Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Best of 2016

Let's face it.  2016 had some ugly moments.  For just a moment, though, I want to focus on the lighter side of life and provide a list of my favorite things from this year. 

Best New TV Show...This Is Us
I was hooked from the very first episode.  The writing is phenomenal.  To be able to show the viewer the past and present of characters within each episode is a new approach that works surprisingly well.  The casting is great, too.  I especially love how all of the younger versions of Kate, Kevin, and Randall look and act like their grown up versions.

Best Fashion Trend...Less Skinny Jeans
Skinny jeans were in style so long that mom jeans even had a tapered leg.  We're finally seeing boot cut as the preferred option again and even a few wide leg pant styles.  My chicken legs thank you for the change.

Best New Album...Beyoncé "Lemonade"
Holy hell...Bey ain't messing around.  She came back with a vengeance on this album (and stole the Super Bowl half time show without even trying).  Maybe she's making the most of the tabloid headlines, but some great songs came out of it.  We've seen her collaborate before, but "Don't Hurt Yourself" featuring Jack White was an unexpected direction.

Best Make Up Product...Eye Lid Primer
At first, I thought that make up companies were just trying to take our money by making a primer for every part of your face.  Eye lid primer, though, really makes a difference.  I can now work a ten hour day and still have eye shadow on my lids...as opposed to running down my cheeks, in the creases, or the oh so familiar vanishing act.

Best Comeback...Michael Phelps
He has always been a beast, but something was off in 2012.  The personal struggles mimicked those that we saw in the pool.  Flash forward to the 2016 Rio Olympics where he dominated and showed growth as a man, father, and soon to be husband.  He says he is retiring, so luckily we always have this image to remember him by.

Best Instagram Account...Women IRL
Sometimes I prefer a motivational quote or a cat video, but Women IRL is just so real (which is good because IRL stands for In Real Life).  It is nice to see that so many other women are comfortable with sharing the not so perfect side of life.

Best Response to Tabloid Trash...Jennifer Aniston
After years and years of being judged for...well, everything, Jennifer Aniston finally spoke out to the Huffington Post.  Here is a link to her inspirational For the Record contribution.
Best Quote...When They Go Low, We Go High
I will admit it.  I could have used this quote about ten years ago.  It is so easy to fight back with even more toxic words when someone comes at you with some trash.  Thank you to Michelle Obama for giving me this guideline which now helps me when I read the daily trash...a.k.a. Facebook political opinions.

So, here's to you, 2016.  You have taught us a lot and also shown us we have even more to learn.  Here's hoping that 2017 is full of laughter, more open-mindedness, and reasons to celebrate life.

Friday, December 16, 2016

She's Your Lobster Mac & Cheese Recipe

I recently bought a lobster tail with no clear intention of how I would prepare it.  Lobster seems so fancy, but would that mean it was challenging to prepare? 

The answer is no.  I did a quick Pinterest search for lobster recipes (can we all agree Pinterest is the greatest thing on the internet?) and was reminded of how much I love Lobster Mac and Cheese.  Since I didn't have the exact ingredients on hand for any of the recipes I found, I simply used a Pioneer Woman recipe as inspiration.
I'm calling my version She's Your Lobster Mac & Cheese as a tribute to the TV Show Friends.  Here's a video for reference:

I seriously loved Friends, but anyway, back to the recipe...

4 oz Macaroni Shells
4 Tbsp salted butter
4 oz Lobster Tail (meat removed and chopped into chunks)
1/8 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
1 Cup Unsweetened Almond Milk
Ground Sea Salt
Ground Black Pepper 
1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan
1/3 Cup Shredded Cheddar
1/3 Cup Shredded Mozzarella
2 oz Goat Cheese

1. Add your uncooked pasta to boiling water.  However, don't cook to al dente as you normally would.  You'll want it to be a little undercooked since the pasta will be baked as well.  I boiled my pasta for 5 minutes, drained, and set aside.

2. Melt 2 Tbsp of butter in a skillet over medium-high heat.  As it melts down, add the lobster chunks.  Side note from me - breaking the lobster meat out of the shell was kinda gross.  I did it by hand, but I think scissors are the correct method.
3. You should only cook the lobster for 1 minute and then set aside.  Similar to shrimp, lobster doesn't take long to prepare.  Plus, you are going to bake the lobster as well.

