What I Learned By Exercising Every Day for a Year

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

I exercised every day for 365 days. And now I shall rest.

"10! 9! 8! 7! 6! 5! 4! 3! 2! 1!"

With that Jillian Michaels counted down the last ten seconds of level 2 of her 6-Week Six-Pack DVD and counted down the seconds to me completing a fantastic feat.

At the start of this year I announced that I planned to exercise every single day in 2014. I even made the declaration on WBHM 90.3 FM and all across social media. And guess what...


I exercised for at least 30 minutes every day for 365 days!

As I've stated before, I wasn't challenging myself to do this so I could lose weight. 2014 was also about me learning to see my body as, to borrow the words of Caroline Heldman, an amazing vehicle for moving through the world, not a project to be constantly improved.

Thus, I didn't care about my weight this year. Numbers I did care about, however, were my cholesterol, blood pressure, and waist-to-height ratio -- all of which I was told were perfect at my physical last month.

But achieving this fitness goal also taught me a lot about writing, blogging, and business.

To achieve your writing and business goals you need support at home. My biggest supporter this year as I worked to exercise daily was been my husband Edward. Because of my crazy schedule hubster's biggest fear was that I would one day simply forget to exercise. So he made sure to remind me every day. One night he forgot to ask me if I'd exercised that day and the next morning he panicked and sent me frantic text message to see if I had. Fortunately, I had indeed exercised that day before he got home from work. But this anecdote shows just how supportive he was of this quest.  He was as committed to this goal as I was. And just as he's always waiting for me at the finish line when I run half-marathons, he stood by listening to Jillian's countdown and ran into the living room to congratulate me when my final workout of the year was complete.

Each time a run a half-marathon my hubs is waiting for me at the finish line -- with flowers!

My husband is just as supportive of my writing, blogging and career goals. At most See Jane Write events you'll see him right there helping me carry in refreshments, taking pictures, and tweeting out highlights of the event.  It's important for any woman in a relationship to have the support of her partner -- even if this simply means your significant other is willing to pick up more household chores so you have more time to work on your writing.

To achieve your writing and business goals you need a community of like-minded gal pals. Along with the support I had at home, I also had the support of faithful friends. Going for walks, running road races, and attending group exercise classes with friends was a great way to stay on track. Accountability is important, too. I've had attempted 365 days of fitness in the past and failed. But making the declaration to so many people motivated me to stick with it.

Fitness is more fun with friends...
...and when covered in brightly colored paint! 

It's important for female writers, bloggers, and entrepreneurs to have community, too. You need someone who understands why you bother blogging in the first place, someone who doesn't think you're crazy for quitting your day job to try out your small business idea, and someone who will encourage you to write that novel or send that pitch.

To achieve your writing and business goals you need to keep things interesting. If I working out daily only meant spending 30 minutes on a elliptical 7 days a week I probably wouldn't have made it through January. But I made fitness fun! My workouts included: running, spinning, walking with friends, dance classes, the fitness mode of the Wii game Just Dance, Pure Barre, yoga, boxing, Jillian Michaels DVDs, Shaun T DVDs, weight lifting, and more.

Likewise, you have to make sure you keep things interesting as you work on your craft as a writer. If you're bored with your blog, your readers probably are too. So keep things fresh! Try a new topic, introduce a new feature, or revamp the look of your site.

To achieve your writing and business goals you must challenge yourself. Another way I warded off boredom throughout the year was by occasionally giving myself a more specific fitness challenge. For example, in June I challenged myself to walk/run 100 miles and I did! Inspired by that feat, I've decided that my fitness goal for 2015 is to walk/run 1200 miles -- that's 100 miles a month for 12 months.

100 miles in June!

Don't be afraid to challenge yourself in your writing career or business either. Perhaps you'll strive to publish a new blog post every day for a month, self-publish your first book, see your byline in your favorite national magazine or earn $100,000 in your business.

To achieve your writing and business goals you must stop telling yourself that you don't have the time to go after your dreams. The biggest lesson I learned from my year of everyday fitness is that I do have the time to exercise. Always. And if I have the time to exercise every day I also have the time to blog, write, pitch, network, plan, market and do whatever else I need to do to achieve my writing and business goals.

