All In The Family: How To Work For Your Spouse And Live To Tell The Tale

It’s official!

I am now the
Director of Strategic Relationships and Community Outreach
for OJ Mortgage Inc. 

Slide background

Yeah, that’s my husband Stan’s company and I did get to give myself a long and fancy-ish title but I suppose it’s one of the perks of being married to the boss 🙂

So call me crazy but…I did actually volunteer for the job. I mean, I get paid but I willingly went into it understanding I would be working for my spouse. We’ve sort of been dancing around this idea for years, the planets started to really align a few months ago and after much  yelling debate  discussion  casual conversation we decided to give it a real whirl.

This should be a no-brainer for me…I am a self-proclaimed, crazy in a good way networking maven (or at least I think so) and go out and about into the community as well as represent myself online every day with virtual ease. I also have been the unofficial #1 cheerleader for OJ for a long time.Stan, Stan, He's our man...%0AIf he can'tHow long?

Well, first let’s go back in time to the morning that I signed my divorce decree for my first marriage in August 2001. My attorney advised me to find out about refinancing ASAP. Rates were significantly lower than the one I was committing to by taking over the mortgage on my soon to be former marital home. He asked if I knew anyone in the mortgage industry. I said I thought the guy  I was going out with that night was a broker…aka Stan.

Eight hours later I arrived at the restaurant for our first date, albeit a little early. It took a year, a lot of stress, tears and, of course, money to get that divorce and I figured it was time to celebrate so I ordered a bottle of champagne to be delivered to the table. I think that freaked Stan out a little. He wasn’t used to such a controlling take charge thoughtful kind of woman. I also don’t think he was expecting a first date to include a conversation about refinancing but I’m guessing he was able to write off the meal as a business expense? You’re welcome Stan!

Anyway, he told me we couldn’t really talk about my specific circumstances until after the 3rd date.
Seemed a little presumptuous but I giggled at what I sensed was his positive outlook.
Or maybe because I was already halfway into a bottle of champagne?

Did I mention I was celebrating?


Ok, it wasn’t quite like that but you get my point.

We obviously made it to date #3 and I reminded Stan that we needed to discuss my soon to balloon rates. But first I was understandably curious…why 3 dates?

In his mind, #3 would be the make it or break it date…in other words, would we go forward or fizzle like a bottle of champagne after the cork was popped? I get it…no reason to waste a lot of time if you don’t think you are all that into someone.  So  he was going to refinance my home and that meant I was revealing all of my finances to him.  And therefore, he said he would, in turn, reveal his finances to me.

Ummmmmmmm….

Never would it have ever crossed my mind he needed to do that.

Yep, welcome to #lifewithStan . Go ahead, search the hashtag, I use it often.

Suffice it to say, he won my trust as a mortgage broker and as an all around honest person.
And, yes, he did provide all of his financial documents prior to closing as promised.

Side note: My credit score was slightly higher…score one for me!

So I went through the refinancing process and subsequently to cheer for Stan (and all of Team OJ) for the first time in 2001. And let’s just say he totally had me at “no cost loan”.

We aren’t exactly Renee Zellinger and Tom Cruise but you get the famous movie line reference right???

He also was able to roll some of the home’s equity into the refinancing so I could buy a car (I got the awful mini van with a serious A/C issue in the divorce) and instead of making a $300-400 car payment, my mortgage only went up about $12 per month and I had a brand new Toyota Camry that I essentially paid for with cash out of my home.

Yeah, home prices were climbing significantly back then so I never felt a substantial loss of any kind, but still, I was hooked…on the concept of refinancing, that is. Oh and Stan too. He definitely “dazzled” me with his mortgage magic and thinking outside of the loan process box. Ultimately, it was his sense of humor that really won me over. Hey, how many mortgage guys do you know that are willing to stand on their head in the middle of a home show? 150929_10151243219765017_1445018721_n

Now, almost 14 years later, we are taking our relationship to a whole other level…working together. And we are both really going to need to maintain a sense of humor if we are going to survive. We already know we pretty much disagree on everything when it comes to marketing and have completely different organizational styles, but we usually find the compromises that make us both happy.

