Monday, May 2, 2016

A Nephew is Born

On Saturday, April 22, at 12:46am, Eli Michael Perkins made his entrance into the world.  By doing so he made my brother and sister-in-law parents, my parents grandparents, and myself an aunt.  

This handsome guy weighed 8 pounds 7 ounces and measured 21.5 inches in length.  He has 10 fingers, 10 toes, a full head of hair, and is absolutely perfect!

The second I heard that Erin was in labor (the beginning of more than 26 hours!), I made the drive from Charlotte to Atlanta and joined the whole family at the hospital.  With Royce by her side, Erin remained strong, patient, and calm, delivering her first baby like a champ.

After a few hours of sleep, we were all back at the hospital to treasure time with Eli and his proud parents.  Eli seems to be the perfect baby, crying only when he wants to eat and is otherwise very content.

Eli, we passed you from person to person, taking turns staring into your eyes and being memorized by how incredibly in love we were with you in just a short few hours.

Watching my brother become a Dad has been nothing short of incredible.  A week ago, Royce was notorious for telling everyone things like "it's just a baby", "lots of people have babies", "it's not a big deal."  Immediately after delivery it was apparent that Eli has his Dad wrapped tightly around his finger.

Three generations of Perkins boys - Dad, Son, and Grandpa.  I have huge expectations for lots of adventures and memories between these three guys!

Watching your face provides entertainment for hours at a time.  In your sleep you sound like a little bird, squeaking and chirping and making hundreds of different faces.  While your first social smile won't occur for a few more weeks, you have us convinced you're a very happy baby with expressions like the one below.

Hey Royce, I thought you said you weren't going to ever change any diapers?  In this picture he was telling us he was an expert diaper changer.

Day one of life wore this little one out!

When Royce and Erin came home from the hospital, I was fortunate to spend some quality time with Eli.  While his Daddy worked and Mommy recovered, I spent hours rocking, staring into his face, and simply living in the moment.  Even Kahlua snuck into the nursery for a chance to meet her brother.

Day three of life brought another morning of cuddles and rocking, lots of diaper changes, playing dress up with one of so many adorable onesies, reading Dr. Seuss books, and a visit to the pediatrician.  They confirmed that you're absolutely perfect.

Mommy and Daddy gave you a warm bath after you managed to pee all over yourself.  There's nothing cuter than a newborn, fresh and clean from their bath, with a spiked up hair style.

You and your Daddy look nearly identical when we compare your baby pictures.

Daddy says you look like you're ready for an E*Trade commercial in these pictures.

This Skratch Labs onesie was one of my first purchases when I learned that you were growing inside your Mommy's belly.  Fortunately, you're feeding like a champ be sure to let Mom know when you're ready to eat.

On day six, you took your first big trip out of the house and over to Grandma and Grandpa's house.  Bailey was very curious about you, most especially all of the noises you make.  You were perfectly behaved and slept while we all ate dinner.

We ate, watched basketball, snuggled with you, and then packed you up nice and warm in your blanket for the short drive back home.  Hopefully soon you'll figure out the difference between night and day so that Mommy and Daddy can get some sleep at night.

You spend much of the day sleeping, but Mommy captured this fantastic picture of you one morning when you really opened those blue eyes widely.  How is it possible that you're one week old already?

After a week of being home, I sadly had to say good-bye and make the trip back to Charlotte, but made sure to spend a couple hours with you first.  Your first mohawk was courtesy of Kona, who gave you a big slobbery kiss across the head.

Since your Aunt is going to be a pediatric orthopedist, I had to give you a good orthopaedic exam.  You humored me and didn't seem to mind a bit.  Your little arms, legs, hips, and spine look perfect!

I can't even begin to put into words how amazing you are, Eli.  Your Mommy and Daddy are fabulous parents and I can't wait to see what a wonderful boy they raise.  Grandpa and Grandma have fallen head over heels in love with you and will certainly spoil their first grandchild.  You are an incredible gift and treasure and I love you more than you'll ever know. This week I've spent more time than ever before sitting still, ignoring everything else in the world, and just simply enjoying the moment.  Being an Aunt is better than I ever imagined!  

You're an incredible boy, Eli Michael, and I'm so proud to call you my nephew.
In the words of Dr. Seuss:
"Wherever you fly you'll be the best.  Wherever you go you will top all the rest."

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Robert James Gavin 1937 - 2016

Born to Thomas and Frieda, he was the youngest of three children including sister Eileen and brother Thomas.  He was the proud parent of Kathy, Sean, and Patrick, and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren (including Eli, the most recent great-grandson born just three days before his passing).

Grandpa always enjoyed spending time with his children and grandchildren.  This was evident up until the end, when on one of his last days he repeatedly said "so proud" when looking at a picture of Royce and Erin with their newborn son.

