Monday, September 27, 2010

I'm the one curly fry in the box of a regular

Jason Mraz.  My favorite.  I fell in love in 2003 when I saw him live for the first time.  He's my favorite for many reasons.  He can sing his butt off, dance like no other, entertain the crowd, and perform magic tricks all while looking handsome doing so.  How many artist do you know that can sing opera, do the robot, and speak inspiring words about saving the environment and having equal rights?  There's only one person, and that's Jason Mraz.

Last Tuesday, I took Jeremy to see Jason for the first time.  I was a little nervous.  I knew Jason would put on a great show but I never know what other people will think.

When we arrived to Greenville, SC we got a little surprise.  It turns out the Peace Center (the venue Jason played at) was right next to 'Falls Park on the Reedy' which is a REALLY nice park.  With me being anxious to get there, we of course arrived with a few hours to spare.  We were able to walk around, share a yummy pineapple smoothie and explore downtown Greenville.

Once the time came to go back to into the venue, we, mainly I, hurried back in.  The Peace Center is AWESOME.  We had pretty good seats. 4th row!  Well...4th row from the pit.  We made friends with our neighbors and sat through Robert Francis....who we didn't really care for.  Jason came out next!!

The Peace Center is a theater so seating was available.  I was afraid everyone would just sit the whole time.  I hate sitting at a concert.  I gotta get up and dance!  Once again, Jeremy and I seemed to be in the "dancing" section.  Our rows were first to stand up for him and sure enough, people began to catch on.  

Jason did not disappoint. He started out the show with a brand new song and continued with familiar tunes.  Here are some songs I was able to record:

At all of his shows, Jason speaks of ways to help and improve the environment.  He decided to re-invent plastic water bottles on this tour, making them his backdrop!  The bottles were plugged with LED lights which created a nice light show.  Seeeeeeeeeee:

He kept the show alive and the crowd interested in what was coming next.  He did a cover of Michael Jackson's "Rock with You" and pulled up this lucky kid from the crowd!  It was pretty funny/entertaining.  You can start watching at 1:45. That's when the good stuff is.  He pulled up more people to dance on stage with him when he ended the show with a Beatles cover of "All You Need is Love".  I tried my best to get him to notice me but I'm thinking I was too far back.  Yeah, we'll go with that.  Here are some pictures from the night:

All in all, it was a great night and I'm glad Jeremy finally got to see Jason live!  I don't think I swooned too much over Jason in front of Jeremy.  We tried meeting him after but he was taking way too long to come out and we had to travel back to Charlotte.  Evidently he came out in a Dinosaur costume.  That's Mraz for ya.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Googoo for Gaga or Beiber Fever?

First, I'd like to start this blog off by saying this: the Panthers make my heart cry.

Little did you know, thanks to an awesome lady at work, I have a side gig selling merchandise at concerts held at the Time Warner Cable arena. The 2 big ones this summer: Justin Beiber and Lady Gaga. Let's start with the little guy first...

Apparently, 90% of the female tween population in Charlotte has Beiber Fever. My job is to stand in the lobby and sell programs, glowsticks, and whatever else we've got with Beiber's name or face on it. As soon as the doors opened, hundreds of girls literally came pouring in eager to see some Beiber. I tried to count how many homemade t-shirts were present, but I quickly lost count. I was really disappointed with the majority of the t-shirts because they lacked creativity (unlike the Gaga fans, but I'll get to that later). Anyway, you know how on TV you see clips of girls screaming and crying over their favorite celebrities? Did you know that REALLY happens? I witnessed girls screaming and shaking with excitement from looking at the pictures of Beiber I showed them. Entertaining? Little bit. Unnecessary? Definitely. I was asked if I had any control over fans meeting Beiber backstage. I guess that Bobcats t-shirt made me look really important.

I was surprised at how many adults were there without kids. The cougars really came out in full effect that night. I felt a little sorry for the dads though. Programs were $30, glowsticks were $10, t-shirts were $20+, hoodies were $50 and they bought it all. We almost sold everything. One guy had 3 girls with him and was forced to buy tons of crap. Seeing those men dig into their wallets and shell out cash to keep their ladies happy just made me not look forward to having kids. If I have a girl, I know I'm going to be a sucker for buying them useless things. In my experience with the kiddos, it's just easier telling boys no.

Beiber had 3 other acts with him. Sean Kingston was the other big name on the tour. There were actually 2 opening acts. This isn't a professional blog, so I don't need to remember their names (because I don't) They weren't that important anyway. I liked Sean Kingston. He has catchy songs. He didn't seem to be on stage very long, but he was still a good prelude to the headliner. Overall it was a pretty good show. He had some terribly corny lines, but they were elegant, sweet nothings to the thousands of screaming girls. One more thing. I think this concert was held when he was supposed to be taping for the Nickelodeon Teen Choice Awards. I tuned in to see if he recorded his Charlotte performance for the Awards show, but alas, he recorded a different show. I was heartbroken.

