even tell you how the night ended.

Exhibit B: Tiger Stadium

Ty and I made the trip to Baton Rouge for the LSU/Auburn game with our friends Klint and Kathleen. The game was excellent and so were our seats, and we couldn't have asked for better weather. However, the highlight was the Prentice Tailgate. This family parties Southern style, and Uncle Johnny's homemade boudin and other fixins were as excellent as ever. While traveling, we also stopped at Ruth's Chris and Lea's. It was a good eats weekend.

Exhibit C: Wedding Wine Tasting

One of the final tasks before LJ's wedding is to make sure guests are served the best wine for a certain price. So, Friday night LJ and Marcus hosted a wedding wine tasting. Six of us sat around tasting and sipping and somehow came to a unanimous decision. However, with the bottles clearly labeled in front of us there was no way to authenticate the vote unless someone blind tasted. Per my suggestion, the group voted to blindfold me. That wasn't exactly how I saw things working out, but the blindfold test confirmed the wine a true winner.

I'm sure in the next two weeks many more good times are to come. Hopefully I'll blog about it in a more timely fashion. 

Monday, October 5, 2009

40 Under 40

I had a few minutes to ponder and in doing so I realized I haven't shared some of my latest good news. Let me disclaimer this post by saying I never win anything. I'm not highly competitive, so I don't really sweat it much. But in being not-so-competitive, I'm not driven to a "win or else" attitude that seems to help a lot of people win a lot of stuff.

In the sports arena, I have few awards to show. Everyone gets a trophy in church league softball. I wasn't a homecoming queen or sweetheart of any sort. However, I have celebrated some minor professional awards. Two "Best of Times" awards from my former co-workers at the Shreveport Times and one runner-up "Favorite Journalist" SB Award before I worked for the magazine.

Last week I received a "Congratulations!" letter from the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce saying I'd been selected for this year's 40 Under 40 class. I'd been notified of my nomination several weeks before. Even though I never imagined I would get the award, I filled out all the requested forms and assembled reference letters. I had to try, even though I might not be selected.

The Chamber describes 40 Under 40 as "Northwest Louisiana's outstanding entrepreneurs, executives, managers and professionals in public, private and nonprofit sectors." Honorees are chosen based on achievement, experience, innovation, vision, leadership and community involvement.

Considering all that, I was so surprised to be picked! I'll be profiled in the November issue of City Life, along with 39 other young professionals. And Ty and I will attend a gala in December to celebrate. How much fun!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

So Long, Latte

The latest step in my constant journey for self-improvement has been a difficult one. A step that requires a strong mindset, consistent good night's sleep and a dash of pure insanity.

I've given up caffeine entirely.

I feel that sentence deserved to stand alone. It may be poor timing considering Starbucks recently brought back my favorite Pumpkin Spice Latte. Damn you, Starbucks!

Whew, now on to the dets (as I fight off the urge to lick my computer monitor). I'm on day three of caffeine-free living, although I phased Coke out of my life (for the most part) about a year ago. But, in my mind, coffee stands alone, miles above all others. Jack with my morning coffee and someone's going to pay. That's not exactly a healthy mindset. I don't like feeling as if I have a substance dependency. And, I don't like feeling that I don't come alive until I've had my Joe. So, three days ago, Joe and I officially ended our relationship.

To ease the transition, I've allowed myself a cup of decaf in the morning. It looks the same, smells the same, but it's just not the same. I drink it anyway.

There's been a heavy dose of side-effects to accompany this decision. Monday at around 10, I felt as if I was going to pass out. Clammy. Head pounding. Desperate for a fix. This only reiterated my decision. By 2 p.m., I was pretty sure I was going to have to go home ... but I can't drive back to Shreveport like this ... might as well work through the pain. Tuesday, I experienced a similar pain, however far less intense. And today, I felt like I was sleepwalking through the morning. I said out loud to myself numerous times, "focus, focus."

The good news is that the headaches are becoming milder and milder. I think I'm coming out of that stage of detox where you're sweating and puking and hot and cold at the same time (these were not my actual symptoms).

You may all be asking one question at this point. Why? Essentially, I'm not getting any younger folks! Might as well kick the bad habits while I still can.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Miss Ruby Belle is here!

This weekend we drove up to Fayetteville to meet this adorable little girl.

Everyone, meet Miss Ruby Belle Smith. I've seen a lot of pretty babies, but this one takes the cake. Perhaps, I'm slightly biased. She has perfectly olive-colored skin and the sweetest face that melts your heart. Ty and I loved every minute we had with her and her parents. Ruby, being only days old, spends most of her time sleeping. Even that is fun to watch. She chirps and smiles and twitches in her sleep and it's all too adorable.

It was a long drive and a short visit, but it was completely worth it just so Ty could do this:

I know Ty's going to be a great uncle! And even more so, I know Justin and Mandy are going to be super parents.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

We're RVing!

To think, I had become such a consistent blogger and now this. Sorry guys, I find that in my day there is rarely a spare minute. Today, you just so happen to be in luck because my feet hurt so I decided to sit down and eat lunch. So with a sandwich in one hand, I'll update you guys as to what's been going on in my life.

This past weekend, Ty and I traveled to Guy, Ark., for our friend Tuck's wedding. If you've heard of Guy, then you are a far more sophisticated traveler than myself. It's what some people reference as "the sticks." The wedding was set to take place between the barn and the shed in Megan's (the bride) backyard. A country wedding couldn't be more fitting for these two rodeo riders, however nearby accommodations means a 45 minute drive to "town." Instead of driving all the way back to town after the wedding, Ty and I opted to do this.

That's right, we spent the weekend in an RV! I know the pictures arent' the greatest, but my Blackberry was my only option once I discovered my camera battery was dead. We parked it in the pasture right next to Megan's house. So as I mentioned before, the wedding was casual, country style. Cowboy boots, a country band playing on a flatbed trailer and homemade preserves for guests to take with them after the reception. Ty, not so much of a cowboy, was a groomsman and uniformed in a black cowboy hat, white shirt, black jacket and Wranglers. I thought he looked like J.R. from "Dallas," but see for yourself.

We also decided to take Lacy, Ty's lab, with us on the trip. She loved most of the ride, but after a while you could tell she was road weary.

