Archive for 2014

Farewell, Summer

I'm beginning to think I subconsciously take the summers off from here. Almost as if I'm desperately trying to hold onto my childhood and bring some type of summer break to my life. Well, maybe that or maybe it's that every big work deadline seems to hit smack in the middle of summer.

How I'd rather have been here with you telling you in real time about the baseball game, the picnics with friends, the evenings spent grilling on the back porch, well you get the idea. The summer wasn't all work, but maybe that's what summer is intended to be as a grown up. Just allowing yourself to pause and enjoy those simple moments that may otherwise escape.

I hope you had a wonderful summer.

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Book Review: Me Before You

Last week was rainy and dreary. You know the kind of weather... the kind that leaves you wanting to do nothing but curl up with a book and mug of something warm. Despite the desire to stay home with a book and tea, I ventured out to the office. The entire time I sat at my desk I wanted nothing more than to get back to my latest read - Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.

You're first introduced to Louisa - Lou to her family - Clark, a 26-year old working class girl, who knows the steps to her house, the safety to her small town brings, and that she loves her boyfriend. After losing her job, she's forced to find something new.

The new job brings her to Will Traynor, a wealthy, handsome, 35 year old who happens to be a quadriplegic. His mother is seeking a caregiver to assist him with day-to-day tasks such as eating, driving him to doctor's appointments, and general companionship.

As expected, the two don't hit it off right away. Their relationship is tense, but it grows. Their story becomes one of love and admiration leaving Lou not knowing as much as she originally thought she did.

Have the tissues close, as the tears will arrive. Ms. Moyes takes on a political issue without making you realize what she's done. Don't worry. It's not in your face and I can't tell you for 100 percent certainty, which side she stands.

If you read and enjoyed The Fault in Our Stars, then you'll love this one just as much. If you have yet to read it, don't worry you can add both to the list of books to read. Both are very different stories, so don't think you'll be reading the same story twice.

I'd love to discuss this one. Anyone else read it and want to share their thoughts?

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Kentucky Derby Museum at Churchill Downs

Since taking the time to seriously considering the items on my bucket list, attending the Kentucky Derby has always been present. While Keith was off tasting more bourbon, I took the opportunity to venture over to Louisville and explore the Kentucky Derby Museum along with Churchill Downs.

The grounds were buzzing as preparation was underway for festivities this week leading up to Saturday's big event. Taking in the museum and walking down the tunnel to the track only confirmed my desire to make it out for official race soon. 

What's on your bucket list? Have you attended the Kentucky Derby or other Triple Crown Race?

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Tour of Buffalo Trace Distillery

I joined Keith on his yearly pilgrimage to bourbon country, aka Kentucky, this year. Bourbon country sure is gorgeous. Keith tried to explain how pretty Buffalo Trace was last year, but I didn't really believe him. I guess I owe him an apology because it might be the most scenic of all the distilleries we've visited.

We were fortunate enough to go on a special "best of" Buffalo Trace tour. Their operations are pretty impressive compared to the other distillery tours like Marker's Mark and Woodford Reserve. Currently, Buffalo Trace has over 15 labels all of which are produced at their Frankfort, Kentucky location.* I won't bore you with the step by step details, but here are some of the highlights. 

There was some concern that this might be a one and done and I wouldn't want to join Keith on the yearly trip. I don't foresee that being the case. However, I'm not sure I need to visit the distilleries each year. I'd much prefer to simply drink the end result without seeing how it's made. 

* This does not include their Bowman operations in Virginia. 

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Saturday Afternoon at the National Arboretum

Just when we think we've seen all the nation's capitol has to offer, we realize we've only scratched the surface. Keith's parents visited over the weekend. Having explored the usual sites, we ventured out to see the National Arboretum. Who knew there was over 400 acres of lush green in the city? The most captivating part of the visit had to be the bonsai collection. Highly recommend trekking over to northeast DC to take it all in. Even better, pack a picnic and soak up sun while you're at it.

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Friday Cocktails: Old Fashioned

I've professed my love for a sidecar whenever we go out.  Well, Keith has recently started a love affair with an old fashioned because every now and then you want your whiskey to give you a sweet little kiss.

The old fashioned is believed to be one of the first known cocktails. As such, it follows a pretty simple and straight forward approach. Early recipes call for any dark spirit such as whiskey, rye or brandy. Today it is traditionally made with bourbon or rye. If you're looking for an even sweeter kiss, I recommend swapping out the rye for bourbon.

Old Fashioned
Makes one cocktail

4 oz. of rye
a sugar cube
dash of bitters
wedge of orange
maraschino cherry for garnish

In a rocks glass, add the orange wedge along with the sugar cube, a few dashes of bitters and a drop or two of water. Using a muddler or wooden spoon mash the orange, sugar, bitters and water to make a nice paste in the bottom of your glass. Add 4 oz of rye and stir. Finally top with ice and garnish with the cherry.