She has many haters, and even more followers, but it doesn't matter what you say about her, Gaga can put on a show. What's crazy is everything/everyone there for the show was almost just as entertaining as the actual concert. Unlike the homemade t-shirts for Beiber, these people were CREATIVE. You see how I used all caps there for that word? It still doesn't truly emphasize what I saw that night. Picture yourself in a wild, homosexual, transgender, extremely happy club on Halloween night. What you envision is probably very close to what went down at the TWC. This was one of the few times I just didn't mind staring at people. There were lots of males in women's clothing. That was probably the majority of the costumes. There was also an insane amount of women in just their bras as a top. A lot of times, that's a great thing... but not so much that night. Lots of underwear as bottoms too and some worn on the outside of clothing (Quailman style). Needless to say, these people were definitely wearing costumes and not every day clothing. I was impressed with some of the things people created themselves to wear. Those guys had some skills and really, they should've been proud with what they produced. Gaga should also be proud of what her "little monsters" were able to create. I could've done an entire blog solely on the costumes worn that night, but this paragraph was probably enough. I would also like to note that I did get some pictures from the night, but for some reason they won't show up when I try to post them here so once I get that figured out, I will post them ASAP.

As I stated before, Gaga put on quite a show. It had a story line which was nice and made the transitions between songs have a little more meaning. She played both the piano and bass while performing to show off some of her musical talent. Her show was filled with energy and non stop movement. The dancers were all over the stage which gave your eyes plenty to watch while listening to the heavy bass thumping repetitively. I can tell the audience was more than pleased with the show. Gaga also talked a lot about being proud of the way you were born. Not going to get into the many discussions and arguments that can open up, but it's amazing the power she has. Couple thousand people in Charlotte, NC show up for her concert and are in love with her, believe in her and what she preaches and believes in. Now, imagine that same group size but in at least 47 of our other states in the country. That adds up to a whooooole lot of little monsters. She's reaching Oprah status for the homosexual, transsexual, transgender, etc. group.  Better watch out if she starts a book club.

Two huge concerts for me this summer. Honestly, glad I got to experience both. Gives me a taste of life outside of my bubble. And in case you were wondering, between these two, I went googoo for Gaga.

Friday, September 17, 2010

May I have this dance?

I would consider myself a modern bride.  There will be traditional parts to our wedding, but I like to change things up a bit; do my own thing and be creative.  Therefore I won't be walking down the isle to your traditional wedding march.  

In April, I decided to go see the wonderful Dave Barnes.  Before going to see him live, I had liked a few of his songs.  A lot of his stuff was too slow for my liking but he was coming to Charlotte and by golly I was going to see him.  Talk about an amazing show.  I was blown away and walked out a huge fan.  Not only does he sing with soul and sophistication, he is also quite the jokester.  He is hilarious, taking the time to talk and joke with the audience.  During his show, he sang a song called 'Home'.  I was speechless.  This was it.  This was the song I saw myself walking down the aisle to marry Jeremy.  It was perfect.  This song gives me goosebumps every time I hear it and has actually brought tears to my eyes knowing that it is perfect for Jeremy and I.  I encourage everyone to go download this song on iTunes.  His latest album, 'What We Want, What We Get'  is awesome as well, so you won't be wasting your money.  Below are the lyrics to 'Home', a song that reminds me of the feelings I have for Jeremy.  I love all of the words to this song but I really love how in the end, Dave says "wherever WE are is home".

Your voices swirl and welcome me
Hem me in, this anthem sweet
Cause we are all familiar now
We're in each other's blood somehow

I will never be a stranger
I will never be alone
Cause deep inside of me I know that
Wherever you are, is home

So raise a glass and gather round
Toast the night and friendships found
I lay to rest my troubled face
Breathe deep this amazing grace

I will never be a stranger
I will never be alone
Cause deep inside of me I know that
Wherever you are is home

Sometime soon this road may part
Mine may end where yours starts
Should you ever need me
You'll know where I'll always be.

You will never be a stranger
You will never be alone
Cause deep inside of me I know that
Wherever WE are is home. 

Another song that means a lot to me, also reminding me of Jeremy, is 'A Beautiful Mess' by the one and only, Jason Mraz.  Anyone who knows me, knows I have a slight obsession with him so does it surprise you that we chose a song of his to be our first dance?

