Monthly Archives: November 2017

Blog Like Crazy- Third Year is the Charm!

Writing journal, canon camera and a glass of wine…

Today marks the end of a challenge I accepted on November 1st…#bloglikecrazy!!!  This is the third year I have participated in this as part of the See Jane Write network.  As I mentioned on the first day, I wasn’t sure if I’d have “time” to participate this year and that still makes me laugh since I retired from corporate life in July.  Still…my life has been busier than ever since I quit my day-job, as they say!

I spent some time outlining my month and what stories I wanted to tell and write.  I felt like I had a good balance and then life got in the way.  If I had decided earlier in October to participate and not on October 30, I could have gotten ahead of the game.  I did pretty well with the scheduling of stories the week I was at the beach.  That was VERY helpful and I was proud of how that all worked out!

Meanwhile, some of the stories I had planned didn’t get published…at least not yet!  I have several that I want to share but I also make a point to include photos and in these cases, I need to go through old photos in order to publish them.  Those stories are written and just waiting so stay tuned!

Tracy Martin during Flaco Jimenez’s performance!

I always find it interesting to see which posts resonate with people.  My best post this time was about Alabama’s Dia de los Muertos event.  I know that particular post got shared quite a bit so that helped!  My thrifting posts got a lot of attention as well.  At first, I didn’t plan to write much about thrifting but I started on one post and it morphed into several!  Those were fun to write too because I had been photographing everything that I’ve found this year so it was easy to draw from that album.

Mikasa Jamestown Platinum Trim crystal from the Salvation army thrift store!

My Thanksgiving at the Beach post also was pretty popular.  People get nostalgic around the holidays and that’s what I’m attributing the big response for this post to.  Personally, I like to see what others do around the holidays – the family traditions, the fun and games and the decorations all appeal to me so that’s what I try to include in my posts.

Family photo on the beach – we used this for our Christmas card photo that year!

Finally…my She Shack post has really done well!  Who knew the female equivalent of a Man Cave would garner so much attention!  I love my new She Shack and so does my pup, Lucy.  In fact, today I was in our upstairs laundry room when she blew past me and hit the door with her head to open it thinking I was in there!  Let’s be honest…that’s her room as much as it is mine!

My She Shack…my daughter’s daybed is visible when you walk in – displaying my colorful pillows and my grandmother’s brass lamps.

I’m anticipating a lot of “me” time in my She Shack devoted to photo scanning, writing and blog posting in the new year.  This challenge was the perfect way to get myself motivated too.  I’m so glad I decided to participate in #bloglikecrazy again this year, even it if WAS at the last-minute!  They say the third time is the charm and I believe that’s true for me this time!


Making Spirits Bright

Our family Christmas tree 2017

It’s been a full three days of decorating at my house!  Generally, I have my decorations up by the Sunday after Thanksgiving, but since we went to the beach I got a late start.  Normally I wouldn’t have been so anxious to get it all done by tonight, but I’m having my Fiesta board over for dinner on Thursday night and I want it to be just right!

Of course, instead of just doing what I did last year I decided a change was in order.  Don’t ask me why I do this to myself but I decided I wanted my front door and staircase to be silver and gold!  This meant buying a new green artificial wreath and finding just the right plastic gold and silver ornaments to use.  In the process, I also needed new lights for the swag over the door as well as the staircase.  Little bits of inspiration were hitting me all week as I pulled out items I haven’t used in a while.  I have a set of Southern Living at Home very heavy silver glass ornaments from way back.  I used to simply put them in a large vase in my bookcase but this year they’ve taken on a new look hanging from rhinestone ribbon and evenly spaced out on my staircase!  I actually found three extra of these ornaments at the thrift store a few months back so it must have been meant to be!  I’m loving the look…and the sparkle!

My front door wreath turned out pretty nice too, if I do say so myself!  This despite THREE finger burns with the hot glue gun!  Yikes!  I don’t know what was wrong with me today but that hot glue kept wanting to stick to ME rather than the ornaments!  I had two sizes of ornaments and decided it needed some smaller ones to fill in the gap so I headed to the Dollar Store for those.  I used the leftover plastic ornaments to make bundles of silver and gold to use on the outdoor swag and one I hung in the entryway.

