Sheila’s Engaged!

Christmas bauble with wedding and engagement rings in red satin

When the circles of SAM refilled this January, many of us came back with something new. Gifts from Christmas, a fresh theme, a renewed sense of hope and determination. But none of these novelties were as surprising as the new adornment on Sheila Grandy’s hand. SAM’s self-described free spirit had just said yes to marrying her boyfriend of the last two years.

Sheila and Brian met when a mutual friend suggested they connect. While they both attended the same church, Sheila had never seen Brian and was shocked she could have missed him in her post as a greeter.

The two hit it off and have been together for two years now. During the 2020 lockdown, Sheila and Brian spent more time together than ever before.

“Brian is usually in town only a couple of days a week since he works as an MLB recruiter,” Sheila said. “I typically travel and see my girlfriends on the weekends. When Covid hit, his grandaughter’s spring break visit with us turned into a six-week sojourn. With me working from home and Brian unable to travel, we entered a new phase of our relationship that confirmed we could spend a lot of continuous time together.”

Talks of marriage came up, and Sheila figured it would happen sometime in 2021. She had already sent photos of the ring she wanted, which a jewelry-maker friend in Houston offered to craft. But when it came time to open her gifts on Christmas Day, a proposal was not what Sheila was expecting.

“I opened a box with a purse from Brian’s daughter and grandson,” Sheila said. “Brian insisted we open all of our gifts early, and he asked whether there was anything in the purse. When I opened the card inside, he told me to look again, and tucked inside the envelope was a ring.”

Sheila was completely taken by surprise when she found the ring. Then, Brian knelt down and asked Sheila to marry him. His hand was well-played, as Brian had secured a second ring for the proposal while the Houston band was being made. Otherwise, there was no way he was sneaking it past Sheila.

For the wedding, the couple is planning a ceremony this October in Las Vegas. It is important to Sheila that the people involved all have close ties to her life. Her close friend and formal Bible study teacher is officiating, her niece is singing, and her best friends will stand as her bridesmaids.

For the honeymoon, the two plan to stay in Las Vegas for a few days after the wedding. They are considering another trip closer to Christmas, but they feel fortunate to have already been able to travel before the pandemic took hold.

“I never thought I’d get married; I’ve always been the free spirit,” Sheila said. “But my girlfriends love him, he’s always looking out for me, and I can still do my own thing and travel. For me, that’s part of the attraction.”

We at SAM wish Sheila and Brian the best as they plan their wedding and celebrate finding love in 2020.

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The SEO Belt

Meetings have a reputation for being dull, unglamorous affairs. That is, unless you’re a member of STRONG’s SEO team.

Deep within S3, muffled shouts of victory seep through the walls of American Graffiti. The hook of Eye of the Tiger can be heard faintly. Applause follows.

Inside the rounded chamber, a cherished rite is taking place. It is a monthly transfer-of-power centering around the SEO Belt.

The Belt represents everything victorious. Speed, accuracy, ingenuity, total domination. It’s the pinnacle of Team SEO success.

To stay organized, the SEO team creates a list of tasks each month, divided out by team member. The first person to complete their list in full earns rightful claim to the Belt for that month. In the event that no one finishes 100 percent, the trophy is given to the closest contender.

The interesting part about this “ceremony” is that each winner decides his or her acceptance method. Some, such as January winner L.C. Carlton, opt for a simple round of applause. Others prefer a more ostentatious crowning. SEO Belt transfers have ranged from walkout songs to full victory laps, belt held high in traditional wrestler style.

Thanks to an accidental click, the team ordered a child’s sized belt. Needless to say, wearing the Belt in the typical waisted style is no small feat. Instead, it has been transformed into a shoulder sash, neck accessory, and most recently, a prop for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

Winners must relinquish the Belt at the end of the month, but that doesn’t mean their deeds will be forgotten. All recipients sign the back of the Belt in gold Sharpie before handing it over, forever emblazoning their names amongst champions.

Traditions like the SEO Belt are just one way that teams are making time to Have Fun and Play Like a Champion every day at STRONG.

Cooking with Dobbs: Tailgate Hits

By: Laura Dobbs

This might come as a shock to some, but the truth is, I care almost nothing about football. I am, however, passionate about FOOD. And FOOTBALL means TAILGATING FOOD. Sign me up.

Whether you’re into Tailgating, Host-gating, or NO-GATING (i.e, keeping all the goodies to yourself), here are a few picks to get you started.

