The Pop Up Restaurant Challenge

Each year in October, Chattanooga celebrates its innovation, startup and entrepreneurship communities with Startup Week. The week is packed full of awesome seminars, panels, socials and many more events that bring together people from all corners of the business community and beyond. It’s a week filled with networking, learning and just having a great time with the community.

Earlier this spring, an online community called Chattanooga Eats launched, and it has already made a great impact in the food scene. Chattanooga Eats is a comprehensive guide to Chattanooga’s food scene. It was started by two guys who wanted to explore the local cuisine and make it more accessible to Nooga residents, travelers and tourists. CHA Eats also records podcasts that feature local chefs, restaurant owners and foodies who tell their stories for other Chattanoogans to hear. It’s a foodie (or in my case, food blogger’s) dream website, and the community around it is growing fast.

And of course, we couldn’t have Startup Week without a great food event.

This year for Startup Week, Chattanooga Eats hosted the first-ever Pop Up Restaurant Challenge.

pop up restaurant challenge

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Handcrafted Wishes 2016: A Night of Food, Beer & Charity

Chattanooga’s social scene is packed full of charity and benefit events (see Taste 2016 and Southern Brewers Festival). One of the best that I’ve been to so far was Handcrafted Wishes, which happened this past Friday, Oct. 7, at the Hunter Museum of American Art up in the Bluff View art district.

The second annual Handcrafted Wishes event was put on by Hand Family Companies, a leading beverage distribution company based up in Clarksville, Tennessee (with a sizable presence in Chattanooga) and represents some of the most recognizable brands. The event brought some of the best food in Chattanooga and some of the best craft beer from around the region to the roof of the Hunter Museum for party-goers to enjoy all night. More than 20 breweries and 15 restaurants participated and shared their eats and drinks.

view of river from hunter art museum chattanooga


What a view, right?

As I mentioned, Handcrafted Wishes is about more than just the food and beer. The Hand Family Companies are devoted to making positive impacts in the communities they serve. All proceeds from ticket sales and a silent auction benefitted the East Tennessee chapter of the famous Make A Wish Foundation, which does great work to help children with life-threatening illnesses make their truest wishes come true.

This year’s event was twice as big as last year’s inaugural Handcrafted Wishes, said Austin Sawyer of Hand Family Companies. This year brought twice as many people in attendance and even more food, drink and activities. Tickets sold out the morning of the event, and everyone who had one must have showed up, because the roof of the Hunter was jam packed with people ready for a good time. 600 people, to be exact.

handcrafted wishes 2016

The fun doesn’t end there; in addition to all the food and beer, there was live music from the Atlanta-based band Moontower, an interactive photo booth, a beer education table (presented by Chattanooga-based Heaven and Ale Brewery), retro arcade games from The Coin-Op Chattanooga and outdoor games from Southside Social. There was no way to not have a good time at this event.

hunter museum of art chattanooga

moontower band


I’ll always say “yes” to souvenirs from events. Always.

Some of my favorite eats from the night included pretzel bits from Brewhaus, new chicken tacos from Flying Squirrel, gelato from Milk & Honey and ribs from Feed Co. Table & Tavern. I’m already a huge fan of Squirrel’s cuban tacos, so I knew the chicken tacos would be right up my alley.

chicken taco flying squirrel

For the brews, I was super excited to sample a couple sips from Creature Comforts Brewing Company, based in Athens, Ga. I have a few friends who rave about it, so I’m glad I finally had a chance to see what they were talking about. Their Athena berliner weisse was fantastic. I also highly recommend Bell’s specialty Oktoberfest brew.


But far and away, the best part of the night was enjoying the company of some of the best people in town and dancing the night away with live music. My Snapchat story was on fire that night. Just saying. Oh, and not to mention that the event raised more than $10,000 for the Make A Wish Foundation.

If you missed Handcrafted Wishes, have no worries — it will be back next year! Expect it to be even more awesome than it was this year with new features, food and brews. Stay tuned on the Hand Family Companies website and Facebook page for updates and news for next year!

In the meantime, there are plenty more awesome events coming up in Chattanooga this fall. Next up on my list: the Best Town (For)Ever celebration and the Chattajack paddle board race!

What’s next up on your calendar this fall?

Behind the Scenes at the Chattanooga Symphony

The Tivoli Theater stage was set with curved rows of black chairs and metal music stands. One by one, musicians of the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera meandered through the chairs to their own, carrying black cases and folders stuffed with sheet music. When they found their chairs, they started to assemble their instruments, run a few scales and review their music.

Backstage, other musicians–mostly those with larger instruments and cases–unpacked on folding tables or against the back wall. The concert’s guest pianist practiced on a black Steinway & Sons piano.

