June 30, 2014

Dining On: Mutt's Sauce, the Sauce for Every Meal

As a southern blogger, I sometimes get contacted by brands. Folks want to send me their products so I can write glowing reviews of them on the Internet. I don't say yes to everybody, mainly because I don't want to take a freebie and then feel compelled to say something nice that isn't true.

But when a high school pal of mine mentioned that she had started a sauce company, I couldn't wait to try the product and share it with you all. Imagine my surprise and delight when a complimentary box of it arrived at my doorstep!

Allow me to introduce you to Mutt's Sauce.

Mutt's Sauce is a ketchup-mustard hybrid (with other ingredients) named for my friend's grandfather, who brought the sauce to life. He earned the nickname 'Mutt' for his ability to blend in wherever he went. Mutt's Sauce is billed as "the sauce for every meal."

There are several recipes on the Mutt's Sauce website, but most of them involve meat. Since my beau and I are vegetarian, I wondered if this would limit our options...obviously meat is a big part of sauce eating here in the south (barbecue, marinating, grilling, etc.).

Nevertheless, my southern beau got right to work, taste testing Mutt's Sauce and putting it on all sorts of different foods. We have eaten up one entire bottle of it already!

Here are some of the foods my beau has enjoyed Mutt's Sauce on (and his review):

Bagel & cream cheese - "Awesome!"
French fries - "It's magical."
Bologna (Lightlife Vegetarian brand) & Cheese sandwich - "Really innovative."
On a tossed salad as a dressing - "An unexpected flavor, but good."
Carrot sticks - "Great!"
Eggs - "Fantastic"
Baked potato - "Mmm Hmmm"

And his pick for the best food to eat with Mutt's Sauce, grits. See below.

"Grits and Mutt's Sauce was possibly the finest thing I ever ate." - the Southern Beau

So far, my favorite way to eat Mutt's Sauce is as a dipping sauce for sweet potato fries. I mixed it with a dollop of creme fraiche and it was downright delicious.

There are two varieties of Mutt's Sauce, original and spicy. The original was by far my favorite, but the spicy was good also. You can learn more about Mutt's story and order your own Mutt's Sauce here.

It's also available for purchase at some local stores in Tennessee and Ohio.

A big country hug to Charlynda for sharing the Mutt's Sauce love and also for bringing her grandfather's creation to life so that the rest of us can enjoy it!

P.S. Use the code "MUTT20" on your order (good through July 11th) to receive 20 percent off! Just go ahead and get a case...you won't regret it! 

June 18, 2014

Big Hair is Both My Curse and My Blessing

I haven't written anything about my hair on the blog in a long time. Which is strange because I deal with it everyday. I've struggled with it, fought against it, and tried to embrace it for years. With my upcoming wedding, I definitely want to get my hair in good shape. So on my last trip to the salon, I asked my stylist what I might do to improve its health.

She kind of frowned at me sort of tight-lipped, as if to say it might be hopeless. And then she recommended some expensive salon deep conditioning treatments and/or deep conditioning at home.

{This is exactly how I look under a hair dryer} 
Then she went on to say that without a hood hair dryer, my home attempts would be basically futile.

I was pretty discouraged. I can't really afford regular trips to the salon to sit under the dryer while reading January issues of People and US Weekly. Plus, who has time for that?

{My mom, dead center, when she was in high school...rockin' a perm that she swears lasted 10 years}
When I was in my hometown a few weeks ago, my mom suggested I go to the beauty school. This is her solution for all beauty issues. Even though she's had many strange and bizarre experiences at the hand of a student beautician (one told her she was the spitting image of Christina Aguilara). Either she just doesn't care because the price is too great to pass up or she's the eternal optimist, always hoping the next trip will be better.

So I gave it a try. A $10 beauty school deep conditioning treatment seemed better than a $40 salon version.

This is where I have to insert the part of the story that happens anytime I go to a new person to have my hair done. My current stylist is used to my mop so she never says these things, but anyone who has never dealt with my hair before has these things to say (every time, I promise you).

  1. You have so much hair. Like so much. How do you have this much hair? So much. Much hair. 
  2. How much shampoo do you use? Oh my gosh, I bet you go through an entire bottle of shampoo in no time. You have so much hair. 
  3. You have a lotta hair.

People, I am well aware there's a lot going on up there. Really? I can still fit through doors.

{Me at age 4 or 5...sporting hot roller curlz and a frown like no other...my signature look at that time. Also note the corsage!}
So the beauty school deep conditioner treatment was okay....I couldn't tell much of a difference after it was over.

And then they sprayed some kind of product on my semi-dried hair that looked like that spray snow in a can you get at Christmas. I think the nozzle was clogged or something.

Not only did it coat my even poufier than usual hair with oily white globules, but it got all over my clothes AND my purse.

I silently cursed my mom for suggesting the beauty school and I reminded myself never again to go for the cheaper option which often ends up being more expensive in the long run.

My next at-home solution for treating my hair was to buy a plastic shower cap and wrap a hot towel around my head. But I am on an anti-microwave kick and didn't think heating a towel in the oven was a safe option. So that didn't go anywhere.

{my hair makes me fly....yes, I have a lot of it}
Then I stopped in my neighborhood thrift store last week. I had already scored some major finds in the clothing department (Banana Republic pants, silk Ralph Lauren blouse, etc).

I decided to stroll through the housewares before heading to check out.

There I saw it...a hot pink hood hair dryer. And praise be, it actually worked! For the low, low price of only $16 (plus half a canister of Lysol wipes to sanitize it).

