Archive for 2012

Merry Christmas!

From our home to yours, 
we hope you have a safe and happy holiday surrounded by those you love!

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Recipe: Spicy Roasted Rosemary Almonds

When I came across roasted almonds on the blog, Shutterbean, I new it would be the perfect accompaniment to the bourbon fudge. I mean it would be rude not to provide a balanced gift of sweet and salty.

Spicy Rosemary Almonds

1 16 oz raw bag of almonds
1.5 T olive oil
1.5 t chili powder
1.5 T chopped fresh rosemary
1 t sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 300 F. I brunt the first batch and reduced the temperature from Tracy's 325 and found success.

2. Toss the everything in a bowl ensuring the almonds are evenly coated. 

3. Spread across a foil lined baking sheet. 

4. Bake in oven for 10 to 20 minutes. Mine were well toasted after 10, so I removed them from the oven. You'll want to watch them closely as these guys can turn on you quite quickly. 

5. Cool to room temperature so you can package them to share with friends. Or you can keep them for yourself in an airtight container. Your secret is safe with me. 

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Recipe: Bourbon Fudge

Keith really knows how to make me happy. For my birthday last month, he gave me the most amazing chocolate truffles that were made with bourbon. We're talking little bites of heaven. I tried to pace myself and make them last as long as possible, but well, you see where this is going. Don't worry he's ordered more, but those little bites of heaven inspired the gift giving for this year.

It's become tradition to make a batch of rich chocolatey fudge. Don't worry, I use a really simple recipe.  But I upped the ante on it this time around. You guessed it. I introduced two of my favorite things... bourbon and chocolate. Talk about whoa! It's so good I almost considered hoarding it for myself. Then I remembered how easy it is to make and will probably make another batch to take with us when we see Keith's family. 

Bourbon Fudge

1 12-ounce bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk 
1 t. vanilla
2-3 T. bourbon 
dash of salt

Even our bourbon is festive this time of year!
1. Line an 8 or 9 inch square pan with wax paper.

2. Melt the chocolate chips, salt, and sweetened condensed milk in a heavy pan on the stove top. Keep stirring to prevent it from burning. 

3. Once melted, remove from heat. Stir in vanilla and bourbon. You can also throw in a handful of pecans or walnuts if you like. 

4. Spread evenly in the prepared pan.

5. Chill for at least two hours or until firm. 

6. Remove from pan, by lifting the wax paper. Cut into squares. 

7. Share as the perfect holiday gift, but be sure to sample a bite or two for quality control. 

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It's Beginning to Look Like Christmas

You may find this hard to believe, but we've had our Christmas tree up for several weeks now. We got a jump start on the holiday spirit when we took my family to Ford's Theatre for A Christmas Carol.  After seeing them off on Saturday morning, we spent that Sunday decking the halls. Of course, Sammy was there to supervise everything.

She wants to ensure people receive a proper seasonal greeting the moment they come into our apartment. As a thank you for her help, and because she's such a part of the family, we had to ensure she has a stocking hanging up too.

I'm hoping I can convince Keith that we should go all out and expand beyond the Charlie Brown tree next year, but it's not looking good. He's grown quite attached to this little guy. I just feel like our tiny tree is overwhelmed by the gifts. I wanted something fresh, which explains this impulse purchase from Whole Foods. Do you ever get sucked into those purchases too? No, just me.

For now, this rosemary tree will have to do as my fresh Christmas tree. It's pretty cute there on our buffet keeping the booze company. I'm fighting the desire to decorate even more, but then I'm reminded that I'll have to take it all down and find a place to keep it until next year. I guess it's a good thing work has been consuming so much of my time the past couple of weeks. Can't really start projects when you're too tired. 

Did you decorate this year? If so, do you have a fresh Christmas tree?

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Book Recommendations?

I admit I have a bit of a guilty pleasure when it comes to James Patterson novels. I enjoy that I can pick up one of his books and be entertained. Are they the best literary works? No, but I never claimed they were. I've grown rather attached to Lindsey Boxer in his Women's Murder Club series. 

I recently finished the latest book. And now I'm in a bit of a reading rut. I started Jeffrey Tobin's Oath. But I'm just put off by his writing style at the moment. I'm hoping I can revisit it and be ready to spend some time with it. I have other possibilities around the house, yet, I cannot get excited about any of them. 

So, do you have any suggestions? I'm open to style; I really want to read a good story. Thoughts?

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Night at the Theatre: A Christmas Carol

Don't worry I didn't deprive the family of turkey while they were here. I'm even sharing the obligatory turkey picture.

