A Southern Girl in Thailand

I was invited to join a friend for her 40th Birthday Girls trip to Thailand. It didn’t take me long to say yes. In fact, within a week I had already secured support staff (my hubby & mom) to hold down the fort for 12 days.

4 months seemed to creep by I was so excited I had nothing else to do with my energy but google. Yes, Google (verb). I googled everything from the weather in the region to our choices for day trips. Although I had nothing to plan, the planner in me was still planning. I guess in my mind all those years my mama told me that God blesses a prepared heart, she was actually talking about this moment. Not career choices or late night partying back in college. Nope, she was talking about traveling halfway around the world and leaving your family behind (picture her saying it as you read this). So I knew the one thing I had to do was return safely. If I had come back to the states with anything as petty as a cold. I would never live it down.

So imagine my anxiety when I realized we were going to sea canoe in Phang Nga Bay! Not just a boat tour but canoeing into the limestone caves or “Hong” in Thai.
Don’t forget to face your fears…

 

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And of course, I can’t forget the food. All fresh and prepared onboard our boat for the day. Locally caught and sourced… The was basically canoe, eat, repeat for about 6 hours.IMG_E3950IMG_3953IMG_E3954IMG_3955IMG_3958

Fear will stop you from having amazing experiences and seeing things you would have never seen. It’s important to know while growth sounds exciting it is and will be uncomfortable. But from my experience, its always been worth it. IMG_9229

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12 Top Fall Food Festivals​

Travel +Liesure has a great run down about the perfect Autumn Food Festivals across the U.S.

3 of recommendations on the list are located in the SouthEastern U.S. Proximity to home definitely puts these Southern FEASTivals on the top of my list. After the top 3 it’s all about interest for this Southern Fried City Girl.

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1. Arkansas Cornbread Festival Little Rock, AR

Did I know this was even a thing? NOPE. I will assume you didn’t either. Cornbread is such a staple in the southern dinner table. So much so, my Grandma told me after I got married that if “he ain’t eating your cornbread he’s eating someone else’s” (remind me to tell you that story later).

2.  Beignet Fest   New Orleans, LA

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Sweet or Savory ( yeah, said savory) beignets are little-fried pieces of heaven. Even if you have been to the iconic Cafe’ Du Monde at 3 pm or 3 am, this French donut fest amps it up to the next level.  Babes & Beignets has a great post about what to expect from the 2017 event.

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Flashback to my hubby’s first beignet Cafe’ Du Monde

 

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3. Fall for Greenville  Greenville, South Carolina

While the other festivals focus on one component of a satisfied palate. This SC festival is a “something for everybody”, “eat what you want” 3-day festival adventure.

4. Santa Fe Wine and Chile Fiesta Santa Fe, New Mexico

5. Avocado & Margarita Street Festival Morro Bay, CA

6.  Hawaii Food and Wine Festival Big Island, Maui, Oahu

7. Colorado Mountain Winefest Palisade, Colorado

8. Feast Portland Portland, Oregon

9. Pickle Day New York, NY

10. Wellfleet OysterFest Cape Cod, MA

11. Eagle River Cranberry Fest Eagle River, WI

12. Lewistown Chokecherry Festival  Lewistown, Montana ( sorry Montana, I don’t know what a Chokeberry is, but I can’t wait to try it)

Which Autumn Festivals would make up your top 3? Which Fall Festivals would you and the Travel + Leisure list?

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D.C. and Around the World in a Weekend: Days the start with ‘S’

SATURDAY

So here we are on Saturday and after sleeping in we caught the last few hours of the Passport DC.  

The short version is that you can basically travel to different countries without ever leaving the U.S. Countries display and highlight the most unique aspects for their culture including food, music, dance, art, you name it. Some super poplar countries had lines that wrapped around several blocks. You know I do not have that type of patience, so we sought countries where we could just walk right in.

First stop, Indonessia. It will be a very long time before I actually get my passport stamp, so this was certainly a great commercial for what’s to come.

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Our next stop and probably my favorite was Botswana. The people were amazing and they took time to talk with us about their country. I love the pride, smiles, and genuine feeling of love.

But what didn’t go over well was the worm snack … Let’s just say dried worms didn’t go over to well.