We're headed back to Arkansas this weekend (RV not included). Ty's sister, Mandy, who lives in Fayetteville, is having her baby today! We're so excited to meet Ty's little neice and I'm sure plenty of pictures will follow. We can't wait to meet you, Ruby Belle!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Week In

Hello Blogger friends, I've missed you greatly. I started a new job last Monday, which has brought on many adjustments and forced me to neglect you temporarily. I can't believe it but I've stepped away from journalism and entered the marketing world. I joined a company called Fibrebond in Minden. It's a manufacturing company best know for making concrete buildings at the foot of cell phone towers, but they also construct schools and prisons. After a full week on the job, I don't regret the decision one bit. So, let me tell you about the new things going on.

Early Mornings

Instead of waking up at 7:20 and driving 10 minutes down the road to get to work, I'm now up at 5:45 and leaving the house around 7:15 to make it to Minden by 8. It's not so bad once my feet hit the floor. But with it still being completely dark outside, my body is being somewhat hard-headed with this transition. It's a stark contrast from my life two years ago, when I could stroll in to work around 10 a.m. because I was an entertainment reporter and most entertainers are not morning people either. It was a lovely match. To ease the adjustment, the coffee pot now wakes up before me. I can handle the early morning much better with a cup of joe in hand.

Southern Hospitality

The people here are SO nice. It's nice to go to work and not feel like you're walking onto a battlefield. In the past year, I would have to say that's one thing I've missed very much. At The Times, we were a family. We were all in it together, working to put out the daily. It was a place where respect and ethics were never in jeopardy. In the year since I left that job, I've felt alone professionally. It was a daily fight for what I believed in and a battle I know I could never win. I've learned that your work atmosphere can impact you severely, so I was relieved when I pulled up to the guardhouse at Fibrebond my first day. The guard greeted me with, "Good morning, Stephanie. Welcome to your first day at Fibrebond." He already knew my name? Are the people here really THAT nice? And as a matter of fact, they are. Everyone says "hello." And while it's a large company, it has a very down-home feel. Not to mention, in each of the kitchens there's a pot of coffee, a pitcher of tea and whatever fresh-baked goodies have been brought in that day. I'm avoiding the goodies, but it's such a polite, Southern gesture. Oh, and most importantly, jeans are welcome any day of the week.

Office Space

In my entire career, my desk has never been a place for finer things. At The Times, I shared a long table-like work space with several other people. Good thing those people were absolutely wonderful. Kathie Rowell, Maggie Martin, Donecia Pea, Adam Causey, Alexandyr Kent. Great people to be in close proximity to each day. I upgraded to my own office last year. I was appreciative, however the space was rather cozy. I couldn't open my filing cabinet without first moving my desk chair. And because the building was located in a valley, there were no windows ... in the entire office. At Fibrebond, I'm working in the executive offices. Windows everywhere, L-shaped sturdy wood desks, gorgeous landscaping and even hummingbirds that buzz by my window occasionally. These are definitely the best accommodations I've had yet.

I say all of this to let you know that so far things are good. Change always tends to make me a little nervous. But this was a calculated risk. And when the conditions are right, change can be very good.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Moving On But Not Away

Today is my last day at SB. I'm not sure if you're supposed to feel busy on your last day at work, but I certainly do. I have a feature story to write. My office needs to be packed. I need to download all the stuff on my computer onto a portable hard drive. And I'm going to lunch with the staff in a little over an hour. I'm thinking I'll eat Shrimp Aurora. Why not indulge on my final day?

I've been at SB a little less than a year. At the time, I was looking to get out of the newspaper world. For personal reasons more than professional ones. I loved my job. I hope one day to love a job as much as I loved that one. But I didn't want to be my job, and it felt that's what the job required.

So, I came to SB. I moved up the food chain, becoming the editor here, and the magazine began to morph into whatever I could dream it to be. I love to create and those days were very exciting. Mike (the publisher) and I would go to the park at Norton Art Gallery and brainstorm and plan and think. And then we brought it to life. A new look. A new way of telling stories. An attempt at reaching a new audience while captivating the one we already had. In any job, I'm most satisfied when I can see the results of hard, honest work. And at that time, I did.

But I began to ask myself, "Am I doing anything new? Am I challenging myself?" If I was being honest with myself, although this was exciting, it was nothing new. I'd done this before with the Preview section at The Times. It felt stagnant and I needed a new challenge.

There's no question that I love Shreveport. I love having my family close and, truthfully, if I were going to move, I'd probably have to stuff Ty into a suitcase and force him to come along. And I'd never want to go anywhere without him. My life is here, and I wouldn't want to share it with anyone else.

So, as I considered my official settling in (although I've actually been settled here my entire life), I began to realize my options were running low. I've worked at The Times and SB. I wasn't interested in TV about two years ago when I was approached, not interested now. I get very awkward in front of a camera. What could I do that would allow me to create, write, meet new people and be successful in Shreveport-Bossier?

Marketing seemed to afford me those opportunities. I applied for a job and heard nothing. ... for a while. Weeks went by, and at the moment it began to slip from my mind, my phone rang. I went on an interview and loved the people and the place. Absolutely worth the 30 minute drive to and from work every day.

I can work hard, but I can't take credit for the right decisions at the right time. Never so strongly have I felt God's hand in my life. Opportunities coming at the right time. Doors closing and others opening. The timing is so perfect that it could never be my own.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

New Things in Life

Ty and I met this precious little lady last night. Meet Lora Brynn Duvall. She's adorable, looks just like her momma. We seemed to arrive at the wrong time. Brynn had just gone upstairs for a bath, and it would be two hours before she would be done. Michel was trying to stomach her hospital food — beef tips and rice with carrots and peas in it. Who puts carrots and peas in beef tips? Even school cafeterias can get that right.

At least we got to see Moss and Michel and their sweet baby girl. I hope to swing by again today. I can't wait to hold her.

In other news, I have two days left at SB and then I start my new job at Fibrebond on Monday. This is where my office will be located. The property is large, 170 acres to be exact. I haven't even seen the entire property, but I'll be working in the "White House," as they call it.

Monday is going to feel like that first day of school. A new company, new office, new people, new town and a new line of work. To top off my excitement, I've heard nothing but excellent things about this company. They have a strong reputation, and I feel extremely fortunate to join their team.

So, yesterday I received an e-mail from my new boss. She tells me that starting Monday the air ducts are being cleaned out throughout the building, starting with our wing. For the first week, we won't have access to our offices, but at least we'll have clean air. Now I know this job and company will, literally, be a breath of fresh air.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Baby Watch

Today we're welcoming a new friend into the world. We don't yet know if Baby Duvall is a boy or a girl, but we will soon find out. I'm guessing Baby D is a girl. I know the parents will be thrilled either way, but Moss would be an excellent daddy for a little girl. That's something I'd like to see.