Jeremy and I may seem like the perfect couple, but trust me, we've had our ups and downs.  We've broken our relationship off more than once, in the beginning stages and even the late stages.  It was our last "break up" that made me realize that I can't live without him.  Something inside of me was broken.  I've never cried so much in my life.  Jeremy was also broken.  Couldn't eat, couldn't sleep.  Apollo (our dog) didn't even act the same.  Once we got through this bump in the road, we have become closer than ever.  If anything we love each other even more and know that we are, indeed, made for each other.  

Jason's song 'A Beautiful Mess' describes us perfectly. Relationships are messy.  Life is messy.  But they can each be beautiful if you work through that mess.  Jason got it right on the money with this song.  This song also gives me goosebumps.  Especially when I hear it live.  I bolded the lyrics that really hit home.

You've got the best of both worlds
You're the kind of girl who can take down a man,
And lift him back up again
You are strong but you're needy,
Humble but you're greedy
And based on your body language,
And shoddy cursive I've been reading
Your style is quite selective,
though your mind is rather reckless
Well I guess it just suggests
that this is just what happiness is

And, what a beautiful mess this is
Its like picking up trash in dresses

Well it kind of hurts when the kind of words you write
Kind of turn themselves into knives
And don't mind my nerve you could call it fiction
But I like being submerged in your contradictions dear
'Cause here we are, here we are

Although you were biased I love your advice
Your comebacks they're quick
And probably have to do with your insecurities
There's no shame in being crazy,
Depending on how you take these
Words I'm paraphrasing this relationship we're staging

And what a beautiful mess, this is
It's like picking up trash in dresses

Well it kind of hurts when the kind of words you say
Kind of turn themselves into blades
And the kind of courteous is a life I've heard
But it's nice to see that we played in the dirt
'Cause here, here we are, here we are

Here we are, here we are,
Here we are, here we are
Here we are, here we are
Here we are, we're still here

We're still here
What a beautiful mess, this is
It's like taking a guess when the only answer is "yes"

And through timeless words and priceless pictures
We'll fly like birds not of this earth
And tides they turn and hearts disfigure
But that's no concern when we're wounded together
And we tore our dresses and stained our shirts
But its nice today.  Oh the wait was so worth it.

And there you have it, ladies and gents.  Two songs that mean so much to me and fit into our wedding perfectly.  Did I mention I get to see Jason in 4 days and Dave in November?!  Lucky, I know.  Anyone who wants to go see Dave with me is welcome to come!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Avert Your Eyes!

I work at the YMCA and on occasion I have to pee. The closest bathroom is, of course, the mens locker room. I love our facility. I even love the locker rooms. They're nice and spacious and there's plenty of everything (urnials, stalls, showers, etc.). Here's my one problem (and this is really a problem in any locker room): naked dudes. It's really just not fun. Maybe the ladies might have a different opinion, but I'm not a huge fan. I've gotten over it because they all have the same parts I do. I'm mature enough to not giggle or say "ewww". So there's definitely worse. What's worse than seeing a naked dude in the locker room? Seeing a naked dude THAT YOU KNOW in the locker room.

A little background: when you walk into the mens locker room here, you turn the corner and there's a walkway to the toilets. There are sections of lockers that branch off from the walkway so you aren't immediately staring at people as they change. However, at the end of this walkway is a straight shot right to the showers. So today I walk in, turn the corner, and I'm walking to the toilets when all of a sudden, this guy pops out of the shower directly in my view. This has happened before - no biggie, I just tell myself to keep walking and don't make eye contact. Well, that all changed when I recognized the guy stepping out of the shower. We immediately made eye contact :( For about 3 seconds you could clearly see and feel the awkwardness happening between us. What made it so awkward was the fact that he is the parent of one of the kids I used to work with. We both had a moment of, "do I act like I don't see him?" "do I say hi?" "do I lower my eyes and just look at the floor?" Honestly, it weas probably more awkward for him since he was the one naked. We each did a quick head nod and went on our way. I never would've thought that situation would be so weird but then again, I never thought I'd be in that situation.

Go Daddy-O

Many of you probably think my portion of this blog is dedicated to barbecue. Well... as of now, you'd be absolutely correct, but I just can't help it.

There are some things in life that are just perfect together - Reese's combination of chocolate and peanut butter, grilling and football, peanut butter and jelly, and of course, Jeremy and Asha. It's time for me to add another combo to the perfection list - BBQ and good live music.