If you're thinking you don't have the time to exercise or chase your dreams, I ask you to consider signing up for my time management e-course, How To Write and Have a Life, which will launch tomorrow. Sign up for my new newsletter for more details.

What great thing did you accomplish this year?

My Writeous Year: 14 Highlights of 2014

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

I can't believe the end of 2014 is here and we're on the brink of a new year. I am so excited about 2015 and I'm determined to make it my best year yet. But first, let's take a look back at 2014. Here are 14 things that made 2014 unforgettable:

1. For my 33rd birthday I received one of the best birthday presents ever -- this poster-sized, girl power-themed, handmade birthday card from a group of female students.

2. For the first time See Jane Write hosted a workshop at the Birmingham Public Library's Authors Expo.

3. I landed a number of speaking gigs including speaking at Food Blog South and the Alabama Media Professionals fall conference.

4. I attended TEDxBirmingham as an educator fellow.

5. Inspired by TEDxBirmingham, I hosted ASFA Ed Talks at my school -- a day of TED-inspired presentations meant to energize my fellow teachers for the school year.

6. I went to Beyonce's On the Run concert in Atlanta and basically had a religious experience.

I felt flawless the morning after the show -- even with frizzy hair!

7.  I attended BlogHer '14 and this happened:

8. See Jane Write hosted its first conference and the Bloganista Mini-Con was a huge success!

We had full house at the Bloganista Mini-Con!

9. Inspired by Megan LaRussa Chenoweth's keynote address at the Bloganista Mini-Con, I decided to really strive to take See Jane Write LLC to the next level and start treating it like the business that it is. My first step was to revamp the See Jane Write website.

10. Also, this year I started working with business coach Stephanie Donegan, which was truly a game changer for me.

11. I was hired to manage social media for the Alabama School of Fine Arts.

12. My Women and Media class has become one of the most fulfilling things in my career, with students telling me that the class has completely changed their lives and producing creative projects like this:

Nothing will keep you warm like a feminist quilt! 

13. I joined Women Business Leaders -- a networking group for professional women of faith.

14. And the highlight of my writing career this year was landing my own column in a monthly magazine! My column Write Like a Girl explores feminism and women's issues and appears each month in B-Metro magazine! You can also read my essays online.

What were the highlights of your year?

14 Things That Made Me a Happy Feminist in 2014

Monday, December 29, 2014

1. I went to Beyonce's On the Run tour and had a religious experience when I saw Queen Bey standing before the word FEMINIST emblazoned on a gigantic screen. Yonce would later wave her feminist banner in the same way at the MTV VMAs. Flawless.

2. Laverne Cox graced the cover of Time magazine and continues to open doors for transgender men and women. The Orange Is the New Black actress is also an alum of the Alabama School of Fine Arts, my alma mater and the school where I currently teach.

3. Lupita Nyong'o became the fifth black woman to receive a best supporting actress Academy award for her role in 12 Years a Slave. She also received honors from Glamour and Essence magazines. In the speech she gave while accepting the Black Women in Hollywood Breakthrough Performance award from Essence, Nyong'o spoke openly and honestly about body image and blackness and got the world talking about the role that skin color plays in how we define beauty.

4. Mo'ne Davis redefined the meaning of the phrase "throw like a girl" when the 13-year-old led her team to the Little League World Series. She was recently named Sports Illustrated Kid's "SportsKid of the Year" and she was the first Little Leaguer to land the cover of Sports Illustrated.

5. HelloFlo gave me a new excuse to talk about my period. I've always believed that women should openly discuss their periods without shame because there is nothing weird or gross about our bodies. And the hilarious commercials produced by the sanitary product company HelloFlo serve as great conversation starters.

6. Taylor Swift finally saw the light! Two years ago I blogged about comments Swift made about feminism in an interview with The Daily Beast. When asked whether she was a feminist in a 2012 interview with The Daily Beast, she replied:
I don’t really think about things as guys versus girls. I never have. I was raised by parents who brought me up to think if you work as hard as guys, you can go far in life.
But this year Swift had a feminist awakening.  In an August interview with The Guardian Swift said: 

As a teenager, I didn’t understand that saying you’re a feminist is just saying that you hope women and men will have equal rights and equal opportunities. What it seemed to me, the way it was phrased in culture, society, was that you hate men. And now, I think a lot of girls have had a feminist awakening because they understand what the word means

7. Students at my alma mater the University of Alabama launched the UA Feminist Caucus, a feminist club seeking to address those who believe there's no need for feminism and to tackle misconceptions about feminism.

