Go To Nashville

Y’all, go to Nashville. Seriously.

I’m from the Midwest and probably have no right to use the term y’all, but I’m going to because y’all need to go there. Even if you don’t like bbq. Even if you think Jason Aldean is a hack. Even if you have never seen one episode of the extremely popular hit series by the same name.

There is truly something for everyone in this city. Want a laid back lounge? Hit Skull’s Rainbow Room. Want a rockin’ honkey tonk? Check out every corner of Broadway. Just want to eat some great food? Go anywhere in the Gulch, especially for brunch. Want a history lesson? Take a plantation tour, or go through any of the various music museums.

Where to stay and where to go:

We stayed at the Fairfield Inn & Suites in the Gulch, which is about a mile off of Broadway (Nashville’s version of “the strip”). As our Lyft driver put it, “Five years ago, no one went to the Gulch without a gun.” Today, it’s a revitalized hipster haven with tons of restaurants/bars/venues within walking distance. The streets are not nearly as crowded as Broadway, and there are no souvenir shops (I looked). I would highly recommend staying in the Gulch. That way, you can take on the chaos of Broadway only after you’ve had your coffee, a nice brunch, and about 10 mimosas.

My crew was ready for the bright lights of Broadway!

Broadway has all the action. There is a party every 10 feet, so if you don’t like one vibe, you can move on to the next. For instance, Acme Feed & Seed has 4 levels, each with its own theme. The main floor has more of a diner feel with a full band every night of the weekend. The second floor is a dance club/lounge. The third is a mystery to me, as it was closed for a private party, but on the 4th level, the rooftop view is breathtaking and worth the climb. We  also loved Benchmark Nashville because of the quality of live music and the relatively laid back atmosphere. It’s basically like anyone’s hometown bar, but there’s a man/woman duo who plays there, and their talent is captivating.


Printer’s Alley is an easy walk just a few blocks off Broadway with a completely different vibe. I was taken by the concept of this area because it started as a place for newspaper printers, then turned into a series of speakeasies during Prohibition. When you enter Skull’s Rainbow Room, you jump right back in time. The peephole on the door, the low ceilings, the cozy booths. Next time I go to Nashville, I will make a reservation at this place. As it was, we could only stand around like morons while the people smart enough to think ahead sat and enjoyed what looked to be amazing food.

Skull’s Rainbow Room @ Printer’s Alley  –                                                                                             Doesn’t look like much from this angle, but you get the speakeasy vibe.

The food:

I went to Nashville with one food goal in mind – hot chicken. And I never had it! I have no regrets. The restaurants were all top notch. Our first night, we indulged and spent more on one meal at The Chef & I than we normally spend on a month’s worth of groceries. Was it good? Yep. Would I do that again? Nope. I’m glad I did it once though. We ordered the chef’s tasting menu, which was 7 courses of Heaven including pork belly, Lobster Wellington, octopus, and seared Ahi tuna. Our greatest takeaway from that was the concept of avocado rice. I think that was worth the entire bill since we’ve started to make it at home now. (Look for a recipe soon!)

Skil fish in a coconut curry sauce

The food at The Southern Steak & Oyster (just off Broadway) was just as good. The espresso martini was the perfect start, and the fried green tomatoes and cheese grits were the best appetizer I’ve ever had, hands down.

The beautiful Nikki with her creamy espresso martini at The Southern.

Sambuca was another sweet spot in the Gulch. We went there too late (closes at 11), but I would go early and spend a whole night there next time. The Chris Weaver Band played fun dance covers with more energy than my daughter’s preschool class. Check him out when you get a chance. I would have never guessed that voice came out of that cowboy.

The two hottest brunch spots in Nashville are both in the Gulch. Milk & Honey has a total Joanna Gaines vibe and is just around the corner from the famed Nashville graffiti wings. The two hour wait gave us plenty of time to walk over to Music Row and drink a bucket (yes, a BUCKET) of mimosas at Frisky Frog’s. Happy Anniversary to us!


I don’t know if this is nostalgia talking since it was our last meal in Nashville, but I think my favorite dish of the whole trip was at Biscuit Love…Bonuts. These magical creatures are some sort of mix between a biscuit and a donut, laid upon a bed of blueberry compote and topped with a lemon mascarpone. I literally licked the plate.



