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, 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  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 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 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:

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