FOOD TRUCK Yummies … WOW, King of Pops

food truck2

Living way out in the farthest reaches of the burbs of Canton, sometimes I miss the city. Not enough to move there or anything, but the excitement of the hustle and bustle of it all, the merging of cultures, the creativity that oozes from the graffittied walls to the most chic of eateries. I used to think that Atlanta was slightly behind the rest of the world, but thanks to the Tyler Perry’s, Christopher Macken’s and Laura Cochran Nay’s of the world, Atlanta is one of the big girls now … in terms of entertainment, fashion, my favorite, food and general overall coolness. While traveling for work each day around the city I gather info so that Laura and I can swap stories about the best places. It’s cool to know where to buy an authentic Birkin bag even if I would have to work at least 3 years and not pay any other bills just to own one…. It’s also pretty cool to know where the best places in town to eat are, and being that I am big girl on a budget here I figure that is my specialty. For awhile now, I have been wanting to try out the Food Truck Park …. So, after a night of birthday fun at the Suite Lounge, Doug, Zack, Christine and myself found ourselves there early one Sunday morning afternoon (it only felt like morning) in search of a way to quench the dehydrated-ness and hunger we were all feeling. First let me say, I am pretty sure we looked ‘ratchet’ as Maddie would say, and smelled much like a brewery mishap. But as the kind folk of the ATL are not so judgmental, no one seemed to mind. Unprepared for such shenanigans with no actual CASH, Doug had to find an ATM which luckily was at the convenience store just a short stumble walk outside the park fence. It was a sad day actually. So many wonderful choices had my taste buds in overdrive just reading the menu options, but unfortunately the rumbling of the last evening’s ‘bottle service’ in my belly wasn’t sure which of these tasty treats would actually stay down. I was soooo hungry, but KING OF POPS was probably my best bet. The fresh Georgia peach (all organic fruit) popsicle would have really hit the spot and probably satisfied that hydration a bit, but it wouldn’t have filled me up. foodtruck Doug chose the gyro. As he got in line, my stomach flip flopped. I love the savory meat and a good tzatziki sauce like the next person, but not today friend, not today. The crepes looked good. Except for the crème sauce; again, not today. I settled in front of WOW. Not because I was in the mood for barbecue, but because there isn’t a day that I am not in the mood for barbecue. And, it was just too hot and sunny to walk around much more. Here in the food truck park was that merging of cultures (gyros next door to southern style ‘cue) and that creativity that I love about Altanta, pork ‘cue on cheese grits. A southern girl can’t go wrong here, right? First, let me say WOW dude was working up a sweat. I was glad to know that it actually was HOT outside and not just personally detrimental behavior from the night before. He explained that he’d been on the truck since the wee hours of the morning, taking the butts and briskets off the smoker and preparing for the day. Sounded like a perfect job to me, except for the getting up early part. And the profuse sweating part. Christine and Zack got WOW’ed too, with the brisket on grits. After we all had our food, we headed back toward the tables. Obviously, we were visibly a wreck because the otherwise full tables became small crowds of people offering us places to sit. Yes, we looked that bad. And yes, that’s southern hospitality for you. Amid the giggles and snickers and offers of space, we graciously declined and headed back for the air-conditioned comforts of the car. The pulled pork was delightfully smoky and had a sweet and spicy sauce. The grits were equally cheesy and creamy. My only complaint was that my ‘paper’ boat started to drip the excess sauce before I was done. Christine gave me a bite of brisket that was melt in your mouth tender with the same sweet and spicy sauce. No thanks, Doug, no tzatziki sauce, not today. One other complaint, all the merging of cultures might be good in a city, but the merging of smells in a small car while we all have vodka sweats, well, that was a self induced nightmare I hope I don’t repeat. All in all, I was happy with my trip, wanting to return. I will remember to bring cash next time. And maybe wait till late afternoon or early evening during a cooler time of year. Next time I find myself @ the food truck park in the heat of the day, I will definitely go with the King of Pops.


Wow! on Urbanspoon

King of Pops on Urbanspoon


Choosing THE BEST Summer Camp for Your Child

IMG_0579Keeping kids busy during the summer has turned into seriously big business for camp organizers. But as a parent, it’s a seriously difficult choice. The word camp is loosely used to describe a variety of activities ranging from summer day care to specialty camps (science, art, cooking, coding) to sports to outdoor camp experiences. One thing is for certain though, I want to get the best camp BANG for my hard earned BUCK.

Soccer or Horseback riding? Science or art? Sleep away or day camp? The questions filling my mind like fog, I decided to ask the experts. Other parents. The responses varied almost as much as the different camps available. Like many, COST and CONVENIENCE were major concerns as well as INTEREST. But I kept thinking there has to be more to worry about than just paying for it and getting there on time.

In my line of work, I am lucky to have a slightly different perspective because sadly, I come in contact with some pretty shady camp situations and I am not talking about the ‘sitting under a tree’ kind of shady. Is there some rating scale? Or list of ‘best camps’? Atlanta Parent publishes a camp guide. So do many of the neighborhood magazines (the East Cobber, The Townelaker, Sixes Living, Points North, etc). However, my research shows that there’s no ‘minimum requirement’ to be included other than paying the advertising fees! Anyone can PAY for advertising but how can I separate the men from the boys, so to speak?