4. Speaking of baking, go ahead and pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees at this point.
5. Add the remaining 2 Tbsp of butter to the skillet.  Slowly add in the flour and whisk to combine.  You are making your roux which is one of my favorite cooking words.  It is just fancy for thickening. 

6. After about one minute, add the milk and continue to whisk.  The sauce will bubble and you need to stay focused on whisking it for about three minutes so it doesn't stick to the skillet or get chunky.
7. Add your salt and pepper to taste. 
8. Add your cheeses and stir to combine.  You should have a beautiful, bubbly creation at this point.
9. Add the lobster and pasta to your skillet and stir so that the sauce covers everything.

10. Pour the mixture into a baking dish and top with a little bit more Parmesan.  Bread crumbs would be tasty here, too!
11.  Bake for 20 minutes. 

I was very pleased with how my recipe turned out.  So tasty and comparable to the restaurant varieties I've tried before.  I paired it with broccoli to try to balance out all the carbs and dairy.  I'm excited I finally cooked lobster.  What should I try next?
Close up for your viewing pleasure


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Charlotte's Most Eligible Bachelorette Over 35?

So, Charlotte Five is holding a competition for the most eligible bachelors and bachelorettes in the area and I'm...cough...too old for it.  If I were eligible, below would be my answers to their questions:

Age:  36

Profession:  Event Manager (Thirteen years with racecars led me to one year and counting with performing arts...because that was the obvious path).

Tinder Profile Line (Feel Free to Create One Here):  Tinder is horrible (but seriously it is).

Brewery or Wine Bar:  Wine bar, but I would never say no to a brewery.

U.S. Whitewater Center or EpiCentre:  Neither?  I am one of the few people in Charlotte who has never been to the whitewater center, but I am not ready yet after that whole brain eating amoeba thing.

Mint Museum visit or Panthers' game:  Panthers' game...100% #KeepPounding

Spirit Animal (or Patronus):  A gazelle (or so I'm told)

Favorite Charlotte Hangout:  The NoDa neighborhood. 

Why should we pick this person, really?  I'm pretty sure someone else is supposed to answer this one for me, but....I'm an independent, self-supporting woman with no kids (don't want them, either) that enjoys new adventures.  I know what I like, but I'll certainly try something new as well.  Watching reality TV shows is my version of therapy.  I enjoy helping other people solve their problems (it's a blessing and a curse).

So, Charlotte Five, when you are ready to recognize the Old Lady Gang in CLT, look me up at @naivelyconfident on Instagram!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Fall Flavors at The Asbury

About one year ago, I was introduced to The Asbury at The Dunhill Hotel.  A friend and I were looking for a new place to try brunch on a cold, rainy weekend in Charlotte.  We saw online that The Asbury was a top rated brunch spot in Charlotte.  We gave it a chance and it did not disappoint.

Since then, I have returned to the restaurant many times for lunch.  Last night was my first time for dinner at The Asbury.

If you are yet to visit this restaurant, you should know that the cuisine is described as modern Southern.  With a menu that changes each season, you'll never run out of options to try.

Each time I have been to this restaurant I have ordered the deviled egg appetizer.  While a staple on the ever-changing menu, Chef Matthew Krenz prepares them differently each day.  The menu description even lists them as "Chef's whim." 

Last night's variety was served topped with chives and crispy country ham.  The crispiness of the meat was a nice contrast to the creaminess of the egg yolk.  Served as a quantity of four, they are perfect for sharing.

For my main course, I decided to go with the chicken pot pie.  The dish is presented in a deconstructed form thus not served in a pie shell.  For those crust lovers, the chicken and root vegetables are still paired with a biscuit.  The chicken breast is boneless and skinless, but not diced as you would normally see in a pot pie.  The same applies to the whole carrots still intact with a short stem.  While a typical pot pie has a heavy cream base, this dish is resting in a light roasted lemon jus and beets.  Although lighter, the portion size is plentiful and you'll leave feeling full.  I would have liked a little more biscuit to sop up the light sauce and smaller bites, but overall a really nice addition to the current menu.

