White Dog

Buffalo Trace, Frankfort KYThis morning I visited Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort. If you are not familiar with the name, give them a few years as they have only been producing bourbon under that name since 1999. Before then it was known by George T. Stagg Distillery and the O.F.C. Distillery. Historical record shows that distilling started at that location sometime before 1773. The first commercial distillery and permanent structure was built in 1812 by a Mr. Blanton. During prohibition this distillery was allowed to continue production for medicinal purposes, yeah right. Just like all the other brands of bourbon it was purchased, sold, or changed hands many times. Currently, it is owned by a New Orleans company (isn’t that where all bourbon goes anyway) named Sazerac.

That is a lot of boring facts, sorry. But Buffalo Trace is not a brand or distillery that I knew a lot about. From its history that I learned on the tour I should have known something about this company. It is a large distillery with a great history. It is very industrial in nature. So industrial you think anything could be made or produced at Buffalo Trace. And it kind of is, today they were fermenting sweet mash for vodka. But yes, it is known for its bourbon first and foremost.

Maker’s Mark and Woodford reserve were pretty distilleries found off the beaten path. Buffalo Trace just by the nature of its names is not such a distillery. The name Buffalo Trace is given to the trails and ruts the buffalo used to cross the Kentucky terrain making their way to the plains. Settlers used the buffalo’s trail to find their way into American’s frontier. Bourbon is America’s spirit. I bet you didn’t know we had a spirit. If you look at the history of Kentucky and the survival of commerce, bourbon is a major player.

The neat thing about bourbon is once it comes off the still it is crystal clear. It tastes awful. They call the clear spirit white dog. The white dog goes into a new American oak barrel. Over the next four to twenty-six years it experiences the seasons in a barrel house. The clear liquid ages and matures based on the dark, dank world of a warehouse. When the spirit has finished its adventure it is dark, rich, and flavorful. All the way its care taker is the Master Distiller. He may be the care taker, but the spirit is entrusted to the barrel and a barrel is only as good as the oak stand it was harvested from. Every little detail of whiskey production can play a role or factor. Similar to the aging and maturing process we all go through.

We all come in to this world ready to learn and grow. Some of us are placed into strong enriching families where we grow and gain “flavor.” Some of us are placed in other areas of the barrel house and later will be blended with other barrels to make a fine bottle of whiskey. But we all gain wisdom, color, and character through our own aging and maturing process just like bourbon whiskey experiences during its life. The adventure in life for humans is just like whiskeys adventure. We are influenced by the people we are surrounded with. Our barrel is our friends and family. Whether you are the spirit or the oak, soak up the experience of life.

One last distillery to visit… On my trip home I stopped by Jack Daniels. I had to visit Jack. I felt like I had been cheating on him this week. It was raining cats and dogs. But I had to pick up a bottle or two for tomorrow’s signing. I saw Angie, my favorite tour guide. I spoke to her briefly. The Bourbon Trail was great, I learned a lot, but I am still loyal to Old No. 7. If you ever get a chance to tour the distilleries along the Bourbon Trail, please do. You will learn a lot about yourself and your country! Experience life, don’t stay white dog forever!

Who is Elmer T. Lee?

First off… Happy Birthday Walt!!! You are the greatest big brother ever! I am looking forward to hanging out with you this fall at the Egg Bowl, deer hunting, and the holidays!

Secondly, my goal for today was to hit Maker’s Mark and Woodford Reserve along the Bourbon Trail. The day started with confusion. I didn’t know what time zone I was in. Eastern or Central, it really didn’t matter, I was lost. I didn’t want to be late so I decided to figure out were I was in the space time continuum on the road. It didn’t take me long to drive from Bardstown to Loretto.

I arrived at Maker’s Mark two hours before the first tour. I walked around the grounds snapping photo’s and then looked at the clock. I called someone at work to pass the next forty-five minutes. First up on the speed dial was the Yankee Girl. We chatted about everything from my broken tub to a Southern Living article on the Bourbon Trail. Based on the article she told me to look up Capital Cellars in Frankfort. And I needed to try to find Elmer T. Lee or Pappy Van Winkle bourbon.

Maker's Mark, Loretto KYTen o’clock rolled around and everything opened up at Maker’s Mark. I loved visiting this distillery. It was what I expected. I saw the still, the print shop, the bottling line, and the gift shop. Note of interest, you can dip you own bottle at the gift shop. If you are not familiar with the history of Maker’s Mark it is a story of rebellion. Bill Samuels Sr. sold his father’s bourbon label and burned his family’s 170 year old recipe. Bill Sr. was the sixth Samuel to make whiskey in Kentucky. He started from scratch making bourbon he liked. He went with no rye and replaced it with winter wheat and barley.

Bill Sr. and his wife, Margie, shook up the bourbon world. When they got into the business in the 1950’s women didn’t participate in the trade. Bill Sr. would be responsible for what was inside the bottle and Margie would be responsible for what was on the outside of the bottle. She gave the whiskey its name, perfected the red wax, and created the drink’s trade mark. Seeing the bottling line where every bottle is hand dipped was a true highlight of the day.

When I left the parking lot at Maker’s Mark I kind of got lost. I found myself on a single car rode. I felt like I shouldn’t be on the road. It was like this road was build for someone in particular and I am not that person. I wanted to keep moving forward so I asked the iPhone to help me out. I didn’t have service. Astonishing while I was lost in Nowhereville, Kentucky with no cell service I got a text message from Snapper. So text messaging knew where I was but I didn’t. I did find Versailles and drove by Kim Dickerson’s old school. I stopped in the office of Woodford High School to sign a petition to change the name to Dickerson High.

