Dishes by Dobbs

by Laura Dobbs.

Forget winter – FALL is coming! And with it, the heartier fare we associate with cooler weather, cozy fires, and those oh-so-forgiving sweaters. Ooh! And Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Let’s not forget Pumpkin Spice Lattes!

Though the summer heat is still with us, I’m already road-testing recipes for fall. Here are few that definitely made the grade:

Pumpkin Alfredo

This recipe bills itself as being a lighter version of a classic Alfredo, but it does call for 6 TBS of butter. Don’t let that freak you out. It’s worth making, and comes together very quickly.

If you’re like me, and there’s no such thing as too much garlic, go ahead and add another dobbs recipe editedhalf or whole garlic clove.

Don’t be stingy with the parmesan. The sauce doesn’t call for salt, so the parm and the pasta cooking water are the only sources for this recipe.

Not a fan of fettuccine? Try browning the butter and adding sage to the sauce, then serve it with the fresh cheese ravioli or tortellini of your choice.

Want to make it heartier? Grilled chicken would pair well with this sauce. Even easier, carve up a rotisserie chicken and serve it!

Italian Mixed-Greens Salad with Prosciutto and a Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette

This salad is absolutely delightful with the Pumpkin Alfredo.  The lemon juice and white wine vinegar in the vinaigrette are a nice counterpart to the creamy Alfredo. The crispy prosciutto balances the zing of the dressing and gives it substance.

Feeling like this is all too much work? Skip the homemade dressing. Zoe’s Kitchen sells theirs by the bottle and it would make a nice substitute.

The recipe doesn’t say it, but make sure you cook your prosciutto on MEDIUM or MEDIUM-LOW heat. Prosciutto is sliced paper thin and burns easily. If you have prosciutto left over, crumble the extra onto your sauced pasta!

Rosemary, Lemon, & Feta Spread

Fix this first! And then let it chill in the fridge while you work on the Alfredo and the salad. You could certainly eat this as soon it’s mixed, but the flavors definitely benefit from an opportunity to rest and meld.

Serving made easy: grab one of those skinny baguettes from Publix and ask them to slice it for you. Arrange the slices on a baking sheet, and pop them in the oven at 325° to 350° until nice and toasty. Mine took about 8 minutes.

Use a light hand with the rosemary to start. You can always add more, but you can’t remove it. I like rosemary, but it’s easy to end up with something that tastes more like Pine-Sol than feta spread.


All of these recipes call for fresh herbs. Fresh herbs, while lovely, are also pricey. You can easily substitute dried herbs for fresh in any or all of these recipes. 1 TB of fresh = 1 Tsp of dried.


by Luke Thomas.

will siggraph

As the plane began to lift, Will Giuliani peered down at the shrinking city, not knowing how different he would be the next time he caught the glint of Vulcan’s iron-wrought visage welcoming him home.

The destination: Los Angeles, CA. Giuliani spent four days in the City of Angels this summer. This was no casting call, though. He was sent here on a mission, commissioned by STRONG, to soak up knowledge rather than sun during this mid-week excursion.

Giuliani attended the 2017 SIGGRAPH conference July 30–August 2. The annual gathering of motion graphics designers and developers has been around since 1974. Its moniker serves as a much shorter version of “Special Interest Group on Computer GRAPHics and Interactive Techniques.”

Originally, SIGGRAPH focused on computer engineering, but after Pixar debuted its animation work in the 1980s, the conference has taken on more of an artistic theme. For Giuliani, an event like this is worth its weight in pixelated gold.

The production team at STRONG uses Cinema 4D to do most of its animation work, so when the company learned that Cinema 4D would be the largest exhibitor at the conference, the choice to send one of our own became clear. Giuliani spent 12–13 hours a day at the conference center, typing scores of notes and following along with demonstrators on his own MacBook.

“It was like being in college,” Giuliani recalled enthusiastically. “But as great as it was to sit in and work through these demonstrations, the chance to meet the artists themselves – many whose online tutorials I’ve followed over the past 10 years – was unbelievable.”

The in-person access to these gurus was, without doubt, the pièce de résistance for Giuliani. He met Nick Campbell, considered to be the most influential Cinema 4D artist today. Campbell spearheaded the open information movement for the software.

“Before Campbell, the Cinema 4D culture was very esoteric,” Giuliani said. “He was really the first one to put his knowledge out there online in the form of video tutorials instead of keeping it all to himself. Without him, I may never have had the chance to learn what I know today.”

