Friday, April 26, 2013

The Return of The Happy Hour

Happy Friday to you, Bloggies!!

It is the advent of Food Friday! I can't wait to talk food with you all. I have some really good stuff (I hope) this week, and so let's just jump right into it, shall we?


Blue Fish Oyster Bar
Jacksonville, Fl (Avondale)
What to get: Happy Hour

O.M.G Bloggies. This is a game changer. Though Blue Fish has been on the food scene in Jax for over a year, I think locals are just now starting to realize the potential in this hotspot, and in turn the owners are responding. The Happy Hour is THE BEST in town. Their drinks specials are awesome, don't get me wrong ($4 champagne? Yes, please!), but it is the FOOD that makes it stand out. From 3pm - 7pm every day, Blue Fish offers a drink and food menu at the bar that includes baked brie with truffle oil and herbs for $10, truffle fries with Parmesan for $3, ahi tuna/kimchi/spicy pork tacos for $3, mini filet served over homemade mash $4, oysters on the halfshell for $6/dozen, and on and on and on. Oh, did I mention mini pizzas?? PIZZA! For under $5!! And the kicker? The food is amazing! It is local, it is fresh, it is delish. And the place itself is beautiful. It is like stepping into an artfully designed under-sea dream. Blue jewel tones and aqua touches are the theme, with local art, blue glass installations, and crystal chandeliers round it out. I went there with the BFF for ladies' night out last week, and had two (ok, four) glasses of champagne, a tuna taco, and one (ok, two) orders of truffle fries, and my bill was under $29. CAN'T. BEAT. IT. So, go. Go now. Oh, and did I mention the complimentary valet parking?? In Avondale, no less.

You are welcome.


Sweet & Spicy Chili

This is no ordinary chili, though it eats like any man-pleasing bowl of meaty yummyness. The allspice and white pepper are the secret to this comfort food.

You will need:

1.5 lbs ground beef (I like sirloin, but then I'm fancy like that)
2 cans red kidney beans
1 15ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 large Spanish or sweet onion, diced
2 tsp olive oil
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp white pepper
2 tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp allspice
1 tbsp garlic powder
pinch cayenne pepper
pinch cinnamon
s&p to taste

In a large, high-sided skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add beef and onions and all spices, and cook until browned and tender. Add beans and tomatoes, and turn heat to medium low. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn heat to low, cover and simmer for one hour. Enjoy!

Isn't that the easiest recipe EVER? And it is soooooooooooo good. I like to serve mine with tortilla chips, diced red onion, diced jalapenos, chopped cilantro, and sour cream. And by serve, I mean make myself a huge bowl of it, and then go to town like no one is watching. Which I pray to God they are not because no one should have to see that display.

Also, this is a great recipe to make (probably a double batch) for a party, and set up a chili bar. Guests can help themselves, and I think it lends a fun and casual tone to any gathering. Just be sure to provide lots of napkins.

Now, since I happen to have some made, I am going to excuse myself so I can enjoy the fruits of my labor.

Have a great weekend!


Monday, April 22, 2013

"Why Is There Never Any Deodorant In My Purse?" And Other Burning Questions...

Happy Monday to you Bloggies!

I hope this rainy (here in Saint Augustine) morning finds you well, and that your weekend was filled with all kinds of fun and not-at-all embarrassing stories. I know mine was. AAAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAA. That is not at all true. My weekend was filled, like much (ok, all) of my life, with tons of embarrassment. Let's review, shall we?

So, you may or may not know that as of last year I am a freelance writer/editor. Since I am just starting out on what is sure to be a long and rewarding career filled with documenting and compiling tomes of information on all kinds of important people and events, let me disabuse you of the idea of the inherent "glamour" that most people think automatically permeates your life once someone decides to publish your work. If a career in writing is Mt. Everest, this girl is barely scratching at the small rocks at the very bottom of base camp one. But that is ok! Because this is what my esteemed life partner, Brian, calls "sweat equity."