Woodford Reserve, Versailles KYWoodford Reserve’s tour was worth the five dollars I paid for it. Woodford Reserve traces its roots back to 1797 when Elijah Pepper starting making whiskey in the area. Woodford, just like all modern distilleries, are not owned by their founder’s family. Large companies have gobbled up all the little guys. Woodford is owned by Brown-Forman. We like Brown-Forman. They also own Jack Daniels. Woodford (at the time Labrot & Graham Distillery) was purchased by Brown-Forman around the same time the company acquired Jack Daniels. They would shut down the distillery until 1968 and then sold the property in 1971. In 1994, Brown-Forman was in the market to by a small distillery with a lot of history and they rediscovered their old facility.

Woodford is considered a small batch bourbon whiskey. What is a small batch? They make a well crafted product but not much of it. Compare Woodford’s production of around 125 barrels per week to Jack Daniels’ daily production of more than 2,000. WOW! Here is another fact. Woodford Reserve is the only bourbon to be distilled using three cooper pot stills. Being Brown-Forman’s small batch brand, using a unique way of distilling, and being closely associated with the Kentucky Derby and Breeders Cup, I would consider Woodford Reserved to be Jack’s rich cousin.

Finishing up in Versailles I drove to Frankfort to look for the Capital Cellar. I was successful and it was just as charming as I envisioned it would be. I was warmly welcomed by one of the associates. She offered me some wine to taste and I couldn’t turn her down. I had a “naked” chardonnay. That means it was not aged in oak barrels but in stainless steel. It was great, very fruity and fresh, crisp and bright.

I also looked for Pappy Van Winkle and Elmer T. Lee. Found both, Pappy was as expensive as Johnny Walker… VETO! Elmer T. Lee was much more reasonable. I picked it up along with two bottles of wine for gifts. The British gentleman behind the cash register told me that Elmer T. Lee was still a live and well. The man also shared with me that Lee frequents their establishment. He is Buffalo Trace’s Master Distiller Emeritus and he rejects just as many barrels as his accepts for his label of bourbon. I am glad I picked up the bottle, because that was a neat story.

So far on my adventure I have learned lot of new facts and traveled many back roads. Some roads were too far back! I have ventured into a cave and hand dipped a bottle of Maker’s Mark. I have visited distilleries in full operation and some that were shut down for a few weeks. I also got to see an original still from Jack Daniels. I don’t know if it was original to Jack Daniel himself or if it was a post prohibition still, but still very cool. Most of all I have remembered how much of a nerd I am. I love learning. I love all the little details and facts behind the cave and the bourbon. I am looking forward to coming home, but I look forward to coming back this way shortly.

Joe and Jim

My day started off with a tour of Mammoth Cave. Did you know that Mammoth cave has over 367 miles to venture through, making it the world’s longest known cave system? I would hike three miles of the total with 37 other guests of the national park. The majority of those guests were middle school students. I had driven all the way to Kentucky to be with Victory Christian Academy on their field trip! No worries, I did try selling them a Pathfinder trip to Space Camp.

Park Ranger Joe Duvall, Mammoth Cave KYMy tour was different than most. I went on the Violet City Lantern Tour. I was so excited about going into a cave I brought three flashlights with me on the trip. I wouldn’t need even one of them. We were given an old oil lamp to guide our way through the labyrinth of trails. It was dark and a little scary, but our tour guide, Ranger Joe (that is him in the picture), did a marvelous job teaching us about the role the cave played in fighting off the British in the War of 1812. But that wasn’t the first time it was in habited. More than two thousand years ago Native American’s lived near the surface river and took shelter in the cave at times.

Once my tour guide learned that I worked at Space Camp we shared stories of school groups and presentation styles. I told Ranger Joe about my role at camp training the staff. He wanted feedback from me at the end of the tour. The more I told him stories, the more he told me stories. I stuck to the front of the group with Ranger Joe. That way I could also see where I was going in the dark cave. I really got excited when Ranger Joe told the group about Ronald Reagan’s visit to the cave. Reagan had wanted to visit Mammoth as a youth. So as president he called the park’s superintendent to arrange the visit. Could you imagine taking the president on a tour?

Statue of Brooker Noe at Jim BeamMy next adventure was up to Jim Beam to tour the distillery. Jim Beam touts itself as best selling bourbon in the world. It may sell a lot of bottles, but I was not happy with my visit to Clermont. Unfortunately, the entire Jim Beam facility is under a multi-million dollar renovation. They want it to be the best stop on the Bourbon Trail. I did get to join a tasting. The tasting at Jack Daniels was so much nicer than Jim Beam. Until Jim Beam is finished with their remodeling, I would suggest stopping somewhere else along the trail.

I wasn’t planning on stopping at the Heaven Hill Distillery. However, since I didn’t spend much time at Jim, I made the stop. Heaven Hill produces Evan Williams and Elijah Craig. If you are not familiar with those names, they were early distillers in Kentucky. Elijah Craig and Dan Call had a few things in common, making spirits and preaching. Craig is credited with being the first to age his spirits in charred oak barrels. I learned today he stumbled across the method after his barn burned and he was too cheap to buy new barrels.