I do have to keep in mind that he is the boss when it comes to matters regarding OJ. So here’s my proclamation…

I, Beth Blacker, do solemnly swear to be a great employee and respect Stan Blacker as the President of OJ Mortgage between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm, Monday-Friday.
Should we disagree on any matters during those hours I will defer to his years of experience in the mortgage industry and fulfill my employment duties as directed.

After hours…all bets are off.

That’s all for now…#BlackerOut !

 

36 Comments

Filed under Business Development, Call Me Crazy, Marriage, Networking

The History of Mother’s Day: A Day For Sentiment…And Smiles

As happens every year, April showers have made way for May flowers…or at least that is what I experienced this past weekend while in New York City where tulips, daffodils, lilacs and irises were everywhere.

Springtime in NYC

Signs of spring in NYC with tulips lining Park Avenue (left) and daffodils making their appearance at the Saturday Union Square Farmer’s Market (right)

 

And the trees…OMG…blooming in all their glory!

In front of The Plaza Hotel across from Central Park at 59th Street (left) and outside the brand new Whitney Museum in the Meatpacking District

In front of The Plaza Hotel across from Central Park at 59th Street (left) and outside the brand new Whitney Museum in the Meatpacking District

In Florida, however, not so many signs of spring.

So call me crazy but…I always assumed that the proliferation of flowers elsewhere may, in fact, have been the reason why America’s version of Mother’s Day was chosen for this particular month.  With the day we honor all maternal figures rapidly approaching this Sunday, I took it upon myself to check the origins via my good friend Google and suddenly found myself reading a very different history than I had imagined.

It appears our modern day version started as a result of Ann Reeves Jarvis. A social activist from a young age, she was the founder of the Mothers Day Work Clubs around the time of the Civil War. The goal of these local clubs was to help promote better health and sanitation, but also to demonstrate the value of mothers to our society beyond the traditional domestic stereotypes. Eventually, Ann began to dream of a way for our country to better honor all mothers as their role was rapidly changing.

Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis (1832-1905)

Ann passed away in 1905 and her daughter, Anna Jarvis, an extremely community driven woman in her own right, decided to fulfill her mother’s dream. With the help of many friends and activists she started a letter writing campaign  to establish a holiday to recognize the importance of motherhood. The first official Mothers’ Day ceremony took place in her hometown of Grafton, West Virginia on May 9, 1908, three years to the day after Ann’s death. At the service, Anna presented all of the mothers with a white carnation, her mother’s favorite flower, still to this day considered the symbolic flower of the holiday.

It took a few more years and a lot of letters until, one by one, every state began celebrating some form of a Mother’s Day. And on May 9, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed Proclamation 1268, creating a national holiday on the second Sunday in May.

“The history of the day has its roots in honoring the broader networks, social ties, and political concerns of women. The day is about women’s commitment to the past, present, and future at both the personal and political levels. It honors women who have acted not only on behalf of their own children but also on behalf of an entire future generation.” (Source: Legacyproject.org)

By the 1920s, however, Anna had watched how commercialized it became and actually spent the rest of her life denouncing the holiday.

A Day Of Sentiment

Despite her profound disgust for what she started, she was labeled the Mother of Mother’s Day and until she died in 1948 her room at the nursing home where she lived was always filled on Mother’s Day with cards and flowers from around the country.

Anna Jarvis (Source: Wikipedia)

FYI…don’t ever underestimate the importance of punctuation. The original holiday was Mothers’ Day with the apostrophe being after the “s”. Why? So the emphasis would be on all women’s social and political activities.  Officials, of course, messed it up by changing the placement between the “r” and “s” and thereby forever making it a holiday about one’s own particular mother.

For me,  Mother’s Day has been rather bittersweet in recent years. Many of you know that my own mother passed away on May 10, 2005, two days after we attempted to celebrate the holiday in her hospital room in Little Rock where she had recently received her second stem cell transplant to help curb her incurable Multiple Myeloma. She actually had been cleared to go home the week before but took an unexpected turn for the worse.

Sadly, Mother’s Day began to leave me with a very heavy heart. I don’t know if I would feel the same way had she died at any other time of the year, but like Anna Jarvis 100+ years ago, I needed to do something to make sure my mother would always be remembered.

