Tag Archives: Bourbon

Ignored

I am that person! I always said that if I had a blog, I wouldn’t ignore it. I wouldn’t let it sit for months with out updating it. We it is official, I have ignored GraphiteFree. I could blame it on my schedule or on my crappy laptop or on a host of other reasons. But the simple truth is, I have ignored my blog. I am sorry, blog! I didn’t mean to abandon you for so long. I didn’t mean to not write!

I have had lots to write about! There was the Mid South Farm and Gin Show in Memphis I started writing about. Chris and I stayed at the Peabody where we joined my brother, his family, and my parents. Great weekend, I drank a “Presbyterian” or Jack & Ginger. I had an epic adventure to Atlanta… Gosh I hate Atlanta! However, I do love Chipotle and Pinkberry. I visited with Cameron Drape at the Barn a few times. She called the Barn one night to ask when American Idol aired. Lucky for us it is a seven o’clock show, which kept her away from the Barn until the next day. And I should have written about my Jack Daniel Distillery tours.

Since I have fallen out of grace with my blog, I should update what I am currently doing. The last paragraph told you where I have been. Now, I need to tell you where I am headed, because there is much on the horizon for me. This week will mark my seventh wedding anniversary – Copper. Chris and I will be touring the distilleries of Kentucky. I am sure we will see lots of copper while we are exploring. I will be leaving the Barn for another part time job. I love working at the Barn, but I have had a dream of working as a tour guide for a long time. I am also most there, this week I go to the Jack Daniel Distillery for my audition as a tour guide. That should be an adventure.

This summer I will be back at Aviation Challenge, back with the Raptor and back around the lake. I also told our new Social Media Director I would write a blog post for the Ready Room. So I really do need to get back into the writing mood. I will be going on a Disney Cruise with Tim&Anderson and their bridal posse in July. I will get to make another trip to NYC to see my Yankees in August. It will be a Yankees/Mets tour with Snapper. Even though the Mets play the Braves (I hate Atlanta) the trip will be so much fun.

All in all, I have lots to write about. And I am going to do better at this I promise. I know that only a few people read my blog, but I really don’t want to be the person that starts writing and then abandons the poor thing. I love GraphiteFree. It all started as an exercise to make my writing better and I need to keep it up! GraphiteFree, please forgive me.

PS… Jeff Benton is still a scumbag, but the law suit has been settled!

Somewhere in the Bluegrass State

Today we stopped by Enterprise to rent our SUV which looks a lot like a mini-van. I didn’t want to drive a mini-van because mini-van drivers are the worst drivers! So I let Divot drive and I watched movies in the backseat and played on my iPhone. Everything was going well until Divot discovered he had made a wrong turn somewhere around Elizabethtown, Kentucky. We meandered through the country looking for the main road for what seemed like 18.7 miles. Then we started seeing these great big warehouses. They were brown in color and looking to be five or six stories high.

Divot and I arrived in Indianapolis just before six o’clock. We made our way past Lucas Oil Stadium. So for I haven’t seen Peyton, but that doesn’t mean I won’t finally bump into my boyfriend of thirteen years. We have had a long day of driving so it may be better for us to get our rest before we visit with Peyton.

Eventually we discovered a factory or industry of some kind. All the buildings were brown with bright red shutters. The place was a distillery called Maker’s Mark. Go figure! We unexpectedly found a distillery which is a part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. I am glad I had been sleeping in the backseat, because now I had enough energy to go on a tour of the building and grounds of Maker’s Mark.

Divot and I really know our rum drinks. We both like Bahama-Mama’s or anything served with an umbrella; so we needed to learn about Bourbon! At the end of our tour, we were offered a sample of Bourbon. Being lovers of coconut rum we declined the offer! Maybe next time we will try, call us finicky!

After getting lost we finally made our way to Indianapolis. We had dinner at Shapiro’s Delicatessen and Cafeteria. It is a traditional Jewish deli that I have frequented before when visiting my Aunt Phy-Phy. Divot and I will be staying in Indianapolis with her and visiting Indiana University and Purdue University to recruit new Space Camp and Aviation Challenge staff. Tomorrow will be our drive to IU, we may have snow!

