The Jealous Crumpet

A sweet little blog


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Experiencing TBEX as a Local

I recently had the awesome experience of being a tourist in my own city by attending TBEX. For those unfamiliar with TBEX (Travel Bloggers Exchange) it is an event that brings travel bloggers together from around the world. At each TBEX, bloggers (and travel professionals) meet in a new city to spend the week bonding with fellow wanderlusters, learning the tricks of the trade and exploring the host city, which was Huntsville, Alabama this time. Huntsville, AlabamaAs a local, I know that Huntsville is a cool, kind of weird, super nerdy place. I’m proud to call Huntsville my home, but let’s be honest it’s not known as a travel destination, so I image the TBEX attendees were a bit disappointed to be coming here of all places. (The last one was in Jerusalem and the next one is in Killarney!) I myself wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I have to say the City of Huntsville and the Huntsville/Madison County Visitor’s Bureau pulled out all the stops. It was truly a fun to experience a city I have lived in for over 10 years as a tourist.The started the conference by taking a photography workshop with Travelure’s Ajay Sood. It has been several years since I have been to the botanical gardens and I was surprised by all of the improvements. It was an excellent workshop and you can read about it here.

The evening after the workshop, I attended an event for speakers at Lowe Mill Arts Center. I felt extremely VIP and as I walked through the doors was handed a glass of wine and a token for free Piper & Leaf tea. Pizzelles Confections was giving out samples (and when I say samples I mean full-sized desserts) from their new pastry kitchen. On the second floor you could screen print your very own t-shirts with Green Pea Press and there were numerous dishes from every local genre you could imagine. There was even a giant cheese sculpture, but since I broke my camera phone (and can only do selfies) there is no photographic evidence.

There was local beer, local artists, local ice pops from Suzy’s Pops. Local bands entertained the crowds and artists happily gave tours of their studios. I spent the evening rubbing elbows with people far legit than I and it was amazing! It was also wonderful to see Lowe Mill through people who were new to the arts complex. I forgot what a unique place it is and how lucky we are to have it in a city of our size.

On Friday and Saturday speakers gave 45 minute talks about social media, travel blogging, making money, etc. I had to great opportunity to do a panel discussion about working with local markets and visitor’s bureaus. The panel was composed of the talented Rocket City Mom aka Stephenie Walker, Southern Plate aka Christy Jordan with the CVB’s talented Marketing Director Kristen Pepper.  I’m typically comfortable talking to people, just ask my husband after he’s had to wait while I swap life stories with the cashier at the grocery store. But I got nervous at the last minutes before the talk. Because of my nerves, my numerous goals of being informative and charming, make a difference, have perfect hair, enunciating my words, etc. etc. got shortened to two goals: don’t swear and don’t vomit. It would have been just don’t puke, but while I was rehearsing I said something was ‘f___ing crazy’ (fill in the blanks) so I decided to make an extra effort to not swear like a sailor. I’m happy to say it was a mission accomplished. Damn, was I relieved.

The panel was actually a lot of fun and people were generous with their attention and asked insightful questions. Thank-you to all that attended! We gave one of the first talks of the day so I could enjoy the rest of the conference worry free. I gained SO much information and learned that I’m doing SO much wrong. Sigh. Oh well, at least I know what to work on. Later than evening I attended a get together at the Space and Rocket Center. More VIP treatment with excellent food, booze and a jazz band. Again, I take for granted what a cool place the rocket center is and it was fun to see people truly amazed to be sipping craft beer underneath a freakin’ full-sized rocket. I spent the evening catching up with some local bloggers whom I haven’t seen in forever. Sadly, Katie Actually is moving  so it was nice to see her before she left us (sniff, whimper).

I also learned that Sweet T Makes Three blogger Jenn and I are sneaker sole mates. Get it sole mates. ha ha! At least I find myself funny even if no one else does.  On the last day of the conference the keynote speaker was Samantha Brown, as in THE SAMANTHA BROWN. She was funny and brilliant and said all the things about travel that you know but can’t articulate. And she was kind enough to stand there as person after person got a picture with her.