Grandpa loved nothing more than a big holiday meal, always accepting a second helping and leaving not a single morsel untouched.  When given the choice of restaurants, he selected Mexican every time, and could have made an entire meal out of chips, salsa, and cheese dip.

After spending the majority of his life in Florida, he and Grandma moved north to the Atlanta area years after retirement.    Although he seemed to enjoy the area, there was nothing he disliked more than the winter weather.  His favorite hobby was reading, and at times he would finish a book every week.  His loyal companion, Happy, could always be found in his lap or curled up at his feet.

After more than six months battling cancer with family at his side, I'm quite positive Grandpa is glad to be done fighting.  Gone is the cane that he so adamantly refused to use, the multiple monthly doctor visits which frustrated him to no end, and medications that dictated his daily schedule.  Instead, I'm pretty sure he's reading lots of great books, eating dessert after every meal, and soaking up the sunshine.  Robert James Gavin - "Grandpa" - you will be missed by us all and will always hold a special place in our hearts.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Taste of the Nation 2016

Another Taste of the Nation Charlotte event is in the books, and it may have been the best yet!  The event started at 6pm on Monday evening under perfectly sunny blue skies.

I'll be the first to say I think the food is the most exciting part of this charitable event, but the reality is that our silent and live auction items hold the greatest fundraising potential for the local and national organizations.  From restaurant dining experiences, to weekend getaways, to a deluxe grill package, to jewelry, there were an abundance of auction items generously donated from the community.  

There were more than 100 bottles of wine valued greater than $20 that were available in the wine grab.  The gift bags were artfully decorated by local elementary school students.

Just prior to the beginning of the event, all of the head chefs gathered on stage for a group photo.  It's quite an accomplishment and honor to have twenty-six Charlotte restaurants participate in this event despite their very busy restaurants and special events calendars.

Second Harvest Food Bank and Community Culinary School of Charlotte were the local beneficiaries of Charlotte's Taste of the Nation.  I had the opportunity to tour Second Harvest Food Bank prior to the event and it is a tremendous organization and resource for the community.  They're always looking for volunteers if you have the time and interest!

And without further delay, here's a look at all of the incredible food that guests enjoyed over the course of the evening.  Hopefully by the time you finish reading this, you'll be convinced to buy tickets to experience it for yourself in 2017.

Mexican salads from Chuy's Tex Mex
Paco's Tacos chopped salad 
The Rosemary Lemonade from Dogwood Southern Table was refreshing between bites of food
Enso Asian Bistro's sushi always draws a large crowd

Lily's Italian Bistro was a new-to-me restaurant in Gastonia that won me over with their antipasto and seafood salads.
The roasted pig garnered lots of attention at Viviace's table.
Their pulled pork slider with a pickled kale slaw was a great combination.

East Coast Entertainment had the house rocking with live music.

The spicy tuna and avocado mousse over chocolate soil prepared by Coastal Kitchen and Bar was my pick for most creative dish of the evening. 

For vegetarians, this unique twist on cheese fondue and dippers was one of the stars of the night.  The Flipside Cafe deserves props for this addicting and unsuspecting pairing.

When it came time for dessert, the strawberry tiramisu from Vivace was creamy, sweet, and light.

Passion8 is known for their unique fine dining dishes prepared with local ingredients, and this octopus with a citrus vinaigrette was no exception.

For the carnivores, these espresso dusted lamb lollipops from Davidson Street Public House had mouths watering.  They were perfectly seared with a tender interior and paired with brussels sprouts.

Napa on Providence brought one of the customer favorite dishes - Shrimp and Lemon Gnocchi.

For those looking to indulge their sweet tooth, Johnson and Wales students brought NINE different layer cakes.

Piedmont Natural Gas Chef Doug Allen prepared several decadent bites in the Luxe Lounge, including conch fritters, a short rib pizza, and a deconstructed lobster boil.

Also satisfying guests in the Luxe Lounge were these caramel popcorn macarons, pecan bars, and assorted chocolate truffles crafted by Central Piedmont Community College

Lumiere's Duck A L'Orange was one of the most elegant plates.

By this point in the evening, my stomach was approaching full, but that didn't keep me from enjoying a slice of key lime pie from Village Tavern.

Last, but certainly not least, was Ilios Noche's housemate mozzarella stuffed with cherry tomatoes and topped with basil micro greens and balsamic drizzle.
At this point, you're either drooling, stuffed just thinking about all of this food, or asking yourself how you could have possibly missed Charlotte's best culinary event of the year.  The evening was a HUGE success, raising more than $100,000.  Considering 1 of every 5 children in North Carolina will experience hunger and regularly miss meals, this fundraising is critical to our community's future.  Congratulations to No Kid Hungry, Taste of the Nation, chefs from the 26 Charlotte restaurants that participated, local beneficiaries, and numerous volunteers and donors for their tireless work and commitment to produce an event of epic success!