Several minutes later, all of the chairs were filled and the stage is bustling. Music director Kayoko Dan stepped onto her platform, and everyone quieted their instruments and looked to her. That meant it was time for rehearsal to start.

chattanooga symphony and opera rehearsal

But this wasn’t any rehearsal. This was the final dress rehearsal for the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera’s Opening Night concert of the 2016-2017 season.

Kayoko said a few words to her orchestra before concert mistress Holly Mulcahy lead them in tuning. Then they go into the first run-through of Tower’s Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman, No. 2. It was a short piece, so it went quickly, and they moved on to Strauss’s Don Juan, and later to Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2.

That night, I stood backstage and watched the rehearsal unfold. I thought back to my violin-playing days and the many symphony concerts I played in, in those 12 years. I remembered my own process for unpacking my instrument, cleaning the rosin dust off, reapplying the rosin on my bow and reviewing troublesome passages in the music before rehearsal or a concert began. I always loved the buzz of excitement right before a performance.


What made the night even more exciting was that a reporter from a local news station was there, too, filming for a segment on that Friday’s 6:00 news. They interviewed Kayoko and several other musicians throughout the evening. I loved listening in and hearing their sides of the story, the sides that we don’t see or hear as the audience. I listened to Kayoko talk about the preparation that goes into every concert, and the principal percussionist talk about how this is his first season with the Chattanooga Symphony.


News Channel 9 team talks to music director Kayoko Dan.


You can watch that news feature here.

As I listened to the interviews and rehearsal, I thought about how amazing it is that so many different people and pieces can create and produce a work so magnificent. Sure, I knew it was possible because I did it for years myself, but it was different to witness it as an outsider, especially as an outsider with the musical background. I was a student; these were professionals. I dedicated my free time to the violin for 12 years; they dedicated their lives to their instruments. I remembered the side-by-side concert back in the spring, when the CSO Youth Orchestra played alongside the CSO. How cool that must have been, for both orchestras.

The night of the concert, the buzz of excitement and anticipation was ten times stronger. The scene was similar: the musicians filed in backstage and unpacked their instruments in the same ways they did the night before. But this time, they were dressed in all black and took a little extra time preparing their instruments. I knew what that was like. I always took a few extra minutes to run through certain passages in the music.


Guest pianist Ning An is filmed by News Channel 9.

When the lights dimmed several minutes later, the crowd hushed almost immediately; we all knew what that meant. The executive director made her welcoming remarks and thank-yous, and then welcomed Kayoko Dan to the stage for the first piece. First came the Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman No. 2, followed by Don Juan, “the whole piece, not just the part they ask for at auditions,” as Kayoko put it. The highlight of the concert, though, was guest pianist Ning An playing Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the orchestra. I’d watched him practicing backstage at dress rehearsal and was amazed at the way he played then. Watching and listening to him perform the piano concerto was a whole different experience. His talent was unbelievable.

tivoli theater chattanooga tennessee

The Chattanooga Symphony & Opera’s season has just begun. There are many, many more incredible concerts planned for this season, and there’s sure to be at least one that fits your tastes. From Beethoven and Mozart to big band and swing, the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera has it all.

Have you ever been to a symphony concert? Which CSO concert are you looking forward to the most this season?

7 Ways to De-Stress After a Long Day

Well, another Monday is here, which means it’s the start of another work week. Mondays aren’t often easy or fun, but every week they come and every week we make it through.

Life is stressful. Between our jobs, our friends, our families and everything in between, there’s always something to drive us crazy. And if it happens on a Monday, well that’s just icing on the cake. When do we ever have time to slow down and relax?

As stressful as life can be at times, we can’t let it consume us; we have to give ourselves time to rest and recharge. It’s so important to take time to de-stress after long days at work or school, or even just after a full day of running errands and adulting. That can be pretty tiring and overwhelming sometimes, too. Even if it’s only for 15 or 20 minutes, making that time each day to de-stress is important to our health.

7 ways to de-stress after a long day

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11 Things to Do This Fall in Chattanooga + a Giveaway!

As much as I love summer, I’m always super excited when fall comes around. There’s so much to love about this season, from all pumpkin everything to football to sweater weather and beyond. I’ve already had my one obligatory pumpkin spice latte of the season, so now I’m ready for everything else.

This summer in Chattanooga was jam packed with some amazing events, and the fall calendar is no different. There will be things to do almost every weekend now through the holiday season. My calendar is going to fill up quickly with all sorts of special events.

Here are 11 things to do in Chattanooga this fall!

In general, I’m a huge fan of apple picking and going to pumpkin patches. There are plenty of places in Tennessee and North Georgia to pick apples of any and all varieties. I’m a fan of R&A Orchards in Ellijay, Ga. I came back last year with nearly two pecks of apples that I turned into applesauce and apple butter.


