The Solo Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving week y’all!

My pantry is stocked, the menu is set, and the house is mostly clean. This year we’re having Thanksgiving here in Nashville, as my parents had an appointment in town this week. There’s baking to be done and a Turkey Trot to prep for Thursday morning.

I wrote last week a bit about rushing Christmas but I do enjoy Thanksgiving as well. For several years my parents traveled to the beach during this week for a festival, and to escape the colder weather of east Tennessee. Between schedules, vacation time allowances, and the short travel window, I often opted not to join them. So it often meant I was solo for Thanksgiving. Honestly I didn’t much mind as I love to cook, and this is the Super Bowl of cooking in my mind. I had offers from friends and coworkers to join them and their families for the holiday, which I always appreciated, but never took them up on. Partly because I’m a bit of an introvert (shocking I know) but I also didn’t want to interfere on their family time.

Recently I was thinking on this as I prepped my lists and put up my decorations. Singles often find themselves alone on holidays for many of the same reasons I had-travel costs, vacation time allotment, schedules. But sometimes family is just hard for some singles, or they don’t have family in the definition we often attribute. In that perspective it’s hard to give thanks, it’s hard to sit at home and dwell in that constant quiet of single life. It’s difficult to see the family aspect come out in every commercial, show and conversation being had.

So if you know of some singles-whether they be at church, work, friend circles-check on them and find out if they are spending Thanksgiving solo. See if they’d like to join you, your family, or start a new tradition as a single and host your own for those who may not have somewhere to go or who don’t want to cook! You may get turned down, but press in a bit without being pushy. Be a bit vulnerable with your hospitality, even when it’s not perfect. Even when it gets a bit messy explaining the family relations as a backstory. 

It doesn’t take a buffet, an immaculate home, or well-behaved family. It takes opening your heart and your door to someone and giving thanks for that opportunity. It’s giving thanks for perspective and a seat-filled at the table, where so many conversations and life are done. It’s choosing a moment of uncomfortable for a season of thanks and giving. Maybe you’ll have a new tradition for your family for years to come.

 

 

A Single Thanksgiving

Over the last few years I have celebrated Thanksgiving without the family. There’s been one or two thrown in over the last decade where I spent it with my sister and her family, but for the most part it’s been solo…and that’s been okay for me. For several years I used that as an opportunity to serve in the local rescue mission-preparing the dining room and then serving the meals to the homeless. It is something I really enjoy doing, and hope many of you choose to spend your day doing as well (but go serve there in January, April and July too).

This year is different. The parental units have foregone their annual beach sojourn to be at home…and the kids are coming home. Yep, no solo Thanksgiving prep this year. I’ll get to assist the master chef herself (my mother) in prepping everything with her fancy new stove Santa just dropped off.

chast_2010_11_22_0071215-thanksgiving-slideshow2-1200x630-1448389643

So I thought about those years I spent solo at Thanksgiving and thought I’d share some tips for my fellow singletons (and their family and friends too) for this upcoming holiday.

  1. It’s okay if you want to do Thanksgiving solo. It’s okay if you have no plans and no family or friends around that you want to spend the day with. If you’d rather have T-Day your way…let me be the first one to tell you, that it’s okay.
  2. It’s okay to NOT want to spend Thanksgiving solo. If you are yearning for company, swing open those doors my friends and invite people to your place. Or share with others that you are spending it alone, and you might get an invite. For several years I got invited to friends and friends’ families’ homes for Thanksgiving. I had let them know I was going it solo and I do believe there was pity on their part. But that’s okay. You are fine if you want to go over (take a side or dessert, do NOT go empty-handed) and spend time engulfed in someone else’s world.
  3. Families and friends: please do not ask about the dating world to the singleton. This is the last thing we want brought up because breaking news, WE KNOW WE ARE SINGLE. The dinner table, or the couch in front of the tv with football on, is not the place we want to discuss why we are single at holiday time.
  4. Have an attitude of gratitude this Thanksgiving, even in your singleton state. I have friends who are trying to balance multiple stops with kiddos and tense family situations on short notice…that’s their reality. Yours (and mine) is a single life that permits us to choose to check-in and check-out of the holiday spirit if we so choose…but we must be thankful for the current situation whether we are choosing it for ourselves or not.
  5. Families and friends: if you know of a singleton this holiday who might be spending it solo, offer up a seat at your table (or couch). They may not be able to get home on this short holiday weekend, or they may be without family, and really don’t want to impose by inviting themselves. Extend the gratitude, and fill them in on the fun you put in the dysfunction that is every single family in the world.
  6. Lastly, use this as an opportunity to revel in the delight that is this season of gratitude and thankfulness. No matter what your choice is or where you find yourself celebrating. You get to choose as a singleton and the choice is always thanksgiving.