8. Actress Emma Watson delivered a speech before the U.N. on the importance of feminism and why everyone -- including men -- should care about gender equality.

Image by Mark Garten via Flickr Creative Commons

9. Malala Yousafzai became the youngest person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In addition to speaking out against violence and poverty, 17-year-old Malala has been a major advocate for more access to education for women and girls.

10.  The Greater Birmingham chapter of NOW (National Organization for Women) reorganized and reactivated. I'm now a card-carrying feminist!

11. While Democrats may not have fared well during the 2014 midterm election women, of both parties, certainly did. Setting a new record, 100 women will serve in the 114th Congress.

12. I wasn't a happy feminist while listening to Steve Santagati's idiotic comments about how women should consider street harassment as flattery, but Amanda Seales' response was amazing and the faces she made while this dude was talking his complete nonsense shall be my response from now on to all ridiculous mansplaining.

13. Cosmopolitan magazine is now about more than how to please your man. As editor-in-chieft Joanna Coales said, the Cosmo reader is "interested mascara and the Middle East." The magazine has decided to increase its feminist and political content, as evidenced by the decision to hire Jill Filipovic as senior political writer.

14. Shonda Rhimes always makes me happy. First of all, Scandal's Olivia Pope called herself a feminist in one of this season's episodes. But I also admire how Rhimes cooly and cleverly shut down the New York Times critic who called her an "angry black woman."


What made you a happy feminist this year? 

4 Not-So-Simple Goals for December

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

My December To-Do List is nearly five feet long and yet I'm still smiling. Read on to find out why.

Near the end of the year I often set what I call 4 Simple Goals. The brainchild of Elsie Larson of A Beautiful Mess, the idea behind 4 Simple Goals is to pick simple, activity-oriented goals that will make your life richer, happier, and healthier as you finish up the year. 

This year, though, I have four not-so-simple goals for December. These goals are all about doing what needs to be done to finish 2014 strong and to hit the ground running in 2015. 

My four goals aren't simple; they're huge! They're goals that needed to be broken down into several smaller steps -- so many steps that when I wrote them all down my to-do list for December turned out to be almost as long as I am tall! 

Believe it or not, this list doesn't intimidate me. Instead I'm excited! This list motivates me because it's a carefully crafted plan for preparing to make 2015 my best year yet. 

1. Finish fall semester. As a teacher this is my top priority for the month. The to-do list for this goal consists of tasks such as grading papers, writing exams, filling out end-of-the-semester evaluations and paperwork, and cleaning my classroom. 

2. Meet all freelance deadlines. I have four major freelance stories due this month. This to-do list is about conducting and transcribing interviews and writing and editing copy. 

3. Survive Christmas and get ready for New Year's Eve. If you know me well, you know I am not a fan of Christmas -- a holiday that I believe drives individuals into debt and families into arguments. But since everyone else in the world thinks Christmas is awesome, I try to be a good sport and buy gifts and such, which is what this to-do list covers. My reward for playing along with this whole Christmas thing is New Year's Eve -- my favorite holiday! I usually celebrate by throwing a small party at my apartment with some of my closest friends (so some to-do list items are party planning tasks). The party is always a blast and the perfect way to end the year. 

4. Launch my debut e-course. The main reason I'm not stressed about my five-foot long to-do list is because I know I'll get everything done. I always do. And I don't say that from a place of arrogance, but one of experience. I'm really good at time management, so good that I've created an e-course to help other women writers better manage their time, too. The bulk of my December to-do list is focused on polishing and promoting my e-course so I'll be ready for a successful launch on Dec. 31. If you want to stay up-to-date about the e-course and other programs I'm offering in 2015, be sure to sign up for my new newsletter

What are your four simple (or not-so-simple) goals for December? 

