Tag Archives: woodford reserve


Tonight we headed off on another extended camping trip.  We’ll be spending the next four nights camped out.  This year, it’s a little different with the drunken-orangutan-like movements of Buster, our Princess, and our brand new puppy, Emma.  But still, I’m ready.  If you didn’t read my very first post- “Roughin’ It,” you should know that I’m pretty tough when it comes to camping.  I could survive for days and days with nothing but two fully stocked refrigerators, my crock pot, my cupcake maker, a smoker, air-conditioning, a flush-toilet of my own, several cases of beer, a handle of Woodford Reserve, 100+ of my closest friends and family, and of course, my mommy and daddy camped right next door.  Because it’s only the basics like that that matter.

Really, I have all that stuff.  If you don’t know how I camp, I went into great detail about how I don’t camp in this post:  How I Don’t Camp.

This camping trip is particularly special, though, as it is a family reunion.  Grammy, a very special 95-year-old lady, will get to see all ten of her children.  They’re traveling in from California, Kentucky, Texas, Massachusetts, New York, Maine, and probably more states I’m forgetting, to Connecticut to get together as they do every 5 years or so.

The usual crew we camp with will be there, too.  Most of them are the local part of this giant family.  I’m not actually related to most of them.  My mother’s sister married one of the ten siblings.  Out of kindness, or maybe because there were so many of them already that they didn’t notice, they’ve always treated me like family.  Which is really nice and made for some difficult explanations when putting together already-complicated family-tree projects my cousins had to do.  In fact, some didn’t realize I’m not actually related for a while.  One cousin’s husband was more than a little disappointed to find out he’d been putting up with my crap since I was 15 and there was no real blood to back it up.

But I’m not the only non-blood-related member of this giant family.  It seems they’ve picked up many stragglers along the way who are now considered family.  They’re all wonderful people.  In fact, my husband is one of those stragglers.  I actually met him on my first “family” camping trip after I returned home from Oklahoma.  You don’t get to become family if you’re not tough enough to take some ribbing but kind enough to contribute something- whether it’s fruit pizza, a bottle of some liquor, or just good conversation.  Really the best thing you can contribute is a willingness to be the butt of our jokes for a while, I think.

I think the group needs to be studied.  You know it if you’re a part of it, but there’s no membership cards.  This reunion was well-organized by a few members of the group because it is larger and it has a few scheduled activities, but most camping trips come together with just a liaison to a campground.  The rest just happens without any official leaders.  I think everyone sees Grammy as the matriarch, but like Queen Elizabeth, at this point she’s not real interested in being in charge of everything.  She does enough of that at her nursing home (that’s another story.)  We all show up at a campground and there may be some scuffling about who camps where and how certain people behave, but we always seem to work it out.  We take care of our children and each others’.  We share food sometimes.  Sometimes we don’t.  It would be impressive if I were talking about 20 or so people.  But it’s usually over 100 and includes something like 20 dogs.

Finding campgrounds has become tough, too- we’ve been thrown out of a few.  Weird how they don’t like noise all night long, giant campfires.   One campground seemed particularly sensitive about stuffing some clothing including a shirt that matched the campgrounds “STAFF” shirts and then burning it in effigy after they’d told us to go to bed too many times.  But we’re a big group, and we like to have fun.  We’re always up front before we visit a place.  If we’re on a trip and things are getting less than fun, Grammy will even mention “We’ve been thrown out of nicer places than this one.”

As rowdy as we are during the camping, we always clean up our campfire and all other messes we create.  When a campground we frequent was hit hard by a tornado a couple of years ago, a big group of us (not me, I had two small children, so not looking for credit) went up to the campground to help clean up.  Treat us right, let us do our thing, and we’ll not only pay you thousands in camping fees, we’ll help you when you need it.

The members of the group include several races and religions.  Members of the group have a wide span as far as employment- everything from retired and current business owners, nurses, engineers, firefighters (so the large campfires are usually somewhat contained, or at least someone understands the risks being taken), military, school-bus drivers, teachers, DCF workers, realtor/railroad workers, several IT folks, craftsmen, etc.  And we all get along as neighbors for a few days.  Even more of us do when we have a reunion.  It’s an awesome temporary community and it will be even larger this weekend.  I’m so glad that my kids get to be a part of it.

