Weekly Wrap-up – 06/27/15

So much has been going on lately – so much to tell. Let’s get started.

FarmToTablePlateWithMenu
Our Farm to Table menu included a yummy salad, chicken and Andouille sausage gumbo with shrimp on the side, summer squash gratin with ricotta and Gruyere, and Arkansas jasmine rice. For dessert, apple, peach and blackberry pie with sweetened sour cream and raw milk vanilla ice cream. Yum!

Last night Bruce and I attended the inaugural Farm to Table Dinner on lower Main Street in Batesville, and it was such a success, I have no doubt there will be a second-annual. About 100 people attended, we ate lots of delicious, locally grown food and listened to some awesome live music … and I took 113 photos. Oh, yeah, and I got to wear my cowboy boots! 🙂

The Main Street Farmers Market is still newish but is flourishing. I’ll be sharing about that in a few days, but for now I’ll just leave you with a teaser: I’m preparing a series featuring the vendors I’ve met on Saturdays at the farmers market, similar to the one I’ve been posting on my other blog, To Well With You. If you haven’t checked that out, head on over and tell me what you think.

Boris_MrCole_selfie_062515
First Community Bank President Boris Dover (left) and CEO Dale Cole take a selfie as the bank announces its entry into the world of social media.

My employer, First Community Bank in Batesville, Ark., has launched a Facebook page! We had an official kickoff Thursday as the bank hosted the chamber’s monthly Business After Hours event. Using a selfie stick (no doubt for the first time), our chairman/CEO and president/COO took a selfie with the crowd in the background; it was hilarious to see Mr. Cole ask our marketing director’s help to get the Facebook page open on his phone.

By the way, we’re giving away a cruise. To enter, Like and share our FB page.

Other big things we talked about at the event:

  • The bank donated $20,000 to Main Street Batesville toward an ongoing project. As we revitalize our Main Street, a beautification project has been taking place before our eyes for several months. Lots of exciting things are going on downtown, and I’ll definitely be sharing them here.
  • Impact Independence County – an effort to bring community members (that’s you and me, folks) together to strategize ways to move our county forward – will hold a community meeting and cookout in UACCB’s Independence Hall starting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 1. Gov. Asa Hutchinson will be the special guest. The IIC’s community survey will go live on the website after that event.

DO YOU WANNA BUILD A BLOG?

At the Business After Hours event, I talked to a couple of young women who were interested in blogging (one as a reader and one as a writer). For those of you who have toyed with the idea of starting a blog, there has never been a better time to start! I’ve been blogging at Suzy & Spice since 2007, and if I didn’t love it (besides my family and Jesus, nothing gives me greater joy), I wouldn’t have started a second blog.

I’ve also learned a few things that I’d love to pass along if you’re interested.

In the past year or so, I’ve focused on taking my blog(s) to the next level, and I’ve studied branding, “platform building,” content marketing, social media, search-engine optimization and all sorts of other things, including ways to make my writing and photography better.

Now, don’t let all that that fancy talk scare you off. If you simply love to write, like connecting with others online and just want to share your thoughts in a public space and Facebook isn’t fulfilling that need, you can start a blog. (A side benefit has been the connections I’ve made with other bloggers online and in person.)

It’s so easy, a goober like me can do it, and I would love to show you how.

So many resources are available nowadays, and I’ll be working on a post specific to helping you get started. Meanwhile, if you’re scared at the thought, email, call or text me (if you have my phone number) and we can talk through your fears. 🙂 You can email me at suzy@suzyoakley.com.

SuzyOakleycom_croppedSpeaking of contact information and blogs, Bruce built me a “digital business card” – following my specifications and a bunch of tweaking – a web page to allow folks to get a snippet or two of who I am and click through to either of my blogs. It also includes links to my social media profiles. Click here to visit SuzyOakley.com.