Other Stuff To Do:

The Opry – Go to the Grand Ole Opry. It’s so cool. There’s so much history, the building is gorgeous, the seats are comfy, and you get to see 12 different artists perform. Our lineup was amazing, but even if you don’t know a single soul on the stage, I don’t think you will be disappointed.

Darius Rucker at the Opry

The Johnny Cash Museum – I love Johnny Cash, and now that I’ve been to his museum, I love him even more. There’s no tour guide or anything, so you can just walk through at your own pace. If you have some time, there are a lot of fun listening stations. I was especially impressed with Snoop Dogg’s cover of I Walk the Line.


Belle Meade Plantation – The only sunny day we had was our last day, so we didn’t get to spend nearly enough time at Belle Meade. The 8 miles between Nashville and the plantation are so different from the city with sprawling lawns, colonial houses, and hundreds of towering Magnolia trees. The plantation itself is several acres, but the family used to own the entire area where the town is now. The family’s mansion still stands, along with several outbuildings, including slave quarters and a distillery. I would have loved to take the “African American Experience” tour, but that was full, so we toured the mansion instead. The tour guides dress in costume, and they’re extremely knowledgeable about the time period and the family. It truly makes history come to life.

Formerly a slave, the horse trainer lived here with his family.

Scooters – I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the scooters in Nashville. Although our traveling was done by foot or by Lyft, we saw these scooters everywhere! Various kinds from various companies, as well as various levels of sobriety in the riders. (P.S. I’ve heard the locals hate them.)


I’ll say it again – y’all, go to Nashville! The music, the food, the atmosphere, the history. There is something for everyone! Well… except the kids. Leave the kids at home for this one.


Shock Guac

In case you’ve been living under a rock, I need to alert you to the wonders of the avocado. Rather boring looking from the outside, the avocado contains a bright green “healthy fat” that can take a dish from ZZZZ to yippee! I admit, I’m dorking out on avocado, but it’s SO good. I even use it in place of a banana in my smoothie sometimes, which creates a silky texture more suitable for a spoon than a straw.

Anyway, my 4 year old could make regular guacamole, but this one is NOT for her tiny tastebuds. I debated on whether to call this Guaca-holy moly, but ended up with the even classier title. The credit for this recipe goes to my husband, but the name was all me. 🙂

2 ripe avocados, mashed
4 t lime juice
10-12 jalapeño slices, chopped
1/2 t onion powder
2-3 t crushed red pepper
3 pinches salt
2 pinches pepper

Stir it all together until well blended. Eat on top of basically anything, including roasted sweet potatoes, eggs, rice, or alone with chips or veggies.


5 Things that Surprised Me About Getting Hearing Aids

Aaahhh!!!!! What the hell is in my ear????

Oh yeah, I have hearing aids now. No big deal. Or is it?

I certainly did not think hearing aids would be a thing in the early second half of my thirties (NOT late thirties, mind you). But what do you know, they are. The first two weeks, I thought about them constantly. Will they ever feel comfortable? Are they working? What’s that noise? Can people see them? And if I stopped thinking about them for one second, I would start swatting and say,

“What the hell is in my ear????!!!!”

Oh yeah. I have hearing aids now. And the cycle would continue.

Here are 5 things that surprised me about getting hearing aids:

  1. I didn’t realize how much I needed them until I had them.

My hearing loss started over 8 years ago when I was in my twenties and pregnant with my first child. My ears started ringing constantly, but my OB told me it would likely go away once I had the baby. (Something about increased blood flow during pregnancy. I don’t know. I couldn’t hear half of what she said. HA!) When it didn’t subside, I headed to an ENT. I had a terrible head cold that day and convinced myself that was what caused the hearing test to show I had mild hearing loss. Frankly, I was just there to rule out a brain tumor, so once I did, I stopped listening. I learned to live with the ringing in my ears (tinnitus), using white noise to mask it when it got bad.

Then, a few months ago, I started hearing my heart beat in my ears. I found it pretty hard to ignore, and when I discovered that a friend from college had opened an audiology clinic across the street from my office, it felt like a sign. After running the gamut of tests and making me laugh away my anxiety, Melissa told me my hearing loss had gotten worse, and she would recommend hearing aids in both ears.

Uh, what?

I was shocked at first because I really didn’t feel like I had that much trouble hearing, but over the following weeks, it started to dawn on me – my husband’s annoyance with having to repeat himself, my preference for taking phone calls on speakerphone (or not at all), awkwardly smiling and nodding after missing half the conversation in a crowded restaurant, looking the wrong way when there was a noise in the distance. It all added up. I did struggle with hearing. I had just thought it was normal.

