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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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:


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.


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.


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


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


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.


Onions 1



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.


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.


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


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.


Mix. Taste. Adjust.


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

Burger 2

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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A New Year’s Resolution I Can Get Behind

I resisted making a New Year’s resolution this year. I am tired, tiiiiiired, of vowing to lose weight, read more books, and be a better person every single year. It’s exhausting, and only leads to failure, which makes me want to drink.

And then it hit me. Drinks!

My New Year’s resolution for 2015 is simple: every month, I will try a new cocktail and learn to make it at home.


January’s cocktail is the Sidecar.

Wikipedia can fill you in, but here’s the short history of the sidecar: It was invented in Paris, or maybe London, around the end of World War I. The basic idea recipe is equal parts cognac/brandy, Cointreau/triple sec, and lemon juice. This formulation is known as the “French school,” while the “English school” involves two parts cognac to one part Cointreau and one part lemon juice.

Many hip drinking establishments (and Pinterest recipes) insist upon a sugared glass rim. Some suggest garnishing with a cherry – not the bright red ice-cream-sundae maraschinos, but darker, cocktail-worthy cherries. You know, for grownups.

We gathered up our ingredients: a higher-end brandy, triple sec, and fresh-squeezed lemon juice. Jason threw them in the cocktail shaker with ice, and strained them into glasses. A dark cherry served as a minimalist garnish. This was good for Jason, but it was a bit acidic for me. I wanted the effect of a sugared rim without the work, so I added about a teaspoon of simple syrup to my drink. Perfection.

What does it taste like?

I think of a sidecar as a winter margarita – it’s citrusy without being summery. The brandy adds warmth and depth. This drink goes down very easy, so be careful.


Yeah, this is way better than hitting the gym.


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Eight Months of Chicken

Chapter 8: In which our tiny heroine is suddenly mobile.


Hazel finally transitioned out of Lump Phase this month. Over Christmas break, she mastered getting up on all fours and rocking back and forth. After that came the frustrating I-want-to-go-forwards-but-I’m-only-moving-backwards phase, followed at long last by legitimate crawling. She gets faster every day, especially when her target is something verboten – the cable modem with its flickering lights, the delicious edge of the hearth, the cat.


Her sudden mobility has come as quite a shock to the pets, who were accustomed to a certain “safe distance” beyond which the baby could not grab their ears, whiskers, or flanks. Those days are over. Ron the cat will toy with Hazel, allowing her to get within inches before moving away. We are teaching her to be gentle with the animals, but that too is a process.

In addition to crawling, Hazel is starting to pull up to standing. She particularly likes standing in her crib (and gnawing on the rails with her SIX teeth). Woe to the person who removes her from her crib when she’s mid-gnaw.


We had a bit of a setback this month in the feeding department. We introduced Hazel to oat cereal at six months, which went okay. But when we tried to add purees to her food repertoire, she refused them. Eventually, she stopped eating the oat cereal as well. Mealtimes became frustrating, as Hazel wouldn’t eat and I hate wasting food. We both shed many tears over the process. This is also the child who never learned to drink from a bottle, so my life has been scheduled around her feedings every day for the last eight months with no break. It was overwhelming. Finally I called Hazel’s pediatrician and had a great conversation with the nurse. We’re calling a do-over on food – starting back from square one, oat cereal. I’m also supposed to make sure that Hazel is truly hungry before we try to feed her, so I’ve been spacing out her feedings from every 2-3 hours to every 4-5 hours. I am happy to report that the changes seem to be working – Hazel has eaten a full serving of oat cereal every day since Thursday. Fingers crossed!


Hazel now understands object permanence, the idea that when an object is out of view it still exists. This makes it much harder to “hide” things she shouldn’t play with. We are trying to dissuade her from using That Horrid Piercing Wail to get her way.

Thankfully, she continues to be an overall delightful child, bright and inquisitive and generally quiet. Hazel and I are both looking forward to warmer weather and more time outside!

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High Five for Friday!

Five Recent Reads:

1. A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings (in progress), George R. R. Martin. I bought Game of Thrones at Chamblin’s a long time ago and am finally getting around to reading it. I find it very enjoyable, with some minor annoyances. On the one hand, it occasionally feels derivative and borrowed – especially from Lewis and Tolkien, with a dash of Stephen King’s chill. For example, the Dothraki remind me forcefully of the Calormenes in Lewis’ A Horse and His Boy. On the other hand, I love the Narnia series and the Ring trilogy, so it’s no problem for me to read stories from a land that feels familiar. When I finished the first book, I immediately wanted to get the second one – but I didn’t want it enough to pay for it. The library had a kindle version I’m reading now.

2. A Discovery of Witches, Deborah Harkness. My reading tastes run to the lighter side, but this was alllllmost too light for me. I’ve heard it described as “Twilight for Grownups,” and I agree with that. It was a quick read, predictable yet entertaining. I borrowed it from the library, and will probably do the same with the sequels (because, naturally, it’s a trilogy).

3. The Whole Damn Harry Potter Series, J.K. Rowling. I re-read these books in preparation for our trip to Universal Studios. I was once again amazed by how rich a world Rowling has created. We also re-watched all the movies, which are great, but they can’t hold a candle to the books. There’s just so much MORE in the books. More story, more characters, more depth and breadth. I don’t re-read many books, but I am already looking forward to reading these again with Hazel.

4. The Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith. This book was chosen for one of the book clubs to which I belong. Robert Galbraith is a pen name for J.K. Rowling – it was a Very Rowling December. This book is definitely for adults, as it deals with a model’s suicide-that-may-be-murder. It’s almost as though, having secured a place for her “children’s” books alongside C.S. Lewis, she is elbowing in for her berth among Britain’s great mystery writers like Agatha Christie, P.D. James, and Arthur Conan Doyle. She’s succeeding, too.

5. Every Soul a Star, Wendy Mass & Stargirl, Jerry Spinelli. Tyler and I read these for his school’s SPUR (students & parents unplugged & reading) group. I enjoyed the former more than the latter, but both were good choices for the middle-school-age reader. Because they are for younger people, the message can be a bit heavy-handed.

My Goodreads goal for 2015 is to read 24 books. This should be easy!

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