Posted on November 22, 2016
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!
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.
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!
Posted on November 17, 2016
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Posted on November 14, 2016
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:
Posted on October 31, 2016
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!