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 AL.com.  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!