Category Archives: Blog Like Crazy

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!

Thanksgiving at the Beach

Ocean view condo for Thanksgiving 2005

In 2005, we spent Thanksgiving at the beach.  It was a first for the Odom family.  We had always spent the day at my husband’s mom and dad’s house in Jasper.  But my mother-in-law, Johnnie, had been wanting the family to spend the holiday at the beach and we finally all came together and got it planned.

I don’t remember the name of the place we stayed but I do remember that we all booked rooms close to each other so we could come and go easily.  When we arrived the first day, it was a sunny and windy day and we decided to head to the Pink Pony Pub for drinks and appetizers.  Besides me and Eddie and our three kids, we had Eddie’s brother Terry and his wife Rhonda and their twin daughters, Kate and TJ.  Eddie’s older brother Allen and his wife Rhonda were also there along with my mother-in-law’s sister, Joyce and her daughter, Debbie.  We had quite a large group, much to our delight!

Fun at the Pink Pony Pub!

My best memory is of the family gathering at Pink Pony Pub.  We sat outside and just enjoyed each other’s company.  Our family tradition of taking a Thanksgiving photo on my mother-in-law’s swing was transferred to the deck of the pub that particular year.  I remember the kids being adamant that we would take a picture to keep with tradition.  I loved that they wanted to do this and not skip tradition just because we weren’t in Jasper.  Then we took family group photos together.  The one of me, Eddie and the kids is probably one of my favorites.  We all huddled close together and hugged not just to keep warm but because we were all excited to be at the beach and together.  I took the photo of my brother-in-law, Terry and his wife Rhonda and their girls – TJ and Kate.  For the rest of the family, they posed around the table where we enjoyed food and drink.

There is another great memory from that Thanksgiving at the beach and it was watching the kids play on the beach from our balcony.  They had a kite they were flying and then they also did some writing in the sand.  It was just great watching them all enjoy the beach from afar.  I didn’t have the best digital camera at the time so the photos I took are a little grainy when I tried to zoom in, but it’s still nice to have them to bring back those memories.

We also enjoyed a traditional Thanksgiving turkey and dinner that year at the condo thanks to the cooking of both of my sisters-in-law!  That was always a joke with the three of us since I didn’t do much cooking and they did…they used to just ask me to bring drinks, paper products and desserts!  That was fine by me!  They were both great cooks so why would I want to compete with that?!!!  I remember telling them one year that all the sisters-in-law named Rhonda did the cooking and the ones named Teresa brought the fun!  Ha!…and I still stand by that comment!

We’ve lost several family members since this Thanksgiving in 2005 so holidays tend to be bittersweet for us.  Still, we still do things to keep their memories alive when we gather.  Having these photos is so precious to us all and taking this trip in 2005 is still one of our great memories.  Now after 12 years, many of us have returned to the beach this Thanksgiving to make new memories.  And of course, I am taking the photos…

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours…

Odom Thanksgiving at Kate and David’s House!

The Big Thanksgiving Cookie – it’s a family tradition!

 The Big Thanksgiving Cookie – it’s a family tradition!Thanksgiving doesn’t officially happen until November 23rd, but this year the Odom family had the gathering a little earlier than usual.  As all of our kids get older and everyone moves out of the general Birmingham/Jasper area, we are getting creative with how we celebrate and where!

Kate and David outside their new home in Athens, AL!

This year, my niece Kate and her husband David wanted to host the family at their new home in Athens, Alabama.  Kate and I kept in touch the week of the gathering via text message down to Kate making sure we had pumpkin pie covered for my daughter Emily.  (I thought it was so sweet that Kate remembered how much her cousin loves pumpkin pie!)  Their home is beautiful and there was plenty of space for everyone to spread out and enjoy each other’s company.  But you know where everyone gathered, right?  Yep…the kitchen!  I told Kate that they have the same situation we have at our house…the end of the island is right in front of the refrigerator and that’s where everyone wants to stand!  Of course, I said this as I was standing there opening a bottle of wine!!

Everyone was able to be there this year except for my daughter Anna Marie and her hubby Ryan.  They were in town last weekend from Colorado for a family wedding so couldn’t return again this weekend.  We were also missing my nephew Dustin and his daughter Maddie.  They always make the gathering more lively!  We missed them all.  But we are working on a cousin reunion in December when everyone is back in town so stay tuned!

Our gathering was just what this family needed…great food, great wine (thank you Perry’s Steakhouse!), the tradition of our Thankful Tree, group photos and of course, the big cookie!  I didn’t take as many photos as I normally do…surprise…but here are several I took throughout the day.  Happy “early” Thanksgiving, everyone!




Tales from the Thrift – Another Clothing Addition!

In my last installment of Tales from the Thrift – the Clothing Edition, I shared some of the great everyday pieces I’ve discovered this year.  Since I retired from the corporate world in July, I haven’t really been on the hunt for work clothes.  In fact, I have a full closet of work clothes that I may start unloading soon – meaning, they will soon find their way to the thrift store for someone else to enjoy!  I do want to hang on to a few classic styled items including great jackets.  Those always come in handy and sometimes are hard to replace at a reasonable cost.

