Day 4 Tribute to the South

Topic? There are so many I couldn't choose just one! If you read my blog every now and then you'll find that I often have random blogs. I write about a lot of things at once, and now is one of those times. So maybe on my day 4 tribute I'll write about 4 things that make me smile or laugh about the South. Here we go!

1) The Cooler Theory. This may sound odd at first, but let me lay the situation out for you. You see, on the West side of the US, he who throws party supplies the party. Ok ok, not in EVERY situation. But, most of the time, if you want to have a little schindig, you buy some beer, wine, some snacks or food, you know, the works. Not so in the South. You see, people are smarter here I think. Or maybe more considerate. But if someone is going somewhere (where you can drink), you pack your own parachute baby. Coolers abound! You pack that baby full of Ultras (or in Lynn's case, Miller Lite), some ice, seal 'er up, and hit the road. There is no "oh we'll just have what they have" mindset going on. Nope. BYOB ATT. (the att stands for All The Time). It was strange at first, but now that I think about it, what the heck have we been wasting our money on this whole time?? The next time Ashley and I have people over for a football game or whatever we are abiding by the Southern Cooler Theory. So be prepared!

2) Classic Rock. Before moving here, I was naive and I was uneducated --- in rock n roll. I grew up on Hall n Oats, James Taylor, and ToTo. These are great bands. But Ashley grew up on The Allman Brothers, Steve Miller, The Doobie Brothers, and Van Halen. I mean I thought I knew rock n roll, but not until I moved here. Rock n Roll is Mid Life Crisis on a Friday night at Durty Kelly's. Rock n Roll is 97.1 radio on the way to work. Rock n Roll is not Hall n Oats. I am now educated, thanks to Danny and Ashley. Thanks!

3) Spanky and Buddy. Aka dumb dumb and freak. (just kidding, Patti). But seriously, these animals are weird, but yet they make me laugh or smile. Some times both. Spanky is a Shih Tzu, and lazy as I have ever seen. He will not go to the bathroom without Patti's supervision. He will not go up a stair without a kick in the ass. He sucks on the strangest things (noses of stuffed animals, the occasional rouge pair of underwear, you know, the usual things). He is always perfectly maintained, probably due to his wild life style (hardly). He snorts at weird times. But despite all of that, there is something about him that keeps you coming back. Maybe it's that he's a great cuddler. Or maybe because he only has one eye (he was rescued). I haven't pinpointed it yet, but deep down, I like Spanky. He's not all that bad!

Now Buddy - oh man, we've got a weird one here. Buddy is on his last days, and we are all convinced he is delusional For instance, this morning, he thought he was taking a dump in the litter box. What he didn't realize is that it was actually a pile of Ashley's swimsuits. Doh! Or how about when he walks upstairs he doesn't realize why he isn't moving.......his claws are caught in the carpet. Buddy, it's been a good ride. But you can't sleep in file cabinets anymore. And you can't jump up on to my laptop and rip out 4 keys. Buddy I think it's time. Wait, what's that? You caught a mouse?? You are still alive? You ate your food and both of the dogs food?? How do you do it, Buddy? These are questions we ask ourselves every day. He lives. He is 17 (which in cat years is about 185). It is amazing. He is all fur and bones, no meat. But the legend lives on friends. Buddy continues to yell so loud in the morning that Patti can hear him from 2 stories up. He annoys, he claws, he smells...but Buddy is still a great cat. My guess is that he'll he live until somewhere near the age of 35. Just a guess.

4) And then there's Taffy. You knew I was going there. This little dog makes me laugh, give out undeserved treats, talk in funny voices, smile, and take stupid pictures (see below). She is smart and has the personality of a TV reality star. Taffy is hilarious. Her under-bite is epic and her energy is unsurpassed. Can she speak? Yes. Can she play dead? Yep. Can she shake? Uh uh. How about a high 5? You bet. She does it all! You have to meet this dog. I never thought I would like Shih Tzus, but have come 180 degrees. I love this dog! And so does every single person who comes in contact with her. (Don't let the secret out of the bag, but Ashley and I are going to sneak her in to the car when we leave town.....do you think they'll know??)