Anywho, as a freelance writer, I do get the luxury of choosing for whom I write. However, I also have the distinct pleasure of constantly being "on" when I am around potential clients, i.e. anyone/everyone who so much as breathes in my direction and may/may not possibly hold the key to me breaking into their magazine/newspaper/website/personal journal only read by their Mother. And, this week, I got to test those skills. My hometown of Jacksonville, Florida hosted an event called "OneSpark" which was basically a huge crowd-sourcing event in the heart of downtown where artists, musicians, inventors, authors, etc. all gathered in the hopes of garnering enough votes to grab themselves a piece of the money pie. So, on Thursday, Brian and I took ourselves down to Jax and checked it out.

IT.WAS.AMAZING. The event, that is. But what was even more amazing was what happened AFTER the event. As Brian and I boarded the small tram that runs around the downtown area of Jacksonville, my spouse started kicking me in what I imagine he thought to be a subtle way, while simultaneously striking up a conversation with a man standing opposite us (as he does, because it is Brian's life philosophy that strangers are just friends you haven't met yet). So, Brian and this man get to talking, and words are exchanged about their pens, riding the tram, and then....OneSpark.

The man is writing about OneSpark. The man is the editor of a local newspaper, for which he is writing about OneSpark. And then it happened. I stuck my hand out, and said my name, and told the man I am a writer. He asked if I am freelance. I said "yes." He lit up like a Christmas tree and handed me his card. I asked if he wanted my writing samples, he said "yes." He walked off the train. I pinched myself.

As soon as the man was gone, I turned to Brian and we had the following conversation:

Me: So, how would you say I handled that?

Brian: Like a teenager backstage at a Justin Bieber concert.

Me: **thinking**...Ok, so not as bad as I thought.

1. I am incapable of being calm and collected in pretty much any situation, but especially one in which I am discussing writing. CAN'T.DO.IT. Because I love writing, and I love when other people love writing, and I love when I get to talk to other people who love writing about how much we both love writing and the possibilities of writing. Writing. It's where it's at.

2. I like to think that my enthusiasm (read, crazy eyes) is one of my most charming qualities. I am almost certain that the opportunity to meet someone in the newspaper/magazine industry will never lose its sparkle for me. I love what I do, and there's just no hiding it. And I get really excited (read, shaky with uncontrollable bouts of sweating) when I make that connection with others in my industry.

3. It is my belief that writers, in general, are all slightly socially awkward. We spend a lot of time in our own heads, putting words together, forming ideas, brainstorming, conceptualizing, whatever you want to call it. Our ideas are born of our experience, and those ideas are molded first in our brains, which is unfortunately not always a public space. Therefore, it is my theory that it takes time and much concerted effort to not look/act like a teenager backstage at a Just Bieber concert when we meet someone that not only possibly holds the key to another door of our career, but for whom we also hold a great amount of respect just by virtue of the fact that they are living our dream job every day.

So, now the man has my writing samples. Who knows if anything will come of it. I'm just really, really happy I got the chance. And that I did not yell at Brian for kicking me. I have learned that he only does it when trying to get my attention, and it's his way of saying, "Please do not say anything about your profuse sweating right now because I am attempting to introduce you to someone."

Is it just me, Bloggies? Do you get nervous or really excited when you meet others in your industry? Does that go away with time?

**side note** Lots of talk of sweating in this post. Am I right? Of course I am, it's my blog. Maybe it is because it is officially "Spring" and in Florida that means "Varying Degrees of Surface of the Sun."


Thursday, April 4, 2013

As Though Anyone Still Cares At This Point...

Hey Bloggies!!
So, ummmmm, three months later, here is the conclusion of my wedding picture post. I won't go into details as to why it has taken me so long. Let's just leave it at Shana finally got her shit together and posted some pictures. Ok? Ok.
Actually, truth be told, I was watching the Today show, whatdya know, TODAY, and they were talking about love and marriage and that triggered some mechanism in my head that allowed the little steal ball of blog posting reminders to roll its way through the obstacle course of my mind and into the cup up front that says, "Hey! Shana! Let's get our shit together and finish our wedding picture blog." And then when I was done wondering why I  was speaking to myself in third person, I got out my laptop aaaaaaand here we are.
We left off with a picture of Brian and I enjoying a moment to ourselves after our wedding portraits, and we will pick up with our announcement as Husband and Wife. Let's go!