Tonight, we decorated the family Christmas tree…me, my husband and my daughter, Emily.  It was a little bittersweet for me.  Generally, the last act of decorating for us is on Sunday night and all the kids make a point to be home to help out.  We take bets on how many of my Hallmark ornaments Eddie will break.  None this year…YAY!!!  We added just a few new Hallmark ornaments to my huge collection this year so they are safe until next year!  I always try to add the most ornaments to the tree after the rest of the family gives up.  All that is except for my son-in-law, Ryan!  He always sticks with me to pack the tree full!  Still…it was nice to spend time talking with my sweet Emily and watching Eddie look for gaps in the tree so we could fill them with ornaments.  We listened to Christmas music on Pandora and sang along.   Our annual family photo in front of the tree will have to wait until everyone is together over the holidays.  I look forward to that…


She Shack….Baby, She Shack!

My She Shack…my daughter’s daybed is visible when you walk in – displaying my colorful pillows and my grandmother’s brass lamps.

So…what do you call the female equivalent of a Man Cave?  Why, you call it a She Shack!!!

Several years ago, I remember saying to my entire family that it wasn’t fair…they all had their rooms and I didn’t have one of my own!  My husband had his man cave, even though he says it wasn’t truly his, as the kids would take it over and I had a lot of my stuff down there.  But I didn’t really use it much in all honestly.

I stored all my photos, slides and negatives there but after trying to use the space to work on organizing all this stuff, I finally gave up.  I would pull everything out and start getting things organized to scan, only to discover that everything had been moved and was not disorganized and I would just get frustrated and…well…it just wasn’t working out.  I moved to the dining room table at one point, but then we’d have family events throughout the year so it wasn’t the best place to pull everything out and leave.

So, when my daughter Anna Marie got married in 2015, I decided her room would become MY room…or my “she shack.”  It was exciting to pull everything out of the basement and begin sorting and organizing and decorating.  I had a vision of what the room would look like but in reality, the room wasn’t big enough for my vision!  I had to do some accommodating.  I began making “some” headway but as I added more and more photos – from the days when I’d get film developed and order an extra set of prints – I realized the room just wasn’t big enough.

In May this year, my son moved out and relocated to Wetumpka.  With his vacant room, I decided this was my true She Shack!  We began painting all he bedrooms in our house and as soon as it was done, I began moving everything from Anna Marie’s room to Charlie’s room.  I really loved the extra room and the way things were shaping up.  The final item I added was a new desk that I found at World Market.  It’s a natural wood and has plenty of surface space to really sort photos and other things.  My husband also made me a TV stand from a Black Stallion wine box that we brought back from our 25th anniversary trip to Napa!

I really love that this is a place where I can leave things and they won’t get disturbed.  I’ve enjoyed a little time in my she shack so far and expect that the new year will have me camping out in there – especially when I get Netflix on that TV!!!  One of my favorite things in the room is the display of my cameras.  I’ve kept pretty much every camera I’ve ever owned.  I also have my dad’s Leica camera and his camera case on display.  Dad’s manual typewriter is also prominently displayed.  I love this old typewriter and actually used it from time to time when I was younger.  My electric typewriter – remember those? – is also in my room but I haven’t figured out a way to display that yet.  It takes up so much room!

I’ve been able to add quite a few things to the room that I’ve found and kept stored for a while.  Some of the bigger items include my grandmother’s brass lamps from Bangkok, Thailand that I cleaned up and I’m using on either side of the day bed.  My cedar trunk, which I bought when I lived in Illinois, is being used as a makeshift coffee table.  Several thrift store finds have made their way into the room as well, like the mirrored end table and a large five-drawer chest of drawers that my husband stripped and cleaned up for me to use for my photo storage.  I still need to polish up the brass handles and put them back on.  Meanwhile, I think I might need another!  My new Crossley turntable graces the top of this chest of drawers.  I got it at 2nd and Charles for $5 after turning in $65 worth of books.  Not a bad haul that particular day!

My husband dubbed this room my “she shack” last year.  Honestly, that’s the first time I had ever heard of such a thing.  It made me think of the song “Love Shack” by The B-52s and I wasn’t sure what to think about that!  Then it began growing on me the more we talked about it.  If he could have a man cave, I could have a she shack!  But now, when I think of my room, I think of the Beach Boys song, “In My Room.”

When I was growing up, my room was my refuge.  I shared a room with my sister, Helena, until we moved to Chicago in 1971.  That’s when I got my own room and it was the best feeling!  I used to joke that when my parents sent me to my room, it made me happy because that’s where all my stuff was and that’s where I found the most peace and solace.  Thinking of that Beach Boys song makes me feel cozy and warm.  I think everyone should have their own room, or space, to create in or just “be” in.  I’m grateful that this has finally been afforded to me.  I’m loving my new She Shack!