For those who enjoy a season cocktail with each meal, I highly recommend the Fall Punch.  It is a perfect blend of tequila, elderflower liqueur, apple cider, lemon, and cinnamon.  For those who fear the strong flavor of a tequila, you cannot taste it in this drink. 

The Dirt Candy was recommended to me by the staff, but I thought it might be a bit too thick for a before dinner drink.  This beverage is comprised of gin and sweet potato, orange, and cardamom flavors.

Looking for a non-alcoholic seasonal drink?  They have two options with the Apple Cider Shrub Fizz and the Herbalizer.  The Apple Cider Shrub Fizz got two thumbs up from my pregnant friend.

The fall menu at The Asbury cannot be missed.  It is full of other comfort food options like Shrimp and Grits and Beer-Braised Pork Cheeks.  For the vegetarians, there is a Steamed Babbage Roll that is stuffed with spaghetti squash and mushrooms.

I'm told the winter menu is going through final approval this week which leads me to believe the fall menu won't be around much longer.

On your next trip to Uptown, don't overlook The Asbury on the corner of Tryon and Sixth Streets.  The dining room is small and quaint, but also perfect for group dinners.  The service is always top notch.  The staff is very attentive and educated on the menu.  For those not from Charlotte and also looking for accommodations in Uptown, the restaurant is located inside of The Dunhill Hotel. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

An Open Letter to the Powerful Women

To say people are vocal about their thoughts on the outcome of the election is an understatement.  Admittedly, it didn't turn out the way I hoped it would, but getting angry about it doesn't change the outcome. 

Feeling defeated isn't the right reaction either.  In the twenty-four hours that followed election night, I unfortunately heard several women express statements of hopelessness. 

"We'll never have a woman president now."

"It's not even worth trying to fight for equal pay."

"We will always be considered less than a man."

Where did all the strong women go?  Are we really just going to give up like that? 
For me, personally, what happened on Tuesday night is just more motivation.  We were thisclose to having our first woman president.  (Some might even argue she should have won since she had more votes in the Popular Vote) I don't understand why we would give up now when we are the closest we've ever been.

Now is the time to use her hard fought battle as inspiration.  Keep pushing boundaries.  Keep making your voice heard.  Stand up for your rights.  Since when do we lose one battle and quit fighting additional ones?

We need to fight to keep the rights we have earned.  We control our bodies, not the government. No matter where you stand on the abortion issue, let's all agree that should be the decision of the involved parties.

Stand together, ladies.  Continue to support each other.  Let your daughters know the same.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Heirloom: Charlotte Foodies' Tasting Experience & Review

Last night, I lived a foodie's dream come true.  Due to my recent contributions to www.cltfoodies.com, I was able to join diners at Heirloom Restaurant for a six course meal.

Um, hello, six courses?  I didn't even know that was possible.  Here is a photo play by play of the evening along with my thoughts on each round.

1st Course - Lucky Clay’s Butter LettuceBosky Acres Cream Cheese, Against the Grain Farm Jimmy Nardello Peppers, Ann Marie’s Dutch Salt Crust Croutons, Boyle Farm Red Onion


Review:  A very tasty salad due to the spicy peppers.  I love spicy food, so it was perfect for me.  I enjoyed the presentation of the salad as it was served on a slate slab to each diner.

2nd Course - “The Chef’s Farmer’s” Butternut Squash BisqueSpiced Squash Seeds, Wicking Bed Lemon Balm Oil

Review:  This soup was very creamy.  I find that butternut squash can have a strange taste sometimes, but this one was incredibly creamy and smooth on the pallet.  I assume that was due to the lemon balm oil.  The squash seeds added a nice crunch.

3rd Course - Harmony Ridge Egg Yolk Pasta RusticoDover Farm Heirloom Tomato Sauce, Dunnie Smith’s NC Wild Shrimp, Ma Cha’s Thai Chili, Barbee Farm Confit Garlic, Wicking Bed Arugula, UAV Mozzarella

Review:  The sauce on this pasta tastes like a buffalo chicken dip (that is a compliment in my book).  The type of pasta noodle was an unusual choice, but I still enjoyed it.  There were entire cloves of garlic in the dish which I loved.

