Sunday, July 26, 2015


The best time of the year. I don't get tan and don't really enjoying swimming, but set that aside. It is my happy time, involving some of my best memories and favorite adventures, not to mention my birthday. Maybe we all prefer the time of year in which we were born. I know that I do.

This summer has been full of "starts." New jobs, new apartment, everything short of new hair. That's on the bucket list before Labor Day.

I was thinking last night how much I love summer food. Of all the things I adore are summer fruits and veggies, and hamburgers. Happily, all of these can be found in abundance; spare me the root vegetables and roast beef, a home-grilled hamburger with sides of corn, tomatoes and watermelon and orange sherbert make my heart happy. 

I have a good friend I make a big dinner with every few months. In the winter, it might be spaghetti with his mom's meat sauce. In summer, it's freshly ground-that-day beef seasoned and grilled to perfection, better than most any you can find at a restaurant, especially at a generous half-pound per person. Corn, grilled asparagus, Vidalia onions and mushrooms, all from the farmer's market, as sides. All so good that the Ruffles and Dean's French onion dip are forgotten, and it takes a good hour or two after dinner before you're ready for dessert.


Summer, to me, is decks with view of the ocean, Dad putting PBR cans in the beach cooler, lots of sunscreen, and sticky hair days. 

And food, the good stuff.

Perfection on a plate.

Love Bites,
Carrie Neal

Sunday, March 29, 2015

"Hi, I'm Carrie Neal - two first names."

I was given a challenge recently. I love words and writing them and all of that, but it's a bit disconcerting when you're asked to describe yourself in just a few paragraphs. How not to sound too aggrandizing (I have no flaws!), too modest (Aw, shucks, I'm just an average girl!), or, especially for me, too wordy (I need just one more adjective here!)? "Give me a brief description of yourself" is the flip side of writing your autobiography.

I thought about it, and focused decisively on what I was actually asked to do: write about me. Not my resume highlights, not my foibles, not my victories or also-rans. Me. As I wrote, revised, and mulled over this assignment, I realized: this missive was about self-awareness. A form of self-love, actually, meant to explain me, Carrie Neal, the person. Kind of daunting, but kind of fun, too - free of focusing, or hiding on, facts and figures. Of course, specifics have to enter it; what I like, who is important to me, how I participate in the world. I tried to do that in a manner that stuck to the basic idea of who Carrie Neal is, not the what.

I'm pretty pleased with the end result, and I tried to be honest (of course, like the Leo I am, it's possible there's a dash of proudness). I have to submit it now, but I look forward to reviewing it later to see what I still think about it. Ultimately, I'd like to think self-love means the ability to view yourself for what you are in totality, as best as possible. That way, you can be as honest with yourself as anyone can be through the most intimate telescope and go from there. Read on, and see what you think.


"Hi, I'm Carrie Neal - two first names."  I think in words, in both italics and capitals. It's probably a main reason I let people know directly that I prefer a double name. My first lesson in diplomacy was how to smoothly convey this, with eye contact, a firm handshake, and a smile; self-possession has never been a problem.

Bright, diligent, and charming would be three words to describe me. Challenging, pedantic, and direct could be three others. I like planning, strategy and checking things off lists; I like that I can supplement this with creativity and a penchant for considering what's beyond the ABC's. Snail mail still helps my communicative side. I was the dark horse for the sibling humor award but it turned out that my easy ability to talk to anyone includes a pretty good wit. I love to learn and travel; I've been fortunate to live a number of places abroad and my to-do-before-I-die list includes plans to do so again. My brother would tell you I can be too sensitive; my friends would tell you I am generous, and a fountain of information on everything from the best steak places to the proper spelling of English Major Words; my parents would tell you I'm worth it.  

I've had at least nines lives across things personal and professional, and I imagine there will be nine more. As my Godmother would agree, "that pretty well sums up what you like to call 'Carrie Neal Land,' sweetheart." I think it's a pretty unique place and feel fortunate to try to figure out just what it entails.


There you go. The book jacket version 2015 is written. On to the unabridged version.

Love Bites
Carrie Neal

Friday, February 20, 2015

Me Want Cookies

If you know me, it's to eat with me. If you know me, you know I'd really take fries over cookies any day.

