Friday, January 30, 2009

Nawlins dining

Several recommendations led me to eat at a restaurant in New Orleans called Jacque-Imo’s. It's pictured below, the building on the right.Here’s my experience:

The hostess led me through the bustling kitchen where an array of smells (all mouthwatering) struck my nose with a pleasant delight.(Yes! Good recommendation!) Weezer’s Blue album played with the echo of dinner conversations and laughter (Love it!). The walls are covered with tree patterned wall paper. Chile pepper lights are draped in one corner. The lights on the wall are colorful decoupage-style sconces. The fan above my head had three different muted color light bulbs. Each table cloth is covered with a different floral table cloth (the tacky outdoor picnic table kind). By themselves? Tacky. Together? Eclectic.

I sat at a quaint table for two and chose the seat facing the kitchen/exit. I’m enjoying my tasty cornbread and taking in the ambiance. AND THEN…From behind me comes a 50-ish year old man…bald with a goatee and wearing a tacky Hawaiian print short-sleeved button down top. It was awkward from the minute he made eye contact with me. But he forged on –brave move considering the questionable look I was giving! He mentioned that “we” are just sitting over there and I was welcome to join them. He gestured but I didn’t dare look over my shoulder to see who “we” was. I politely said “Well thanks for the invite, but I’m fine here.” So he turned and walked away and up steps the hostess who must have been watching the whole thing. She said “Miss Cara (impressive that she remembered my name from the wait list) if anyone gives you a hard time, just tell me honey. Actually, tell Derek.” At that exact moment another restaurant staffer walked by, and the nice hostess stops to introduce me to Derek. Being a young and fit black man, I am more inclined to get his help if I feel threatened by the old men then telling the petite 45-ish hostess. Derek jumped right in, “Yeah, you just tell him that you are with me.” I responded that I should have told him to look at my ring finger (which I happily flashed). Derek’s response? “OH, that NEVER works!” Haha…too bad! Though truth be told, despite the awkwardness of it all, it can be nice to get some attention and makes for a great story…it makes a dinner for one much more exciting!

So I never did look behind me to see who “we” was. But I have a feeling I wouldn’t have wanted to. The incident became the gossip topic of the restaurant staff. When another waitress brought me my food she leaned in with her back towards the men and said “I am SO sorry about those men back there.” Hmmm. And then after I finished my meal and told my waiter that I was done and ready for the bill, he came back with my bill and cheesecake and said “I just had to bring you a little piece.” Sympathy cheesecake!?! Wow…those guys must have been BAD.

And gets worse! On my way out the door, I hear the hostess again, “Miss Cara?” …Yes? “Do you need someone to walk you out to your car?” Oh man…

I declined and made it out safely and never did see who the “we” was. I sure hope it wasn’t an old man with friends the male supermodels and professional athletes!

**I do need to mention that the food was amazing. I enjoyed my shrimp a great deal. However it was New Orleans style shrimp which I guess means it’s the whole shrimp…and I had no idea how to gracefully eat it. It was served with a spoon. Not sure how that was supposed to be used. I just used my fork and my fingers.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

My feet are finally wet

Yes, it is raining in Knoxville but that isn’t why my feet are wet. I’m finally feeling valuable at work!

Up until a few weeks ago, when people asked “How’s the new job?” I tried not to come off as too negative. Chalking it up to good experience. But then I complained that I’m not busy enough, haven’t figured out the internal politics, don't love it--that it is a good temporary job to have while living in Knoxville but not long-term.

Fortunately my perspective is starting to change. I’d still like to be busier, but I’m not as bored as I was prior to January. I’m starting to figure out the politics, or at least navigating them enough to make a name for myself. And I finally feel like I’m bringing value to the company! I’m starting to get pulled in on more projects and asked for my opinion on more things. I suppose it just took awhile to really get my feet wet.

It is a good reminder that I am not the type of person who jumps in and takes control right away. I like to take control but only after I feel comfortable and after I’ve analyzed the situation enough to know that I am right (heaven forbid I take a risk and be wrong!!). I love figuring things out on my own and being a self-starter but I guess it takes time to dothat well in a new company and new industry. So I’m glad to say that 3.5 months into the new job, it’s going ok and getting better.

I’m still not convinced that it’s a long-term thing, but really, that’s because there are too many other things I could do (not to mention many places I could end up living). I’m already looking ahead to the next thing. Yesterday I found a way to get the design software I want for a great price through the University. And found a local college that has an online graphic design certificate program…it’s a 6 month (80 hour) program so I think next January I will go for it! Keep broadening my resume so I have lots of options! Plus I think design would be quite fun.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Today I’ve been busy day dreaming…If I had 4 months of vacation and money to spend, I would:

One month: Visit friends and family in the NW (with stops in Portland/Vancouver, Seattle, Spokane and Boise)

Three weeks: Take Matt to Italy to be his tour guide for Florence, Cinque Terra and Sorrento. Then together we’d explore Lake Como, Sicily and wherever else the train might take us.