A simple email (my version, I suppose, of a letter writing campaign) on May 10, 2006 to family and friends asking them to take a moment during the day to have a cookie and smile (she was an incredible baker and made amazing chocolate chip cookies) led to an annual “event” of sorts selling her cookies to raise money for various cancer charities. If you don’t know the story, feel free to read a blog I wrote three years ago, in her memory as well as in honor of my first Mother’s Day after starting my baked goods company, tcP! Sweets.

While I no longer have that business, I still have daily reminders of my mother and the incredible role model she was for me beyond the four walls of our home growing up and through my adult years before her death.  After all, she came from incredible stock…my grandmother and great-grandmother were also very strong and fiercely independent women.

My mother (center) at her Sweet Sixteen with my grandmother (left) and great-grandmother (right). I may be a little biased but she was so beautiful.

My great-grandmother, Helen, actually ran away from her home in Czechoslovakia when she was 12 and took a ship to the U.S. by herself. Her family managed to get her back to their village until she was 14, only for her to run away again.

Did I mention she was fierce??  

It seems her parents figured out she was determined and decided to let her settle in Detroit where she ultimately met my great-grandfather and the rest, as they say, is history. Clearly, had she never left Eastern Europe, the chances of her surviving the Holocaust years later would have been slim…talk about rewriting history, right?

I wish I could rewrite what happened to my mother. Instead, I will continue to keep her memory alive the best way I know how especially by having a cookie on Mother’s Day, possibly for breakfast, since that’s what happened last year when my son and I went to visit my daughter at college and neither one of them, of course, made it out of bed before noon.

Photo

Mother’s Day morning 2014…Yep, that would be my son sleeping in the background.

This year, I’ll be in Tampa. No idea what the plan is yet (giant hint there for my husband and son to figure something out), but regardless of whether I have the cookie for breakfast, lunch, dinner or anytime in between, I guarantee it will be with a big smile on my face.

You know what else would bring a smile to my face? If you would consider voting for my dog, Gavin. He (whether he realizes it or not) is competing for the Dogs With Purpose Calendar Contest.  Since I am not doing any baking this year to raise money for any cancer charities that I’ve helped in the past, I figured I would put Gavin’s sweet face to work for me…1507781_10152567157693226_3598771262779493801_n

Come on, a vote is only a buck…cheaper than a cookie or cup of coffee!!!! And you will be helping Women With Purpose, an amazing non-profit helping cancer patients with their non-medical financial needs.

That’s it for now…wishing all the moms out there a wonderful day filled with love and life on Sunday…#BlackerOut !

 

56 Comments

Filed under Call Me Crazy, Holidays, Motherhood

The Best Is Yet To Come: Becoming An Empty Nester

On the fourth Friday of every month, the women of a local organization I belong to get together for a very informal Happy Hour…or hours as the case may be…hey don’t judge! It’s an awesome way for us to connect with each other in a very non-business setting. The guys meet up as well on the fourth Thursday, but I’m guessing they talk a lot of business with a little sports thrown in for good measure.  Us ladies, well, you just never know where the conversations will go.TBBO ladies night

Side note: TBBO aka Tampa Bay Business Owners is an awesome organization. Check it out by clicking here

While our motto has always been “what happens at ladies night, stays at ladies night”, the discussion this past Friday has been in my head so that means only one thing…write a blog about it. The question of the night…we always have one, you know, as an ice breaker kind of thing…not that we really need it but still…

If you could stay at a certain age forever,

what age would it be and why?

Not surprisingly, no one picked an age under 25. Let’s face it, no one wants to relive the teenage years. And anything that happened between 18 and 25 was just preparation for becoming a real adult.  I think only one person said an age in her late twenties, a few in their early thirties but the vast majority were 40 and beyond.

Yep, mixed in with our quest for the fountain of youth, it does seem most of us are quite content with mid-life and beyond.

