Bravo Whiskey

I am sure you could look up whiskey on the internet and learn more about the topic there. My education on the subject started with my husband and continues to this current day. I don’t know why I am fascinated with the topic of whiskey. Maybe it is from all those cowboy movies I watched as a child with my daddy. Maybe it is because currently I live less than an hour and a half from the oldest registered distillery in the U.S. Maybe it is simply because I like to learn about random topics.

Bourbon is an American whiskey named for Bourbon County, Kentucky, not the street in New Orleans. Tennessee whiskey is similar to Bourbon whiskey but it has been filtered in a process called charcoal mellowing. The history of American whiskey is traced back to Ireland and Scotland further back than a drinking man can remember. There are even two ways to spell whiskey. In the U.S. and Ireland we spell it correctly. In Canada and Scotland they spell it whisky. A few varieties of whiskey are rye, corn, wheat, and barley. There are even federal regulations given to us to eliminate any confusion on what constitutes Bourbon whiskey in this great country!

My education on the subject began with my boyfriend in Mississippi. On a visit to his house, I remember him mixing Jim Beam and Mountain Dew. I wasn’t a drinker since I didn’t live in Huntsville yet. I wasn’t introduced to whiskey until I meet Jack Daniels shortly after my boyfriend became my husband; funny how that goes. Jack and Coke along with popcorn makes a wonderful afternoon snack.

My first trip to Lynchburg, Tennessee, home of Jack Daniels, was with Dan Oates. There was snow on the ground and it was so much fun. A multi-billion dollar business in a small town in the hills of Tennessee was fascinating to me. I was hooked on the history surrounding the Old No. 7 brand. Jasper Newton Daniel seemed to be a mythical character that was much larger than life and in reality had to be taller than 5’2”. Since that first trip, I have visited the hollow a dozen times.

Let’s skip over some of my educational moments to this week. The other day, Divot and I went shopping for bourbon. I learned more hopping from one small liquor store to the next. I learned about small batch whiskeys and how some whiskey makers prefer to age their product for a set number of years. Jack Daniels relies on taste to decide when the barrel is pulled for consumption. Divot taught me about proofing down whiskey. A few years ago I thought proofing something would be to read it for spelling errors.

For example, Jack Daniels sells their Black Label at 80 proof. But it most likely came out of the barrel at close to 130 proof. They proof down the liquor by mixing it with pure water. When I was in third grade I loved Heinz 57 sauce. I was going through many bottles a month. So to save money my mom would “proof down” 57 sauce with ketchup. So it ended up only being 43 sauce. Economics always wins out in the real world. My 57 sauce was cut by ketchup… I was robbed!!

Today, Divot and I picked up Booker’s, a Kentucky bourbon and product of Jim Beam. Booker’s is uncut by water. The whiskey that is sold is the same product that is aged, uncut and unfiltered. It’s a natural proof of 121 to 127 and is typically aged for six to eight years. Booker’s is considered small batch bourbon.

There is something fascinating about all the different methods and recipes. Bourbon whiskey is a lot like wine in its diversity. I could go on about the proof number and what they mean, but really bourbon is just like everything else. It is about the adventure and not about the product itself. Bourbon wouldn’t be any good if it did not age. The aging process or the life adventure, is what gives us our color, our flavor, and our distinct character. This aging process is the same with people. Rather than the process of distilling, the type of barrels, or the amount of time seen on the shelf, we are influenced by our friends, our family, our education, and the people we travel with along the way; especially the ones who tag along on a shopping trip to Tennessee.

Life Rules 1-5

Remember Vizzini’s classic blunders? This man was wise… wiser than the Man in Black gave him credit for being.

“The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well-known is this: never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha…” {Thunk}

There are rules in everything. I am a rule oriented person. I must have clearly defined rules to play Dirty Santa. Ask Marcia or my mother-in-law, I must have rules and I am very loyal to the rules and my compadres. I would take a bullet for either.

Look… We have a motto at Aviation Challenge, “To provide a realistic military aviation experience instilling pride, professionalism, and leadership in today’s youth for tomorrow’s future.” At Space Camp we have our core values, “Integrity, excellence, commitment to team, optimism, and service.” And I have my life rules!

Remember, these are not in order of importance!

  1. Never use a portable bathroom – Origin of the rule… long ago in a land far, far away… Honestly, it was the Kilmichael, Mississippi ball park when I was in fifth grade. Do we really want to relive that moment? I agree. Only once since then have I considered using a portable restroom, and that moment of weakness was at the U.S. Women’s Open at Old Waverly in West Point, Mississippi. I remember thinking they smell like a pine forest.
  2. Always drive your own vehicle – As a young child my mother was driving me 45 miles to my pediatrician, but I was cranky. She allowed our family friend to drive our Oldsmobile so my mother could hold me. My crankiness only grew more intense. I only settled down when my mom was driving. This trend continued through high school and college. Now, I am uncomfortable if someone else, even my husband, is driving my vehicle or if someone isn’t driving their own POV.
  3. Only watch one television show during a season – Television is an indulgence. I can waste more time watching television or dinking with Facebook than I can with any other task during my entire life. So why would I allow myself to watch more than one television show during a season. Currently, I am watching Heroes. I would like to also watch CSI. I spend too much of my time between episodes thinking about the plot. If I watched both shows I would waste more time during a week analyzing the what if’s or the why not’s? I loved the “Miniature Killer!”
  4. Never purchase merchandise from a store playing Christmas music in early November – Why? Is it necessary for retailers to play Christmas music in stores before Thanksgiving? Or, why does a Christmas decoration go up even before pumpkins are carved? Or, why does Santa arrive at malls before Butterball turkeys are stocked in mass quantities in supermarkets? Answer, market share! It is so frustrating that Christmas is more lucrative in the American market place than any other holiday, but we can’t call it Christmas. We are forced to celebrate a holiday. Wait, I am a self proclaimed scrooge.
  5. Always follow the Ten Commandments – This one is very self explanatory, Moses was tight with the creator! Remember the following: do not have any other gods before God; do not make idols; do not take the Lord’s name in vain; remember the Sabbath day & keep it Holy (just like Chick-fil-A does); honor your father and your mother; do not murder (like O.J. Simpson); do not commit adultery (like Bill Clinton); do not steal; do not bear false witness; and do not covet your neighbor’s house, his wife, or any thing else he owns. Simple, huh?