Stay tuned for Day 5 Tribute. Also known as Tear Jearker 2009. Until then, Ashley and I are hitting the road tomorrow. It has been a tough week, and although tonight's food was great, it was equally as hard to say "see you later" to friends. I am refraining from "goodbye". . .because guess what? No one is dying. We will be back in 3 months. And we will see the family in Oregon in October. This is just Ashley and Alex starting our lives together. It isn't goodbye. It is we love you and we will see you soon. Because that is exactly what will happen.


Day 3 Tribute to the South: Oh, the places you'll go!

When you live in the South, there are more benefits than amazing food and unbeatable golf. There are endless places to visit!! And one thing that I am proud of Ashley and I for is visiting places. Going places. Seeing people. Taking advantage of being so close to so many great things. We have really carved out a hobby for ourselves: traveling! It is ironic, because that has been the essence of our relationship for years. But now it is something enjoy! Let me give you the highlights of our travels from the past year!

Cool Stop #1: Asheville, NC. This is one place you have to go. We tackled this place head on for a weekend back in early November. THe real reason we even went there in the first place was because Ashley bought me a round of golf at the Grove Park Inn for my birthday, so we wanted to make a weekend out of it, and man did we. We were lucky enough to stay with Ash's friend Betsy, and it was great because she only lived about 15 minutes from downtown. But after golf, the weekend was just starting. We ate at great restaurants, walked around a very cool quaint downtown, and the best part of the trip (which everyone needs to do once in their life) was the Biltmore Estate. I have blogged about this before - but my goodness, it was easily the coolest and most amazing place I have ever seen. Go. Book your tickets. And make sure to do some free wine tasting afterwards!

Cool Stop #2: Charleston, SC. If you want to get a taste of the "real" South, go to Charleston. They have cobblestone roads dating to the 1760's! I mean, talk about history. Charleston has battlefields from the Civil War, historic and important cotton plantations, row houses that are older than half of the country, an epic oyster festival every year (which we attended!), the best southern food anywhere, great golf...I mean this place has it all! We were lucky enough to have stayed with a friend of mine, Kelley (who is getting married next weekend!) and again, were pretty close to downtown. We took a house carriage tour, we strolled the historic streets of Charleston, ate oysters, had amazing food...we had a great weekend. So if you want "the South", go to Charleston and get some!

Cool Stop #3: Hilton Head Island, SC. Just last weekend we invited ourselves on someone else's vacation (come on, you've done it before!) to Hilton Head. I have always wanted to go here, mainly for the golf, but I quickly realized that it had way much more to offer. We rode bikes, walked on a very flat beach (much easier than fluffy sand), ate seafood every night, kayaked in a sea inlet, and yes, I golfed. But talk about relaxing...ride your bike to the beach, walk, tan, come back, have a beer, go get some seafood, do it again the next day. One of the top 2 highlights for me was our dinner on night 2 at "Eat!" (http://eathhi.com/). The owner gets his fame from the Food Network on the show called "Dinner Impossible", so he definitely has some street cred. It was unbelievable. Probably one of the top 3 dinners I have ever had in my life!! But of course, highlight numero uno was Harbout Town Golf Links. But aside from the heavenly golf, Hilton Head Island is worthy of a trip!

Cool Stop #4: Orange Beach, AL. Wake up, get coffee, sunscreen up, go to beach, come in for lunch, back to beach, come in for shower, go to dinner, sit on patio, go to bed. REPEAT. It is THE MOST relaxing place on earth. And it has great seafood as well, because it is located on the Gulf of Mexico, so shrimp, oysters, grouper is all readily available. We have been here a number of times, it is an O'Dea favorite. And it has become one of mine too! If you are a golfer, there are endless options as well...but I rarely play golf while there. Lots of reading, lots of sun-time, lots of eating and beers, lots of laughing. It is such a fun place to go! Of course, you can't to there without visiting the "Florabama" bar. Yep - on the border of Florida and Alabama. And yep, easily the most white trash bar in the world. Bras hanging from the ceiling, dirty floors, dirty people...but if you can get past that, great music and a rowdy crowd! It is a sight to be seen. Seriously.

