Hi, I’m Awkward.

I would like to start out by saying that I manage to function fairly well in society.  For the most part.  And then there are evenings like the one the day after Christmas that one might liken to an electrical short.

The night was off to a good start when my immediate family and my aunt, uncle and cousins agreed to meet up at the local Mexican joint in Burkesville called El Rey.  This happens to be one of my favorite Mexican spots, which might come as a surprise to most culinary connoisseurs considering the other dining choices in the one stoplight town are Subway, Annie Ruby’s, Jones Restaurant and Pizza Hut.   As far as I’m concerned, between my grandmothers’ cooking, Annie Ruby’s, and El Rey, my days would be full and bright.

I ordered a number 5 combo, which is two enchiladas any way you like ’em and what else but rice and beans.  I went for chicken with verde sauce.  Excellent choice if I do say so myself.  My cousin Lauren got fajitas with shrimp and beef that looked like everything you could ever hope for in something hot and sizzling, my sister ordered fajitas nachos, which I think is a genius concept, and my cousin Kristen got chicken, cheese, and rice, a dish that has recently won me over.  I couldn’t see far enough down the table to drool over whatever my parents, aunt and uncle ordered, but I’m sure all of their dishes didn’t disappoint.

I had nearly eaten a basket of warm tortilla chips all by myself when my food arrived.  I don’t know what came over me, but I couldn’t get enough of that salsa.  Though I’m sure I was beyond full at that point, I wolfed down my enchiladas as if I were being timed.  I’m usually among the slowest of eaters.  I can offer no explanation for why I continued to consume Mexican food as if my stomach were a bottomless pit.  I sat back, thoroughly satisfied when our waiter came by to ask if I was finished.  In what can only be described as a state of delirium induced by my bulging stomach, I responded, “I’m funnnyeah.”

I casually looked around the table to see if my cousins and sister had heard what I just said.  Indeed, they had.  They promptly started laughing hysterically as soon as the waiter had cleared my plate.  I think the sound that came out of my mouth was the unfortunate, bigamous marriage of “finished,” “done” and “yes.”  This was funny for the next few hours.  I’m always happy to provide entertainment with the meal.

After our Mexican feast, Eugene, Lauren and I went to Glasgow to see Anchorman II.  Now, every time I’ve ever been to this cinema, the approximately 50 seat theaters are about 1/7 full.  We were a few minutes late, but figured the previews would still be playing and we would have our choice of seats.  Wrong! We opened the door to the theater to find it packed full, with 2 open seats on the far left of the front row, which was approximately 4 feet behind the 25 foot screen.  This sent us into a fit of giggles as we shuffled to the front of the theater and I sat on the edge of Eugene’s seat with my head craned back so far that I was sure I would need a neck brace immediately following the movie.  Every minute for the first 5 minutes of this, one of us would get tickled over our movie-watching arrangement.  By the grace of God, not far into the movie, a few people in the far right front row of the theater decided seeing Anchorman II from 4 feet away wasn’t worth scoliosis and left. Instantly recognizing out moment of opportunity, Eugene, Lauren and I scurried across the front of the theater to the right side where we could each enjoy the movie from our own seat.  We were still so close that the screen was nearly out of focus, but I have to say, at such close range, every inch I could scoot back made a remarkable difference.  Due to our intimate range from the screen, however, there were times during the movie when it was unclear whether we were so close that the image was distorted or if the actors were truly making funny faces.

On the way home from the movie, Eugene and Lauren had a few more good laughs over my mangled attempt at English from dinner.  Miraculously, I had full range of motion in my neck the following morning.

I’m funnnyeah.

Bye,

Sugarlump

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Thanksgiving Trials and Tribulations: The Table

So I decided to have Thanksgiving in the new house, but the funny thing is that I have absolutely no dining room furniture.  Not a stitch.

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I did have these pine cones adorning the mantle across the room.  I found them at a yard sale a few months back.  Too bad you can’t sit on or eat off of them.

With less than a week before Thanksgiving, I had to put on my thinking cap.

My solution was not unlike glamping.

Actually glamping might be more glamorous.

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Thank you to Costco and Ikea, I am the proud owner of a “dining set” for under $100.  Coincidentally, I am now equipped for tailgating.  I’m loving this versatile furniture.

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Because I planned to serve slightly more elegant food than hotdogs and chips, I figured I might want to dress (hide) the table.