In My Room – Brian Wilson and Gary Usher

There’s a world where I can go and tell my secrets to
In my room, in my room
In this world I lock out all my worries and my fears
In my room, in my room
Do my dreaming and my scheming
Lie awake and pray
Do my crying and my sighing
Laugh at yesterday
Now it’s dark and I’m alone
But I won’t be afraid
In my room, in my room
In my room, in my room
In my room, in my room

It’s a Wonderful Life!

The 50th anniversary commemorative book on Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life.

I’m in the midst of decorating my house for Christmas and I have worked hard to get everything organized by room.  Several years ago, I took a week in January and sorted and labeled all my decorations to make it easier each year.

The largest box in my collection is the one that holds my “It’s a Wonderful Life” village.  This Frank Capra movie is one of my all time favorites and when I found the  village at Walgreens many years ago, I was so excited.  In fact, I was a little late to the village collection party it would seem.  There had been several buildings already out in previous years from what I gathered.  They were made by Enesco.  I started my search and eventually accumulated 7 of the buildings from Bedford Falls including, Gowers Drug Store, The Bijoux theatre, Ma Bailey’s home, Bedford Falls Trust and Savings Bank, the high school, the church and of course, the Sycamore House.

I also managed to find Ernie Bishop’s yellow cab.  Other IAWF items are in ornament form including Martini’s bar.  I also found the Mark Twain book that Clarence was reading, the Bedford Falls sign, and the movie poster in porcelain.  Two unique ornaments are the televisions I discovered displaying a scene from the movie – one with George Bailey and Mary Hatch singing Buffalo Gals and the other when George is running through town in the snow after he wishes to be alive again.  Centering all of these ornaments on greenery I put over my bakers rack display is a Hallmark ornament with Mary, George and Zuzu representing the iconic scene when the famous words are spoken by Zuzu – “every time a bell rings an angel gets its wings!”  The ornament also has a little bell on the bottom.

I’ve looked for additional pieces over the years and some are pretty sky-high online!  I also discovered that Target had an IAWF village too but I never saw that one in the stores.  I would love to add a few more items I’ve seen to my village but right now I love the way the display looks every year on my kitchen bakers rack.

Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he? – Clarence Oddbody

Last scene in It’s a Wonderful Life movie…

Thanksgiving is Where Your Family Gathers


Emily learning how to fish

We got home last night from spending Thanksgiving at the beach with extended family.  Last year Eddie and I spent a long weekend in Orange Beach in October with my brother-in-law Terry and niece, TJ.  When we left, we talked about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday and thought we might try to plan a week at the beach.  It was too close to Thanksgiving last year to pull it off so we decided this year would be the year to do it!

After our traditional family gathering the weekend before in Athens, AL at my niece/nephew Kate and David’s home, we packed up and headed to Orange Beach on Tuesday.  My mother went with us as well as our daughter Emily.  My son Charlie and his girlfriend, Danielle joined us Thanksgiving night.  We were also joined by Kate and David, my brother-in-law Allen and his wife, Rhonda and their son, Jason.  There were 12 of us Odoms total.

Sunset from my brother-in-law’s boat on Ono Island

My brother-in-law, Terry keeps his boat on Ono Island so he is very familiar with restaurants and places to go so he kept up entertained the whole time we were there.  Riding on the boat, dining at places like the Flora-Bama Yacht club and Tacky Jacks and just hanging out on the dock to fish, kayak, paddle board and watch the sunset…it was the perfect setting for everyone to spend time together and just relax.

For Thanksgiving day, we had lunch at Live Bait.  I knew it was a buffet but didn’t realize it was a traditional Thanksgiving dinner buffet!  It was nice to have turkey and dressing and gravy at the beach and not have to cook and clean up for a change.  Of course, today I was thinking it would have been nice to have had some leftovers!!!  Ha!

Our final act was to hang around on Saturday as we were leaving to help my nephew Jason get his car repaired.  My son, Charlie came to the rescue along with my BIL-Terry with his connections in town.  Family sticks together!  We even had a little caravan out of Orange Beach until we all hit I-65!

It was a great week at the beach…making memories and celebrating our family.  Here are a few I captured this week.

