Saturday, March 31, 2012

Small Business Saturday - The Toys We Remember

Upon further consideration, I think Fridays are full enough...with RED Friday sales and the inevitable invitation to lunch, I'm doing really good just to get the champagne opened at the end of the day...much less blog about it all. Saturdays are calmer...usually. This one happens to be accompanied by a steady drizzle and the promise of a pre-game nap later today. But first...some small business love.

I'm going to start with the Christmas gifts I handed out and follow up with Etsy artists I've been using for my business and our home. On my 101 list was to give everyone handmade gifts this past year for Christmas. Surprisingly (or maybe not), the hardest ones to shop for were Neal and my two tween nieces. My sister had been pinning handmade jewelry on Pinterest for months so the hardest part about that was narrowing it down. And my parents...well, I could give them twigs wrapped in twine and bacon and they would think it was the most clever idea ever.

So, let's start with the kiddos...because what they want more than anything is whatever is made in China. If it has lights, sirens, shoots marshmallows, or could cause bodily harm to one's sister, it's on the wish list. That doesn't exactly mesh with what's listed under "toys" on Etsy. Wooden trains, cloth ring stackers, stuffed bunny rabbits, felt food, and painted puzzles filled my page. None of these would fit the bill for 2 elementary school-age girls who play sports and computer games. On the brink of giving up and waving the white flag in the direction of Toys 'r Us, I stumbled upon this....

...a wooden catapult with 3 tiny bean bags...stringed so tightly that the first launch of a cat toy sent it flying across the room and into the office. Perfection. Neal and I enjoyed springing mice at the girls so much that we were actually a bit disappointed when it came time to pack it up and ship it off to the actual recipients.

This particular catapult was made with reclaimed wood in a solar-powered wood shop and is hand-sanded before it's finished off with non-toxic mineral oil. Mother Earth just called. She wants you to buy from these people. They also build wooden toys that move, buses, and people.

The bottom line:
Etsy shop: WoodToyShop (Portland, Oregon)
Feedback: 1079 with 100% positive
Price: $18.00 plus $4.95 shipping
Shipping: Arrived about a week after purchase, well-packaged for protection
Rating: Awesome

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Blog Hop on Over

Today...I'm tripping down Memory Lane with recollections of how awesome it was to be at UK when we won the NCAA Championship in 1998 (y' set it up for my next post about how awesome it is to win the NCAA Championship again in 2012...nothing like counting and taking the chickens before they hatch). Please come visit me at From the Sidelines.

Tomorrow...I'm kicking off a new Champagne Friday toast called Small Business Spotlight. I have used so many Etsy artists over the past 6 months, that I want to start highlighting them in a more systematic way. My business has grown exponentially in the past year and that is almost entirely due to word of mouth. Beginning on Fridays, I'm going to let my mouth get a little bigger for the artisans that I have come to adore.

And then...on 1 April I'm going to start the Photo-a-Day-April project. It's not on my 101 list. But it will get me back in the habit of blogging, which I obviously need. Have you ever had so much to discuss that you don't know where to start? C'est moi.

But I'm making myself a promise that if I will blog at least 3 times/week for 6 months, that I will reward myself with an overhaul by Booyah's Momma. And a chocolate lava cake from Chili's. Because what's a reward without food? My grandparents taught me that.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Champagne Friday! Raise a Glass to Life's Random

The temps have hit 90 here in middle Georgia this week, so we are all looking for ways to turn our champagne-around-the-fire into champagne-around-the-fire-pit! Whatever you are pouring into your glass this weekend, may it be satisfying and bubbly!

I am linking up today with Shana for Random Musings Friday. This will be my photo edition, as they've been piling up on my phone.