Really, this combo could be any good food and some good live music, but in the south, it doesn't get much better than BBQ. For me, BBQ is a southern delicacy that's only done right when made in states where the fine people say "y'all" and know the difference between barbeque and having a barbecue. When paired with good music, it becomes a joyous occasion filled with dancing and smiles all around. This past weekend we were blessed to have the Time Warner Cable BBQ and Blues festival in uptown Charlotte. It kicked off Friday evening with BBQ (of course) and a full line up of bands to last throughout the evening. Saturday featured a 5K race (the Hog Jog - I love that title) followed by numerous events and showcases throughout the day. Asha and I went Friday night to check it out and to hear Big Bad Voodoo Daddy perform. For those who don't know, BBVD is a band that plays a mixture of blues, swing, and jazz music. The best part about their music is you just can't help but dance to it. I'll elaborate on that in a bit.

The festival was packed Friday night. Vendors lined the street on each side and it was probably the best smelling event I've ever attended. Jim and Nick's and Mac's were there along with some other restaurants that I need to try. Everywhere you looked there was BBQ. It was truly awesome, haha. I remember one of the vendors were selling alligator meat too. I never worked my way around to trying it.

So BBVD was supposed to come on stage around 9. Well, the band before them didn't get off stage until 9 so we had to wait. This waiting period allowed us to make our way closer to the stage which was nice. The mix of people was rather interesting. It ranged from seeing your average looking white male and female... to seeing a black guy in a cowboy hat and cowboy boots (not average). The audience was also split down the middle so there was an aisle workers and photographers could walk through. Our side was much livlier. 9:35 hits and finally, the band comes out on stage. It was a great show. They played songs from their upcoming album and, not gonna lie, I might be purchasing that. Asha and I are a big fan of music, and what I mean by that is I love songs that feature lots of real instruments. Fact: Jeremy was in band from 6th grade to freshman year at Appalachian State University. Asha was in band from 5th-12th grade.  Anytime a song can throw in some brass sounds (trumpet, trombone, even some saxaphone) consider me hooked. BBVD features 2 trumpet players, trombone, tenor sax, baritone sax, guitarist, drums, bass, and keys. If you even remotely like blues, jazz, or swing music, you'll like this band. They know how to throw a party because like I said earlier, you just can't help yourself when their music is going. You've got to dance. 

I'm interrupting Jeremy's blog like he did mine.  Hope he doesn't mind.  Anyways...I went along to this festival not knowing what exactly I was getting myself into.  I knew Jeremy wanted to check out this band so I was just going along for the ride.  BBVD sounded really familiar to me but I had never heard them before.  After the first 3 songs were played, I was hooked.  Their music is so lively and upbeat.  It's also nice to hear actual instruments for a change.  You also can't help but dance.  It's a must.  I was really upset that I didn't bring my camera.  I usually bring it everywhere but I honestly didn't think I'd have such a good time.  Lesson learned.  A couple days later I finally realized why this band sounded so familiar to me.  Turns out, I designed a page for them in The Appalachian newspaper (I really miss working for the paper) my senior year. I just happened to use that page for my portfolio. Here's proof: 

Now back to Jeremy. I REEEEEEEEEEEEEALLY wish I had my camera to record the people dancing though. I'm afraid that I just don't have the brilliant vocabular needed to describe what was happening around us. Somewhat of a mosh-pit formed directly behind us which featured some old folks... just... again, I don't know how to describe it. If you were here with me, I would imitate their movements. There was a lot of jumping around and arms flailing and people tossing bottles and just... some happy folks. For anyone who watches TrueBlood, remember in season 2 when MaryAnn had everybody in Bon Temps under a spell and they would have their "parties" and everyone would be super happy and care-free? This "mosh-pit" wasn't as extreme (there wasn't any public sex going on) but it had a similar feeling to that. (haha... I bet anyone who does not watch TrueBlood probably thought that was really weird and may have formed some funny thoughts once I mentioned the public sex... oh well). It wasn't just all crazy dancing though. There were some couples up front actually swing dancing and looked like they knew what they were doing. What's crazy though is that no one on the other half of the audience was dancing. Their facial expressions looked like they were enjoying themselves, but they were statues. I guess technically, you don't HAVE to dance to BBVD's music like I stated before... but still. Those people were lame.

Overall it was a great night. Relaxing with the lady while inhaling BBQ and enjoying a great concert equals happiness for me. I wish I went and got a picture with the giant inflatable pig. Missed opportunity.

P.S. - Beer can also be added in with the BBQ and music combo. I didn't add it because I don't drink beer. However, if I did drink beer, I guarantee that I would drink it while eating BBQ and listening to music. The end.

I've got to learn how to write shorter blogs...

Friday, September 10, 2010

For Richer or Poorer?