2009 Year In Review

Last year I had a lot of fun with my year in review blog. Therefore, I made an executive decision to continue the tradition this year. The year 2009 was a great year for me and my hubby Chris. We spent most of the time sleeping under the same roof which was a drastic change from the previous four years in our marriage. During the year I took an exploratory outlook on life. I returned to the Barn after a ten month break and began blogging about the misadventures of the Barn. It was a year of great highs and a few lows, but overall it was a wonderful year! Here are my top ten moments of 2009!!!

Green Bay Pre-Game10. Trip to Wisconsin: Visiting Lambeau Field would have been great if I had seen just any game. However, our visit to Lambeau field was for the Packers vs. Vikings game; the game where Brett Favre returned to the Frozen Tundra, his former home. The best part of the road trip was sharing the adventure with my mom, dad, and Chris. The part that sucked was throwing up in the back seat of my mom’s Lincoln Navigator. All is well in the world, and Brett Favre was victorious!

9. Arizona Traffic School: This doesn’t sound like it should be a highlight of my year’s adventures. However, the recruiting trip to Prescott, Arizona is one of my favorite work assignments. During the fall, Snapper and I made our way back to Embry Riddle for the third time. On the trip into Prescott, a traffic camera caught me speeding. I am well versed in what to say to an officer when they pull me over. I was left speechless when I received a speeding ticket in the mail. One Saturday morning in December I played Mariah Carey music while I completed my online traffic school. The only thing that would have made Arizona traffic school better would have been a PBC Wedge from the Prescott Brewing Company.

8. The Plumber App: With a Twisted Taco cup in one hand and a crescent wrench in the other hand I attempted to fix my tub’s broken facet. I am not a plumber nor should I ever become one. In this attempt I broke my Motorola Razor and made way for my darling husband to purchase me, at long last, an iPhone with Plumber App. Looking back at this mini adventure and all the laughs it was well worth the mess I made in my bathroom.

7. Flaming Hookers: I am not going to tell the whole story, but the night of the Space Camp Hall of Fame a few friends and I continued the party at a local watering hole (ATO). This is where I was introduced to a Flaming Hooker. No, it isn’t a lady of the night who is being cremated. It is a drink made popular to space geeks in the book Riding Rockets. This story really isn’t the highlight but gives a great example of the fun I have had socializing with friends, astronauts, and space geeks. The top memory for me wasn’t the night of the hall of fame, but happened a few weeks later when I visited with a few members of STS-125 and Hoot Gibson. It was great sharing Story stories with Michael Massimino. Now I know how the bolt on Hubble was over torqued.

Jack Daniels (Dec 2009)6. Becoming a Squire: Last year while standing in line at Jack Daniel’s, waiting in the bitter cold to have bottles signed, Divot and I made a commitment to visit Lynchburg on a regular basis until one or both of us were Squires. In April of 2009, I received my deed to land at Jack Daniel’s making me a Tennessee Squire. Divot and I continued to visit the distillery and go to bottle signings. Visiting Lynchburg is fun, and being a Squire is a big deal to me!

5. Houston in February: Right after training dozens of new Space Camp counselors, I get away from my job by flying to Houston Texas to attended SEEC. Yes, it is a vacation to me! Learning more about space may make me a space geek, but hanging out with teachers from all over the U.S. is fun to me. Hanging out with my friend Rhonda is a plus! Last year we took a break from the conference to watch Pat Summitt win her 1,000th game as a head coach. I think Urban Meyer can learn a few things from Pat Summitt. She has 8 NCAA Championships over 35 years of coaching. Meyer has two BCS Titles in his young career. Coach Summitt, Rhonda, and NASA are all pretty dang cool!