Cool Stop #5: Atlanta, GA. Talk about a cool city. In tourist terms, you've got it all: CNN headquarters, Coca Cola headquarters, the World's Biggest Aquarium (literally, I'm not just saying that...), site of the 1996 Olympics...I mean, its a tourist heaven. In terms of being a local, you have great sports teams (Hawks, Falcons, BRAVES!!), great music venues (Eddie's Attic, Verizon Amphitheater, Peidmont Park), great local bands (MID LIFE CRISIS!), great food (come on, it's the South!!), and great people. Atlanta, while we didn't take nearly enough advantage of the downtown area, is a cool place to live. And a great place to visit!

Some honorable mentions from our visits: Durham (ok, only for Alex and Jay's wedding...and DUKE), Montreat College, NC (home of Billy Graham), Mt. Airy (home of Andy Griffith!), Winston-Salem, NC, any place surrounding Boone, NC (Valley Crucis, Banner Elk, Blowing Rock, etc etc..it is all cool!), Windy Gap Young Life Camp, Sharp Top Cove, YL camp, Charlotte, NC....I could go on. But those made the list.

As you can see, we took advantage of living in a very cool part of the USA. The best part? We drove everywhere! That's how accessible these historic and awesome places are. My encouragement to you, wherever you are: GO. Go places. Visit people. Try local food. Go to Oktoberfests and Wooly Worm festivals. Go to Oyster Cracking contests. Go go go! You gotta take advantage of where you live, and where you don't. We have come to embrace that, and I love it. So X out my blog, and google some place to go this weekend! It's only a drive away. . .


Day 2 of the Tribute to the South

Drum roll please...............................GOLF. You know I was going there. I probably should have made it Day 1, but for some reason, food caught my fancy yesterday. Did I mention that we are having a Lo Country Boil this weekend as a send off? Doesn't get much more southern than that.

Anyway, back to golf. The people in the south (well, the men in the south) LOVE their golf. And after being on the East Coast for a year now, I can see why. I have played top of the line courses in North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama. Been very lucky, to say the least. But let me tell you why the East closely rivals the West in terms of golf courses and the experience.

First state on the docket: North Carolina. I was able to play 2 awesome courses while I was there - Boone Golf Club and Grove Park Inn (Ashley's birthday present to me!). BGC was a great course, and was my first dose of Donald Ross, one of the most famous golf course designers in history. This course was designed by a protege of his, so it was identical to his style, which is HARD. But it was a great tune up for the real gem of the Asheville area - the Grove Park Inn. This course was unreal. Beautifully green lush course, very hilly, views of the city of Asheville, and set on the property of the historic and top 10 Spas in the World! I played with a great guy (who happened to live in Alpharetta, weird), smoked a great cigar, and had a great round. But aside from the experience, the course was awesome. It was designed by Donald Ross himself in 1919 or something like that. It had his very standard "upside down salad bowl" shaped greens and huge slanting greens. It was quite the test, actually. But I like that. I would go back and play in a heartbeat! Except next time I'd take Ash to the spa afterwards for a post round massage!

Next up: Alabama. I was only able to play a few courses in Gulf Shores (or should I say, Golf Shores?? Ba doom, ching!), but the highlight being Kiva Dunes. And this time, Ashley played with me! Well, actually she just rode around in the cart and had a few beers. . .hit a few shots occasionally. . .but mostly drove the cart, worked on her tan, and put back some Mick Ultras. Annnnnd I had my fair share too. Maybe that's why this course was so fun, I have no idea. But it was very hard, very sand dunes-y, with palm trees and lakes.......needless to say, picturesque. Gulf Shores is a great place to play golf. By the ocean, very warm, lots of sun and beers, and fun courses that for the most part are pretty easy. I played a few others times while there (once with Danny, once with Lee) and both were a great time! But next time you are in Gulf Shores, play Kiva Dunes. It is worth it!