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I found just the thing at Wal-mart: tone-on-tone ticking stripe fabric by the yard that I would transform into a tablecloth.  Minor detail: Did I mention that I don’t sew?

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Ta-da!  With some creative cutting and folding, I successfully hid the evidence that my table was anything but solid mahogany.

I advised my guests not to lean too hard on my “delicate” table and explained that I was going for a more eclectic look with my “retro” chairs.

A little metallic never hurt anyone, so I started the tabletop with gold chargers and an actual vintage piece, a candelabra that my grandmother had given my great Aunt Anna before she passed.  It was nice to have a reminder of her at the table.  She was a great cook and an elegant lady.  I think she would have been proud of my efforts.

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Glassware and plates instantly made the table look fuller and shinier.

The table was beginning to look legitimate.

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Then came some tinted glass bowls to add color and continue with the vintage theme.  My mom and I made a last minute dash to Pier 1 for some golden yellow cloth napkins.   I put together two low floral arrangements with my flowers from Costco.  I love a show-stopping floral centerpiece, but I actually wanted to be able to see the other people at the table so I divided and conquered. I also added some burlap ribbon to my fancy chairs to complete my unique look.

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I was pretty pleased with myself, especially since this set-up cost me less than the groceries for the meal.

Consider this my submission for the design on a dime challenge.

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This is my favorite angle.

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Eugene took this fab picture with her phone.  I think it’s worthy of Martha Stewart Living.

This certainly wasn’t a traditional Thanksgiving set-up, but we all got to sit together around the table and have a good laugh.  I’ll give thanks for that.

Stay tuned for the meal.  It was not without its challenges.

Y’all keep it classy,

Sugarlump

North comes South: Part II

Day 2 of my friend Blair’s visit was quite busy.  We started off the day with a plan to hike part of the Natchez trace and suited up in several layers of athletic apparel to face the nippy wilderness.  But first, we made a stop in downtown Franklin for a little retail therapy and sustenance.   I took Blair to several of my favorite spots: Iron Gate, Gino, Philanthropy and Anthropology.  Blair found a couple of cute pieces for Easter at Gino and then we decided a sweet treat was in order as delicious smells wafted over from the adjacent Meridee’s.  I had a strawberry pastry that I intended to eat just half of, but before I knew it, it had disappeared on me.  Blair got a cookie that I made a note to try sometime.  And by sometime, I meant later that afternoon.

As we walked to the car to head on to the Natchez trace, I lost Blair.  She was behind me one minute and as I went to unlock my Jeep and hop in, she was nowhere to be found.  I circled the car only to find Blair trying to get into another car two spaces ahead of mine.  We had a good laugh over that.

Our drive to the Natchez trace took us through the beautiful farms in Leiper’s Fork. I had never been over that way so it was an uncharted adventure for both me and Blair.  We saw lots of different animals. Blair was particularly taken by the horses wearing “sweaters.”  They were pretty darn cute.

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Don’t let this clear, sunny sky fool you; it was about 45/50 degrees.

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We arrived at the trail entrance and embarked on our hiking adventure a little leery of the heavily wooded/potentially creature filled path.  Thankfully, we didn’t encounter anything questionable except a swampy patch and a little horse poo.

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Not too far into our journey, we stumbled upon this beautiful view.

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Selfie alert!  Here we are at a large bluff along the trace.  You can’t judge us because there was not a soul within miles who could have possibly taken our picture.

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Limbo anyone?

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I was very interested in the neat shadow patterns of the trees.

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About 2 miles in, the trail opened up into this lovely lawn.

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Lots of pretty wildflowers.  Seeing this reminds me that I once suggested to my Dad that we turn part of my parents’ lawn into a meadow.  It was a no-go.

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We came across this memorial honoring the soldiers who traveled along the Natchez Trace during the war of 1812.

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We hiked the trail for roughly 4-5 miles.  Our pedometer seemed to be confused by our frequent elevation changes through the hills so our mileage was a little ambiguous.   We weren’t terribly concerned about it.  It was a nice hike and a nice chat and we were happy to have made it out of the wilderness alive.