The last night of TBEX was at Campus 805 and appropriately themed Back to School, retro field day activities, free beer, free food and the Fringe Saloon offering 1980s hair and makeup.

Katie getting the super tease done. I wonder how much of the ozone layer is gone because of 80s hair.

All the colors of the rainbow and then some! I got some Lisa Frank eyes done as well as the bouffant hair style.

The Master at work on Jenn’s ‘subtle’ eye makeup. So fun!

I was NOT going to get 80’s hair as that is ridiculous, but as I watched Katie get her hair crimped I thought what the hell… I mean heck. See swearing just comes naturally for me.

All gussied up we strutted around campus like the cool, 80s prom queens we never were. Well, I can’t speak for Katie, but in high school I was neither cool nor a prom queen. For the most part we blended with the other 80s hairstyles and people ignored us, but a few locals were very obviously staring while we ordered our beers. Finally one of them asked where we were from and when we said Huntsville he said the group thought we were Eastern European due to our hair and ordering dark brews. ha ha! Sorry to all Eastern European’s that have to endure that false stereotype.

At the end of the night we snuck into the Campus’s hidden Speak Easy for gin cocktails and enjoyable banter. I have to say, after attending TBEX I felt a real swell of pride of what my adopted city has grown into over the years. I often take Huntsville for granted as I’m sure many people do with their own cities. It is a city of smartypants. The phrase, “It’s not rocket science” makes no sense here because half the population are actually rocket scientists.  I show up to a party and, with a master’s degree, can easily be the least educated  person in the room. Huntsville children want to grow up to be mathematicians or Dr. Who and every day we drive past a Saturn 5 rocket without thinking twice. When you live in a place it grows so familiar that you cease to be amazed, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things that can still surprise you. For me it took a group of wide-eyed travelers to see that Huntsville is in fact an extraordinary place with much more for me to experience.


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Photography Lessons with TBEX

This week my hometown of Huntsville, AL is hosting TBEX (Travel Bloggers Expo), a group of professional travel bloggers coming together to explore a new destination, listen to speakers and make connections. I was one of the lucky few that got to attend a Travelography Workshop with esteemed travel photographer Ajay Sood at the Huntsville Botanical Gardens. It was an amazing workshop and I won’t do the disservice of giving away all of Ajay’s secrets (take a workshop with him, you won’t regret it), but here are two assignments he gave us in the workshop.

Here’s the little birds! Aren’t they adorable!

The first one was to create a multi image photo essay that had a cohesive theme. I covered the gorgeous butterfly garden, which opened a couple of weeks ago.  I spent an hour in there and got to see mating turtles, mating butterflies, these flightless birds (they weren’t mating, but probably had just finished up), tons of flowers, a waterfall, happy people and more.

First assignment:   

The second one was to great a stand alone image. A birdy in a bottle tree.1Y2B0267small
This first day of the workshop was so good, I can’t wait to see what the rest of it holds.


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Full Japanese Breakfast!

