Where the Crawdads Sing

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Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. It’s one of those books that stayed with me long after I finished reading. I couldn’t start a new book right away; I had to sit with this one for awhile, which, to me, is a sign of a really great book.

Where the Crawdads Sing takes place in the swamps of North Carolina. The author beautifully describes the setting, and paints realistic characters. It is about a girl, Kya, who is abandoned by her family and left to fend for herself in their shack in the swamp. She is considered an outcast by the townspeople and makes a life for herself as a loner. As she grows up she meets two boys from town and becomes entangled in relationships with them. When one of the boys ends up dead, Kya, the swam girl, is seen as the prime suspect.

The story alternates between the current time of 1969, and 1952. The timelines slowly creep closer and closer together until you are reading everything in real time. I liked how the author did that instead of keeping it in two distinct time periods, I kept waiting for the past to catch up to the present and it kept it very exciting. The mystery kept me hanging on until the very end. I so loved this book.

f044267d-c8e8-4761-ae74-fa36f5a7b408Wine Pairing: Trader Joe’s Coastal Cabernet Sauvignon

At $7.99 this is a reasonably priced wine. It is somewhat fruity, not too light, but not too heavy. This book had me curled up on our cozy couch for hours, and this is a wine that pairs well with being cozy and fits the serious tone of the book.

Have you read Where the Crawdads Sing? What are your thoughts? Cheers!

Dogs and Babies

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In August, Kermit became a big brother! He has done pretty well in his new role, but during my whole pregnancy I was nervous at how he would adjust. Kermit has been our baby since we adopted him as a puppy almost 4 years ago. He’s been part of our family and he’s helped me adjust to life in Alabama when I first moved down here. I knew our family dynamic would change, but I didn’t want him to “become the dog” and get pushed aside for baby. So we worked hard to get Kermit used to how things would change. I’m definitely not a dog expert, and I urge everyone to enlist professional help, especially if your dog is showing signs of aggression or fear, but here is how our family helped prepare Kermit for his role as big brother, and maybe this will help others who have similar worries.


09427ac7-fa7b-45ba-9eb4-8df1ab9087d9b8571e4d-72a2-43d6-a32c-111b1ce31846Practice, practice, practice! As soon as we found out I was pregnant, we knew things would change and we started looking into ways to make the adjustment as smooth as possible for Kermit. What we found was that practicing what it would be like was a good way to get dogs used to a new baby. I started taking Kermit for walks with our stroller to get him comfortable with it. I used lots of treats and praise when he walked next to me and the stroller. I looked pretty ridiculous, and got some odd looks, pushing an empty stroller around the neighborhood, but I figured Kermit’s comfort with our new family situation was more important than me getting some side eye.

We laid down blankets and an activity mat on the ground. I let Kermit sniff it but he wasn’t allowed to walk or to lay on it. I wanted him to practice boundaries around what would be baby’s space. He got lots of treats and praise for laying next to it or walking around it.

As my due date started getting closer, we upped the ante and got an actual baby doll. We put the doll in a rock n play and gave Kerm treats as he gave it a respectable distance. We held the doll as we did training exercises practicing “down,” “place,” “come,” etc. I even found a youtube video of a baby crying and played it while holding the baby and practicing with Kermit. (He must have though we lost our minds!)

382a4669-e4c8-4114-8363-01a542e7af50When we installed our car seat, we put the doll in it and let Kerm get used to sitting there while we drove. Luckily, my husband had the foresight to hide the doll under the seat when we parked so that no one broke into our car to save the “baby”. (Kermit is used to riding in the backseat in his Sleepy Pod Clickit Sport Utility Harness and it’s the safest way for everyone to travel. We’re glad we already had him used to that before adding a baby to the mix! For more info see my earlier post.)


The biggest thing we did and that I highly recommend everyone do if you’re expecting, is go to a training class. Kermit has been through different training classes over the years, and it has helped us tremendously as dog parents. I knew that a baby would be a big change for him so I wanted him to be the best dog he could be, and I also wanted advice from experts. We enrolled in a six week Impulse Control class and I can’t recommend it enough. More than helping Kermit behave better, it helped us to handle him better. The trainers, Rebecca and Anthony from Love Them, Train Them, are extremely knowledgeable and helpful. We got excellent information, and tips specific to Kermit and to our family. There was a follow up email after every class with videos and advice on how to practice the commands we learned in class at home. Kermit graduated and we felt confident that he was ready for baby.