It was 2:00PM by the time we wrapped up our hike and we were kind of hungry.  Just a little ways down the road, we stopped in “downtown” Leiper’s Fork for some lunch.  We first ventured into Puckett’s, which looked delicious, but neither of us was really in the mood for a rib-stickin’ meal of BBQ or meatloaf.  I was craving a salad (a very rare occurrence for me) and Blair thought something a little bit lighter sounded good, too.  We were about to head back to downtown Franklin when we spotted a little café.  Perfect! We walked in the door and started reading what looked to be a lovely selection of salads, soups and sandwiches.  The “host” greeted us with a very confused look on his face as he speculated, “Lunch?”  Not knowing any other commonly accepted term for a mid-day meal, Blair and I responded, “Yes?” (duh?).  He then informed us that the grills had been turned off.  We said no worries; we were hoping for salads anyway.   His frown deepened as he informed us that he wouldn’t be able to serve us salads either because apparently when the grill is shut down, this establishment that serves many things not prepared on a grill is paralyzed, and it is impossible to prepare anything edible for two hungry young ladies even though there were pre-packaged items staring at us in the refrigerated case in between us and Mr. No.  We left a little miffed and happily noshed on salads and fried pickles at 55 South back in downtown Franklin.

We arrived back at my place mid-afternoon and inadvertently took a power nap while catching up on some March Madness.  Then it was time to get ready for dinner.  On to the next meal!

Blair loves sushi so I knew I had to take her to Virago at some point during her visit.  Not only does it have great sushi, but it’s also one of my favorite restaurant designs in Nashville.  Good lighting, not too loud, different dining formats, great use of texture, interesting crowd, prime location in the Gulch.  It’s a pretty swanky spot.

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We sat at the bar so we could watch basketball.   After thoroughly reviewing the menu, we ordered sushi and drinks and settled in.  I can’t explain it, but something possessed me to order a cocktail spiked with jalapeno.  It was very interesting and mostly enjoyable until my sushi that contained sriracha entered the mix.  It probably didn’t help matters that I also dunked each bite into soy sauce mixed with a sinus-clearing portion of wasabi.   Towards the end of the meal I ordered a bowl of plain rice to counteract the inferno building in my mouth.

It was still a reasonable hour when we wrapped up dinner so we headed down the road to Patterson House, a throw-back speak-easy in Midtown.  We ordered fancy, chemically-engineered, hand-crafted drinks.  And doughnuts.

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We got to talking to the bartender (as this is the south after all) about the concept of this establishment and how it reminded us of a “mixology”-type bar in Boston, called Drink.  Much to our surprise, this bartender knew Drink because Patterson House had hosted several guest-bartenders from Drink recently.  This world is impossibly small at times.   We chatted with the bartended some more about her favorite places to eat in Nashville.   She recommended City House and Rolf and Daughters, two places high on my list to try in Germantown.  She also mentioned the Catbird seat, which is located directly above Patterson House.  I made a note to check it out.  Sadly, our new friend was moving to San Francisco in the near future, but it was nice to meet her.

And on that note, we concluded day 2 of our adventures.

Y’all hurry back,

Sugarlump

Easter Eatin’

Happy Easter, y’all!

I’ve been up to a lot lately that I will post about when I have some free time, which will be on the fifth of never.  Just kidding.  Kinda.

Even though these posts won’t be in chronological order, I thought I’d share my Easter while it’s fresh in my noggin.  My dear little sister, Eugene drove down from Lexington, Kentucky to join me for the holiday.  I hadn’t seen her since Christmas, which seems ridiculous since she lives only three and a half hours away.  She arrived last evening and we went out to dinner at Germantown Café, which we had been to last summer for brunch.  The brunch last year was fabulous and dinner certainly didn’t disappoint.

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My friend and her sister joined us and we ordered two appetizers to share: pork belly tater tots and fried green tomatoes.  I normally don’t like tomatoes but I didn’t mind choking these down one bit.  They weren’t half-bad; in fact, they were more than half-good. The pork belly tater tots were slightly smoky, but not overwhelmingly so, which was good.  I’m not a huge fan of smoky things, including cigarettes.  They were very rich but quite tasty.

For my entrée, I had the fish special, which was a panko-crusted tilapia with a Puttanesca –like medley over parmesan polenta and asparagus.  If there is ever a fish and grits/polenta dish offered at a restaurant, I will most likely order it.  It’s one of my favorite combinations ever.   This wasn’t the best I ever had, but it certainly hit the spot.

