Bourbon

Standard

It is a well-established fact that I love booze. Ales? What’s better than a frosty cider on a hot summer day. Gin? I could write prose about gin. Wine? There is decently likelihood that wine gives me hives and I still love it. Got that? I am probably allergic to wine and I still drink it (almost daily). That’s commitment.

But amber spirits? I’ll pass. Scotch and whiskey turn my stomach sour. Brandy and cognac are only good for baking. Rum tastes like bad college memories. And tequila? Oh, tequila. Of tequila we do not speak.

Now, bourbon… she’s a different mistress all together. Bourbon treats me wrong every damn time, and still I love her. Bourbon surprises me and makes me wistful all at once.

If you asked me to name my single favorite cocktail of all time, there’s a good chance I’ll tell you a Milk Punch from the Bourbon House in New Orleans. It’s divine. Be forewarned. If you come with me to NOLA, you will be drinking Milk Punch.

brandy-milk-punch-11-570x368

I love bourbon so much, that, when at a wedding in Louisville, I dragged five totally disinterested girlfriends on a two-hour road trip to the Maker’s Mark estate. Guess who are all fans of bourbon now?

IMG_6270

Like food, the taste of a certain spirit will bring you back places (and, I never want to be taken back to where tequila goes). Bourbon brings me down the bayou. With memories of sitting on the beach in Biloxi, MS, looking at palm trees still bent over from their battle with Katrina. Memories of dancing to slow moving jazz on Frenchman Street. Memories of rocking on a wide Southern porch of a volunteer house, eating strawberries and resting my weary feet.

It brings me back to the amazing group of volunteers that I’ve sweated with in that humid landscape – those that I may have known for only a day, and those who became like sisters. The end of most rigorous days, spent working tirelessly to help a community back to its feet, meant sharing a cool bourbon cocktail and sharing war stories. It’s a special spirit.

If you are now jonesing for a bourbon drink, you’re in luck. This one’s a gem:

The Big Texan Bourbon-and-Grapefruit Cocktail

. 2 tablespoons fresh grapefruit juice
. 1 1/2 ounces bourbon
. 1/2 tablespoon simple syrup (see Note)
. 2 basil leaves
. Ice
. 1 grapefruit slice and 1 preserved cherry, for garnish

In a cocktail shaker, combine the grapefruit juice, bourbon, simple syrup and basil. Fill a chilled rocks glass with ice. Add 5 ice cubes to the shaker and shake well. Strain the drink into the ice-filled rocks glass. Garnish with the grapefruit slice and cherry.

550546_10151195714074029_2091653862_n

Source: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/big-texan-bourbon-and-grapefruit-cocktail

Advertisements

Food with Friends

Standard

I met the sous-chef when I was 22… literally, the ink on my college degree was barely dry. Which means, I don’t have a ton of experience with blind dates. That’s a rite of passage that most folks in their 20s go through, that I simply never… passed.

What, in god’s name, does this have to do with food with friends? Lemme tell you. Move to a city of transplants and people are more than happy to set you up on blind dates with other friends that have just moved there.

Not having experienced the romantic side of this, I am conjecturing a bit, but I think it’s pretty much the same thing. There’s the pre-date nerves. Will we have enough to talk about? Will I recognize them when I get to the restaurant? There’s the first impressions. Wow, they’re taller than they look on Facebook. Oh, she’s awfully fashionable. There’s the sometimes awkward, sometimes seamless dinner conversation. We love all the same things! Um, I’ll ask a question about our mutual friend to move things along. Finally, there’s the assessment. That was so fun! It felt like we knew them forever. We are totally asking them out again.

The good news is that  – often – these blind friend dates (much like blind date-dates) happen over a meal. And food is an amazing equalizer. It gives you something to talk about. Have you been here? Oh, what did you eat? It gives you something to gush/commiserate over. Mine was delicious! Yours? Yeah, this was only ok. And it gives you a peek into how they manage relationships. We’ll pick up the tab. We insist! I had the cup of soup and the chicken, so I owe $27.50. A dinner together will teach you a lot about your new-found friends. And, if you happen to all be foodies, so much the better!

Just a few nights ago, the sous-chef and I met new friends. We were all connected by a dear pal in Boston. We courted for several weeks by email. Like most busy professionals, our crazy schedules delayed our actual get-together by several weeks. But, we could already see in our written correspondence that the possibilities were there.

We finally made it work over some soul food on a Sunday night. All new-ish to San Francisco, we chose a place that’s a bit of a local institution. The fried chicken was delicious. The laughter and conversation were better. The food did what food did… it created a platform for connection. Food is, ultimately, essential to the foundation of most relationships. What a remarkable thing.