  1. Hearing aids are not covered by insurance.

The next shock was sticker shock. Hearing aids are not cheap, especially the most current technology. On top of that, the insurance industry views hearing aids as “nice to have” not “need to have,” which really fired me up. I was insulted by the idea that hearing is viewed as a luxury. Untreated hearing loss is linked to social isolation, depression, lower wages, and above all else, DEMENTIA.  Hearing stimulates specific paths in your brain that will shut down if they aren’t used, which can cause the loss of gray matter. People with untreated hearing loss are 2-3 times more likely to develop dementia! So, we’re not talking about my ears – we’re talking about my brain. I don’t know about you, but I’m fairly protective over my brain, so to me, hearing aids were 100% necessary. Despite what insurance companies think, untreated hearing loss doesn’t come without consequences.

Vision used to have the same problem. In fact, vision insurance didn’t exist until 1955 when a group of optometrists got together to form a non-profit vision benefit company. Now that we understand more about the effects of hearing loss, I predict the same for hearing coverage in the semi-near future.

  1. Having hearing aids doesn’t make me feel old.

It might make some people feel old, especially if the hearing loss is age-related, but my hearing loss started in my 20’s (where I still mentally live), so it didn’t make me feel old at all. Actually, with the blue-tooth technology my hearing aids have, they kind of make me feel cool. It’s like having invisible air pods in all the time.

  1. It’s emotional.

Even though no one can really see them and they don’t make me feel old, getting hearing aids was an emotional experience for me. The idea of needing “equipment” to go through my everyday life was disconcerting. It seemed like news I had to break to people. Sometimes, I was met with an overwhelming amount of sympathy.

Person: Oh my God, I am so sorry! Are you okay?

Me: Oh yeah, no big deal. Like 7 million Americans have them, so it’s super common.

Other times, I was met with a shrug.

Person: Oh, cool. I know 14 other people who have hearing aids.

Me: But this is a HUGE deal! Feel sorry for me and give me all your attention!

In short, it was a rollercoaster, and I really didn’t know how to feel about it.

  1. It quickly becomes normal.

I’ve never had to wear glasses, but that’s kind of how I view my hearing aids now. Every morning, I put them in. Every night, I take them out. I’ve gotten more familiar with the app that lets me adjust them for any given environment, and it can be fun to play around with it.

The good part about experiencing something like this is being able to guide other people through it. It can be scary and isolating and just plain confusing, but you’re not alone. Does the physical pain/discomfort go away? Yes. Does your brain adjust to all the new sounds you’re hearing? Yes. Will you still mistakenly think there is a bug in your ear once in a while? Yes. Or maybe that’s just me.

Asian-inspired Salmon with Stir-fried Vegetables

For the Salmon:
Salmon fillets
Salt and pepper
1 T Butter

For the veggies:
Bell peppers, thinly sliced
Zucchini, cut into small sticks
1T Sesame oil
2 T Stir fry oil
Salt and pepper
Mongolian fire oil, if desired

For the sauce:
1 T Pad Thai sauce seasoning packet
1/2 C water
2 T Soy sauce or liquid aminos

Rice or grains of some sort

I was so grumpy the other day. Just ask my husband. Super grumpy. I knew I needed to do something to get my head on straight, and what better than a super delicious supper (paired with a vodka tonic)? I stopped at a fresh seafood place on my way home (Yes, we have these in South Dakota…okay, we have ONE, but it’s good!) and picked up a few fillets of Atlantic salmon with the skin on.

I had a few colorful bell peppers and zucchini in the fridge and decided to slice those up in a different way, making them long and thin. You could really use whatever vegetables you want. I just love the bright colors of bell peppers.


1. Sauté your choice of veggies in cooking oil (I use a mediterranean blend) until they are not crisp but not mushy, adding a little sesame oil, stir fry oil if you have it, salt, and pepper while they cook. To spice it up, add some Mongolian fire oil or other hot oil. Once the veggies are cooked, move on to the salmon. (It’s expensive, so I always make an effort to not do anything else when I’m cooking it, which is very hard for a scatterbrain like me).

2. Sprinkle the salmon with salt and pepper, then prepare to cook it. (I used a nonstick copper pan, got it nice and hot, drizzled some oil in, and got that nice and hot too so the salmon skin would sear when I placed it in.)