But . . . coming home means eating cookies, fries, and lots more.

That whole food-is-love thing is true in my life. Being home is wonderful for just that reason: family and friends, food and love.


I've missed Atlanta for many reasons, including the time, opportunity and choice of places to eat with those I love. Highbrow - please go to St. Cecilia, if you haven't been - to new-to-me pizza spots - again, please go to Avellino's if you haven't been - to old school, down and dirty Mex - you've been to Taxco, right? - to anything else that sounds tasty that day or night.

But I've really missed Atlanta for the communion over all this food. I'm like a kid in a candy shop catching up with people over it. From take out for Dad and me while Mom's at the beach, to coffee (fine, kinda like dessert since my Starbucks had that new tiramisu flavor added in), from old easy faves like big slices at Fellini's and salmon apps (or, ahem, fries) at Houston's, I am in home foodie heaven. (Have you gotten tacos at a Buford Hwy spot lately? Brunched at a fave place? Eaten a great filet in style? Hmmm. Food for thought.)

This post is silly and lacking in import - except for the message that food nourishes us for a lot of reasons. I'm just lucky that one reason is that I get to spend time with people I love. When it's (often) over food, it's even better.

Bottom line: eat your vegetables. And so much more. As the saying goes, "The world is a smorgasbord."

Go find an oyster.

Love Bites,
Carrie Neal

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Three, two, one . . .

Blast back.

Day one, yesterday, was Nostalgia Day. Last visits to the most places I could cram in - and delay the events of . . .

Day two, where the apartment looks like Wyle E. Coyote just made a run-through.

Because on day three, I'mma going home.

Thank the dear, sweet Lord.

Chattavegas has been an adventure. Exactly 385 days from my arrival, I'll be an Atlanta Girl again - physically official; emotionally never absent.

Since I had even a day of nostalgia reveals something: this detour in my life wasn't all bad. Highlights include working at a couple of cool places* -  finding my cute little apartment - and reconnecting with my preschool best friend - apparently, we were inseparable then, and happily we like each other now.

And, some of the restaurants I visited**, hair salon I discovered***, pedi/massage/spa place I found**** and a few other assorted plusses, made life here usually tolerable, often fun. Some of the memories will be kept fondly.

But it has never been home. Small town; city girl.

Yet amazing how much stuff one can collect over just this very short amount of time. And now, I'm paring down further since I've been given the chance to come home, have a place to live, a job, and a need to leave a bunch of crap here till I get out of my apartment.

All of this brings me to the following conclusions: sometimes a change of scenery is necessary (2013 required a re-lo to shake it off); if you look, you can find people you like and a place to make kinda home (even if for the short run); life can surprise you when you least expect it; the people you love, and who love you, don't stop just because you're an hour+ versus 10 min away; there really is just one home.

I've got some juggling - and repacking, eep! - to do immediately, and to get to be back home permanently.

A sojourn to the River City was ultimately ok. A return to Atlanta is brilliant. A life - let's not repeat things like a broken face - is what you make it, regardless of where you are.

All this is to say: "Ciao, Chattavegas!" and "Atlanta, I'm comin' home."

See you soon. xoxoxo

Love Bites,
Carrie Neal

*Clyde's on Main - you should pay a visit if in town.
**Sandwiches: River Street Deli (new school), Nikki's Drive Inn (old school); Mexican: La Eltena; Pizza (and spaghetti and meatballs!): Community Pie; Nice date: 1885; Fancy: St. John's; Divey: Mike's; Greek (Get. The. Gyro): Ankar's on Broad; Sunday Brunch: The Flying Squirrel; Best Happy Hour (food and drink): Mellow Mushroom; other categories don't jump out as must-try. Except if pimento cheese can be a category, The Honest Pint. Get the fritters.
*** Go see Julie at Style Bar.
**** Natural Body Downtown - get Felicia for a pedicure.

Oh, and stay at the best hostel ever, The Crash Pad, or at the mostly lovely hotel in town, The Read House. You can even bring your dog.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Dear Friends . . .

Oh, y'all.

I have not been sure how to address this, so let's go for it, head on: I stupidly, unintentionally deleted one of my most favorite posts I have ever written. Titled "Pretty Baby" . . . some of you may have read it.