Ty and Moss have been friends since they were in Speedos. And my guy was in Speedos probably more than he was in diapers. I know we'll always be friends with the Duvalls, and one day (in the distant future) I hope our kids will be as close as Ty and Moss have always been ... maybe minus the Speedos.

Baby D, we can't believe we're finally going to meet you today. We can't wait!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Between 4:30 and 5 p.m. each day, Ty and I seem to have the same conversation as many other couples. The dreaded, "What do you want for dinner?"

My goal is to cook dinner about three nights a week, but sometimes our busy schedules prohibit that. For example, we had band practice last Thursday, so we ended up eating pizza in the church parlor. Loved it, I felt like I was in youth group again. And we usually spend weekends eating out with friends, so no cooking required.

Returning to the dreaded question, "What do you want for dinner?," Ty always provides the same answer, "Pasta." I truly believe that if I cooked it, he would eat pasta every night without complaint. So, last night I made his favorite pasta dish, tortellini with alfredo and tomato sauce.

I had to go to two grocery stores to find the fresh pasta, but from that point forward, this recipe is extremely simple and delicious. If you are counting calories, then stop right here, no need to read on. But if you're like me and had a lunch consisting of three peanut butter crackers, dig in.

The tortellini come ready. Just drop them in boiling water and wait about five minutes. The tomato sauce is equally uncomplicated. Unscrew the lid from your favorite brand and heat. The alfredo sauce is from scratch but simple.

You'll need:

1 stick butter
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup heavy whipping cream

(I know it sounds like chest pains waiting to happen, but all things in moderation)

So, to start, you melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle in a little Parmesan cheese at a time, stir constantly so it doesn't get lumpy. Once you've stirred in all the Parmesan cheese, pour in the heavy whipping cream and stir until it blends. Reduce the heat and keep stirring occasionally until you serve it.

Pile up the tortellini and cover with equal parts white and red sauce. Don't forget hot French bread. This sauce is perfect for sopping.

Monday, August 24, 2009

I Love A Good Letter

Not much news to report on the weekend front. Ty and I did nothing this weekend besides eating out. Friday night we ate at L'Italiano with some church peeps. We had a really good time and somehow I managed to eat all of my tortellini. Yes, I feel quite guilty about that.

Saturday evening we ate at Cheesecake Bistro with the regulars. While it is fair to say I despise chain restaurants, I find a new special hatred for them on the weekends. It's always overcrowded and the staff typically treats you like poo. This is not a good combination for someone like me. It makes me feisty.

So, with little to report, I think it best to share a letter I received in the mail Friday. In this line of work, you never know what's going to come across your desk. In this case, it was an index card with a note pecked out on a typewriter. Keep reading, it gets good at the end. It reads — verbatim:

Thursday, August 20, 2009
Ms. Netherton:

I see Sports, WK hospitals and doctors, lawyers,; but, I miss (or missed) my request that I called or wrote Mr. Mike Whitehead about before the MOUSE or the Computer Age — a "spread" about FRIST BAPTIST of Bossier and its Pastor: Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church and its Pastor -- Corner of Jewella/Tate : PEACEFUL REST and its Pastor -- Saint Vincent.
What happened to Cheryl White's Article,
Over please

Please do not leave out EDITOR'S DESK or ONE LAST THING. I read e verything -- advertising Section included.

Mrs. ______

Nots: Send me an extra copy for my birthday, December 25, 2009. I'll be 79, if I'm living.

Friday, August 21, 2009

I'm On A Boat

After a good night's sleep in the not-so-haunted hotel, we were up and at 'em for our first day of official vacation. Before we left Hot Springs, we ate breakfast at The Pancake Shop. Ty says during his college years he met Bill Clinton's mom there, but Clintons aside, this place finally satisfied my craving for blueberry pancakes. The big juicy blueberries and from-scratch batter made them sensational. I ordered two, and after only eating half of my stack, Ty lovingly informed me that my eyes are always bigger than my stomach. But one lonely pancake just doesn't seem like much.

Hours later and following a miserable shopping trip to Sam's (why don't guys make shopping lists?), we were headed for the lake. Fast forward a few hours through the unpacking, making of beds and other getting-settled activities, we were finally there.

I can't officially call this a weekend in nature. After all, we were on a six bedroom boat with two working bathrooms. But I can compare the weekend to our own version of "The Great Outdoors," one of my favorite John Candy movies. At night the raccoons came out, and after days of being annoyed with them, on the final night we decided to feed them and watch from inside. Turns out, watching raccoons eat a bag of chips and a can of bean dip is very amusing.

And let's not forget John Candy himself. We had our own John Candy character. Let me introduce Clark. He was full of one-liners: "Turns out, I'm a shootin' star." "I'm allergic to low fives, let's go high." "Why are you scared of that bee, Lauren. You're at the top of the food chain." Hilarious stuff. For our Saturday night glo-stick dance party, Clark pulled out this gem.

A skull and crossbones eye patch. Who could go on vacation without THAT? There were several other wardrobe treats. Lauren's sexy cover-up was a hit.

And let's not forget Walt's P90X muscle shirt.

Sorry your eyes are closed, Walt.

From Catch Phrase to the rooftop dance party, guitar sing-alongs and diving competitions, we had an excellent time. Although at the end of three days, my stomach became quite disgruntled by the slightly swaying boat. By bedtime Sunday, nausea had set in. I rubbed a little Phenegran on my wrists (thanks, Amanda) and passed out soon after.

It was definitely time to go home. My skin was fried and my stomach was done. A week later, I'm still tired and my skin is starting to peel, but all in all, it was a great time with friends.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Feeling Lucky's

I've been asked to write a little something about my recent vacation to Lake Ouachita. Never wanting to let the people down, I was simply stalling so my friend LJ could send me a few pictures from our trip. Amazingly, my camera only has three pictures. And LJ only has pictures from our first night in Hot Springs and none from the actual boat trip. So, here we go:

We started the first evening at a place called Lucky's in Hot Springs. I love these girls. Although you wouldn't guess it by the apprehensive look on my face, or the fact that I'm gently placing my hand on LJ's shoulder as if she has a contagious skin disease. But these ladies round out my list of favorite people.

This also happened to be the night that Lauren (right) wore a wooden bracelet that gave her a rash. The bracelet ended up being mine because it does not give me a rash. Three cheers for Lauren's dermis. I've gotten so many compliments.

It was a fun night out on the town, however LJ did what she always does and ordered a round of Red Headed Sluts (a shot starring Crown Royal). I don't know when it became all the rage to make shots the size of cocktails, but I'm really not a fan. I'm not a good gulper. But I took it like a champ and a lady. See, my pinkie is raised.