3. Let the salmon cook skin side down for the majority of the cook time. (I can’t tell you how long that is, since it really depends on the thickness of your fillet, but somewhere between 3-7 minutes.)

4. While the salmon is cooking, add some butter into the pan and baste the salmon with the melted butter. Flip the salmon when it is getting close to cooked through so you can get a nice gentle sear on the top where you’ve been basting it. (Sometimes I do this too soon and have to flip it back over.)

5. Set salmon aside to rest, then make the sauce.

6. Any sort of Asian-inspired sauce would work, but I used a tablespoon of pad Thai seasoning, simmered with water and liquid aminos until it thickened into more of a glaze.

7. I had a package of seven grain something or another from Costco, so I threw that in the microwave.

8. Plate it all up and enjoy!

Doing Time

He’s locked up
but you’re the one in chains,
anger binding you.
After everything he’s stolen
all the hurt he’s caused
all the second chances he’s squandered.
The audacity to ask for commissary.

But you see him lying there
on a dirty twin-sized mattress,
trying to lose himself
in the worn pages of a Grisham novel.
Rowdy gang members arguing and
throwing things within inches of his face.
Cellie bragging, his old lady
got him some rah-man noodles.

Your tears fall
knowing those noodles could mean
his belly is warm and full,
that he is loved.
But that cracks the door open
and soon a dollar becomes thousands

And when he screams,
I’m not asking you for anything!
You almost believe him.
But then the anger comes back
to wake you up,
protect you.
It says
I don’t care!
 did this to yourself!

Then you see him clearly,
clean sheets
plenty of food
spending his days like a retiree
playing cards games and
watching Judge Judy.

Chocolate Power Balls

I’m no dietician, but I try to eat healthy. It’s hard because I have a major sweet tooth, and chocolate is a required part of my daily diet. Don’t argue with me. I need it to survive, I swear.

So, I set out to make a tasty chocolatey snack packed with as much good stuff as possible. I’m not saying they’re truffles (they’re NOT), but they hit the spot for me and are much more satisfying than a candy bar. I can even eat 2-3 of these for lunch and not be ready to eat my arm off at the end of the day. That’s saying a lot.

Chocolate Power Balls Recipe:

2 C old fashioned oats (uncooked)
4t chia seeds
3t dried spinach powder
3T cacao (not cocoa) powder
2 scoops protein powder (vanilla or chocolate)
1/4 C almond butter
1T agave syrup or honey
2T coconut oil (melted)
Dark chocolate chips (either mini or chopped big ones)

Using a food processor or blender, blend oats into a course flour. Mix in chia, spinach, cacao, and protein powder. Add all other ingredients except chocolate chips and blend well. Add chocolate chips at the end and mix gently. Make into balls/domes using cookie dough scoop. Makes 15 balls. Store in refrigerator.


  • If you want to make these more indulgent, you have to sacrifice some of the healthy stuff. Cut back on the dried spinach powder a little, and replace almond butter and coconut oil with 1/2 cup peanut butter.
  • Check your teeth! Chia seeds expand and can be pretty sneaky, so scope yourself out before smiling at people.
  • Dried spinach powder is pretty great. You can order it online and sneak it into any protein ball, smoothie, or sauce. It smells terrible, but flavor-wise, it seems to blend in really well when you add it to things, just changes the color a bit.
  • Cacao (ka-kow) powder has lots of antioxidants and minerals and a deep chocolate flavor. It comes from the cacao bean, just like cocoa powder, but it is cold-pressed and unroasted, while cocoa powder is roasted at high temperatures. The cacao way of preparation means it is less processed and apparently healthier (again, not a dietician). I frankly think it tastes way better. Order it online unless you have a great health food store nearby.

The Tightrope of Parenting

I participate in a group at church in which parents get together to discuss random life challenges while our kids attend Sunday School. Even though I can’t tell you the names of half the people in the group (and it’s like 5 people), I truly look forward to the conversations each week. I always end up learning something.

One week, a mom relayed a story about her preteen son getting into a fight. Or, rather, getting punched. Her reaction was very different from that of her husband. She was horrified by the fact that this happened at all and wanted to talk it out with the aggressor’s family. Her husband thought their son needed to stand up for himself and was disappointed he didn’t return the punch. As a group, none of us knew which one was right, and the mom herself had mixed feelings. Initially, I chalked this up as one more reason I’m happy I have two girls – less likelihood for physical confrontation. But that’s a stereotype, and even if it’s statistically true, having daughters does not make me immune from being faced with tough parenting choices.

