Ten Months of Chicken

BOOM.

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It’s hard to get an in-focus picture of Hazel these days because she is one busy little chicken. She is a lightning-fast crawler, and even when she’s not tearing up and down the hall like her diaper’s on fire, she’s in perpetual motion.

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She loves to explore. Since the weather’s been nice, we’ve had the windows open, and she spends hours looking through the screens at the world outside.

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She can stand pretty well now, and does so for longer stretches every day. We’re working on clapping and waving. She also enjoys following me around the house and supervising my work. I get a lot of this:

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“Mama? Mama? Mama? Whatcha doing? Can I help? I’m so helpful.”

She still nurses three times a day, and we’re supplementing her oats and yogurt with bites of our food. She seems to enjoy many of our foods, including refried beans, rice, lentils, breads of all sorts, Goldfish crackers, and she-crab soup.

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We took Hazel with us to Charleston a few weekends ago, and she was a delightful traveling companion. She loves being out and about, especially if Jason is carrying her in the backpack.

Hazel loves her dad. Her whole face lights up when he walks in the door, whether it’s been three hours or thirteen. She’s kind of like Lucius in that regard. She also loves her siblings. She’ll crawl from the family room back to the girls’ bedroom to see what they’re up to. She giggles at Tyler’s funny faces.

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We love our darling girl.

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Cocktail of the Month: the Fitzgerald

Is there any phrase more evocative than “forgotten gin cocktail”?

While in Charleston, we visited High Wire Distilling Company and sampled their excellent gin. We discussed our favorite gin cocktails, and the bartender/distiller mentioned a Fitzgerald, which was new to me. He said it involved gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, and bitters, and I was sold. Clearly we’d found March’s cocktail of the month.

The Fitzgerald doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry (someone should get on that, stat), but I found reference to it in this article on Forgotten Gin Cocktails from The Kitchn. It’s a pre-Prohibition cocktail, a variation on a gin sour. The recipe varies based on source, but I liked the following ratio: 2 parts gin, 3/4 part lemon juice, 3/4 part simple syrup, and 2 dashes bitters. If you make your own sour mix, it would be 2 parts gin, 1.5 parts sour mix, and 2 dashes bitters. We garnished with a lemon peel.IMG_9465

It tastes like the Great Gatsby. I can’t think of a better way to describe it. I want to drink it while lounging in a flapper dress. The bitters make it more sophisticated than a simple sour, but it’s not an inaccessible or fussy drink. It would make a perfect (and unique) pre-mixed drink for summer parties.

Cheers!

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Travel Advisory: Charleston, SC

Last week Jason, Hazel and I escaped Tallahassee for a long weekend in Charleston, South Carolina. I’d visited Charleston with my parents a couple of times, and Jason spent the first six months of his life there.

We arrived on Friday evening and checked in at The Vendue, which is a somewhat-trendy newer hotel downtown. The hotel boasts unique artwork and even has an artist-in-residence. They also have free Starbucks in the morning, free wine in the evening, and free milk & cookies at night. And free wifi! I am always annoyed when I pay a little more for a hotel, only to find out that I have to pay a little more for basically everything else, so I was greatly relieved to see that our stay included such nice perks.

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Friday night we ate at Fleet Landing, just up the street. We shared she crab soup (even Hazel had a bite), and I had shrimp & grits.

Dixie Supply Bakery & Cafe

Dixie Supply Bakery & Cafe

Saturday morning we had breakfast at Dixie Supply Bakery Cafe, then took a carriage ride to get the lay of the land. Our tour guide was a high school history teacher who leads tours for fun on the weekends, and he was fantastic.

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After our tour we had lunch at Griffon, one of Charleston’s surprisingly awesome pubs. Because the city has a distinctively English vibe, there are a number of delightful pubs with tasty food and local beers. We walked off lunch along the river, making our way from Waterfront Park down to Battery Park, taking in the architecture and landscaping.

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Saturday afternoon we visited High Wire Distilling Company, which makes various liquors in a contraption straight out of Willy Wonka.

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After the tour was a tasting! Of course! We were big fans of their Hat Trick Gin, which practically explodes with botanicals. It may replace Hendricks as my favorite gin. (Don’t tell Hendricks.)

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Saturday night we went out for a fancy dinner at High Cotton. It’s always weird to have a nice dinner with a baby, and we certainly didn’t want to disturb the other diners, but thankfully Hazel was an absolute angel. She munched on baby Goldfish crackers and didn’t make excessive noise. Whew!

Sunday morning we walked to Hominy Grill. Turns out Hominy Grill was 1.5 miles from our hotel, so by the time we got there, it was brunchtime. No matter – I still threw down on a plate of coarse-ground grits, eggs, bacon, and a tall biscuit. The higher the biscuit, the closer to God – that’s how the saying goes, right?