Anyway, this reunion is going to be fun.  There will be even more kids for our children to play with this trip.  And we’ve managed to book an entire campground.  So I’m looking forward to catching up and telling some old stories and making some new ones.  But I better get to packing.  I’ll leave you with a nursery rhyme I wrote a couple of years ago (I didn’t use the proper name):

Lovely Mrs. Grammy never lived in a shoe,

But she has a large family and

Camping is what they do.

No broth in sight so they drink beer instead,

They burn things all night

And then go to bed.

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Friday Night Gratitude


Tonight is truly fantastic. Husband is out with a mostly well-behaved friend and both of my children seem to be asleep. Sure, Princess expects me up in the chair in her room but I am sure she understands when I say “I’ll be up after I finish the laundry and get a couple of other things done,” that I actually mean put clothes in the dryer then make a manhattan and sit on my front porch (shown in the picture) awhile.

Right now I’m drinking said manhattan and watching Friday night unfold on my street. I live in a house that was built in 1917, and most of the houses on my street were built within 10 years of that. In my neighborhood, the homes are close together and close to the street with large backyards. Some people might not consider it the best neighborhood, but tonight, already a little bourbon in, I think it’s awesome.

The smell of Dreft detergent (one of those “babies smell so good” tricks) is drifting up from my own dryer vent and it mixes with the citronella candle burning on my porch. I can hear the clatter of dishes being washed next door and imagine the 3 generations of Italians that live there had a good meal tonight. People are walking dogs and children all over the neighborhood.

At least that’s what was happening. I was just going to tell a quick story about my neighborhood, but here’s what happened instead.

So I’m typing away at the previous paragraphs and notice that Louie, who us supposed to be my indoor cat, is in the middle of the street. (He tends to take advantage of the open door while I’m carrying Buster and herding Princess.) He’s all black except for a white tuft on his neck and belly so I actually just noticed a weird shadow in the twilight.

I heard a car zooming up the street in his direction and yelled, “Louie!”

A bit of background on Louie- I adopted him after an acquaintance who’d become a Facebook friend seemed extremely distraught when she had to surrender him to a shelter for medical reasons. I’d wanted to adopt a cat for some time, and this situation seemed perfect- already neutered, good with kids, former owner who would delight in seeing pics on facebook. And I’d still get the good feeling from freeing up a space at the animal shelter.

I went to meet Louie and he made it clear he’d be coming to live with us. He was gorgeous. Sleek, shiny, reminiscent of what I imagine those royal Egyptian cats were like. And he had personality, too. I was one of 5 applications for him, I think.

If he could have spoken when I first met him, I think his directive would have been along these lines:
Placing his right paw upon my shoulder and looking into my eyes, (he really did do that) he would have said, “You, woman, shall take me home. From my arrival on, I will rule your home and all of its occupants.”

Then, as he moved his paw to gently, without claws, stroke my face (he really did that, too) he would have said, “now go forth, woman, and prepare. Purchase the finest imitation fishing rods to which catnip-filled shapes can be attached. Prepare your home with furniture that will accomodate my claws. Provide me with only round-shaped dry food or soft food soaked in gravy. Procure a large plastic box and fill it with sweet-smelling dirt. In exchange, I will place my feces and urine in said box. You may rake these gifts and place them in plastic bags to preserve for future generations as my previous owner did. That is my promise to you.”

He’s kept up his end of the bargain ever since. While my husband says he dislikes him, he’s found his bat-in-the-house-cornering skills useful and appreciates some of his other habits like bee killing.

Anyway, back to tonight. After I called his name, Louie ran out of the street with plenty of time to spare and seemed to ignore me.

A few moments later, I hear a lot of squeaking and thought that the bats must be out eating bugs.

Shortly after, Louie, forever the charmer, saunters on the porch. Apparently, he appreciated my life-saving yell. Dangling from his mouth, by its tail, was a gift for me. A mouse, still alive and squeaking (he must have really appreciated me because I usually just get the carcass on my doormat as he reserves the joy of killing it for himself.) In spite my fervent pleas otherwise, he was determined to bring it right to me.

I quickly backed off the porch and, looking confused and a little hurt, he let the mouse go and it was running and squeaking back and forth on my porch.

By then, my next-door neighbor had arrived. (He is husband of the middle generation of the aforementioned Italians.) All he saw was me backing off my porch excitedly saying something like, “Louie, no- I mean thank you, but no. I don’t need a gift. I don’t want it. No, stop, no! Get away from me! Can’t you just let it go? Let it go!!!”.

My would-be good samaritan neighbor had a good laugh when he saw the mouse and realized Louie was my cat and not a jealous ex-boyfriend.