Heaven Hill in Bardstown, KYI did learn a lot about bourbon at Heaven Hill, but I was not impressed with what I saw. The only thing I toured was a rick house. I think in Tennessee they are called barrel houses. There isn’t a still on the property. In 1996 there was a massive fire started by lightning and strong winds helped to burn down several buildings. Fourteen percent of its inventory was lost in the fire. The company survived with help from Brown Forman and Jim Beam until Heaven Hill could purchase a new production plant. Currently, the bourbon is made in Louisville then aged and bottled in Bardstown. It works for them, but didn’t make for a good tour. I did learn a lot!

I am tired today. I am a little grumpy that I drove to Clermont just to look at the outside of buildings. But that is part of the adventure! Keep moving forward, don’t complain when you are stuck in traffic, and never pass up a clean rest stop. Those are the rules of the road. I am looking forward to tomorrow. My goal is to visit Maker’s Mark and Woodford Reserve. On a trip to visit Chris’ parents I saw the sign for Woodford and wanted to visit. It was the first distiller I wanted to tour here in the States. Tomorrow, I may get my chance!!!

Lookin for Adventure

This afternoon I left work at three o’clock and turned on the radio. Rather than listening to the talking heads on the radio, I flipped to the oldies station. The Steppenwolf song Born to Be Wild was on. It was the perfect song to start my adventure. “Lookin’ for adventure” is exactly my purpose, my directive… Tah Dah!!!

I stopped for gas, drove north on I-65, listened to Garth Brooks on my iPod, and found Mammoth Cave! Tah Dah!!! Honestly, I didn’t find the cave; I found the visitor’s center. While there, I saw eleven does just grazing on the grass around the parking lot. It was sunset and they were looking at me as if I was going to feed them. Boo looks at me that way around sunset as well. So I felt at home.

I checked into the hotel and found some food. I turned on the TV for a little more adventure. I looked for ESPN, not at this hotel. I looked for Food Network, denied. No Discovery Channel either. I was up a creek. I flipped till I saw a tall black man talking about the space shuttle. Tah Dah, I had stumbled upon NOVA “scienceNOW”. The man talking about the space shuttle was Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and super geek! He was talking about the recent Hubble repair mission.

Images and faces appeared on the television screen that I recognized. See Dr. Tyson and the crew of STS-125 have visited Space Camp. Just like when I picked up a dead bird and meet Harrison Schmitt, I had the privilege of meeting four members of the STS-125 crew and Dr. Tyson. Tah Dah, that sounds like an adventure to me. Add the fact that Story Musgrave, the farm kid hired to fix the Hubble Space Telescope, loves my name, flight suit, and track six!

The point of all this, I don’t have to travel to find adventure. I have found it at Space Camp, Aviation Challenge, and all points in between. My adventure is not just meeting men and women who have ventured into space, but the guys and girls, men and women I work with each day. I am a big kid! I don’t have a whip or a light saber, but I have a brass clip on my belt loop with too many keys and an iPhone in my pocket. I get to know the next generation of leaders at Aviation Challenge and Space Camp, and now I get to run off for a few days. Tah Dah, adventure complete, sort of!

AC Summer in Review

UH-1 Huey at Aviation ChallengeAs I said good-bye to parents at graduation my boss walked over and asked if I was sad that summer was over. I admitted to her that it was sad that the summer was over. All the staff loves working by the lake each summer. It is a unique camp experience. We are all Space Camp employees 12 months out of the year, but when it is warm and there is water in the lake we become gung-ho military aviators and survival experts to our visiting campers. For most of us, the three or four months spent at AC is the highlight of our year. This summer was no different. So before we start shifting gears to Be Read Camp in September I would like to recap my favorite AC moments of 2009.

Scary Looking Ant: This one happened just this week. Slip Knot and Divot were down at the lake while I was up in a meeting… Always a pleasure to be in a meeting while there is fun at the lake. They discovered a very large, very hairy, red ant creature. The velvet ant took their attention away from their daily routine and to identifying the curious looking critter. They spend a large amount of time looking on the internet since no one in the office was an entomologist. Sweets was victorious in the race to identify the alien species as a cow killer ant.

I picked this as a highlight because this is so typical of our staff culture. We work hard, but if there is time to learn and find fascinating facts about a bug we will. We are all really close. From the youngest counselor to the oldest staff member (that would be me) we are family. We can help research a bug or give support in difficult times. The investigation of cow killer ants isn’t the first distraction for Divot and it won’t be the last for any of us.

Epic Mouse War: Early in the summer Snapper found a few clues that mice were plotting for a tactical invasion of the rail car. Late one night I received a call from Snapper that the battle had begun. I imagine Snapper was standing on her desk when she made the phone call and the boys were trying to kill the rodent with a paintball gun. I am sure this is just fantasy. No matter, we had a war to fight and the AC army was ready to get in the trenches. Two mice would escape that first epic battle, but over the course of the next two weeks we would win the Battle of T-shirt Racks, the Coke Fridge Battle, and the fire fight beneath the coffee table. We identified the master mind of this invasion. An old gray mouse, code named Jerry!

Jerry was a wise tactician. He knew how to survive and how to out smart the placement of our traps. He found a pipe to transport him from one room to the next. But he couldn’t compete against the strategies of Col. John Boyd. First we plugged the pipe with a lost & found t-shirt. Then to add confusion we moved the traps around on a regular basis. Jerry would fall August 2nd in the epic Battle of Copier Gorge.