It was so - transparent. It was so - me. And it was so - not saved anywhere else.

So - what now?

This has bothered me ever since that {*thing*} happened [btw- I almost just said ... since TGD so if you read my older posts, you know why that is funny . . .and how it puts Real Stuff into perspective] . . . my words were gone! My thoughts taken! My feelings . . .

Oh, shut the hell up, CN. 

Let's break it down . . . for real and with the same honesty as that post I wrote that made me proud to have written.

My face is - mostly- back . . . 

What could I complain about - a little bruising still under my cheek?

What can I complain about? Nothing. I can complain about  nothing. And that picture was from August, so I have had months since to keep getting "better."

I still have a  bit of bruising on the cheek that was almost destroyed - but only just enough that a customer at work the other night thought it was just a little smudge . . .

And so: this is really a precursor to the post that's been formulating in my head for a bit now.

I hope, as Thanksgiving (my least favorite holiday but possibly yours) approaches, you are thinking of what makes you grateful.

Because a job can be lost, a face ruined - even temporarily as I am so grateful for -  a life of a friend lost too soon, a . . . but I am grateful to still have a family, dear friends, a face, a . . .life.

More in my next post, once formulated in my head . . .

Love Bites,
Carrie Neal 

Friday, October 24, 2014


Those who know me well know I really dislike Thanksgiving.

It's not the "thanks" part - definitely not - but it's the food part. Put simply, (sparing my Grandmother's absolutely amazing creamed corn and, truthfully, never dry turkey) I have traced my dislike back to a couple of specific incidents in my early and mid teens (one involved a tureen of pumpkin soup . . .).

But, I do endorse this animal as an edible delight in certain forms. Yada, yada, the holiday turkey is dry, blah blah blah another turkey sandwich for lunch is boring - whatever.

The following recipe is a riff on one I came across, which you should make for a few reasons: 1) I am suggesting it; 2) the original version is from Food Network Magazine (Ok, I do prefer Cooking Light, and yes, I do know magazines are supposed to be in quotation marks, but I like them better in italics, and this time FNM won out  - check out the site for tons of great ideas, like this more effort-required version of the one I got from the actual magazine -; 3) you make it in a skillet - no baking required (!!); 4) it is SO. EASY; and 5) it is delicious. Should I go on?

So, if you like turkey, and lasagna and a version of turkey lasagna sounds good . . . try this (I wouldn't suggest with, say, that leftover holiday turkey - just get a good package of the ground stuff at your favorite store):

CN's Un-Fancy Awesome Turkey Skillet Lasagna

(original recipe would serve 4-6, so adjust for amount and whether or not you want to have leftovers - I make enough for two adults, with a couple of leftover slices, using about 3/4 lb turkey)

1lb (or adjust for servings) ground turkey
No boil lasagna noodles - 4-8 depending on skillet size and number of servings (I like Barilla)
Olive oil (I have been using Colavita, but pick whichever you like)
Marinara sauce (I like Rao's but pick your fave)
Shredded mozz (I use 2%)
Ricotta (I use part-skim and I know DIY is better, but I buy Sorrento)
Salt, pepper and oregano to taste

Heat appropriate sized skillet to med, med-high
Break apart ground turkey into "crumbles" (I do by hand - not a perfect science, just so you can brown it); add salt and pepper
Cook meat till just browned - should still be a little pink inside
Set aside

Choose your pan size of choice, depending on how much you want to make - best if you pick one that is oven-safe, so you can pop under broiler at end for that nice crisp crust

Layer: sauce, lasagna noodles, turkey, ricotta and mozz, another layer of noodles, sauce, and top with mozz; add salt and pepper and oregano (I love it so I add a lot of it!)

Cover and cook on med-low for 20-30 min - peek and check on done-ness between 15-20 min; I have found that with the ricotta and turkey added to the original recipe, the added moisture (vs. just cheese) requires a little more time. A little liquid on the sides is fine as long as noodles have sort of rolled up on sides of skillet, peeking out under the sauce.

Put under broiler on high for 1-3 min.

Serve. And don't do what I did the first time, and remove the skillet from the oven with a kitchen towel, only to place it back on the still hot burner and singe the towel. Just sayin'.