4. Bourbon Trail: In late August I took a road trip to Kentucky. I was all by myself on this excursion. I visited Mammoth Cave and five bourbon distilleries. Along the way I learned a lot about Kentucky’s history, how to make bourbon, and why Jack Daniel’s is the best whiskey. True, you may think I am a traitor for visiting Jack competitors, but I wanted to see for myself what the difference was between Kentucky Straight Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey. If you decide to visit the Bourbon Trail, make sure you visit Maker’s Mark and Woodford Reserve. By far, those two distilleries have the best tours and a better product than the other bourbons.

Lucy's First Egg Bowl3. Lucy’s Bell: What do you get when you mix family with Mississippi State tailgating? The answer is, the best Egg Bowl ever! It was Lucy’s first Egg Bowl so she got a brand new pink bell from the Barns & Noble at State. Mississippi State gave Lucy and all their adoring fans lots of reasons to ring their cowbells this year in Starkville. Once State took the lead in the third quarter they didn’t give it up again as they pounced on Ole Miss 41-24! I know there have been bigger wins in MSU history, but for me this was the best one ever! My whole family was there for the game as we joined my aunts and uncles for pre and post game refreshments. Days and games like the Egg Bowl can show everyone outside of the South why SEC football is so near and dear to its followers!

2. Epic Return to the Barn: I left work at the Barn in the spring of 2008 just shy of five years with the store. I didn’t think I would return, but in March of this year I did. I was surprised after returning that I love working at the Barn more now than ever before! There is something about it. It is like when I left I was simply a Barnyard Hand in Training. Now, I feel like a Barn Ninja. And on top of all the fun I have working at the Barn, when I get home I can write about working at the Barn. It is truly the gift that keeps on giving. Working with characters (boy, are they characters) such as Hudson, Manhattan, Josephine Bedding and all the others is fun and enjoyable. Isn’t that what we should want in any job?

Red Bull stew1. Chief Reunion: In late July Chris and I visited Camp of the Rising Son for its 30 year reunion. Wow, CRS has been around for 30 years! I enjoyed visiting the camp that gave me my start as a camper and my first job as a camp counselor. It was wonderful visiting with old friends, I mean Chiefs. The whole process was a blessing as I reconnected with so many people. One of the highlights for me was my team winning the Camp Stew Cook Off! The secret is in the bacon! Unfortunately for me, some stories of the past did surface. I would like to tell everyone reading, I am truly sorry for tossing a bucket of water on a past Chief. And yes, the bucket had a few frogs in it. As a camp manager, I have learned that pranks are bad for camp.

Camp is my life! It has molded me into who I am today. I am a rambunctious, redhead who isn’t afraid of adventure. I love my family more than camp, but it is good going to a job you love every single day. My job has given me a lot of the experience listed above. I am lucky to have a great life surrounded by people I love, and who I think love me, or at least they don’t dislike me. So I am looking forward to the adventures of next year, and the next decade. I wish you all a very Happy New Year!

Blogging for Blog Sake

Lots of GraphiteLast year on November 27th I posted my first blog on Blogger, and I have enjoyed every minute of the adventure. I am not blogging to make money, market a product, give cooking tips, or improve your golf game. I am not a mommy blogger or topical blogger. I am blogging to improve my writing skills. Yes, you read that correctly, I am blogging just for the heck of it. I am not hoping to get a book deal or have fifty-two minutes of fame. I am simply doing it to grow as a person and as a writer.

Growing up I struggled with the English language, and yes, being from the south there is a wise crack there somewhere. I couldn’t spell, didn’t know how to diagram a sentence, nor could I tell you the difference between a preposition and a participle. Despite my struggles I graduated high school and college. In fifth grade I was evaluated for a learning disability. My parents and I learned that I don’t decode words the same way most people do. I see the shape and my brain breaks words down like it would art or a geometry problem. I see shapes not sounds. The examiner told me that a typewriter was in my future. Wow, he couldn’t tell the future but was close, because I got a laptop!

My freshman year at Delta State I had one of the toughest English composition professors, Dr. Sarcone. I was scared to death of her. She kicked my butt, however I didn’t give up. She would tear my papers to shreds and then stomp on them. If only she had used a Dixon Ticonderoga correction pencil I could have found some positive in the class. There was one paper I wrote about living in a small town that she liked. As shocking as that was, I still couldn’t spell and I didn’t read so well, but this small bit of encouragement fueled me not to give up on school.