This tactic of confusion would give us a few set backs. We didn’t find a dead mouse until it was too late. The office smelled like death for a few days. But some of the city staff did learn what a maggot looks like. It was very educational for the whole family. We have devised a signage system to prevent failure to locate mouse traps. These signs are also a helpful reminder to check the office for fallen solders. Currently the score is AC 7 and Mice 4.

The Staff: This year’s staff was a montage of veteran counselors, Space Camp cross trainers, and brand new nuggets. We had some summer only staff from the University of Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, and Oklahoma State, just to name a few. We had the Air Force and Navy ROTC represented as well as an Army Sergeant and an Air Force officer. Most of the brand new nuggets made up the Beemer Crew. They covered all Aviation Challenge programs, day camp teams, hybrid teams, and Pilot/Co-Pilot teams. They helped out wherever need. They worked hard everyday. The heart and soul of any camp is the counselor core. It is especially true at Aviation Challenge. The counselors and leadership team delivers day in and day out the mission statement of AC – to provide a realistic military aviation experience instilling pride, professionalism, and leadership in today’s youth for tomorrow’s future. They are great and I am privileged to have worked with them this summer.

The Return of 12 Day Camp: October 22, 2008 we opened registration for Mach 3 – 12 day. Shortly there after, the first team was sold out and followed by the second team selling out. We set up the best and most elaborate camp for the 32 campers who attended. We introduced paint ball, completed a 24 hour AC version of SERE, and had speakers like SGM Jerry Gleason, Hoot Gibson, Mike Durant, and Bob Springer. It was exhausting! But at the end of all the torture, long hours, clasped lung, gory first aid power point, and singing songs it was the best two weeks of camp this summer. I witnessed first hand 32 kids mature and grow into a team while making steps to be an adult.

Twelve Day wouldn’t have happened without the hard work of Snapper, Divot, Tank, Biscuit, Safety, Pan, Amazon, Plow, Mule and a host of others. We had volunteers who helped with SERE. Mangers also came in to help. There was the sales team and the administration that supported the crazy idea. Thanks to everyone who helped! It was so much fun!

So we close the summer and head to the fall. We have Be Ready Camp and SCI-VIS on the horizon. It is a bittersweet time. I am looking forward to some R&R and then I must start planning for training so we can do it all over again. It was a great summer!

The Babe Ruth Method

Babe Ruth was a legend in his lifetime. He played in the major leagues from 1914 with the Boston Red Sox until he retired with the Boston Braves in 1935. His glory years were spent in New York where he helped to win four World Series wearing the navy pinstripes. He is known as a great all around baseball player. He started with the Red Sox as a pitcher and then became one of the most dominating hitters of all time. The record he is most known for is his 1927 home run record of sixty home runs. It wasn’t broken until 1960.

Me at old Yankee Stadium (Sept 2009)George Herman Ruth was a larger than life player. He was known as “The Great Bambino” and “The Sultan of Swat.” He lived large and swung a big bat. But when his stats started to decline and he had to have other people run the bases for him he should have left the game. The fans attending his games would see him hit homers every once in a while, but not as often as during Ruth’s prime. Ruth has a measly .181 during his last season which was shortened due to his retirement. Ruth’s status in the baseball world was only slightly tarnished.

I think Ruth’s staying at the party too long laid the ground work for all the current greats to stay too long as well. Look at our most recent case of partying too long. Brett Farve, after signing his $100 million contract in 2001, said he was a “Packer for life” and he couldn’t “envision” himself playing for another team. He did retire as a Packer, but came back, and then retired as a Jet, and now has come back again.

Farve is not the first, look at Michael Jordon. He retired in his prime with three NBA titles. Jordon tried playing baseball… what was he thinking? He did return to the Bulls to win three more titles. Phil Jackson’s contract expired and the possible departure of Scottie Pippen created a perfect time for Jordon to retire. He went out on top with the epic shot with ten seconds remaining to take the lead. The Bulls built a monument to number 23. This time it would be for good, right? No, the 1998 NBA finals was not his last game in the NBA. We would be forced to see a great looking uncomfortable on a court in purple of all colors.

Another great who took Ruth’s method to retirement was Jerry Rice. Rice won three Super Bowl rings while playing in San Francisco. He left the 49ers at the end of the 2000 season for the Raiders. He didn’t do awful, but did bounce around to the Seahawks and the Broncos until he signed a one-day contract with San Francisco for ceremonial cash so that he could retire a 49er. The good thing about Rice was even though his fans had to endure seeing him in black, then green, then orange; he, unlike some, had the good sense to come back home to retire as 49er, the team and organization that first gave him the opportunity play in the National Football League.

Emmett Smith left the Cowboys to add more yards to his rushing title. He found a spot to play with the Arizona Cardinals. He too signed a one-day deal to retire as a Cowboy in 2005. Unfortunately for some of us, we had to watch him on dancing with the stars.

Roger Clemens won seven Cy Young awards but still managed to tarnish his career not by bouncing around to other teams, but by extending his career beyond his prime by using performance enhancing drugs. Why? He was an icon when he played for the Red Sox. He could have retired in 1996 and been in Cooperstown by now. But no! Stupid self absorbed multimillion dollar sports stars don’t know when to quit. Clemens also worked an angle similar to Farve. He skipped out on training camp and signed a contract late in the preseason or early in the season. What does this say to the team? Some players can get away without all the preseason work.