Watch me #bloglikecrazy!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Hey babes!

As I mentioned in my previous post, November is the month when #bloglikecrazy. I publish a new blog post every day for 30 days and challenge members of my organization See Jane Write to do the same.

This year I'm going to #bloglikecrazy on my See Jane Write blog instead of here. But I'd still love for you to follow along.

So each day I will update this post to include a link to my latest entry to my See Jane Write blog. I hope you enjoy!

Nov. 1 - Why should I #bloglikecrazy? 
Nov. 2 - What if I run out of blog post ideas?
Nov. 3 - Can I overcome stage fright? 
Nov. 4 - How can I get more done?
Nov. 5 - How can I build an authentic brand for my blog?
Nov. 6 - How do I find my ideal reader?
Nov. 7 - Do I need an elevator pitch for my blog?
Nov. 8 - Should entrepreneurs take a day off?
Nov. 9 - What blogs do you read?
Nov. 10 - Blogging - What's the Point?
Nov. 11 - Why did you start See Jane Write? 
Nov. 12 - Why do you call yourself a feminist?
Nov. 13 - What should I do this weekend?
Nov. 14 - How can I improve my blog?
Nov. 15 - What should a writer do on her day off?
Nov. 16 - What is a Twitter chat?
Nov. 17 - Do I need business cards?
Nov. 18 - What should I include in my blog's media kit?
Nov. 19 - What is Bloglovin'?
Nov. 20 - How can I get more involved with See Jane Write?
Nov. 21 - Have you heard the new Beyonce songs?
Nov. 22 - Did I hear you on NPR yesterday?
Nov. 23 - What do you want for Christmas?
Nov. 24 - Can I touch your hair? 
Nov. 25 - What are you thoughts on the Ferguson grand jury decision?
Nov. 26 - How can I give back this holiday season?
Nov. 27 - What are you thankful for today?
Nov. 28 - How can I "shop small" this holiday season?
Nov. 29 - What blogging and writing conferences should I attend in 2015?
Nov. 30 - What did you learn from this year's #bloglikecrazy challenge? 

Currently: The Writer's Edition, Vol. 2

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Currently is a feature Dani Hampton of Sometimes Sweet and several other bloggers I follow occasionally post on their sites. Currently is essentially a list of what you're into at the moment and is a great way for your readers to get to know you better. Earlier this year I decided to start doing Currently posts with a twist -- Currently:The Writer's Edition. 

Freelancing for Birmingham Magazine. Be sure to check out this month's issue which includes a profile I wrote on Shella Sylla, the founder of SisterGolf. SisterGolf is an amazing program that teaches women how to play golf and how to use golf to network and enhance their business relationships.  

Brainstorming ideas for business. I haven't been doing much personal blogging lately because much because most of my attention has been growing See Jane Write. I even have a business coach now. That sounds so fancy! I'm working hard to build See Jane Write into a profitable, but meaningful business that truly empowers women who write. 

Pitching to WBHM. Each month I'm pitching story ideas to my city's NPR affiliate. Each month you can find a new blog post by yours truly on WBHM.org. And on the last Friday of each month you can catch me on the air at 90.3 FM (or on the website if you don't live in Birmingham) discussing my latest post. Last month I wrote about how despite the fact that I'm 33, the women who inspire me most are under the age of 21. For this piece I interviewed one of my former students who recently launched her own magazine. Color me proud!

And speaking of being proud, I must say that out of all my writing endeavors the one that makes me most proud right now is my column for B-Metro magazine -- Write Like a Girl. Each month I write a personal essay on women's empowerment and through this column I feel I've produced some of my best work. In this month's column I examine the intersection of feminism and faith.

Blogging about #bloglikecrazy.  Every year I challenge the ladies of See Jane Write to publish a new blog post every day for 30 days in November. I call this challenge #bloglikecrazy. This year, for the first time, I'll be publishing my #bloglikecrazy posts at the See Jane Write blog and I'm hosting a #bloglikecrazy kick-off workshop on November 1. To learn more visit the #bloglikecrazy page at SeeJaneWriteBham.com.

What's going on in your writing life? 