I always get busy that I forget to document the final product. Such a shame when I think about it. It was such a beauty. Had Sammy not gotten sick, I had big plans of sharing my Thanksgiving checklist. I guess there's always next year.

I think the highlight of the visit may have been the evening at Ford's Theatre. We kicked off the holiday season in traditional Washingtonian fashion by seeing A Christmas Carol. Keith, often a theatre critic, even enjoyed himself.

Everyone knows the story, so let's get to the highlights. The special effects were almost magical. The music was heartwarming. And the actors nailed it. I highly recommend fitting it in this holiday season if you can. There's also something special about sitting in the same theatre as President Lincoln and looking over to see his box honoring him.

Perhaps, this will become a holiday tradition for Keith and me. Do you have any holiday traditions?

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American History Museum

Hopefully, you had a wonderful Thanksgiving surrounded by the ones you love. For the first time, my mom and brother ventured out to spend their Thanksgiving with us.  My brother loves to geek out on history and since it was closed for renovations on their last visit, the American History Museum was a must-do. It's also a pretty safe bet as there is something for everyone. My mom would have spent hours admiring the First Ladies' exhibit had we not pulled her way.

Even after having checked it out several times already, I was excited to see there was a new exhibit on the history of food in American culture. I was in awe of Julia Childs' kitchen. I think she was on to something with the peg board. Don't be surprised if you see it make an appearance in my kitchen.

After rushing out of the museum, we were greeted by this site before hurrying up to Eastern Market to pick up the turkey and settle in for the holiday. 

Did you have family in town? If so, are there any local attractions you must fit in?

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Sick Purr Baby

This little sleepy head gave us a bit of a scare last weekend. Little miss Sammy wouldn't eat and wasn't even keeping water down last Sunday. Of course, Monday morning meant starting the week at the vet where x-rays were taken and a prognosis was made. Thankfully, our little purr baby is back to herself now, but not before making this past week a bit more stressful.

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Recipe: Apple, Pear & Cranberry Crisp

I love pie. There's something so very comforting about it. I'm sure this is attributed to my grandpa baking a different pie whenever I'd come home from college. This continued even after I moved out to Washington, DC. Grandpa would bake apple, chocolate cream, blueberry and every once in a while butterscotch. We'd sit, eat pie, and catch up on life. 

Well, I just don't have the patience to make a full pie. I tend to take the easy way out and bake a crisp. Eating a big bowlful of a fruit crisp isn't as comforting as a slice of warm pie, but it's still pretty darn good. Even better when I can justify it as breakfast the next morning. 

With more than enough apples and pears in our fruit bowl than Keith and I could eat before they started to spoil, I decided to bake a warm crisp. I gotta admit I was pretty excited when it turned out delicious because...well, this is a complete Nicole creation. If I had not already placed an order for an apple pie, you would see this on our Thanksgiving table next week. 

Apple, Pear & Cranberry Crisp


3 large granny smith apples
3 medium bartlett pears 
1 medium orange
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1/2 t. freshly grated ginger
1/2 t. cinnamon 
2 T. all-purpose flour

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

2. Butter an 8 inch square baking dish.

3. Peel the apples and pears. Slice to about 1/2 inch thick and place in a bowl.

4. Zest the orange and add to the apples and pears. 

5. Add cranberries, ginger, cinnamon, and flour to apples and pears.

6. Juice the orange and add that as well. Toss to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.  Set aside. 

Crisp Topping

1 c. thick cut oats
4 T. cold unsalted butter, diced into small cubes
2 T. all-purpose flour
1-2 T. brown sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon

1. Add all ingredients to a large bowl. 

2. Using fingers or a pastry cutter, cut the butter in. Make sure you don't have any large clumps of butter. I'm not as thorough to get it pea size.

3. Sprinkle the oat mixture over the baking dish filled with fruit. You can break up any large clumps at this point as well. 

4. Bake at 375 for 30 to 45 minutes depending on your oven. You want the fruit tender and the crumb mixture to be a golden brown.

5. Remove the oven and let cool for 15 minutes before serving. 

6. Delicious with ice cream or a dollop of vanilla yogurt. I admit to going with the yogurt when I'm trying to make myself feel better for enjoying this as breakfast. 

7. Enjoy!

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Bourbon Review: Parker's Heritage Collection 2012

Parker's Heritage Collection is a highly sought after annual release from Heaven Hill distillery.  The Heritage Collection allows Parker and Craig Beam, the father-son Master Distiller team at HH, to really explore the studio space in the Heaven Hill rick houses.  In past years, they've released a wheated bourbon finished in cognac casks, an ultra-aged bourbon (27 years) and a cask proof wheated bourbon among others.