I'm a saver, not a spender.  Spending a huge sum of money freaks me out.  I tend to back away from the situation, ball up, and talk myself out of it...heck, I almost cried when I made my first big purchase (macbook...totally worth it).  Paying for this wedding is a big deal for me.  I'm probably going to freak out even more when I have to pay for the most expensive part...the food!  It's just hard to say goodbye to all of that money you have saved for so long.  

Jeremy has helped me with this issue of mine.  He lets me know that, in the end, it will all be worth it and my money will be well spent.  He pushes me to step outside the boundaries of my tight wallet; tells me that sometimes you just need to spoil yourself.

I bring up this topic because I am about to spend a butt load of money on a trip to DISNEY WORLD!  Jeremy and I are running the Wine And Dine Half Marathon Relay at Disney in less than a month! I talked him into running the relay because I didn't feel like running the full 13.1 miles myself.  He'll be running the first 5 miles and then I'll finish up the last 8.  The race starts at 10 pm so hopefully it will be nice and cool.  We get to run through all 4 parks (how cool is that!) and we finish up at Epcot with the Food and Wine Festival.  I could not turn this race down.  I wanted to take Jeremy to Disney at some point (he's never been before) and this year just seemed like the right time to do it.  One of my life goals was also to run a race at Disney.  Two checks off the list!  After our race, we are spending the week in Orlando.  We'll be going to Disney for 3 days and Universal for 2.  We've been waiting ALL SUMMER for this.  Can't wait!

I feel guilty knowing that this is a huge amount of money that should be going to our wedding but I felt like this was the best time for us to go.  This is our last chance to be kids before we deal with grown up stuff like buying a house and paying more bills.  Jason Mraz wrote the perfect remedy for me in his latest blog.  He said "Money is made up. Let it go. Love is the only thing that is real."  I have to learn to let money go, leave my worries behind and just live my life with the people I love.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sick of BBQ? You're CRAZY!

So my barbecue journey continued the other day when I finally ventured over to Stallings, NC to check out Rockstore BBQ. A co-worker of mine had been telling me about it and insisted that I try it, so since my mom ate what was GOING to be my lunch, I had the perfect opportunity to give it a shot. The restaurant is about 15-20 minutes away from where I work, so it was within reasonable distance for a lunch break. On to the grading...

1. Service/Atmosphere: As soon as I walked in, I could sense that Rockstore was a down home, know-everybody's-name kind of place (the man at the register calling everyone by name gave me that feeling). It was a small place with about 3 or 4 booths to sit at for dine-in. The man at the register was one of the nicest strangers I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. He was quick on the register which is always a good thing. So if you don't mind close quarters in a friendly environment, then this place is a must-go. Grade: A

2. Menu excitement: Well, there wasn't much reading to get excited over. The menu was listed above the register and it was pretty standard. Nothing fancy, you really know exactly what you're getting at this place. Again, this is a small place, so there wasn't a need for a long menu of options. With that said... Grade: B-/C+ (the menu looks much better online... we'll go with a B for that)

3. Food speed: Good luck trying to deliver food faster than these guys. As soon as I said "lunch special", they were moving! Everything was pre-packaged ready to go, so what took the longest was me trying to decide which sauce I wanted. Grade: A+

4. Tickled fancy: Because I got the lunch special, I only got one side, so of course I chose mac'n cheese (if you haven't figured out already, it's my go-to side order). This wasn't the best I've had, but it was definitely good. Wasn't quite the homestyle I like at other restaurants, but it was 10x better than what some places put out. Grade: A-

5. Sauce: Rockstore's got some goooood sauce. I only tried 1 (out of 3 options) but if the others are anything like the one I had, then they are also "goooood". One awsome thing about the sauce (other than the taste) is that they gave me 2 little packages of the sauce. So I poured one packaged all over my sandwich, then I dipped that same sandwich in the other package of sauce (yes, both things of sauce were necessary).
Grade: A+

6. Wallet pain: The absolute best thing about the $5.50 lunch special is... it's only $5.50. I have yet to go to a place that can match that price and amount of food. Grade: A+

7. Surprise: The fact that I got some good barbecue from a very small restaurant - that's really no surprise. No grade on this one.

8. Amount: The lunch special consisted of a barbecue sandwich, 1 side, and a drink. I ate it all... and it was good. They gave me a generous portion of barbecue for my sandwich, and the mac'n cheese was just enough. I was satisfied after my meal, which is all I really ask. Grade: A

To wrap this up, Rockstore BBQ was good. I can't say it was better than Jim and Nick's or Mac's because of the different styles. I don't see too many people going out to eat and picking Rockstore for their dining pleasure. However, it's the best place to grab a really good barbecue lunch. I will return in the very near future (like... tomorrow).