30 Things I Love Right Now

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

For this month's issue of See Jane Write Magazine I interviewed author and poet TJ Beitelman about his writing process and his latest novel John the Revelator. TJ is one of my co-workers at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, one of my favorite writers and one of my favorite people. 

TJ (pictured above) also blogs and on his blog has a feature he calls 30 Things I Love Right Now

So I decided to give it a try. 

In addition to working with talented people like TJ, here are 30 things I love right now. 

(1) Tacos. | (2) My lunch bunch at work. | (3) Brach's marshmallow pumpkins. | (4) #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso.  | (5) Talking to other women about their dreams. | (6) Essie nail polish. | (7) See Jane Write's new website. |  (8) Birmingham. | (9) Almond tea at Urban Standard. | (10) Giggling with girlfriends in coffee shops. | (11) Brunch. | (12) Women Business Leaders. | (13) Running the Lakeshore Trail. | (14) Beyonce's latest album. Still. | (15) Goddess by Banks. | (17) Pretending to be a real professional by using my LinkedIn account.  | (18) Blogging. | (19) Reading other people's blogs.  | (20) Dreaming. | (21) Writing a column for B-Metro. | (22) Cooking salmon for husband every Sunday.| (23) My red shoes. | (24) Maxi dresses. | (25) Being a happy feminist. | (26) Finding other happy feminists on the Internet. | (27)  Fancy Love fragrance by Jessica Simpson. | (28) Being childfree. | (29) Being free. | (30) Being me. 

5 Things That Made Me a Happy Feminist This Week, Vol. 4

Friday, September 12, 2014

I met this lovely lady -- PR diva Candie Price -- at a blogging conference last month.
As you can see we became buds instantly. So I was elated to see her at this month's WBL meeting. 

1. Women Business Leaders. On Saturday, I joined Women Business Leaders, a networking group for professional women of faith. I plan to write an in-depth post about the group before its next meeting in hopes that some of you Birmingham babes will join me.

2. Alabama feminists. The University of Alabama student newspaper The Crimson White reports that my alma mater is now home to the UA Feminist Caucus!  

“The issue of feminism impacts us everyday regardless of gender, sexual orientation or anything like that. That’s why it’s so important to be involved,” Cassidy Ellis, club president and a first year graduate student studying gender and race studies, said.
According to The Crimson White, Ellis came up with the idea for a feminist club for the University last spring. She said her goal was to address those who have said there isn’t a need for feminism, and that the group seeks to dicuss further misconceptions faced 
about feminism.
Upcoming events include a “Feminism Is for Everybody” panel discussion. I might have to take a trip to T-Town to check this out! 


3. Supporting fellow woman writer and entrepreneur Carrie Rollwagen. Carrie, the owner of a local coffee shop and book store, has written a book about the importance of supporting local businesses and she's launched a Kickstarter campaign to get the book published.  I consider it a privilege to be a backer of such an important project. Watch the video above to learn more and then pledge your support too! 

4. Feminist Wednesday. I can't believe I'm just now learning about FeministWednesday.com, but I'm so glad I recently stumbled upon the feminist storytelling site.  Go check it out now and thank me later. 

Princess of the Press!

5. And thanks to NPR I also learned about another awesome site this week -- Rejected Princesses. Produced by Jason Porath, Rejected Princesses is a series of illustrations of women whose stories wouldn’t make the cut for animated movies, or has he says "women too awesome, awful, or offbeat for kids' movies."  

What made you a happy feminist this week? 

My Feminist Fingertips, Vol. 2

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Nail Color: Play Date by Essie
How ironic that the nail color I've been wearing most of the month is called Play Date. My feminist fingertips have been hard at work. Play dates have been few and far between.

This month for my B-Metro column I wrote about why natural hair is my feminist fashion statement.

I blogged for Birmingham Restaurant Week 2014.

School started back but declared on this blog that I wouldn't let that stop me from pursuing my writing dreams or spending quality time with family and friend.

At school I organized an hosted a TEDTalk-inspired professional development day for my colleagues. One of my co-workers gave a talk on Sam Seidel's Hip Hop Genius: Remixing High School Education. I was so inspired that I wrote my August column for WBHM on the topic and revamped some of my lesson plans.