I like to have a strategy when I go to my favorite thrift stores on how I go about finding things.  Something I’ve discovered over time is that it’s good to check the return rack outside of the dressing rooms.  I mean, these are clothes that people have taken time to select items that didn’t work out for whatever reason.  Maybe the size wasn’t right or the fit wasn’t perfect.  At any rate, I always check out the return rack before I start going through the general racks.  Last week alone, I found three items that I ended up buying from the return rack.  Not a bad haul!

I also like to check the ends of the racks before I get seriously into the hunt.  For instance, at my favorite thrift store in Hoover, there is a large wall that is completely mirrored.  People will take clothes and try them on in front of the wall mirror and if the clothing doesn’t work, they just put them on the rack by the mirror.  So I’ve made it a point to check the ends of all the racks too and I luck up on some great pieces.

I found this red Kasper blazer jacket on an end cap earlier this year.  It’s the perfect color for me and I’ve already worn it for a photo shoot for a project I was into a few months ago.  It’s just such a classic jacket so it’s not going anywhere except back into my closet!

Red Kasper Jacket

Earlier this year I also found this lovely knit jacket with the Ming Wang label.  Honestly, I had never heard of this label before but the jacket really had a classic quality to it.  I liked it immediately so tried it on and was sold!  I then did a google search to find the label and learn more about it.  Yeowza!  These are some expensive knit jackets!!!  I learned that the label was founded in 1986 and the only place in town that I found that carried the line was Von Maur.  I paid a little more for this jacket than normal – $9.99 – but these types of knit retail for over $300!  I always got a lot of compliments when I would wear this jacket to work!  I also found this black with white polka dot shirt by Foxcroft.  I wasn’t familiar with this brand either but when I googled once again, found the retail on a shirt like this would be around 80!  I paid a cool $4.99 for it and have really REALLY gotten a lot of wear from this shirt!  In fact, it’s the shirt I wore on my last day of work!  So I guess you could say it’s a little special to me!

This vintage Banana Republic olive-green jacket was quite a find too.  I paid $4.99 for this beautiful piece.  I really like the structure of this jacket – you can dress it up or down and it will be down more than up from now on!

Vintage Banana Republic olive jacket

Doncaster is another brand that has some great pieces.  This is clothing that is available through trunk shows or home shows.  In fact, I remember going to one such show early in my career many years ago.  The clothing was beautiful and I wanted everything I saw that night but it was pretty pricey.  So when I run across a Doncaster piece I always pay extra attention.  This jacket is a real classic in my book and so well made!  It’s a dark gray color and I love the pocket structure and the fact that the sleeves can be rolled up for a slightly different look.  This jacket cost me $4.99 – and similar jackets on the Doncaster website run over $400!

Doncaster jacket

This St. James sweater jacket in red caught my eye primarily because of the color.  I love a good red jacket!  Again, another google search ensued…the label has that it is made in France.  I found other beautiful pieces online but the bottom line with all the things that I end up buying is that they feel good when I wear them.

You can always tell a good piece by the way it fits and feels.  All these items I’ve mentioned in this post fit that criteria.  I’ve discovered labels that I never knew too, like St. James and Ming Wang!  It’s always a treasure hunt at these thrift stores and I love the hunt!

HICA and the Fun of Tamale Pick Up Day

Doors of HICA last December – welcoming tamale sale supporters!

I think I’ve lost count as to the number of HICA tamale sales I’ve been a part of all these years!  It’s the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama’s signature fundraiser and a labor of love each year to put together and pull off.  It’s gone from a group of people making tamales in a church kitchen, to volunteers making them at the Culinard kitchen to outsourcing to restaurants one year when the demand got so great.  Over the years I like to think we’ve finally perfected the sale, the way we market the sale and most of all, the tamale pick up day!  On a personal note, I rolled off the HICA board in December last year, but this organization is close to my heart and I’ll always use the word “we” when talking about it.

I’ve written a lot about the sale over the years but I don’t know that I’ve really talked about tamale pick up day.  It always takes place on a Friday in December and it’s the day set aside for people who have bought tamales to stop by the HICA office and pick them up.  We always ask HICA board members to be on hand to help with the pick up day in shifts.  Of course, the HICA staff is always on hand to make sure there is a good flow to everything and the orders are fulfilled.

Holly Hilton makes calls to people who purchased tamales to remind them to pick up!

Calls are placed to people who placed large orders to remind them to come by and pick up.  Over the past few years, Tamale Captains were created to help with this.  When you order, you can select a tamale captain that you know and request for them to be delivered to you through this person.

For me, tamale pick up day is my favorite part of this fundraiser.  I don’t sign up for a shift because I like being there all day!  I love seeing all the people who come by and support HICA by buying tamales and listen to their stories.  That’s one of the best parts.  These stories are often unsolicited too.  As they are waiting for their tamales to be bagged, they offer stories on what they will be doing with the tamales, when they will enjoy them and how often they’ve been buying them from HICA!  It’s become such a tradition for so many people in the Birmingham area.

