Good Food, Birmingham History, and DIY Date Night

This past week was pretty slow going, but it definitely had some good surprises and happy moments nestled within. So, I definitely can't complain. Besides having the daily opportunity to work with and learn from some amazing patients and therapists, this week was extra special thanks to a surprise visit, good food, a walk through Birmingham's history, and an evening of sweet relaxation.

It was around 10AM on Tuesday when I received a missed call notification from my big brother. Some of you may not know, but I have an older brother who is my elder by 15 years. Although the number 15 may be hefty to some, I have always felt that we are pretty close considering our age difference. He currently lives in Atlanta with his wife and children. So, it was to my pleasant surprise when I called him back and found out that he was in Birmingham for the day thanks to a work obligation. Thankfully, I was able to scurry out of a staff meeting and meet him for a long lunch. Although I always brag about how this town is a culinary gem, I often find it hard to nail down restaurant recommendations for out of town guests. This is only because there are so many wonderful places to choose from! Tuesday we decided upon Saw's Soul Kitchen in Avondale. As we drove across railroad tracks and through downtown alleys with a gloomy sky above, I had to repeatedly promise him that there was a wonderful light at the end of the tunnel. I could tell my city slicker brother was a bit hesitant, but all hesitancy was pushed aside after he took one bite of Saw's famous pulled pork sandwich. We had a wonderful lunch and it was sad to say goodbye, but I'm thinking between  his new found love of Saw's and the Alabama made jar of Wickles Pickles (purchased from Freshfully) that I sent him home with, he will be returning sooner than later.

On Thursday evening, I had the honor and privilege of attending my first AAC meeting as the Panhellenic adviser for Birmingham Southern's AOII chapter. Although all of the other advisers on board are BSC grads, I look forward to sharing my experiences and insight from my U of A alma mater while learning more about BSC's wonderful chapter and history. Although I knew only two of the women on board ahead of time, the rest of the women were so warm and welcoming which made me cherish my sisterhood even more. It was a wonderful meeting full of talks of recruitment and sisterhood accompanied by glasses of wine and plates of fruit and cheese. This year will be eventful to say the least and I truly can't wait to see what it has in store for the beautiful women of  Tau Delta.

Friday night means one thing in the Lyles' household: date night. As long as John's work schedule allows, Friday night is our weekly evening set aside to enjoy one another's company and wind down from the work week in the process. This Friday sort of snuck up on us both. So, we aired on the side of taking it easy and chose to spend the evening enjoying good food and conversation. I admit, I am a Groupon/Living Social/Daily Deal junkie. Every morning before I even roll out of bed, I reach for my phone in order to see what new deals are up for grabs. A few weeks ago I found one for Do Di Yos, a local upscale Greek restaurant in downtown Homewood. Although we had been before, it had been well over a year since our last visit. Therefore, we took full advantage of the opportunity to splurge on a meal there while getting a $20 discount thanks to our Daily Deal voucher. Although we enjoyed the glasses of savignon blanc, traditional Greek moussaka, blackened grouper, coffee, and loukoumades- we enjoyed the conversation with one another more than anything.

Saturday morning we enjoyed a rare treat-sleeping in. After we enjoyed lounging around and being couch potatoes for the morning, we decided to make a trip to somewhere I had already been earlier in the week-Saw's. I am usually against being a repeat visitor at a restaurant with a 1-2 month span of time, but when we both decided we were craving hamburgers, there's was only place we wanted to go. As we sat in the hole in the wall restaurant, we came to a mutual agreement on what their secret ingredient is: they care about their food. As strange as it may sound, you can really taste it. It tastes like home, love, the South and goodness all wrapped up into one. Of course the University of Alabama memorabilia that adorns the walls makes it that much better.

We spent the afternoon touring the nearby Sloss Furnaces. The national historical landmark has been on my Bham bucket list for a  while, and today felt the perfect day to check it off. While I have been numerous times to attend concerts and even attended the terrifying Sloss Fright Furnace this past Halloween, I had never taken a tour of the grounds, but always wanted to. After looking at their website and finding that admission was free and self guided tours were permitted, it was no question that we should spend the remainder of the afternoon walking the historic grounds. While I will admit that walking through the dripping and dark tunnels and undergrates proved eery (it didn't help that a Paranormal television show was setting up to film as we were walking through), seeing the beauty and history of the place made for a wonderful day date with John.

Since we had spent the entirety of the afternoon outdoors at Sloss, we decided to spend the evening indoors and relax. We chose to spend the first part of the night pampering ourselves with a spa night and the latter half having a chocolate tasting and movie night (sleepover style).  Before settling in, we made a quick trip to Whole Foods to pick up necessary supplies for the evening (bubble bath, assorted chocolate bars [all organic per John's request], and sweet & salty kettle corn). We have had spa nights in the past. So, we already had a lot of the supplies on hand. Thanks to my newly added Spa Suite station on Pandora, candles, bubble bath, face masks and fresh towels-our house was transformed into a spa in no time.

It was then time for the second part of our evening-an at-home chocolate tasting (inspiration from here). It was pretty simple- 6 assorted chocolate bars, a tasting mat and scoring sheet. To make it a little more fancy-I lit candles, made a chalkboard sign, set out wine glasses of water (room temperature is best for palate cleansing), and a bowl of crackers and almonds. I then broke off pieces of chocolate 3/4-1 inch in size and arranged them in order from the highest-lowest cacao percentage. We then tasted each piece and assessed the look, touch, smell, taste and overall ranking of the chocolate. Since I am a self professed chocoholic, this was the date from heaven.

The Contenders 

Afterwards John set up our blow up mattress in the living room while I prepared a bowl of sweet & salty kettle corn. We decided to turn movie night into a sleepover style set up to change things up a bit. I had originally intended for us to start things off by playing a round of Scrabble, but John was still bitter about his recent losses and opted to just start with a  movie instead. We decided upon Elizabethtown, a movie that I had been wanting to see for years. I was able to pull John's arm by telling him about it's amazing soundtrack which I had heard pieces of on Pandora. It ended up being a great movie and I will definitely purchase the soundtrack and Blu-Ray in the near future. We then planned to watch a paranormal show afterwards in place of reading scary stories (still trying to stick with the sleepover theme), but after about 2 minutes into the show- I freaked out a bit and decided it probably wasn't best to end the evening on such a scary note. 

The week and weekend were the perfect mix of work, fun, and relaxation. Now it's time to hit the books and prepare for my final presentation at Children's. I can't believe that this week is my last and I only have one more internship standing between me and graduation! I have learned so much while at Children's and have more than loved every minute of it. While it will be sad to leave, I will be forever grateful for all that I gained. Here's to a good final week (/my birthday week! Woo hoo!).


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