Archive for the tag “vacation”

A Girls’ Weekend that Always Centers Around the Guys…

This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to travel to Greenville/Spartanburg to meet up with some of my favorite ladies (and men) for our annual trek to Dabo Swinney’s Ladies’ Football Clinic. Y’all, this is not a “tell me what 3rd down means” football clinic. This is a gathering of 1000+ women with pretty high football IQs (well, most of them know the sport!). The coaching staff is generally quite impressed with the passion for: coaches, players, hometown heroes, and the sport, as well as the knowledge demonstrated through the intelligent questions being asked.

They are equally (okay, probably more so) entertained by the giddy “teenage girliness” that is evident in every session of the “locker room visit”. Some of the women are downright inappropriate (I’m nodding your way – woman who shoved dollar bills in Adam Humphries waistband – with a phone number on one! Incidentally, the money was PROMPTLY returned so as not to violate any NCAA regulations!)

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CW from upper left: Kathleen Swinney and Ali Rogers, Kesley and me, 2013 “All In” token, and Mama Watkins (left), me, and Mama Boyd – all very lovely ladies!

CW from Upper Left: Adam Humphries, Daniel Rodriguez, Zac Brooks, Daniel Stone, a whole mess of gigantic football players - and me!

CW from Upper Left: Adam Humphries, Daniel Rodriguez, Zac Brooks, Daniel Stone, a whole mess of gigantic football players – and me!

The Ladies’ Clinic is a fundraiser (in its fifth year with Dabo, and twelfth year overall (I believe)) to raise money toward breast cancer research. That’s a cause near and dear to my heart, as well as to the Swinney family. 25% of the registration fee goes toward research (and is matched by Dabo’s All-In Team Foundation) and tens of thousands of dollars are raised through silent and live auction items such as a ride-along with the team from the hotel to the game, participation in Tiger Walk, and tickets to the game ($21,000 total for 3 pairs – one donated by Coach Swinney to match the other two fan purchases), signed jerseys (Nuk Hopkins, anyone?), personally signed helmets (2 x $1,400), and many more. It was a fantastic day – as always!

But, alas…this blog is about adventures in dining – and friends – I had some!

After spending some time in my company’s Greenville manufacturing facility on Thursday, my “second family” and I went to R.J. Rockers for the Thursday night tasting tradition. I’m actually not a big beer drinker, but we always feel the need to get a “double-fisted Ker” shot – for posterity’s sake, I guess. (note: it was HOT and MUGGY that night…not a pretty sight for the chick w/ blown out naturally curly hair!)

My American Red Glare on my right, and Cindy's Strawberry Wheat on my left.

My American Red Glare on my right, and Cindy’s Strawberry Wheat on my left.

We then headed down the street to Wild Ace in downtown Spartanburg – with a small group of friends who gathered at Rockers. I quickly made friends with the bartender while we were waiting on the rest of the group to arrive. It’s what I do. 🙂

As a result, he was kind enough to come upstairs and take care of everyone’s drink orders while we were acquainting ourselves with the menu. Wild Ace offers a lot, so I quickly gave up. I turned my fate over to our server, Devin. He started to ask a few questions, but I simply gave him the “talk to the hand” gesture – along with an encouraging smile.

When I was served my meal, I was informed that I was receiving the “Sopwith Camel” (aka: Wild Ace version of the French Dip). The sandwich was fine. I wouldn’t say it was any better or any worse than any other French Dip I have had, but it was good. It was served with chips, which were actually quite tasty (maybe because I had already had the equivalent of three beers at that point, and salty food just tasted good! But, I do think the chips were good stuff).

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On Friday, Cindy, Kesley and I were determined to meet two of our favorite Clemson men in Charlotte for lunch. A mere 90 minutes away, give or take! We met the guys at Duckworths in Ballantyne. We arrived shortly before the guys did (after we amended the meeting time because we were running late!), so we started with some Buffalo bleu cheese chips (OMG!)

Chips

We were meeting my friends Anthony and Daniel, who both work in the Charlotte area. I first met Ant several years ago. I’ve lost count now how many years ago that was. He’s the sweetest, most charming guy – but he bucks that description every chance he gets! He has hash-tagged himself the #LargeAngryBlackMan on Twitter (it’s a joke, y’all…look at that smile!).