4th Course - Harmony Ridge Duck BreastAgainst the Grain Farm Magic Molly Potatoes, Paul Brewington’s Kale, Duck Jus

Review:  I'm not an expert on duck, but I found this course delicious.  The potatoes and kale were prepared to perfection.

5th Course - Cackleberry YogurtAnn Marie’s Caramelized Spent Grain & Chef Foraged White Walnut Granola, Rooftop Honey, Renfrow Hardware Wonderful Pomegranate

Review:  Another fantastic presentation with the cheese course arriving on the slate.  I wasn't sure what to think about this dish based on appearance only.  I expected to receive yogurt in a bowl or small dish.  The pomegranates were very tart...a little too tart for my taste.  The spent grain and white walnut granola were very crunchy.

6th Course - S’moreRenfrow Hardware Fire Roasted Chestnuts, Graham Cake, French Broad Chocolate Sauce, Mallow

Review:  This course was the one I had looked forward to the most all day.  It lived up to expectations.  The graham cake had a saltiness to it that paired perfectly with the sweet chocolate and marshmallow.

The overall experience at Heirloom was fantastic.  I would definitely go there again.  The service was on point.  The chef and pastry chef came out at the end of the evening to say hello.  They are both very humble and have a passion for preparing food.

For anyone hoping to take part in a foodie dinner experience like this one in the future, make sure you are following @cltfoodadventures on Instagram as well as the website www.cltfoodies.com.  More opportunities are currently in the works!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

How I Got My Degree at WebMD

Doctors will caution you not to self diagnose via the internet.  I disagree.  Without the access to WebMD, I never would have been able to diagnose myself with Ankylosing Spondylitis in record time.

The Beginning (January 2010)

I was living the very active life of a traveling event manager.  I slept on airplanes, ate overpriced room service, and managed motorsports Opening Ceremonies nearly twenty weekends per year. 
Opening Ceremonies at Daytona International Speedway
(Tim Tebow still played college football at this time)

During a night at home, I woke up in the middle of the night with a sore eye.  It felt like it was maybe a scratch.  It was very sensitive to light.  When I say very sensitive, I mean it was painful to look at my digital alarm clock in the dark room.  I was even sensitive to the brightness when my eyes were closed.  I managed to sleep the remainder of the night, but woke up the next morning with an extremely red eye.  I didn't have an eye doctor at the time (I was slacking on making appointments in the past three years that I had lived in Charlotte.  I have perfect vision thanks to LASIK). 

I made an appointment with an optometrist near my house.  I was then referred to an ophthalmologist.  This doctor diagnosed me with uveitis which is an inflammation to the muscle in the eye.  He prescribed steroid eye drops and dilating eye drops for several weeks of treatment.  The treatment was mostly painless, but the ophthalmologist wanted to put me through several rounds of tests to see what might have contributed to the uveitis.

I was tested for what felt like everything possible.  Chicken Pox and Shingles, various STDs, and so much more.  One test the doctor ran came back positive.  It was for the gene HLA-B27.  I believe my response was, "What exactly is that??"  He explained that it was a genetic marker that often led to inflammatory issues within the body and I might have problems later on in life.

I did what any good person would do.  I came home and immediately Googled HLA-B27.  I found that what he said was 100% accurate and that this gene often led to diagnoses of Crohn's, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Uveitis (hey, that's me!), Psoriatic Arthritis, and Ankylosing Spondylitis.  I had to do some research on that last one, but it turns out it was a type of arthritis that typically affects younger people.

Flash forward to October 3,2011

Moments before the drivers' mom said
"Drivers, Start Your Engines"

I was still living the glamorous (sometimes not so glamorous) life of a traveling event manager.  I woke up the morning of October 3rd feeling like an 80 year old woman, though.  My back was so stiff that I couldn't bend it.  I sort of had to roll out of bed.  I took two ibuprofen and went on to work. For the next two weeks, I continued to have back pain off and on.  Something also just felt off in my body.  I can't explain how I felt, but I didn't feel like I normally did.  I decided to see a Primary Care Physician.  (Guess what?  I didn't have one of those either.)  Again, I found an office by my house and made an appointment to see a lady who looked nice in her picture on their website. 