So that is why that perfect seat on my porch next to my manhattan is empty in the picture above. This guy here- Louie, bearer of gifts of gratitude.

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I Help My Husband with Work Sometimes

Woodford Reserve Manhattan Contest

Yup, that’s a bacon-wrapped cherry. It’s good to be me.

My husband is a salesman for a liquor distributor. He approached me a couple of weeks ago because they were having trouble finding a judge for the local portion of the Woodford Reserve Manhattan Experience contest. Would I be willing to do it? Hmmmm…..

A few years ago I gave up most vodka, gin and rum because the concoctions they’re a part of are typically sugary sweet or martinis that are strictly for getting drunk (which I prefer to believe happens only by accident.)

Enter whiskey. It’s got a kick that lets you know what you’re messing with but that has good flavor. Hard to find something to drink it with, though, and drinking it on the rocks seems too hard-core (but is a great treat once in a while.)

Two years ago, at a work event with my husband, we were having pre-dinner cocktails and most folks had martinis. I decided to try something different and ordered a Manhattan. One sip and I was done. I told my husband that it was obvious the drink had been created for me. Who knew?

A Manhattan is a drink I can have at home at the end of a day of mommying and instantly feel sexy and adult again, even if I am wearing Hello Kitty pajama bottoms with sweatshirt and eating pizza for dinner. When I’m out, it’s a great accessory to any nice dress (people will notice it before they notice your clutch, I promise) and a fun and yummy way to wait for a table at a nice restaurant.

If you’ve never had a Manhattan, here’s why you should order one:

  • The flavor is unmistakable. It is all at once sophisticated, smooth, warm, comfortable, simple and wild. It doesn’t have any typical holiday flavors, but it tastes the way the Christmas feels.
  • Served up, or even on the rocks, it is honey brown and usually accompanied by a delightful cherry and/or an orange peel. It is Betty-Draper-in-Rome sexy (although I think she orders a gimlet there.)
  • It’s hard to lose track of how many Manhattans you’ve had. Every sip reminds you of its potency.
  • While it is regaining popularity, it is still occasional enough to be a conversation starter.
  • People are still surprised when women drink Manhattans. Maybe because whiskey is supposed to be a guy thing? Anyway, I think drinking a Manhattan exudes confidence, good taste and strength.

A Manhattan is so wonderful in its basic recipe: whiskey (I do prefer bourbon, specifically Woodford Reserve coincidentally – this isn’t just because they sponsored the contest. It’s because it is hands-down the most robust, grown-up bourbon on the market and perfectly melds with the other ingredients), sweet vermouth, and some bitters (I like 5 or so dashes of orange.) Read The Manhattan Project, an article by Gary Regan that tells the mysterious history of the drink and discusses its variations and merits. He hits the nail on the head when he explains:

“It’s the job of the vermouth to soothe the savage soul of the whiskey in a Manhattan cocktail, but it must allow the spirit to be heard, too.”
Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/wine/article/The-Manhattan-project-A-bartender-spills-his-2502224.php#ixzz2CllHGsAP

Back to my husband’s request. I told him if he really needed me I’d move some things around in my schedule if he’d find a sitter. (Of course, in my head I was jumping up and down and doing the happy dance. I had to reschedule folding laundry and watching DVRed Mad Men.) I’m not really sure why he didn’t just call this a holiday gift, but that’s his loss.

Judging was a little tougher than I thought (although even more enjoyable than expected) because it is tough to improve on such a distinguished standard.

The Connecticut bartenders that competed last night did a great job of adding their own twist on a classic. Each contestant worked hard and got really creative. Some of the more exceptional ingredients I saw included pumpkin, apple cider, hard cider, Tahitian vanilla bean, homemade strawberry vermouth, chocolate bitters, jalepenos, and peanut butter. There were probably more that I’m forgetting, but those stood out for me. The best cocktails, to me, were the simplest ones that kept the integrity of the Manhattan with just a subtle twist or surprise.

The whole night was amazing. I didn’t get to see the drinks being made or know who was making them, but I can imagine the work that went into some of them. They were presented beautifully, with garnishes like chocolate covered cherries, cinnamon sticks, citrus peel twists, citrus peel chunks, and even bacon (see the photo.)

I still don’t know what the winning drink was (my husband was tired and I’d just tasted 19 Manhattans, so we headed out early.) Hats off to all the contestants. I was honored to enjoy every sip last night. I hope to see some of those concoctions on local menus whether they won or not.


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