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We moved on to Holland House for drinks/dessert.  I ordered a drink on our waiter’s recommendation that wasn’t on the menu.  I don’t recall the name, but it was a bourbon-based concoction that tasted like fall in a tumbler.  Fall is my favorite season and bourbon is my poison, so I definitely enjoyed it.  It didn’t hurt that Holland House is such a neat scene with its dim-lighting and parlor-like feel with just the right balance of rustic and refined décor.  Initially I had wanted to sit at the bar to people watch and observe the theatrics of the bartenders making their artisan cocktails, but it worked out that we were seated by the fireplace since it was a cold, rainy night.  We ordered dessert to finish off the evening.  My sister and I split a flourless chocolate cake with a scoop of homemade carrot cake ice cream.  The dessert wasn’t as spectacular as the drinks, but all in all, it was a fun evening.

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After church this morning, my sister and I headed over to Pancake Pantry, which I have been wanting to try since I moved here.  I was forewarned that there would be a line down the sidewalk and today was no exception.  Poor Eugene toughed it out in the rain with me, each of us with a malfunctioning umbrella and no outerwear, for about 45 minutes.  Thankfully, the food was worth the wait otherwise I think she would have killed me.  She ordered pecan pancakes and I ordered chocolate chip.  We also rounded out the meal with an order of sausage patties and hash browns.   The pancakes were superb and the sausage was the good stuff.  The hash browns, while good, were clearly crisped up on the griddle with Parkay margarine.  I know this because Parkay has a very distinct flavor which I first experienced as a child when I insisted we purchase the Parkay spray margarine I had seen on TV because it looked like fun to use.  It is not tasty and I’m going to have to dock Pancake Pantry a few points for this faux pas.  They have a good thing going with their pancakes with whipped butter, though.

In my typical fashion, the visit was centered around food.   Eugene didn’t seem to mind and I didn’t have to cook.  Not that I mind cooking, but I still don’t have barstools so there isn’t a proper place to sit and eat a meal in my apartment.   I’m working on it though.  Thank goodness Nashville has a lot of great restaurants.

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump

Bon Voyage

After even MORE packing, Eugene and I ventured out on our last day together until she returns from Paris. I can hardly type that without tearing up.  I’ll have to make some jokes to cheer myself up. Surprise, surprise, we … Continue reading

Country Weekend

This past weekend, my sister came down for CMA fest.   We missed my cousins who weren’t able to come, but there’s always next year!  Eugene and I pinky-promised that we would make attending CMA fest a tradition. Here we are in … Continue reading

Heirlooms

Having recently moved to my first big-girl apartment, I needed a lot of stuff.   I needed dishes and glasses and living room furniture and a cake stand and a compote dish. Who doesn’t need a compote dish, right? Many of my … Continue reading

Seeester’s Birthday

Today is my seeester Eugenice’s birthday.

She came to visit me this weekend and boy did we have a BIG time.

First, we shopped around in downtown Franklin and had an early lunch at Puckett’s.  We left the restaurant to check out a cute little bakery and stumbled upon this completely normal scene on Main Street:

The latest in hybrid vehicles.

Thankfully this guy kept his road rage under control.

Apparently the dress code for this event was formal.

Somehow (perhaps inspired by our canine acquaintance’s fashion statement), we wound up at the mall where I purchased these VERY tall shoes.  I thought that I was going to sneak one by Eugene and finally be taller than her.  But then she also bought some VERY tall shoes.  So I got to be tall and she got to be VERY tall.  At least I was tall.

Here are some very professional photos we took of ourselves dressed to go out to dinner.

I’m not sure what’s going on with my right eye here.  I think it got stuck.

Eugene’s poof was not cooperating.

We take ourselves very seriously.  Obviously.

This makes me laugh uncontrollably every time I look at it.

The point of these pictures was to capture our full outfits, especially our sassy new shoes.  Clearly we succeeded.

Not.

We ventured down to the Gulch and had a delicious dinner at Sambuca’s, where we enjoyed some great live music in our VERY tall shoes.  We also had a celebrity sighting, which was a special present that I organized for Eugene (not really, but that’s what I told her.  I won some major points).

After enjoying ourselves thoroughly at dinner, we started toward the door and realized it was pouring rain outside.  We decided to wait it out for a little while, but then it just started raining harder.

Wonderful.

So, we agreed to cut our losses, take off our new tall (and suede) shoes, stick them in my purse and run for the hills (the car).  I hope someone witnessed this and had a good laugh.

The next morning I whipped up a gourmet breakfast of Eggo waffles, butter and butter-flavored syrup.  I then served this delicacy on my formal storage bin table next to the sofa.  I know this made Eugene feel really special.