1. My girl and fellow basketball babe, Hutch, ran a half-marathon last weekend. That's over 12 miles of awesome. Also, she did it on the Sunday of daylight savings time. The amazing just doesn't quit with her. I ran a half-marathon once. ONCE. I faced a lot of demons on that run. Some yelled that I should have trained harder when I had the chance and some urged me to just stop now, take off the race number, and stroll into that bar I just passed for a double shot of something that will put hair on my chest. But I soldiered on and so did she. She looks a lot better than I did, though, when it was all said and done. Here's a lovely photo of her, post-race, with her race medal and Gettin' Lucky in Kentucky t-shirt on. Yes, that's a slogan we have in Kentucky. We also have "Talk Derby to Me." I'm not sure what else you would expect from a state that made its money the old fashioned way for a long time...bootlegged moonshine. We're keepin' it klassy in Kentucky.

2. I have approximately 8 games of Words with Friends going on right now. I fully comprehend that I am about 8-10 months behind the curve on social media games. I should be resigning all Words with Friends games in order to focus my attention on Draw Something now. I get it. But I also really love that a Scrabble-like activity is strengthening the same area of my brain as puzzles. I hate puzzles. So, it's a win-win. But there is bound to be some frustration when exercising anything, especially the weakest areas of the brain. Sometimes that frustration gets expressed. It's not right, but it happens...

I's not acceptable. I apologize to everyone who raised me for even trying.

3. I rock out to the 38372297721pi songs on my iPod when I'm working. I tried listening to books on CD, but I'm just not that good at multi-tasking. (wow, that was a painful admission to make) So, it's a lot of P!nk, James Taylor, George Michael, Rascal Flatts, and a fair mix of The Beatles. When "Why Don't We Just Do It In the Road" came on a couple of weeks ago, I pondered the origin of the song on Facebook. Is it really about sex? Or something more benign? Like hopscotch? Or maybe checkers.'s really about sex. Shana told me so. Also, my apologies to her boss if her Googling "Why don't we do it in the road" has resulted in some sort of male enhancement virus on the network. But she did find out this: 

McCartney wrote the song after seeing two monkeys copulating in the street while on retreat in Rishikesh, India. He marveled in the simplicity of this natural scenario when compared to the emotional turmoil of human relationships. He later said, "A male monkey just hopped on the back of this female and gave her one, as they say in the vernacular. Within 2 or 3 seconds, he hopped off again and looked around as if to say, 'it wasn't me' and she looked around as if there had been some mild disturbance..."

So, there you have it. It's Friday. Go out and mate like monkeys. 

4. Lastly, if you can't do it in the road, you should at least do it in the sun...ala Poppy and Lulu style. 

Happy Champagne Friday and GO BIG BLUE!! 

Have your own random from the week? Hop on over to Shana's and link up to share the awesome!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

101 Update

Thinking that I had failed gloriously at doing anything on my 101 list lately, I started scrolling through to see if I could check off even the smallest project. Somehow, I've been more productive than I thought. Today, I'm covering #12: Attend Picnic on the Porch at Woodford Reserve Distillery.

Here's a tip...if you have your own 101 list and would like to motivate yourself to do the touristy things around your hometown that you've listed, invite out-of-town friends to come stay with you. Creating an itinerary loaded with activities from your 101 list is a win-win all the way around. Shana did it when I visited her in NYC and I returned the favor when she and Hutch were bound for the Bluegrass State.

Although I only knew about Picnic on the Porch through Woodford Reserve's website (and the information there was minimal...listing only days and times), in my head we would be treated to an al fresco dining experience, where we would sip mimosas and graze on Kentucky hot browns while breathing in the wafting aroma of sour mash cooking down the hill. The crisp table linens would be white, the waiters decked in tails (or, at the very least, bowties), and people would see a group of finely spirited ladies enjoying a luncheon near the grass and think I want to dine with THEM. I contemplated wearing my Derby hat because there's nothing worse than being under-dressed for this type of southern meal.

Fortunately, I settled for jeans. Because Picnic on the Porch involved Ale-8-1 (our very own Kentucky brand of ginger ale...not for the weak of heart. Literally. The amount of caffeine in each one would put your dark roast coffee to shame) and whoopie pies.