 

Texas Cannonballs  This one has been a favorite in my family for years. Not a big fan of olives, or have guests who aren’t? You can easily save some of the filling, or skip filling the olives entirely, and serve with your crackers of choice. Sundried Tomato and Basil Wheat Thins pair particularly well with this!

 

Black-eyed Pea Salad  Most folks reading this will be too young to remember The Frugal Gourmet. I certainly am (ahem). I picked up a used copy of one of his cookbooks recently and absolutely fell in love with this recipe. I’m going to level with you, I tweaked this one a lot. The final result was similar to Cowboy Caviar, but it was So. Much. Better. Here are some suggestions to take your version of this recipe to the next level:

  • Black-eyed Peas: Skip the soaking and then cooking. But skip the canned variety too. Hunt up some frozen black-eyed peas and cook those. You won’t be sorry.
  • Add garlic. Lots and lots of garlic. But not fresh, that would be bitter. Garlic powder is perfect for this recipe.
  • I grabbed a package each of pre-chopped Bell Peppers and Trinity Mix from Publix and dumped them into the finished salad. So, so, SO good!
  • This one is a bit exotic, so feel free to skip. I added ground sumac to the salad. This is a middle eastern spice, not too difficult to find, and definitely worth it if you’re so inclined. It added a nice, bright, flavor punch to the finished salad.
  • If you like a bit of heat, try adding some chopped jalapenos – pickled or fresh, your choice – you won’t be sorry.

You can serve the salad cold (you definitely want to let it sit in the fridge for a few hours to let the flavors meld), and it will be delicious. You can also serve it at room temperature and be just fine. It works equally well as a side dish or as a dip. Plunk it down next to some tortilla chips and you are good to go!

 

This last bit hardly counts as a recipe. I’m giving it to you anyway. I recently joined the cult of the Air Fryer. Card-carrying member. Completely unashamed. I’ve made many a dish in my lovely new Air Fryer, but my favorite so far is also one of the easiest: Air Fryer Kale Chips. They’re so easy! Here’s what you do:

  • Rinse and pat dry one (or two, or three) bunch of kale. If you’ve got a salad spinner, break that baby out! It’ll work a treat!
  • Take a sharp knife and cutting board and trim that broad stem out of the leaves.
  • Throw the de-stemmed leaves into a large mixing bowl, add a tablespoon of olive oil and some fine sea salt. Toss the leaves to get everything well-coated.
  • Take about half of those kale leaves and drop them into the basket of your air fryer. Don’t overcrowd, air circulation is key.
  • Set the temperature to 390 degrees, cook for about 6 minutes.
  • Dump the basket and repeat with the remaining kale leaves.

Seriously! It’s so good. They’re so good that you almost didn’t get a picture to accompany this so-called “recipe.” That’s because we were too busy chowing down on the finished product to document the results!

Oh! Here’s an extra tip: you’re going to be tempted to grab a bag of the pre-washed, pre-shredded kale leaves from the produce section. Don’t do it! It sounds like a great shortcut, but I can tell you from experience that those things shrivel up to basically nothing when you give ‘em the chip treatment.

These will keep in an airtight container just fine for a couple of days. No refrigeration needed. After that, assuming they last that long, they start to lose their crispness.

Don’t forget, unless you’re baking, most recipes are suggestions, and should absolutely be tailored to suit your individual tastes. If it tastes good to you, then it’s right! Enjoy!

Dear Dad: Jokes From Our Favorite Blokes

Few things are as equally endearing and exasperating as the dad joke. With June comes Father’s Day, so the dads of STRONG have pulled out their best lines.


1. I was playing chess with my friend, and he said, “Let’s make this interesting.”

    So we stopped playing chess. – Stan Long

2. What’s a pirate’s favorite restaurant?

     ARRRRRby’s – Will Giuliani

3. How do you find Will Smith in the snow?

     Look for the fresh prints! – Jeremy McRee

4. “Dad, can you put my shoes on?”

     “No, I don’t think they’ll fit me.” – Chris Jones

5. Where do Volkswagens go when they get old?

     The Old Volks home. – Marcus Turner

6. Dad: “Have you heard about the new movie Constipation?

     Kid: “What? No!”

     Dad: “It never came out.” – Nathan Phillips

7. Son: “Dad, how many people work at your office?”

     Dad: “About 10% of us.” – David McMath (referencing his former company)