PHC 2012
This year they've a high proof, 131.6 proof, mix of wheat and rye mash bills.  I was able to secure this bottle from Hi-Time Wine out of California.  I've spent some time with this bourbon, as I've tasted it a couple times over the course of the past 6 weeks or so.  On to the details:

Nose: Cinnamon, orange peel, and a whiff tobacco and leather.  I can tell from the nose that this is a complex bourbon.

Taste:  A maple sweetness on the tip of the tongue upon entry.  As it moves across the tongue, I got some traditional rye spiciness, and on the back of tongue I got more of the pleasing sweetness usually associated with a wheater.

Finish:  A nice complex mix of spice and sweet.

Overall:  I rate this at 89.  This improved a good deal after I opened.  When I first tasted it a few weeks ago,  I did not care for it.  After opening up some, it seems to have improved.  I'd be interested to taste this blind, since I know what's in it, I know what to taste for.  It would be interesting to see what I could pick out not knowing what it is.

All that said, it isn't as good as some of the Parker's Heritage Releases, though I haven't tasted them all.  The 2011 cognac barrel finished bourbon is one of my all time favorites, but this one does not reach that level.  It's a good bourbon though, and and if you can find for around $70, I think you should buy it.  I bought two; one to drink and one to bunker.

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DIY Bedroom Art

As I mentioned, Sandy helped me focus on a few things I have wanted to accomplish around the house. I purchased this large canvas almost six months ago.

I wanted a large piece of statement art to hang over the that gorgeous bed we purchased a while back. What do you think? I wasn't in love with it at first, but it is growing on me once I decided to live with it for a bit.

I'm slowly making progress on the bedroom even though we've lived in our current apartment for almost two years. Up next is a bench for the foot of the bed. There may also be new curtains in the future as well.

Have you created any masterpieces for your home?

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Good-bye Sandy

We had the pleasure of meeting Sandy over the weekend. You may have heard a bit about her. When I moved to the District, I never imagined I would live to tell you about not one but two hurricanes. Of these two, it appears Irene last year was a bit worse. Although, Keith and I agreed we couldn't imagine staying home through something like Katrina.

This storm was quite a bit of rain, but not downpours. The rain was steady with some fierce gusts of wind every once in a while. Ultimately, we had a nice little break from life. We had comforting lazy breakfasts.

I was able to get a few projects around the house knocked out. It feels pretty good to get that knocked off the to-do list.

When we weren't eating or tinkering around the apartment, we were cuddled up with this little purr baby catching up on TV, watching movies, or reading. 

We were very fortunate and probably a little spoiled considering we never lost power, didn't have to head into work, and had plenty of groceries. Our thoughts are with all of those who not as lucky.

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Homemade is better

Around 4 o'clock this afternoon all I could think about was a slab of cake with chocolate frosting. Considering I had planned to stop by the gym after work, I bargained that if I baked the cake from scratch it would some how work itself out. And that is probably why there are pants in my closet that don't fit. Nothing to do with metabolism. 

Well, cake baked and enjoyed. Now if only I had poured myself a glass of milk. 

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Book Review: Gone Girl

Did he kill her? He couldn’t have. He seems like such a nice guy. Maybe she’s still alive? Wait, maybe she really is dead. No, no. But wait…

That’s what I experienced reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Nick and Amy Dunne share the role of narrator as you learn about the fateful event of their fifth wedding anniversary and the days following it.  You learn of the friction and challenges in the marriage, but you also read of their sweet memories. It’s the twist and turns that keep you coming back for more.

Gone Girl is definitely one psychological suspense novel that will take you through a course of emotions and hold your interest once you get in about 100 pages. Don’t let the slow start discourage you. It’s completely worth the read.

I usually don’t go with the psychological suspense novels, but this one has me wanting to explore other possibilities. (Open to suggestions.)  I strongly recommend this novel especially since the weather is getting a little chilly – nothing better than snuggling up with a book, right?

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Night Out: Ryan Bingham

I'm getting older. It pains me to confess this, but after spending Saturday night out on the town I have to accept the facts. Who knew spending a couple of hours standing would leave me feeling hung over on Sunday morning? 

Keith and I went to see Ryan Bingham at the 9:30 Club. I only wish my photo would have turned out better. (I do have a bit of a crush on the man and this one really doesn't do him justice.) As much as I enjoyed seeing him in the flesh, I don't believe I'm cut out for the concert scene.  I guess I'm just thankful it wasn't a school night. I hope I'm not alone in this.

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Food, nap, more food

Sometimes you just have to take the time to nap, catch up with friends, run errands, and make a home cooked meal. And that's what this past weekend provided us. Well, the weekend started on Friday night with ambitious plans. Andrea and I thought we could eat all of these in one night after eating deep dish pizza.