 

A Single Foodie

Pardon me while I gush a minute about this past Saturday. And to think I almost didn’t go.

Earlier last week I found out via Lynda over at Southern Kissed that my favorite chef, Stephanie Izard, would be in town along with chef Michelle Bernstein to judge a grilling competition at Macy’s. Cue fangirling. Saturday as I was getting ready, I almost talked myself out of it. I had this voice whispering that this wasn’t something I could enjoy solo, and that I should just stay home.

As a single gal, that voice of fear gets loud sometimes. She sounds alot like doubt and a snarky friend you’d really not be friends with in real life. But man, can she cut right to your heart about fearing doing something solo. Last month when I kicked off the theme of a NoHSummer I had some swagger and confidence. Now that I am in the thick of it, I am finding fear of singleness grip like never before! A friend of mine tells me this is merely affirmation of the correct journey for me. I tend to agree with his perspective rather than that snotty girl whispering that people will talk that I am by myself.

So I went…and I am ever so glad that I did, for many reasons. First of all, I got to see amazing home-chefs grill their hearts out for the chance at $10,000 and picstitchto grill in NYC for Macy’s on the 4th of July (how awesome is that?!). Next I got to try some amazing food prepared by Michelle and Stephanie that they sent out in sampling form. There was Orxata, and for a lactose intolerant girl such as myself, this on a hot day was incredibly refreshing and delightful. We sampled two types of salads, one variation of a Caesar and another with grilled shrimp (which I dumped onto my cute dress I had in the excitement of playing trivia with Wells). They picstitch(1)sent out mini-brats that had enough kick for me…but y’all I saved the best for last. A tempura cooked chicken sandwich, with creamed feta and slaw (I may be Southern but I don’t like slaw…but this I would eat a million times over) and a peach fried pie with cinnamon and sugar. I gushed over this repeatedly to my new found foodie friends on either side of me. I wish I had the recipe for the sandwich, although I have to be semi glad that I don’t because I think I would get sick on it from eating it so much. It was that good.

So needless to say it was more than worth the internal battle I had with myself over whether I should go. In fact it build confidence in me to really pursue this NoHSummer with fervor, exploring things I can share with you all (singles/couples/marrieds/etc) in the hopes you’ll explore a single outing for yourself to enjoy the moment and this life we are created to live out.

picstitch(2)Before I go I have to share I tried a new local place that had a booth setup as well at the event. It’s called Padrino’s Pops and they are so delightful and refreshing. Had I not gone, I wouldn’t have been able to try their offerings and see that they are going to give Las Paletas a run for their money here in the 12th South District. They did not pay me in any way to post this, but I had to rave about them and how great they were. I tried the watermelon, as well as some of those sitting around me, and every flavor was a hit! Definitely check them out this summer if you’re in Nashville and needing a rescue from the heat!

I realized as I drove home on Saturday that I got to experience quite a bit over three hours that I could have missed out on, including hearing Josh Farrow perform (fan of his now too!) and getting to meet another blogger and connect. (Hey Blonde Mom Blog!) So I urge you the next time doubt creeps in about going somewhere solo, weigh the regret of a great experience with the doubt that tells you are not confident enough. And keep on going til you get there…because the regret of not going far outweighs the fear of being solo.

Stress Less, Eat More

Normally I don’t post in the evenings. Y’all that read regularly know this, but summer is finding me writing more in the evenings than in the mornings-possibly because I’m also trying to run in the mornings before it gets so stinkin’ hot.