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Fueled up, we made our way to visit the H.L. Hunley, a tiny claustrophobic sub that made history as the first submarine to successfully attack an enemy ship during war. It was lost in 1864, when it disappeared shortly after sinking the Housatonic. Despite being raised in 2000, and studied since then, no one really knows why it sank. A MYSTERY. The submarine doesn’t have a museum yet, so we visited the lab where the conservation work is being done. The sub sits in a giant tank of Drano, which is slowly removing concretions and other sediment. It looks terrifyingly small to have held eight full-grown men.

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Continuing our American Civil War History theme, we left the Hunley and went to Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Late Unpleasantness were fired. Honestly, I was a little underwhelmed. The boat ride out was lovely, and the fort’s location is very picturesque, but there’s really no fort left. The Confederates kind of blew it apart, and it’s been preserved in its post-Civil War state rather than restored to its antebellum condition.

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After Sunday’s adventures, we were tired. We headed to Artisan Meat Share for a snack of cured meats, toast points, grainy mustard, and homemade pickles. Nothing says “refreshing” like your daily allowance of sodium in one sitting. Sunday night we were too tired to venture out, so we headed up to the hotel’s rooftop bar for a light dinner.

Monday was our last day in Charleston, and we didn’t want to miss a minute. We headed to King Street to sample the wares at Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit, a tiny alley of a place that did not disappoint.

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The biscuits are 3 for $5, so I tried a cheddar & chive, a bacon, and a blackberry. The bacon biscuit surprised me – rather than being a piece of bacon on a biscuit, it involved finely chopped cooked bacon incorporated in the biscuit dough. I probably don’t need to tell you that it was delicious. The blackberry biscuit was sweet, almost like pound cake, with a tasty blackberry preserve on it. The cheddar and chive was also very good.

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Reluctantly, we tore ourselves away from the biscuit vendor and drove out to Drayton Hall Plantation.

Let me step back for a moment. Charleston has been described as “a drinking town with a history problem.” It wasn’t really until Monday that I grasped the two viewpoints of the debate over the city’s history, and how best to share that history with visitors. It’s a debate between “preservation” and “restoration.” The preservationists want as much gritty authenticity as possible – all of history’s dents and dings, the fade of 200-year-old paint, the reality of crumbling plaster. Drayton Hall is a perfect example of preservation. Built in the 1750s, it’s a gorgeous Palladian mansion on the Ashley River. But it’s also completely empty. There is no furniture, no artwork, no textiles. Our tour guide explained that the house was sold to the preservation trust in 1974, and that it was being maintained exactly as it was received. “If a piece of plaster falls off the ceiling, we don’t replace it.”

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After Drayton Hall we visited the Nathaniel Russell House, which is a perfect example of the restoration point of view. Nathaniel Russell is a time capsule of 1808, the year it was built. When you walk in the front door, you are stepping back into another era. The antique furniture is all from the correct period. The wall colors have been meticulously researched, and the artwork on the walls frequently features actual inhabitants of and visitors to the home.

I can see the merits of both sides of the debate, and I think it’s worthwhile to have a mix of the two in Charleston. One can learn different things from a ruin and a restoration.

Monday night we ate dinner at Pearlz Oyster Bar, which was fantastic. We shared a dozen raw oysters and then I had a big ol’ bowl of linguine with clams.

Tuesday morning we had another round of biscuits at Callie’s and hit the road. I feel like we really experienced the city, but there are pah-lenty of things I can’t wait to do next time we visit.

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Cocktail of the Month: Manhattan

Last month I discussed our New Years Resolution, to expand our cocktail knowledge in the best possible way – hands-on.

February’s cocktail was the Manhattan.

As with most cocktails, the Manhattan’s origin story is muddled. It’s definitely an American original, and most agree that it was invented in the latter half of the nineteenth century in New York City. Context clues!

My personal impression of a Manhattan, before I made one, was that it was a little-old-lady drink. I thought it would probably be sweet and fussy, like a doily.

The Manhattan’s ingredients include whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters. We chose a cherry garnish because we are unbelievably festive.

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The classic ratio for a Manhattan is 2 parts whiskey, 1 part sweet vermouth, and 1-2 dashes bitters. All that goes in a cocktail shaker filled with ice, and is then strained into glasses with your preferred garnish.

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Turns out this drink will knock you on your ass.

I was completely wrong in my pre-drinking assessment of the Manhattan. It is powerful stuff, made for sipping over the course of an evening. The vermouth serves to take the edge off the whiskey, which it does without masking the whiskey’s muscular punch. It comes out of the cocktail shaker cold, and the flavors change as it warms up. I preferred it near room temperature, as did Jason.

The Manhattan tastes old-fashioned, but in a good way. It’s an adult drink.

This will not be my signature cocktail, but I really enjoyed trying it. No doilies here!

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Nine Months of Chicken

Hazel has been outside almost as long as she was inside! She’s finally doubled her birth weight – although I can’t imagine her half the size she is now.

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This month has brought us pulling up on every stationary object (and some non-stationary ones), the beginnings of cruising along furniture, continued torment of the animals, and terrifying seconds of unassisted standing.