Well, the effort failed miserably. We didn't even manage to finish one apiece. Instead, there are two whole cupcakes sitting in my freezer for the night we decide to stay in. Since I kicked the weekend off in a food comma, I basically tossed the original plan of home projects out the window. Why not continue with this theme of baked goods? Good idea, right? That's why I baked some pumpkin chocolate chip bread.

Since Sunday was the first truly chilly day in the District (I don't believe we broke 60.) with the threat of rain lingering, I figured I might as well make a big pot of chili too. Looks like we'll be eating this for at least two more meals. When will I remember that you cannot make just a little bit of chili?

I hope you had a good weekend with your loved ones. I'm slowly coming out of the food hangover and making scheduling some quality time with my gym membership. 

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Why, hello kitchen.

I think it's safe to say fall has finally made it's way to the nation's capitol. And it is glorious...the leaves are slowly starting to change, there's a chill in the air, and football has returned with the real refs. Can you tell this is my favorite time of year?

I don't know what it is about this weather, but I want to spend serious time reconnecting with my kitchen. After the extreme heat and humidity, I guess having a small galley kitchen with a window that doesn't open can do that to a girl. Tonight I skipped the gym to rush home and get a stew simmering on the stove and a pie baking in the oven.

In addition to rekindling the romance with my kitchen, I also like to spend a little quality time with my growing collection of cookbooks. Sometimes there's inspiration in those books and others I like to just eat with my eyes especially when it's one of those wonderfully photographed ones.

If I had the time and the budget for all of the ingredients, I would take a long sabbatical from the office and just cook or perhaps bake my way through each one. Even more I cannot wait for the day when I can find my cookbook collection a proper home within my kitchen. 

Do you have any cookbooks you recommend? I think I may be adding Fried and Champagne to the collection soon. 

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Friday Cocktails: Fall Sipper

Remember how Keith and I had big plans to get all healthy? Well, I think it's more like we're maintaining. For example, after returning home from the gym last night, I was planning a dinner of baked salmon, brown rice, and steamed broccoli. Instead, Keith cooked, i.e. he ordered pizza. Granted, it was really good pizza. And after that, why not just enjoy a cocktail too, right?

I present to you a perfect chilled seasonal cocktail...the Fall Sipper.

Fall Sipper

2 parts bourbon (I used Maker's 46.)
2 parts apple cider
2 parts ginger ale

1. Fill your glass with ice.

2. Add bourbon, apple cider, and ginger ale.

3. Give it a quick stir.

4. Garnish with an apple slice.

5. Enjoy!

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Book Review: Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

Feeling much better and I'm convinced it was thanks to the bourbon. I'm sure it had nothing to do with all the sleep, soup, and Nyquil. Now that I'm back to feeling like myself, I want to tell you about the latest book I finished. Usually, I wait until the end of the review to make my recommendation. Well, this one is so good I'm recommending it right now. The reviews (NYTimesNPR, etc.) all rave about it, in case you don't believe me.

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain is a great book that comments on contemporary American patriotism by telling the story of 19-year old Billy Lynn over the course of single day. The day is the final of a "victory tour" that's designed to reinvigorate support for the war. Lynn is a member of Bravo Squad, a group that survives intense firefight in Iraq, all of which is captured on film and later shown on Fox News. This, of course, turns them into overnight heroes.

BravoSquad is spending their final day, Thanksgiving, at the Dallas Cowboys football game. How much more American can you get? As you spend the day with Lynn, you learn his fears, dreams, and internal struggles about life and the war in general. I found myself emotionally invested in not just Billy's safety, but all members of Bravo squad.

I enjoyed this book so much I convinced Keith to read it too, and he's even recommended it to others. It's one of those book that once you pick it up, you won't want to put it down. Like The Angry Buddhist, I found myself thinking about the characters long after I had finished the book. I strongly recommend adding this to your list of must reads.

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Let this be my cure

What I thought was fall allergies is in fact a nasty little cold. I have a cough that rattles my chest. My head is all congested and I should probably buy stock in Puffs. I've tried Dayquil and Nyquil without too much success. I'm pulling out the big guns, baby.

Let's hope tonight's pour has me feeling better in the morning. If not, I'll be looking for answers. I hope you'll have something to share.

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Recipe: Bourbon Roasted Peach No Bake Cheesecake

We have been counting down until the return of the NLF since February 6, 2012. And long as last, the wait is over. Keith and I agree that Sundays during football season on meant to be spent lounging around the house eating junk food and watching every play. Keith also monitors his three fantasy teams, which I've finally made peace with. I'll spare you my fantasy football rant for another time.