As I tried to take a picture of Eugene enjoying this beautiful breakfast spread, my camera went off like a machine gun.  Evidently, the night before as we tried to take pictures before going out to dinner, Eugene had adjusted my camera to a timed, rapid-fire setting so we could back up and get a picture of ourselves since there was no one else to take a photo of us.   I was not aware that my camera was still on this setting when I turned it on the next morning.  As it went off, my instinct was to find cover because I had no idea what was happening.

Eugene just shook her head.

All in all, I would call it a very successful weekend of birthday/sister shenanigans.

Welcome to the third decade of your life, poodle.   I hope you had a stupendous Birthday.

I LAHV you.

Y’all be careful and take an umbrella,

Sugarlump

New York City on Business

My mother and I were just in New York City for a quick business trip before I leave the nest at the end of next week.

Clarification: My mother was in NYC on business and I was there to eat, not for business…….unless you consider eating serious business……which I do.  So, never mind, I am sticking to my story that my mom and I were both there on business.

Side note: My mother would like the record to show that, while on the train from Boston to New York, a fellow passenger asked if we were able to connect to the internet on our laptops.  She informed him that we were indeed connected and asked if he had completed a few steps required to connect.  He had.

Then she suggested he open a browser window and see if that prompted the final step of agreeing to the terms of use policy.  After a few seconds, he confirmed that that “did the trick” and he was connected to the internet. 

My mother then beamed with delight and made some celebratory hand gestures because she had just (successfully) provided technical support.  If you knew my mother (and also knew that my father is in the field of Information technology), you would realize how monumental this moment was in her life.  And with that, we were off to a great start.

Upon de-training in Penn Station, I passed Detective Lionel Fusco from one of my favorite shows “Person of Interest.”   We both played it cool, but it was a pretty big deal.  I would have taken a photo but a) I’m not that quick on my feet and b) I was playing it cool.

After checking into our hotel, my mom and I made our way to Bloomingdale’s.  Here are some pretty flowers they had in the entry:

We didn’t hit it big at Bloomie’s, but we each got a dress.  Actually, it was the same dress, one for me and one for her.  I must have still been on a celebrity-sighting high to have bought matching dresses with my mother (especially after all of the years I was forced against my will to wear matching outfits with my sister), but we will soon be living 1,000 miles apart so I guess I’ll let this one slide.

After leaving Bloomingdales, it wasn’t quite time to eat yet, so we strolled around the city for a little while. There were lots of purty trees in bloom even though the weather had decided to turn back to winter less than a week after the first day of spring (confirming my decision to move to the South):

OK, enough of that.

Now, let’s get down to business:  Eating

Dinner: Dos Caminos

I have been waiting years for this dining experience and boy did I have some high expectations after all of the talk from my parents, friends, and Jessica Simpson about how great this place is.  I am pleased to report that it did not disappoint.  Very tasty guacamole (although I think Rosa Mexicana has a slight edge), delicious tacos pescados and dos enchiladas. Yum.  I just ate a huge lunch, but typing that made me hungry again.  Mexican food does that to me.

Apparently I liked it so much that I forgot to take a picture. But before my voracious appetite took over, I did manage to snap a shot of the best sangria ever.  My mom and I debated over whether to order individual glasses or a pitcher given it was just the two of us.  After a long debate and some number crunching, we decided to go for the pitcher and agreed to just leave the extra if it seemed like too much.

We had no problem polishing it off…

Hey now, don’t judge.  It was a special occasion: my first dinner since the night before.

Lunch: A Voce

Oh my word was this divine.  This wasn’t just really good, fancy-shmancy Italian.  This was exceptionally innovative, light, and yet rich in flavor and texture, and just the right portion size (to keep me from overindulging and feeling ill, although I could have plowed through a few more servings without hesitation).

Thank goodness this was not an all-you-can-eat buffet or I might not have lived to tell about it.

I think I have found my new favorite non-Mexican dish and it is comprised of gorgonzola-filled gnocchi, topped with finely chopped smoked walnuts and tiny cubes of apple, served in a butter sauce.  Soft, creamy, and savory with a hint of sweetness.  Perfection.  My taste buds are still rejoicing and my stomach is growling for more.

(What happened to my gnocchi? Oh, that’s right. I ate it. Darn.)

As we finished our glorious meal, my mother and I promptly made a pact to meet up in NYC every year.  I think this agreement had a lot to do with our determination to dine at this establishment again.  And again. And again and again.

DEE-lish.

Y’all come back now, ya hear?

Sugarlump