We had the *absolute best time* at the Music City Bowl in Nashville. Virginia (where Av and both his parents graduated) was playing Minnesota.
We had tickets right on the 50-yard line, and we were in the Club Level, which was really very nice. The club level had its own escalators, concession area, and inside seating so that if you wanted, you could go inside and watch the game from there (or on one of the televisions that was playing the game on ESPN).
Usually we sit in the Virginia section when we go to the bowl game each year, but this year Av's dad had a friend that encouraged him to get the club-level seats. I would have been happy either way!
Here's Virginia kicking:
We were in full regalia. We went to the Virginia party the night before at the Hilton downtown and got these shakers and bunches of other stuff. Av bought me a nice UVA hoodie that I really appreciated, because the weather never warmed up like the forecasters thought it would! Oh - we all wore the scarves I made, and they were a big hit too!
This guy (below) was our arena section drunk. He kept saying (in the 1st quarter even) "this play is the game!" and was doing jumping-jacks, making his own calls as the referee, etc. He went from Elvis moves to doing the cauldron-stir. Definitely good for some laughs.
The game was super-close, but we won! We had *such* a great time!
We had the *absolute best time* at the Music City Bowl in Nashville. Virginia (where Av and both his parents graduated) was playing Minnesota.
Before going to the Music City Bowl, we had breakfast at the Loveless Cafe, which is about 15 minutes outside of downtown Nashville. We got there about 8:30am and had no trouble getting a table. Everything was great - look at the tall biscuits they serve (below)!
The interior has signed photographs of country music performers...
Here's the exterior. The cafe/motel looks like it's getting built-up a little too much - there's now some sort of a barbecue hut next to this building, and on the other side of the parking lot is where some shops have moved in (the motel isn't functioning now and they've repurposed that space for retail). I think much of the charm originally came from the quaintess of the place...I hope they retain that rather than making it ultra-touristy. It's one thing to realize that a lot of your business comes in from non-locals, but it's another to try to become Cracker Barrel. Anybody can drive thirty miles for a Cracker Barrel.
Isn't the sign great!?
We had a really nice time, and then drove over to see the Music City Bowl - next post!
We were staying just one night in Nashville, getting in late and leaving early, so we decided to just stay at a Hampton and save a little money. This one is the "at the University" Hampton - so close to Vanderbilt that they asked Av to sign a statement that there wouldn't be any partying or more than four people in a room. Sounds like Panama City...
Anyway, the hotel was pretty nice, about the same as all other Hamptons except the rooms were a little bit smaller and the coffee table in front of the couch was more like one of those Lack side tables at Ikea (although faux wood-grained) rather than a coffee table...
This hotel had the new "Cloud Nine Bed Experience" which is new, but it's sure not the "Heavenly Bed" at the Westin. The mattress was *very* firm. The pillows seemed firmer than the average pillow, too.
(Above:) Here's a pic of the bathroom.
Overall, everything was okay, and if we were in the same situation, just needing a place to sleep rather than stay a couple of days in Nashville, we might stay here again.
This Chanukah, I really wanted to try making my own beeswax candles for the menorahs. We have some really pretty dipped wax candles, but beeswax is a little different because it burns longer than other similarly-sized candles, it doesn't put off any smoke, and it doesn't drip wax - which is a big advantage, I think.
Hobby Lobby had sheets of beeswax - they were selling two sheets of 8"x16-1/2" sheets per pack. Some wick was included in the pack, but I went ahead and bought more to make certain I had enough for the project (the wick labels will indicate what size is best).
(Below:) Here's what I used: a menorah to make sure I was making the candles the correct thickness (but beeswax is so forgiving...you can just pinch it to make it fit if it isn't exact the first time), the beeswax, a hairdryer (to make the wax pliable - but it really wasn't necessary), scissors to cut the wax, wick, and an old Martha Stewart magazine that gave dimensions to cut the wax sheets. I cut the wax into 4"x2" sheets and was able to make about 32 candles.
Next, just cut the wick a bit longer than the wax sheet...about 5", and make a little knot at one of the ends of the wick:
Lay the wick at one edge of the beeswax, and just roll it (pretty tightly, but not tight enough to break the wax) all the way to the other side. I just used my fingers to rub the seam of the finished candle so that it wasn't noticeable.
Here they are, all piled up. The two sheets of beeswax made about 32 candles:
...and here they are! The candles burned for about 45 minutes (they have to last at least 30 minutes according to minhag), and they were so pretty! Now I'm thinking about making Shabbos candles with beeswax, and some other ideas. Some people use beeswax to make sushi candles - that would be really neat for a theme party!