I will be posting either tomorrow or Monday about the awesome time I had today at Macy’s Culinary Cookout and Sizzle Showdown. I was so inspired by all the fantastic chefs, as well as the tasty bites concocted by two of my favorite chefs Michelle Bernstein and Stephanie Izard. After an afternoon spent tucked away in my favorite local coffee shop (ahem, Starbucks) writing on my book, I came home and fired up that grill.

Tonight’s grill specialty was pork once again as I am just not feeling the chicken-but I need to be soon or this running won’t help the waistline a bit. I paired cubed thick-cut pork loins with pineapple chunks and red onion quarters on skewers. Then I brushed on a mix of teriyaki sauce, hoisin sauce (because I am in love with this stuff) and some Asian seasonings. I let them grill along with some corn on the cob. I soaked the corn, along with those skewers, for about ten minutes in water. I put them on the top rack of the grill, then transferred them once the skewers were ready to come off to get a good char on them. Once I took the skewers off, I brushed them again with the same sauce mixture to get a glaze on them. You can see the finished dinner below. I also put on some brown rice mixture to eat the skewered goodness with as well.

FullSizeRender(5)I would have to say one thing to change on this, definitely brine the pork before cutting it up to grill. Having tasted the difference I won’t go back to not brining pork prior to grilling, or probably cooking any which way. It seriously makes the juiciest meat that you can cut with a fork.

Thankfully I did feel up for a little under two mile walk after dinner, but I am definitely going to have to run four tomorrow morning after today’s tastings at the Macy’s event and then tonight’s dinner. Today reminded me that I often don’t find myself writing for the fun of it much anymore. I push myself to write deeper or for production’s sake on the book, knowing I’ll edit down later. Don’t be surprised if you don’t see more easy posts thrown in the rotation these days.

The summer is finding me willing to loosen up my writing, as well as sharing some of my favorite hobbies with you all! That’s just another part of the #NoHSummer Have an amazing Sunday!

A Dinner to Remember…

As you might’ve gleaned if you’ve been reading very long on my blog, I am a foodie nerd. Last year my good friend Stacey and I took a trip to Chicago and the whole trip was centered around getting reservations at Girl and the Goat. I have posted several times about foodie dreams and dinners. You get the picture.

So a few months ago as I was reading some of my culinary go-to blogs and magazines, a new Nashville chef popped up in one of them. He was having these pop-up dinners each month, and planned to open a restaurant in Nashville. As any social media maven will tell you, I immediately started following him on Twitter to get the scoop on the food. Every time a pop up would happen I would have something else scheduled. It was ridiculous that every single one I had a conflict. But then, Mason’s opened. I knew my birthday was right around the corner, so I thought, why not have a big birthday dinner and make it special? Turning 32 isn’t anything special, but this next year will be drastically different than any before and I wanted to mark that.

Cue Wednesday evening…the entire Mason’s staff was incredibly gracious and kind. From the hostess Desiree (I apologize if I spell names wrong) who took such great care of the two of us, to Brian our waiter who suggested drinks from the amazing bar menu, I could not have asked for a better start to this dinner.

Then Chef Brandon Frohne came out with Chef Jonathan. We chatted briefly and talked about what we might have for dinner as we had both already checked out the menu far in advance (see, nerd alert). This doesn’t happen everywhere, or all the time. To have the chefs come out and talk with you is a big deal y’all, and I was practically bursting inside with giddy foodieness because of it. Conversations…about food. It doesn’t get much betterthan that for me. Then the food started coming out and I snapped a couple of quick photos (Stacey would die if she had been there cause I did that in Chicago too!) so I could share with y’all just how amazing Mason’s food is for diners.

I had already taken a bite of the last crab corn dog before I got a picture!
I had already taken a bite of the last crab corn dog before I got a picture!