Less than half the cost of one salon treatment. I figured if I used it just three times, it would more than pay for itself vs. going to the salon.

And if you think it's gross to buy someone's old hood hair dryer at the thrift store, think about how many people sit under the same ones at the salon? Now I have my very own.

I used it the night before last. My southern beau kept asking if it was working. I don't know what he was expecting...maybe some magical transformation.

We'll see how my hair looks after a few months of home treatments.

And yes, I go through a lot of shampoo.

June 16, 2014

Building the Right Foundation

There's a construction site outside my window. As I type these words, the shrill beep of a truck backing up rings over and over (and over). I got spoiled for the few years when the outpatient surgery center next door to my home sat empty. No sounds could be heard, no people seen milling about.

Then, one day I saw a handful of people walking around over there. They looked so official in their hard hats with their clipboards, nodding and taking notes as they scrutinized the property. 

As if overnight, it became a sea of activity. Dump trucks, backhoes, and all sorts of heavy machinery working nearly round the clock to get the building revamped and rebuilt so it can become something brand new. 

Now, there's a huge dirt trench that runs along the other side of my fence. Any shred of privacy I got from the rambling weeds and brush between us was carefully ripped out with a backhoe. 

It's not a pretty sight. But I'm hopeful that whatever they are building over there will end up making the property look better in the long run. 

Building anything is never easy. Whether you are starting from scratch or taking something that's already there and tearing part of it away so you can rebuild something better. 

But there's something oddly comforting about this process. In many ways, it's all we know. Our lives are constantly being molded and changed. Our relationships are built and from there they grow and develop. 

Who we are is fundamentally the same until one day, there's a tiny shift and we see everything differently. 

I have a dear, dear friend who has recently lost a significant amount of weight. Someone made a comment to her that when she was 80 pounds heavier, she was surely enslaved to food and that now she's lost the weight, doesn't she feel so much freer? 

She is definitely freer, but her response was profound to me. She said she was never enslaved to food. She was enslaved to a wrong belief that there was something inherently wrong with her and that food would in some way mask or fix that. The narrative she hears on the inside has changed and that's what is allowing her physical body to change. 

I have had wrong beliefs for much of my life too. Beliefs that I wasn't good enough, that I had to prove myself by working hard, by showing people what I could achieve. Nothing good can be supported on a foundation of wrong beliefs.

It's only when we have a foundation of grace that we can allow good things to be built in our lives. A foundation of being loved, of feeling like we are enough, of knowing that we are accepted and that we have value.

In case nobody's told you lately: You are loved. You are enough. You are accepted. You have value. 

June 4, 2014

Harry Potter, Wedding Dresses and Why You Shouldn't Show Up at David's Bridal without an Appointment and 90 Minutes to Spare

There's this thing I'm guilty of doing...it's sort of like reverse snobbery. I don't know why exactly, but often I assume things that apply to the vast majority of people won't apply to me. Maybe it's because I've always felt a little bit different than other folks or maybe it's because the things I think and feel aren't quite the norm.

Here's an example. For many years I heard people talk about how much they loved the Harry Potter books. In college, my friend Stephanie was obsessed! She even read some borderline raunchy fan fiction that was not appropriate for good southern baptist girls. Harry Potter was all anybody could talk about. And thus, I assumed I would hate the wizarding world and avoided it like the plague.

Then several years later my co-worker and friend convinced me to give it a try. I trusted his opinion on other things so I agreed to read the first book in the series. Would you believe I stayed up ALL NIGHT reading it and finished the entire book in one sitting? It began my love of HP that still lives strong today.

So the moral of the story is I should learn not to assume.

Fast forward to the other day when my mom suggested we go to a local bridal store and try on wedding dresses. I have no idea why, but I guess I've always assumed that I would not be able to find my dress at a traditional store. Maybe I thought they wouldn't have my size or the prices would be outrageous. A few days before, we had actually ordered some dresses online and I was convinced one of them would be 'the one.'

Knowing nothing about bridal store etiquette, we (my mom, dad, and I) just showed up at our local David's Bridal. Apparently you need to have an appointment for wedding dress shopping, but they were having an unusually slow Friday so they accommodated us. The main reason for this excursion was to appease my mom, who felt that ordering a wedding dress on the internet didn't create the same experience of trying on and choosing from several options in a dress shop.

I was so convinced I wouldn't find the dress at the shop that I was borderline rude to the saleswoman and tried to communicate with my eyes for her to not pin her hopes on any sort of commission...since I didn't think there was any chance we'd be making an actual purchase.

She whisked me into a mirror-less dressing cube and helped zip me into what I only know to describe as a girdle and matching can-can. Three or four different dresses materialized and I tried them, but none felt all that special. I asked her if she had any really plain un-shiny dresses without a bunch of sparkles and frills. Apparently that's not the common request at David's Bridal because she looked at me like I was crazy.

Then another dress came in the dressing room, was pulled up and over my head and secured with the same clips I use to keep potato chips from getting stale. I glanced down at the dress but since there was no mirror, I really had no idea how it looked.

I stepped out of the dressing room and was met with my own reflection in wall-to-wall mirrors. The first thing I saw was my mom's expression. Even my dad sort of gave me a funny look. Then the tears...this was the dress. I loved how it made me look and feel.

I've heard people tell their own version of this story, but I never dreamed I'd have one of my own. I guess that's the thing about life...we just can't assume anything because we're constantly being surprised and learning things we never thought could be possible. For that matter, there has always been part of me that never thought I'd be a bride so even that idea has taken getting used to.

The moral of this story? Be open to possibilities. You just never know what's possible and that's pretty great.