I just discovered Hobby Lobby last week...I'm familiar with Michael's, and I've been to A.C. Moore a couple of times, but Hobby Lobby seems to have soooo much more selection...
Anyway, I've been wanting to try make-your-own glycerin soap - it's also called melt and pour soap. I'm not really interested in making the soap that requires lye (what some people refer to as *real* soap) because you have to be super-exact in making it, and it is dangerous if you're not careful. I like the idea of using glycerin soap because it seems very easy to work with and because you can still do really fun things with it like add colors, fragrances, exfoliants, and other things that you might want to suspend in the soap.
Hobby Lobby had this bag (below) of pure glycerin soap in a 32oz. size for a little under $6. I got one bag and a tiny bottle of fragrance (I used honey almond).
All you do is put a few of the glycerin blocks into a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave for 30 seconds, then 15 or 20 second intervals until it's all melted:
I try to keep some chopsticks around so that I can use them for things like this (stirring) and just throw them away later...this is the part of the process that I put in the fragrance (just a few drops per ounce of soap that was melted):
Once the soap was all melted, I opened up an empty, thoroughly cleaned container of eggnog (yum!), because I figured this was the perfect size to cut bars of soap from.
I just poured the melted soap into the carton, then waited about two hours:
...I stripped the carton away from the now-solid soap:
...and cut the molded soap into bars. I just used a regular chef's knife and cut the block into about four bars (very easy to slice through). They smell and look great, and I think they'll make nice presents for friends (I'm making several small things to combine). I'll just need to wrap each bar in some cellophane, and I think they'll be a big hit!
Now that I've got the hang of this, I think next time I might try adding some ground outmeal, or some lavender, or some....hmmmm......
There are several, several really neat websites I've found about making soap:
The Soap Goat
The Chemistry Store
I made this for a baby announcement...
While I was at Jo-Ann Fabrics/Crafts in Mobile, I bought a 12" white styrofoam wreath form and two pink feather boas. The only other thing I needed for the project was my clear jewelry string, scissors, and hot glue gun.
I just tied the clear jewelry string to one end of the boa, and tied that to the wreath (I hot-glued these knots to make extra-sure they stayed).
...then I just wrapped the boa around & around & around the wreath form until I got to the end of it, and just tied the end to the beginning of another boa with more clear jewelry string (again, hot-gluing the knot):
All done! I might just need to trim it up in the center with my scissors, but I think it looks really great (like my other feather wreath, though, for some reason it looks so much better & fun in person than in my pictures):
It's been just a little over a month since my last post about forcing paperwhites (here), and they're now blooming, and smell *wonderful*!
...and now it's time for me to force more of the bulbs, and some of these I'll be giving as gifts. All I'll need to do is to pop the top on the jars and wrap a pretty bow around them, with instructions to just make sure the water stays constant at the very bottom of the bulb. I did this a few years ago at my office and it was neat to go into my friends' offices and see (& smell) their pretty paperwhites bloom!
Av and I made Sazeracs at home this week...and they were really nice! I got the recipe from our Arnaud's cookbook, where it says that the Sazerac was the first cocktail, and that it was invented in New Orleans by Antoine Amedee Peychaud (who invented Peychaud's Bitters).
The ingredients for one glass are:
2 oz. rye whiskey
3 dashes Peychaud's bitters (if you don't have Peychaud's, you can double the Angostura)
3 dashes Angostura bitters
splash of water
2 dashes of Herbsaint or Pernod liqueur
twist of lemon
1 tsp Simple Syrup
To make the simple syrup, just put into a small saucepan regular white granulated sugar and water - at a ratio of 2 portions sugar to every one portion of water. I went ahead and made a small batch (2 cups of sugar to 1 cup of water), because it will keep in the refrigerator for a while. Just cook the sugar-water mixture on the stove, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the sugar completely dissolves - this just takes a few minutes on medium heat. Make sure it cools to room temperature before you use it in any cocktail recipe.
Here in the shaker is ice (fill the shaker about half-full), the whiskey, simple syrup, both bitters, and the water. Make sure it combines well.
The next step is to take the Herbsaint, pour enough into the glass to coat the interior (just swirl it all around the glass), then pour out what's left.
Pour the strained drink mixture from the shaker to each glass (we made the recipe 2x for two servings), and pop in a lemon twist. Perfect!
