Chilling at an Ice Bar

As the temperature drops, the winter weather activities begin! Every year Gaylord Opryland features Ice, an indoor display of over two million pounds of ice sculptures hand-carved by 40 artisans. This year’s theme is Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. (See below for an example of the carvings and a friendly abominable snowman.) The attraction comes with all sorts of festivities including an ice slide, snow tubing, ice skating, and for the adults . . . an ice bar!

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The ice bar, like the rest of the attraction, is only 9 degrees so we were given special parkas to put over our winter wear to keep us warm. (The cold air was a dark preview of the coming months.) The parkas helped a little, but it was still pretty icy in there. The cold wasn’t too bad as long as I wasn’t trying to take pictures. Every time I had to remove my gloves my fingers received an arctic blast.

There were 3 drinks to enjoy: A Goose Island Beer; the Jolly Mint featuring Jackson Morgan Southern Cream and Hangar One Vodka; and a Merry Margarita featuring Milagro Tequila. The Jolly Mint tasted like chocolate milk and the Merry Margarita was the first tequila drink I have ever liked. It was a nice revelation.

abominable-snowman

While the ice bar was a cool experience (see what I did there?), I think it may be better suited for places like Las Vegas where you are trying to escape the heat instead of just exchanging one level of cold for another. It also made me rethink wanting to stay in an ice hotel in Québec.

This visit was also a good lesson that my current winter clothes will not cut it this December as I take my very first skiing trip (and that I should perhaps get some of those iPhone friendly gloves). Stay tuned for that adventure in the coming weeks!

Butter Making & 11 Delicious Recipes to Make Your Own

The holidays are approaching and that means endless meals with friends and family. To kick off the season of eating I got together with some girlfriends for an old fashioned day of making butter. Except instead of churns, we had mixers. And wine. We had a lot of wine.

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Butter making is simple and you only need a few items: heavy whipping cream (1 pint will produce about 1/2 pound of butter); cheesecloth; a food processor with a mixing or paddle blade; plenty of bowls and forks to stir in ingredients; containers for the butter (4oz mason jars work well); and salt and other ingredients as desired.

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The process is easy. You start by pouring the cream into the mixer. Lower the whisk into the cream and turn it to about half speed. Mixing typically takes 3 to 10 minutes. You can also make butter by shaking the cream in a sealed container (read about that process here). Shaking takes approximately 10 to 20 minutes (and results in a super tired arm).

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As the cream is processed it will separate into butter and buttermilk. (You can save the buttermilk for other cooking projects if you so desire). Once this happens, pour the buttermilk and butter into a bowl with a colander or cheesecloth.

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Use the cheesecloth to squeeze out any liquid and then rinse the butter. This process feels really weird and you get your hands covered in butter.

If you don’t press out all of the buttermilk the butter will spoil faster. Homemade butter will last in the refrigerator for 1-3 weeks, depending on how well you squeeze the buttermilk out. If you store the butter in the freezer, unsalted butter will stay good for 5-6 months but salted butter can last up to 9 months.

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Once the butter has been pressed and washed you are ready to add your ingredients. You can just add salt for simple plain butter, or you can add fresh herbs, spices, garlic, cheeses, wine, lemon/lime, peppers, jam, and the list goes on. Each ingredient adds its own unique flavor and flair.

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We made 11 types of butter, all ingredients are to-taste, so add as much of each as you like:

  • Lemon zest, parsley, salt, and pepper
  • Basil, lemon zest, parsley, salt, and pepper
  • Brie, roasted garlic, and salt
  • Rosemary, roasted garlic, salt, and pepper (delicious)
  • Organic basil, espresso sea salt, and pepper (my favorite)
  • Honey, honey goat cheese, blue cheese, and salt
  • White wine, thyme, honey, and salt
  • Peach brandy jam
  • Nutella (life changing)
  • Maple peanut butter
  • Pumpkin, brown sugar, cinnamon, and all spice

If you have any recipes you like add them in the comments below! It looks like this may be an annual tradition so they could make their way on to the menu next year.

Laughter Yoga: Post-Election Recovery

Well, this has been a hell of a week, hasn’t it? Regardless of your political beliefs, or expected or desired outcome, this election has been tumultuous. Like most of America, I needed a break. In order to inject some joy into my life I reached out to laughter yoga.

Laughter yoga surprisingly has no yoga in it. Instead, laughter yoga is a class that promotes prolonged voluntary laughter. Laughter yoga was developed by the Indian physician Madan Kataria and is based on the belief that voluntary laughter provides the same physiological and psychological benefits as spontaneous laughter.  Some studies have indicated that laughter yoga can reduce pain, stress, and blood sugar, and can help with short-term memory. I can’t speak to the validity of these studies, but I can say that it lifted my spirits.