If you asked me before I sat on the Howard Frankland Bridge for over an hour on the way home from a soccer tournament a little over a week ago, I definitely would have said 39. It was the age at which I…

  • got divorced, not that I’m advocating getting one but for me it did turn out to be for the best
  • went back to work after being a SAHM for 7 years at what was probably the best job I ever had (and for those not up on your internet slang SAHM means stay at home mom
  • met my current husband
  • and, last but certainly not least, felt like I had control over my life for the first time in over a dozen years which kind of explains the divorce 

So what changed my mind about the age I would like to forever be while sitting in a ridiculous amount of traffic after a very long weekend? If you read my previous blog, you may recall that my son had his last soccer game two Sundays ago. It is one of the many “lasts” that I am experiencing with him before he graduates from high school at the end of May and heads off to college in June (yes, June…lucky guy gets to start in the summer).  And that means my husband and I will officially be empty nesters. Sure our kids will always be our kids, but for the most part we’re done with all of the child rearing years.

Can you say happy dance?

Look, I could sit here and tell you I’m sad over how quickly the years have gone by and I want to turn back the hands of time, do some things over again, blah blah blah. The truth is, though, I really am ok with being 52 and I’m sure I’ll be ok when I’m 62, 72, 82 and 92. I have longevity on both sides of my family so I intend to live that long…sorry kids.

My husband and I have spent a lot of time lately talking about our plans for the indefinite future. Some of the conversations have been filled with dreams of extended travel while others have dealt with the not so fun estate planning stuff. We are getting ready to downsize (in fact, I’m in the midst of the #GreatPurge2015 but that will have to be a topic for another blog) and I can’t wait! The plan is to move to a different area of Tampa Bay which we have yet to agree on where that will actually be, but it will definitely be as maintenance free as possible.

I actually asked the same “pick an age” question the following night to a group of friends and everyone responded pretty much the same as my revised age or should I say symbolic time in our lives. Our kids are moving on, we feel financially secure by our own individual definitions and we are definitely going to embrace growing old.

Seriously, what’s the alternative?

funny-old-people-quotes2

That’s it for now…#BlackerOut

27 Comments

Filed under Call Me Crazy, Empty Nester

Winning Isn’t Everything: Lessons From The Soccer Field

This past weekend marked the end of my son’s soccer career. The competitive team he has been playing on since fifth grade lost all 3 games in the second round of the Florida State Cup.

No, that wasn’t fun, especially when you consider 2 of the 3 games were about 150 miles away…one game at 8 am on Saturday and the other at 2 pm on Sunday with his senior prom smack dab in the middle on Saturday night.  Several of his teammates also went to prom so, suffice it to say, it was a very long weekend.

I suppose there are some that would have forfeited going to the prom if it would jeopardize a potential win and opportunity to move on to the next round. I am just so glad that the team, as a whole, never created that culture or projected that mindset. As the coach said after the loss on Sunday, he appreciated our “low expectations”.

Don’t get me wrong, they always played to win and they were a good team over the past 8 years if you look at their win-loss record. However, by the time they were all in high school I don’t think any of the boys anticipated they would go on to play in college and/or professionally.

Call me crazy but…does it really matter if you win or lose? I believe participating in a sport ultimately needs to be about how you mindfully play a game on a field which, in turn, should determine how you mindfully play the game of life off the field and hopefully make you a great human being.

Win or Lose

All that said I have a confession to make…I didn’t understand why it was even necessary to play the Sunday game. I mean, the chances of going on to the next round were so slim…like paper slim. It would have taken a miracle and major planet alignment. So why not sing a round of “Know When To Fold ‘Em”, save us all the hassle and just forfeit in advance?download (5)

Enter my very wise friend Sarah who played soccer through college and just completed the MBA program at The University of Florida in her late thirties. She did it while maintaining a full time job as a regional director for a pharmaceutical company so she travels a lot for work. Some weeks she is gone Monday-Friday. But without fail, one very intense weekend a month for over two years she made her way to Gainesville from wherever she was to attend classes all day Saturday and Sunday.  And the remainder of the month when she wasn’t working she was slammed with assignments and group projects. She has an amazing work ethic!

So, when we were together this past Saturday afternoon, I mentioned to her my thoughts about just forfeiting the game the next day given their chances of winning and moving on, how tired most of them would be as a result of going to prom and no doubt staying up most of the night plus the distance required to travel to the game.

Why bother?”, I said.

She looked at me and said, “What are you…crazy?