You would think after downing such a refreshing bev, that LJ would look a little happier about it. I'll admit, those sluts bite. It's not very often that I'm in a crowd and look around to realize I'm one of the best dancers in the place. Maybe it's a side effect of the mineral water, but people in Hot Springs can't dance.

After waiting two hours for our pepperoni pizza and a few drinks, we decided to head back to the hotel. It's an old place that's most likely haunted. I believe that despite the concierge saying the hotel has no ghost stories. BORING. If I'm paying to sleep on a dumpy mattress, the least you can do is lie to me. So, we roamed the halls for a bit in search of Al Capone. We didn't find him and instead opted to scare ourselves by walking back to our rooms saying "Red Rum" like the creepy little boy in "The Shining."

This was a perfect, hilarious start to our weekend, and I'll tell you about the rest of the trip tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Things Continue to Change

A year ago today marked a huge change in my life. At the time, it was an ultimate low point for me. I felt completely destroyed, confused and wounded and because of all that I couldn't see the good in tomorrow. I didn't think I would ever recover. Unfortunately, I'd endured some major hardships in my life before this one, and I kept reminding myself that if I made it through those things in the past then I could make it through this, too.

Somehow I did make it through. My friendships grew stronger, my lifestyle became healthier, my faith was more relevant, and ultimately, I was happier. On Aug. 18, 2008, I stepped off the roller coaster. I was raw with the people closest to me. Expressing my faults and asking for their support

It's amazing to think it's been a year. When I get anxious about a decision or when I feel eager about the future, I think about a year ago today. I think about how far I've come. I realize there's nothing to worry about. I stepped off a nowhere path and was flooded with blessings.

It's a coincidence that today, on the anniversary of this big day, that I am announcing another big decision. I've decided to leave SB for a marketing job with a large company in Minden. Shreveport is my home and I want to spend my life here, raising a family one day. But I worry that journalism will one day leave me empty handed in this market. I've been so fortunate and blessed to have the amazing opportunities I've had, but for the longevity of my career, I think this transition is best.

Maybe my byline will find a place somewhere again someday. Maybe once I get settled into my new job, I can do some freelance work on the side. We'll see. But today I simply want to celebrate. Not only the good stuff to come, but the good that has already come.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ships Ahoy!

This is the true story of 14 friends, paying to rent a houseboat for one weekend on Lake Ouachita. Find out what happens when people stop being polite ... and start to party!!

I'm so excited — our vacation is finally here. My last vacation was with my family and absolutely horrible. I love my family, but I was a sour grape at that point in time. That was in July 2008. Here we are August 2009, and I'm desperate for some time off.

At 5:30 this evening, half of our group will pull out of Shreveport and head north for Hot Springs for an evening of wining, dining and (fingers crossed) karaoke. The pre-party group includes LJ and Marcus (the to-be Taylors), Lauren and Jonathan (The Smiths) and myself and Ty (I do not have a cute nickname for us ... yet).

The rest of the group will meet up with us in the morning and around 1 p.m. we'll load our six bedroom floating party. It may sound boring to some folks to just sit on a boat for a weekend. However, we're bringing along two ski boats and two jet skis. There's not going to be a dull moment when you factor in the hot tub on the roof and the slide coming off the back of the boat. There's also the possibility we'll have a karaoke machine on board.

Mostly, I'm looking forward to a weekend away. So long — no blog tomorrow or Monday, but I'll be back with big news on Tuesday.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Now We're Singing

I wrote a few weeks ago about visiting the Robinson Film Center. My experience was mediocre at best. We arrived an hour and a half before the movie so we could eat dinner at Abby Singer's Bistro. A sweet dinner and a movie date that soured rather quickly. Our dinner was never served. We thoroughly enjoyed the movie, at least the parts we could hear over our stomachs growling. To make things worse, it was Ty's first visit to the Robinson. After that experience, he swore to never go back.

A few days after writing that blog, I was contacted by a local marketing consultant hired to assist the Robinson with these obvious kinks. A friend told her about my blog and she wanted to meet and discuss my experience. I was apprehensive about meeting with her. After all, I'd been dissatisfied and rather passionate about it. What would she say? How would that conversation flow?

I thought it best to meet with her. If I had such a bad experience, perhaps I could share it with her and she could better diagnose and resolve some problems. At the end of our pleasant conversation, she asked me to try the Robinson and Abby Singer's again. She gave me two dinner and a movie passes and wanted my honest opinion about my return visit — good or bad, she wanted the ugly truth.

So, last night we returned. It was a week night and we arrived exactly an hour and a half before our movie time. The conditions were similar to the last time we visited the bistro. The tables were full, which made me swallow hard. I thought, "Ty is going to kill me if this goes badly again."

We took a seat and instead of getting a negative vibe about the place, I relaxed and felt things were going to go much more smoothly this time. I could see signs of new guidance and suggestions around me. The Bill Bush Combo played some amazing music, adding so much ambiance. A buffet of free appetizers lined the wall. Our server instructed us to help ourselves, and they were perfection. The homemade corn chips were my favorite — oh goodness, they were good.

We never felt rushed. Our food was delicious, and best of all we had time to enjoy it. It was easily the best experience I've had at the Robinson. And consider the bigger picture, Ty said it was the most enjoyable dining-out experience we'd had in a long time. We were so pleased. Pleased enough to do it again on our own dime and invite others.

It was the perfect dinner and a movie date night. Our food was d-lish, and the movie, "Away We Go," was humorous and heartwarming. It just goes to show, the Robinson's concept is sensational when all gears are go.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

For the Inquiring Minds

Yesterday after work, I was laying on the couch reading a few chapters of "Twilight" when my phone buzzed. It was my friend LJ (aka loner of the book) asking if I'd gotten to the baseball part of the story. Since I didn't know what she was talking about, I said no.

An hour or so later, I was eating dinner at Macaroni Grill with my bible study group when my friend Jenny asked me what I thought of "Twilight" so far. I'd stayed up until 2 a.m. Sunday night reading, so I told her obviously it was getting better than I first expected. She insisted that I update my blog on my evolving impression of the book. The people need to know!

Since I'm halfway through the book, it seems like a good time to reflect. And since my fellow "Twilight" reading friends are so curious on my thoughts, I'll give them to you. Here they are in no specific order:

1. It's written by a woman named Stephenie. Although I prefer my spelling, any Stephanie/Stephenie on the best-seller list deserves my support.