I sometimes feel like my blog is very “me” centered, like I want to draw attention to myself. This is not my intention, but I do want feedback. I want people to tell me if I have typos or misspelled words in a blog. I would like to know if I make sense to the general public. Looking back on my year of blogging I asked people on Facebook what their favorite blogs were. Facebook is where most people read my digital ramblings. There was no clear cut best blog and it seemed like all I was doing was drawing more attention to myself and butchering the English language. I have narrowed the list down to ten of my favorite blogs. Before I give you my top ten blogs, here are a few fast facts about my year in blogging…

  • I have written 83 blogs. Combine them all together, they account for more writing than I did in all four years of college at Delta State.  Sad, but true.
  • I started blogging on Google’s Blogger, but recently I have switched to WordPress.org using a personal server. I have some regrets to the switch, but the editing flexibility is worth it.
  • I have divided my blogs into seven categories and my favorite category to write about is the Barn. I get to use more creative license with Barn blogs than any other.
  • Facebook pushed more people to my site than any other referral site, almost as much as direct links to graphitefree.com. If you are considering blogging, make sure you have a great network of friends on Facebook.

After those few facts, I am sure you will not be interested in my best blogs to date; however, I will tell you anyhow. You can stop reading; we do still live in a free country! In no particular order here is a few of my favorite ramblings.

Boo in Sleeping BagHouse Guest: I loved writing this sentimental blog, but I knew that I was hooked on my new hobby of blogging when in the middle of the night Salem the cat used me as a pillow. I thought to myself, “This would make a great blog”. I was addicted and I didn’t even know it at the time.

Plumber App: Plumber App was a great way for me to poke fun at my awkwardly ironic life. It was short and to the point, but funny. And it was fun to write.

Barn Gone Wild: I enjoy writing Barn blogs more than any other topic. I started writing my twist on my retail experience in June. I have to be creative with my Barn banter to help protect the identity of those who shop and work at the Barn. And those who know what I am talking about seem to think it is funny stuff.

Dead Bird: This blog give a great description of why my job is one of the coolest jobs on earth. I can walk down a sidewalk, get distracted and meet a moonwalker. Or I can hang out with space shuttle commanders at Otters giving a new meaning to ATO!

Raptor (1997)Piggly Wiggly Flu: A very deep topic, I almost didn’t post it because it may be too heavy for readers, especially on Facebook. I was wrong. A lot of people enjoyed it and was pleased that I wrote it. Keep washing those hands and taking vitamin C!

Ode to the Raptor: I write about camp, a lot! Since I was young all I ever wanted to do was work at a summer camp. From Camp Garaywa, to CRS, and now at Aviation Challenge I love the dynamic educational environment around camps. This blog represents the best in the camp spirit. I love my AC family and that includes the Raptor.

A Jack Daniels Still Bourbon Trail Blogs: I love my adventure blogs, because my first journal was a travel journal. Lookin’ for Adventure, Joe and Jim, Who is Elmer T. Lee? and White Dog were the blogs I wrote while on my Kentucky adventure. I can’t just pick one because I like them all. While I was gone I realize that if I don’t make it with my real job or working at the Barn, I could write for travel magazine.

Benefits to Jack Daniels: Chris made a contact with his current employer while sharing a meal with strangers at Miss Mary Bobo’s in Lynchburg, Tennessee. His move from PwC to Booz Allen Hamilton has forced us to be married… first time in five year of marriage.

Good Okra Hunting: I love my college. Sharing my love for Delta State and the Mississippi Delta is so enjoyable to me. I wrote this blog after a recruiting trip to DSU with Amazon. I got to find new places to eat and catch up with a few professors and friends.

I Think I May Lose My Job: My blog is about my random rambling about my life. When Bill Belichick went for it on fourth down against the Colts I knew I wouldn’t get much done at work the next day. I love Peyton Manning and I love went Boston teams loose!

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!

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!!!