Ummmm….hello…Beth Blacker Call Me Crazy

Anyway, she proceeded to reprimand me (it’s ok…I deserved it) about the fact that if I allowed my son to think it was ok to forfeit I was essentially telling him it’s ok to never complete a task or job if the outcome is a foregone conclusion. And, she advised me based on her years of playing, by forfeiting, there really was no way to determine the intended opponent’s true ranking in the tournament.  In other words, the actual point totals and not necessarily just who won or lost the games on Sunday were equally significant.facepalm

Yep, I deserved that big smack in the head.

I’ve always prided myself on being very driven and highly motivated. And I rarely have backed away from anything. In fact, I knew the odds were so stacked against me starting a baked goods company a few years ago that I subsequently shut down this past January.

That said, I never wanted anyone to tell me not to think the impossible could happen even when I had gone through 2 brokers and 3 manufacturers to try to launch a product nationwide. I still hired a third broker in the hopes that the planets would, in fact, align and we’d find the perfect co-packer. As many of you know, it didn’t happen but every phone call, email, meeting and sample run were all necessary whether we ever made it to retail shelves or not.

So what was up with my lapse in judgment this weekend?

I guess this is the point where I should probably tell you I have never been a very good soccer mom. I mean I understand all of the benefits for exposing children to sports but I don’t enjoy them myself. My idea of an athletic feat as a kid was tackling the key recipes in my mom’s dog-eared Betty Crocker cookbook.

I tried not to impose my lack of interest in knowing the difference between a goal and corner kick on either of my kids, but the fact remains I was not all that engaged through the years. The majority of the times the team traveled overnight my son went with his father. Being divorced, I had a hard time justifying us both paying for gas, meals, hotel rooms, etc. I’m not cheap, just practical.

Besides, I do have an older daughter who until she went to college did not necessarily need to forego her weekends to be 200 miles away watching her brother play. Or at least that’s my opinion.

Oh and did I mention I also had a business that required attending a lot of weekend events as well as helping my husband when his mortgage company exhibited at home shows around the state? So trust me, I wasn’t sitting at home eating bon bons.

I know I’m in the minority in my thinking about competitive sports but you totally lose me when parents get more worked up about the game than their kids. I guess they live by this famous quote…

Vince Lombardi Winning Isn't Everything

Me?…not so much.

And don’t even get me started with the crazy rules including the new “no water break” one here in Florida. Apparently someone has decided that our entire state is at a competitive disadvantage when teams travel out of state because nowhere else do they allow hydration.

That’s 40 minutes on either side of a 5 minute halftime…in Florida…you know, where it feels like 120 degrees most of the year on any open field…with no water?

Again, call me crazy but…THAT’S INSANE!!!!

Seriously, I thought my son was going to pass out two weeks ago when the humidity level was especially high and it was only 10 am. I was getting lightheaded just sitting on the sidelines

…under an umbrella

…DRINKING  A LOT OF WATER!!!!!!

And that ladies and gentlemen is why I think despite my brain fart this past weekend, I try to always look at the bigger picture with my respect to raising my kids. I know, overall, I am good mom…or as I like to say…the best mom I know how to be. I will never be able to distinguish when a player is off sides, but I have tried to instill great values in both of my kids and thought the best lesson I could teach them in doing anything was to just always try to do their personal best and, of course, see it through until the end.

So the bottom line? I was never going to relish the 6 hours of total travel time that my son undoubtedly was going to sleep through for a two hour game that I pretty much knew there was a minuscule chance of winning (think as small as a speck of dust).

But I have to say, they gave it their all with exactly the right expectations and the right mindset.  And to snap this photo after the loss clearly shows just how much.

20150419_155729

No frowns, no pouty faces…just a bunch of goofy guys who played to win but happened to lose…and got to celebrate the loss with donuts to really take everyone full circle to the days when they were 8 or 9 and there was always some sweet treat and Capri Suns after a game. My son told me last night that this photo is probably his all time favorite of the team. He thinks it shows the “fun” in their dysfunction. Score one for the anti-soccer mom !

They were, indeed, a GREAT team…win or lose on the field…and will no doubt continue to individually be great off the field as they move on in life and hopefully be remembered for a lot more than a bunch of soccer games.

That’s it for now…#BlackerOut!