Ant

Ant

And, Daniel…well, he and I met through the Clemson Twitter fam as well, but we had a real-life connection as well! One of my most dear friends, Chanda, grew up with Daniel in Orange County, CA! It is indeed a small world, folks! I dug this man since the minute I met him. And…he’s a proud member of the #FKC (Fat Kid Club). See how excited he is about food? (sadly, I went the other way…from skinny kid to not-so much…but we’re both still happy!)

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Former FKC, Daniel

Both Daniel and Ant were very excited to see my indecisiveness play out in real life. When our server, Sandy, came by to take orders, I simply let her know that everything on the menu was fair game, and that she should choose her favorite lunch item for me. She was a little panicked, but ultimately agreed to order for me.

When she came back, she informed me that she had chosen the Fajita Chicken Philly (marinated fajita chicken served on a Philly roll with cheese, peppers and onions).

Fajita

It had great flavor, but it was HUGE! I knew that I could count on Ant to finish the leftovers, and he did. With a smile! After a nice, long lunch, we headed out in different directions. It was so nice to see the guys though!

Daniel, Cindy, Kesley, Ker, and Ant at lunch at Duckworth's.

Daniel, Cindy, Kesley, Ker, and Ant at lunch at Duckworth’s.

Later that evening, we were meeting another favorite Clemson friend, beat writer Greg, for dinner in downtown Greenville (one of my favorite cities in America!). Greg chose Nose Dive (a Table 301 restaurant – of Soby’s fame (the place I had my graduation dinner so many years ago)). Nose Dive is a newer Gastropub, with an inspired menu! Again, everything looked fantastic, so I just turned my order over to Brian, our server. I let him know early on that I’d have him choose my meal, and that I would like a glass of white wine to pair with it.

Brian was totally game. I could tell he was really considering what to bring me, but he wasn’t worried when I gave him carte blanche. He first came back with a glass of Pinot Grigio – which was nice and refreshing since I had asked my friends to sit on the hot and muggy patio!

NoseDive1

Then, he brought the Roast Chicken which was really half of a chicken served over a bed of croutons and tomatoes (yummy!) and topped with herbs and Dijon sauce. The portion was ridiculous, so half of it went home for Cindy’s daughter (who is a gymnast with a never-ending appetite!). The half that I did eat was delicious! The chicken was so moist and tender, and the herbs and Dijon were perfect accents. Although there wasn’t much in the way of “healthy” sides (I love veggies!), the crouton salad was very tasty!

I’d definitely go back to Nose Dive (although Greenville has so many good restaurants to choose from!). It was great spending time with Greg too (whom we’d also briefly meet up with after the clinic on Saturday – and whom I neglected to take a picture of! Shame on me.)

Saturday, we hit the road nice and early to make it to the clinic, and then just took it easy that evening. We hit up Thai Taste, with Daniel, his wife Kate, and their baby girl, Ella. She is, incidentally, the only child I’ve held in a long time who did not cry! She must be the perfect baby! 🙂 And, she’s stinking cute too!

It was so nice to get down south again, spend quality time with several friends, and have a bit of southern cookin’! What’s your favorite taste of the south?

Singapore! Day 11 – Kazbar on the last day before heading home

** Note from the author:  It’s been almost a week since I returned from Singapore, and I’ve gone back and read the posts from throughout my trip a few times.  It’s been so nice to read these, and I can genuinely say that I had a wonderful time in SE Asia with Steve and his friends.  No, the trip didn’t end as planned, but it also did not in any way spoil the vacation for me.  I just needed a little bit of time to process my emotions and move on.  So, again, thanks to my old friend Steve for allowing me to stay with him for two weeks.  Having a houseguest for that long can’t be an easy transition.  **

I’m sitting in the Chicago airport, delayed by United, after flying for 20+ hours (yup, I still miss the days of Continental!). I’ve tried to let my emotions cool down a bit before writing my final “Singapore!” post. Yet, I still have hard feelings about my last day in Singapore. I’ll move directly on to apologizing to Steve’s friend, Jacqui. Steve put her and I in very awkward positions, and I was not very friendly toward her. It was nothing personal, rather it was me allowing my anger and hurt feelings from Steve to spill over to her. Jacqui, if you are reading this, I am sorry that I was not more friendly toward you.