Cue the Christmas Music

Some of my favorite Christmas CDs…

It’s after Thanksgiving and “officially” time for Christmas music!  I know…I know…there are stations that are already playing the same 20 Christmas songs over and over.  I don’t get it – I mean, I know there are a limited number of Christmas songs, but it would be nice if they would add a few new artists to their schedule and give them some play time too!  That’s why I turn to my collection of Christmas cds and start researching new Christmas cds in November each year.

But there are certain songs that really mean Christmas to me each year and when I hear them, they put me into a Christmas mindset.  One of those songs is “Celebrate Me Home” by Kenny Loggins.  This is one of my husband’s favorite songs and always gives me a tingly feeling when I hear the opening instrumental and vocals.  The opening soft touch of the piano always draws me in and I also love that the song gets more soulful toward the end which makes it feel like a huge Christmas hug.  The first time I ever heard this song was with my husband too…maybe that’s why I get tingly feeling?  Hummm…

Kenny Loggins Christmas CD – Celebrate Me Home isn’t on this one but I still love his music!

Another favorite is the Bing Crosby and David Bowie song – “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy.”  For one, I love Bing Crosby’s White Christmas…who doesn’t?!  And then there’s David Bowie…I mean, come on!  What sold me on this song was the video of these two legends singing the song together.  It became a Christmas tradition for me to try to hear the song every year and there were a few years where it wasn’t so accessible.  Now it seems to be on the radio circuit so I do get to hear it more often which is nice.

A few more of my favs…honestly, it’s hard to choose just a few Christmas cds. I’m always on the hunt for new cds every year and different versions of some the classic songs!

Same Auld Lang Syne is another one of those old timey songs that brings it all back to me.  Dan Fogelberg’s voice and expression in this song was everything to me when I first heard this song in 1981.  It always takes me back to living in Illinois and driving around one night with a friend from high school and reminiscing about our time in school and where our lives were leading us, the paths we had each chosen.  Ironically, the snow was falling as we listening to this song in the car and gently gliding over the windshield.  It almost felt like we were a part of the song.  Sweet memory…

The Carpenters…this goes without saying, doesn’t it?  I mean, what is Christmas without Carpenters music?!  Merry Christmas, Darling…There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays…What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve…  These are all well-known songs by Karen and Richard.  But there is one that I have to play every year to really make it Christmas and that song is “Little Altar Boy.”  You won’t hear this one on the radio but I wish it would be played.  It is the most beautiful and haunting song.  It was on the B side of “Do You Hear What I Hear” and never received any chart status.  Sometimes though…these are the best songs.  Karen’s voice range was incredible and so pure.  She was considered one of the best vocalist of all time and this song to me proves it.  It brings me to tears when I listen to it every year.  it is 3:43 minutes of pure beauty.

I want to leave you with the lyrics of this gorgeous song.  I’m cueing it up to play this weekend as I decorate my home for Christmas…

Little Altar Boy
The Carpenters
Little altar boy, I wonder could you pray for me?
Little altar boy, for I have gone astray
What must I do to be holy like you?
Little altar boy ,oh, let me hear you pray
Little altar boy, I wonder could you ask your lord
Ask him, altar boy, to take my sins away
What must I do to be holy like you?
Little altar boy, oh, let me hear you pray
Lift up your voice and send a prayer above
Help me rejoice and fill that prayer with love
Now I know my life has been all wrong
Lift my your voice and help a sinner be strong
Little altar boy, I wonder could you pry for me?
Could you tell our lord I’m gonna change my ways today?
What must I do to be holy like you?
Little altar boy, oh, let me hear you pray
Little altar boy please let me hear you pray!
Songwriters: HOWLETT SMITH

A Herb Albert Flashback

Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass – Whipped Cream and other Delights album

Back in the 60’s, we had a TV, radio and record player combo made by Magnavox.  It was really a piece of furniture and my dad loved the Magnavox brand!  I remember when we lived in Puerto Rico the Magnavox was in our family room and it pretty much divided our kitchen from the family room.  Mom and dad had quite the album collection and me and my sisters loved pulling out records and playing them on the Magnavox.  You could stack several records and when one finished, the next one would drop from the silver stand in the middle of the record player and the music would just continue.  I guess you could call it a precursor to Pandora!