And one of the things I am most excited to report is that this month I revamped the See Jane Write website. Check it out and let me know what you think.

What have your feminist fingertips been up to this month? 

5 Things That Made Me a Happy Feminist This Week, Vol. 3

Friday, August 29, 2014


Do I really need to explain why this made me happy?

2. Well, in case you don't get it, read this article from the Ms. Magazine blog. 

In my review of Bey and Jay's On the Run tour, I mentioned that seeing the word FEMINIST was emblazoned on a huge screen at a mainstream music concert was nearly a religious experience for me. And it's an experience I had the chance to relive while watching Beyonce's performance at the MTV Video Music Awards Sunday night. As Ms. Magazine writer Anita Little explains:  

In being so unapologetic and quietly outspoken, she’s made feminism accessible to young women around the world who otherwise never would have identified with the movement. 
By lifting verses from Adichie’s TED talk on gender equality and using it to inspire her own music, BeyoncĂ© is bridging the gap between academic feminism and everyday feminism. If young women attendees at her On the Run tour can scream out the lyrics to “Flawless” and mean every word, who says they can’t  eventually read Audre Lorde?

3. While we're on the subject of celebrities dropping the f-bomb, Taylor Swift has finally joined the feminist club too! Two years ago I blogged about comments Swift made about feminism in an interview with The Daily Beast. 

When asked whether she was a feminist in a 2012 interview with The Daily Beast, she replied:
I don’t really think about things as guys versus girls. I never have. I was raised by parents who brought me up to think if you work as hard as guys, you can go far in life.
But now she's singing a different tune. In a recent interview with The Guardian Swift had this to say: 

As a teenager, I didn’t understand that saying you’re a feminist is just saying that you hope women and men will have equal rights and equal opportunities. What it seemed to me, the way it was phrased in culture, society, was that you hate men. And now, I think a lot of girls have had a feminist awakening because they understand what the word means

Why should we care whether or not Swift calls herself a feminist? I think Anita Little, writing for the Ms. Magazine blog, said it best: 

Swift has millions of fans, most of them young women, so for her to gave a tacit endorsement of the feminist  movement could encourage fans to explore the meaning of feminism for themselves.

4. Tamron Hall spoke out on the ridiculous notion that child-free women are somehow less mature and less caring simply because they don't have kids.  "I’m taken aback by the idea that that empathy is bestowed upon you only because you are a parent," Hall said. 

5. Even Playboy understands that catcalls aren't flattering. 

See the full flowchart here

And one thing that pissed me off...

Lifetime's new show Girlfriend Intervention promises to bring out the "strong black woman" trapped inside every white girl. Sadly, I'm not making this up. Read this NPR article for more.

What made you a happy feminist this week? 

BRW 2014: Parish Seafood and Oyster House

Sunday, August 24, 2014

My husband loves seafood. He's originally from Virginia, so he grew up eating fish, shrimp, and crab the way my fellow Alabamians and I grew up eating chicken and ribs. So I knew that during Birmingham Restaurant Week 2014 we'd try at least one seafood place. We decided to visit a restaurant we'd never tried before -- Parish Seafood and Oyster House in Trussville. 

For our starter, my husband and I shared Nikki's Low Country Crab Cake -- a huge homemade crab cake made with lump and claw, blue crab served on a bed of Creole corn and topped with zesty remoulade sauce. 

For dinner I had the Low Country Shrimp and Grits -- creamy three-cheese grits smothered with big, juicy shrimp, mushrooms, tomatoes, green onion, and applewood bacon. At Parish they aren't stingy with the shrimp, making this a great pick for shellfish lovers. 

My husband had the Deluxe Seafood Platter because he wanted a little bit of everything -- fried catfish, fried shrimp and fried oysters, served with hushpuppies, cole slaw and fries. The shrimp, which I kept swiping from his plate, was seasoned perfectly. But hubster said the succulent catfish was "the star of the meal."

Matt Norman opened Parish Seafood and Oyster House in February of last year with a simple concept. 

"I wanted to open something simple, laid back that everyone could enjoy. I have always loved seafood and loved cooking this style of food," Norman said. "We strive to be that comfortable neighborhood restaurant and bar where friends can come to meet for a drink, enjoy our oyster bar, but you wouldn't think less of it as an option to bring your wife on a date or an anniversary."