35 Comments

Filed under Call Me Crazy, Life Lessons, Parenting

Happy 420

Unless you were hiding under a rock through your teen years, you kind of know what today is right?

download (2)

Yeah, it’s the day when stoners unite.

Wait, what? They only do that one day a year?

Well, that’s not true but April 20th does have significance to those that do partake.

You don’t know the history? Well, the true “birth” of 420 (as in four-twenty, not four hundred and twenty) apparently dates back to the early 1970s when a group of high school students in San Rafael, CA headed to a certain spot on their campus to indulge in a little “afterschool activity” at, you guessed it, 4:20 pm.

It soon became the code for getting high, quickly spreading around the country in the form of hemp fest celebrations on the corresponding calendar date, 4-20, creating giant cannabis clouds of smoke throughout the land…

SantaCruzUCSC

And now you know…you’re welcome?????

So I’m guessing this will be a relatively popular choice of ice cream today.Half Baked

My local grocery store thinks the FroYo version (on the left) is the “better choice”. I guess they are concerned about calorie and fat counts, but I’m not sure anyone celebrating today is worried about their diet whether half or fully baked.

That’s it for now…#BlackerOut!

4 Comments

Filed under Call Me Crazy, Holidays, Random Stuff

Did You Hear The One About A Vegetarian Walking Into A Bacon Festival?

I am a vegetarian…well, sort of. I eat any fish or seafood so I guess that makes me a pescetarian, but meat and poultry products haven’t graced my lips since I was 15.

So why would a person who hasn’t touched the stuff in over 30 years want to go to a bacon festival?America Loves Bacon   4.11.15   Tampa FL

Call me crazy but…curiosity mostly…I thought it would be interesting to see who shows up both as attendees and vendors.

And I have to say, I was not disappointed. What can I say, I am easily amused.

Besides, I wanted to pay homage to the Spanish settlers who introduced America to bacon back in the 1500s. I made mention of this particular fact in my blog last week. By the way, did you know there are actually 5 ways to say bacon in Spanish?…

Uno…Tocino
Dos…Tocineta
Tres…Panceta
Quatro…Beicon
Cinco…Bacón

Hmmm…I guess we adopted #5 in English.  And suffice it to say, if you ever travel to a Spanish speaking country you can now feel pretty confident in ordering bacon properly…You’re welcome.

Full disclosure: This is where I have to insert the standard blogger’s thing that this is technically considered a “sponsored post”. I did receive 2 complimentary passes to the America Loves Bacon Festival  this past weekend at the Florida State Fairgrounds (thanks to a fellow member of Tampa Bay Bloggers, Carlos Hernandez of Carlos Eats)  in exchange for writing this, but anything to help promote things happening in the Tampa Bay community and satisfy my curiosity  I will happily sell my soul…ok, maybe not my soul…but you know what I mean. Carry on…

I obviously needed a sidekick of sorts to do all the sampling. I figured my 18 year old son or my husband would happily come along for the ride but they didn’t seem to share my curiosity for this particular field trip.

Their loss and my friend Ellen’s gain. I think her response when I asked her whether she wanted to go was “Shut up!”

I took that as a yes.

We actually had been at the Walk For Wishes that morning supporting another friend who has a son with neuroblastoma and had been a Make a Wish Foundation “wish” recipient last year.

Pediatric cancer survivors helping grant the next "wish"

Pediatric cancer survivors helping grant the next “wish”…     Our friend’s son is the second from the left

The actual walk took place along the just completed (but 40 years in the making) Tampa Riverwalk

Awesome photo opp along the Riverwalk

Awesome photo opp along the Riverwalk

…and then walked an extra 3 miles to and from the Tampa Convention Center to watch yet another friend’s daughter for a little while in a volleyball tournament. Ellen decided that she needed a little extra pre bacon festival prep so she ran up and down the steps outside the convention center just for good measure. She’s the one with her arms up in the air in case you can’t tell.

My friend Ellen during her best impression of Rocky before the bacon festival

Ellen doing her best impression of “Rocky”

By the time we got to the bacon festival, we were really hungry so we made a bee line for the first food truck we saw. Lucky for me it was The Maine Thang, a “pescetarian” based truck and we shared a lobster roll that hit the spot, albeit a very expensive one… $11. Yeah, as usual, I found the most expensive thing to eat in the whole place.