One week: Rest in Knoxville, get stuff done around the house, do laundry, watch Ellen

Two weeks: Go to Bora Bora and stay in a hut over the water, do very little other than bask in the sun and drink fruity drinks

One week: Go to DC to feel the Obama-mania in person

One week: Rest in Knoxville, get stuff done around the house, do laundry, watch Ellen

Two weeks: Go climb Mt. Kilimanjaro (with Bruno and friends of course)

Two weeks: Wine taste in Cali

(and of course, Matt would come with me everywhere and I'd have an open invitation for anyone to join us at any point)

What would you do?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

High Five -Reasons I want to retire in Brentwood, TN

After spending just a few hours in Brentwood, TN last weekend, I've decided that it'd be a great place to live...possibly even retire to.

It's neighbors Franklin, TN. I wanted to visit Franklin after reading about the history there...somewhere I read that it is known for having the bloodiest 15 minutes in American history (a Civil War battle took place there). I further researched and decided that it looked like a cute town with an adorable historic downtown that features many cute restaurants and shops. As it turns out, Franklin is in the 18th wealthiest county in US.

You're probably thinking, Why live in Brentwood and not Franklin? I think it's better to live in a closeby town to the rich town instead of IN the rich town. Unless of course you are rich, then you can live in either. Brentwood is certainly well-off too, which is one of the reasons I like it. The second reason I want to live in Brentwood is the high likelihood of seeing (and maybe even being friends with) famous and/or well-connected people. Tied to Brentwood there are some well-knowns, including Dolly Parton, Carrie Underwood and Niki Taylor. Franklin has even more well-knowns including: Miley Cyrus, Trace Adkins, Kenny Chesney, Sheryl Crow, Sara Evans, the Judd sisters, Nicole Kidman, Brad Paisley, Keith Urban and the coach of the Tennessee Titans.

Because a great place to live goes far beyond cute towns and rich people, I also give Brentwood props for the nice people. Matt and I ate dinner there and really enjoyed our server. He was personable, carried a conversation and was generally very pleasant. Then the manager of the restaurant came to our table to ask how everything was. He too was very pleasant and we carried on conversation for a bit before he left. We finished eating and before the check came, the server brought over a dessert--compliments of the manager since it was our first time eating there. How nice! (and it was delicious of course!)
With the move to Knoxville I have complained to Matt that it is a great city but it lacks places like Nordstrom, Costco and Trader Joe's/Whole Foods. You can probably guess the fourth reason I want to live in Brentwood... They don't have a Nordstrom (but I could see one going in) but they do have Costco and Whole Foods. And those are just the stores we happened to drive by. I'm sure there are some wonderful locally owned stores as well as other chains I love. And it might be a wealthy town, but they still have one of my faves, Target.

The last reason to move to Brentwood is real estate. The homes are beautiful. Many are big, but what I really love is how much characher and how pretty they are. The whole reason Matt and I even went to Brentwood was to drive around and look at all the homes. We aimlessly drove around and oooo-ed and ahhh-ed at many houses. Then we found a development that is being built. The houses were breathtaking and they were still construction sites! I can only imagine how nice they will be when complete and with nice landscaping! Below are some of the houses featured in the flyers we picked up. My favorite were the townhouses (the last two pictures below). They are the most modest and each one is so unique! BUT I was thinking, if anyone wants, the manors are really mansions and we could get a group of friends together and all share one. I mean, really, one has 5 bedrooms with 7 baths and a half bath. Not bad!

You can get tours of some of the interiors and see all the homes at the website:

Monday, January 19, 2009

Another Obama Shoutout

Also quite enjoyable...

Obama Shout Out

This is awesome:

Thursday, January 8, 2009

High Fives of Sports Fans

Last night at the Gonzaga vs. Tennessee game, Zag fans were greatly outnumbered by all the orange-clad Vols fans. But there did happen to be three rows of GU fans (probably 10-15 fans total) one section over from us. We were told that those were probably the family seats that GU players are allotted. Great to see fellow Zags at the game! Not so great to hear the fellow Zags barking! Now, maybe this is a new trend in GU fan pride, but I will not be joining in if it is! I was almost embarrassed that our fans were barking like crazy people. And the Vols fans did not let the barking slide. They shouted things like “Keep it class, Spokane.” I gotta give the Vols fans some props on calling them out on their obnoxious fan behavior.