2. Much like Bella, I hang on Edward's every word. I stay up way past my bedtime, wondering what he'll say next. However, I don't like his mood swings or his freak outs. Sure, he wants to drink her blood and all that. But if he can control that urge, why can't he handle his emotions?

3. Why is everyone else in this town so annoying?

4. At this point, I don't know if I like the message the book gives about love and relationships. It's as if the author is telling young girls to like the bad guy because deep down he's really good. Women: If any guy tells you he's fighting the urge to kill you, it's probably not going to work out. That shouldn't make you more deeply attracted to him. It should make you run.

5. Each time Bella speaks or thinks about Edward, her impressions always have to do with his looks. Other than that, she's kind of scared of him. It's a lustful physical attraction, which to me doesn't equal love. Love takes a lot more. And, at least in my mind, love and fear have nothing in common.

Again, these are my impressions only halfway through the book and, of course, they are subject to change. When I shared some of my thoughts with Jenny last night, she instructed me to keep reading. She said one of the things she loves most about the book is how much Edward loves Bella. Maybe I'll start to see more of that very soon. Right now, I feel like the book is floating somewhere between "Harry Potter" and a teenage version of Harlequin romance.

Despite my conflicted thoughts, I will say that Stephenie Meyer has captured my attention — I absolutely love when a book can do that. I'm entertained and turning the pages.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Positive Charge

I'm currently working on a story called "The Power of Positive People." I'm meeting with local people who always seem to see the glass half-full. Hence, my meeting with Judy (see a few posts below) in the middle of her crazy, hectic book launch schedule.

I've noticed more recently how negative energy weighs me down. Being around a Negative Nancy (no relation to my actual friend Nancy) completely changes my spirit. I become withdrawn, almost itching in my skin to be out of that person's presence and praying the Lord will give me the patience to get through that time. Some people don't intend to be so negative. It takes much more to be positive, and people often give in to that lazy, negative state of mind.

If negative people make me feel so icky, I surly don't want to be that for anyone else. So, I'm doing my best to condition my mind toward life's positives. I understand if you think this is hokey.

When I left the newspaper, executive editor Alan English gave me a book, "Write it Down, Make it Happen." The premise is to make a list of everything you want to accomplish in life and work toward making each thing happen. At the time, I thought it was a nice gesture but somewhat cheesy. As time has passed, I've been thinking the book has some merit. Perhaps, it's because I'm (possibly) approaching a transitional period in my life. My goals are not as shortsighted as before. I'm thinking about the next 10, 15, 20 years regarding everything from my job, to my finances and even relationships.

Maybe I'll take some time in the near future to write down my list instead of leaving it simply to my memory. But, I think my first step is to become more positive. To remove myself from toxic situations and believe there really is some power in being positive.

Friday, August 7, 2009

If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It

Each Christmas my family gangs together to get my grandparents something really nice. One year it was a dishwasher. Last year, it was a deluxe fryer, in which my grandmother responded, "It's so cute. Isn't that just adorable? (Pause) What is it?"

What is it .... What is it??? Well, of course it's the Cutest Little Fish Fryer the World has Ever Seen! Some of the gifts are appreciated, others are not. Take for instance, the year we got my grandparents a new cordless phone or a toaster oven. Months later, the gifts were still in their original boxes in one of the back bedrooms. Yes, the knobs had fallen off the current toaster, but all you have to do is turn the knob with a flathead screwdriver and it still works. What's the big deal?

Old people resist change. I'm sure your grandparents are the same way. However, having not even reached the 30 mark myself, I'm a little disturbed to see symptoms of this in my life at such a young age. This has recently been brought to my attention or I'd probably never noticed it myself. Three examples:

1. My sweet Motorola Razr. I got my Razr about four years ago. It was on the cusp of going out of style, but I wanted it anyway. In fact, I was willing to upgrade my contract in order to get it. It is now considered a dinosaur in the cell phone industry. I might as well be Zack Morris with my big white phone. Or better yet, perhaps I'll get a phone installed into the console of my Envoy.

I hadn't noticed how outdated my Razr was until my friend Lauren mentioned it one night at dinner. "Oh my gosh, whose Razr is that?" It was mine, what's the problem? Well, since then I've noticed the problem is NO ONE else uses a Razr anymore. The only person I see using a Razr is me. What's worse, I was given a new phone when I started working at SB. Of course I didn't want that piece of crap ... I wanted my cracked-up, gangster-looking Razr. If that wasn't bad enough, it doesn't even work that well. After charging all night, I had a 9 min 47 second conversation with LJ this morning and my battery is dead.

2. My Gold Flip Flops. The pro to this story is that I actually do notice that these $15 Old Navy flops have seen better days. I would post a picture but some may find it nauseating. They are ratty, but I haven't found a replacement pair. Let's see, the sole is coming apart from the top. The gold is pealing off in multiple spots. They're worn down to the sole on some parts. And I often have to grab some scissors and trim stray strings from the thong part. Truthfully, I am a little embarrassed by these. If I wear them out, which I do quite often, I try to hide them under the table to avoid ridicule. I do get made fun of for my horrid flops very often. I'm pretty sure my friends question why I wear them. Surly, I can spring $15 bucks for some new ones. It's become a running joke, but I'm not going to settle for some shoes I don't like just because I can literally feel the gravel underneath my feet. What do you think I am, stupid?

3. My Coach Purse. A Christmas gift several years back, I consider my purse a "timeless" item. It's not going out of style, and in my case, it's not going anywhere. I think I will probably die with this Coach bag hanging from my shoulder. And God willing, I hope to live a long time. With that being said, because an item is timeless doesn't mean you have to carry it until the end of time, which is what I seem to be doing. I see other purses, sure. Sometimes I even like them. But then I think — like most 70-year-olds — "Well, I've got a perfectly good purse right here." I smile and give my old faithful Coach an admiring pat-pat.

I need to get out of this funk — I do realize that. However, if you see me out, talking on my Razr, wearing my gold flip flops and lugging around my Coach bag, please don't judge. Apparently, I enjoy looking like a pauper.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Filtering in the Good

I met earlier this week with one of my favorite people, Judy Christie. Some people know Judy as the former editor of The Times. Others recognize her as the local author of the "Hurry Less, Worry Less" series. Some of you have just recently been introduced to Judy as a first-time novelist and author of "Gone to Green." I have the privileged of knowing Judy on a more personal level, although I first met her in a professional setting.