Oh, and future plans were made to cook each other our favorite meals as soon as the holiday dust settles. Continuing to let food guide the path to creating more love and life in this world.

Volunteering

Standard

I am a somewhat spiritual person, but I really don’t believe in any organized religion. Which is why it’s pretty darn funny that one of my greatest beliefs comes from a verse in the Bible (Luke 12:48, to be exact). The Bible has been translated millions of times, but one common version is, “from everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded.”

I feel as though in my life, I have been given much – smarts, compassion, dedication, not to mention a loving family, husband, pets, a bevy of great friends, and a moderately successful career. With all of these riches, my debt to the greater world is deep and I’ve spent a lot of time and energy over the years seeking to pay it.

I have done a lot of volunteering. A LOT. I absolutely love it. It’s generally hard work, but there is little that fills the soul more. In addition to doing some good for others, it’s a great way to meet friends, learn new skills, or experience new places.

I hope you might be reading this and thinking at the same time, “I’ve been given a lot; I should do more!” You should! And wouldn’t you know it, I have some suggestions for you from some of my all time favorite volunteer experiences.

Do you have an hour a week? Help develop a kid’s literacy skills and build his or her self esteem by reading a story aloud over lunch. I read to kids for over seven years in a program like this. We all know that reading is important, but did you know that children with strong reading skills are less likely to end up in jail and are less of a drain on our national health systems? Seriously. One hour a week with a kid can help our society. Not a bad ROI. Check out Read to a Child for more.

Do you have two hours a month? Give out food to hungry families. One of the most rewarding things I have ever done is to help set up a mobile pantry and dole out much needed food and groceries to students and parents at a school in a low-income section of Boston. Food is a basic fucking need. The fact that people in this country go without is outrageous. Contact your local food bank and do something about it.

Do you have two or three days a year? This country has seen some SAVAGE natural disasters in the last few years – Hurricane Katrina, the Joplin tornadoes, California wildfires, Hurricane Sandy. Every time one of these things hits us, it leaves a wake of physical and emotional need for years to come. Sign up with the local chapter of the HandsOn Network in any of these areas and they’ll have no trouble putting you to work in human services or rebuilding property for a few days.

Do you only have a couple of hours a year? Decorate a youth shelter for the holidays. Being a teenager sucks in general. I seriously can not imagine the pain of being a homeless teen. Living in a shelter with little privacy, too few warm clothes, and beaten down common areas for eating, studying, and entertainment? It’s heartbreaking. A small, but meaningful gesture that you can do for these kids is to help decorate their space for the holiday season. I did this project for several years as part of Harpoon Helps in Boston. But even if this doesn’t exist near you, go buy a tree, a couple of strands of lights, and some bulbs and drop them off.

Screen Shot 2013-12-15 at 9.45.12 PM Screen Shot 2013-12-15 at 9.45.24 PM

Truly, any amount of time you have can be put to good use and I’d love to see everyone get out there and give something back. If you don’t have a second to spare (I know that feeling), money is always good too – donate generously to your favorite cause.

Ginger Caramel Pears

Ginger caramel pears
Standard

Moving to a different state as a grown-up is exceptionally hard. There’s the normal stress of finding a new home, getting your stuff from one place to the next, job transitions… you name it. But also, you’re taking this huge leap of faith going to a place where you have little (or, no) existing network.

Let me tell you, adults out there, you are wayyy out of practice when it comes to meeting new friends. When you’re younger, you make friends so naturally… you’re thrown together in school or activities or even a job (or, you go out to bars like it’s your job and you meet people there).

Later in life, you have to make an effort. Ug. I hate effort. I work full-time. I have no bandwidth for effort. Needless to say, I have been so, so, so appreciative of our San Francisco friends that have welcomed us into their fold and introduced us to their friends (less effort!).

I hope that some of my fortune on this front is a little karma being paid back. In Boston, I was flush with friends and social activities and was always more than happy to include someone new.

Last Thanksgiving day, I met the requester of this post. She was brand spankin’ new to New England, having taken the aforementioned leap just a few weeks before, driving a car full of boxes and her pooch to a foreign city. I’d heard plenty about her before the move from our mutual friend, but had not met her even once.

The year before, we’d invited my friend, her then boyfriend (now husband), and his mom to our place for Thanksgiving. We weren’t planning to see our relatives that year and we were thrilled to incorporate some of our Boston “family” into the holiday. So, when November 2012 rolled around, I invited them to come back and recreate the fun we had the previous year. They accepted and asked if they could include their newly-moved pal, which, of course, we welcomed!