Parenting is like walking a tightrope without a net. It’s a constant balance between being a confidant and a disciplinarian. The one who calms fears and the one who commands respect. The arms that hold you and the arms that push you forward. Should we shelter them from the storm or push them out into the rain? My philosophy sounds something like this – let them watch the rain from indoors while you teach them to build their own umbrella.

We can’t stop the rain from falling or the punches from being thrown. All we can do is build up our children so they are able to decide for themselves how to handle it when it happens. We may or may not agree with how it turns out, but at least the situation was theirs to own. They’ll never learn from our mistakes the way they will learn from their own. Our job is to help them process it all. Teach them to breathe. Help them discover who they are.

Kids are not a demonstration of our successful parenting techniques. They are people with personalities, tendencies, and genetic intricacies we will never fully understand. To think we can form them like balls of clay is absurd, and if you try, you will be constantly frustrated. Instead, let us treat them like the individuals they are, leading them down the wide path of human decency, making room for the millions of ways there are to walk it.

Easier said than done, I know…

Do Better.

In the 80’s
Our dads, cheek pressed to ours,
showed off his newborn for the camera
while cigarette smoke curled around
his overgrown mustache and into his baby’s eyes.

Now we know better.

In the 90’s
we used dozens of syllables to justify
the uninvited advances
of our overly excited colleagues
when “assault” would have done just fine.

Now we know better.

On the eve of 2000
we all held our breath,
divided in our belief of whether
the world as we knew it was about to end
when the clock reset to double 0.

Now we know better.

And now, we watch the oceans rise,
icebergs replaced by fatbergs.
We live through droughts and poison our water,
expecting Earth to heal herself.

As our angel laureate once said,
Do the best you can until you know better.
Then when you know better, do better.

So, what’s our excuse?


Pork Chili Verde

Winter has finally caught up with us here in South Dakota. I would say we’re lucky it took so long, but it’s hard to feel grateful for good weather after Thanksgiving if you understand climate change. After you ponder that for a minute, take a deep breath, then cheer up with a comforting bowl of soup.

Pork Chili Verde is a product of my husband smoking a giant pork loin and creating too many leftovers. I tried to get creative. While you can certainly pair a nice pork loin sandwich with some roasted sweet potatoes, that can only last for a meal or two. Then it’s time to spice it up.

This recipe is between a soup and a chili, really. It’s broth-based, but the creamed corn and “green sauce” give it a thicker consistency, and if you garnish with sour cream (you should), I think you have to call it a chili.

Pork Chili Verde

2 cups (or more) diced pork loin (smoked, or just cooked in some way)
2 diced bell peppers – one green, one colored
1 can creamed corn
1 can Great Northern beans
1 cup “green sauce” (your choice of salsa verde, green enchilada sauce, green taco sauce)
32 oz chicken broth
Salt and pepper
1 T Cumin
1 T onion powder (or you can use actual sautéed onion)
1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper (or more, to taste)

Throw everything into a pot and simmer for 2 hours or until bell peppers are soft. (Or throw in crock pot on low for 4 hours).

Garnish with sour cream and tortilla strips/chips.


Easy Roasted Sweet Potatoes for Lunch

I never liked sweet potatoes growing up. They were weird and mushy, and people would always try to cloak them in marshmallows. I wasn’t going to fall for it. Then one day, I met the rustic, vibrant, self-assured tuber that is the roasted sweet potato. Allow me to introduce you as well.

How to make them:

Preheat over to 425.

Peel, then dice 2-3 sweet potatoes into relatively similarly-sized pieces*.

Put potatoes on oiled cookie sheet.

Drizzle or spray oil over potatoes.

Add salt and pepper.

Mix by hand until evenly coated.

Roast in oven for 20-30 minutes or until fork tender and slightly browned.

*If you scrub the skin well, you don’t have to peel them, but most people prefer them without skin.

Once you have roasted the sweet potatoes, your options are endless. They last a week in the fridge and can be reheated as a simple side. They also add great body to chili (recipe to come). One of my favorite combinations, though, is roasted sweet potato and a runny egg yolk. Mmmmmm. So good. So healthy.

Want to add a little extra? Roast up some diced bell pepper with the sweet potato. Add avocado on top of the egg. Use some hot sauce.

Lunch is served.

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