While working at The Times, then-editor Alan English picked four young journalists to spend time over the course of several weeks with Judy. It was a leadership development course, and it ended up being a treat for me. Judy's the kind of person who makes you write your life goals on a coffee filter or diagram your life with crayons on white printer paper. But through those elementary exercises, I stopped and reflected on my life. Mistakes. Accomplishments. Past, Present, Future. I felt motivated and refreshed by the end of those sessions. That's how I usually feel after spending any amount of time with Judy.

When I left the Glenwood Tea Room on Tuesday, after spending an hour or so with Judy, I felt several things. Inspired to do more, be better, seize each moment for what it's worth. Then, on the other side of the coin, I felt a bit like a lost puppy. It's easy to live on cruise control, but stay there for too long and you'll awaken to find you're completely unaware of your life's big picture.

I'm grateful to have a beautiful life. I'm in love with the best man. He's an excellent friend, he's logical and sound. Just good as can be inside and out. I have sincere friends. Women who are willing to listen, take on a bit of the load and pray. I have a supportive family. My dad is an excellent adviser. When asked, he weighs out decisions with me for hours sometimes. And I'm blessed with an uplifting church. They're people who don't preach, but do. They give, give, give.

With all of these blessings, how could I be so unaware at times? It seems so simple — and you all may think I'm completely off my rocker — but life is to be enjoyed. I want to be aware of the great things I have. I want to be aware of my life's journey and what I need to be doing to get from point A to B. It really is simple, but day-to-day living tends to weigh you down with distractions.

Judy always gives me a lot to think about, whether she intends to or not. That's the best thing about her. It just oozes out, which means it's sincere. I appreciated her time, the tea and the scones. But more than anything, I appreciated her inspiration.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

'Twilight' on the Horizon

Several months ago (OK, it was actually in March), my friend LJ gave me her copy of "Twilight" and the second book ... not sure on the title. Last night, halfway hating myself, I cracked it open. LJ has been threatening to take them back if I don't start reading them, so I figured it was now or probably never.

You would have to live in an alternate universe to have never heard of "Twilight." Normally, if a friend recommends a good book, I'll read it. But when the whole world is recommending it, I think it's too popular to really be of much literary value. That probably makes me a book snob, but then you throw in the words "tween" and "vampire" and you lose my interest entirely. However, trusting the opinion of my dear friend, I rolled my eyes and flipped to page one last night.

I read through the first few pages, half expecting my eyes to glaze over and my mind to become entranced in the story. I expected to not be able to flip through the pages fast enough. I expected I would have to put down my book around 2 a.m. and force myself to go to sleep. But none of those things have happened so far.

There's a chance that in the next week, I will eat these words. However, as of right now — Aug. 5 — I ask, what's the big deal? There's a chance that I'll swoon for Edward, the hunky, handsome vampire. Worst case scenario, there's a chance I'll become one of these (picture below).

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Weighing the Pros and Cons

I've come to realize I'm not a good decision maker. Consider the dreaded question, "What do you want to eat?" My response is typically, "I don't know, what do you want?" Answering a question with a question is often very effective in getting you off the hook. However, not very effective in actually deciding what to eat.

Indecisiveness isn't a huge problem for me. Trying on eight outfits before picking one isn't going to ruin my life. It may look like a hurricane tore through my closet, but I'll live. In a professional setting, I'm a strong decision maker. Personally, not so much. I want to make the people I love happy. When making a decision, you always run the risk of making the wrong choice. I don't want to make the wrong choice when it affects other people. Is that so bad?

So, right now I have decision on my plate. It's not as easy as a dinner decision. It takes some real thinking. I find my head gets swirly when making big decisions, so my solution is the Pros and Cons List. Perhaps it's because I'm a writer, but putting the pen to the paper usually brings me to a clear decision. There's risk involved in some decision making, once I write it all out I feel I've calculated that risk as either safe or risky.

I'd like some feedback on how you make decisions. Perhaps making a decision to be a better decision maker is the first step.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Oatmeal, Cornmeal, Miss a Meal

Friday night was nothing like what I expected. First of all, Friday evening extended into Saturday morning. I can't remember the last time that happened. Second of all, our evening had been strange enough. Top that with the fact that we ended up at Murrell's. It seemed like a good idea since the restaurant would be closing the following day. From Ernest's to Murrell's, didn't see that happening.

Nancy, Lauren and I started our evening having drinks and appetizers at Ernest's. We even had reservations, however a series of things went wrong:

1. We were age discriminated. Sometimes it doesn't pay to be young. We had 7:30 reservations, but the older crowd with 8 to 8:30 reservations was seated before us. Three tables opened and we kept watching older people walk in and be seated immediately, while we waited at the bar an hour past our reservation time. I can't really write anything bad about Ernest's. It's a classic, and as the host said, "You forget about time when you're here." But why is it never a problem when I eat here with my parents? Not that I'm calling my parents old.

2. Papa Nick. He really is an endearing older gentleman. He's 85 and bopping around Ernest's in a tuxedo. There's something to appreciate about that. Understandably, his memory isn't as sharp as it used to be. We heard the same jokes up to three times each, and continued to laugh as to not hurt an old, sweet man's pride. "Oatmeal, Cornmeal, Miss a Meal." I've memorized that punchline. He really was very sweet.

3. Bathroom fight with a prostitute. The last place I would expect to see a fight, much less almost be involved in one, would be at Ernest's. My guess is the lady was a prostitute. She was with a much older gentleman. She dressed the part. And she was uneasy and confrontational. It's quite the story, however it ends with the lady getting in Lauren's face. I thought she was going to knock my friend out, so I signaled for the sheriff, who kindly asked the woman to leave. The woman's response, "What's it to you?" Was I really seeing this? Was she going to fight the cop?

Friday was such an unbelievable, overwhelming evening, Ty and I did next to nothing for the rest of our weekend. A fight at Ernest's, meeting up with the guys at the Cub and a late night meal at Murrell's. It's going to be a long time before we do that again. And I have to say, that's more than alright with me. I think we're all ready to return to the regular routine.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday Night Man-quet

Pardon to logo, I know it doesn't fit the artwork typically displayed here, but I've got a good explanation. Tonight, the gentlemen will be attending the Delta Waterfowl Banquet. I'm not 100 percent sure what the guys do at the banquet. I think there is a meal, maybe items for sale or an auction, and I know there's a cash bar. I only take note of the really important things.

This doesn't sound like much fun to me (Not that I was invited). I'm not big on hunting. I hate the weekends that Ty is gone. I tend to bake just to pass the time. It just seems like one of those things a woman is traditionally supposed to do while her beau is gone on a hunt. He brings back duck, I bake cupcakes. Fair trade.