Finally in the wee hours one morning, I found the GEORGIA CHILD CARE ASSOCIATION website and there on my screen was exactly what I was looking for, a checklist of sorts:
• Mandatory satisfactory criminal background checks on all employees
• Lead teacher certifications and minimum age of 18
• Minimum of 50% of staff certified in CPR/1st aid, all bus drivers and swimming supervisors
• Mandatory ratios for child and teacher including lower ratios for water safety
• Oversight inspections from state licensing 2x per year
• Meals and snacks to meet USDA guidelines
• Equipment and toys inspected to be clean, safe and free of hazards.
• Transportation procedures that involve checking campers on and off vehicles and mandatory safety restraint systems in accordance with NHSFTA.

Also, once you’ve chosen a camp where these requirements are met, ask to see the daily schedule. If you are paying for a ‘specialty camp’ like sports, science, coding, etc, make sure you are getting what you pay for. I found some camps that offered both half and full day camps. However, there were no extra ‘specialty’ activities beyond the half-day mark; the extra time is filled with indoor gym play, outdoor recess, and movie time.

I am proud to say that High Touch High Tech of Greater Atlanta meets all of the ‘good camp’ requirements set by the Georgia Child Care Association and then some! Whether providing hands-on science experiences to actual day care centers or our own full day science camp, all of our lead instructors are also degreed professional educators. Our full day camp boasts a whopping TWO HUNDRED SEVENTY minutes of guided science experimentation DAILY. Not to mention FREE EXPLORATION time with science equipment, materials and gadgets.

If only my kids wanted to attend science camp all summer ….

Transgender Students, Apple Fritters and Jesus

I won’t let transgender students ruin my apple fritters. Narrow minded adults, are a totally different story.

For those of you that actually know me, you know I am currently mourning the loss of my delightful Aunt Christine. Everyone grieves in their own way, and I have some very unique methods of personal comfort. For the first few days, all I really wanted to do was eat a dozen Krispy Kreme chocolate iced doughnuts and wash it down with a gallon of chocolate milk. And cry. All the way to Milledgeville I ate the doughnuts and drank the milk. But I didn’t cry.

That crying part is the slippery slope. At 45, once the tears start coming, they don’t stop until the well is dry. So, it was after I drove Maddie back to Nana’s the next day before I opened the floodgates. And by then my wonderful mama had saved the day, not with Krispy Kreme doughnuts with a fresh apple fritter, which would happen to be THE BEST apple fritter in the world.
I thought I was just dropping Maddie off, but Doug and I decided to go in and stay. We ended up staying for just an hour, but it was a peaceful hour and she sent us home with more apple fritters. Later that night I posted a sad and depressing status, cried a more and ate another fritter. This time with chocolate milk. I was settling in for the long haul.

My Aunt Christine liked to eat, and talk. I don’t think my love for both is a coincidence either. I thought about so many good times, that I am sure I will share along the way, but this day in particular I thought about going to church at Northside Baptist with her. My family were members there too, but on this day I remembered riding in her big car, a yellow Delta 88, standing on the front seat in between her and Uncle Ray, (do the math, I am old enough to have lived before seatbelt laws), and singing … “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves all the children of the world.” That was my favorite.

Singing that tune in my head, I warmed up the last fritter and poured the last glass of milk. I acknowledged that all these tears were anger. I was mad at Aunt Christine for getting old and dying and not asking for me when she needed someone. Our relationship didn’t work like that though. She did her part of my raising, expecting me to go out into the world and be independent and successful. Not to care for an old woman. And, Lord knows, if she had wanted ME or needed ME she would have let me know!

So, as I was mourning dear ‘Tine and eating my last fritter I was also browsing my various social media newsfeeds. And there it was, that gave me hope! Posted to one of Atlanta’s local affiliate channel’s Facebook page was this post.
I was all, “Yay! Someone is finally providing support to those kids!” “Someone really does care!” “Someone is there to be a friendly voice of guidance ….”
But alas, NO. The post was not in SUPPORT of such a meeting but in PROTEST. On the grounds that, and I quote, “My kid needs to go to school to learn, not to be around these freak show kids.” REALLY??? Freak shows? There were other comments – too many to list here – some for, but more against, this meeting. To say I was appalled was an understatement. If I were less of a woman, I wouldn’t have been able to finish my fritter!

Immediately I thought of David … Ginger … Michael …. Drew … my beloved, Nick … my new friend Christopher Macken … and I realized that some of those that I hold dearest had probably lived through this type of bigotry. And I hadn’t really noticed. So I reached out. Of the loved ones named here, there have been a variety of reactions to their “coming out”. Some have reached out to drugs. Some have severed all ties with family. Even those with family support still had to deal with ‘small town minds’ growing up. Today, all of them are much like myself, trying to figure out this life one day at a time.

Not that you asked, but here comes my opinion. We are all freak shows of some kind or another. There are many times throughout my life that I have question my own life choices and decisions. I, so far, have been lucky to always have family and friends who ‘have my back’. The knowledge, that a few folks love and support me, sheerly because I exist, is all that gets me through the day, sometimes. I cannot imagine going to any friend or member of my family with any problem that would be taboo or too great to solve together. But I, first hand, have seen people, young teens especially, who are trying to make sense of their sexuality reach out to their peeps only to be DENIED …. Treated with indifference or even worse, disgust. Research has proven that this type of treatment can lead to poor self image/self esteem, and even lead to suicidal thoughts and tendencies. I pray I never exude any attitude that would lead a person to think such things or act on them. To do so is purely evil.