Our class was filled with silly laughter. It was like improv combined with children’s playtime. We started with pretending to be squirrels, running around eating imaginary acorns and giggling wildly. I immediately realized I had no idea what I signed up for. The absurdity continued from there. We were tittering trees, cackling mad scientists, chuckling penguins, and snickering sandpipers running into the ocean waves. We also tossed around an imaginary ball, that would send the person who caught it into a fit of laughter. The goofiness of the class meant that I did not need to force my laughter. It was real and infectious laughter. Each activity is concluded with childlike clapping of your hands and shouting “Very good, very good, yay!”

When I first told friends I planned to go to the class, many said they were not up to it after a very stressful week. However, once I described how fun and uplifting it was (and how they didn’t actually have to do any yoga) many expressed a desire to try it out in the future.

I immersed myself in the class and therefore did not take any photos or videos of my experience. However, if you are interested, here is a sample of what the class was like:

Breaking Out of An Escape Room

If you haven’t heard of escape games then you are missing out on one of the country’s hottest new trends. Escape rooms are live action games in which players are locked in a room filled with puzzles and clues with the goal of escaping before time runs out. Over the last few years escape game locations have popped up all over the country and I have been itching to try one out. This weekend I finally got my chance to try to break out with The Escape Game.

Tete-a-Tete Opening and K.O.S. open galleries on Saturday February 6th, 2010 with annual members meeting and gallery talk with Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker.

There were several different games from which to choose, including Mission: Mars, Prison Break, Classified, Gold Rush, Underground Playground, Nashville Escape, and The Heist.

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We chose The Heist. I don’t want to say too much about the game and give any secrets away, but the gist of The Heist is that a famous piece of artwork has gone missing and has likely been stolen by the curator. It is up to us to recover the masterpiece. If we succeed we will be national heroes, but if we fail, we will be treated as common criminals by the authorities.

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In order to succeed, the team had to work together to finish in under 60 minutes. We were in a group with four strangers, but as soon as the clock started we worked as a unit to solve each puzzle. There are multiple clues to solve so the key was to split up the manpower but to also simultaneously communicate well with the rest of the group. There were way too many things to solve to try to attempt them one at a time.

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I’ve always loved logic games, riddles, and mysteries, so the Escape Game was right up my alley. However, there were a few points during the game where we started to stall and needed some guidance. Fortunately, we were able to get a few “hints” from the Escape Game crew. I’m not sure if there were some red herrings in the room, but there were definitely some possible clues that seemed to go unused.

escape game nashvilleThe Heist is their second most difficult game with a success rate of only 26%. But, with just 1:56 to spare, we broke out! I didn’t think we were going to make it, but everything seemed to come together in the final moments. Everyone in the group had a great time and I know that I can’t wait to go back and try it again. I am already recruiting friends for another trip.

Midnight Madness with Rocky Horror Picture Show

If you aren’t familiar with Rocky Horror Picture Show, you may have been living under a rock for the past 40 years. Rocky Horror is the story of a young couple, Janet (Susan Sarandon) and Brad (Barry Bostwick), who get a flat tire in the middle of nowhere. They go to a nearby castle (because apparently there were castles everywhere in the US in 1975) where they ask to use a phone to call for help. There they meet bizarre characters, including Dr. Frank N. Furter (the amazing Tim Curry), a mad scientist who introduces himself as a sweet transvestite from transexual Transylvania.

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Rocky Horror was initially a flop in theaters, but it quickly became a cult classic among fans. With Tim Curry in fishnets and pearls, how could it not be? Part of what propelled it to legendary status was midnight showings where fans came dressed as their favorite characters, brought props, and often times acted out the scenes along with the movie.

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The Belcourt Theatre in Nashville shows Rocky Horror every Halloween and it sells out weeks in advance. Luckily, I remembered to grab tickets about a month early this year. Not only does the Belcourt put on midnight showings, but they also featured Little Morals, a live cast acting out the movie beneath the screen. The theater also sold prop bags for audience participation in case you forgot your own or didn’t know what to bring.

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The evening started with identifying who the first timers were. If you had not seen Rocky Horror, which seemed to be about a third of the audience, you were marked with a red “v” (for virgin) and given a red ballon (in order to pop your “cherry”). Fortunately, I was first exposed to the movie in high school so I got to sit that part out.

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Once the movie began, so did the jokes, screaming, dancing, and throwing of things (see the roll of toilet paper flying through the air above). There were some rules though: no glitter, confetti, or rice; no squirt guns; no lighters, matches, candles, or other open flames; no throwing objects or food at movie screen; no silly string; and absolutely no one under 18. This was the first movie I attended that came with its own set of rules.

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This is not a PC performance. In addition to topical and overtly sexual running jokes shouted by the MC throughout (Trump jokes were the most prevalent and came in at a total of 6 for the evening), there are some universal standards at Rocky Horror viewings. For example, every time you hear the name “Janet” the audience shouts “slut,” every time Brad says his name the audience shouts “a**hole,” and of course, the entire crowd rises to their feet to dance the Time Warp.

