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Posts Tagged ‘Huntsville’

It’s been a slow crawl, this move to Atlanta.

I’ve realized that, despite all of my downsizing and decluttering, I’m still not very portable. And I’ve decided that portability is one of my main goals right now. If I decide to move to Manhattan in a few years, or Key West, or anywhere, really, I want to be able to stuff everything that has to go in the back of a box truck.

It’s doable, really, because I’ve discovered how many things that I really don’t want or need. I left a lot of things back in Huntsville — “temporarily,” if you will — and I haven’t missed most of it. (OK, I totally missed my cookie scoop, but I grabbed it on my last trip back.)

It’s been like losing a lot of weight that I didn’t even know I was carrying around. It’s freeing, being surrounded by only the things you actually use, the things you actually enjoy looking at.

It makes for way less noise in my head. I like it.

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Photo courtesy of Atkinson Candy Company

The best part about serving two days of jury duty in Madison County, Alabama? I found a source of Chick-O-Sticks.

Chick-O-Sticks, for the terribly undersnacked, are orange sticks mostly made of peanut butter, granulated sugar and corn syrup. Dusted with ground coconut, they taste like the orange insides of a Butterfinger, for lack of a better comparison.

They’re crunchy and delicious, and they used to be much more widely available. Lately, they seem to only pop up in small, locally owned grocery stories and Mississippi gas stations.

You’ll find the large, cigar-shaped variety of Chick-O-Sticks in downtown Huntsville across from the courthouse at Harrison Brothers Hardware, which is part museum, part store. They’re displayed with a bunch of other old-fashioned snacks, including MoonPies and Necco Wafers.

I’m excited to see that the Atkinson Candy Company is still making Chick-O-Sticks in a variety of sizes and packaging options; hopefully that means they’ll be around for a while. Because there’s nothing like a taste of childhood on a hot summer day.

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Yesterday, we hustled this beast of a piano into a rental truck for a short trip across town to one half of The Owl Sisters, two Huntsville ladies who refinish old furniture. After they remove its incredibly heavy harp, one Owl Sister will move the piano (which will really be a former piano at that point) into her home, where she’ll probably turn it into a bar. Or, possibly, something even cooler.

I’ve learned that old pianos are essentially worthless unless they’ve been completely reconditioned, a process that can cost just a thousand dollars or two less than the newly reconditioned piano’s value. I’m not taking that wager.

In the past, I’ve called this the accidental piano. When I was helping my dad clean out his mother’s house, it seemed like a good idea to take it home, not because I had fond memories of it (or even played piano), but because I had always thought it was a groovy piece of furniture. I had no idea that nearly 10 years in Mobile’s humidity would render its delicate wheels virtually useless.

For me, it has held family photos and knickknacks, along with whatever objects happened to be attracted to a flat surface at any given moment. I will miss its unique addition to the general decor, but I won’t miss moving it to another house or worrying about it scratching/denting the new floor when we get around to ditching the carpet.

Au revoir, beastly piano. Enjoy your third life.

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How weird to be in the middle of a food trend and not realize it.

I’ve been trying to reduce the amount of processed food in my family’s diet for the past few years. I was unemployed for a few months when we first moved to Huntsville, so I started cooking a lot to try to save money and fill time. And not Hamburger Helper-type cooking, either. I’m talking from-scratch cooking, as in grate your own cheese (melts so much better than pre-shredded) and making your own meatloaf spice mixture (because have you READ the ingredients on those little flavoring packets?). The salad spinner became a permanent resident in the fridge, always filled with fresh (and local, when available) greens.

We didn’t give up EVERY processed food, mind you. There may or may not be a multipack of frozen pizzas from Costco in my freezer right now. The peanut butter that the husband eats every day is incredibly hydrogenated (I’d go bankrupt trying to feed him the real stuff). I don’t make my own mayonnaise, although I should make my own salad dressing.

So I’m not claiming that we’re dietary saints. But we’ve both maintained our weight for the past five years despite some substantial lapses in workouts, and we’ve put a significant dent in the number of colds and other odd viruses that haunt so many households. Coincidence? Maybe, but I’ll take it.

We find ourselves in the middle of the Real Food Movement. Come on in. It’s delicious.