Here’s what I know to be a fact:

  • EVERY child deserves support for whatever hurdle they are crossing. I, for one, pledge to be supportive rather than destructive.
  • NO child has a choice about being gay/straight, anymore than they have a say over whether they are born to loving and nurturing parents or bigoted, narrow minded assholes with warped perception of today’s world.
  • Every person has to deal with their own sexual coming of age. And it’s not pretty for anyone, gay or straight.
  • Sex is nasty. At least if you’re doing it right. Bottom line I am a pretty STRAIGHT arrow, but I am sure there are some things done in my bedroom that would unnerve the best of you. But that is MY BUSINESS. Nachos.

I can live with the choices I make because I know that Jesus loves all the children, black, white, gay or straight. As for freak shows in today’s world, among civil folk, a small-minded bigot is a THE REAL freak show and I would prefer MY children not to have to endure them. EVER.

** PS – Dear Christopher Macken, I realized that I may be the reason that you no longer use facebook messenger! I think my fat lil fingers hit the ‘call’ button when we were chatting one evening!  MY MOST SINCERE APOLOGIES!

To JUMP or not to JUMP? (JUMP Kitchen and Saloon, Woodstock, GA)

Ok, so I JUMPed. Twice. And this is what happened.

First, it was Mother’s Day. I had a coupon (of course, I did!). I love the CitySaver Coupon books because they give me great discounts for trying new places or even enjoying old favorites. And I always buy it from some kid who says they are paying their way to the beer store. Well, that’s what they would say if they were telling the truth. Anyway, it was Mother’s Day and Doug and I went out for a late lunch alone. As every mother of a teenager should. On Mother’s Day.

Jump Kitchen and Saloon isn’t too far outside our bubble, right off Towne Lake Parkway (x8, Hwy 575 N). In our general neighborhood, and an easy stop from the new outlet mall, which doesn’t have any food better than Chic-Fil-A in my opinion. Just the sound of the name made me think of the wild west and country music. Just the sight made me think sports bar with rustic wood, weathered metal and gingham table cloths. There wasn’t country music playing by a band that looked like throwback Charlie Daniels (my wild imagination), or from the music system at all for that matter. The bar was lined with TV’s all on sports channels. But, on Mother’s Day, even NASCAR takes a break, so there wasn’t much on. Maybe that’s why there were only 3 patrons TOTAL in the place. I sure hoped it wasn’t because the food sucked.

Since the other 3 folks were literally seated at the bar, we had the ‘floor’ waitress all to ourselves. Now so far, this sounds horrible, I know. But the atmosphere is really cute and if there had been some music, it might have been less dismal. Luckily, the COSMO was fabulous. Delicious even. The menu was what I expected; steaks, ribs, chops, burgers. I was thrown a bit by the lobster roll; but in a good way. Every now and then Big Girl likes a lighter meal … So I decided to try it. Right on point, Doug ordered steak… Again, with no crowd, our food came promptly and just as ordered. However, my ‘crusty Italian roll’ was more like a toasted hot dog bun. The lobster salad was good though and so were the cheese grits – even though I make better, on both accounts. Doug’s steak was everything a MAN STEAK should be and the grilled asparagus was perfect. All in all, I was pleased, but happy that I had gotten my lobster roll ‘free’ with my coupon.

my perfect cosmo
my perfect cosmo
Lobster Roll w/Cheese grits
Lobster Roll w/Cheese grits
Doug's MAN STEAK and grilled asparagus ... YUM!
Doug’s MAN STEAK and grilled asparagus … YUM!

Fast forward … Now, I hardly to a place twice unless it’s really good or I have a coupon. BOGO is BOGO people. And in this case I WON another CitySaver BOOK! … Thus another coupon ….

Me and my best girl, Paula, went out for a bite one summer Saturday afternoon. While the rest of Towne Lake was hustling and bustling as well as the aforementioned outlet mall, we were afraid of having to wait a bit. NOPE. This time there was one fella at the bar and one table. We were seated about as far from the other table as possible. Luckily, having the extra table didn’t slow down our waitress. Paula and I both ordered a ‘summer special’ of one of their ‘adult’ lemonades. I like a place that has seasonal specials, especially drinks. It is my hope that they are marketing on the FRESH and not just taking advantage of the season in name only. One of us ordered strawberry, the other raspberry. I can’t remember which exactly, because they were THAT GOOD. Perfect on a summer day. There are too many reasons that I love Paula to name them but one reason I love EATING with Paula is because we have very different tastes. I would describe Paula as a real meat and potatoes kind of girl. She’s willing to experiment and likes food with flavor and flair, but meat is her thing. Paula would describe me as someone who eats cheese that tastes like feet smell. So, it’s always an interesting experience when we go somewhere together and we’re both willing to share. Except today. Today we ordered the exact same thing …. Hmmmm …. Barbecue Salmon Salad. Paula ordered it because she is a very healthy eater and had eaten this once before and said it was quite tasty. You know, since most healthy food is NOT tasty – at least not to Big Girl… But, barbecue basted grilled salmon, strawberries, candied walnuts, blue cheese crumbles — all some of my favorite things – would surely mask the taste of the salad part. At least it was field greens. Those at least have interesting tastes and textures. Service was wonderful, and I was right, there was enough good stuff, I hardly noticed the salad at all. In fact, I cleaned my bowl without even noticing the rabbit food part.
Again, though there was no country music, even though I did see a small ‘band stand’ on the ‘bar side’. And, again, there wasn’t a crowd. The food is pretty good, so I am hoping JUMP Kitchen and Saloon doesn’t turn into a ghost town.