I prepared a big feast with all the requisite Thanksgiving dishes, as well as a few experiments. One of the less traditional things that I served was Ginger-Cardamom Spiced Caramel Pears. They were a little weird and I wasn’t sure that anyone would eat them, but they were fun to make and pretty to present, so I figured, why not.

Ginger caramel pears

Turns out, those pears were a big hit with our new guest. And over them, friendship was formed. It’s my most special memory from that holiday.

I can’t wait for the day that we’re so established in our new hometown, that we have the opportunity to invite some friend-of-a friend-homeless-wanderer for Thanksgiving dinner. I’ll be serving ginger caramel pears.

GG

Standard

ENTJ. And, for the record, not just E, 100% E. As in, 100% extrovert. I am off the charts E.

I don’t just like people. I love people. I am obsessed with people. I think they’re fascinating. I think they’re amazing. I think they’re largely predictable and occasionally surprising. I think they are endlessly engaging.

I will do anything with the right people. AN.Y.THING.

Wedding hats

I spent many years working for a moving company. A crazy, coo-coo, whackadoodle moving company. A place where you can fall sleep under the CEO’s desk and when he catches you, instead of being punished, he’d insist on finding you a scored (a free give away from a moving customer) luxury mattress (because clearly you’re sleep deprived), but then tell everyone behind your back that you suffer from chronic narcolepsy (and it’s probably a result of your mother being a domineering bitch). If you think a single word of that is made up or cannot possibly be true, I invite you to pay a visit to the East Cambridge/Somerville line and look for a battalion of purple trucks. You’ll see that this is entirely accurate and the established norm.

There were a lot things that made me want to take a hostage while working there. Once, after a particularly insane and frustrating conversation with said CEO, I simply walked out the door. I left his office, went to my desk to get my bag, looked at my cube neighbor (in fact, the one who requested this post) straight in the face and said, “I’m leaving.” I’m pretty sure that, until 9 am the following morning, he was unsure if I meant for good or not.

But I did come back. Again and again. For over 2,500 days. I worked there for over seven years, because – despite the sheer lunacy that ruled most of our days – I worked with the finest people on earth. Funny people. Caring people. Smart, driven people. Real human beings who would swear and fight and love and demand what was right. I look back with nothing but a warm heart and twinge of sadness that most of them are still there and I no longer take part.

I will do anything with the right people. And, lucky me, I got to spend nearly a decade working, laughing, arguing, stressing, and creating a lot of good with lots of the right people. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Screen Shot 2013-12-02 at 10.03.45 PM

229723_10150187105903322_1940467_n6053_114812329028_1142451_n1391_38759044028_1219_n 397308_327954783892001_478546975_n 6053_114812309028_8251619_n 297_23031659028_3531_n

223432_6527659028_1836_n
6053_114812224028_5488662_n

229166_13516749028_940_n

Glitter

glitter
Standard

Glitter. Wow, no small first topic. God, I love glitter. Always have.

Remember when you were little and you’d put the line of glue on the paper, dump on a crap ton of glitter and shake off the excess? Loved it.

Loved being a girl in dance recitals with a half pound of glittery bits in my hair.

Loved the glitter pens that wrote sappy diary entries and the glitter embedded jelly shoes that marched me through my preteens.

Love, love, love dusting myself with the glittery powder that makes it’s way to each and every “camp.”

glitter

Yeah, that’s right. I go to something called glitter camp. Regularly. Glitter camp is attended by six of my best girlfriends and we go away together about twice a year. For a run down of what happens at these events, please see this short film.

In fact, it was a fellow glitter camp attendee that suggested this subject. And it got me thinking about the topic of glitter. As much as I love the pure stuff – I mean, it’s made of fairy dust, for god’s sake! – it’s not what I consider the true meaning of glitter.

Glitter is the essence of what I have with those girls. True, unadulterated, unconditional love, trust, admiration, and good dose of sparkle – just like good glitter should.

Glitter is laughing till you – literally – pee a little at something they say.

Glitter is tenderly holding their hands when they have faces full of tears and gingerly saying, “Stop being a stupid bitch. He is a douchebag.”

Glitter is telling everyone in the bar that they just drunkenly fell off the sidewalk on the way in, but keeping the real secrets locked up in a fucking military-grade safe.

Glitter is having just as much fun together in socks and pjs with a pile of tater tots and cheap wine, as you do dancing on Bourbon Street at 4 am, wearing something too tight and too short and enough makeup to gain the admiration of nearby drag queens.

If you’re lucky in life, you have glitter. I know I do. If this made you think of some of your glitter, then text those twinkly souls. Tell them how they shine and how they make you glow. Hopefully, that text will spawn something inappropriate and hilarious in response. Because that’s how glitter works.