Next up: South Carolina. Or as it says on their license plate, "First in Golf". I thought New York was first in golf, but maybe I am mistaken. SC is first in everything else, given the war history and early settlement history. So that is cool. What is even cooler is Harbour Town Golf Links. Uh-maze-ing. This course is the host of a PGA Tour tournament (the Verizon Heritage Classic), and is worthy of being called an amazing course. I played it last weekend, and it kicked my butt. It was so hard! Designed by Pete Dye (AKA Dye-abolical, for a reason), the fairways are smaller than your local Par 3 course, and the greens were about as big as your kitchen table. I mean, those bad boys were impossible to hit! I actually hit the ball fairly well, but realized how good the PGA tour guys are. It was a humbling experience. But the main reason you go to Harbour Town is for #17 and #18. 17 is a par 3 headed straight for the sound, surrounded by bunkers and hills and water. It is an amazing golf hole (I almost made birdie from the sand trap, but tapped in for par). 18 is all beauty. And all hard. It is 455 yards, with trouble everywhere. You are headed towards a candy cane looking lighthouse, with water all the way down the left side of the hole. The right is out of bounds, which makes it tough as well. But 2 interesting stats on this hole: the fairway is the #1 largest on the PGA tour, and the green is the #3 smallest. Pretty interesting. But, if you are a pro like me, you hit a 295 yard (Tiger what?) right down the middle, followed by a smooth 7 iron right at the flag, followed by 2 easy putts for par. What a great way to end a really great day! This course is worth a trip to South Carolina in itself, it is that good. Every hole you want to take a picture (and then throw your club because it was hard). And the last 2 holes make one of the best courses in the entire country.

Last up: Georgia. Home of Augusta National Golf Club. Or to a guy like me, Heaven. But in North Georgia there are also some gems that I have been lucky enough to play. White Columns, Atlanta National (where our wedding reception will be!), The Georgia Tech Club (aka Echelon), to name a few. White Columns was where I played a national tournament when I was 17 years old, about 3 years before I met Ashley. Extremely ironic - it is about 4 minutes from her house. Fate, anyone? I've written enough about Augusta (if you haven't read it, go to my blog archives and read about Augusta!), so I'll give you some golf history from Georgia. Atlanta was home to Bobby Jones, arguably the most famous golfer of all time. He still holds most amateur records, and designed some of the South's great courses, including Augusta. But if you are rich and have money to blow, you can be a member of his home course in Atlanta, or play some other favorites of his. A few PGA Tour golfers live in Duluth at Sugar Loaf, or at Atlanta Athletic Club, both extremely exclusive and extremely unbelievable. But up in horse country in Alpharetta, the courses are so beautiful. They are set on rolling acreage, with huge Pines deciding the fairways. The greens are all smooth bent grass, and every course I have played here has been so pretty and soothing and again, picturesque. On your next trip to visit the South, you must play some North Georgia courses. They are awesome!

Well that about ends my golf experiences and recaps of the South. The styles and layouts are drastically different from Oregon and California, but in their own right, they are amazing. I can't wait to come back and play some Southern Golf!


Part 1 of a 5 day Tribute to the South

So for the next week or so, I'm going to write some Casebeer Tributes to the South...an Ode to the South...a farewell of sorts. You see, Ashley and I are moving on Sunday. That's not very long. This is the beginning of a very hard week and I figured that I need to do something to bring some smiles to some faces! So off we go, part 1 of 5 Tributes. Tribute #1: SOUTHERN FOOD.