Strawberry lemonade ... mmm hmmm
Strawberry lemonade … mmm hmmm
Barbecue Salmon Salad -- who knew we would ever agree??
Barbecue Salmon Salad — who knew we would ever agree??

Jump Kitchen Saloon on Urbanspoon

Goodbye Summer, Goodbye Sunset Grille (Lake Allatoona, Woodstock, GA)

The end of summer is here and fall is beginning. So many things will be gone til next year; flip flops, swimsuits, pool days, yummy watermelon, fresh corn, squash and tomatoes, long days, and Sunset Grille on Lake Alatoona.

Doug and I have both ‘grown up’ on the water during summer. Whether it be the freshwater of lakes and rivers or salty seawater, our summer schedule involves water on an almost daily basis. Goodness, if you throw in the pools Doug maintains and guards, then we are in or near the water the majority of the time. Luckily we live near Lake Alatoona. Early morning or evening fishing and beautiful sunrises and sunsets are some of Doug’s favorite times of summer. I prefer sunning by the pool, and the sunsets aren’t too bad either. Together we enjoy pool time occasionally, but with us both working, dinnertime is about the only time we are together. This year we found the perfect place to have dinner and enjoy the water.

View from our seats on the deck at Sunset Grille
View from our seats on the deck at Sunset Grille

Our friends, Stephen and Traci, recommended this place for us, Sunset Grille. As new boat owners, they LOVE the ‘drive’ over. Many of the patrons enjoy that feature as well. But you don’t have to have a boat to get there, or to enjoy the sunset or the food. In fact, Thursday night is Bike Night. As for us, we always take the car of course, but the boats docked in the foreground with different pastel colors reflecting off the water make for beautiful dinner views. Outdoor seating is available as well and is perfect during twilight, when the temperatures are going down. With so many boaters, it usually makes for an early evening too since drinking and boating is most definitely unsafe.

It just happened to be a Thursday, the night Doug and I popped in. It was a really nice drive out, we even saw some deer. It’s great to have such serene and beautiful surroundings just minutes from our hustling, bustling bubble. Doug thought we were really lucky to see the deer. He felt even luckier that it was $2 draft beer night. It’s nothing fancy, but a really cool place. Just a typical lakeside bar and grill. But the beer is cold and the service is fast and both of those are pretty important features on a hot summer night.

We were seated quickly and service was prompt. I ordered a $2 beer … BLUE MOON! What??? Usually the $2 beer is PBR or Bud Lite …. Extra oranges please!!! Doug went with a 420, another good beer deal. Of course, it wasn’t served in a frosty mug, but we didn’t expect it to be. Growing up on the water, we both knew plastic cups were simply a price paid for the busy season on the lake. But the beer was cold. And she remembered the extra oranges.

Our appetizers were hushpuppies, southern fried balls of corn meal dough. Now, I won’t say I am a connoisseur of hushpuppies, but I do know a good one when I eat one. And these were ok. Pretty good even. I would guess they are frozen, ‘bar food’-ish, but I would call them ‘high end bar food’-ish. Fine, in hushpuppy language that means they even had bits of onion and jalapeno. But the exact same shape of each one is tell tale that some machine pooped them out rather than Aunt Jeannie hand scooping the batter in to the deep fryer.

I ordered the ‘tropical chicken tacos’. I have only one complaint. The name. Just because you wrap it in a tortilla it is not necessarily a taco, but that’s just my opinion. Basically it was a couple scoops of the ‘tropical chicken salad’ in a flour tortilla. Now all complaining aside, it was exactly what the menu promised and more importantly it was delicious. There was plenty of grilled chicken cut in small enough pieces to make eating it easy. There was plenty of mandarin oranges and dried cranberries, sweet potato fries were hot and crispy. The waitress (sorry, I can’t remember her name … there was a lot going on, and the beer was $2) remembered my special request of blue cheese crumbles. Doug’s fish and chips were delicious. So delicious that you would not see a picture of it if he hadn’t been in the bathroom when his food arrived! Like, I said the beers were $2. Some fresh fried catfish would surely be yummy, to go with some of those homemade hushpuppies I was already dreaming about but I haven’t found anything similar to Herb’s or Choby’s in these parts, so I will be happy with what I have. Even if they call it a taco.