You place your order at a lunch counter where a couple of very pleasant ladies jot it all down and call it in to the kitchen, which is somewhere else. I never really understood where...downstairs maybe? Or the building next door? You pay, receive a number to set on your table for when the order arrives, and find a seat. There is seating on the porch, giving credibility to the title Picnic on the Porch, but the typical breezy rain that settles in around the first of October chased us inside, to the wooden tables and chairs in the lobby.

Although it is not quite the grand dining experience that I had envisioned, our grilled veggie sandwiches (and the PB&J that Shana ordered to satisfy her craving) were actually delicious. And, really, can you ever go wrong with a red velvet whoopie pie? I think not. To be quite honest, it was more enjoyable than if we had been served mimosas in crystal flutes and steaming plates of country ham by men in bowties.

Unless you are absolutely time-crunched, staying for a tour of the distillery is almost essential. With the exception of July/August during a drought and December-February of any winter, the grass is golf-course-green and always well manicured around Woodford Reserve's grounds. And the process of cooking sour mash to create Kentucky bourbon is complex and time consuming. I usually follow along for the first 4 or 5 steps, but by the time it reaches its final stages, I've lost track of which drum it's in, where it's coming from, and where it's headed next. It's a miracle of chemistry. It used to hold true that only bourbon could come from Kentucky. Everything outside of our state lines was whiskey. However, our tour guide told us that some distillers are using our process, thus creating bourbon. Although...a large part of bourbon is the use of water that flows over our naturally occurring limestone rock and you can't find that just anywhere. It's along the same lines as New York City water, I would think.

Since I can't remember all the steps of distilling bourbon, please just enjoy the photos of the tour and make a mental note to stop in should you find yourself in the rolling hills of my home state.

Visiting a distillery during the week means witnessing the actual work of making bourbon. These heavy barrels full of bourbon roll at a leisurely pace from one building to the next on a barrel track. The building above houses the lobby, offices, and kitchen of Woodford Reserve.

Barrels of bourbon roll along to their next destination. 

Our gracious and knowledgeable tour guide explains the process of cooking bourbon. These open barrels are full of hot, bubbling sour mash that will open up even the stuffiest of sinuses if inhaled at close range.

Hutch can drink bourbon like a man. Truly, if you ever decide to leave Sacramento, there is always a home for you in the Bourbon State, darling.

The multiple stages of making liquid awesome. 

My Kentucky fillies-in-training.

Barrels of bourbon are aged, turned, and tasted before they are released for bottling. The barn-like structure where these thousands of barrels are stored until they've matured is breezy and cool and smells of sweet bourbon. I could live there.

Bottling! The last step before distribution. Woodford Reserve is considered a "small batch" bourbon so even though there is some automation to the process, there is still a team of employees back there, packaging by hand.

Ready for distribution...from their house to ours! Woodford Reserve is actually Neal's favorite bourbon so when we finished with the tour, the girls convinced me to have a bottle engraved with "Welcome Home, Captain Miller!" on it in the gift shop. I had to wait almost 2 months for him to see it, but his reaction was worth the wait.

Please excuse the pornstar mustache. November...Movember...I blame Cathy. And prostate cancer, of course.

Most of our distilleries in Kentucky are not only open to the public, but included on The Bourbon Trail, which you don't have to do in order but are mapped for convenience when traveling to each. Maker's Mark is pretty much in the middle of nowhere while Woodford Reserve is perfectly situated between Lexington and our capital, Frankfort. The Bourbon Trail is not a day trip. But it could make for a lovely and...uh...intoxicating way to spend the weekend!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

One and Done...Not Just For Families Anymore

One of UK's star athletes, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, made an alarming announcement at a post-game press conference last week. He has every intention of graduating instead of high-tailing it to the NBA after this season. I have some thoughts about that. I'm also pondering the idea of paying our student athletes. Come find me today at From the Sidelines and let's talk about it.