Good friends share lobster rolls

Good friends share lobster rolls

Worth $11? Does it really matter when you are hungry???

Worth $11? Does it really matter when you are hungry???

Onward and upward…

Ellen eyed the booth for Datz Dough, a South Tampa foodie mecca, where she claimed their bacon brownie “ridiculous”…as in ridiculously amazing.

Datz Dough Bacon Brownie

Before I could get a decent photo of the bacon brownie it went into Ellen’s mouth so that means I had no choice but to post this photo…sorry Ellen

Their bacon mac ‘n cheese, though…apparently not so amazing. She took one bite and asked for her sample ticket back. Fortunately, they didn’t argue with her and we moved on to The Madison Chocolatiers West and their bacon donut. Ellen claimed she was only going to take one bite so she could pace herself, but it seemed to have disappeared rather quickly.  I assume that means she liked it.

Madison Chocolatiers West Bacon Donut

This time I got a photo before a bite was taken.

As we meandered around to the various booths and food trucks, the lines were getting longer by the minute. Ellen, however, was clearly struggling with what to get with the precious remaining sample tickets. Then she stopped suddenly, looking intensely at the menu on the side of one of the food trucks and screamed…

"Shut the front door...deep fried bacon wrapped twinkies?"

“SHUT THE FRONT DOOR…DEEP FRIED       BACON WRAPPED TWINKIES?…           NO FREAKING WAY!”

Yes, all caps do emphasize just how excited she got, don’t they? I waited in line for almost 30 minutes for this…

20150411_141555

Is there anything they won’t deep fry or wrap in bacon?

 

while Ellen sampled these…

Bacon and onion perogies

Bacon and onion perogies

For the record, there were lots of people sporting some interesting articles of bacon inspired clothing/costumes including these guys dressed as slices of the stuff…

20150411_131548

Can’t imagine it really would have tasted very good Ellen!

and this one…

20150411_134653

Hehe…his shirt says boobies

but I kind of liked this one the best for it’s creative extension of the word “exercise”…

This is one giant stretch!

This is one giant stretch

Did I mention it was hot?

Like stupid hot…as in why are we walking around in the middle of the day when it is so freakin’ hot!

This is Florida in April after all and, yes, you literally could have fried the bacon on the pavement.

073de768932bedfa436cb2a02708cde3

But that didn’t seem to deter the thousands of people who showed up and, yes, that included a few protesters stationed right at the entrance/exit to the fairgrounds. I have to question if they thought there was any possibility they were going to convert a single bacon loving soul on their way in or out, but I definitely give them major props for trying.

What exactly is their end game at a bacon festival?

What exactly is their end game at a bacon festival?

When all was said and done, Ellen sampled 8 different things, claimed she was officially “over” bacon and was going home to have celery sticks for dinner.

The next morning she set me a text with the message “Look what Dave (aka her husband) is doing” and this photo…

So much for being "over" bacon

So much for being “over” bacon

That’s it for now…#BlackerOut !

Bacon Fact

30 Comments

Filed under Call Me Crazy, Food, Great Causes, Tampa Bay

History Lessons…Tampa Bay Style

I consider myself a person who really likes history and whenever I travel I love finding tours, museums, whatever to visit. But in my own community, Tampa Bay, I’ve kind of taken it for granted. Then I spent a recent Friday afternoon at the Tampa Bay History Center  as well as the following day at The Ringling Museum in Sarasota and realized there is nothing about our region’s history that should ever be taken for granted.

So let’s start with the History Center…I was invited on a VIP tour with several other Ambassadors for Tampa Bay Business Owners thanks to Timothy Bennett of Armon Events . Our tour guide was Rodney Kite-Powell, who started out working for the center one summer during college when it was essentially a storefront on Harbour Island, an area adjacent to Downtown Tampa, and never really left.

Tampa_History_Center_(3486924401)

That was about 20 years and several paid grades ago. He is now the Curator of History and we were so fortunate to get his take on all of the museums exhibits and artifacts.  In other words, he was awesome…and so is the museum. Seriously, I know many of you are rolling your eyes, thinking what could possibly be so interesting about Tampa Bay’s history.