I have lost count of Hazel’s teeth. So many bitey, bitey teeth.

We continue to struggle with food, which continues to be bang-my-head-against-the-wall frustrating. In addition to oat cereal, Hazel will now eat baby yogurt, puffs, Cheerios, and cheese. We’re starting to give her tiny bites of our food, which she seems to like. She had a french fry once and it blew her mind.

I mean, I get that.

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She laughs more, instead of looking vaguely concerned, when we act silly.

She no longer cries when we drive anywhere at night. She naps regularly – short nap at 10 a.m., long nap at 2 p.m. – but isn’t fazed when her schedule is disrupted. She loves being outside, especially when Jason puts her in the baby backpack and lets her supervise his tasks.

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She is a delightful baby, and seems happy to be wherever her family is.

I just realized she’s wearing the same outfit as her eight-month pictures! Her growth has slowed a bit, so clothes fit longer than a few weeks. My wallet is thrilled.

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High Five for Friday: Recycling

If there’s one thing I have learned about children, it’s that they grow. As a result, we make frequent voluminous clothing donations to Goodwill.

We recycle clothes when we can – Hollyn is able to hand down her clothes to Jensen, but obviously I’m not going to hang onto Old Navy’s finest for 10 years so that Hazel can wear them.

I have been looking for ways to repurpose the kids’ castoffs. Here are five examples:

1. T-shirt to Travel Shoe Bags

I took two of Tyler’s t-shirts and turned each body section into a shoe bag for traveling. I added a drawstring from my hoard, er, collection of notions:

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2. T-shirt to Baby Pants

I took the sleeves from the gray t-shirt above and turned them into pants for Hazel. All I needed was a length of elastic for the waistband.

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3. T-shirt to Wine Bottle Bag

I took the sleeves from the camouflage t-shirt and sewed up the bottoms to make unique wine bottle bags.

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4. Flannel Receiving Blankets to Reversible Baby Shoes

When babies are small, you use receiving blankets to cover every porous surface in your home. But now that my baby is a little older, and less prone to violent eruptions, we have a stack of receiving blankets taking up space. I cut up two of them to make reversible baby shoes. Again, a little elastic was all I needed.

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5. T-shirt to Baby Pants, Take Two

Now that Tyler is a big-deal middle schooler, he had no more use for his elementary school class t-shirts. I used a purple one (OF COURSE) to make Hazel MOAR pants. Why does she need so many pants? The short answer is: fluffy cloth diapers. She’s a 9-month body with a 12-18 month booty. Bless her heart.

I actually took pictures of this recycling project.

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I followed this tutorial, using a pair of pants that currently fit Hazel’s enormous bum.

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I made sure that the hem of the shirt was the hem of the pants. Mama hates hemming.

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These turned out super-cute, and Hazel enjoys wearing showing her Gilchrist Elementary pride.

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Anatomy of a Burger

The craft burger craze has hit Tallahassee like a ton of angina-inducing bricks. It seems like a new burger place opens up weekly – from local places like The Tin Cow to chains like BurgerFi, our burger market is saturated.

Deliciously, deliciously saturated.

But because Jason and I are basically hermits, and because the idea of a $12 burger gives me the vapors, we decided to make our own Epic Burgers at home a few weeks ago.

We started with the basics: ground beef and bakery buns from Publix. Jason shaped the patties and splashed them with a little Dale’s Steak Seasoning.

I set to work making it FANCY. Naturally, I started with arugula. I dressed some with olive oil, salt and pepper. Done.

Next, I whipped up some Quick Pickled Onions, using this recipe.

Before:

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After:

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These are unbelievably good. I may or may not eat them out of the jar. So, now our burgers had some virtuous vegetables and tangy onions.

Finally, I made some pimiento cheese. I started by making mayonnaise.

I told you, we went nuts.

So here’s how that went down.

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First, you put an egg, salt, white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, and lemon juice in your food processor. Turn it on, and drizzle in some olive oil. THAT’S IT. Seriously. I use the Cook’s Illustrated Food Processor Mayonnaise recipe, and it’s perfect every time. And I don’t even like mayonnaise.

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Put the mayo in a big bowl, but don’t bother cleaning out the food processor. We have cheese to shred.

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My pimiento cheese recipe is typically Southern, which is to say, I mess with it almost every time I make it. I start with a batch of the mayo (about 1.5 cups) and 16 oz. of extra sharp cheddar. This time, I got one white cheddar and one orange cheddar, because I felt like it. I shred the cheddar in the food processor, and add it to the mayo, with finely minced roasted red peppers (a.k.a. pimientos), onion powder, Worcestershire sauce, and sriracha.

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Mix. Taste. Adjust.

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We were ready to assemble (after eating some of the pimiento cheese on crackers, and by “crackers” I mean “spoon”).

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This was the best burger I’ve ever had, hands down. The toppings worked together perfectly, and I dreamed about it for days afterwards. Especially the pickled onions. Holy moly.

I can’t wait for our next burger night.

 

 

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