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Working 9 to 5

Looking for a job at any point is stressful. Having been laid off twice, it's even worse when the decision to move on is outside of your control. I went on approximately a dozen interviews. In some cases, I made it to the final round only to learn they went with the other candidate. It slowly starts to nag at your confidence. It makes you question all the previous decisions you made before that moment.

Thankfully, my current employer made a counter-offer that has left me with my current firm. I know some question the stability of the position given they laid me off once before. And it is a risk. However, I like the people I work with and the work I'm doing.

As spring arrives, new blossoms appear and the promise of warm days await. I guess I'm taking my cues from nature as I forward to the new possibilities ahead. Sometimes you just know when something feels right and this is one of those moments.

P.S. Aren't the vibrant pink blossoms gorgeous? I think they bring so much more hope than a photo of my windowless cube.

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A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

I think it's finally safe to say spring has arrived in the nation's capitol.  Since the weather was simply too gorgeous to spend the day indoors doing laundry on Sunday, I took a walk through the neighborhood. I thought you might like to see a few of the pictures. 

If you find yourself on Capitol Hill near Eastern Market, I highly recommend having a meal at Ted's Bulletin. They make homemade pop tarts, boozy milkshakes, an awesome chicken fried steak, and serve breakfast all day. I promise you won't be disappointed. 

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Book Review: An Everlasting Meal - Cooking with Economy and Grace

The last couple of months I've felt as if I'd lost control over dinner.  Meal plans were made and then broken. Lists were written and items purchased, but most perished. Intentions were set...

Well you get the idea. After reading about Tracy's approach to prepping for the week and her recommendation for "An Everlasting Meal - Cooking with Economy and Grace" by Tamar Adler, I immediately placed an order.

"An Everlasting Meal" is a collection of essays about cooking and taking the time to truly relish each meal. Relishing each meal so much that you stretch that meal into the next. Tamar reminds you to pause in your busy day and simply enjoy your meal. She has a way with words that has me craving a simple pot of beans drizzled with olive oil and a hearty slice of bread.
"There are times when I can't bear to think about cooking. Food is what I love, and how I communicate love, and how I calm myself. But sometimes, without knowing why, it is drained of all that." 
After reading that paragraph, I couldn't help but feel more connected to the author. This book was exactly what I needed to rekindle my love with the process of cooking. I recommend it for anyone wanting to rethink their approach to cooking.

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The Man Cave, AKA the Bourbon Bunker

Since moving into our apartment, we have struggled with finding the best use for our second bedroom. It is not quite big enough for a true guest room, so we had a desk in there for a while to use as a home office. Needless to say we still set up shop at the dining table.

I finally decided that Keith deserved one room that was just for him. My original goal was to have a room where he could spend time with a good book and a dram. Well, the new plan has only half worked. The room came together as I had envisioned. However, rather than a place to cozy up with a book, it's become a very stylish storage room for the bourbon.

Organizing the bunker became all the more crucial when I learned about the new bottles from Smooth Ambler that would need a home. I'm coming to terms with the fact that all three book cases will soon house nothing but bourbon. Thankfully, I have time to strategize about a new home for our library.

Wine cellars are so last year. Bourbon bunkers are all the rage these days. Wait, no? Just my house?

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Friday Cocktails: Sage & Pear Highball

Remember a while back, when I introduced you to the bourbon highball. At the time, I explained how it's my drink of choice following a long day. It required little - bourbon and ginger ale. Two beverage selections that I always have on hand.

After seeing a couple of cocktail combinations  pop up that involved sage and pears, I started thinking that it might be time to tweak and improve a good ol' standby. What if we muddled a few sage leaves and added a new complex sweetness from pear nectar? Yeah, it'll make your tastebuds sing.

Sage & Pear Highball

3-4 fresh sage leaves, more if they're on the smaller side
2 oz pear nectar
4 oz. bourbon
ginger ale

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the sage leaves. Then add ice, the pear nectar and bourbon. Shake well. Strain into a highball glass filled with ice and top off with ginger ale. Garnish with a sage leave.


p.s. You could also substitute a quarter of a pear, sliced. If you do, muddle them with the sage and then follow the next steps.

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Sammy Update

Sammy has been home from Radio Cat for about two weeks now and is no longer considered radio active. Longest two weeks! Who knew not being able to cuddle with this little purr baby would be so stressful? She's definitely like any sick kiddo who wants to do nothing but snuggle up with her mama when she doesn't feel well. 

Unfortunately, we won't know if everything was a complete success for at least two and half months. However, she hasn't experienced any of the big warning signs like lack of appetite, lethargy, etc. that would have us on high alert. In about two weeks, we head in for our first follow up appointment to learn where her T4 levels are. Fingers crossed that they are moving downward and her kidneys are functioning as they should. 