Indeed, Giuliani’s skillset is the fruit of self-taught labor, made possible in large part by the internet. At the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Giuliani studied music technology. It wasn’t until his senior year that he took a multi-media productions course as part of his curriculum. The class touched briefly on motion graphics techniques, but that’s all it took. Giuliani was hooked.

“It wasn’t until I arrived at the conference that I realized this is the first time I’ve been around other Cinema 4D artists,” Giuliani said. “Seeing how other designers and production teams worked and solved problems has given me tons of insight I can bring back to STRONG.”

Giuliani wasn’t going to squander this unique opportunity. He connected with industry experts at the conference, and his networking finesse has already proven useful. Just a few weeks after his return, Giuliani was tasked with a new animation project. Unsure of the best way to execute, he reached out to a fellow Cinema 4D expert he had met at SIGGRAPH. The extra brainpower was all it took to have the project up and running.

Like other tech and trade fairs, SIGGRAPH showed a glimpse into the future of the motion graphics industry. Virtual reality was a big part of this year’s conference, and while we aren’t developing video games at STRONG, the technology that comes from this push for VR is full of fringe benefits.

“We use a lot of physics simulations in our spots,” Giuliani said. “Being able to create moving water, for example, requires complex simulations that will only get easier with these new developments.”

One of the most intriguing demos of the conference came from the motion graphics artist for the band Muse. She displayed a marionette hand that, when played on-screen behind the band, ostensibly controlled the musicians like puppets on a string.

The fascinating part about this animation is that it was created from a real human hand. The designer used a glove attached to a computer to record the movements of her hand, then used it to create the animation.

“That kind of animation would take an incredible amount of time if it had to be done manually,” Giuliani said. “But when it’s modeled from real human movement, it’s much easier. This is definitely something we could use here at STRONG.”

That Thursday evening, as he braced himself for the jolt of adjoining rubber and tarmac, Giuliani shut his laptop with a contented smile. He had learned much, but there was still a wealth of information to be put into practice. After just four days, Giuliani recalled, he returned from the most valuable experience of his career.

On The Move

hayley football

by Katie Reeves

Q&A with Hayley Winkler

In the coming months, Media’s Hayley Winkler will be transitioning from her position as Media Assistant to Account Coordinator on the Account Team, and will be joining Team Connie. Let’s get a closer look at AT’s (soon to be) newest member.

KR: What are you most looking forward to about joining the Account Team?

HW: I’m looking forward to learning about and working with all the different departments and getting to work with more people around the office. I can’t wait to join AT and see where this next step takes me at SAM.

KR: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

HW: That I have a twin brother, named Colin. But I am the older one (by 3 minutes).

KR: What are you known for?

HW: My crazy laugh!

KR: If you were the CEO of a company, name one thing you would make mandatory in an office.

HW: Four-day work weeks.

KR: As we know, Media is a spectacular department. What will you miss most about Media?

HW: My team! The Media team brings such good vibes to the table, and we all work so well together – we truly are one brain! They have been nothing short of amazing to me since I started out here at SAM, and I have learned so much from all of them, I can’t thank them enough for everything. Media, you have such a special place in my heart, I’m so excited I still get to work with you!!

KR: And possibly most importantly…. would you let us hook up your “recently played” list on Spotify to the office speakers?

HW: Yes! That would be the Top of the Charts playlist, which I love


This transition means Strong is growing again! Now go get after that referral fee.

A Grand Production

Old movie camera

a collaboration by Tori Reid and Luke Thomas

For a department charged with creativity, it’s no surprise how the members of the production department have spent their summer. From Vegas nights to crab-filled afternoons, this SAM Squad is starting August with a story or two.

A Crabby Vacation

Every July, Production Manager Julie Stanford slips away from Strong and takes a tropical hiatus. This is the third year in a row that she has taken her family and friends to Navarre Beach, Florida. The beach features a pristine shoreline and, thanks to its close proximity to the nearby nature preserve, offers a quiet and relaxing setting. But Stanford doesn’t come just to be a beach bum. Navarre Beach is only about 30 minutes from Destin and Pensacola, so there are plenty of chances to hit the town.


This year, the group was pretty active to be on a beach vacation. There was kite flying, kayaking, bike riding, and yoga on the beach. One day was just to relax, though, and involved an hour facial and a 90-minute full-body massage. For Stanford, this was a chance to really let loose and have fun.

“This was the first time I’ve ridden a bike in 20 years,” Stanford said. “It’s true – you really don’t ever forget how to do it!”

The favorite activity of the group was something unique to the Navarre Beach area – an excursion to Crab Island. The group rented a boat for the day and headed out on open waters. The island is only a quick boat ride from the shore and features crystal clear waters, a shallow wading area, and an abundance of hermit crabs, naturally. Clawing for crabs isn’t the only fun part about the island. Stanford’s family and friends enjoyed music and drinks from the nearby tiki huts, and they spent the day ensconced in inflatable donuts, drifting through the seascape.