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day Festivities

There has been a request that Jeremy and I write in separate colors.  Sairy, your wish has been granted.  Asha will write in purple and Jeremy will write in blue. When we both write, it will be in black.  Now onto our weekend.

Saturday started out bright and early with the Freedom 5k held at Freedom Park.  Jeremy opted to sit out on this one so we were able to bring Apollo along.  The weather was absolutely PERFECT.  It definitely felt like Fall was on it's way.  There was no humidity which was the best part.  It was a great day to just be outside and not feel all gross from the heat.  Sairy and her boyfriend, Julius, and his dog Milly were there to enjoy the morning with us.  Sairy joined Asha in the race while the guys took care of the dogs and the pictures.   The course was awesome. It was all throughout the park which was shady and not too hilly.  Sairy finished first with a time of 26:54.  About a minute behind, Asha came in at 28:20.  No awards for this race.   Maybe next time.  Since it was so nice out, we all decided to walk around the lake before heading home.  Milly got a chance to jump in the lake and swim after ducks.  Apollo wasn't having any of that.  He hates the water...just like a black person, haha.

We were surprised at how well the dogs posed for this!
Saturday was also the start for Appalachian football!  Woohoo!  Jeremy picked up some BBQ from his current favorite BBQ restaurant, Jim 'N Nick's (the mac n cheese was sooooooo good!).  We headed over to CJ's to watch what ended up to be a nail-biting game. [Ok, so Saturday was also the start of college football for many schools across the country. MAN it was a good day! First, the App game seriously increased my blood-pressure. Basically, the entire first half we played with zero energy, couldn't break a tackle, and bit harder than (insert some animal with strong jaws for biting here) on play-action plays. Every big play, the receiver was wide open! Luckily, there are two halves to every game and Appalachian State is a championship program. It was a completely different team coming out in the second half. The offense finally looked crisp and made the plays we've grown accustomed to seeing from our Mountaineers. Chatty (Chattanooga) had no idea how to finish that game.  Anyway, we won a nerve wracking game with the final score 42-41. GO APP! (BTW, this was the first season opener that we hadn't been to in quite some time. We've been to the first game for the past 4 years, biggest one being the thriller in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This year we started with a conference game instead of a big road game, and App broke out the alternate jerseys. I'm not a HUGE fan of them, but they still look nice. I won't turn into a Sportscenter segment here, but the Jacksonville State-Ole Miss game was awesome - Jacksonville State won in 2OT - and the LSU-UNC game had a great 4th quarter. Of course I wanted to see my Heels pull out a victory with all of the suspensions and what not looming, but we just couldn't quite finish it. Ok, now that I've successfully made Asha angry will my blue interjection, I'm done now.] UGH! I can't believe he did that! I go downstairs for one minute, I come back and all I see is BLUE!  RUDE.

On Sunday we made a quick trip to Boone to visit Reuben for a bit.  Last time we were up there we didn't get to walk around campus much so we decided to stroll through and reminisce. So much has changed in the past 2 years!  New dining hall, new mall area, and no more amphitheater beside the Student Union.  We also ran into Erica, one of Jeremy's former co-worker and friend.  Her son is a freshman at App so we were able to give him some good college advice and tricks of the trade for surviving the first year.  Two more weeks and we're back up for the NC Central vs. App game!

And we're finally to Monday.  Happy Labor Day!  We spent the day with The Normans and went to The Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, SC.  It was a really nice zoo.  We were able to get through everything within 2 hours.  Our favorite animals to see were the lions but our favorite experience was feeding the Lorikeets.  We were given little cups of nectar and the birds would fly to you and eat!  They flocked to Jeremy and went after his silly bandz and hair.  One almost peed on him but it got a little girl instead.  It was a great experience and we highly recommend it!  This zoo is much better than the Asheboro zoo.  It wasn't as spread out and it had better exhibits.  Sorry North Carolina.

We hope everyone had a great and relaxing Labor Day as well!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Three letters: B-B-Q

So I accidentally started a movement for myself. A couple Fridays ago I had some barbecue and I was all like, "ah man, this is delicious! I should eat barbecue more often." Well, I took that literally and ate barbecue every day for the next 7 days. Once I accidentally hit 4 straight days, I figured I might as well make it 7. Once that got going, an even better idea was thrown at me. I should try all of the barbecue restaurants in and around Charlotte and rank them! One of the better things I've gotten myself into.