With this being the start to the season and summer appearing to ride off into the sunset, I couldn't help but want to celebrate. What better way to do that than with a cheesecake? Seeing how successful the pairing of peaches and bourbon went with the ice cream, I decide to try my luck again with a cheesecake. I only had a few requirements...
  1. I wanted to taste the subtleness of the bourbon. 
  2. It had to be a no bake cheesecake. 

Thank god for the internet, right? I was able to adapt two recipes to get just that. What we end up with was a tangy, creamy cheesecake topped with the last bites of summer's peaches. 

Roasted Bourbon Peach No Bake Cheesecake
Adapted from recipes by Joy the Baker and Serious Eats

Bourbon Roasted Peach Topping:

4 ripe, but firm peaches, peeled and sliced
3 T. unsalted butter, melted
1/3 c. bourbon (I used Maker's Mark)
pinch of salt
2 T. brown sugar

Graham Cracker Crust:

1 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs
2 T. granulated white sugar
6 T. unsalted butter, melted

Cheesecake Filling:

8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1 t. vanilla
1 c. heavy whipping cream

1. Prepare the graham cracker crust by mixing the crumbs, sugar, and melted butter. If using whole graham crackers this can be done in the food processor. Press the combined mixture into the bottom of a well greased 9 inch spring form pan. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge to chill while you make the filling. 

2. Beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the vanilla. 

3. In a separate clean bowl, beat the cream until soft peaks form. Add half of the whipped cream to the cream cheese mixture and gently fold in. Fold in the remaining whipped cream. Pour the filling over the chilled crust and smooth the top. Cover and place back in the fridge. 

4. While the cheesecake is chilling, roast the peaches. Preheat the oven to 450 F. Arrange the peaches in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet with lined with foil. Whisk together the melted butter, bourbon and salt. Pour the bourbon mixture over the peaches. Sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of brown sugar over the peaches. Roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the peaches are tender and the liquid is syrupy. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. 

5. Once the peaches are cool, spoon the peaches over the cheesecake. Be sure to scrape off the syrup as well. Cover again with plastic and chill in the fridge for at least 6 hours. 

6. Run a sharp knife dipped in hot water around the edge of the pan. Remove the spring form and slice. Can top with a dollop of whipped cream, but just as delicious without. 

7. Enjoy!

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Friday Cocktails: Summer Time Rickey

Summer is about fresh produce and seafood, sticky heat, and cold cocktails. As summer winds down, Labor Day is  the last hurrah before bidding summer farewell. And last weekend, we made sure to throw some thick steaks on the grill and bid it a proper adieu. While sitting on the back porch supervising keeping Keith company as he did so, I sipped on a refreshing blend of vanilla infused bourbon with a hint of lime and a splash of soda. This is a crisp and cool beverage with a bit of a kick, if you're not careful. 

Summer Time Rickey
Rift on Senart's Oyster & Chop House Cocktail 

Vanilla infused bourbon*
Juice of half a lime (the whole lime was just a tad much for me)
Club soda

1. Fill a highball glass with ice.

2. Add the lime juice.

3. Fill the glass with bourbon halfway (or less to taste).

4. Top with the soda. 

5. Garnish with a wedge of lime.

6. Cheers!

* To make the infused vanilla bourbon, I added a whole vanilla bean to a bottle of Jim Beam white label and let it get cozy for about 5 days. Every day I shook the bottle. After the third day, I would either smell or taste to see if it had reach it's proper vanillaness. On the fifth day, I strained the bourbon through a coffee filter on a fine mesh strainer to capture the little seeds before pouring it back into the original bottle. 

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Book Review: When We Were Romans

Do you have ever have a stack of books by your bed (or maybe somewhere else in your home) that you want to read, but none of them appeal to you at that specific moment when you have finished one and are looking for another?

I had read The Angry Buddhist and wasn’t quite ready to be finished with those characters. As I reviewed the pile of books that I had ordered with such enthusiasm they just weren’t striking the same excitement with me now that I was ready to select one as my next read. I wasn’t sure if I was having some kind of book hangover or what. So I started poking around on the NY Times Book Review, my recommendations at Amazon, and even a few blogs I regularly enjoy.

When I had found a recommendation that held some promise, I pulled out the trusty Kindle (gotta love instant gratification, right?) and ordered When We Were Romans. Given that the last time I followed the recommendation from Joanna from A Cup of Jo for a book, I wasn’t disappointed I thought I’d take her up on another one. 

This is the second book I’ve read where the author has opted to have a child serve as the narrator for the story. Let me just put this out there. It worked in The Room, but I was put off by it in this book.  I’ll explain.