In the past, I’ve brought Christmas music to play and also a box of goofy  Christmas headbands – antlers, santa hats, elf ears, etc. – for the board and staff to wear and greet everyone.  This past year, I had a blinking Christmas light necklace that I wore.   I bought it at Walgreens and several of the staff members loved it and wanted one.   So after I went to make a tamale drop off downtown, I hit up several Walgreens stores looking for a few more to share with the staff with no luck!  I’m hoping I can find a few in the next few weeks to take with me this year!!!  It just adds to the fun of the day!

Because of my love for “pick up” day,  I have recorded it with photos over the years.  Here are a few of my favorites and some of my friends who continue to support HICA by buying tamales every year.

If you are in the Birmingham area and want to experience the HICA tamale sale this year, like HICA’s Facebook page to keep up with the updates.  The sale begins on Thanksgiving day (Nov 23rd) and ends Dec 10.  Pick up day is on Friday, Dec 14th at the HICA offices.  I’ll be there so let me know you read this blog post and let’s take a photo together!

Tales from the Thrift – the Clothing Edition

I’ve written a lot recently about my thrift store finds and how I use them in my home.  In my post Tales from the Thrift Part Tres, I mentioned that my thrifting finds aren’t limited to household items and decor.  Sometimes I find some pretty nice clothing too!

I tend to get pretty lucky with jackets and tops.  Pants tend to be another story though.  I don’t know what it is but I have a problem with pants in general – finding the right fit and also with the length.  But every now and the I luck up on some!

Some of the brands I like to look for are J. Jill, Banana Republic, Chicos (more current items), Jones New York, Ralph Lauren and every now and then I find a great Eileen Fisher piece.  Naturally, just because it’s a brand name doesn’t always mean it’s a good deal.  I make sure to look for stains, tears and general wear and tear.  Some items have seen better days, as they say!  Occasionally, some show up at the thrift store with the original price tags!  I’m sure we’ve all done that before – bought something and maybe wondered – “what was I thinking” – when you got home and then put it in the back of the closet.  Then months later it ends up in the donation pile.  Like I said with the Chicos brand, I look for more current items but the same goes for most labels.  Every now and then though, I discover a vintage piece which is great!  Those are always nice to incorporate into your wardrobe!

As with household decor, these days I’m currently looking for things I can wear right now.  Since I’m no longer in the corporate world, I’ve stopped looking for blazers and dressier items.   In fact, I’ve sent quite a few items BACK to the thrift store these past few months.  That’s another thing that is always fun to me – seeing the things you’ve donated on the racks and the pricing on those items!

On a recent trip last week, I found several long-sleeved tops.  I don’t know what it is with me and stripes, but when I spotted this black and white stripped Ralph Lauren sweater, I hoped it would look nice when I tried it on.  Well, it did and I walked away with it for $2.99!  It’s sturdy but not too heavy and feels great on!  I also found this Banana Republic blue-green long sweater with pockets in front.  This one was $3.99, is lightweight and will work well with a jacket over it.  I like that both of these are long enough to go with yoga pants or heavy tights and boots.  It’s fall after all, y’all!!!

Getting excited about a plain white tee probably sounds crazy, but you can’t go wrong with a white tee, especially one that is both cotton and spandex.  These Chicos ultimate tees really hold their shape well and I decided to add it to my basket with the two sweaters for $2.99!

Chicos white tee – great go with anything piece!

J. Jill clothing is always so comfortable and I’ve found my share of great pieces over the years.  Earlier this year, I found this Pure Jill (a J. Jill line) red quilted jacket.  It is SO comfortable and this is the perfect weather for it!  I can match it up with that Chicos white tee, some black tights and my boots for a great weekend look!  I paid $6.99 for this jacket.  I also found this dressier jacket – I know, I know – I said I wasn’t buying dressier items but this J. Jill black jacket with the flower design is another comfy item and I’ve already worn it.  Interestingly, it was only $4.99 – two dollars less than the quilted jacket!

Originally tagged items are always a fun find.  I spotted this short sweater by INC for $3.99 with an original $69 tag on it!  I had on a long shirt when I tried it on and it looked great with it as a way to dress up a casual look.  These two Karen Kane long sweaters were another bargain at $3.99 each!  Original price on both was $128!  Seriously…I can’t imagine paying that much for these items!

Finally, pants…it’s a struggle sometimes but then other times the thrifting gods smile upon you!  These J. Jill dark gray stretchy pants feel great on and were $6.99.  They look like they’ve barely been worn too, but I’m sure I’ll take care of that!  And these brown stretchy Jones New York brown pants are a nice change from the black pants and yoga pants I wear all the time.  These were also $6.99.  Honestly, it seems like every pair of pants I find are priced at $6.99.  Must be a rule or something!

I’ll share more about thrift store clothing in another post including my strategy for working a store.  Until then…happy thrifting!