I think the way I'll craft these tributes is by doing a series of goods, greats, and interestings. At least, that's how I'll write the first one. So before I even moved out here (down here, over here, whatever) everyone told me "you're going to love the food", "you have to eat this or that", etc etc. It was all about the FOOD. Well, I love food - this is no secret. This thought excited me about moving here. The first thing everyone asks from the West Coast is "have you tried grits?" After a few weeks of resisting, I caved. I tried some. Ashley had to make me try Cheddar Cheese Grits, so of course, who wouldn't love those?? Alan Yawn gave me grit lesson once too. LOTS of salt and pepper. Strange at first, but I've come to embrace it. Now after many months of grits, I'm just a little-butter-salt-and-pepper Grit guy.

Next on the good list is hush puppies. Jon Frazier loves hush puppies. I'm still not sure how to eat them - last night for instance, I dipped them in my 1000 Island salad dressing. Before that bite, they went into the ketchup. And after, directly into my tartar sauce. Does anyone know the proper way to eat these things?? I don't really care how, but they too are a delight found no where near the West Coast. A crying shame if you have never had a hush puppy!

Next up: The Great List. Food you can't live without. Food that will make Ashley and I come back to Georgia every 6 weeks just to eat this food. You know what I'm talking about: FRIED PICKLES. Just kidding, although I really do love fried pickles. What I am really talking about is the one and only CHIK FIL A. The nearest Chik to Oregon is Southern California. Some franchise guy in Oregon needs to get on this ASAP. But again, if you have never had Chik Fil A, you are missing out on real life. Some say real life is in Jesus. I couldn't agree more. It's also eating Chik Fil A. There was a stretch in Boone where I had it 4 days in a row (Ashley did not know about 2 of these days). There have also been twice-a-dayers. It's just that good. Chicken sandwhich, chicken nuggets, waffle fries, milkshakes...it is all good. You need to find one and eat some, immediately!

Another food category on the great list is the seafood. I have been a long time lover of good seafood, but it is different here. I have never had grouper. Or trigger fish. Or oysters. Or real authentic crab legs where you actually have to break them and get the damn meat out of the leg. I swear I tried for hours and ate about 4 ounces of food one time. But the seafood is amazing. Fried grouper? So good. Oysters Patti O'Dea style? Amazing. Crab Legs Aunt Lynn style? Hard work, but well worth it!! I love southern seafood. Last night (along with my hush puppy dilema) I had blackened Flounder, some of Kim's crab legs, 1 of Ashley's Crab stuffed Shrimp, and Gumbo. I mean, come on. Does it get any better than that??? The answer is no.

On the Interesting list is only one item. Maybe it even deserves a disclaimer, that's how disgusting it is. So here is the disclaimer: If you have a weak stomach, stop reading and go to the next paragraph. Last chance. Ok moving on. An O'Dea Family Tradition (ok, only 2 people actually like this) is called Pear Salad. Sounds delish, right? Think again. Imagine with me if you will: a succulent pear chopped in half. . . . .filled with a large scoop of MAYO. . . . .topped with shredded cheddar cheese and a cherry. What in the world? I was tricked into eating this one Easter a few years ago. They said, "Oh come on, everybody loves this thing!!!" So of course, trying to impress the futures, I ate it. Choked it down, really. But I guess people actually like this thing. I'm just not one of them!

And now on to some Honorable Mentions. Food that is definitely noteworthy. Top of the list:
- Nana's Chicken Salad. Also worth coming back every month or so for.
- Anything Danny cooks. In particular, steak with potatoes, seasoned veggies, and garlic bread. Ohhh soo good!
- The dreaded Banana Sandwhich. Yep. Banana Sandwhich. Bread, mayo, sliced naners, mayo, bread. Sick.
- Patti's chicken enchiladads
- La Parilla Mexican Grill
- Southern BBQ (I favor the non-vinegar type...)
- Kim's artichoke dip
- Shrimp and Grits
- Mick Ultra, Blue Moon, Yeungling
- Steak n Shake, Waffle House

Well that about wraps up my food portion. Now that everyone is hungry. . .sorry about that! But needless to say, I love Southern Food. I am going to miss Southern Food. I am going to miss eating by the fire in the winter, and the pool in the summer. I am going to miss eating so much chicken salad that I feel like throwing up. I am not going to miss eating the Pear salad and actually throwing up. I am going to miss Ultras, Pinots, and a Guiness at the Olde Blind Dog. I am going to miss a lot!