A little different recipe can be found at the Peychaud's Bitters website here, and we'll try it that method next time.
This was our first stay at the Chateau Sonesta - it was pretty nice; due to the shortage of help, though, there's no valet, no bell service, no room service, no concierge, etc.....at this or most of the other hotels in the Quarter.
Since it's the low season, the rates are back to bargain-level (I think the rates in all the hotels that first opened after the storm went sky-high (thanks, LePav) since FEMA and other government agencies were paying the bill - but now that the agency people are settled in and other hotels are opening, there's a natural increase of supply which is bringing rates back to where they should be for this time of year).
Av and I always-always-always go to New Orleans for a few days in late December - sometimes just three or four days, like this year, and sometimes a week or so. We try to eat at some great restaurants, go to Celebration in the Oaks, walk and talk and shop...and genuinely get to enjoy New Orleans. On Christmas Day, we either go to a kosher restaurant in the Quarter, or one of the great Chinese places around (we're Jewish - eating Chinese food that day is...tradition) and take in a movie (uh, also...tradition).
We usually stay at the Ritz-Carlton - they always have a special Papa Noel rate and give the guests little presents, but they're closed for several more months doing renovations. The Chateau Sonesta is adjacent to the back of the R-C on Iberville, and I thought it might be nice to stay there. It wasn't the Ritz, but it was fine and we had a great time anyway. Here are some pics of our room:
We had a great time, and one of the better suppers we had - due to the amazing entrees - was at Herbsaint on St. Charles, not far from Lee Circle. It was opened by Susan Spicer (one of my friends is a huge Susan Spicer fan - she used to have this wonderful, wonderful little shop in the warehouse district with gourmet food that was available for take-out, but it closed a few years ago), and the chef is Donald Link.
I started with the tomato shrimp bisque (disappointment) and Av had the gumbo (okay). For our entrees, I had the "Muscovy Duck Leg Confit with Dirty Rice and Citrus Gastrique" which was sooooo amazing - the best duck, ever. Av had the "Pan Roasted Farm Chicken with Crawfish Risotto, Mustard Greens and Lobster Broth" which was also just amazing. For dessert, I had the "Banana Brown Butter Tart" which was very, very good but would have been better with either more banana or no banana at all. The flavored crème fraîche on top was just weird, though. Av had the "Warm Chocolate Beignets" which he said were just okay. For cocktails, we had a Sazerac (with a name like Herbsaint...), and a Pimm's Cup.
Where I wanted to get to but didn't: Cuvee, Ralph's on the Park, and Lilette.
Well, Celebration in the Oaks was different this year - no waiting in the car forever to drive through with the sunroof open, looking above at all the pretty lights. This year, because of....everything....it was just for people to walk through, which was perfectly fine with me. Here are a few pics (and a little tiny movie file) of it:
Here's a huge tree made with poinsettias:
There were still lots of lights and pretty things to look at:
The different schools decorated trees:
I liked the display with the different neighborhoods - they had model trains and streetcars on tracks going around, too:
There was this fabulous, fabulous, display of 'A Cajun Night Before Christmas' - if you click right here, you'll get to see a few seconds of it (wonderful!). The book is sold here at Amazon.
...and of course, Mr. Bingle!
Av and I stayed a couple of days last week at the Perdido Beach Resort in Orange Beach. We've stayed here a couple of times in the past. If we had been spending more than two days, we would have booked a condo at The Beach Club at Gulf Shores, which is just fabulous!
In the lobby at the Perdido Beach Resort, they have these great mosaics that are back-lit:
Since it's the Christmas season, they had their big tree up - pretty....
...they also had a small display of gingerbread houses:
This was our room, below:
It was okay, nothing spectacular, but of course it's at a great rate because this is the super-low season at the beach. The hotel is scheduled to be renovating the rooms later in January.
This is the pool area at night:
...and during the day. Pretty!
This is the view of the beach from our hotel room:
Overall, we had a nice stay. We had supper one night at Lambert's Cafe in Foley, a place we always go to whenever we're around Orange Beach/Gulf Shores. It's really fun!
The next day, we got up and had an early lunch at McGuire's in Pensacola (it's only about a 35-minute drive from our hotel) which was wonderful as always! We really wanted to play silly golf somewhere, but it just didn't work out with Av's schedule (I'm not even sure if they were open anyway). We did spend about an hour (but didn't buy anything!) at the outlet shops in Foley - they have a Coach store, Gail Pittman, J. Crew, Noritake, and tons of other shops.