Face to Face with the "Bear"

It might have been the coldest night of my life, some time in December of 1977. The occasion was the annual Blue-Gray game in Montgomery. Our small marching band from P.L.A.S. had been invited to perform at the halftime show. It was exciting but what we found more exciting was that Bear Bryant was dining in the hotel restaurant just below us. When asking the band director if we could go down and meet him and receiving a very firm NO, we persisted and eventually won the battle. We agreed not to “make a scene” – to just walk past the restaurant to see him – that’s all! Well…it didn’t quite work out that way. As we arrived at the exit to the restaurant to get our look at him, he was at the register just inside the door, paying for his meal. Forget the promises we made to the band director! As we all gathered in the hallway to meet him, we knocked over the Christmas tree! Remember those silver trees with the color wheel? One of those! A brave one asked for his autograph. He was so very kind and stood there and signed autographs for each one of us. We took a brochure from beside the register and tore it into strips for him to sign. What a memory! Several years earlier, 1972, to be exact, I had written Coach Bryant a letter telling him that I was the “biggest Alabama fan in the whole wide world” – addressed to Bear Bryant, Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He got it and you can see the letter I got back from him. For a 12 year old in Brundidge, Alabama, that was a big deal! Never did I ever think that I would meet the “Bear” face to face as we did that night in Montgomery. On January 26, 1983, as Coach Bryant was being laid to rest, I stood on the streets of downtown Tuscaloosa, with thousands of others (in a scene much like yesterday in State College, PA) to remember the man who took time for a young girl and her friends so many years ago.

Community Chef

Today’s “Community Chef” feature in the Tuscaloosa News features a recipe that I have used for years. It was shared with me by my dear friend, Barbara Kucharski. I have used it countless times over the years for my family, for guests, and for friends (it is great dish to take to someone). Probably the most memorable occasion of serving Chicken Lasagna was several years ago. We were having an “all guy” dinner with friends from the Alabama and Auburn Radio Networks following and Alabama/Auburn baseball game. I’m not sure these guys were so sure about “chicken lasagna” when it was served; however, it was a big hit. They must have enjoyed it as Rod and Andy still talk about it after all these years! This recipe was also featured in the Sprayberry “Game Day Specialties” cookbook that debuted in 2008. Most recently, I shared it with a friend who just had surgery. She requested the recipe because her children liked it so much. Enjoyed by all – men, women and children – I hope you enjoy it as well!http://food.blogs.tuscaloosanews.com/10029/community-chef-carla-allen/

God Bless You, Mrs. Paterno!

In 2008, I experienced great fun in compiling recipes for a cookbook fundraiser for Annie’s school, Sprayberry Education Center. I asked my husband if he thought football coach’s wives would contribute recipes to a tailgating cookbook. His reply, “why not? you’re only asking for a recipe”. That’s all the encouragement I needed so I went about requesting recipes through letters sent in the mail. The very first recipes(s) received were from Sue Paterno, wife of Penn State Head Coach, Joe Paterno! Wow! I was more than excited. Not only did Mrs. Paterno contribute 4 great recipes to our cookbook, she offered encouragement to a project that would benefit children with special needs. Our project raised approximately $15,000 for our school! With her recipes, she included a hand written letter about her work with special needs children through the State of Pennsylvania Special Olympics program. While we received lots of recipes from coach’s wives, her contribution was definitely a highlight. Also noteworthy, is that out of the major college coach’s wives, she was the only one to communicate with me directly, not through a secretary or SID. It was special! When we invited the contributors to attend our inaugural “Tailgating with the Stars” fundraiser, she was, again, the first to respond when she called me personally to let me know that she would not be able to come. We had a nice conversation about special children, my daughter, Special Olympics, John Mark Stallings and more. She just happened to ask about John Mark, son of former Alabama Coach Gene Stallings,  to find out that he had just passed away days before. “I’ll have to tell Joe – he’ll want to call Gene”. For the silent auction at our fundraiser, she and Coach Paterno both autographed a couple of our cookbooks. She inscribed, “Education – the best of all endeavors” followed by their signatures. I have one of those cookbooks, thanks to my husband who secretly purchased it for me at the event. I can’t thank them enough for their support and encouragement all the way from State College, PA to Tuscaloosa, AL! Today, my heart goes out to Mrs. Paterno and her family as Coach Paterno has passed away. Through these comments, I choose to honor the legacy of the Paterno’s to education and the community. RIP Coach Paterno. God bless Mrs. Paterno, the Paterno family and the entire Penn State community!

Gotta Start Somewhere

This is the beginning of a new adventure for me – the world of blogging! Not exactly sure what I am doing, but I gotta start somewhere! In December of 2003, I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, cancer of the bone marrow, and told there was no cure. In January 2005, I had a bone marrow transpant, donating my own bone marrow. Long story short, last year, I was told that I could be in the “small percentage of patients who had an autologous transplant who was cured”. Wow! I didn’t know that was an option! Well, I should have known because I serve an awesome God who is so capable of such healing! I am thankful every day for God who granted me this continued life, for my husband and girls, my parents, my in-laws, all our family and the best friends in the world who have been beside me all the way! Now…I want my life experiences to inspire others! This is NOT about cancer. I pray that I’m done with that! This is about living life and enjoying what you do. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord, plans to prosper, not harm, plans to give you hope and a future.” ‘Tis a blessing to be celebrating, cooking, creating and inspiring!