I have come to two conclusions. First, we, the fan base, allow it. We would rather see our favorite geezer pass for one more incredible touchdown, throw one more no-hitter, or win one more game at the buzzer, than honor in retirement when they are in their prime. We, as fans, want to keep living the 1927 season. I am sure the players themselves want that as well. But life is all about seasons. Fall, winter, spring, and summer they come and they go. They bring us good times and bad times. That is the point of life. Athletes are young, strong and agile. They play during the spring and summers of their lives. Once fall arrives there are only one or two more great moments before winter comes.

Finally, they are all over indulged. They get fat checks, lots of attention from the media, and have thousands of adoring fans. I have never been as disgusted at the professional sports establishment as I was during the 1994 strike shortened MLB season and recently with Farve’s return (again). The Packers didn’t want Brett Farve so he took his ball and played on another playground. Three weeks ago we heard Farve say he wasn’t coming back. This week he said he does want to play. He is just as childish and immature as those kids on the playground that get mad and run away. PLEASE RETIRE!

I love Brett Favre! I am a Mississippi kid who remembers him leading Southern Miss to upsets over Alabama and Florida State. I saw him play in an NFC Championship game. I cheered when he and Green Bay won the Super Bowl. But I really wasn’t cheering on Tuesday. He is so full of Brett. Whatever happens this year I will watch number four, but with one eye closed. My fear is that it won’t be pretty. Just like Ruth’s last year. I love you man, just retire!

Great Adventure

You Google for great adventure and the first link that comes up is for Six Flags. But when I think of a great adventure I conjure up images of Armstrong’s boot print, Parry’s expedition reaching the North Pole, Lindbergh landing in Paris, or circumnavigating the globe in a sail boat. I am sure the world’s great adventure brings different things to mind for different people. I am sure Han Solo or Indiana Jones would think of a daring adventure across many galaxies or in search of a religious relic. They are only characters in adventure stories, not real people.

Neil Armstrong's Footprint (Apollo 11, 1969)I have always been somewhat of an adventurous soul. I would cover the country side with my dog as a young girl. I had a club house made from an old school bus. I starting working at summer camp and lived somewhat independent for eight weeks when I was sixteen. I have taken several trips to the British Isles and Europe. I want more adventure in my life. I carry a survival bag with a signaling mirror, head lamp, knives, and matches just in case I am deserted on I-565 on the way home or I have to live on an island all by myself.

I long for adventure. I have dreamed of just packing a small bag and roaming for weeks or months. No, I won’t need a revolver or whip. I am not sure I will need a passport. Everyone needs some adventure. Last summer around this time I tagged along with my husband on a business trip. The business trip was to Disney World. Each day when he went to his conference I would venture around the multiple parks. I visited with almost Chef Kim at the Polynesian. My favorite thing to do was people watch and write in my journal.

I don’t think I can go on a great adventure, but maybe an average adventure. Where would you go if you needed an adventure?

Butter and Blogs

Chris and I went to see the new movie Julie & Julia. This movie blends two books it to a lovely tale. The two books being Julia Child’s autobiography My Life in France published posthumously and Julie Powell’s book Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen. Julie Powell’s book was taken from her blog The Julie/Julia Project. I haven’t read either book but when you make a movie about food and blogging I am there.

It wasn’t until after the movie that I researched Julia Child’s life. Wow, was she adventurous. She was born in California in 1913. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, she tried joining the U.S. Navy but was turned down due to height. She was too tall at six foot two inches. She did join the Office of Strategic Services and served her country in Europe and China. She was married in 1946. While living in Paris she decided to go to cooking school. Not just any cooking school, Le Cordon Bleu. She and her husband Paul moved around Europe while she worked on her book. When they moved back to the states her cook book was finally published, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

She wasn’t finished after that, but most of us know the story from that point. She inspired generations of home cooks in America. She inspired Julie Powell. Julie Powell was a struggling worker with the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. The movie portrays her as someone who needed direction in life, a project, something to focus her life. She created a blog chronicling her attempt to cook all of the recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. She seemed discouraged with life. She worked other temp jobs before her job distributing funds post-9/11. The Julie/Julia Project led her to a very successful blog with thousands of readers. The blog led her to a book deal and the book deal led to a movie deal. Wow, what an adventure that must have been.

Julie Powell is still leaving her adventure. The movie Julie & Julia premiered August 7, 2009. I am sure her life is wild right know. I have read her current blog What Could Happen?. She is just like Julia Child, a real person on the road of life.

I went to see Julie & Julia because it combined two of my favorite thing, food and blogs. Food is so intimate. We all have dear memories of our mother, father, grandmother, aunt, uncle, or best friend cooking something amazing. This amazing dish was shared over great conversation and utter bliss. My husband and I have shared some incredible meals. My mom can cook better than anyone I know. All of my aunts can cook because they were taught by my Gran. My Gran taught me a thing or two. Other than death and taxes there is another certainty. That certainty is food. We have to eat. And if we must eat, we should enjoy.

If you can’t get to the theater to watch Julie & Julia, please find someone you dearly love and enjoy a meal with them. Something with lots of flavor and most importantly lots of butter!