My, ahem, 'tacos', and sweet potato fries
My, ahem, ‘tacos’, and sweet potato fries
Doug's Fish and Chips
Doug’s Fish and Chips

We were able to go out several other times over the summer with the same great service. I could recommend the burgers and the barbecue (be warned, it’s good bar barbecue, not like REAL pit barbecue). Cal was able to join us one night too, for bike night. He loved the live music and of course all the bikes and mostly that he was at THE BEACH, lol (Victoria Landing Beach). Even though he is the pickiest eater in the fam, he ventured out and tried the calamari, to his liking.  He also recommends the grilled cheese. Almost every time we ran into Stephen and Traci, boating ‘regulars’, and being the great folks they are, we always shared a smile and drink. I suggested Paula and Pete try it out. They had a pretty good time, too. Paula had the same idea about the hushpuppies though.   Just a lil ‘home cooking’ could Sunset Grille could make a real mark for itself. Unfortunately we will have to wait until next spring to find out for sure, as they won’t be open this winter.


Cal's grilled cheese was thumb's up!
Cal’s grilled cheese was thumb’s up!
Cal's first calamari experience ... and it was a pleasant one ...
Cal’s first calamari experience … and it was a pleasant one …
Doug and Cal check out the bikes.
Doug and Cal check out the bikes.

**the word on the lake is that there was a free beer and barbecue party for the regulars this past weekend to mark the end of summer and close down for winter – told you it was a pretty cool place.

sunset grille on Urbanspoon

Sweet Times at the Suite Lounge (Suite Food Lounge, Atlanta, GA)

Listening to the radio going to pick up Cal, I hear more talk about what’s going on in the ATL this weekend .With all the Music Midtown hype and Nicholas’ post about the freak show people he’s already seen, it’s made me think of my recent experiences “downtown”. Of course, since, I am going to pick up Cal, my next “night out” blog will be much different.

We were headed out to celebrate a friend’s birthday at the Suite Food Lounge. Now, we love to go out dancing in our own suburban bubble, but going to a place like this was a real treat. My friends’ had booked a VIP party complete with private access to the rooftop lounge and we had even bought new outfits to match the party’s black/white theme. Being in the ATL, being treated like VIP’s all dressed up … it was the perfect backdrop for Doug and I to ‘go out’ for the first time as MR&MRS. That is since the post reception fun of our wedding night, ha!

Being the frugal, aka broke, one in the bunch, I had done my research. This is a top notch place. Dinner menu, band(s), DJ, private lounge(s), one of which is on the rooftop, much different than our local watering hole with dancefloor. But after all, this is Atlanta, where the playas play … When I googled for images of the Suite Lounge I was impressed not only with the white leather couches but also with the array of celebrities that have frequented the place. I was wondering just who we might run into … Just a few weeks before we were there TI & Tiny had hosted a mother/daughter pageant there. I promise to not act star-struck. (Gospel singer, Michelle Williams had her latest album release party @ suite lounge since then, as well.)

First, let me just say there is a lot going on at the Suite Food Lounge. Our party started at 9, but we arrived around 7 to decorate our designated area of the rooftop lounge (open to us starting @9, open to the public at midnight). Valet parking was part of the VIP package, and I was surprised how packed the place was that early. Rows of tables of people at some point of the dinner process. People lined two and three deep at the bar(s). By 9, I would say it was crowded, standing room only, even, but it was a Saturday night. I wonder if there are any famous …  Cue, Atlanta’s own Tichina Arnold, celebrating her birthday as well! I recognized actress Lisa Vidal and grammy nominee Angie Stone … oH mY… bReAtHe! Lively conversations, laughs … people were having a good time. LOTS of people.

Upstairs, was a different story.  Still lots of people, but with a more laid back vibe.  White leather sofas ‘inside’ the open air lounge; blue sofas ‘outside’. Nice views of the city became even prettier as the sun went down. I removed the table drink menus to decorate for our event, but the I kind of hated to. They were really cool, iPad-like menus with that glowed. Later, I realized that I needed to get out more, because the glow-ey menus weren’t just cool, but functional too; how else can someone order a $15 drink or an $8 bottle of water in the open air dark of night? As for the rest of the VIP experience, they offered bottle service, which was really … well, VIPish. Our party had two or three bottles included, but with the crowd of people that got in as VIPs with no cover (I have heard as high as $25 pp after 10 pm) they didn’t last long. Yeah, that’s it, that’s why I lost count. Anyway, it wasn’t crowded (until later), the space was just right. We literally had the top to ourselves, and one other small group. My only complaint was that it was the hottest and most humid night in Georgia’s summer thus far and at $8 for a bottle of water, I was afraid Big Girl would melt into a puddle …

OK, so maybe that wasn’t my only complaint. The rooftop lounge also had this kinda awkward skylight things. Awkward only if you are me, and wearing a really pretty Evan Piccone ‘Marilyn’ type dress as you walk around this rooftop lounge. And possibly awkward if you are celebrating Tichina’s birthday downstairs underneath where I am walking. Lord, I hope not.

Just as I had read in other reviews on Urbanspoon, promptly at 10, the place transforms right before your eyes from dinner to show – and cover charges apply – unless you are a VIP, like us, of course. Or, unless you have been there for hours sipping slowly. After the band(s) played – not sure who all performed actually, since I was only half paying attention to what was going on down there while mingling on the rooftop – a really great DJ starts mixing. Downstairs very little seating is available, but that’s ok, because everybody’s dancing. The bars are open, beer, wine, signature drinks, and Hookahs are available. Upstairs, the bar is open, the pool tables are occupied, the sofas are full, and so is what little walking space. However, let me just say, all I could do was laugh when the DJ played a throwback song; for folks that went to high school back in the day. You know, the 90s. UGH.