One of the records that I always loved to play was the Herb Albert and Tijuana Brass Whipped Cream and Other Delights.  The album cover was iconic and featured a woman in a shaving cream and chiffon dress and hat.  This may have been the bands most popular album and several of their songs were featured on the 1970s game show, The Dating Game hosted by Jim Lange.  This was one of those times when I heard a song on a TV show and realized who the artist was!  At the time, we just loved the brass music and me and my sisters and mother would dance and dance around the family room to this album!

Music on the Whipped Cream – Herb Albert album. I loved listening to this album when I was little!

I was watching Hallmark Home and Family one morning a few weeks ago and Herb Albert was on the show promoting his new Christmas album, The Christmas Wish!  As he played one of the songs on the album, I had a major flashback to being 7 or 8 years old and listening to the Whipped Cream album.  Every year I like to add a few new Christmas albums to my collection and I knew I had to have this one!  Later that day, I headed to my local Barnes and Noble and there it was…and off I went to the checkout!  All the songs are familiar Christmas songs but with that Tijuana Brass sound,  I so look forward to playing this after Thanksgiving!!!  Yes, I did listen to it as soon as I purchased it but I do like to wait until after Thanksgiving to really crank up the holiday music!  So come, November 24th, that cd will be played non-stop!

On a side note, I really want to find that Whipped Cream album – not the CD – the album!  I think one of my sisters has the album we listened to as children, but I’d love to have one of my own!  I was at the thrift store recently and they have an album section.  So, I looked through the section on the off-chance I would find it.  I didn’t, but instead found Herb Albert’s 2nd album called Volume 2!  Ironically, when I looked the album up online, I found out this one didn’t fare so well initially after the release of their first album.  No matter to me though…it still has that iconic Tijuana Brass sound and I was thrilled to find something by Herb Albert and in this case, for just $2.  Meanwhile, I do plan to add the Whipped Cream album to my collection before the end of the year!



Spirits of Thanksvings Past

Thanksgiving 2012 – Odom Family photo

This time of year, I do a lot of reminiscing and looking at old photographs.  Thanksgiving has always been “the” holiday in our family – both Zuniga and Odom.  When my dad, Aunt Gail, and grandmother were still alive, we always had Thanksgiving on the actual day at my house.  And we would have the Odom family Thanksgiving in Jasper the Sunday before.  Soon, we were having our gathering on the actual day in Jasper.

One of the things that remained constant for many years was the annual family photo on the Odom family swing.  We have been taking a grand-kids photos for years on the swing but we really didn’t start taking a family photo until 2006.  My niece, Kate became our “family photographer” for these photos and we used these photos for our Christmas card too.  We were pretty consistent with this for many years until we switched to Christmas in 2015-2016.  But for this Thanksgiving, I thought an Odom Family pictorial over the years was in order.  Meanwhile, I always like to encourage everyone to take photos so you can reflect back on these times later in life.  I’m finding time goes by very quickly and these photos and memories are so priceless.

Here are our photos over the years…beginning with 2006.  We were all seated on the family swing and Allen and Rhonda’s dog, Ozzie decided he wanted to get into the picture!

In 2007 – Our 2007 photo was taken after a major family football game in my in-law’s backyard!  I’m surprised we were all so put together after all that!  Then in 2008, everyone sympathized with Anna Marie by puffing up their cheeks.  She had her wisdom teeth taken out a day earlier and was a bit swollen!  We didn’t use any of these photos for our family photo, of course, but she was a good sport and posed for photos regardless of how big her cheeks were that year!

I couldn’t locate the photo from 2009.  But here are the ones from 2010 and 2011.  We included Lucy in the 2010 photo.

Here are the photos fro 2012 and 2013.  In 2013, we hosted Thanksgiving in Hoover so we took the photo on our deck.

In 2014, we took our last family photo on the Jasper swing.  After that, we had to change to taking the photo after decorating the Christmas tree at our house in order to have everyone together.  I’m sure this will continue to change over the years but if we can manage one family photo together a year, I’ll be happy!

Nov 2014 – last family photo on the swing in Jasper at Thanksgiving



The Boondocks Gang – Ten Years of Fun and Friendship

Hawaiian Island Weekend – April 2012 – group shot!

I get by with a little help from my friends – John Lennon

We make many friends throughout our lifetime and if we are lucky we have a handful of enduring relationships that span the test of time.  Enter The Boondocks Gang… but let me start at the beginning.

My husband, Eddie, went to Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama and was a member of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity.  When we were dating I remember meeting and spending time with some of his fraternity brothers and their wives who also attended Samford.  Some lived here and others were out-of-state.  I liked everyone but we were so scattered and some already had families and demanding careers go getting together was difficult.