The narrator, Lawrence, is quite an ordinary little boy. You learn of his love for Legos and Hotweheels. He shares his infatuation with Roman history and space. He also shares all of his thoughts, including memories, fears, and excitement.  The entire book consists of his misspelled and inconsistent punctuation as he takes you through his road trip to Rome and the adventures once there with an annoying little sister and a mother, who is a tad on the paranoid side.  

Where is really lost me and almost, I said almost, caused me to put it down forever was Lawrence’s stream of consciousness. However, like any lover of books and a story, I had to know how everything resolved itself so I plowed along.

This isn’t a book I would recommend given my frustration with Lawrence as the sole narrator. I wanted to go through with a red pen and fix all the misspellings and grammatical errors. I also wanted to just shut off his random thoughts as I often skipped many pages to get back to the actual story of why he was in Rome with his sister and mother.  That said, if you want a book where the author takes a daring approach to telling the story, then this may be worth a read.

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Building a Bourbon Bunker

I have descended further into my bourbon obsession. I have decided to begin bunkering bourbon.  A lot of enthusiasts have bunkers, but to this point I've resisted starting one.  I resisted for a couple of reasons: First, We don't have a lot of space.  Second, bourbon is for drinking.  I've never seen much reason to have a bunk of bottles laying around that aren't being actively sipped on.

So what changed my mind?

Well, this post on the Top Ten Whiskey of the Fall on the Whiskey Advocate blog started it.  If you notice, the list contains only one whiskey under $100.  And that whiskey is a bourbon.  It is my opinion that bourbon is the best deal in whiskey, but I'm not sure it will stay that way forever.  In fact, I think we're already seeing bourbon prices begin to rise--it is not unusual to see Pappy 15 in the $150 range and Pappy 23 in the $300 range.  More and more distilleries are releasing "Limited" or "Special" editions that come with a hefty price tag.  Luckily, we all can find great bourbon for under $30, but it might not last forever.

So I've decided to select a few whiskies that I especially enjoy and hold on to them for a little while.  If prices keep rising I can break into the bunker or try to find a trading partner to get a bottle I can't find. If prices go way, way up, then I'll think about putting a bottle up for auction.

My first two bunker selections are the 2011 Parker's Heritage Collection and E.H. Taylor Tornado Surviving bourbon.  I have open bottles of both on my shelf and they are a couple of my favorites.  Based on the limited release of these bottles, I suspect these will become very hard to find over the next couple of years.

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Friday Cocktails: Bourbon Sour

I don't know about you, but I never thought today was going to arrive. This week has been nonstop at the office and for every item I've crossed something off the to-do list, another one is there to quickly take its place.

Having never ending task lists at the office leave me all the more appreciative of the weekend. I'm hoping to spend some quality time with the latest book I've started and a little bourbon in hand. Perhaps, there will be another one of these guys in order.

While in Charlottesville last weekend, we had dinner at the Whiskey Jar. Occasionally, I'll enjoy my bourbon on the rocks. However, that's usually a sign of a really bad day. For the most part, I prefer it in a well made cocktail. And the Whiskey Jar had a Bourbon Sour that fit the bill. It was quite simple and like food when you have quality ingredients simple is the way to proceed.

This is inspired by their bourbon sour, although it doesn't quite compare to theirs.

Whiskey Sour
Makes one cocktail

1 ruby red grapefruit
Bourbon, I used Woodford Reserve as I was looking for a subtle spiciness 
1 sugar cube

1. Add the sugar cube and a few drops of water to a highball glass.

2. As the sugar cube dissolves, juice your grapefruit. 

3. Muddle the sugar or stir to enjoy it has "melted." Fill the glass with ice cubes.

4. Pour in your freshly squeezed juice, and top off the glass with the bourbon. Give it a stir.

5. If I had some maraschino cherries, I would have garnished. I'd definitely recommend going that route. It's like heading out without any accessories...sorry for the digression. 

6. Cheers!

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Exploring Virginia Wineries

We managed to escape the District for a few days over the weekend to spend time doting our friends handsome new lil' man and their good looking toddler on Saturday, but not before making time for ourselves on Friday. After enjoying our last Virginia vineyard visits, we decided to explore a few more.


If you get up before 10:30 am on a day off, you should be rewarded with McDonald's breakfast. Or at least that's how we operate. Seriously, who doesn't enjoy McDonald's breakfast. Combine that with sport talk radio and that's how the morning got underway as we headed towards Charlottesville.

After battling a more traffic than expected, we made our way to Blenheim Vineyards. I was pleasantly surprised by how many of their wines we enjoyed. They are tucked away, but are well worth the journey to seek them out. We brought home a bottle of their 2011 Chardonnay, although it was a tough choice between that and their Viognier.  And because I enjoy reds so much more, we also went with a bottle of the 2011 Cabernet Franc that I think will be awesome with some grilled pork chops. 