It's delicious, and easy enough I can make after work one night (and have leftovers), or you can too, or if you've got a family to feed. Maybe add a little Caesar salad and that (light) Texas Toast, and done and done. Even boys (ahem, men too) will like it all.

See, turkey isn't just a boring sandwich or a big fancy thing carved and served on one specific day.

But - it can be a special bird, when served with love. In lasagna form or not.

Love Bites,
Carrie Neal

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Lions and Galations and Jeremiahs, Oh My . . .

*Warning: This post is not so much about actual food, as it is love food. And it's a bit long. Real CN time. Be prepared. 

I think God meant for me to be a Leo. I don't think He's all into astrology and stuff - but I think He has His reasons. Always. He also had me born in the year of the Dragon, if you're into Chinese Astrology (That's like a double whammy. My parents should probably smack their heads and say,"What was He thinking???").

I was supposed, per doctors knowledge, to be born in July, so I would have been a Cancer. And some of that description is true of me. But He had different plans for me and my poor Mama, who had to wait a few more weeks that hot 1976 summer for me to be a Leo. Almost a "cusp" baby but really, almost absolutely, on the Leo side - you know me, right? - like this: 

Yes, Daddy knows I have this tattoo (not the word part - tacky, ha!). It is not where anyone would see it.
 I really meant like this:

This summary presents a pretty damn accurate - and mostly flattering- summary of me. I've got the negative parts, true, for sure. I can be vain and bossy and self-centered, and don't hurt my feelings, let me get hangry on you, cross one of my lovies, or . . . my diplomatic side won't come out so much. Just sayin'.

But I like to think back to one of the first times I remember reading my horoscope the birthday month when I turned 12 (we didn't really study that at Sunday School, but "Teen" magazine, for those who remember, sure did) - was this, and I remember it verbatim: "You are a natural, and a friend to outcasts and optimists."

That has always stuck with me. I have, sincerely, considered it a huge compliment on my character from that day, from a silly girlish magazine - and from those who have given me similar ones since. Many have, indeed.

Because that is a great kind of person to be. 

My parents taught me many things, as have so many people since, and I am so grateful for that.

Life has been really hard for this Leo in the past years - it was so blessed, mostly easily and therefore expected, I now see - the grit and the perseverance, well, they come from many places. Sure, whatever, I mentioned astrology. Maybe that has something to do with it.

And this, a song I loved five years ago - well, it was true back when I remembered who I really was - and I've discovered it still is -

But, here is what I was really taught - and believe.

"For I know the plans for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future." 
- Jer 29:11

Oh boy, this has been a tough one to trust in these hard years. 

So has this one: "Let us not become weary in well doing, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." 
- Gal 6:9

Growing up, especially as a teen (go figure - no NKOTB posters - and if you know what I mean, you're as old as I am...), I posted Bible quotes and motivational quotes, on my bathroom mirror. I remember a handyman we used to have come regularly for minor repairs once to remark upon that to my Mama, saying "that's a special girl, there."  Notice taken. 

Then, I remember writing my Godfather a thank you note for an extremely generous gift to me for my education - to which he promptly responded it should have been addressed to both my Godmother and him; their money - and relationship - was dually worthy. Lesson learned. 

Then, I remember my greatest work mentor telling my parents, at our annual Christmas party (oh - we blew it out back in the day and *some* of the leftover liquor may have gone *missing* thanks to certain youngsters) . . . "She's my star." Compliment taken.

Then, I remember a recent boss saying . . . "You know why I like you? You work hard. And you're honest." Observation appreciated.

I also remember knowing that it was my precious Daddy who chose that Galations quote to put in the Westminster senior yearbook ad they took out (one of two, mind you - yeah, I was that spoiled).

And that is my truth. I have erred - oh, badly - from such. But that's the thing about God. Whether he wants me slinging wings or working in the insurance world again - or what? - I have to figure out what it will be. I believe He will help. Lord (no pun intended here), I hope He does.

Tonight, I have a beautiful, sweet dog with me, an amazing, loving family not far from me (well, R is a bit further), and Dr Teal's bubble bath if I keep being non-sleepy.

So, life is good. And it's up to me to do the above  - to be that faithful (and Leo!) person I was created to be.

Oh, and I made a good chicken and mushroom concoction for dinner.

Love Bites,
Carrie Neal