Yeah, so, Doug and I have had our day, and let’s just say we gracefully admit that DAY was in the not so distant past, but surely not today. We left like respectful old married folks should, before the ankle swelling and the yawning and what not. But the beat was still thumping and the party didn’t stop for awhile after that, or so I hear.

There was also a house photographer, snapping pics of the nights events, mostly downstairs. I was a little disappointed that we never got access to the pictures taken. However, if you want to see Tichina’s party check out this article. I actually appear in one of the pics at the end of the article. No I didn’t act starstruck, but yes, maybe I did rub elbows, J.   But, Big Girl is quite fancy you see, and my friends’ parties usually have THEIR OWN event photographer. See their work in this post and at or if you want to know what I think about them, just read my blog post about them.

All in all, I would like to go back. When my ankle feels like dancing.   But rather than dance with those old fogies from the 90s, I think Doug and I would like to enjoy dinner and the show and get home before our car turns into a pumpkin, like usual. Or that Sunday brunch I read about in my pre-party research. Of course, when reality hits me in the face, with a new 4 year old in our home, I imagine I will get to tell you more about Chuck E. Cheese than fancy dance clubs, but it was definitely fun being a VIP for the night.

white leather sofas, 'inside' the rooftop lounge
white leather sofas, ‘inside’ the rooftop lounge
a lil personal decor photo by B&B
a lil personal decor
photo by B&B
Lovely Pammy with sparklers on the roof @ Suite Lounge
Lovely Pammy with sparklers on the roof @ Suite Lounge, photo by B&B,
"sparkling' bottle service @ Suite Lounge
“sparkling’ bottle service @ Suite Lounge, photo by B&B,
MR&MRS on the roof @ Suite Lounge photo by B&B
MR&MRS on the roof @ Suite Lounge
photo by B&B
MR and Sister @ Suite Lounge photo by B&B
MR and Sister @ Suite Lounge
photo by B&B
one of the many AWKWARD skylights @ Suite Lounge
one of the many AWKWARD skylights @ Suite Lounge

Suite Food Lounge on Urbanspoon


There’s not much of an entertaining story here today. You are in sad shape if you don’t already know that there’s not much better in this world on a rainy day or when you feel bad or when you are tired than grilled cheese and tomato soup. And Tom + Chee has a great feel good logo, EAT WHAT’S FUN! What’s not to love??

Whether you are a traditional “cheddar on white” or more adventurous for the house special “armagoetta”, you are bound to be pleased one way or another. Some of the sandwiches sound like they were created by a pregnant woman at midnight, but I would be willing to bet that barbecue potato chips add something to a grilled cheese that I have indeed not yet enjoyed. Macaroni and cheese, shredded chicken, bacon, and more cheeses than I can name are just a few of the ingredients you can use to fill your own sandwich. As for the tomato soup, they have you covered too, creamy or chunky, spicy or plain, it’s all there. And, I almost forgot, there are yummy breads to choose from, white, wheat, sourdough, donut … yes, you read that right, donut … as in you can have a grilled cheese sandwich on donut bread, EAT WHAT’S FUN, right??

It’s also pretty pleasing to the old purse, too, if you know what I mean. I have made somewhat of a name for myself for being the ‘coupon queen’ but Tom + Chee is budget friendly even without one (although the FRUGAL FREDDY things actually HAVE a coupon, if you can find them). It was a particularly BROKE day for me, but I was dying to try this place out. The franchise idea was launched on SHARK TANK and I am a huge fan of the show, so I had to see what all the fuss was about. I ordered a half ‘original’ grilled cheese and a ‘dipper’ of soup; not a cup or a bowl but enough to dip your sandwich. Along with water to drink, my lunch was less than $5! That qualifies for my ‘cheap eats’ and then some.

At first, I was thinking that it wasn’t going to be enough, but as my eyes are bigger than my tummy most days, I was pleasantly surprised to be STUFFED. The sourdough bread of the ‘original’ is GIANT so half was close to what I make as a whole at my house. In between the crispy buttered bread and layers of gooey cheese was chopped tomatoes with garlic. HOLY MOLEY, it was like grilled cheese bruschetta. For soup, I chose “classic tomato”, and I had more than enough to dip my sandwich. Bottom line, comfort food at it’s finest. Too bad I actually have to get dressed to go there.

There are few restaurants that I visit and actually return. But, I am already planning my next visit. You see, Big Girl didn’t have enough room for dessert – grilled cheese donuts. Just those three words are enough for me to be intrigued… OMG, I can hardly wait.


Like a total creeper I snapped this pic of a “BUILD YOUR OWN’ double decker on donut bread >>> OMG

** MY Tom + Chee is conveniently located at the corner of Barrett Parkway and Hwy 41, in Kennesaw.

Tom + Chee on Urbanspoon

Totally AMAZE-BALLS (Alessandro’s, Canton, GA)

Recently, Maddie and I took a little road trip and went outside of ‘Starbucks’ range, or civilization as we know it. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am one frugal gal, but let’s face it if you can find a Starbucks you can at least find a clean bathroom in a decent neighborhood, which is infinitely important while travelling. However, on a daily basis, we prefer the comforts of our two mile suburban bubble, which includes Starbucks, as well as QT where we can mix our coffee delights for less ….