Parish certainly has the welcoming atmosphere Norman is striving to achieve. The staff if friendly and goes above and beyond to be helpful. When my husband and I visited on a recent evening after work, the sound of soul music was soaring through the air. Enjoying the music, dinner guests were swaying in their seats and bopping their heads to the beat. 

Parish Seafood and Oyster House also serves live music on some nights. And they host a  jazz brunch on Sundays from noon to 3 p.m., featuring live jazz, $2 mimosas and $5 trips to the "Build Your Own Bloody Mary" bar.

Parish Seafood and Oyster House has a spacious covered patio that's perfect for events (when it's not 100 degrees outside).

"When we started out we were serving po'boys on deli paper and using foam cups and plastic ware," Norman said. "We moved past that. I now bring in a few hundred pounds of fresh gulf fish each week - red snapper, grouper, flounder - all butchered in house." 

Norman went on to say, "We like all kinds of food but most importantly, we love people. They, after all, are the only reason we are in this business and the only reason I am in this business. I want to make them all happy -- every last one that comes through our doors. Period."

And he means that. On the day of my and my husband's visit the temperature outside was hovering just below 100 degrees and so it was pretty hot inside the restaurant, too. Noticing sweat on the brow of some customers, Norman, who's been in the restaurant industry for 20 years, started offering free cocktails and glasses of wine to his guests. 

When asked what he thinks sets Parish apart from other local seafood restaurants, Norman's answer was simple: "Stubbornness," he said. 

"We know we are not always doing it right. We know we have room to improve. We know we aren't perfect. We are not too proud to admit it. However, we strive to be. We start over every day trying to be better." 

BRW 2014: Rusty's Bar-B-Q

Yesterday I was in the mood for a cookout. But it was so hot I felt like my skin was on fire whenever I was outside.  So sitting outside, in the sun, and near a grill was not happening. 

So I decided it would be a great day to try Rusty's Bar-B-Q for Birmingham Restaurant Week 2014

I'm actually not a big ribs eater, but I believe barbecue sauce should be its own food group. Rusty's has plenty of homemade sauces to choose from -- house barbecue sauce, spicy barbecue sauce, sweet, barbecue sauce, and white barbecue sauce. 

I, of course, sampled all four sauces, but the creamy white barbecue sauce was perfect with the delicious chicken dinner, which I had with cole slaw and sweet baked beans. 

Located in Leeds just up the street from the Outlet Shops of Grand River, Rusty's is the perfect place to relax and refuel after a day of shopping. 

I also had a chance to chat with Rusty himself -- Jonathan "Rusty" Tucker. 

"After graduating from Johnson & Wales University with an A.S. in Culinary Arts and a B.S. in Foodservice Management, I did the only logical thing and moved home to Birmingham to open a barbecue joint," said Tucker, who opened Rusty's Bar-B-Q in 2009.  "It was always my dream to own a restaurant; I grew up in the kitchen always experimenting with new recipes and learning from the many great cooks in my family."

Jonathan "Rusty" Tucker

What do you believe sets you apart from all the other barbecue joints in the Birmingham area?

We are a family friendly restaurant that will go above and beyond to meet our customers' needs and exceed their expectations. Most of our food is prepared from family recipes that have been handed down in my family for years. 

What things have you learned as a business owner that you think would be valuable lessons for
any entrepreneur? 

I started my business when I was 23 years old. The lessons that I have learned as a business owner are innumerable. The one that is close to heart at the moment is to make time for yourself and for your family.

What are some of the advantages and disadvantages to being located in Leeds? 

Leeds is a great community and there is a great potential for growth here. We have some great attractions to this area within just a few miles of our location - Barber Motorsports Park, Bass Pro Shops, and The Outlet Shops of Grand River are all close at hand.

Why did you choose to be part of Birmingham Restaurant Week? 

I joined Birmingham Restaurant Week three years ago. I saw it as a great opportunity to promote Rusty's Bar-B-Q and hopefully gain some new loyal customers. It is a good opportunity to showcase local restaurants in the greater Birmingham area and celebrate the talent we have in this industry.