Four days after we completed training, I gave birth to a baby girl! Kermit has adjusted to our new addition and we love that we can continue to take him out with us and he listens as good as ever. They still aren’t the best of friends, but Kermit respects boundaries near her and she loves to watch him play. I can’t wait to see how their relationship grows!

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

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This book was another one of my book club reads. Something I wouldn’t necessarily pick up on my own, but I ended up getting sucked into it and loving it.

Eleanor Oliphant is Complete Fine is about a woman, Eleanor, who doesn’t quite fit in. She is a quirky character who has a does things her own way, and doesn’t much seem to notice, nor care, how others perceive her. She doesn’t understand social norms, and thinks that others are odd, and that she is generally better than the people she encounters. When she went to buy a laptop, the clerk asked her what she’d be using the computer for, in order to provide her with the best one. She snapped that it was none of his business, thinking him rude. When Eleanor orders pizza in, she is miffed that it arrives in a box and the delivery man doesn’t carry a pepper grinder to flavor it for her.

Eleanor has a complicated relationship with her mother, and a past that is slowly revealed throughout the book. Eleanor decides that she has fallen in love and begins to take the necessary steps to meet the object of her affection, a singer with whom she becomes obsessed. Along the way, she befriends a normal guy from her office and he helps her in ways she couldn’t imagine.

Slightly predictable, and very funny, I really enjoyed this one. The best part is getting into Eleanor’s head and seeing the world through her eyes. She is somewhat similar to Don, from The Rosie Project.

f4402bc0-7f82-4400-b4e4-e6e161a946c7Wine Pairing: Trader Joe’s Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc

While Eleanor’s drink of choice is vodka, I chose a Sauvignon Blanc to go with this book. There are definitely more heavy undertones to the book, but the overall feel is mostly light, and it’s a pretty easy read. This wine is light, crisp, and fruity, which goes well with Eleanor’s quirkiness. You can pick some up at Trader Joe’s for about $6.99. Cheers!

The Perfect Bloody Mary

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A Bloody Mary is my ultimate favorite breakfast drink. It is a brunch staple and can be a meal all by itself. Crafting the perfect Bloody Mary, however, can be daunting. It’s so much more than just stirring up some vodka and a mixer. I’ve watched my mom make Bloody Marys every Christmas morning, and I’ve since learned how to cultivate the perfect Bloody. I’ll share my recipe here, and you can impress your friends the next time you have people over for brunch.

A Bloody Mary is also highly customizable, so you can certainly adjust this recipe to your personal tastes – this is just a good starting point.


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Ingredients:

Tito’s Vodka

Zing Zang Bloody Mary Mix

olives

lime

celery salt

hot sauce

worcester sauce

Steps:

  1. First, get your glass ready. Pour some water (or lime juice, if you have enough) in a plate and dip the rim of your class in.
  2. f143ce3c-1d29-43fe-838c-3a283cb88417Pour some celery salt in a separate plate, then dip your wet rimmed glass into the celery salt. I like to get a lot of salt on the rim of the glass. It makes it look more professional and gives the Bloody a more savory taste.
  3. Fill your glass with ice. (This sounds stupid to list as a step, but I’ve definitely put ice in my glass before rimming it and, obviously, this doesn’t make sense.)
  4. Measure out one to two shots of Tito’s vodka. I’m not usually picky on brand names, but Tito’s is my favorite vodka because it is vodka for dog people. Since finding this out, this is the only kind of vodka that I drink.
  5. Fill the rest of your glass up about 3/4 of the way with Zing Zang mix. This is the very best Bloody Mary mix – it’s not too spicy, not too mild, and it has plenty of flavor.
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    Vodka for dog people

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    The very best mix
  6. Add a few splashes of hot sauce and worcester sauce. I like to go heavier on the worcester. Some people like to add A1 steak sauce instead. Whatever floats your boat.
  7. Add olives. I like to put them on toothpicks to make it all look more put together, and for easy olive eating. While you’re at it, pour in a spoonful or two of olive juice.
  8. Cut a lime into quarters. Squeeze the lime and add it to your drink.
  9. Stir everything really well. This is best served with a straw so you can get all the spices and flavor with every sip and stir it as you drink, instead of having all your spices end up on the bottom.