If shows and concerts are more your style, the Tivoli Theater has a fantastic schedule for the 2016-2017 season. If you’re looking for any special events, here’s what’s happening in Chattanooga now through the end of the season:

3 Sisters Bluegrass Festival – Sept. 30 – Oct. 1 // Two whole days of nothing but bluegrass, at Ross’s Landing right down by the Tennessee River. This year marks 10 years of the festival, and the lineup for this year can be found on their website. The best thing about 3 Sisters Bluegrass Festival: it’s completely free.

Wine Over Water – Oct. 1 // It’s exactly what it sounds like: a wine festival set overlooking the Tennessee River in downtown Chattanooga. This is one of the best things to do this fall in Chattanooga. Sample wines from over 100 wineries and taste food from some of the best local chefs. Are you a red or a white person?

Rock City’s Rocktoberfest – October 1-30 // One of Chattanooga’s iconic landmarks and attractions transforms into an autumnal paradise with fall foliage and all things German. There will be German food, beer, music, dancing, characters in costume and more to bring the true Oktoberfest spirit.

Autumn Children’s Festival – Oct. 1-2 // Want to get the kids out for a day of pony rides, face painting, carnival games and more fun? Get the family together for the Autumn Children’s Festival at the Tennessee Riverpark.

11 things to do in #Chattanooga this fall + a GIVEAWAY! Click To Tweet

Handcrafted Wishes – Oct. 7 // Here I am with my food and drink benefit events again! Spend an evening at the Hunter Museum of American Art tasting great local food and craft beer, playing some games, listening to live music, and best of all, giving back to the community. All proceeds from the event’s ticket sales and silent auction go toward the local Make a Wish Foundation chapter. Check out their website for more information about restaurants and breweries that will be there. Did I mention it’s on the rooftop of the Hunter Museum, overlooking the river and the bluff? Talk about a view. *This event is 21+ only.

Best Town (For)Ever – Oct. 14 // Did you know that Chattanooga was voted Outdoor Magazine’s Best Town Ever two years in a row? Well, it was. And it’s still awesome. We’re celebrating that again with live local music, delicious food, an outdoor expo and everything else that makes Chattanooga such a wonderful place. The festivities take place on the 700 block of Cherry Street on Oct. 14.

Cleveland Apple Festival – Oct. 15-16 // Speaking of apple picking, check out the Cleveland Apple Festival up in downtown Cleveland, Tenn., the weekend of October 15-16. Aside from apples galore, there will be an arts and crafts show, live music, food booths, hay rides, activities for the kids and more. All net proceeds from the festival will go toward other non-profit organizations in the Cleveland area.

Chattanooga Oktoberfest – Oct. 15-16 // Not to be confused with Rocktoberfest, of course. Who doesn’t love a good German celebration? This is Chattanooga’s premier Oktoberfest event, held at the First Tennessee Pavilion (where the Sunday farmer’s market is). It’s filled with German food, lots of beer (or bier, as the Germans say), music, dancing and good times. Prost!

Chattajack – Oct. 22 // Paddling up the Tennessee River for more than 30 miles? Sounds amazing. Or crazy, depends on your perspective. Whether you’re paddling or watching, this is one of Chattanooga’s biggest outdoor events of the year. I kind of really want to train for it for 2017. Maybe.

Head of the Hooch – Nov. 5-6 // Watch from one of Chattanooga’s bridges or along the banks of the river as hundreds of rowers race in the second largest regatta in the country. I’m a fan of just standing on the walking bridge and watching from above.

What are you excited for in #Chattanooga this fall? Click To Tweet

Main x 24 – Dec. 3-4 // Okay, so this is a bit past the fall, but it’s still one of the biggest events and most exciting things to do in Chattanooga. Mainx24 is a 24-hour festival that includes everything from food, to live music, to parades, to people in the streets and everything in between. There will be more than 100 events in the 24 hours, so there’s plenty of things to check out and experience. Plus, this year is the festival’s 10th anniversary, so if it’s not on your calendar already, it should be.

And that’s not all! I’m super excited for this giveaway: enter below for your chance to win two general admission tickets to Handcrafted Wishes on October 7 at the Hunter Art Museum! All you have to do is leave a meaningful comment on this post and you’re entered.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Enter TODAY and stay tuned – the giveaway closes October 1 and a winner will be announced October 3!

There are tons of exciting and awesome things to do in Chattanooga this fall. Which events are you most excited for this fall?

10 Things That Bring Me Joy

This post was inspired by a topic from the Blogtember Challenge. I didn’t have a chance to link up on that day, so I’m writing about it now. Woo!

If you’re new around my blog, you may not know that my blog started as “On a Lighter Note,” and I wrote about the little things that brought me joy in my days. That was my sole purpose in blogging. It got old after a while, so I shifted my purpose toward something else.

Even though I’m not blogging about it specifically, I always look for joy in each and every day. There are so many things in each day worth smiling for, no matter how large or small. It’s so important–for our sanity, for our mental and emotional health–to find things that bring us joy in every day and reflect on them and the joy they bring us.

10 things that bring me joy

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