Steve came home from work at lunchtime, which was the general routine during my stay. He mentioned that we would meet his “friend” for lunch. I politely declined, providing my reasons for not wanting to meet her, and decided to wait at the house for him to return at 2PM. He said that Jacqui had to leave by 2, so he’d be home shortly thereafter. I guess 5:50PM was close enough in his book.

Rather than catching up on sleep, or checking off the last few things we had on our list of things to do (e.g. zip line, Geylang, golf, etc), I had spent the day sitting by the pool, attempting to check in with Steve, and waiting for him to return. When he finally did text me, he mentioned we were to meet Andy and Mike (whom I had met on Sunday), and others in Boat Quay at 6:30. When I went up to change, Steve and his friend were watching TV. It was immediately clear to me that he spent the entire day with this woman, and that she was joining us for dinner. I was upset and very hurt. Thus, not very engaging.

The only food I had on Friday was at dinner. We walked to Boat Quay and met up with the gang, which was rounded out by Andy’s wife, Sandra and another couple, Ted and Norma. We dined at Kazbar, a Middle Eastern restaurant. We started off with plates of hummus, mohammarah, babaganoush, and tabouleh.

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And salad…

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I had the grilled lamb kebab, which was deliciously prepared, and had great flavor. Unfortunately, at this point, I didn’t have much of an appetite, so I didn’t eat much of it. But, I did happily provide Mike a few spoonfuls of the lamb, so as not to let it go to waste!

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After dinner, Steve handed me an MRT card and told me that would get me home. He wanted to personally escort his Singapore friend home. That’s where the night totally broke down. On my last day in the city, I had barely seen or spoken with Steve, and then was left behind for a woman who lives there and can see him anytime. Mind you, his friends were very gracious (and quite appalled by his behavior), but this vacation had taken a nosedive at this point.

Still trying to make the best of a crappy situation, we headed over to Andy and Sandra’s, had quite a few laughs, and almost as many jabs at how the night played out. I would like to very sincerely thank Andy, Sandra, Ted and Norma for keeping me company on my last evening in town.

Andy and I having a laugh.

Andy and I having a laugh.

Sandra, my "Singapore mum"

Sandra, my “Singapore mum”

Eventually, Andy and Sandra walked me back to Steve’s place, to ensure I arrived safely. If y’all are reading this, know that my parents greatly appreciate your doing so as well. (((hugs))) I’m grateful to the new friends I made while in Singapore – not just those mentioned in this post, but those from earlier adventures as well.

Steve did take me back to the airport in the morning. I really wanted to take a cab, but he insisted on seeing me off.

I’m so very glad that I have been keeping up with my adventures on a daily basis. I can look back at earlier posts and appreciate the things I saw and the experiences I had. And I do thank Steve for his hospitality over the two weeks I was there. As I mentioned before, Steve was a very generous host – everything we did was his treat. It’s just that I would rather someone spend time with me and pay attention to me, more so than money on me. It was a once-in-a-lifetime vacation with an old friend, and I’m glad that I was able to experience another set of cultures.

I encourage you to read my earlier (and more positive!) “Singapore!” posts, as you’ll see many of the great sights of Singapore – as well as amazing food! I spent eleven days there, but if you’re like me and can avoid jet lag, I think five or six days would suffice. It’s a pretty small island!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my stay in SE Asia! Thanks for stopping by the blog.

Cheers!

Ker

Singapore! Day 1 – Boat Quay and Robertson Quay

As many of you know, I’ve been silly excited for what amounts to my second “proper” vacation since I graduated college (it’s been a few years, folks!).  After a ridiculous itinerary full of flights on United Airlines (oh, how I miss the days when Continental existed!), including 20 hours of flight time with no wi-fi and no power outlets (rendering my laptop useless inside of 3 1/2 hours), I arrived into Singapore at ~1:30AM local time yesterday (the marker indicates where I’m staying in Singapore).    I’m here for two weeks, visiting with a friend who has been living here for ~2 1/2 years.  We don’t have many firm plans (at least that I’m aware of), but we do plan to golf and eat and drink our way through Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and perhaps Thailand.

Since yesterday was my first day here, Steve (aforementioned friend) wanted to keep things low-key, anticipating that my jet lag would hit on a moment’s notice.  Our plan was to hit most of the “touristy” stuff and to make sure I could snap photos of the “must see” sights of Singapore.

