Cocktail of the Month: May

This month’s cocktail is the humble gin & tonic, in honor of my mom. I’ll show you how she makes hers, then I’ll show you how I make mine.

Gin & Tonic: Winkie’s Way

Add a lot of crushed ice to a tall glass. Fill it 1/3 of the way with Tanqueray. Top with Publix diet tonic water, preferably bought on sale. Add a squeeze of lime, or a squeeze of bottled lime juice in a pinch. Drink while watching a sporting event.

Gin & Tonic: Windy’s Way

Fill a tall glass halfway with cubed ice. Add 1-2 oz. of Hendrick’s Gin. Top with Schwepps diet tonic water. Add slices of cucumber. Drink while fixing dinner, or by the pool. (For pool consumption, it is recommended that one use a Tervis tumbler instead of a glass. Safety first!)

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A Whole Year of Chicken

Guys, we made it.

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In some ways, the hard part is over. I won’t miss the frequent diaper blowouts, for example.

In other ways, the easy part is over. Loving a baby is simple and straightforward.

This past month has been rough, as I’ve been helping my mother deal with a medical issue,  but through it all Hazel has been a champion. Not many babies can say they perfected their walking skills in the Mayo Clinic halls.

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Even though Hazel is enjoying more foods, we are still nursing three times a day. Attempts to drop the mid-day feeding have been met with….resistance. And yes, we’re still cloth diapering. I have a load drying on the line right now.

As for tricks, she will now wave good-bye and blow kisses. She claps and gives high-five.

She makes all of us laugh, every day, with her funny faces and baby gibberish.

We are completely enamored of her, and can barely remember a time she wasn’t part of our family.

Happy Birthday to my tiny bunny.

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Eleven Months of Chicken

Hi, my name is Hazel. I’m kind of a big deal.

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So how’s our little chicken doing?

Eating: The eating situation has improved dramatically. She is madly in love with those little Halo oranges, and I buy them by the crate. She also will eat yogurt, grapes, squash, cheese, and whatever you’re eating. She’s sampled everything from hot dogs to pickled onions to etoufee.

Walking: Not yet, but soon. Last night she took her first unassisted step, and she’s repeated that trick a couple of times today. I predict she’s fully mobile within the month.

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Words: She meows at the cat, and is learning “dog” and “please.” Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my experience as a parent so far, I’d much rather my kid be polite than smart.

Cloth diapers: Yes. It’s warm enough to dry them outside again, for which I am grateful. Since Hazel started eating real food, we’ve been using these diaper liners to catch the, um, solids. They work well.

We’re looking forward to celebrating a whole year of chicken next month. A whole year with this delightful little person! I can’t believe it. I have been very intentional about enjoying every phase with Hazel, and the time has STILL flown by.

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Cocktail of the Month: April

This month, I decided to do something crazy.

I made up a drink. Out of thin air.

I mean, let’s face it, there probably aren’t many alcohol combinations that have not been attempted by intrepid mixologists (or idiot college students) at one point or another. However, I could not find record of this particular combination as a popular drink.

It was a Friday evening. I was not interested in going to the liquor store to buy anything, so I looked at what I had on hand. The kids wanted to get in the pool, so we were looking for something on the light/refreshing end of the drink spectrum.

Over in the fruit bowl, a grapefruit called to me.

I squeezed the grapefruit, which yielded about a cup of juice. I added an equal amount of gin, and then sweetened the mixture with a few tablespoons of rosemary simple syrup.

And lo, it was very good.

The grapefruit was a good match for the herbal simple syrup, and the gin added a nice depth of flavor without making the drink heavy.

We’ll call it The Chicken.

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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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