IMG_1118Last year my husband and I took a trip to Japan and had a thrilling 3 weeks there. We visited Kyoto and stayed at a traditional ryokan, (inn). Staying in the ryokan was an amazing/overwhelming experience that included getting naked in public (a story for another day), a 12-course dinner, beautiful sites and a traditional Japanese breakfast. We ate numerous meals, but the ryokan was the most interesting. IMG_3165The hubs and I visited the Otagi Nenbutsu-ji temple, which is a buddhist temple with over 1,000 quirky and interesting statues. We LOVED it! The statues were placed in 1981, so they aren’t particularly ancient, but they are still wonderful.Untitled-1I was especially happy to find a statue holding a camera. A kindred spirit!IMG_0968After site seeing we had a lovely experience at the ryokan and the next morning we were given the choice of a ‘western’ or ‘japanese’ breakfast.  We laughed at the stupid westerners that couldn’t handle a Japanese breakfast and promptly opted for the most traditional breakfast possible! It seemed like a great idea until we sat down to the table and had NO idea what were were about to eat.    Untitled-4I love trying new things, but this was definitely out of my comfort zone. You know that experience you have when you got to a fancy restaurant and suddenly realize there is much more cutlery than you are know what to do with. Why are there 4 forks, what is this mini plate for, am I supposed to use the small spoon for dessert, soup… ? This was just a taste of what it was like to eat traditional japanese breakfast. There were so many plates and ornate boxes with little treasures inside. I didn’t what was garnishment or food.  At one point I managed to ask what to do with this cup of liquid only to discover it was just a cup of tea, which was the only thing I knew what to do with. It was beautiful and amazing, but we had no idea what were eating and what sauce went with what. IMG_1116_2A lot of it was delicious, but a lot of it we weren’t  sure about. This could have been because  we were pairing sauces with the wrong food. I did recognize rice, soy sauce, fish (pretty sure) and maybe.. tofu.  Untitled-2The service was impeccable. Though the employees didn’t speak English, and we struggled with awful Japanese, they still took care of our every need and made it a great experience for us.  Untitled-3The view was so beautiful it was surreal. Boats floated by and I kept feeling like I’d fallen into a movie. It was one of the highlights of our trip!IMG_1136We were awkward and confused, but I would do it again in a heartbeat.


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Hideous Photos from a Professional Food Photographer

This past weekend I got the opportunity to go to the International Associate of Culinary Professional’s (IACP) annual conference in Louisville, Kentucky. (I drank SO much bourbon!). The conference is a great opportunity for people in all sectors of the culinary field to come together, learn some things, network, meet your culinary idols and of course, eat lots of amazing food. Oh yeah, and the bourbon. IMG_5695Of course, being at a conference with some of the world’s top food photographers/stylists/writers I wanted to be able to put a good foot forward and have some nice images of the conference, but this was not to be the case. I’m not really the most responsible of adults and last year I broke the camera on my phone. I’m not really sure how it happened, but I have a general idea. My husband couldn’t believe that such an expensive phone could break so easily, but when I went to pull my phone out of my purse and accidentally flung it 9 feet across the parking lot he pondered no more.

I did not want to lug my real camera to the conference and the selfie mode of my phone still works, so I just figured I could take lots of selfies to illustrate my experience.  This let to a whole slew of really shitty photographs. I’ve been following the other conference attendee’s beautiful imagery and I’ve got to say it is pretty humbling to present you with this ugly pics.  Enjoy!  4Yikes! That’s super rough. It is seriously hard to take a photo of food when you:

A. Can’t see the image on the screen

B. Can’t zoom in

C. And are shooting with a 1.2 mp camera that does terrible in low light and is clearly meant for portrait mode. 5These were the very best images. Yes, seriously. There are actually images much worse than this crap. 8These are not as bad, to be clear they are not good, but not as bad. You should have seen the confused looks while I was trying to take a photo with my phone facing the wrong way, while hanging over the top and putting fun shadows all over the place. IMG_5667People would ask why I did and when I said I was a food photographer the response was ‘Oh wow.. really?’

The conference itself was excellent. I saw a free friends, met a lot of new people and learned a lot. It was my first trip to Louisville and I throughly enjoyed it.  My husband and I are already making plans to revisit.  I especially want to visit Dinosaur World and the Patton Museum. They weren’t in Louisville city limits, but not far from it.  Also the KFC Museum, how can that be anything less than awesome.

The other awesome thing about the conference was the swag! I’m actually not a huge fan of swag, but there was some primo stuff a this thing. Such as packages of California figs and fig BBQ sauce.IMG_5721I also picked up a potato doll called a Spuddy Buddy! Hilarious! Also, sad that I have the fashion sense of a potato.