One of the comforts of our bubble that we enjoy most is the fact that we can get ‘take out’ of most any type of food and some of it can even be delivered. And, I am not just talking pizza. Well, I am, but that’s not the point. My point is, we like to eat and we have lots of great choices.


But back to the pizza … Of course, you can’t beat the $5 Little Cesars deal, especially when you are feeding a bunch of kids, like I seem to always be. But sometimes, I want real pizza. Doug can eat ALL pizza, but every now an then he too craves REAL pizza – an authentic New York style slice makes that man very happy. In search of the best slice outside NYC, Doug and I have conducted our own ‘pizza wars’, which is closely related to the ‘Stromboli/pizza roll wars’, but that’s another story entirely. Outside our bubble we like Marietta Pizza Kitchen and Fellini’s like any other respectable pizza lover. But we have found the best of slices, right under our noses, literally, at Alessandro’s.


Alessandro’s is a family friendly café right outside a huge neighborhood development with fantastic food and even better service. Good enough to make you think you are in an Italian neighborhood, not our fairly diverse Canton. But Frank, the owner, is what makes you feel that way. He takes great pride in making sure you enjoy your dinner, whether it’s a slice, a pie, or a ‘special’. He likes to stop by your table to make sure you like your food. He knows most of the regulars by name, but his friendly nature makes even new comers feel welcome.


Growing up with Nicklina’s as my neighborhood Italian experience, Alessandro’s brings back fond memories of good eats from back in the day. I learned to appreciate a hand tossed crust and to love most anything marsala at Nicklina’s. Alessandro’s chicken marsala over creamy orzo, well, it’s simply a new twist on an old delicious favorite. Doug loves the wedge salad alongside his slice(s) and he enjoys watching the dough being tossed in the kitchen just beyond the dining area. Cal’s favorite is plain cheese, while Josie likes her slice with black olives. This is pretty good news since kids eat free on Mondays and Tuesdays (with adult purchase, of $12 I think).   I am pretty fond of the freshness of the bruschetta, too. And everyone loves the focaccia and garlic knots (be sure to ask for them if you are getting an order to go!).


But you want to know what is totally AMAZEBALLS? RICE BALLS. Never heard of them til Alessandro’s, but dang, the thoughts of meaty cheesy goodness inside a ball of deep fried rice are … well… amazeballs. They are so yummy, I can’t wait for the ‘rice ball wars’ to begin.


JOSIE gave her slice 2 thumbs up!
JOSIE gave her slice 2 thumbs up!
mmmmmm..... focaccia and garlic knots
mmmmmm….. focaccia and garlic knots
THE WEDGE -- Doug's favorite!
THE WEDGE — Doug’s favorite!
My favorite 'side'
My favorite ‘side’
Chicken Marsala
Chicken Marsala

Alessandro's Italian Cafe on Urbanspoon

Body Butter — EUPHORIA RAW — nectar of the gods for your body, lol

Ok, so, my starving artist husband (MR. DOUG’s DREAMS) displayed his wares at an art show in Woodstock, GA.  There’s only so long I  can sit still.  Being inquisitive, ok, nosy, I meandered among the artisans looking for ‘competition’ and checking out the other goods.  Sadly, I didn’t find any ‘art’ finds, but I did find a treasure nonetheless. I meet folks in the darnedest ways.  You see, not only can I not sit still, I am not interested in being hungry either, so I packed a few snacks.  One of those particular snacks, a box of Dunkin Munchkins, caught the eye of a kid walking by.  A handsome black kid with short hair.   He didn’t ASK for a donut hole or anything, but he admired the artwork and made eye contact with the donut hole eater.  Well, maybe it’s my southern upbringing, but before I knew it, I had offered this kid a donut hole.  Yes, before I even thought to use my common sense and ask his parents, I am sharing donut holes with a stranger’s kid.  Some of you reading, find the fact that I SHARED donut holes amusing in itself, but that’s not important. Anyway, said kid belonged to a family, the dad of which eventually came looking for him.  Thank GOD he wasn’t mad that I was sugaring up the kid.  Instead they invited me over to their booth — EUPHORIA RAW.  The mom of this family is like most moms these days.  She’s got a few kids and she wants to make a living and provide her kids with the healthiest life possible.  Aside from the strange lady sharing the sugar laden bite sized pastries, she’s doing pretty well.  She travels metro Atlanta’s local farmers markets selling her body butters, sugar scrubs, lip balms, etc.  The name is perfect too.  EUPHORIA RAW is just that, organic, all natural, raw ingredients that is sheer heaven on your body.  With all of the current information regarding the uses and benefits of coconut oil, it’s a great product.  I am kind of lazy when it comes to skin care, but my body craves this stuff, I swear.  It feels a little greasy at first, but absorbs almost immediately, leaving your skin feeling supple and soft literally for days, so i don’t have to slather daily.  We also found it seems to ‘heal’ about as well as the ‘chemical’ based neosporin! I found them initially at the Latimer Hall Arts Show in Woodstock, but I have also since tracked them down to the Vickery Village Farmers Market in Cumming.  If you don’t want to do all that running around or if you simply want it shipped straight to you in yipyilly …. then just contact EUPHORIA RAW!