So my barbecue tour needed some sort of rules. After consulting with both my stomach and taste buds, I came up with the following questions I answered for each restaurant:
  1. How is the overall service and atmosphere? (greeters, waiters/waitresses, etc.)
  2. Does the menu get me excited?
  3. How quickly do I get my food?
  4. Do the sides tickle my fancy?
  5. How awesome is the sauce? 
  6. Is this meal gonna hurt my wallet?
  7. Oooo, I love a good surprise! (X-factor)
  8. Amount of food?
Every restaurant went through this SAT-like test. So far I've visited Mac's Speed Shop, Q-Shack BBQ, Jim and Nick's Bar-B-Q, and 521 BBQ and Grill.*
(Before I begin, I would like to add that this barbecue tour is on-going. These are just the places I've hit in my 7 straight days. )

First up, Mac's. Asha and I went  on a Friday night and, as usual, it was packed. Mac's always has a live band on Friday nights which is pretty cool. The parking lot is always overflowing and people seem to be having a great time.

  1. Service/Atmosphere: Atmosphere was great, if you don't mind the biker-bar vibe. Our service, however, wasn't the best. It wasn't totally our waitress' fault though. It was busy, which meant she was busy, so we felt a little overlooked. Plus, the sprite we ordered had zero syrup soooo it was nasty. Grade: B-

  2. Menu excitement: Reading this menu was nice. Definitely woke up my taste buds. There's lots of options on the menu, including what sounded like wonderful ribs and burgers. Grade: A

  3. Food Speed: I was pleasantly surprised by this one. The food came out like how I like my cars and my women - fast (just jokes). It only felt like 5 minutes max, and there was never a period where I thought, "what's taking so long with the food?" With that said, Grade: A

  4. Tickled fancy: Mac's got some good sides. I had Mac'n cheese, baked beans, and fries. Fries weren't anything to rave about, but still good. Baked beans honestly tasted like some Bush baked beans I could've made myself. The mac'n cheese was the best part. It was real mac'n cheese. Don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about either. It was baked... none of that box, stove-top stuff. Not as cheesy as I like, but still pretty good. The best part about it was that it was unexpected. Grade: A

  5. Sauce: The sauce pretty much makes the barbecue. Luckily for Mac's, they had some good sauce. Again, I don't have much to say about it. Just... good sauce. Good enough for a decent grade. Grade: B

  6. Wallet pain: Mac's is definitely reasonably priced. A meal for 2 came out to roughly $23. It wasn't over-priced which is always. Grade: A

  7. Surprise: Yeah, there were no surprises here. No surprise = no grade.

  8. Amount: Basically, if I get a to-go box, then we're good. I got a to-go box, so I was good. Grade: A+

Next up was the Q-Shack. I'm going to go ahead and put this out there - this restaurant is, right now, on the bottom of my list. Let's be clear though, it wasn't bad. It just wasn't as good as every other restaurant. For starters, the restaurant is sort of set up like a... Quiznos. You walk in and order then basically walk along the bar and tell them which sides and what not you want. So yeah, on to the grades...
  1. Service/Atmosphere: Well, if you want a quick barbecue sandwich, then this is your place. Set up much like a fast-food restaurant, you can get in and out of there on your lunch break easily. If you want to have a good sit-down meal, look elsewhere. Grade: B-
  2. Menu excitement: I don't remember getting very excited at all. Grade: D
  3. Food Speed: Again, it's set up like a fast-food restaurant so of course we got our food fast. So for that, I have to give them a high grade. Grade: A+
  4. Tickled fancy: The sides were pretty lame. I got mac'n cheese and baked beans. The mac'n cheese LOOKED like the real stuff, but I was fooled. DEFINITELY not enough cheese. It was pretty bland. And THEN their baked beans had a delicious sounding title... but it was poop. This will receive a low grade based on the huge let down I received. Grade: D
  5. Sauce: The sauce was pretty good. (Sorry, that's really all I have to say) Grade: C <-- average
  6. Wallet pain: Luckily, Asha and I had a bogo coupon for this place (buy one, get one). So our total came out to just over $10. However, I would not want to pay $10 for the meal I received. It just wasn't worth it. Grade: D
  7. Surprise: I was surprised at how much I did not enjoy myself. Grade: D
  8. Amount: I didn't get a to-go box. #fail Grade: F <-- fail.