What are your hopes for the future of Rusty's BAR-B-Q? 

To leverage what little we have to make a big difference in our community and the lives of others.

Why Melt Is More Than a Food Truck and More Than a Restaurant

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Blogging for Birmingham Restaurant Week 2014 has been great not simply because I'm getting to eat out almost every night and call it work. What I've enjoyed most is getting to know the owners of the restaurants I've been visiting. 

The dream team behind Melt (which is both a food truck and a restaurant in Avondale) consists of co-owners Paget Pizitz and Harriet Reis and head chef Joey Dickerson. 

Pizitz says that one of her goals is for her diner to be inviting and comfortable for everyone. I think she has definitely succeeded. Melt is more thank just a restaurant. It feels a bit like a home away from home because its atmosphere is so welcoming. 

First of all, the concept of Melt is perfect -- a modern twist on the classic American comfort food. "Everyone likes a grilled cheese," Pizitz says. "We also have options for those who are vegan, vegetarian and gluten free."

Eating a salad made me feel less guilty about trying Melt's delicious dessert.

That candy jar was nearly full when we sat down. But despite all the Now & Later chew in his belly,
hubster still devoured the Melt queso and his Flying Hawaiian sandwich. 

Melt is a great place to catch up with friends and it's a great choice for kids -- or those who are still a child at heart. On a recent visit my husband kept dipping into the candy-filled mason jars that sit on the tables. Despite all the Now & Later chews he ate, he was scarfing down the chips and Melt queso that we had for our starter just as quickly as I was. And he cleaned his plate when our server brought out his Flying Hawaiian -- smoked ham, habanero jack cheese, and cajun grilled pineapple on a pretzel bun. This sandwich is my husband's favorite.

Ordering from the Birmingham Restaurant Week menu, I tried for the first time the buffalo chicken sandwich, which is perfect for someone looking for a spicy twist to the grilled cheese sandwich. 

If you have a sweet tooth, you must try the Banana Stand -- Nutella, bananas, powdered sugar and clover honey on Texas toast. 

And if you're looking for good conversation to go with your good food, just have a chat with Paget Pizitz.

The Melt Team 

When you moved back to Birmingham in 2009 you knew you wanted to start a brick and mortar business, but what made you decide on a food truck? 

My business partner Harriet Reis and I knew we wanted to start a restaurant, eventually. We bounced around a couple of ideas and decided that food truck was the best way to dive in. It seemed a perfect fit for Birmingham at the time and gave us a great opportunity to meet different areas of the community. Matilda, as we fondly refer to our truck, has been on the streets about two years. 

How did you know it was time to open a restaurant? 

We knew it would be time when we found a location that spoke to us. Avondale was always appealing and when we found the old Stephens Garage space we just knew. 

How did you and Harriet decide to work together? 

This is a LONG story. In short, I would visit her at Ocean, the restaurant she opened with her ex- husband, when I was in town. I thought she was adorable and I developed an obsession.  Years later, when I moved back to Birmingham, we were reintroduced. I stalked her for about a year and forced her to open a business with me. I am probably to blame for any grey hairs she has but we work very well together and couldn't be happier. Our strengths and weakness are a perfect match. We are partners, friends and family. It's a very special relationship. Especially when we fight and make up all in the same 60 seconds.

What things have you learned as a successful restaurant owner do you think would be valuable lessons for any entrepreneur? 

I could say something cliche like "follow your dreams" but I won't. I've worked in D.C., New York City, Birmingham and Virginia and had lots of jobs I liked but they were all jobs. I always knew what I wanted to do but had a fear of making it happen. Find something that you makes you feel passion. If you are lucky enough to work for yourself, you have the best boss in the world. Harriet and I have no one to let down but ourselves. That motivates me. The people who work with us motivate me. Our guests motivate me. Helping Avondale grow and thrive motivates me. Oh, paying back loans also motivates me. 

What are your hopes for the future of Melt? 

If it was up to me, I would have three more restaurants in the next two years. Harriet might kill me in my sleep when she reads this. I just hope that we continue to grow and maintain what we have now, which is a staff of people who care about the food they make and an environment that is inviting and comfortable for everyone.