I was able to get in about two days after I requested the appointment.  I sat down with the doctor and explained my symptoms.  I then added, "I also thought I should let you know that I have the HLA-B27 gene and I might have Ankylosing Spondylitis."  She turned her head to the side and looked up at the ceiling like she was trying to do math in her head.  After a brief pause, she said "I remember that from Medical School."

I underwent a few tests that revealed a bulging disc in my back.  For the next two months, I began treatment with pain medication and physical therapy.  It was possibly helping, but definitely not fixing the problem.  I began seeing a physiatrist which in layman's terms is a doctor that treats general pain and works on a rehabilitation plan.  I told him my HLA-B27 theory, but he was focused on treating the bulging disc.

My pain was continuing and I had developed the new symptom of swollen/inflamed ankles.  They were so inflamed that I could not bend them.  I was walking with a limp.  I would have to stretch them out multiple times a day to help with mobility.  I recall how challenging it was to stand up after a seat position.  When your back is in pain and your ankles won't budge, you become a bit limited.  Admittedly, I felt quite defeated.

I didn't stay defeated for too long.  Something was wrong with my body and it was up to me to make them find it.  I called the primary care physician's office back and said "I know you all think I am crazy, but something is wrong.  I really think I have this disease and I need to come back in."

They scheduled an appointment the following morning (score one point for this crazy bitch).  The doctor came in the exam room and said "I've been talking to a colleague about you.  There may be something to this gene."  She ran a full set of blood work.  I've honestly never seen that many vials of blood come out of a person.  She also called and got me an appointment with a Rheumatologist for the following week.  (Typical wait time is over a month.  That brings my score to two).

The Diagnosis (January 12, 2012)

On this date, I met Dr. Elnaz Tabrizi.  She spent one hour with me in the exam room.  I told her about every bodily function from the past three months.  She listened and asked additional questions.  Dr. Tabrizi sent me for additional testing (I was pretty sure I had no blood left to give, but they took more).  I also was sent for more x-rays and MRIs.  This time they focused on the sacroiliac joints.  They are located below the waist and connect your pelvis to your spine.  An area commonly affected by Ankylosing Spondylitis in the early stages.

The next day I was home from work.  All that blood work had revealed I had mono (as if I didn't have enough going on already).  I received a phone call mid-day from Dr. Tabrizi.  She gave me the news I had been waiting to hear for over three months.  I had erosion of my sacroiliac joints that is a telling sign of spondylitis.  The first words out of my mouth were "So, I'm not crazy?!".

The average time on diagnosis of Ankylosing Spondylitis is five years.  I managed to get mine in roughly three months.  Let me rephrase that, I fought hard to get mine in roughly three months.  The internet is full of opinions and misinformation.  However, there are some really good websites out there.  Web MD is a trusted source.  The Mayo Clinic is also good for health problems.  There are plenty of sights catered to specific diseases, too.  You just have to be careful not to get caught up in the comments section.

I can't preach this enough...you have to stand up for yourself.  There is absolutely no reason to accept the initial diagnosis a doctor gives you if the treatment isn't fixing your problem.  You know your body better than anyone else ever will.  Before you go to the doctor's office, I encourage you to do your research.  Look into the possible causes, diagnoses, and treatments.  You will thank yourself later.

 My miracle drug

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Struggle of Being a Confident Woman

Why does society continue to frown up a confident woman?  Parents raise their daughter to be confident, but as adult women we're reminded to stay humble.  Finding the perfect balance can be quite the struggle especially as a female in the workplace.

Certain roles within the workplace were designed for women to assist the man with the larger task i.e. secretary, nurse, or hygienist.  These jobs are all very important, let me make that clear.  However, a woman is more accepted in those positions and may not face some of the same critiques if she aspires to a leadership position.

I've never known what I wanted to do with my life, but I always knew I liked being in charge.  I was drawn towards the jobs with more responsibility and the ability to lead others.  It didn't take long to realize that I was going to have to work twice as hard to be seen as a candidate in some roles.  I saw it as an enticing challenge, though, and held my head high as I climbed that corporate ladder. 