Second, I don't really like banquets. The food is always mediocre. There's usually a speaker. It's too official sounding for a Friday night. Once again, not that I was invited. So, with the men attending their Man-quet, that leaves the girls with an open agenda. And I personally believe our night is going to be spicier than the guys.

Tonight, Nancy, Lauren and I will be having drinks and apps in the lounge at Ernest's. If the food and atmosphere weren't terrific enough, then factor in the tipsy old people dancing and you've got a home run. We have a few more months before duck season opens, but I'm wondering if we should go ahead and reserve a table for November through February. Crab claws and hot shrimp. Now, that's how you spend a Friday night.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

On the Court, You Can Call Me Stephie (Graf)

I would call my friend Nancy a tennis person. I always knew she loved the game. But when she got into a "discussion" with my dad on whether EastRidge membership funds should go to tennis or golf, I knew she really love the game.

Two things about that:
1. My dad isn't one of those people you have these "discussions" with. If he wasn't my father, even I would be intimidated by this man. But since I'm the only girl, it's no sweat.

2. He's the current club champ at EastRidge. He owns a golf course. He's been traveling about twice a month to play golf at other courses. He will never agree that money should go to any sport at EastRidge other than golf.

You've got to love Nancy for trying. So, this morning I get in to the office and there's an e-mail from Nancy titled "tennis????" Question mark is right.

"Want to play on our beginners tennis team? ... It would be really fun! Let me know if you are in!"

First of all, I'm not swayed by exclamation marks. Weak punctuation. But something happened between that first sentence and last, something very powerful. Nancy listed all the names of my friends who've already agreed to the beginner tennis team. Rats. No one likes to be left out. So, I thought of all the pros and cons.

Pros: cute skirts, exercise, hanging out with friends, maybe drinking wine with friends afterwords.

Cons: The only time I've hit a tennis ball was against the garage door, I don't have a racket, heck — I don't even know how to keep score.

While the cons are rather powerful, I've always wanted to wear cute tennis clothes. I may get a cute outfit, but my overall feeling is that this is going to be tragic. Fortunately, the league doesn't start until September, so I've got some time to practice. The only question that remains is who's willing to lend me a free lesson or two?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

It's Bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S

As I watched "Big Brother" last night, I couldn't help but laugh. Casey, one of the housemates, was ordered to wear a banana costume for a week. It was silly enough to make me laugh, but top that with one really great memory and I was a non-stop laugh-box.

This past October, I decided to host a birthday/Halloween bash at the house for my friend Kate's birthday. I always have a problem when it comes to Halloween. Throughout the year, I can think of excellent costumes, but come October I can't remember any of them. While my costume was rather specific and I ran the risk of many people not knowing who I was, those who got it loved it. Let's just say I was my favorite local gal reporter. Kate had a simpler approach that was equally successful. She was a banana. See for yourself:

You don't see a walking banana every day, so when you do, it's pretty funny stuff.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I Ant Kidding

I once had a German Shepherd named Princess. I loved Princess. She was a little rough to play with considering she underestimated her strength. But I would play with Princess until I got scared of her and then I would go inside.

I specifically remember one play day with Princess. We were in the front yard when she charged toward me, jumped on me and knocked me over. She knocked the breath out of me and also knocked my head into a mound of ants. Why did it have to be my head? I have three times as much hair as the average human ... and it's curly. We must have washed my hair 10 times, and to this day I can't recall anything so painful and frustrating. Needless to say, we didn't keep Princess much longer. She was too rough around young kids. And needless to say, I have a deep-rooted hatred for ants.

All of this came back to me when I walked to my car yesterday. I needed to go home and let the pups out, however that wasn't going to happen. Somehow, my car had become a moving ant mound. There were ants on the bumper, under the hood, running along the inside foot board and just about everywhere else. It looked as if an entire family of ants had moved in and made my car their home.

I'm not sure how something like this happens, but my only answer was a combination water hose/ant spray treatment. I was fortunate to have a team of co-workers pitching in, as well as a group of shocked on-lookers. One person tracked where the ants were coming from, someone else sprayed water and another person followed with the ant spray. By the end of the treatment, there wasn't much movement. It appeared as if we'd killed the swarm.

Occasionally, I'll see a straggler or two. I smacked one on the dash last night and another one on my door this morning. With all this rain, I haven't seen much movement. Hopefully, the problem is solved. I'm afraid that if they put their minds together, my car might turn up missing.

Monday, July 27, 2009

(Aussie)ome Chicken

It's Monday, which means menu planning day. As my routine would have it (and I love a good routine), this is the day I analyze my week and decide which nights I'll be cooking a scrumptious dinner for my man. How 1940s of me, I know.

This evening, I'll make my very organized grocery list and get all the goods I need to cook with this week. In a bit of a food funk, I commissioned the help of my dear sister-in-law last week. She came through with this delicious winner-winner chicken dinner recipe, and I thought perhaps it could help a gal or two with their menu planning.

Alice Springs Chicken is a longstanding favorite dish at Outback. What's not to love about a chicken breast topped with bacon, mushrooms and cheese — besides the calories, let's not think about those. So, Ashley had a simple recipe on how to make this at home and it turned out perfectly.

Here you go, try this for yourself. You'll need ...

For the marinade

1 cup Dijon mustard
1 cup honey
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice

— Combine, stirring for about a minute.
— Pour half of mixture over chicken in a gallon Ziplock and marinate for 1 to 2 hours. (I use this time to get in a quick workout. Better to burn off in advance, right?)
— Chill remaining marinade to serve with chicken.

For the chicken

4 to 6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 slice of bacon per chicken breast
3 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese

— Preheat oven to 375.
— Put oil in a frying pan. Heat and sear chicken on both sides.
— Transfer chicken to an oven-safe pan and brush with marinade.
— Meanwhile, in a frying pan add butter and saute mushrooms.
— Season chicken breast with salt, pepper and paprika.
— Stack bacon across each breast, spoon mushrooms on each and sprinkle with cheese.
— Cover pan with foil and bake 7 to 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Friday Funeral

We had a funeral service for my great aunt Beryl today. Just shy of 95, she was a remarkable lady. She taught for 38 years and spent much of her life living in New York and Washington, D.C. However, by the time I was growing up, she was living back in Shreveport and working with her brothers at Netherton Construction.

I loved Beryl. I loved that she spent holidays with us. I loved her elegance and gentle tone. She had such a sweet spirit. Each year for Christmas, she gave my brother, cousins and I subscriptions to Highlights Magazine. I was still getting a subscription to Highlights well into my teenage years.