On our way out to Blenheim, we went past Trump Vineyards and circled back to check them out. But after finding Jersey plopped down in Virginia, we quickly backed out the door to make our way towards Charlottesville. As we made our way, there we came past Jefferson Vineyards and figured why not?

Lesson learned, I would suggest driving right on past. The property is gorgeous, but the wine is not so good. They feature 11 wines in their tasting and only one was what we considered a solid table wine. Rather than sample all of them, I would simply recommend purchasing a glass of their 2010 Petit Verdot to enjoy on their patio with this as your view.

There wasn't enough time to make our way to my complete list, so it looks like there might be another trip in our future. Don't worry, I didn't force Keith to give up whiskey for the weekend. We had an awesome dinner of comfort food at the Whiskey Jar on the mall in Charlottesville. If this spot was in DC, it would be a safe bet that it would become a regular place for us. 

Aside from a sunburn, it was a great weekend seeing friends and leaving the stress of the District behind. Are there any wineries you would recommend visiting? We seem to be on quite a roll at the moment. 

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Friday Cocktails: The Blue Door

When I found myself with a pint of blueberries and no desire to make muffins, I started thinking about alternatives. Even more importantly, those options needed to be simple. That's when I started wondering would I could infuse with blueberries. I considered vodka, but then I started to think about bourbon. And figured what the heck...blueberries good, bourbon good, so blueberries and bourbon great.

Let me tell you this plan was genius. It's not something I enjoy on it's own, but when I started playing with cocktail ideas I hit the jackpot. Meet the Blue Door.  There's a side story as to the name, which I'll get to  a bit later.

Blue Door Recipe

2 oz blueberry infused bourbon
2 dashes orange bitters
ginger ale

1. Pour the bourbon, bitters, and ginger ale in a glass over ice.

2. Garnish with orange peel.

3. Enjoy!

Blueberry Infused Bourbon

1.5 c. smashed blueberries (about a pint)
1.5 c. bourbon

1. Combine the blueberries and bourbon in a nonreactive container.

2. Shake everyday for five days.

3. On the fifth day, taste to see if it has enough blueberriness for you. I went with only five days.

4. Strain into storage bottle.  Out of direct sunlight, it should last about six months.

5. Enjoy!

So why the blue door? Well, that was our door for the last 18 months, we've called our current place home. Then I came home a few weeks ago to see it had been painted black. Talk about bumming me out. I loved that blue door. Not to mention, it made giving directions so much easier, "We're the house with the blue door." Now we're boring like everyone else on the block with their neutral black and brown doors. 

Am I bit crazy for missing the door? Have you ever grown a bit attached to something about your home?

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Book Review: The Angry Buddhist


Last night as I finished up my latest book around 1 am, I realized I hadn’t even filled you in on the previous book. So let’s remedy that because it was an excellent read that I must recommend. 

The book’s title is what initially convinced this was a book I needed to read. How can you not resist a book where the title is already a contradiction? You just have to know more, so I devoured the book, The Angry Buddhist, by Seth Greenland in a little less than 2 weeks. 

The Angry Buddhist has everything you could want in a story; there’s scandal, sex, irony, and a character or two you find yourself rooting for. In a nutshell this is the story of three brothers: an ex-cop, a harden criminal, and a devious Congressman. It’s a week before the election and the politician is in for the fight of his life. There are a cast of characters all with their own story that could benefit from more background, but then the book might have lost its way. 

You know it’s a good book when you find yourself disappointed after the final word has been read because you find yourself wanting to spend more time with it. Like I said it’s a good read with many twists and turn and bit of wry humor mixed in. 

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Date Night

This morning we woke up to a reprieve from the hot temperatures. Unfortunately, that was by way of rain and crazy humidity, so the big Texas hair can be attributed to that. As I splashed down the sidewalks and made it to the office, I was a bit grumpy and wet. Then I remembered it’s date night!

We have probably let a few weeks too many pass since we had what Keith considers an official date…you know dinner and a movie. We’re headed to Clyde’s in Chinatown. Now I know so many in the District look down on this spot, but we view it as the local chain with far better food than Ruby Tuesdays. That combined with it was the place we met for dinner on our first date and well, we just can’t help but make our way back for movie date nights.

There is a theater next door where we plan to catch The Campaign. I really hope the previews haven’t shown all the good stuff already.

The rest of the weekend is devoted to relaxing and catching up with friends. So what about you? Any big plans?