Shhh Dont tell!I’ve been invited to speak at a conference this summer. The lineup hasn’t been announced yet, so I don’t feel free to share details online, but I’m excited about it! I’ll give you the lowdown as soon as I can.


That’s it for this week, folks. We had a clogged drain (laundry and kitchen) for 11 days (don’t ask) and just got it fixed Thursday. I’m still catching up on laundry, dishes, floor cleaning, blogging … and sleep. 🙂 And high-fives (no, TENS!) to Lonnie Clark of C&S Plumbing for climbing onto our roof and rooting out the drain from a vent. Who knew?

Now, go out and have an awesome weekend.

Tell us in the comments: What’s one incredible thing that happened to you this week?

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Restaurant review: Elizabeth’s Restaurant and Catering

Elizabeth'sFront
Elizabeth’s Restaurant and Catering, 231 E. Main St., will celebrate its 15th anniversary in July.

My HometownLogoI live in a small town and, while that sometimes seems to equal “deprivation” (no Target store here, my friends), it definitely has its compensations.

While Batesville, Ark. (population 10,490), is not exactly Mayberry, we have our own set of characters, our familiar faces around town, our own quaint people, places and things … and a surprising number of places to fill up on delicious food.

Among the handful of restaurants that aren’t fast-food chains, we have Elizabeth’s Restaurant and Catering on Main Street – a place I always feel at home.

What’s so special about Elizabeth’s?

Could it be those famous homemade yeast rolls with honey butter that everyone craves? The Thursday evening all-you-can-eat spaghetti (garlic bread, anyone)? Or maybe it’s the friendly waitress who exchanges silly small-talk with us and has been known to serenade her patrons. (On a recent Thursday night it was “That’s Amore,” which always makes me think of Dean Martin and pizza.)

Elizabeth'sRollsAndButter
Someone may have taken a bite out of one of the rolls before she remembered to take a picture. But her dining companion may have already wolfed down an entire roll by this point.

Oh, wait. I know: It’s the aroma coming from the kitchen. I’m fairly certain they have a big blower that pushes those irresistible smells across the dining room and out the front door every time it opens.

On one recent visit – for spaghetti night with Bruce (he may be skinny, but he has a hollow leg and he loves all-you-can-eat deals) – the second we walked through the door, we were assaulted (and I mean that in a good way) with one of my favorite smells: garlic bread.

Elizabeth'sHappyBruce
A girl never has to work too hard to get this guy to take her to all-you-can-eat night.

Elizabeth'sSpaghettiAndTableThey made me wait for my garlic bread, though. (I hate waiting.)

But, to compensate, they brought us our drinks and yummy salads right away (side salad and bread sticks are included in the price). And theirs aren’t those wimpy salads with a few chunks of lettuce, a couple of carrot shreds and maybe, if you’re lucky, a bit of tomato or onion.

No, sir. It is a good salad – one I might have made for myself at home if I weren’t so lazy.

Elizabeth'sEmptySaladPlate
Yes, the salad came before the spaghetti and garlic bread, but this is where it worked out in my story. You’re lucky you even got a “salad” picture before I finished off the last few bites.

The dressings are homemade and delish, too. Bruce always orders the blue cheese, and I go through phases. For a while I always got the house dressing (sunflower-seed vinaigrette), and now I seem to be stuck on the thousand island. The ranch is good, too, but you can get decent ranch in a plastic bottle at Kroger. (Note to self: Try Elizabeth’s homemade ranch dressing next time.)

And here’s a thing that’s very important to me: The waitress keeps my glass full of iced tea. And, unlike at some restaurants, I don’t have to keep reminding her that I ordered it unsweetened. She just remembers, like she’s supposed to.

My family has been to Elizabeth’s countless times for birthday celebrations, and Bruce and I have attended a few wedding receptions, a class reunion and other events at Elizabeth’s.

Owner Diane White and her family and staff have worked hard to make Elizabeth’s welcoming, cozy and beautiful. Now, don’t expect brand-new, perfectly polished hardwoods and gold-plated sconces. What you’ll get is a …

… well, I asked Diane to describe the décor.