In general, I like Tennessee fans. They wear their orange with great pride, and sing along to “Rocky Top” like it’s their job. And when they aren’t up against Gonzaga, I consider myself a UT fan. But I’ve only been to two UT sporting events and both times the fans did not act like TRUE, LOYAL fans in the end. The Alabama football game I went to was my first exposure to this. We were losing a home game and so many fans fled out of the 102,000+ capacity stadium that Matt and I were outnumbered 4 to 1 by the away team’s fans when the game ended. In my mind you have to be a fan in the good times and the bad. And if you’re already at the game, just stay to see it end! Give your players your support when they need it most—when they are losing!
Last night wasn’t too different. I’m not sure what happened, but when Tyler Smith went down, something else went must have happened. Mark Few got mad and suddenly the UT fans turned sour. Fams started pouring out of the arena almost immediately. Nice fan support guys. One bad play and you’re out of there….
Another pet peeve that I realized at last night’s game is more about “bad fans.” In the seats behind us we had an older couple--Tennessee fans of course. All game they were very into cheering. Clapping along to “Rocky Top,” hollaring when a player does a good play, standing and yelling when Gonzaga is shooting free-throws… wasn’t all good. The man, with his beer belly, orange old-man sweater and bright white hair, had a pretty feisty side. Around the same time that Tyler Smith went down and the fans started streaming out of the arena, Old Man Orange started yelling and cussing at the UT players…the same players that two minutes earlier he was praising. One missed lay-up and he’s telling his own team that they don’t deserve to play college ball and they must have learned how to play basketball in a closet, etc. Why? Why in the world do fans turn so quickly on their team. I definitely get mad at GU players (mostly Pargo for making dumb mistakes) but I simply shake my head and then yell “Come on Zags, let’s get it together!” …must be the optimism in me.

Old Man Orange also gets to feed number four of my high fives of sports fans. His feistiness in number three might clue you in to my next complaint. He’s the type of fan that yells and cusses at the ref no matter what happens. You could hear the slap of a foul as Daye was going up for shot. And the 5 big screens are replaying the blatant foul. Does Old Man Orange care? NO. He’s busy turning red in the face, screaming at the top of his lungs that the call was Bullsh**. I also think it’s interesting to note that in most cases the fans that are this type of obnoxious are like Old Man Orange: they are OLD MEN. You’d think they’ve been around the block, are wise and mature and can keep their composure. And they probably are, except when they are watching their team play. Then they become like a hot-headed 18-year-old.

Number five doesn’t go to Old Man Orange, instead it goes to Old Man Orange’s sweet wife. She was gray-haired and orange sweater sporting, just like her hubby. And boy was she a southern belle! I loved hearing her cheer. When they chant “V” “O” “L” “S” “Go Vols, Go!” She is chanting “V” “O” “L” “ASS” …her southern accent made the “S” sound hilarious, striking close to “ass.” It was darlin’.

And to wrap up: GO ZAGS! I’m so glad you guys showed your colors and pulled through with a win. A great way to end pre-conference play! WCC here we come!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

High Fives of TV

Wow. I fell off the blogging bandwagon! With our travels back to the NW, my blog was far from my priority of things to do. And now I’ve been away so long that I am torn about what to write about…so many options!

To cover the most topics in the most effective manner, I will do “High Fives.” Until I feel caught up on my blogging, I will pick a topic of the day and do my top five thoughts/comments/stories about that topic.

Today it is all about: TOO MUCH TIME IN FRONT OF THE TV
I probably shouldn’t admit it, but I love the Bachelor. It’s not even that it is a good show…it really isn’t anymore. I love the Bachelor because it is a bad show. It’s one that I get completely sucked into and enjoy watching because of all of the ridiculous antics. Truth be told, the big selling point for me to watch the Bachelor is sharing the experience. It’s kind of become Megan and my show. Because I keep moving away from Vancouver, we barely get to watch the show together in person but for several years now we watch it simultaneously, texting each other throughout and talking on commercial breaks. Added bonus? Brenna and I do the same thing too! Now that I’m on Eastern Time we have resorted to email exchanges. I send ones for Megan to open while she watches and she’ll respond for me to read in the morning.

Okay now here is a show I REALLY shouldn’t admit to watching: True Beauty. It was on after the Bachelor last night. These RIDICULOUS people are trying to win a modeling contest as the most beautiful person, only they are actually being judged on their inner beauty. It’s totally trashy and like the Bachelor, is only entertaining to watch because of how bad it is.

The third reality TV show that I am in love with is less embarrassing (I hope): The Biggest Loser. I am convinced that this show is less embarrassing because you watch people who are actually bettering themselves, lengthening their lives and inspiring many people to do lose weight. At times it is disturbing to watch these people battle to lose so much weight, but mostly it is just amazing to see what they can accomplish.

Another show that I enjoy and feel the need to comment on is How I Met Your Mother. My sister has been a big fan of this show since its early days, so I would watch it on occasion. But as of lately I look forward to it. And I feel like more and more people are talking about it. The new Friends??? Maybe!

Now, so you don’t think I’m a complete couch potato (I swear I am not!), I also have clocked quite a bit of time in front of the TV doing Wii Fit (or watching Matt do the Wii Fit). Thanks Santa for the gift! The competitor in me loves the motivation that games, rankings and high scores give me. And the yoga and strength exercises truly make me sore!