Fast forward to 2007…this was 21 years after Eddie and I got married.  Of everyone in our group, we had the youngest children but 2007 was the year our oldest graduated from high school.  So we felt like we could travel a little more as the kids got older.  We had been getting together with Steve and Valorie Parrish occasionally when they lived in Hoover but then they moved to Guntersville.  We thought we’d never see them again!  Or, rather our visits would be fewer and far between.  But they planned a get-together at their new home on the lake and invited us and Rick and Cheryl Stevens (who live in Kentucky) to visit.  The next year, 2008, we decided to get together again and this time the Doug and Karen Madison who live in Huntsville were able to join us!  We had a blast and I documented our weekend in photos.

In 2009, we started having our theme based get-togethers.  It was the 40th anniversary of Woodstock and I brought some Woodstock themed items for us to enjoy.  I asked everyone to wear tye-dye shirts and we all had a blast.  At first I wasn’t sure if everyone would go with a theme but I was pleasantly surprised!  This was also the year we got our name.  We went to dinner at a little place on the lake one night and decided if we were going to continue getting together every year, it would be fun to name our little group.  The restaurant was called Boondocks so I suggested we call ourselves The Boondocks Gang and it stuck!  This was also the year the Bensons (Anthony and Karen) joined us too.  The Boondocks Gang was growing!  Of our group, Val and I were the only two who did not attend Samford so we didn’t have the history the rest of the gang had but that never seemed to matter.  And in the process, I think we both feel like we know every story they’ve all shared together over their years of friendship!

The Parrishs’ home became our clubhouse and we went through their home renovation and the addition of a garage apartment with them.  We went from once a year get-togethers to trying to see each other several times a year.  In 2011 we added a New Years celebration to the mix with the first one called Champagne Jam.  We’ve had themes from Hawaiian luau, Jimmy Buffett, to our most memorable…our Rock of Ages party!  We’ve ventured out-of-state as well with a Bourbon Trail and Churchill Downs trip in 2013, Savannah in 2012 and Atlanta also in 2012.  Our gang continued to grow with David and Sandy Downs, Dan and Cindi Darnell,  Jim and Robin Helms and Johnny and Lisa Pruitt.

There was only one year where everyone, and I mean EVERYONE was able to be together…well, that is, except for me.  We sent a poll around early in 2011 for everyone to select weekends that worked so we could get the party planned.  There was one date in July that worked for every except for me.  It took so long to get the dates nailed down that I just called Val and said – “y’all need to go ahead and the get-together without me.”  I had a conference in Washington DC and couldn’t back out at that point.  Val freaked out a bit since we plan our events together and I come up with the theme.  But we talked through the plans and she got more comfortable with them.  Turns out this was the largest group we have ever had at the club house – 8 couples plus Eddie!  And Val had a little something up her sleeve…

She bought a blow-up doll at Spencers and decided to enlarge a photo of my face and put it on the doll.  She also had an assortment of clothing for me to wear too.  Eddie walked into the house and started bringing in coolers, etc. and never noticed the doll against the wall until Val finally got his attention and pointed it out!  Then the real fun began!  The girls included me in every activity that weekend.  They also clothing changes for everything!  When they went to the boat dock, I had a bathing suit cover-up.  I was included in all the group photos and even went to the grocery store with them to buy food!  Best of all, while everything took place, the gang was sending me photos the entire time and to this day, it feel like I was actually there!  Talk about feeling loved!  This was the best!!!

I love these people…we’ve been through a lot together over the years and as we get older these friendships mean more and more to all of us.   Personally, I may not have had the opportunity to know this group when they were in college, but I feel just as close to them regardless.  So on the tenth anniversary of the birth of The Boondocks Gang…cheers to these special people in our lives and here’s to the next ten!

July 2015 – Fourth of July at the club house! Toasting with sangria!


Adventures in Dim Sum

Amazing dim sum spread from The Black Pearl Asian Cuisine Restaurant in Homewood, AL.

My first memory of Dim Sum was from the 1988 movie Working Girl with Melanie Griffith and Sigourney Weaver.  Tess McGill, Melanie’s character in the movie impresses her boss, played by Sigourney, with a suggestion to serve this trendy food at a business reception.  Next scene, Tess is pushing a dim sum cart around the reception and serving dumplings to the guests while her 80s frizzed hair is falling from the steam!