I picked it up from my friend’s children, but then I realized the Spud and I had the same shoes! I might keep him now. I mean we have the same shoes! IMG_5737I also got an Anolon frying pan, a yogurt carrier, a cute back of chips, a nice wine opener.. There were also lots of snacks.  My favorite were the kiwi berries, which are essentially mini hairless kiwis. 6I enjoyed the Hillshire small plates while watching Knocked Up at midnight.  I party hard. IMG_5841  I stayed at two different hotels over the 4 days there, and they were great, but my view was less than picturesque. IMG_5879It could be a postcard couldn’t it! Who needs a mountain view when you have a construction site or parking garage?IMG_5664They did make my towel into a swan, so that made up for the view.. a bit.

IMG_5735IMG_5704My husband didn’t get to come with me, so I spent much of the weekend sending him photos of the fun times I was having.  On Saturday I was looking so pulled together with my scarf, make-up and Starbucks so I sent him a photo of it.

When he saw the photo he said it didn’t look a thing like me. Jeez! Why do I even bother. Later that night I sent a ‘regular’ photo with Spuddy Buddies on my head.

On the last day of the conference I went to The Palace for an awards ceremony. Swank!Untitled-1 copyIt was really nice and I got to finally hang out with some friends I’d been missing for most of the conference. IMG_5804Then I packed up all my stuff, grabbed a banana for a road snack and too one last shitty photo of myself before heading back to Alabama. I hope you enjoyed the noisy, blurry, badly cropped awful images. IMG_5878


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Tom’s Commemorative Wall

1Though I lived in the Muscle Shoals area for a number of years, I did not visit Tom Hendrix’s Wichahpi Commemorative  Wall until last year. For those of your unfamiliar with the wall, it started with Alabama-native Tom Hendrix hearing stories about his great-great-grandmother Te-lah-nay, a native American living in Alabama in the 1800s. Te-lah-nay was part of the Yuchi tribe and in one of the worse atrocities committed in the United States, she and other native people were abducted from their homes and marched to Oklahoma along a route now known as the Trail of Tears. Many Native Americans died, but Te-lah-nay not only survived but walked all the way back home to Alabama, by herself! The journey took 5 years, but Te-lah-nay said she heard the Tennessee River singing for her to come home so she just kept on going. Tom was in such awe of her strength and her journey that he wanted to do something to commemorate her. So he build a wall. But that is a complete understatement, because he spent thirty years building the largest mortarless wall in the United States. The wall has over 8.5 million pounds of stone and is the largest monument build for a Native American woman. 3The wall is amazing and draws visitors from all over the world. Numerous Native American tribes have visited, priests from China have hung red ribbons in the trees, a Benedictine priest left carved statues, and visitor have left little trinkets throughout the area. It is a holy, sacred place, that celebrates humanity, strength, courage and unity.1y2b7184

But more than the wall, was the man behind it, Tom.  When you visit Tom would come out of his house, usher you to a folding chair, sit down in his green, plastic lawn chair and tell you the story of his great-great grandmother, the wall, himself, and anything else you wanted to know. He’s show you different parts of the wall, point out interesting memento’s left behind and answer every question. It was truly a spiritual experience and you left striving to be a better person. 6I visited the wall twice, once with my husband and once with my mother.2The second time was last April and Tom spent so much time with my mother and me. He went into his house and brought out beautiful pine needle baskets and the stone that his great-great-grandmother had carried with her. 1y2b7162He told us Native American stories from his childhood and discussed the herbs and teachers and language and so many more things. I had hoped to revisit Tom, but sadly he passed away last weekend.    5He is a great loss to the world, but I know that he touched many lives, including my own.  4Rest in Peace Mr. Hendrix and thank-you for creating something so beautiful. 7


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I’ve Been a Bad Blogger!!