Things Ashley needs to look forward to in moving West: Micro Brews, Scott Casebeer's cooking, organic everything, and Kettle Chips. Lots and lots of Kettle Chips.

Special and heartfelt thanks goes out to the O'Deas for showing me what real eating is like! Cheers to Southern Food!


Oh I suppose I'll blog again. . .

It's been a while. I've had a run in with a snake since the last blog. Been to a wedding. Been to Charlotte 2 times in 4 days. You know, the usual. Want the update? Ok then!

Ashley's life long dream (ok, dream of 2 years) has been to appear on the Smitten Photography Blog. For further detail, click on smittenphotographyblog.com . But anyway, she has stalked this website (stalk sounds bad. Obsessed is better. Well, that sounds bad too. She has LOVED this website...) for about 2 years. It is a friend of a friend of a friend type of deal. Anyway, she loves this photographer. And after a year of telling me about it, I have found that I love her too! Such a unique style. Well we decided that Sharon is the person who we wanted to shoot our wedding, and coincidentally our engagement photos. Dreams really do come true for Miss Ashley. We went to Charlotte on Tuesday for our official shoot, and it was a blast. And the photos, well, you'll probably see them in a magazine soon. Movie stars. Rock stars. Whatever you want to call us. We look GOOD. So check back on that website within the next few days, because they will be up soon!

But the whole process was just funny. We met her at Chik fil A at 7AM (meanwhile I'm wondering why I couldn't get food) and she says "Hey guys, just follow me we are going to take some pictures in a gravel parking lot". A strange start, to say the least. I was thinking some serene field, trees, grass, running around hand in hand. . . nope, gravel parking lot. But hey, like Ashley told me, "just trust her, she's good!". So I do. Off we go - to Lowe's Motor Speedway parking lot! What the crap? I had some very sketchy feelings about this. But we start shooting - because "the light is amazing!", Sharon claims. I'm skeptical - until she screams with excitement about the first few shots. Then she shows them to us on her camera - and I am shocked too. This gal can really turn lemons into lemonade! I mean, it was a pretty place - but these pictures looks amazing! We shot there, then went to an abandoned looking church, and same thing - she was great. She used old beat up chairs, picked flowers from a field for Ashley to hold, used our Starbucks cups in some shots, just whatever she felt like, as long as "the sun was good". And the sun was good to us! I can't wait to see all of the pictures. . .so cool and unique! A little bit like Ash and I. . .

Our return trip to Charlotte on Friday was for good friend Lauren's wedding. It was a fun weekend on a lot of levels but for me, it was great getting to hang out with the one and only Jay Whitaker. You see, his wife Alex and my future wife Ashley are besties. BFF's. Life longers. Which means for Jay and I, we are inherently going to be life long friends as well. Which is fun to think about! Might as well get this party started! We did so by hanging out at the world's largest Bass Pro Shop, sharing a hotel room, playing frisbee golf and laughing a LOT at the wedding! I'd say we bonded. And I liked it. On this frisbee golf trip we ran into a snake - see picture below. Not friendly. We are little girls when it comes to snakes, I'll be honest. It looked at me and I sprinted. And might have screamed.

In other news, Ashley and I are looking for places to live in Portland. Preferably free. Know of anyone or anything?? Of course, we realize that is a little ridiculous, but just throwing it out there.

I'll update more once the highly anticipated engagement photos are revealed. But let me promise you this folks. They are going to be amazing.