I was raised to be an assertive adult.  Because of that, I tend to be perceived as outspoken.  If standing up for yourself and others who can't find their voice is outspoken, then, sure, I'll take that.  My "outspokenness" has done a lot of good in my career.  I've gotten people hired, promoted, and recognized for their hard work.  I've found solutions in the workplace that were otherwise overlooked or kept inside a closed mouth.  Admittedly, I've also contributed to one person getting fired, but I was looking at the big picture of the company at the time.

I'm very confident in my decisions and actions.  I am not afraid to speak up in a meeting or in front of a group of people.  Because of this confidence, I'm often referred to as bossy or as a bitch.  I've been instructed to watch the way I speak to people.  I overcorrected it so much at once point that I was then asked why I was being so quiet.

In the past three years, I've worked very hard to find the balance of being an assertive female, but also choosing my words carefully.  I know that many of the things I say would be viewed appropriate by a man.  I'm not afraid to work on myself and listen to the constructive criticism of others, though.

Photo Credit:  Official Headshot

I know I am not alone in this struggle.  A lot of these challenges are playing out as Hillary Clinton campaigns to be the first woman President of the United States.  Now...I'm not saying I agree with Secretary Clinton on everything, but I think a lot of her actions and mannerisms would be overlooked if she were a man.  She's playing "the game" as well as a man at this point and people do not like it.

Photo Credit:  Sports Illustrated

I see women in sports such as Serena Williams judged on every reaction she has following a match...win or lose.  Even worse, she is judged for her appearance instead of her athleticism (but that's an entirely different blog...).  Pat Summitt was an incredible coach and leader to her players.  She did not sugar coat her words and refused to change her coaching style.  Some saw her as too harsh, but her legacy lives on through her former players and assistant coaches.

 Photo Credit:  www.christianpost.com

I wish I could wrap up this blog with some sort of cute tagline or "Top 5 Things to Know if You are a Bossy Bitch" but, unfortunately, I haven't figured that all out yet.  The best advice I can give to my fellow confident women is to keep speaking up.  Some people may cringe at your assertive ways, but plenty of others are applauding you for taking a stand.  Fight for those who support you; not those who frown upon you. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

NEW BLOG: Charlotte's Dream Team (blog on EWP)

Check out my new blog on Eat.Work.Play Charlotte.  The link is below.  This one was fun for me because I pitched the story to both Eat.Work.Play and the chefs.  It was great to meet them and hear their story.  The link is below if you aren't a regular viewer on www.ewpclt.com.


Thursday, September 29, 2016

Tapas & Cocktails in NoDa

In the nine plus years I’ve lived in Charlotte, I’ve always been drawn to the NoDa neighborhood.  That’s short for North Davidson for anyone outside of Charlotte currently reading this blog.  It has a simplicity you can’t find in any other part of this city.  The vibe is great and the people watching is even better.
In the past year, the NoDa neighborhood has started to see change that leaves some local residents begging for it to remain as is.  However, the positive side of the change is new restaurants to experience.  Davidson Street Public House is one of those new spots.

Specializing in tapas (small plates), Davidson Street Public House makes for a great group outing where you can share several dishes.  The first item I saw on the menu was PBLT Sliders.  If you are wondering what the PB stands for, it is Pork Belly.  Pork Belly is a menu item that used to scare me strictly because of its name.  Once I pushed past the fear, I was able to enjoy a delicious part of the “other white meat.”  This PBLT also includes a fried green tomato and pimento cheese.  So, basically, it embraces all things Southern in one bite.  Each order comes with two sliders which was perfect for my friend and I to each have one.  For a small sandwich, they are very hearty.

The next item we chose to order was the Corn and Jalapeno Fritters.  I don’t know if I can actually explain just how great this item is.  Inside of the crispy exterior is a creamy and spicy ball of cheese.  I found the spice to be very minimal, but some might notice the jalapeno more than I did.  The creaminess is exceptional.  We sort of paused after each bit to embrace the taste and texture.  This dish is served with five fritters.  They are so great that I could have eat all five by myself.  Just my luck – my friend thought they were amazing, so I had to share.

An order of Bruschetta appeared at our table.  It was mistakenly ordered for our table.  We explained to our server and she allowed us to keep it.  We lucked into a great dish.  This bruschetta was beautiful in its presentation atop a black serving board.  The bread slices were topped with tomatoes, red onion, red bell pepper, lemon and goat cheese spread, asiago, and a basil and balsamic glaze.  All of which was flanked by arugula.