I rescued a copy of The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite from my mom’s Goodwill box a few months ago and just got around to reading it. Author David A. Kessler explores, among other things, how utterly processed the average American diet is. The food industry exists to sell us cheaply manufactured goods that make us want to eat more, no matter how much sugar, fat and salt it takes to get us hooked.

I spotted a title at Barnes & Noble this weekend that actually distracted me from the Harry Potter table: Skinny Chicks Eat Real Food: Kick Your Fake Food Habit, Kickstart Your Weight Loss. Author Christine Avanti explores factory food addiction and how her move to fresh, real foods helped her lose weight and, more importantly, maintain her weight. I didn’t pick up the book because, I told myself, I’m not trying to lose weight OR fill up my bookshelves right now, but I’m very curious to read Avanti’s findings.

The thing about (who knew?) being part of the Real Food Movement for the past couple of years? I can now often taste the difference between processed foods and real foods. For example, I can taste the excessive sugar in jars of spaghetti sauce — there’s only one variety I can really stand to eat now, and the husband’s not fond of it. The flavor of salt in canned soup is getting overwhelming — heck, I can taste salt in one variety of CHEESE now, prompting me to replace it with another.

So, as anticlimactic as it may be, my New Year’s Resolution is to keep following the Real Food path. I’ll also be changing up my exercise routine (more on that later), but mostly I’ll continue figuring out how to feed the husband and myself quality, delicious foods and get further away from the “better living through chemistry” theme that has overtaken our food industry for the past few decades.

To that end, I’m afraid the pantry is about to lose two longstanding residents. You’ve been handy, jarred spaghetti sauce and canned soup, but I can taste your additives, and I can make you better without them.

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Everybody’s got something to say about the holidays.

As Christmas nears, even the most thick-skinned writers seem to get the nostalgia bug. Some of us simply enjoy the sheer culinary freedom afforded by the season’s party circuit and feel compelled to share their kitchen adventures (cake pops and glittering lemon sandwich cookies are among the festive holiday treats that I urge you to attempt). Others share photos of their sparkling decor, or memories of craftiness gone wrong.

You can find a little bit of everything holiday from some of the best writers in Huntsville in the fifth edition of the Rocket City Bloggers Carnival:

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Asking me to name my favorite ANYTHING is a lesson in frustration.

Favorite color? Dark green. Or maybe light orange. Light green. Maybe the orange on my edition of The Chicago Manual of Style? Possibly peach.

Favorite song? Whatever I just listened to without skipping.

Favorite movie? Whatever I just watched without mockery.

Favorite TV show? Sons of Anarchy. Or Breaking Bad. Possibly Buffy the Vampire Slayer if we’re talking all-time favorites.

It depends.

Favorite part of Huntsville? Please. It SO depends.

But the Rocket City Bloggers want to know for their latest Blog Carnival, so here goes:

  • I love the fact that so many people in Huntsville get outside and exercise. Seriously, I moved up here one January when the temps were hovering in the upper teens, yet when I looked out my kitchen window every morning I saw JOGGERS. At 7 a.m. With DOGS.
  • SO many people are serious about food discussions here. I can chat about quinoa, cupcakes and pit barbecue without skipping a beat. People love to talk about what they’re cooking and what they’re planning to cook after that — it’s like Louisiana without Tabasco sauce. Except sometimes there IS Tabasco sauce. And restaurant rumors abound.
  • Ditto for cocktails. You folks know your brews and your liquors.
  • Huntsville’s nerdery knows no bounds. It’s not enough that the space program originated here. No. The first party the husband and I attended featured a Rubik’s Cube-solving contest. I can walk into any room and discuss the intricacies of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica or Jaws. Several people in any setting will understand one of these utterances: “10 points for Gryffindor” or “Roll for damage.”
  • There’s so much green space up here. And mountains. (Smallish mountains, but still.) And caves.

Now, I have some cooking to plan and a cocktail to make before I discuss my horrible movie-nerd crush on Duncan Jones. Who wants in on that?

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I am at a loss as to what to say about the recent tornadoes that carved a path of destruction throughout north Alabama. Our home is fine, but I have the same feeling that I had after multiple hurricanes took aim at Mobile, Alabama, when we lived there: It’s as if Mother Nature has drawn a bead on me and the people I care about.

But whining and worrying don’t do anybody any good, and they’re both really just luxuries when my own home remains standing. There are entire communities of people and animals that need help, and helping others can be so exhausting that you don’t have the energy to wallow in your own fears.

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