We set out on foot from Robertson Quay (pronounced “key”) and walked through Clarke Quay and over to Boat Quay. Neither Steve nor I are finicky eaters, so the most difficult part of lunch was making a decision as to what to eat!  There are endless seafood restaurants, British pub food, Thai and Indian cuisine, and more.  And, as we walked we got to check out the lunch fare – tanks full of live fish, lobsters, and the most humongous crabs I’ve ever seen – lined the sidewalks.  I’ll save a picture of those for when we have Chili Crab later this week.

We decided to stop at Forum Seafood.  Steve said they have the best seafood along the walk – and who am I to argue with the resident expert?  I surrendered the ordering process over to Steve, and in response to my challenge, he ordered several plates for us to share, and I have to say he did a really nice job!

We’re both pretty skilled with our chop sticks, so we tossed aside the provided fork and dove right into the Baby Kailan (sautéed greens, with garlic and butter).  I’m glad that Steve likes veggies as much as I do!  A good choice.

Then, it was on to the Mango Salad.  It was refreshing and delicious! Full of flavors, including peanuts, cucumbers, onions, red chiles, etc.

As you can see, we also dug into some Tiger Prawns, prepared BBQ and garlic style.  Both Steve and I were laughing about the fact that we’d later be sweating out garlic as we walked in the 88F/31C weather.  There was no shortage of garlic in our meal!

Finally, he had ordered the Bamboo clams steamed in butter and, you guessed, it…garlic!  However, our server came back to tell us that they had sold out of the Bamboo clams and she brought over a Venus clam to show Steve. He ordered one for each of us, and when they arrived…Dear Lord, those clams were huge!

The staff had attempted to cut the clams into pieces to help us eat them, but failed to fully slice mine.  I was left with this huge piece of meat and Steve was cracking up watching me try to manipulate that thing into my mouth.  It’s definitely not something a girl would want to order on a date! That said, although the first bite was a bit tough, the second and third bites were pretty tasty.

I admit that I didn’t help Steve eat enough…I left him with several prawns to finish.  It wasn’t that they weren’t tasty, it’s just that I was comfortably full, and I’m glad I didn’t overdo it.  We ended up walking, and walking and walking around the city/state.  I’ve included a handful of pictures at the end of this post.

After seeing so much, and enjoying a truly gorgeous day, we went back to Steve’s apartment and chilled for an hour and a half or so.  We may have each snuck a little cat nap in there too!

At ~8:30PM, we headed downstairs and scouted out Robertson Walk.  Ultimately, we decided to eat at Wine Connection, at a table on the street.  Luckily, Steve and I have very similar taste in wine, along with open-mindedness about food.  He ordered a bottle of the “2009 Terra Mater Limited Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon” to pair with our “choose 5 cheese and charcuterie” board.

For the meal, we chose Pecorino Siciliano (Italian), Brie de Meaux (French),  Gorgonzola Mascarpone (Italy), and Munster “Val de Weiss” (France) (because the restaurant was out of goat cheese).  Steve also chose Prosciutto de Parma to round  out the plate.

Hands down, our favorites were that happy little accident that was the Munster – a creamy, brie-like texture wrapped in the traditional firm casing, and the Gorgonzola – also somewhat creamy, but with a subtle flavor that kicks in over time.

The Pecorino was fine, but nothing too fancy.  When we caught a taste of the peppercorns, we both found the cheese to be much more interesting.  The Brie…now, that was another story.  Both Steve and I are big fans of Brie, but this one not only had quite a stench, but a taste to match it.  It was unlike any Brie either of us had ever had – and not in a good way!  We struggled to finish that portion.

We did not struggle to finish the wine, and had we had more energy, I’m confident we would have ordered another bottle.  I think we’ll be back before I leave to enjoy another round at Wine Connection.

I’ll leave you with a few pictures of the sites we saw during the day, including the famous “Merlion Statue“, the Marina Bay Sands, the Botanical Gardens, and a couple of other interesting spots.

The Merlion Statue, Merlion Park, Singapore

The Marina Bay Sands Hotel (yep, that’s a boat on top of the waves and towers)

Botanical Gardens as seen from the Sands SkyPark

The Ferris Wheel (“a ‘couples’ thing” according to Steve, since dinner is served on board!) and part of the Formula 1 race track that goes through the city.

Doesn’t every city have a floating soccer field?

Stay tuned for more adventures in Singapore and the surrounding areas! If you have advice on must-try spots, please leave a comment!

Cheers!

Ker

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