She smiled.

Elizabeth’s, while elegant yet comfy and casual (see, I asked her because I couldn’t put my finger on it), has an ever-changing motif, depending on the occasion.

Elizabeth'sFrontCounterWant your wedding reception there? They’ll let you decorate the place to your preference. Brides have even been known to take Elizabeth’s photos off the walls and replace them with their own artwork. That’s OK, Diane says.

This is what makes it so hometown-y. The folks who hold their events there are your neighbors, and Diane treats them like that – like neighbors.

When you go there, you feel like family.

Elizabeth’s offers a plate lunch special, or you can choose from a wide menu of casseroles, specialty salads, sandwiches and wraps. (My mom is a fan of the quiche.) The evening menu offers steaks, seafood and chicken dishes.

Elizabeth’s caters, too, and we’ve taken advantage of that fact lately. People fight for their green bean bundles (beans wrapped in bacon) and swoon for the rolls and honey butter. They’ll make you a big ol’ casserole or three, and I know from personal experience (when we had to feed about 100 hungry runners for a Christmas party) that they’re willing to work with you on customizing the menu.

Here is some of the daily goodness you can expect at Elizabeth’s:

Elizabeth's menu 2015The portions are not only delicious but generous. If you leave Elizabeth’s hungry, it’s your own darned fault.

Elizabeth’s Restaurant and Catering
231 E. Main St.
Batesville, AR 72501
(870) 698-0903
Hours:
Sunday buffet: 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Closed Mondays.
Tuesday through Saturday: 11 a.m.-2 p.m., and on Thursdays and Fridays they reopen for dinner, 5-8 p.m.
Find Elizabeth’s on Facebook.

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Introducing my new blog, To Well With You

MorningSide_gang_MC
Photo courtesy of Hatch and Maas

Regular readers of Suzy & Spice know that I launched a wellness-coaching business earlier this year, with a website “coming soon.”

After weeks of blood, sweat and tears (we won’t mention the cussing and discussing), soon has turned into finally. I launched the To Well With You blog on June 1. Bruce and I are still tweaking (hence the “cussing and discussing” that we’re not mentioning), but we’re pretty pleased with it overall. (I’ve also created a landing page that will link you to either of the two blogs, and the address is easier to remember: SuzyOakley.com. We’re still tweaking that page, too.)

I would love for you to check out To Well With You by clicking here, subscribe if you like, and share it with friends, loved ones, co-workers – anyone you think might enjoy it or benefit from it.

The site will focus on wellness, fitness and running, and I plan to post two or three times a week there. I’ll maintain a once-a-week schedule here at the big-sister blog, Suzy & Spice. Here, I will continue to write about “whatever strikes my fancy,” but at To Well With You I will have more targeted content.

Wellness encompasses a lot, so that’s why you’ll see a Farm2Home event on that site this week and in the weeks to come (a series!). I believe it’s important to eat fresh, unprocessed foods, to “buy local” as much as possible and to support our neighbors who grow and raise our food and make other products from their bounty.

Here at S&S, I’m planning another series related to farming – only this one will focus on the Main Street Farmers Market in Batesville, Ark. I can’t wait to tell you about some of the hardworking people I’ve met downtown on Saturday mornings. They’re awesome, and so are their foods and crafts!

And I’m planning a series on local small businesses (first up: a review of Elizabeth’s Restaurant and Catering downtown) at Suzy & Spice.

You might wonder, How does she find the time for all this and still work a full-time “day job”?

I wonder that, too.

Just call me wonder woman. I am figuring it out as I go along, because this blogging business is important to me. It lights my fire, even when my wood’s wet. The other night I went to bed way past my bedtime, beyond exhausted but smiling about the words and photos I posted in honor of the farmers, ranchers and product makers around our beautiful state.