You may be thinking we didn’t order anything else, but there is more tasty food to tell you about.  We also ordered the Roasted Brussels Sprouts.  It was served in a cast iron skillet on top of a white serving plate.  These Brussels sprouts had a surprising spicy kick to them that I really enjoyed.  This vegetable is another item that I avoided at a younger age, but have learned that with the proper seasoning and preparation are really incredible.

We completed our food order with the Heaven and Hell Deviled Eggs.  There is jalapeno in the creamy egg mixture, so this spice has become a welcome constant in many of the dishes we ordered.  Topping off the deviled egg is candied bacon which added some crunch and an extra dose of sweet and salty.

All of the tapas we ordered were under $10 each.  We were able to get enough food (actually more than enough as we left a few bites) for an incredibly reasonable price.

In addition to the incredible food, Davidson Street Public House has an extensive drink menu.  In fact, the food menu is one page while the drink menu is nearly five pages.  They serve a variety of wines, specialty cocktails, and craft beers.  The beer selection is pretty impressive as many of them were new names.  The local breweries in Charlotte are also well represented on this menu.  Because there are so many great beers available at this restaurant, I’d love to see flights as a purchase option in the future.

The entire dining experience was flawless.  Shout out to our server, Monique, who helped guide us through the menu, gave us extra time to decide, and split our checks with no issues.  These qualities in addition to the great food and drink made for a perfect Friday night dinner.  With the group style food selections and TVs placed at the bar and along the back wall, I can see this restaurant being a great place to watch an away game for the Panthers.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Catching up with Friends at Lily Bean Coffee

With so many restaurants, bars, and coffee shops in Uptown Charlotte, you rarely have to look outside of Center City to find a place to dine.  I recently decided to take a day trip to Charlotte’s neighbor to the west, Shelby, to expand my knowledge of some of North Carolina’s small businesses. 

The focus of my visit was on Lily Bean Coffee.  I became aware of Lily Bean through a high school classmate, Meghan Stout, who just so happens to own the shop with her husband, Chad.  Maybe that makes me a little biased, but I was impressed the moment I walked in.

Lily Bean Coffee is located at 108 East Warren Street in the heart of Uptown Shelby.  Who knew that a city other than Charlotte referred to their downtown as Uptown?  While I love our city, I was pleasantly surprised by being able to park on the street for free while I checked out the coffee shop in Shelby.

As I entered the shop, I noticed that they had a large crowd for a Saturday morning.  While some customers were settled in to booths, there were also a few at the register deciding on their purchase.  The green walls were decorated with artwork created by local artists.  The art can be purchased at the shop and pricing is listed discreetly beneath each creation.

The furniture throughout the shop varies from soft seating to high top cocktail tables.  While this Saturday morning had a laidback lounge vibe, the space could also be utilized for a small business meeting or job interview.

I kept it simple and ordered a latte during my visit.  It was the first weekend in September, so a Pumpkin flavored coffee would have been the obvious choice.  I mentioned this popular Autumn flavor to Meghan and she told me they serve it all year round.  I repeat – Pumpkin flavored coffee all year round!

My latte was prepared at the perfect temperature to consume immediately.  None of that waiting around and blowing on it to get lower than the temperature of the sun.  I must add, though, that it remained warm through consumption and didn’t cool off to a point where it lost its appeal.

While enjoying my coffee with Meghan, several customers stopped by to say hello on their way in or goodbye on their way out.  I definitely got the feeling that they see a lot of regulars.  It was like the bar where everyone knows your name.

Since I know Meghan has a degree in Communications and holds a full time job in Marketing and Advertising (in addition to a few part time gigs), I had to ask “Why did you and your husband decide to open a coffee shop?”  Her answer may surprise you.  She said she gained interest after searching the internet on how to brew coffee beans. 

She started doing the research and experimentation on her own.  Admittedly, some of the first batches weren’t perfect, but the interest was there and she kept trying it.  As her roasting technique improved, she decide to take the plunge and open a coffee shop with her husband.