Honestly, I used to roll my eyes too. I mean, I never really thought Tampa Bay or Florida, in general, had done much in terms of contributing to our nation’s history and culture other than becoming a mecca for senior citizens and Disney fans.

When  I was working for a research and marketing company almost 15 years ago and the president of the company was very much behind the development of and fundraising for what is now the Center’s permanent home…behind Amalie Arena in the Channelside District of Downtown Tampa and part of the ever expanding Tampa Riverwalk  …I just didn’t get it despite how much I happen to really like American history. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that 15 years ago I still looked upon Tampa as a whackadoodle place, but as I’ve mentioned many times before, because of how much I have connected with the business community here in recent years I have grown to appreciate all that it has to offer more than I could have ever imagined.

So here’s my history lesson of Tampa Bay in a nutshell…#BlackerStyle of course…

  • Spanish explorers came to the region in the early 1500s in search of gold and encountered the native Tocabaga Indians. They never found gold but in the process, they essentially drove the tribe to extinction because of the fighting that ensued and the disease they spread.  No bueno, Espana, no bueno. At least there are a few remnants remaining including the canoe pictured below made from a tree trunk. Not sure I’d trust it today but back then, it definitely was a clever mode of transportation for the Tocabagans.dug out canoe
  • There is, however, one thing the Spanish did bring to this region first that we kind of can’t be too mad at them about…bacon! You’re welcome Estados Unidos. (Sidenote: The America Loves Bacon Festival is this weekend at the Florida State Fairgrounds …I’m not sure the early explorers ever anticipated a festival around “jamón” but I assume you’ll thank me later  if you go)
  • Did you know that the Seminole Tribe was originally from Georgia and Alabama and known as the Creek Indians?  Sorry Creeks but FSU Seminoles does have a better ring to it.  Meanwhile, the United States government is still technically at war with the Seminoles since there was never a treaty signed after the last war between them ended in 1858. Something tells me the Seminoles aren’t too worried about it today given the success of the Hard Rock Casino here.Standing ground
  • Henry Plant was, of course, the gentleman who brought the railroad to the region after the discovery of rich phosphate deposits, giving a huge boost to the local economy. He built the Tampa Bay Hotel , the signature building on the present day  University of Tampa campus and now a National Historic Landmark, as well as several other hotels along the railroad route from the north, encouraging the growth of our tourism industry.  I’m guessing those weren’t exactly of the Motel 6 variety either.Tampa Bay Hotel
  • There is no disputing the role the cigar industry has played in our history. There is only one factory left today but in the 1920s there were 120 and more cigars were being made here than anywhere else in the world. Over 400 million a year to be exact. A few of the older Cubans in our community today apparently joke that their mothers, who worked in the factories, were “strippers”. They are, of course, referring to the fact that their mothers were responsible for stripping the tobacco leaves from the stems and not some of the first employees of a particularly famous Tampa landmark on Dale Mabry Highway.Cigars
  • And last, but certainly not least, Jose Gaspar, the pirate who we “celebrate” every year at the Gasparilla Festival (sorry, hard for me to understand why we celebrate pirates who were essentially rapists and thieves) …Totally made up. Yep, sorry, kids but Jose was part of a marketing campaign in the early 1900s that started the whole Gasparilla parade thing.  Hey, I’m just the messenger…if you want to debate it, you definitely need to hook up with Rodney at the Center.

Oh and two more things…1) Definitely do a docent tour if you go. I think you always get more out of these type of places when you have someone guiding you and 2) If you are looking for a very cool event space, you really do need to put the Center on your short list of possible venues. It has a fabulous 3 story atrium housing a Columbia Restaurant outpost and an outdoor patio overlooking the Garrison Channel.

Tampa History Center entrance 3

I think that’s enough of a history lesson for today. I’ll report on my visit to The Ringling Museum another time. But if you can’t wait, go see for yourself. I promise it will be just an equally amazing  immersion into Tampa Bay’s history.

That’s it for now…#BlackerOut !

 

 

 

 

 

38 Comments

Filed under Call Me Crazy, Florida Life, Tampa Bay, Travel