I love to tell great stories. If my words and images can get you to feel the right emotions and maybe even take positive action, I’ve done what I set out to do.

I can’t make a habit of late-to-bed and exhausted every day, but I made a conscious decision that it’s necessary sometimes if I want to make an impact on others for good.

If I’m tired while working to fulfill my mission, well … that’s why the good Lord invented the Sunday nap.

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My mission statement – finally

MissionStatementQuoteBox

I’ve been working on my official “mission statement” on and off for a few years.

I’ve read business magazines and newspapers since I was a teenager (yes, I’m weird – or maybe I’ve just always been entrepreneurial-minded like my dad), and every few years I tell myself I need my own mission statement. “They” say everyone needs one – even people who aren’t “businesspeople” per se: missionaries, ministry workers, practically everybody.

My latest attempt was last year, after I became a certified wellness coach. A wellness coach certainly needs a mission statement, right?

After a few attempts that were “close” and not too wordy (one of my goals), I decided to let it rest for a while. I knew the right thing would come eventually.

Well, eventually came this morning.

After reading this in my devotional before church …

“Through our cooperation with God’s Spirit who is at work within us, we can grow to the point that what we want aligns with what God wants – our passions and purposes are his passions and purposes; we think, speak, act and relate in a Christlike way. We will never be perfect or without struggle in this life, but we can be inwardly connected to Jesus (see Jn 15:1 – 8). We listen for the Spirit’s guidance. We cultivate our gifts. We live our lives pursuing God’s kingdom interests (see 1Co 10:31 — 11:1).

But often this isn’t enough for us. We want to know our specific, individual purpose with certainty. We want the mystery solved. We want to find a unique purpose that focuses our energies and convinces us that our life counts.

Perhaps our feverish search for the specific is misguided. Maybe our need for certainty reflects our addiction to control and what Eugene Peterson calls ‘insiders’ pride.’ God wants us to trust him, and sometimes knowing too much leads to trusting too little. Maybe letting go of the pressure to find our purpose – and instead following hard after God each new day – will center us squarely in the target.” (Emphasis mine.)

– NIV Essentials Study Bible

… and, later, singing a song at church that spoke to me …

To You our hearts are open
Nothing here is hidden
You are our one desire
You alone are holy
Only You are worthy
God, let Your fire fall down

… I knew I had it.

I’ve always wanted my life to count; I want to know that what I’m doing matters for Kingdom good. But today I realized that I don’t have to know every step – every twist and turn in the journey – ahead of time.

It boils down to this:

  • God will never lead me down the wrong path.
  • If I follow His leading, I’ll stay on the right path.
  • If take a wrong turn (like, every single day), He’ll help me to find my way again, if I let Him.
  • Trusting Him for each new bit of light as I travel along the path is better than trying to map out my own plan in minute detail.

Knowing this takes the pressure off.

Ever since “bucket lists” became a thing, I’ve resisted. I just haven’t wanted the pressure of having a list of things I want (or “need”) to do before I die. My favorite place is home, I often say. If I have my loved ones around me, some good books and good food, if I’m serving where I need to be serving, if I’m stepping outside my comfort zone and allowing God to grow my character, I’m OK. I don’t need wild adventures and globetrotting tales for a scrapbook. (OK, I would like to climb Ayers Rock in Australia …)

I love the Wayne Watson song “Walk in the Dark.” Here’s the chorus:

I’d rather walk in the dark with Jesus
Than to walk in the light on my own.
I’d rather go through the valley of the shadow with Him
Than to dance on the mountains alone.
I’d rather follow wherever he leads me
Than to go where none before me have gone.
I’d rather walk in the dark with Jesus
Than to walk in the light of my own.

So this morning, singing worship songs in church, with my hand raised in praise of the One who created me, knows me better than I know myself, and will NEVER lead me astray, my mission statement flashed in my mind in an instant – short, sweet and crystal clear:

“To follow God’s leading and help others see the Light.”

Take us out, Wayne:

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