Nothing wraps up the day like dinner at Cafe’ Dupont. While ridiculously priced, its a great place to people watch or meet your group in the Dupont Circle area. The salmon tartare really was amazing! Perfectly diced, chilled, and flavorful. Which is a trifecta that is not easily accomplished. The jicama not only served as a garnish but a nice crunch and change of texture. Delightfully light after a long day.

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Sunday

To wrap up an amazing weekend we traveled out to Potomac for the 2017 D.C. Holi Festival. A festival all that celebrates love with colors, music, and food. It was an amazing experience. A month later, I’m still trying to get color out sneakers, but so worth it.

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D.C. & Around the World in a weekend: Friday

I recently went to D.C. to visit my little sister, Liv, at her first apartment. I have to admit if my first apartment ever looked as cute as this one. My friend for the past 17 years went with me to and we agreed to rough it in the studio space. One thing you have to know about  my family is the we are maticulous planners. We live by the saying “Its easier to change a plan than it is make one.”

So Liv, worked tirelessly at planning this weekend getaway. So cute and comfort was going to be key. Armed with my Sperry Top-Sider Women’s Katama Cape Slip-On Loafer, Gold/Metallic, 8.5 M US It started with a Cinco De Mayo bar crawl. Let me be clear my sister is 12 years younger than me so she was stoked about this very long night ahead. The Bar Crawl provided a map of bars with a various specials, including a laundry list of very cheap margaritas and even cheaper tequila. I completely forgot how quickly you fill hungry when drinking cheap tequila (glad I had plenty of Weight Watcher points). So we enjoyed a really good Tex Mex special of at The Dirty Martini in Dupont Circle, to take the edge off and toasted with a good quality margarita with a Grand Marnier floater.

Next up was the Nightly Spirits Tour. This tour consisted of a guide dressed in colonial attire sharing super entertaining ghost stories of the hidden history of many historical buildings in the D.C. Area. The Occidental, The Willard, Old Ebbitt, and The Hamilton all were included on the list.

Liv had us on a tight time line and despite the tequila adventure prior, we arrived a WHOLE Hour before the tour started, so we sampled a specialty drink called the Pretty Woman. Strawberries and quality Gin, yeah it was amazing!

So when the next stop included a classic mint julep we thought we would strike gold twice. NO SUCH LUCK! Trust me, I have had my share of strong libations but this thing is horrible. WHY on earth would people drink this. The Willard was beautiful but if I have another Mint Julep It will be too soon.

If your evver in D.C. late night The Hamilton has an amazing late night menu including…. (wait for it)….. Sushi! Great, high end sushi. I’m talking freash salmon, Wagu beef, rice with that actual hint of vinager. Yeah, they have burger and fries too, if that’s your thing.

 

Finally, called a Lyft around 2am and I pretty sure 2 out of 3 of us slept on the way home. Because well I was one of them.

Girls Weekend Day 1.  Done.

What your favorite group weekend adventure?

Gyro Fries? Yes Please!

I’m so proud of my little sitter. She’s pretty awesome, but like most millennials she doesn’t see how amazing she really is. Although she doesn’t see her self as a foodie (like her big sis), Liv has managed to find an amazing little bar in Silver Springs, MD.

Of course there are hot wings but this one concoction of old bay & lime is pretty amazing. Its perfectly salty & slightly spicy- paired with a Shock Top (buy 1 get 1). It was a pretty successful happy hour.

Then the bartender suggested the gyro fries. There was brief silence as we both looked at each other & replied ” yes please! we’ll have one of those”!

My sissy made me proud when she said in her very southern pleasantries ” Sir when you bring those fries, another ’round please? … and you can bring the check. Thank you so much (insert smile)”

A girl after my own heart.

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Hot Chicken

When you we visit Nashville you have eat hot chicken. Its unique this city and worth the pain. Please beware of the KFC emergence of this knock-off. There really is no comparison.  Its spicy & juicy straight through with a local honey drizzle. Underneath a cool slaw and a sweet potato pancake (usually a waffle).

Unfortunately, the mac & cheese did not live up to my expectations, but that’s a post for another time.

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Bao in Knoxville ??

I travel a lot for work. Since having my son I have managed to get travel down about once a quarter. One of the perks of traveling is trying new restaurants, which is right up my alley.