And there you have it! You can adjust ingredients and add what you have or what you like. Sometimes I like to add in a celery stalk, or some hot pickled green beans. You can also add pickles and pickle juice instead of (or in addition to) olives. You really can’t go wrong so don’t be scared to shake it up and tweak it until it’s your perfect drink. Cheers!

Flight Savers

Ugh I hate flying. Just something about hurling through the air in a metal tube freaks me out. But sometimes flying is the easiest way to get somewhere, especially if I’m only going for a short time.

Whenever I fly I try not to check bags because I just don’t trust airlines to competently get my stuff where I’m going without losing or breaking it. It’s also much quicker going through the airport without having to go through baggage claim. So this means I have to take all my skin care and hair products in my carry on, which can be difficult. I’ve found two products I LOVE that are perfect for sticking in a carry on and can take you through a weekend without needing all your beauty products. Continue reading “Flight Savers”

Martha Stewart Lemon Shortbread Wreath Cookies

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This dapper gentleman loves the holidays

 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Well, aside from football season, and Halloween. But I just can’t pass up an excuse to get a Christmas picture of my fur son.

Since becoming a stay-at-home-mom/dog mom, I’ve had more time on my hands to do things that I enjoy but never really got to do. It’s been wonderful. Something I’ve been working on lately is practicing my skills in the kitchen. While cooking can still be daunting for me, baking is something I’ve always loved. I like to follow a precise recipe. No guessing and tasting, just follow the directions and your reward is a beautiful baked good. This year for Christmas, I decided to try my hand at a recipe from the mother of all things homemade and crafty: Martha Stewart. Think what you want of her, but there is no denying she is a master of homemaking, and I wanted to see if my baking skills could hold up to a Martha Steward recipe.

While I do enjoy baking, I was still a bit intimidated to conquer a more complex recipe entirely from scratch. I read it several times and planned it out before I even attempted to start baking. So I’m going to post Martha’s recipe here, and break it down by showing you just how I did it, including pictures for those who (like me) are more visual learners. It’s really much less difficult than I thought, and they make very impressive (and delicious!) Christmas cookies!


Martha Stewart’s Meyer-Lemon Shortbread Wreath Cookies

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Ingredients:

  • COOKIES

    • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 1 tablespoon packed finely grated Meyer-lemon zest, plus 2 tablespoons fresh juice (from 2 lemons)
    • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
    • 1¼ teaspoons kosher salt
    • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • GLAZE AND DECORATIONS

    • 60 sprigs (each about 1 inch long) fresh thyme or rosemary, or a combination
    • 1 large egg white, beaten
    • Granulated sugar, for sprinkling
    • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
    • 3 tablespoons fresh Meyer-lemon juice
    • Small red, white, and green candies, such as nonpareils and pearls

Steps:

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My little helper
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lemon zest and butter

1. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter with zest on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. I zested the lemon right into a large bowl. I microwaved two sticks of butter for 10 seconds to soften them up a bit.

 

2. Beat in confectioners’ sugar until pale and fluffy, about 1 minute more. 

 

 

 

 

 

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after it’s all mixed
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added flour

3. Reduce speed to low. Beat in lemon juice and salt, then flour, until combined. I don’t have a blender that is attached to a rotating bowl, so I just used my handheld one and it worked just fine. I added the flour slowly and used a spatula to make sure it was all mixed up.

 

4. Divide dough in half, transfer each to plastic wrap, pat into disks, wrap, and refrigerate until firm, at least 4 hours and up to 3 days (or freeze up to 1 month; thaw in refrigerator before using). This part was a bit confusing for me and I wished I had pictures. I divided the dough onto two separate pieces of plastic wrap. Then I wrapped each ball of dough fairly tightly so there were no air bubbles. Then I shaped them into two flattened balls and put them in the fridge. I made these about 2 days before I actually baked them.

 

5. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 325°F. Working with one disk at a time, roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to a scant 1/4 inch thick. Stamp out rounds with a 3-inch cutter, preferably fluted. Transfer to prepared sheets, 1 inch apart. Use a 1- to 1 1/4-inch plain round cutter to stamp out centers of 3-inch rounds. Gather scraps; roll out again, stamping out more wreaths. Repeat with remaining disk. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. I poured out a couple handfuls of flour on the counter that I kept spreading onto my rolling area. I also put some flour on the rolling pin. It’s hardest to roll the out right at first because the disk is still kind of hard from the fridge. As you can see, my cookies aren’t fluted like my cookie cutter. I ordered my cookie cutter from Etsy and it didn’t get here in time for me to make the cookies for my cookie exchange so I had to make do with what I had. If you are in a similar situation, I used the top to a drink mixer and a metal shot glass to cut out my wreaths. You definitely need to cut the wreaths first, put them on the parchment paper, THEN cut the center out. The dough gets easier to roll the more you’ve been working with it. I got about 10 cookies from each disk.