Consideration is underway for rule six; under no circumstances shall Ruth ever eat waffles. No final determination has been made yet on the addition of this rule. However, I hope you will find your own life rules. Live by them, embrace them, and never cheat at poker.

Traditions and Symbols

I am now home from a long stay at my family’s farm in Mississippi where I celebrated my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. I find great delight in the tradition of over indulging in turkey, cornbread dressing, and football. My mother prepares a traditional menu of turkey and dressing for the late afternoon meal. Then off to the couch to watch football or to a tree stand for deer hunting.

I have only spent one Thanksgiving away from the farm in my whole life. In 1994, I traveled with Aunt Wanda and Gran to visit my Aunt Phyllis in Indianapolis, Indiana. It was a wonderful trip, but wasn’t the same as being with my mom and dad around their table. Loving Thanksgiving in Mississippi so much that prior to my marriage, I negotiated a deal to be in Winona during Thanksgiving and Birmingham at Chris’ family during Christmas. I am certain I ended up with the better end of this deal!

With Thanksgiving in Winona and Christmas spent in Birmingham with the Keys, my husband and I don’t have many holiday traditions of our own. Every year I spend countless hours wrapping gifts in brown paper and tying them with string. Just like the Sound of Music song “Favorite Things” states. We also exchange Christmas stockings wherever we find ourselves on Christmas morning. But sadly, we have not decorated a Christmas tree in our home.

This will mark the fifth Christmas as a married couple and each year our home on Willow Creek Drive has been without a tree. Most years we haven’t decorated the outside of our home. Other than the brown paper packages and Christmas stockings hung by the fire/gas logs, our home is without traditional signs of Christmas. Most often I justify this as we don’t have the time to decorate a tree or we won’t be in our home on Christmas Eve, so what is the point?

I am tired of the over commercialization of Christmas. Main Street America was flooded with images of Santa Claus in the 1930’s to help sell Coca-Cola. We all know our favorite television commercial that helps motivate us to buy Hershey Kisses, Budweiser beer, Gap clothing, or McDonald’s hamburgers. Every retailer tries to get an edge on the market by decorating or playing Christmas music earlier each year.

Honestly, I am a self proclaimed scrooge! But not this year!!! I declare this year will be different. Different is definitely were I am going this Christmas.

I am not going to put up a Christmas tree! I am starting a new tradition this year. I am going to find a feed trough to decorate and place my brown packages in before Christmas. You are most likely scratching your head at this moment. You probably think I am nuts. But wasn’t the greatest gift in the world presented in a manger? Didn’t Mary and Joseph place little baby Jesus in a feed trough? I think a feed trough would be a better symbol of what Christmas truly means than an evergreen tree with lights and tinsel on it.

So tomorrow I am going to look for feeding trough to start my new Christmas tradition!

Introduction to Graphite Free

Welcome to my blog, Graphite Free! I have thought about creating a blog for many months. But always thought it would be true vanity to post my writings online for the world. I came to the conclusion that the world wouldn’t be reading my post. I am sure there will only be three people to read my blog.

Why a blog?

Spell check is the simple answer. I love to write and I enjoy compiling information in my journal. But years from now, after my death someone will read my journal and come to the conclusion that Delta State University should take away my 1999 Bachelors of Science in Education because of my poor spelling and sentence structure. With a blog, I can have someone proof my writing.

Why Graphite Free for the title?

Everyone who knows me knows how I love to use Dixon Ticonderoga’s world famous #2 pencils. Graphite is the main component of a pencil core. This blog is most definitely free from pencil markings. My love of pencils is why I selected an image of a Dixon Ticonderoga on my journal as my profile picture.

What will I write about?

There will not be a running theme on Graphite Free, but I will write about many, many topics. I am sure I will cover two of the three subjects you can’t talk to campers about at Space Camp. The three things you absolutely positively can’t talk about are religion, politics, and sexuality. Religion and politics are my two most favorite things to talk about. So I am sure those topics will be highlighted often. I will leave sexuality for my friend Anderson to write about.

Things to remember…

I invite all to read, comment, or correct my spelling. I will cover a variety of topics and useless information. I will tell stories, rant about the political scene in American, or share jokes. This will not be one of those blogs consisting only of family anecdotes. I promise never to talk about underwear in the context of explaining how hot a summer is. If I bore you, simply stop reading.

And yes, there will be inside jokes. So read often.

Digital ramblings without my Dixon Ticonderoga…