NAB’d in Vegas

What Happens in Vegas…

Doesn’t always stay in Vegas. John Paul, Mary-Kate, Tori, and David brought back a wealth of the latest knowledge in broadcast technology from their trip to NAB in Las Vegas.

The conference is the largest in the world and hosts vendors and speakers from every aspect of the media, entertainment and technology industry. The focus of this year’s conference was on the future impact of technology on the broadcast and entertainment industries.

The team discovered tons of exciting new trends from effective means of advertising in nab vegassocial media to the latest advertising mediums and digital platforms. Creation to consumption was the focus of the group and how SAM could apply that to our everyday work flows. They learned fresh takes on some traditional concepts as well as new technologies and cameras that aren’t on the market yet.

There was no gamble when it came to making a decision on some of the technology upgrades that the Production department needed.  The editors now have state-of-the-art editing suites with stand-up desks and brand-new Flanders broadcast monitors. They also brought home a new Sony camera for the company to use for in-house projects and videos, making great use of what social media and production can create completely in-house.

The trip was a success, and the team brought back much insight that will continue to keep SAM ahead of the competition on the cutting edge of technology and market trends.


One Plus One

This summer, Copywriter Chase Rogers swapped ski-doo’s for “I do’s.” Rogers and his wife were married on June 24, 2017, at Union Hill Baptist Church. The ceremony and reception were traditionally themed, with about 250 people being in attendance.

“We wanted something where everyone could celebrate and enjoy themselves,” Rogers said. “We kept it as low-stress as possible.”

Afterward, the couple headed out to New Orleans to set sail for the Western Caribbean chase and wifeon a seven-day Carnival cruise. They visited spots like Cozumel, Belize, and the Honduras’ island paradise – Roatán.

After returning, the Alabaster resident revealed that the most challenging part of their new lifelong contract has been adjusting to each other’s schedules.

“It just takes planning and preparation,” Rogers said. “Her job is only two miles away, so she’s the lucky one!”

The story of how Rogers and his wife met is really a full-circle tale. In 2015, both found themselves in the reception hall of Rogers’ sister’s wedding. The spark was there, and so they began dating, and Rogers proposed on January 30, 2016. The couple celebrated their own wedding reception in the same hall where they had met.

These are only a few of production’s summer highlights. As we grow, so do the stories we can tell. Share yours below!




A Sticky Situation

zac's note

by Luke Thomas

Mischief has been plaguing the corridors of Strong Automotive Merchandising. From disappearing bobbleheads to forged sticky note summons, we’ve found ourselves in a truly sticky situation. This week, a few of the victims came forward. Here are their stories.

One of the first hoaxes of the day came from the department that specializes in finding errors – accounting. Early that morning, Charlene Meeks appeared at my desk with a salutation of “Reporting for duty, Mr. Luke.” Anyone who knows Meeks wouldn’t be surprised at that kind of jokey greeting, but when she handed me a sticky note that was ostensibly authored by me, I was perplexed. It said ‘Luke needs to see you ASAP,’ nothing more.

As the day unfolded, more notes appeared. Zac Cook returned from lunch to find a Malibu-Barbie-pink Post-It on his desk. This one also featured a ‘come see me’ message, but it was signed from ‘TL.’ There’s no one with those initials at Strong – trust us, we’ve checked.

“My first reaction was shock,” Cook recounted. “I wasn’t aware of the false post-it scandal circulating the company. Does anyone know a forensic handwriting analyst?”

These desk notes aren’t the only anonymous stickies that have appeared around the bathroom notebuilding. In late July, reports started flowing in that the women’s bathroom was littered with sticky notes touting positive messages. Investigative reporter Grace Hatcher took a camera to the scene to capture the collage of unauthored good vibes.

One of the last victims of the day was Kate Ray. Her prankster took it to a new level, leaving a note that said ‘Will you come see me, please? Gloria C.’

“The handwriting was TERRIBLE and not what I would expect Gloria’s handwriting to look like,” Ray said.

But she checked anyway. After learning that Cowan had not sent the note, Ray came up with a theory of her own.

“I blamed Will, duh,” Ray said. “He claims to have no part in it; however, a fellow production colleague pointed out the inconsistent large dotted i’s. When in doubt, always blame Will Giuliani.”

The mysterious sticky note bandit is still at large. If you’ve been a victim of a sticky, or any of the other strange happenings around Strong, let us know below!