Recently, I was in Knoxville on business and spent the evening at a very quaint restaurant. The atmosphere was so laid back  and actually more of a lounge feel. Many people don’t know this about me but I love Asian cuisine- authentic or fusion, its all deliciousness.

As a home cook it’s incredibly hard to conquer so there won’t be any recipe postings here. One of my favorites which has been so difficult to find in Memphis is Bao.

So imagine my surprise when I ran across a Bao inspired dish in Knoxville. Let me tell you it was pretty darn good. The bun was soft and fluffy with smokey chicken topped with a spicy aioli & Kimchi inspired slaw.

 

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You may be saying, “Jen, when did you start eating Bao buns?” I’m so glad you asked.

A few years ago a my girlfriends and I took a trip to NYC and our curiosity landed us in china town. No doubt we were looking for cliche’ tourist deals that we never found. But what we did find were streets filled with small bakeries and eateries. We had dinner plans, so I thought a snack would be great. I ended up to full to eat dinner and perfectly satisfied with the chicken & pork filled bao.

That’s when my obsession with this amazing asian inspired savory pastry began. Not since my first Jamaican meat pie as a child had I ever been so happy with a protein wrapped in a pastry 🙂 .

 

5 things I learned in NOLA

I love New Orleans, LA.  I will go on a limb and say I have been there more than any other city. Quite arguably my favorite city on earth  (comparatively speaking, I haven’t seen a lot of earth).

I started visiting NOLA in college (17 years ago) and most recently visited in April to celebrate my sister’s graduation from college.

So here are 5 things NOLA has taught me over the years:

  1. LEAVE YOUR JUDGEMENTS AT HOME (or at least in your hotel room)- I don’t think this needs any explanation when walk the streets on NOLA on the weekend.
  2. TRAVEL AS A CLIQUE – Nothing ruins a great weekend in NOLA  like losing your friend who wondered off or was going to meet you at the corner of Iberville and she thought you said Bienville. This rule was paramount in the days prior to unlimited anytime calling.
  3. BRING AN ADVENTUROUS APPETITE – Many people know that the best part of NOLA is the food. Its simply amazing. By any means don’t take this trip to culinary paradise with your co-worker who only eats “chicken tenders” and openly proclaims Applebee’s as their favorite restaurant.
  4. MY MOM IS WAY MORE FUN THAN YOU THOUGHT SHE WAS– Because I love my mom & mom-in-law, Enough said…  🙂
  5. LIFE IS SHORT, ENJOY THE MUSIC!

The Travel Dilemma

My mother sister and I have had the most horrible time trying to decide where to celebrate my sisters college graduation.

My mother has all types of stipulations she will not fly too long or go any where too cold. She spent her tears and early twenties in Miami so she has no interest in going to the caribbean. not to mention the fact that she believes only couples should travel to beaches so beautiful.

Being the discount diva I am, I suggested Mexico. The travel deals come a dime a dozen all across the internet. However, both my sister & my mother refuse to go to Mexico. Mostly because of El Chapo or just plain silliness. Not to mention neither have any interest in cruising ( you can thank the onboard illness breakouts a few years ago).

So where was left .. I ad no idea. This entire travel dilemma came about b/c I did not want to go to Disney World again on my grown up time off. Now I’m not trying to sound ungrateful, but growing up in FL we went to Disney and other attractions  A LOT ( thank you FL resident discount). Now that I have a child I see many trips in my future. So I would like to spend my time & very scarce money on a more grown up trip.

So where have we decided to go ….. New Orleans! Home of the grown-up good time. No thrill rides needed.

 

Tired parents, a baby, & Pandora

It’s about an 8 hour drive from Memphis to the beach on the Gulf Coast. For someone who grew up in Miami, I would consider this landlocked. I have no intentions of ever being being further away from a major body of water, but that’s another post.

On this trip we hooked up the Pandora and let randomness ensue. After listening to songs that ranged from early Ludacris, The Fugees, Jezzy, and Johnny Taylor we started talk about what music will our son listen to, how many songs today will really be iconic -score a memorable moment in your life.

By the time Maroon 5 and Alanis Morsette get into the mix- we can’t help but laugh about the fact when we really love good music regardless of genre it makes you sing out loud and completely rock out in your car – Shout out to Aerosmith that was all over the radio when I was in high school.

Anyway just a few random thoughts 2 hours from our destination.

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