From the worst, to the best. Jim and Nick's is currently my number 1 and now favorite place to go for some barbecue. As a reward for running, Asha and I treated ourselves to some barbecue. This turned out to be one of the best rewards I've ever received. I'm just going to let you know now this place was the nerd of the class - straight A's.
  1. Service/Atmosphere: Awesome. I swear, this was a down home, small town family restaurant disguised as an upper scale, somewhat modernized family restaurant. The greeter was earning her money. She was very pleasant. Our waitress was awesome. Of all the restaurants I went to, she got the biggest tip. Really, everyone there we encountered was nice. It had some nice southern hospitality. Back to our waitress, she was very helpful and had really good timing which was greatly appreciated. Grade: A+

  2. Menu excitement: My mouth has never watered so much from reading. The first thing I read on their menu was how they take the time everyday to slow cook ALL of their meat (not just the barbecue) for 20 hours. That heavenly sentence was all I needed. Grade: A+

  3. Food Speed: This was great. Any time your food comes out faster than you expect, that's a good thing. Grade: A

  4. Tickled fancy: Maaaaan, these were some good sides. Again, I got mac'n cheese and baked beans. Baked beans were good, not the best ever, but good. The mac'n cheese was delish. It was REAL mac'n cheese and it was REAL good. Best sides of any place (leap frogged Mac's). Grade: A

  5. Sauce: Goooooood. I used mostly the spicy sauce. It was perfect. Just enough kick, but not over powering the taste. I loved it. Grade: A+

  6. Wallet pain: Easily the priciest place of the bunch. But unlike a previously mentioned restaurant, this was worth it. A meal for 2 came out to roughly $27. Grade: A

  7. Surprise: Best part. I had 3 wonderful surprises here. First surprise - Good LORD they had some good lemonade. Asha got the lemonade and I had sweet tea. The tea was also good, but the lemonade was so good, I ordered a to-go cup for some. Second surprise - Asha ordered the ribs. Not only is it awesome when your lady can dig in on some ribs with you, but at every restaurant I wanted to order ribs soooo bad. So it was awesome she ordered some so I could try them and let me tell ya, when they said they slow cook ALL of their meat... they ain't lyin'. Those ribs were excellent. Third (and best) surprise - you know how some restaurants give you bread to munch on until your food arrives? Well, Jim and Nick's gives you some delectable cheese biscuits. I can't accurately describe how delicious those little biscuits were. It was just the perfect combination of sweetness butter, and cheese. OH, and this ties in with the food speed, we asked for another round of cheese biscuits and actually got our entrees before the biscuits even came out! They were super fast. (P.S. - they also had pickles on the barbecue. Never seen that before but... those were some good pickles! A nice little surprise) Grade: A+++

  8. Amount: Great amount of food because I had the best lunch ever the next day. I probably COULD have finished all of my food there, but I knew it would be such a good lunch and I didn't feel the need to completely stuff my face. Grade: A

Finally, we've got 521 BBQ. It took a little while finding the place (technical difficulties), but we eventually made it. The place looked fairly new, but we discovered it's been open for 5 years. Anyway, it was a small place, somewhat cramped inside, but all of the patrons didn't seem to mind the close quarters. Anyway, let's get to the grades.
  1. Service/Atmosphere: So like I said, it was a small restaurant, and it was also packed when we arrived. Our waitress seemed to be one of the veterans of the restaurant. She seemed to know what she was doing, which is really all I ask. There were, however, some... newbies. It was clearly their first week of service. So again, our waitress was fine, everything else... eh. Grade: B-
  2. Menu excitement: Wasn't too much excitement with this one. It was pretty standard. I went with 2 friends and we all got the same meal. I don't really remember anything special about the menu either. I honestly don't really remember much of anything on the menu, but I mean... it wasn't terrible. Whatever... Grade: C
  3. Food speed: If I remember correctly, we got our food fairly quickly, especially considering the hectic time period. It wasn't a blazing speed or anything, but it didn't take long which was nice. Grade: B
  4. Tickled fancy: My two sides were baked beans and potato salad. I didn't even touch the potato salad. I guess the beans were OK. I'm going to dock some points due to my not even tasting the potato salad (it honestly just didn't look appetizing). Grade: D
  5. Sauce: I can rave a little about the sauce. They had some good vinegar based sauce. The eastern style was a nice switch. What was also nice was when I mixed their two sauces. That tasted great. Grade: A
  6. Wallet pain: Fairly priced. It was very comparable to the other restaurants. So... Grade: B
  7. Surprise: Well... I was surprised at how my sweet tea got worse with each refill. It was weird.     Grade: D
  8. Amount: I ate it all, no to-go box here. Grade: F
So there you have it. Pretty much the first half of my barbecue tour.  It's been great. Trying new places has honestly been awesome. If you've got any suggestions, please feel free to comment and let me know. I really want to try more places because I love barbecue. Hope you enjoyed, be sure to check back for more barbecue updates.

* Just an FYI, during this barbecue tour, I also went to Woodlands up in Blowing Rock. IT was great, but I decided not to include it since it wasn't in Charlotte and surrounding.