The first course was three offerings: the Crab Corn Dogs with Mississippi comeback sauce, Deviled Eggs with bacon jam, and Fried Green Tomatoes. Y’all that know me, know I do not like tomatoes, despite growing up Southern, I just never have. I tried them, thanks to the Dude pushing me, and they were phenomenal! The Crab Corn Dogs were by far my favorite as they weren’t greasy, they had an amazing flavor, and the comeback sauce made you want to come back for a whole other plate. The Deviled Eggs had this sweetness to them that we figured out was the bacon jam, that coupled with the pickled okra as a garnish, was just flat out devouringly good.

Fried Green Tomato...beautiful presentation too!
Fried Green Tomato…beautiful presentation too!

I am typically not much of a starters or first course person. They tend to weigh heavy and fill you up prior to your main course…which is why you frequent a place. Not at Mason’s though. They are substantial and delicious without being weighty. I have to say I cannot stop thinking about those corn dogs though. They carry them on the Mason’s Bar menu as well, and you can pop in there during happy hour for a great after work place. They had the Red Sox on the ginormous screen so I was on cloud nine from across the hallway in the restaurant. Speaking of the bar, we both had adult beverages in honor of my big day. They have great beer on draft and then they have some of the best takes on the South’s cocktails. I enjoyed a French Sangria and the Sound Connection, while he imbibed in a Turtle IPA and the Peach Ol’ Fashioned. They have an extensive Bourbon list as well as wine and other libations. Definitely find a time to just enjoy the bars offerings.

Peach Arugula Salad
Peach Arugula Salad

Out came salads for the second course. And they were lovely to look at, if you enjoy food art. This was the peach arugula salad they offer. Let me tell you, it was inhaled at our table. INHALED. The fresh peaches were grilled and deliciously complement the prosciutto and blue cheese. The basil vinaigrette with the arugula itself was enough to do me in. It was light, and very summerish for the South. There was also enough time between courses that allowed us to digest and enjoy our cocktails without overloading our palettes.

Shrimp and Grits, along with the Jalapeno Cheese Bread
Shrimp and Grits, along with the Jalapeno Cheese Bread

And then y’all…came the main course. The Mason’s Burger (aka a farm burger) with truffle fries for The Dude and Shrimp and Grits for me, along with jalapeno cheese bread. I think Icould have bathed in the roux of the shrimp and grits. I don’t particularly care for grits as a whole (I know, I know…I promise I am Southern). Let me tell you that these grits were to die for…I’d go back right now just for those. Perfectly prepared and offered up in a cast iron skillet, still warm and delicious. To be quite honest, this is the best meal I have ever had from start to finish. The service, the details and the food were astonishingly superb. Mason’s cares about the diner and their experience. The quality of care they provide in all they do is leaps and bounds above any place I have been to before. I can tell you that Mason’s sets the bar high, and then keeps notching it up as you dine.

Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream Soda
Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream Soda

They offer breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner…as well as that bar menu. I will be headed back there soon, and often. The menu changes seasonally and you definitely want to get a taste of each menu. We got to try a “not on the menu” item as well at the end of dinner…the Goo-Goo Cluster Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream Soda. So good and a great treat to wrap up our meal.

Brandon Frohne and staff are excellent and innovative, while also staying true to the Southern-ness that is Mason’s cornerstone here in Nashville.

30 (plus) days later…

January 31st is here. We are 30 days from those resolutions we shouted out on New Year’s Day. What have you advanced on those resolutions? How have you lived into that One Word?

Instead of full blown resolutions for a year, I decided to pursue a change of course. Let’s be honest, 12 months with only four goals would get stale and boring. Hence why we typically don’t keep resolutions. So my commitment was for 30 days, and then after 30 days I would reassess, potentially getting rid of it or adding to it.

January’s 30 Days:New Image

1-Track my daily food and exercise regime. Prior to the holidays I wanted to join Weight Watchers in order to lose weight that I had tacked on since moving to Nashville. I also wanted to be more aware of what I ate, when I ate it, and why I ate it. Instead of forking over $64+ for three months, unsure of if I would stay with the tracking, I chose to use a free app on my phone to keep up with things. I researched calorie intake and set a daily goal. For the last thirty days I have tracked everything from a snack, to my cardio step class, to how many glasses of water I had a day. It’s an eye opener for sure.
Result: Realization of the fact I emotionally eat at times, and that I need to better educate myself about the calorie intake on foods I eat.
Next 30 days? Keep!