Bull to Boo

Dogs are the greatest of all pets and I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a pup to call mine own. Well, that is not completely true. My parent’s first Doberman Pincher was a few years older than me. Bull was a black and tan male who rode in the back of my dad’s truck. All dogs since then in my family have been compared to Bull. My current hound dog may not surpass his majesty Bull’s greatness, but he is in the same league.

See, Bull is legendary in my home town. There are thousands of stories, like the one where he got his name. My mom and dad visited my grandfather’s gin when Bull was just a pup. My dad was very proud of his Doberman Pincher and explained to Ga-Ga his German heritage. In classic S.K. fashion he proclaims, “That’s Bull Sh*#, that dog is a black and tan coon dog.”

Bull survived being run through a silage cutter and heart worm surgery. People discouraged my parents from owning a dobby because of its aggressive nature. They learned quickly that Bull was a gentle giant when Walter, my older brother, teethed on Bull’s ears. I shared an ice cream cone with him once or twice. He went on many trips with my father and minded better than I did as a child.

Bull was our first true family dog. He slept inside, hung out at meals, licked my father’s toes while he was asleep in his lazy boy, and enjoyed a special place in our hearts. The first dog that would rival, but not surpass Bull’s greatness was Scarlett. She was a blue and tan Doberman Pincher. The first two weeks of her tenure at Oliver Farms was most definitely rocky. She came from a show dog family. She had been pampered from birth. So much pampering that she never stepped foot on grass until her first night in Carroll County. Watching her attempt to go to the bathroom on grass for the first time was an unusual sight.

Scarlett was four months old when we got her. She was named for Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind. She was prissy, but very smart. She had several toys and a small box to keep them. She would play with a toy and then place it back into the box. Yes, she had mastered a feat that my mom had tried to teach me for ten years. She would carry shoes, but never chewed on them. My mom would get angry at her each morning, but eventually how could you get mad at Scarlett. She was our best friend.

We had lots of dogs that were good, but just not great. To name just a few we had, Bismark, Rose Bud, Junior, Maggie, Hazel, Dottie, Argyle, Otto, Lucy, Tallulah and Zelma. Dottie was my Dalmatian, Argyle was our first blue Doberman, and Lucy was a brain damaged fawn dobby we referred to as Lucy Retardo. She was so precious. Maggie was a German Shepherd I got when I was in kindergarten. She was a great friend and mother to her pups. Maggie once replaced a lost pup from her litter with a baby opossum. I am sure the mom opossum was pissed, but Maggie wanted a full littler.

She even noticed when we lost a member of my family’s pack. After Will passed away she met us at the car, looking and counting the family members. There was one missing and she continued to look for him until her last day on the hill. Dogs are such emotional creatures. They know what your feel and they can empathize with. When you need a shoulder to cry on you can turn to you hound dog.

Boo RadleyCurrently, I have a Dachshund/Jack Russell mix… a mutt, but we call him a Jackshund. Boo came to us with a past. He is a hot dog, a rescue dog with a twist. He lived in an undisclosed neighborhood in Huntsville. His previous owners didn’t really want nor need a dog. He was found roaming the streets looking for food or someone to love him. He was dirty and had a colony of fleas living on him. One day a neighbor found him without a collar, starving, dirty, and covered in ticks. He was taken to a rescue shelter where we would meet him days later.

Boo thinks he is the center of the universe. Early in the morning he will stand on my chest looking at me… it is almost like he is saying, “wake up silly, it is time to feed me.” He loves to be covered up with blankets. He will hop on the couch then turn and look… “hey you, come over here and put the blanket on me.” If Chris shows me extra attention Boo wants extra attention. He gets right in the middle of everything. He hates when we leave. He pouts and complains. He loves to sit on top of the easy-chair or walk across the back of the couches; I think he somehow channels a cat.

I have loved all my four legged friends. Dogs have been compared to members of the family. I will not go that far, but they definitely have an important role in my life. My mom and dad tell stories about having me in the car seat while at the dog kennel. So from a very young age I have been fascinated with hounds. One day I will have a pack of dogs just like on the movie Secondhand Lions. I want a Bloodhound named Barbeque, a chocolate lab named Hershey, a dog named Jack, and one named Booster. Simply put I love dogs. If you are a dog person and don’t have a dog, go out and adopt one today!

Whiskey, River, and Friends

A few weeks back Fireball comes into the railcar with an adventurous plan to go canoeing down the Elk River. Ok, maybe I am a pessimist but I never thought this trip would make it. I thought there wouldn’t be enough support to make it happen. Everyone is always busy. But I agreed to go canoeing. The trip did get bumped to another weekend. We also had to change canoe rental companies, and added another stop along the way. So when we all showed up at a little after 9:30 yesterday to depart, I was surprised.

We all gathered at camp. We all had packed snacks and refreshments, but didn’t have the needed cooler space. I used my mad OODA skills and planned a strike on the O’Club for another cooler. After a stop north of Huntsville for more ice, more refreshments, and the much needed koozies we headed to Lynchburg, TN. Snapper has a thing with koozies. I think she has a collection of 423 at her home. She and her battle buddy, Cornbread, selected a koozy to represent the personality of each member on the expedition, with mine reading: “I know it looks like I’m paying attention.”

The drive to Lynchburg was the longest ever. I was on point in the convoy and the expedition leader was in the second vehicle and the kayakers were in the tail. They were slow, really slow, extremely slow. I have driven up 431/231 a few times in my life [editor’s note, a few does not begin to account for how often the author has driven 431/231 to Lynchburg]. When the speed limit is 60 it is ok to go 60 miles per hour. It’s a fact that cops will not pull you over doing the speed limit, even when they are trying to take back the highways.