 

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My burned second batch. Oops!

6. Bake, rotating sheets and rack positions halfway through, until set and pale golden on bottoms, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool on sheets 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week before decorating. I only had one baking sheet so I just used that 2-3 times. Just make sure that you let the sheet cool completely before you put a new batch on it. I set the timer for 10 minutes, then rotated the sheet 180º so that the cookies could bake evenly. I cooked the first batch for 25 minutes, and the second batch for 25 minutes, however, I burned the second batch. So then I just set a timer for 10 minutes, rotated the cookies, and then kept an eye on them. Some of them I had rolled too thin so they looked golden brown before the other ones and so I just took them out early.

 

 

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Add more sugar than you think. Some of it scrapes off when you put them on the cookies.

7. Brush herbs with egg white; sprinkle with granulated sugar. Transfer to wire rack; let stand until stiff and dry, at least 1 hour or, loosely covered, up to 1 day. I set the rosemary an hour before I baked the cookies so they would be ready to go once the cookies were done baking and cooling. I had a small brush I used to brush on the egg white, but you can also probably just dip it in to make sure it’s fully coated before sprinkling on the sugar. Make sure you coat the the front and back of the rosemary.

8. In a small bowl, whisk together confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice until smooth. One at a time, dip cookie tops in glaze; lift and tilt slightly for a few seconds, allowing excess to drip back into bowl. I just dipped the whole top of the cookie in the glaze, dripped the excess off, and then placed it back on the rack. SO much easier than trying to spread it with a knife.

fa85254f-cbb5-469f-a239-7f285fc9cb899. Transfer to wire rack; decorate with sugared herbs and candies. Let stand until set, about 2 hours. Store in an airtight container at room temperature, between sheets of parchment, up to 2 days. Put some aluminum foil, parchment paper, anything, underneath the wire rack after you’ve glazed  your cookies so that when the glaze drips down you’ll have an easy clean up!

Overall, the whole cookie-making process took me about 2-3 days. I did it in shifts because I really wanted to have the dough firm up in the fridge, and having a 4 month old makes extended time in the kitchen much more difficult. The only extra tip I would add is just to be really careful with the lemon glaze because it drips everywhere and can be kind of a hassle to clean up. The aluminum foil under the rack was very helpful, but unfortunately I didn’t think to do it until my last batch so clean up was still a bit rough.

These cookies are delicious and taste light and fresh! They really aren’t as hard to make as they look and they certainly look impressive and delicious. I hope I’ve inspired you to channel your inner Martha and tackle these holiday cookies in time for Christmas!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trim Tab Brewery

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Mom, is that beer for me?

One of our favorite places to hang out on the weekends is Trim Tab Brewery. Located in Lakeview, it’s one of the first breweries to open in Birmingham-and of course it’s dog friendlly! I love their craft beer, my absolute favorite is the Raspberry Berliner Weisse. While you can buy it canned in stores, it tastes better from the tap while sitting outside on a warm summer day.


 

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Now that it’s the holiday season, Trim Tab has my favorite holiday beer-Holiday Now Cranberry Spice Berliner. They first released it last year, and it’s so delicious. I’m a sucker for anything seasonal, and this does not disappoint. It’s tart and flavorful, but not overwhelmingly so. I also love the packaging, the can looks like it’s wearing an ugly sweater!

Trim Tab decorates for the holidays with lights, a tree, and plays festive music. When it gets dark super early (at the ungodly hour of 4:30) it’s nice to go somewhere warm, festive, and inviting, and relax with a beer and pet some dogs. They also have lots of board games to play, sometimes show movies on their big screen, and they have DJs on the weekends.

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Feelin’ festive!

Trim Tab is always releasing seasonal, small batch beer so be sure to check them on on Instagram (@trimtabbrewing) to get their latest updates. On Saturday, December 22nd, they are having a “North Pole Tap Takeover” where 8 Christmas Small Batches will be released in one night! It’s always a fun time at Trim Tab, and the holidays make this brewery even brighter. Cheers!