1Okay, so I have been a bad blogger for over 3 months! Ouf, that is a long time and pretty much everything you are not supposed to do if you have a blog. In retrospect I wish that I’d written short easy posts just to maintain consistency, but I didn’t.

So, here come the excuses. There’s so much good television! The Man in the High Castle, Stranger Things, I just started watching Legion.. so good! But that’s not really why I’ve been a slacker. The real reason is because I was writing my first book! A history book about beer no less.

And I know this sounds very naive of me, but I had no idea how much work it was to write a book. The book took thirteen months to write, but the last three months were insanely  intense and nearly did me in.

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SO many papers!! Everywhere.. for months!!

Book writing led to me to be very neglectful to my blogging, but if it makes you feel better I was neglectful to everything and everyone. My friends were ignored, my house was like an episode of Hoarders and the laundry situation was bleak to say the least. It also took a personal toll.  I’ve always been fascinated by the photographs of presidents over time so I did a mini version of myself during the book writing process. I took photos of myself at different points. As you can see I start out so happy and then degrade until a ball of stress and then back to tired but happy at the end. 2To see the different within 24 hours the photo on the left is the day before the book is due and the photo of the right is 10 minutes after I mailed the transcript to my publisher.  img_5563Happily survived and my book North Alabama Beer: An Intoxicating History comes out in August.

Going forward I swear I’ll be blogging more and when I write book number two I’ll be more prepared for the workload.

Thank-you and I am sorry. Foodie posts will be on their way.


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Kona Grill

1Huntsville has a new, ultra cool place to enjoy an upscale cocktail, a pint of local craft beer, and a truly amazing array of culinary delights.  It’s hard to say what the restaurants food genre is other than an eclectic spectrum of deliciousness.  Usually when I got to a restaurant opening I do a little research on the place, but I was pressed for time so as we were driving to the Kona Grill I looked the restaurant up on my phone (don’t worry, my husband was driving).1y2b9304The menu had  lots of different types of food: Japanese, Italian, good old American and even some New England fare.  Mmm Clam Chowder. (It gives me flashbacks to my childhood).

“How can this be good?” I asked by husband while looking at my phone. “There are too many different styles of food.”

Thirty minutes later I would be eating my words, while sipping on a heavenly strawberry basil cocktail and eating a numerous styles of food that were consistently good.1y2b9311The interior is sleek, yet comfortable.  The restaurant is divided into different atmospheres, but all of them were equally enjoyable.  It is a great place to grab a meal before a Saturday out on the town or settle in on a weeknight for numerous dishes, drinks and causal conversation. We opted to sit on the patio in the unseasonably warm weather with blogging superstar SweetTMakesThree and our hubbies.  1y2b9323The staff was lovely, well-informed and so helpful. They brought us lots of different dishes to sample and offered to get anything we needed from their skilled chefs and bar staff. 1y2b9333I started with the flatbread pizza. It was delicious, which is going to sound very redundant soon, but seriously everything tasted amazing.untitled-12After a while I noticed people sipping on fruity cocktails, and being a person that doesn’t want to miss out, I went and located a few for the table.untitled-15Mmm. Just looking at the pictures again makes me want another.  They were fresh and fruit the with right amount of kick.

I LOVE food presentation, so I was all about the ice sculpture in the sushi room.untitled-13All of the sushi is made fresh in-house. It went so fast that I was barely able to get a photo before it was gone, but I snagged a couple of pieces.  Once again delicious. 1y2b93341y2b9343We then enjoyed well-cooked burgers (American-style) and pork dumplings (Chinese-style). My absolute favorite was the tuna sashimi (Japanese-style) and we finished up with passion fruit creme brûlée (French-style).  It was like visiting Epcot Center without all the crying children and overpriced Mickey merchandise. untitled-14I highly recommend visiting Kona Grill! The husband and I have already made plans to be back. Make sure you visit it at Bridge Street Town Centre in Huntsville. 1y2b9421