In the later years of her life, Beryl suffered from Alzheimer's, which is a terrible disease to watch someone endure. Each day my grandfather would go visit her. He would take her to get her hair done or to the store. They did whatever Beryl wanted or needed to do. My grandfather and his brothers had a special relationship. They were always a tight knit group. They worked together, lived on the same street, even honeymooned together. But Beryl was the heart of the family.

My grandfather loved his sister deeply. It was evident by his tears today. It broke my heart to see him so sad, to see him mourn the loss of his only sister. I can't imagine life without my brothers. I don't know what it feels like to be the last of your siblings, but I know my grandfather's heart hurts.

There were quirky moments to today's funeral. I think my grandfather was wearing some of my grandmother's sunglasses (the big Jackie O kind). My dad's cousin Buster looked as if he were going to take over the podium. And my cousin Bryan Grisham talked until someone in the audience passed out from the heat. It was an abrupt end. We didn't get around to "Amazing Grace." But it was a great way to remember Beryl. After all, it wouldn't be a true Netherton function without a few bumps in the road.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Wedding Dance

Speaking on behalf of the wedding party for my friends LJ and Marcus, I really think we should consider doing this.

What do you think?

Dinner (and a Movie) Impossible

I had been looking forward to last night all week. Ty and I were going to do dinner and a movie at the Robinson Film Center. We regularly have "date nights," but they're often spent with a group of other couples. It's always a lot of fun, but I was really looking forward to a night out with just Ty.

He had never been to the Robinson, so I was waiting on the perfect movie for us to go. I couldn't do a foreign film, documentary or old-timey black and white picture show. Not really Ty's thing and sometimes a stretch for me, too. "Weather Girl" was going to be perfect. Written, directed and produced by two Bossier City natives, everything I'd seen on the film looked fantastic. A romantic comedy but not nauseatingly girlie.

We decided to do dinner at Abby Singer's Bistro on the second floor of the Robinson. I thought it would give Ty a full picture of all the place has to offer. We arrived in plenty of time, picked a seat on the balcony and waited for service. We waited and then waited some more and then Ty decided to make sure the staff knew we were there.

At this point, I already had a nagging feeling that this meal would not go so well, but I fought the feeling and ordered a glass of wine. We also ordered an appetizer and two entrees. Unfortunately, an hour and a half later we still hadn't seen the appetizer. With 10 minutes to showtime, we canceled our order and got in line for popcorn. It was a massive disappointment. Not to mention, the void left in my stomach from my dinner that wasn't.

The movie was excellent. It was well-written and filled with intelligent humor. The final showing is today at 7:45 p.m. — go see it. However, if you want to order dinner and actually eat it, opt for somewhere other than Abby Singer's. As we left the theater there were numerous people talking about being hungry. They too had to abandon their dinner orders.

What a shame. What's the point in having a restaurant at the movie theater if you can't get your patrons fed in time for their movie. I didn't want to eat a full meal at 10 p.m., but I had to do something — my stomach was tickling my backbone. No worries, Abby Singer's. With each bite of my Ham and Cheddar Lunchable, I thought about the pork tenderloin I intended to eat about three hours prior.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Crack from Carrabba's

I don't typically enjoy dining at chain restaurants, but I will make the occasional exception — especially for Italian food. To explain my perspective, we have to take a look at the few local Italian spots.

Work lunch meetings require me to eat Monjuni's once a week. If you are forced to eat at any restaurant a minimum of once a week for roughly a year, you will begin to despise everything from the sweet marinara to the signature muffaletta. Considering there have been weeks where I've eaten Monjuni's four days in a row, let's just say my relationship with the restaurant is strained at best. I do not eat here in my spare time.

There are a few great spots in Bossier — Lil Italiano and Notini's — but they are nowhere near the vicinity in which most of my daily life takes place. Therefore, out of sight, out of mind. Then there's Olive Street Bistro. If not my all-time favorite restaurant, it is at least my favorite Italian restaurant. Love it, but it's mine and Ty's special occasion place. It's romantic and cozy and fun, so to keep that pizazzy feeling we don't eat there often. Hence, special occasion.

So, that leaves us with two chain options for Italian — Macaroni Grill and Carrabba's. Ty prefers Smack Grill, while I like Carrabba's. So, we negotiate. Sometimes we eat at my fave, and other times we eat at his. After all, isn't the secret to successful relationships compromise?

That brings me to the point of this blog. They are serving crack at Carrabba's. It's customary for guests to be greeted with a basket of warm bread and a dish of EVOO. Sometimes they put cracked pepper in the olive oil, other times it's balsamic vinegar or cheese. Carrabba's oil comes with a mixture of herbs and spices that we refer to as crack. Before you even get your Chicken Bryan, you've eaten four loaves of bread and sopped up enough seasoning to exhale a fire of garlic.

The last time we ate at Carrabba's, we bought some crack to take home from our drug dealer/waitress. It's safer to eat the crack at home because I usually don't get four loaves of bread at the grocery store. So once we finish eating, I don't feel as though I need to purge before the bread swells and makes me feel like death.

I made a cozy home-cooked Italian meal last night. Ty's favorite — cheese tortellini with marinara and homemade alfredo sauce (I'll share this easy recipe later). Once dinner was ready, I pulled out a hot loaf of bread from the oven and poured olive oil over the Carrabba's Crack. What a delicious addiction. I am officially a crackhead.

I found the recipe online. It's not official, but give it a whirl. Or, splurge on a $5 sample for yourself.

1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Blackmail is Such an Ugly Word

It has become common occurrence for Ty and I go to out to the lake or river at least once each weekend. Sometimes we're with Klint. Sometimes we're with Walt and Nancy. We always have a good time.

When we go to the lake, we're usually very active. Everyone (myself excluded) takes turns surfing and we cruise around the lake. But when we go to the river, we pretty much just sit in the water and hope nothing rubs up against our legs. Drinking beer makes me less paranoid about that happening. Those who know me well would consider it a miracle that I get in the murky waters of the Mighty Red at all. But like I said, we have a good time.

My best example of the good times is the Fourth of July. We had two boats filled with people and food. Chicken, pizza, sub sandwiches, ribs, fruit, chips, etc. The girls ended up having a dance party in the boat. The guys pretty much just laughed. And one person snapped pictures the entire time. Some are acceptable — and posted online — but the others have become a source for blackmail. There's nothing raunchy. But the fewer images of me and my friends dancing in our swimsuits, the better. I'm modest, remember!

I believe I have done enough pleading with my blackmailer to save myself for now. But for the time being, I live in fear — and my cover-up.