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As for the props, it varies by city and what each theater allows. Our bags came with newspapers, glow bracelets, rubber gloves, noise makers, toilet paper, party hats, bells, and playing cards. There are certain points in the movie during which the props are used. For example, when Janet and Brad get caught in the rain, everyone covers their heads with their own newspaper. When Dr. Scott enters the lab, Brad cries out “Great Scott!” everyone tosses rolls of toilet paper across the theater. When Dr. Frank N. Furter puts on his party hat the audience puts on their hats as well.

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Initially, I did not plan for my evening with Rocky Horror to be a post for the blog. However, it was such a unique experience that it definitely qualifies as a New Thing. In fact, my companion for the evening, who had never seen Rocky Horror Picture Show, described it as “the most surreal experience” of his life. I hope to now join the masses of others who make the Rocky Horror midnight movie an annual tradition. Until then, I’ll be waiting with antici–pation until next Halloween when we can all do the Time Warp again!

My First Time Sewing Resulted in Awesome New Pajamas

I grew up with my mom sewing little outfits, stuffed animals, and all of my Halloween costumes for me. She always had a project going, usually for my benefit. I, however, never picked up the craft. It was probably a good idea to not let my tiny fingers near the machine. However, now that I’ve grown, I thought it would be fun to take a sewing class so that perhaps one day I could use the sewing machine I inherited from my mom.

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Craft South has a variety of sewing, knitting, and other crafty classes. For my first foray into sewing, I signed up for their pajama pants making class (sample above). Fortunately, Craft South also offers sewing machine lessons for those talent-challenged folks out there like me. Otherwise, by final product would result in something like this:

Theo Shirt

I was the only person there for my sewing machine intro class so I managed to get the benefit of a private lesson. The first class got me acquainted with how to use a sewing machine, the different types of stitches and techniques, and, most importantly, how to sew in a straight line. The class also got me excited about getting to try the real thing.

Pajama Sewing Pattern

Two days later I got to take my first practical sewing class. We started by selecting the right size pattern and cutting out the fabric. This part was easy enough, but when you have plaid or another patterned fabric it takes a little extra work to make sure the design lines up.

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I am really glad I took the sewing intro course because after Lauren, our instructor, set up the sewing machine, I was able to just run with what I needed to do. I would have been pretty lost had it been my first time using the machine.

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The first thing we sewed was the button holes. These look complicated, but they are created with literally just the push of a button. All you have to do is hold the fabric still. Next, we moved on to sewing the leg of the inseam on each side, which was basically just a straight line. Check. I had that under control. Then we combined the left and right sides of the pants by sewing the rest of the inseam. This was a little more complicated because the fabric curves. While I am sure this part will get easier with the more experience I get, but for now, sewing on an angle is a little tough to do smoothly. After that we sewed up the outer legs, which was the easiest part of the sewing process (more straight lines).

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We finished up the pajamas by folding over the waist, stringing through the elastic and drawstring, and hemming the legs. Voilà! Adorable pajama bottoms!

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After I finished the class I went home, slipped on my newly made PJs, and watched some baseball. Life is about balance right? I can do sewing and sports in one night. I made the pants a little bit long because the fabric will shrink when washed and because the longer pants keep my feet nice and toasty.

Finished Pajamas

I absolutely loved my sewing class. While my obnoxious need to do everything perfectly was tested, the class was actually relaxing and I loved being able to have a finished product within just a few hours. I can’t wait to take another class and and eventually get to use my mother’s sewing machine for my own creations.

Learning Calligraphy

I have always had terrible handwriting. It is so bad that often even I can’t read it and it prompted someone to once ask, “didn’t anyone teach you to write like a girl?” Given that, I didn’t really expect calligraphy to be my calling, but total lack of skill has never stopped me.

Calligraphy Pen

Calligraphy requires a special pen called an “oblique.” Oblique calligraphy pens are used because they have a protruding flange (the gold piece sticking out on the side) that forces your nib to write at the correct 45-degree angle. A nib, which is inserted at the end of the oblique, is the part of the pen that actually touches the ink to the paper. Every few letters you have to dip the nib in an ink well. It really made me feel for Thomas Jefferson but also made me think that I don’t have enough feathered quills in my life.

Photo by Karen Watson

Photo by Karen Watson

I took a class with Molly Margaret, the owner of Esque Script Calligraphy at Paper and Ink Arts. We had four hours of instruction in which she took the time to demonstrate and let us practice the basic technique and strokes as well as each lowercase and capital letter. It was an incredibly intricate and time consuming process which I found I don’t really have the patience or attention span for.

52 Things 52 Weeks Calligraphy

However, it was an interesting class and I always enjoy exploring a new skill. Molly was kind enough to write out the name of the blog for me since her writing looks significantly better than my initial attempts at calligraphy. Unfortunately, in my rush to run  off to Sunday brunch I smudged the ink before it fully dried. Oops!

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