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New Additions to the Bourbon Bunker, Smooth Ambler

The still at Old Scout.
Back in December, I was lucky enough to travel to Maxwellton, West Virginia to visit the Smooth Ambler distillery. The purpose of the trip was to select a barrel or two (we actually picked three) and establish a relationship with the proprietors, John and John. The Johns were incredibly generous with their time--they spent several hours taking us through their rick houses and explaining their approach to the business. Best of all, they let us taste as many barrels of whiskey as we wanted.

One of their two rick houses.
Smooth Ambler has taken a unique approach to the business. They are distilling their own juice, but everything (with the exception of the Yearling) bottled so far is from the LDI distillery (now MPGI) in Indiana. They are completely forthright with the source of their juice, which is refreshing in an industry not known for its honesty. Their oldest juice produced in house is nearing four years old and the exciting news is that it is a wheated bourbon! They plan to release it when it's ready--they've done an adequate job establishing solid lines of revenue, so there is no need to rush it to market.

The rick house holding the juice
distilled on-site.
 As I said, the Johns let us taste at least 15 samples--it could have been more--of the sourced bourbon and rye of various ages. I'm not a huge fan of LDI's rye, but if you've not had their bourbon, get yourself some Old Scout, because it is damn good. We ended up choosing three barrels: one seven year old, one eight year old and one ten year old. Smooth Ambler will bottle at barrel proof, which is a nice touch. The Johns were really fun to work with--at one point we were sort of lukewarm on a couple of samples so one of the Johns ran out and got several more for us to taste.

The bourbons are schedule to arrive this month and I can't wait to post tasting notes. All three of our picks were complete winners, but I'm most excited about the eight year old as it was my favorite of the line up.

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Sammy's Sick

When we took Sammy in for her last checkup, we received news that she has hyperthyroidism. It's pretty common in cats and is typically treated with medication. I felt like a terrible cat mom because I hadn't realized that she had lost almost 1.25 pounds. Kind of a big deal when you only weigh 9 pounds to begin with.  I had attributed it to getting older and brushed it off. Big mistake!

For those unfamiliar with hyperthyroidism in cats, there is a tumor growing on the thyroid causing an increase in the T4 hormone. If it goes untreated, it could lead to heart failure. You can read up more about it here.

We tried the medication route for a almost a month, but Sammy wanted nothing to do with it twice a day. It had gotten to the point that whenever Keith and I were home together she would hide under the bed. If by chance she let her guard down and allowed us to pick her up, she shook like a leaf and you could feel her little heart racing.

Seeing that the medication approach was not a good fit for our Sammy, I went into full on research mode to learn more about hyperthyroidism in cats and what the various treatments options are. We started with a homeopathic approach to treatment. Basically, the claim is that cats can develop an allergic reaction to soy, which is prevalent in commercial cat food. As a result I now cook chicken breasts every weekend and then proceed to tear it up into tiny Sammy bite-size pieces. If she’s really lucky, Keith will share some of his salmon fillet with her. 

My hopes were raised when she gained weight back, only to the learn her T4 levels had increased. The vet recommended we continue the medication, but I didn’t find that as the best answer for Sammy. From my research I learned about an option for a radioactive iodine shot, which is a blast of radiation that will destroy the tumor.

Tomorrow morning we're taking our little purr baby down to Radio Cat, where she will receive a tailored radioactive iodine shot. After receiving the call confirming our appointment last Thursday, I’m really anxious about our visit. There is a 98.6% success rate and that’s what led me to believe this was the best option. She’s also relatively young, which also helps. I made the mistake of getting as much information as I could and read of the sad stories that resulted. I need to remind myself that was their situation and that we have yet to have our own. I’ve asked all the questions to ensure I’ve avoided any of the risks. 

Regardless, I wish there was a way to tell my sweet Sammy that she will be staying at the hospital for three days and then I’ll return to pick her up. She’ll be radioactive so we won’t be able to cuddle with her as much as we would like for the first 10 days she is home. I just hope she knows how much we love her and only want the best for her.  Now to just keep calm and nothing but happy thoughts for our Sammy Doodle.

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New York City in Photos - Part II

As promised, I wanted to share a few more photos from our anniversary trip to New York last week. Considering another polar vortex had hit the city during our visit, we took in more museums than expected. I fear Keith might have already reached his limit for art exhibits for 2014.

We visited two of the essentials - the Met and MoMA, but we also took in the Morgan Library and Museum.  The Morgan Library began as the private library of financier Pierpont Morgan, the father of J.P. Morgan. It was one of those delightful discoveries all because we wanted to stay inside as much as possible.

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