Arriving at the Jack Daniel’s visitor center we discovered we had eight veteran JD tour attendees and two newbies to the distillery. I was gleaming with joy and excitement about being at Jack with a group of friends. It was equally exciting as a kindergartner going to Chucky Cheese with his or her car pool friends. I gave the newbies the prerequisite information needed for the tour. We were in tour number six with Bruce. Oh so close to the coveted number seven tour.

We followed Bruce from the Rickyard, to the cave spring, past the statue of Jack and into the old office. Here is where we discovered why the distillery’s flags were at half staff. In the side room sat a barrel with a white carnation and a photo of Jimmy Bedford on it. Jimmy Bedford was only the sixth Master Distiller of the whiskey that has flown from the hollow since 1866. I had only met Mr. Bedford once in my life, but knowing the closeness of the community, I felt so sad almost as if I had lost a friend of mine. In a small community like Lynchburg everyone knows everyone and everyone will morn the lost of Mr. Bedford.

AC Gang at Jack Daniels (Aug 2009)After the tour the group made a visit to the Squire’s room. In standard form we were not all together; we had stragglers and late comers. A group of slow pokes seemed to be our identity. The Squire’s room is a hide away which has a treasure trove of trinkets and memorabilia to Jack Daniel, his whiskey, and the Squires. Everyone in the group looked at the room, at the art work, and at the photos that filled the small side room. We talked to our host about the loss of Mr. Bedford and the upcoming Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbeque Festival. We could have stayed a little while longer, but if we were going to get on the river, we had to get moving.

After a longer than planned visit to the square and a visit to the slowest Subway on the face of the earth we made our way to Kelso, TN. Kelso is home to Prichard’s Distillery (Sweet Lucy), two canoe rental companies and a fair amount of red necks. Our rental company was across the road from Prichard’s. It looked more like a junk yard than an outdoor adventure company with canoes to rent for an expedition down the mighty Elk River! I could hear banjos playing in the back ground, and when a man asked if we knew anyone in Huntsville who wanted to get into cosmetology I saw this day going badly.

We made our way down a pitiful excuse of a road to a soybean field next to the river. We unloaded the coolers and canoes and prepared for our great adventure. We launched from a muddy swimming area where horses and campers were frolicking around. People from the bank shouted good luck and best wishes as we left the congested area. Not even 50 feet from our launch site, we broke into the coolers for snacks and refreshments. A few more feet down the river I heard Fireball exclaim canoeing was difficult. I then discovered Fireball and Mr. Fireball were canoeing down the river backwards in their canoe. Yes, there is a front and back to a canoe. Thank you CRS for teaching me how to canoe!

We had four canoes and two kayaks. Snapper and Cornbread were in the widest canoe since it was the most stable. Snapper is not a fan of water snakes. Ok, she is not a fan of snakes of any kind, color, or geographic region. She, just like Indiana Jones, hates snakes. Plow and Oz were in another canoe with one of the coolers. That left Chris and I in the final canoe. Our kayaking friends were Ratchet and Mutt. As we floated down the river we tried staying together, but remember we had some slow pokes in the group.

Fireball and Mr. Fireball had to switch positions so that the canoe wasn’t going down the river backwards. Snapper and Cornbread’s mission was to say near the middle of the river to avoid any encounters with snakes. Plow was avoiding any encounters with the paddle and the water. Oz was his battle buddy and she did do most of all the work while he laid back. The kayakers were very happy paddling down the river, so happy that when Fireball and Mr. Fireball’s canoe broke they switched out with them.

As the day continued on and Fireball had more refreshments she grew more comical. As she paddled the little kayak you could hear her laugh from far behind us and far in front of us. Our group was passed by two groups much larger than us and a family with a pit bull in their canoe. We were not paddling at a consistent speed or with speed at all. We stopped for pictures, to goof off, for drinks, and for snacks. But we never stopped for snakes.

At the highway 64 bridge Fireball took a spill in her kayak. She flipped right over. Chris and I turned around to help her right as she popped out of the water giggling. All was well with her and I was looking for a bit of a challenge. So I convinced Chris to go back up stream and try another way through the brush and rocks. Our communication is not the best and I took a spill in the river as well. I lost my glasses and bruised my ribs and rear end. But I was able to save my faithful companion and life long friend. My Dixon Ticonderoga was saved. I swam down the river for a little bit and then climbed back into the canoe.

We finally made it to the end of our river adventure and the sketchy red necks came to pick us up. But the day was still not over. We stopped at the slowest Mexican restaurant in the history quesadillas. Hind sight is 20/20, but I didn’t have any glasses. We should have eaten at Pizza Hut, because we didn’t get out of La Mexican Restaurant in Fayetteville until nine o’clock. But at the end of it all we all had a great time.

The purpose of the day was to get away from the normal work and have fun with friends. Well, maybe for Snapper it was simply not to run into a snake. We got to visit Jack Daniels, make some memories, and canoe down the Elk River. It was one of those perfect days, a day that you will remember until you are really old and wrinkly. I’m not able to tell all the great stories of the river like Mr. Fireball breaking the rope swing or peeing in the river. Some things are better left told in person. The whole day and all the memories I will cherish! Thanks gang and thanks Fireball for leading our expedition!