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Book Review: How It All Began

As part of my effort of staying healthy, I bring my lunch to work almost every day. And given there are few options for lunch, it’s really the best decision. Rather than surf the web or work and eat, I usually read over the lunch hour to give my eyes a break from the computer monitor, although I’m not sure reading is that much a of a recovery. Anyone know?

I recently finished How It All Began by Penelope Lively. Like The Year We Left Home, I found this to be quite an enjoyable novel. One that had me a bit reflective on life and the course we each take.

Ms. Lively tells the story of how one event lead to a chain reaction changing the lives of seven individuals, sending these characters’ stories off into new directions, perhaps even forever changing their dreams and desires. Everything is set into motion with the mugging of a retired literature teacher named Charlotte Rainsford on a spring day in London.  As Charlotte heals she ponders the indignities of aging and often reflects on the past. Being a literature teacher, Charlotte also finds comfort in her books, which is something I can definitely relate too.

The story is a pleasant respite from the work day or a comforting way to wind down before bed. I highly recommend How It All Began. I think I may even seek out other books by Ms. Lively. Have you read any of her other books? If so, do you have one you would recommend?

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Recipe: Bourbon Peach Ice Cream

As part of his efforts to woo me, Keith took me to Hermosa Beach in California for our first Valentine's Day together. While out there we visited one of his college buddies, who told us how he and his wife received an ice cream maker for a wedding gift. They envisioned making ice cream with their family and building all these wonderful memories, when in fact they've made ice cream once and stashed the ice cream maker away in the back cupboard. 

So when Keith and I were registering for our own wedding, he was pretty opposed to an ice cream maker given his buddy's experience. Imagine how funny I found it when the first wedding gift received was the ice cream maker! I've now promised to make ice cream at least six times a year to justify keeping it in our tiny kitchen. 

Since I had such a great experience at the Hill's Kitchen pasta class, that I jumped at the chance to enroll in their ice cream class. I had made ice cream before, but it just wasn't as creamy as I had hoped. I should have known it's all about the quality of ingredients. We sampled strawberry ice cream made with farm fresh milk and cream and farmer's market strawberries. One word AMAZING! Lesson learned go with farm fresh dairy.

This past weekend I was determined to make ice cream. I acquired farm fresh whole milk and cream from Trickling Springs with plans of simply making vanilla. Thankfully, the genius idea hit me to add fresh peaches and bourbon. Now we're talking, right? Again, it was AMAZING. This was one indulgent treat worth the work. 

Homemade Bourbon Peach Ice Cream

3 fresh peaches, peeled and sliced
3 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 c. sugar, divided into 1/3 cup and 2/3 cup
1 c. whole milk
2 c. heavy cream
1 t. vanilla extract
3 T. bourbon

1. Macerate the peaches by combining the peaches with the lemon juice and 1/3 cup of sugar. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours. 

2. Create an ice bath in a large mixing bowl. Place a smaller bowl, preferably a metal bowl, in the ice bath. Whisk together the remaining sugar and milk until the sugar is dissolved in the bowl over the ice bath. Add the cream, vanilla, and juices from the peaches whisking until well combined. 

3. Freeze according to your ice cream maker's instructions, adding the bourbon and peaches during the last five minutes of freezing. 

4. Transfer the ice cream to a freezer safe storage container with a lid and harden in the freezer for several hours. Note: it will not become solid frozen as the bourbon will prevent that. 

5. Enjoy!

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Just business as usual

I wish I could share stories about our great adventures from the past week and explain that’s why we’ve been absent. Sadly, that’s not it. This past week has been another hot one that’s left us just trying to stay cool. I guess you could say we’re still taking our cues from Sammy.

It hasn’t been terrible. We’ve managed to enjoy lots of fresh salsa made with farmers’ market tomatoes. Who knew three large tomatoes would equal a mixing bowl worth of salsa? I was down with that because it was awesome. 

All that salsa left us thirsty so there were a few cold ones. And to say I was super excited would be an understatement when I found Boulevard Brewery’s unfiltered wheat out here. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve wanted one of those beers since I moved out here eight years ago. Thinking we might have to go back this weekend with hopes of snagging another six-pack.

One of the best wedding gifts we received was the Super Deluxe edition of Scrabble from my sister. I cannot begin to tell you how many rounds have been played. When Keith and I first started dating there were many nights playing Monopoly since that was one of the few board games we had, so I’m relieved the collection has expanded.

This weekend we plan to continue this pattern of lazy. I’m planning to put another wedding gift to use and make ice cream. And maybe we’ll mix it up a bit and switch up the board game or perhaps I’ll tackle the pile of books on the nightstand since I’ve made several new acquisitions.

Do you have any big plans? Or is the heat just getting to you too?

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