Here we are getting ready for our first dance. I ripped the bottom seam of my dress walking up the stairs, OF COURSE, because what else would I expect of myself on a day when, literally, my only responsibility is to walk from place to place whilst others coordinate announcements and music and pretty much everything save for my keeping myself standing. Way to go, me.

Our first dance. Brian looking at me lovingly. We danced to "You Are The Best Thing" by Ray LaMontagne. It was magical. Though, apparently not as magical as the fact that you can see up my Sister-in-Law's skirt in this picture. But whatevs.

My beautiful Grandma Donna and her Manfriend, Hank. Let me tell you, Hank stole the show that day. He is a dancing fool, that man.

Brian and I on the balcony of our wedding venue.

Photobomb by our friend, Herb. This is not the last you will see of him. Watch out for his wicked yoga moves on the dance floor. 

Me and my Pops dancing our Grandfather/Granddaughter dance. We danced to Louis Armstrong's, "What a Wonderful World," because what can I say except that Pops makes my world wonderful. Not a dry eye IN THE HOUSE.  It's ok, I will wait while you get the tissues. 
Brian and Mamma Sue dancing to "How Sweet It Is." This was a really cute moment between them :)

The bouquet toss. Whoever said you can't run in heels has never met my girlfriends.

I'm not sure if you can tell in this photo, but there was pretty much a UFC match upon the downward arc of the bouquet. No one was injured....too badly.


The garter toss! So, I have never considered myself a very prudish person necessarily. I went to Catholic School, after all. But apparently my face is not ok with my leg being felt up by my HUSBAND in full view of my parents and family and friends and waiters and...oh my, did it turn some crazy shades of red before I leaned in and whispered in Brian's ear, "Get your hand out of my dress before I break it off." It was a very romantic moment.

Brian and I dedicated a song to my Grandparents in honor of their wedding anniversary being a few days after our wedding date. It was their 57th anniversary. So, the four of us danced to Don Williams', "You're My Best Friend." Again, not a dry eye to be seen. In fact, I looked over at my Grandparents at one point during the dance and my Grandfather was singing the song to my Grandmother! You'll excuse me if I go and get a tissue?

Time to get funky! Brian breaking it down with Aunt Sandy and Aunt Sharon.

All this girl needed was some Hall & Oates and a dance circle!

Ryan Dill, our groomsman. Let's just say Ryan was popular with the ladies that weekend. And pretty much every weekend. Oh, and did I mention he is also a doctor who travels to the far reaches of the globe to help those less fortunate than himself? Is there no limit to your amazingness, RYAN?

Cupid Shuffle!

So, this is Herb. Our amazing friend who also happens to be our vet. Again, a doctor who selflessly saves the lives of countless animals. Combine that with those sexy dance moves, and what woman wouldn't fall all over herself for that bouquet? * side note - notice Mal in the background getting SO EXCITED for what is about to happen on the dance floor*

Family photo! From the left - Zach, Me, Josh and Brandon. I actually have a collection going of pictures of the four of us over the years. It starts when Zach and I are about three and runs through the wedding. I am planning a massive unveiling of my masterpiece at some point soon. GET. THE. KLEENEX. 

The Hora! That magical moment in a Jewish bride's life when she is simultaneously filled with joy at the thought of just being married, and also with fear at the thought of either breaking her neck or her skirt flying over her head.

Brian leans in and whispers to me, "Pumpkin, we are surrounded by our friends and family, and I love you." WHY IS EVERYONE TRYING TO MAKE ME CRY??

Such handsomeness!!

Me and my Mens. Also, surprise! The bottom of my dress comes off. Josh, thanks for keeping THAT fashion secret for a whole year. I know it must have eaten away at you.

Us and our Besties. :) That look on my face is the result of hours upon hours of smiling. And smiling. And smiling. And some more smiling.

Aunt Beth (Hi, Aunt Beth!), Me, Grandma, and Aunt Deb.

Last, but most certainly not least, me and Herb sharing some gossip. Because what ELSE would I be doing on my wedding day??
So, that is all for today, y'all. I hope you enjoyed the photos and commentary. I know I sure did.
I plan to be back this Friday with the advent of Foodie Fridays! I am planning some awesome gluten-free recipes that everyone will enjoy.
Until then, love and all that good stuff,