Movie Night

Is it coincidence that in the same decade that the President of the United States was a former actor, the Hollywood studios put out many cult classics! In the eighties VHS movie rentals and microwave popcorn became the pop culture norm, and made going to the theater mundane and somewhat boring. No matter what was the reason, the eighties gave us entertaining movies. Heck, it was powerful art that impacted the culture and social structure of a generation.

I am sure there is a survey on Facebook which will reveal what Breakfast Club character I most resemble or a quiz that will tell me which Top Gun call sign I should have. But I hate those surveys and quizzes. They just fill up my inbox and get in the way. This morning we watched Short Circuit with the house guests. It was a group of youngters who had never seen the Johnny 5. My favorite quote from the move is, “Hey laser lips, your momma was a snow blower!!”

Where would we be socially if we didn’t have Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I am sure Ben Stein would still be an economics columnist or writing speeches. Or maybe Jennifer Grey would have her original nose. The movie gave every teenager experiencing senioritis or spring fever the dream of skipping school, stealing a vintage Ferrari, and having the perfect day. Since I first watched Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, I have wanted to play hooky, but I have never done such a thing. I, unlike Abe Froman, the sausage king of Chicago, would get caught.

The vision of what most little girls dreamed of in their dream man came in a phrase during Princess Bride. “As you wish,” is a simple yet elegant way of saying I love you. It is an enchanting movie with “fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, true love,” and a very young Fred Savage. The movie is a wonderful mix of brilliant characters, memorable movie quotes, and a quirky wizard. Princess Bride is my most favorite movie of all time. I met Rob Reiner at an NBA game once; I acted like a little girl… “uh uh Princess Bride is like uh my favorite movie of like all times… it’s like so neat”, or something like that is what I said. I sounded like Raymond from Rain Man, which is another great eighties movie.

Heck, I work in an eighties movie and I am not talking about Space Camp. It is very serendipitous that Space Camp and Top Gun were released in 1986. Also Cmdr. Zach Bergstrom and Viper were both played by Tom Skerritt. Aviation Challenge watches Top Gun every week. Our motto should be, “I feel the need, the need for speed,” or “AC where Goose dies six times per week!” It is a corny, cheesy, and misleading movie, but aren’t all eighties movies like that. It has the perfect formula for a movie – great music, with is lots of action in high performance jets, men in uniforms, some romance, and who can forget the volleyball scene.

There are hundreds of great eighties movies. The origin of the Brat Pack movies, The Breakfast Club and St. Elmo’s Fire, which I haven’t seen. I know I am a failure. I will have you know that I am an epic failure. Upon researching the Brat Pack, I have not watched any of movies considered for membership. They are The Outsiders, Class, Sixteen Candles, Oxford Blues, Pretty in Pink, Blue City, About Last Night, Fresh Horses, or Betsy’s Wedding. My husband made me promise to visit Blockbusters more often. Up until today, I thought the Brat Pack was everyone in Red Dawn. But they were just teen actors saving the country from Soviet invasion… those godless-commie-#%*@$&s!

The cold war did play a huge part in the movies of the eighties. War Games was the ultimate geek movie of the eighties (followed closely by Weird Science and Real Genius). It was where Matthew Broderick played a strategy game much like Risk over a dial up modem which almost leads to thermonuclear war. “Would you like to play a game?” Scrambling jets and dodging missiles was another big scene in more obscure movies like D.A.R.Y.L. and Cloak and Dagger. Cloak and Dagger’s star was Henry Thomas, the same kid from E.T. Don’t forget the word terrorist being used in the original release of E.T. and then deleted from the DVD release in 2002.

Most people who I have asked have movies like Dirty Dancing, “Babe is going to Mount Holyoake in the Fall.” Others are Steel Magnolias with Ouiser, M’Lynn, and Truvy in a small southern town. Oh, don’t forget, Tom Skerritt was in Steel Magnolias as well (another 80’s trend?). At the top of a lot of people’s list is Goonies! Another eighties movie where Steven Spielberg was involved that was an immediate cult classic. The lasting messages behind Goonies are everyone needs a pack of friend who can save the day and everyone is a Goonie at heart! Being a child of the eighties I longed to find my treasure hunting gang of friends, but I didn’t live in a subdivision which was in jeopardy of being turned into a golf course.

I haven’t even listed Stand By Me, 9 to 5, Annie, Lethal Weapon, Raiders of the Lost Ark or The Terminator. Or who could forget “That’s not a knife, THAT’S a knife!” from Crocodile Dundee. I haven’t even mentioned a single John Cusack flick, but I didn’t fall in love with him until after the millennium.

I think what made eighties so memorable is watching them at home. The age of thousands of channels on television had not yet hit. We were not bombarded with “News Alerts” on every other channel. Al Gore hadn’t invented the Internet just yet. We were not busy text messaging or playing with our iPhones. We were at home with our families and friends. It may have been during the holiday’s watching The Christmas Story on TBS for the hundredth time or on a sleep-over with friends watching the Brat Pack. The point is we were at home focused on what was important, spending time with those we care about.

I am sure the Hollywood executives or the inventor of the VHS player didn’t plan it that way. But I think if we were to ask the man in the Oval Office during most of the eighties if making movies were more important than watching them with the ones you love, he and Nancy would support my conclusion. Spending time at home with the ones closest to you is worth developing a great DVD collection! I have a lot more eighties’ movies to watch.

What’s your favorite eighties movie?