Grandma’s birthday gift — understanding mom’s and daughters

Gifts for Grandmother: What Jack really wants ….

I got the greatest gift for my Grandmother’s birthday. No, not for her, but FOR ME. I realize it’s her birthday, but … My Grandmother and I haven’t always been able to be together on her birthday. Or Christmas, or Mother’s Day or any of those other ‘important’ holidays, now that I think about it. Sometimes it was miles that got in the way, or just life in general. But, when I moved close to Jack (*a childhood nickname that just stuck) eleven years ago, I decided since I had to share all those other holidays with so many other people, that her birthday would be the day that I would for sure go for a visit. I almost always go alone, but being selfish, I kind of like it that way. Sometimes I talk, and sometimes I listen. Usually I cry, maybe just a little. But I always feel better after we visit.

I have to be honest, I don’t visit my other grandparents. Not like this. Since I was a little girl, I always felt a special bond to her. And I remember the first time I decided she was going to be my friend. It wasn’t hanging out at her house, or eating her wonderful food, it was actually looking through my mom’s wedding album. Jack scored some serious style points on that day. Not a traditionally beautiful (ahem, thin …) woman, she was wearing a smart lil outfit completely in pink, hot pink in fact. Her hot pink dress was short, about the knee and fairly simple, but her look was stunning. A little hot pink pillbox hat with netted veil, a matching hot pink clutch, dyed to match hot pink satin heels with really pointy heels and really pointy toes. Wow. It was on that day, that I knew I was going to love her and hot pink became my favorite color.

We didn’t always have our good days, though. There was that one time that she actually came to our house to visit and I hit in the head with my baton. On purpose. She took it kind of personally. But, she really shouldn’t have. I was about 4 or 5 and I was really into doing things like that on purpose. Just ask my mama about that glass of milk on the new chair covers …. Or the fish…. Or the other fish … Ok, I completely get it, hitting your grandmother is NEVER the right thing to do, but sadly it is one of the things I ‘got away with’ during childhood, because my Daddy wouldn’t spank me. He told her to do it. And I remember the look on her face when he said it. You could have knocked her over with a feather.

What I couldn’t understand was why my mama didn’t like her more. She always made that great pound cake or chocolate pie when we went to her house. And we went shopping and got our hair done. My mom and my grandmother seemed to argue a lot.  The littlest thing would make them both make those sour faces.  And even though I can’t remember the exact words that were exchanged forty-something years ago, I know that the idea was not pleasant.  Their faces told the story.  I think I actually asked her about it once, and that’s when she started telling me she just couldn’t do things to please Jack. I didn’t really understand what she was talking about. I had no problem pleasing Jack, just being me was enough, and my mom was way smarter than me, so it just didn’t make sense. And what worried me most when I was little was everybody told me I was just like Jack. Much to my chagrin, I don’t think they were talking about her fashion sense either.

I decided, those eleven or so years ago when our visits became more regular that I would ask her about that one; about not getting along with my mom. Lord, I could use a little advice on that one myself. I didn’t start our first visit on that note. I shared my accomplishments, my fears. And I just listened with an understanding ear and I thought about what her life as a woman, as a mother, as a person was like. She struggled, and her struggles were pretty similar to some of mine. I worry about money. She had to use vouchers to get meat at the grocery during WWII and her neighbors shared theirs with her because she was pregnant. I worry about taking care of Maddie and giving her what she needs … the braces are on, but we need to pull some teeth now, ugh. She had a baby with vision problems needing surgery and glasses, way back before the wonders of modern technology and modern medicine. I complain about Maddie not doing things my way and worrying that she’s not making the right choice for herself. She lived as a housewife and never drove, and her daughter decided to buy one of the very first Ford Mustang as a ‘career woman’ way before it was cool. I don’t like what Maddie is wearing; she had live through the mini skirt era with my mom. I worry about who Maddie is dating/will marry. Her daughter married a man from over a hundred miles away and she knew very little about his family. From my perspective, it all worked out pretty well. My grandmother instilled values of faith and hard work and in the end, it all worked out.

And then this year, it dawned on me. She and my mama were completely different. That’s why they “didn’t get along”. There was no need to actually ask the question, the answers had been there all along. Jack had raised my mom to be an independent thinker. Based on her set of circumstances, she had no way to understand the life my mama had wanted and achieved. She also had no idea what the future would bring. The future is scary now, and it was no different back then. Jack had no idea what was coming next because my mom had chosen such a different path. She didn’t know what to worry about or what to pray for. Even the positives, were unfathomable, I suppose. So all those arguments, weren’t Jack disagreeing with my mom or her decisions, but manifestations of her fear. Uncertainty and the unknown are the most frightening of ideas, especially when it applies to your one an only baby, no matter what the age. Jack didn’t dislike my mom, she loved her deeply and intensely, as only a mother can.

So, yeah, that’s it, I got the greatest gift FOR ME. Time spent with an open mind and open heart, and I was given the greatest gift of all; peace and understanding.