Food bloggers ready to feast on dim sum!

I didn’t really know what dim sum was then and had never taken the opportunity to search for it and try it.  Then a few weeks ago I got an email from my friend Cassandra King, better known as Comedienne Joy, of Dining Out with Comedienne Joy, inviting me to a food blogger event she had arranged at The Black Pearl Asian Cuisine Restaurant in Homewood, AL.  I jumped at the chance along with Russell and Amber Hooks of Happenin’s in the ‘Ham, Julia Sayers, Editorin-Chief at Birmingham Magazine, Chad Scroggins with Yelp and Shauna Stuart with  I don’t think any of us were expecting the feast that was awaiting us that evening!

As we all waited for the dim sum cart to appear, Cassandra ordered up some crab rangoon to try.  I think I was the only one at the table who had never sampled these tasty appetizers!  I wasn’t expecting it to be so creamy and I’m glad we were all sharing cause I could have devoured that entire plate!  But…I needed to save room for the main course…or should I say courses!

Next thing we knew, a cart was wheeled out piled high with bamboo steamers to our table.  I was desperately trying to take notes on my phone as the items were placed on the table.  I thought I had a pretty good system in place – take a photo, write a description – but before I knew it there were so many different types of dim sum in front of us I just gave up!  What helped was everyone pretty much sampling the same things together.  We compared notes on the flavors of each dish, what we liked the best and what surprised us.

My favorites included the Lotus leaf wrapped chicken and rice.  Cassandra described it as being like a casserole and she was right.  This one took me the longest to eat because the flavors were so rich and it was so huge.  It reminded me of a Mexican tamale with the way it was wrapped and I love a good tamale.  Other favorites included the steamed shrimp dumplings – the dumpling part was almost translucent and so pretty, and the Sui Mai which were stuffed pork and shrimp.  The Sui Mai were probably the prettiest to me with the orange topping said to be crab roe however I’m not sure if that was the case with these.  (I need a return visit to investigate further!)

I also loved the steamed BBQ pork buns.  I wasn’t really sure how these would taste because they looked rather doughy.  Make sure to peel the paper off the bottom before eating!  The taste of the dough was actually a little sweet which was a nice contrast to the BBQ.  The steam egg custard bun was more like a dessert and looked like a boiled egg when pulled apart with the yellow custard inside.  This dish was very light and not overly sweet which I really liked!

Now on to the more exotic dishes…the tripe was interesting.  My dad always liked tripe but I never had any interest in trying it especially when I found out it was the intestine of an animal!  But I was here to try everything so I put a little on my plate and gave it a whirl.  It was actually more flavorful than I had expected but after one bite I was ready to go on to the next exotic item…the chicken feet!  Yikes!  They are actual chicken feet and this is quite a common dish in China we were told.  Restaurant owner Michelle Mei mentioned that Americans are typically afraid to try this dish and generally asked us why we thought that was the case.  I said I think we just can’t get over the fact that these are feet!  Funny…we don’t seem to have a problem with the chicken leg, do we?

While I was preparing to try the chicken feet, my friend Cassandra was doing a Facebook live post of herself about to try the chicken feet herself.  I was sitting right next to her so in her live post you can see my reaction to all this.  It definitely made the experience fun and memorable!  After she bit into her chicken foot, I did the same and surprise, surprise…it tasted like chicken!  Ha!

After all this food, I couldn’t believe there would be more but then out came dessert in the form of coconut red bean jelly pudding and jasmine tea.  Very light sweetness to this pudding and while you would think the coconut and red bean flavor would be overwhelming, those flavors were faint and pleasant.

Owner Mei wants people in Birmingham to know more about dim sum, what she calls “real” Chinese food versus American Chinese food.  Dishes like sesame chicken and chop suey would fall into the American category but you won’t find these in China!  Black Pearl specializes in Sichuan style dim sum which tends to be spicy.  The restaurant’s Chef, Huanqun He, has been cooking up these delicious dishes for over 30 years and she was working at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas prior to moving to Birmingham.  Now the dim sum cart is rolled out at the Black Pearl on weekends to the delight of those who love these authentic Chinese foods.  During the week, diners can order individual baskets off of the vast menu.  It amazes me that we tried so many types of dim sum that evening and yet there are so many more left to go!  I’m thinking a weekend visit back to the Black Pearl is in order to check off the rest of the menu!