2-Workout more than half of the month. I had often defined workout as some three hour regime done in the morning. Then I understood that just being mobile and active for 30 minutes made all the difference. I tracked my habits on a calendar I keep on the fridge (also a deterrent to forage for food when you see that calendar). With one final day left, I have worked out 18 days this month! There were days I didn’t because I just didn’t feel like it, but I didn’t let that deter me from the next day. I took Saturdays off because I didn’t want to overwhelm or guilt myself. I had a motivator and encourager. Most of all, I dumped my gym (where it was easy to excuse not driving there) for the fitness center across from my office. It’s also free, bonus on saving $50 a month now!
Result: I have more energy and a better sleep regime on the days I work out. I have lost eight pounds over the last 30 days.
Next 30 days? Hit at least 20 days of workouts.

3-Pray and read my Bible. Talk about the most impactful of all commitments this month. God’s really used this daily time with me to teach me, discipline me, and encourage me. I was relatively good about having a daily time of reading Scripture or devotions. What I am horrible about is taking time to talk and listen to God each day. That’s where alot of my discipline and struggle come in with relation to God.
Result: I am being intentional in talking but also listening for Him even outside of the time in the mornings. I have come to understand the “Pray Continually” verse more and more.
Next 30 days? Keep, keep, keep!

4-Eat at least one meal, out, alone. While that used to not be a big deal, in Nashville it’s a bit daunting at times. Nashville is a connection city where people use meals out to group and fellowship, more than any city I have ever been to before. I had gotten into a funk of allowing fears to not let me experience great food just because no one wanted to go.
Result: So I went to breakfast on Saturday morning alone. It was this mom-and-pop place and I was encouraged to see many people eating solo there. Great food by the way too…
Next 30 days? Eat dinner out alone at a fine dining restaurant.

 

So what are some of your resolutions/goals for this year? Where are you at in those? What can you quit today (as Thursdays are great for quitting)? February is tomorrow…it brings newness and refreshing….start something tomorrow.

 

I am beyond excited about one of my February goals. I am still eight addresses shy of what I need to accomplish it…so if you’d like to help me out shoot me an email at sarabstacy (at) gmail (dot) com!

It’s a New Year Y’all!

If you haven’t noticed, it’s a new year. The slate is clean on this year. It hasn’t defined you, or beaten you down. While I like that idea, I also know I carry some of 2012 into this year. You cannot just magically leave it behind, as if it never happened. It did.

I know for me 2012 was sort of an odd conglomeration of emotions, opportunities, heart breaks, and joys. I am thankful for the last year, but I can say I am excited to see what God has in store for this new one!

A new year for me brings a time to review my year and also lay out goals for the next year. Many have resolutions or Finish Year objectives. For me, I am taking it 30 days at a time. Someone once wrote that you can do anything for 30 days, so I am putting that to a personal challenge in my life. I have set some larger aiming points for my year, but I also trying out some new 30 day challenges.

The first is a healthier lifestyle both physically and spiritually. The last half of the year I allowed myself to get out of sorts with my eating, exercise, and devotional time. I started yesterday with a new devotional plan that lasts 21 days and planned another one to follow it up. I also ate mildly better the last two days in the hopes of getting on a better track for food consumption.

In the new devotional I am doing one of the questions that was posed was interesting and I thought it was timely with a new year, and with my physical goal for the next thirty days.
What is the one thing God wants me to give up that I crave more than Him?
Pretty powerful question to think on, as God has given us the ability to crave…but we misuse it as He purposed it for good in desiring Him and Him alone. Instead we choose to run after food, relationships, false love, approval, and many other deceivingly good things in life.

Today I am sharing that for the next thirty days I am committing to reading the Bible and praying daily. I am also committing to making smart and intentional decisions about what it is I am eating and only eating out of necessity rather than to feed an emotion or desire that should only be fed by God.

What are you craving instead of God?