They made the decision to open a coffee shop at the beginning of the week and took ownership of an existing space by the end of the week.  That monumental week was nearly five years ago.  They are now in a larger space (the previously mentioned 108 East Warren Street) and have recently expanded to a second location.  This second location is drive thru only in Midtown Shelby at 711 East Marion Street. 

If coffee isn’t a part of your daily routine, you might also be interested in the fact that Lily Bean Coffee occasionally partners with Newgrass Brewing Company.  Newgrass is another small North Carolina business located in Shelby.  They are just around the corner from Lily Bean at 213 South Lafayette Street.  The close proximity makes for the perfect partnership.  While the brewery’s selection often rotates, you can likely find the Lily Bean Golden “Stout” on the menu.  This golden beer is infused with cold coffee extract from Lily Bean as well as cocoa and vanilla flavors.  While it may not have the typical coloring of a stout, the name just made sense based on the coffee shop owners’ last name.

My time in Uptown Shelby was well spent.  Not only did I get to see a classmate that I haven’t seen in over ten years, I was able to experience their laidback culture and dining.  When you live in Charlotte and need your coffee fix fast, you’ll likely go to the closest shop.  However, if you find yourself in Shelby, stop by Uptown or drive through Midtown for the local flavor of Lily Bean.

Monday, September 12, 2016

My First Mammogram

I am thirty-six years old with no breast cancer history in my family.  Even though, I decided to get my first mammogram back in June.  Early detection is key to so many chronic illnesses, but especially Cancer.

Before this blog goes too far, let me start by saying that everything turned out fine.  I want to use this post to explain the process of a mammogram in hopes of lessening the fear in some women.

Here are a few things to know before you go:
1. Don't wear a dress.  Upon arrival at the office, you'll be taken to a changing room where you can take off your shirt and bra.  You'll put on one of those delightful paper gowns that opens in the front.  It only goes to waist level, so you can stay dressed from the waist down.
2. Don't wear lotions, perfumes, and deodorant to your visit.  Now, let's get serious for a minute.  No deodorant?  If you are wearing any of these things, you can use wipes they have in the changing room to remove any traces.
3. Leave your modesty at home.  The technician is going to see, touch, and adjust your breasts.  They are doing their job - not judging your size.

Is it going to hurt?
For me, the process didn't hurt.  It did feel sort of uncomfortable, though.  You have to "plop" your breast (one at a time) up on the imaging surface.  The technician will move it as needed and also adjust the machine so that it squeezes down on your breast.  You can hear the electronic noise as it clamps down and sort of see it happen.  I did notice more uncomfortableness on my left breast compared to my right.  You are only in the squeezed position for about ten seconds.  I had to take two images per side.  Overall - quick and mostly painless!

Getting a call back
The technician was very thorough with me (which I love!) and explained that most women get a call back after their first mammogram.  The reason is that they haven't reviewed images of your breasts before, so anything that might be perceived as abnormal, will be.

Even though I was warned, I still panicked a little bit when I got the call back.  I wondered what they saw; how long "it" had been there; and if I was going to lose my breasts (totally normal reaction...). 

At the call back, the process was very similar.  The technician this time had to take a few additional images of both breasts.  She explained that the doctor was on-site to review the original images again as well as the new images.

I waited in an exam room while the doctor reviewed the images.  The technician came in about ten minutes later and said they needed to take one more image of my left breast.  At this point, I was fully convinced I had cancer.  I knew everything they were doing was routine, but the mind starts to wander while you sit in an empty exam room wearing an open front paper gown.

After I completed the additional image scan, I was able to wait in that same room while the doctor reviewed it.  She came in a few minutes later and told me I had a great baseline.  (Thanks girl.  You too!).  To clarify, a baseline is the first round of images they take when there are no known issues.  They can use those images to compare and contrast in the future.  She went on to say that I don't need to come back until I am forty years old unless my doctor and/or I notice any changes.

Peace of Mind
I'm glad that I went ahead and checked "get a mammogram" off of my to-do list.  Knowing everything is ok at age thirty-six is much better than waiting until forty.  I recommend scheduling your appointment sooner than later.  Make sure you share your story with other women (and men).  The more we educate each other, the better things will be!