Wednesday, March 27, 2013

How to Add a Grommet

grommet set

I love grommets and how practical they are. I love them as a design element too and have a white trench that I adore, with giant ones. So when my husband lost his favorite golf towel recently and mentioned it was his favorite because it had a grommet by which to attach it to his golf bag I thought I'd make him one. He had a towel that was perfect but needed a grommet added. He informed me that these towels often sell for around fifteen dollars in golf shops.

For a towel?

I was pretty sure I could beat that. I found a grommet kit at Lowe's with 15 grommet sets for  less than 7 dollars.

grommet set

It paid for itself the first time I used it.  I practiced on a random piece of cloth I had lying around. It was pretty simple so I moved on to the actual project.


Step 1: use the hole cutting tool to make a hole in the material. Using a piece of wood for the base place the tool, sharp end down, where you want it and pound it with a mallet until it cuts a whole in the fabric.
The hole is a little rough but it won't matter since the grommet will cover it. I used scissors to neaten it up a bit since the fabric was pretty thick.

Step 2: Place material over grommet.

adding a grommet

 Step 3: Place washer over material and grommet. Place grommet, material, and washer on base. Place flaring tool over grommet and base.

The set up looks like this.
how to add a grommet


With the base on a steady surface, firmly strike the top of the flaring tool until washer and grommet are tightly fastened together.


Admire your work and look around the house for other things that need a grommet!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Lynchburg Shopping and Barrel House BBQ

When you leave the Jack Daniel's Distillery you can cross a footbridge that goes over a pretty little stream and comes out just about half a block from the town square of Lynchburg.  If you've ever found yourself on the other side of the world and ordered a Jack and Coke you will be amazed to know that the world wide distribution starts in this town of about 361 people. I was in Copenhagen and asked the bartender if he'd ever heard of it and he looked at me like I had two heads. Arriving in the area and imbibing the enchanting small town atmosphere, brings home just what a remarkable thing that really is.

 The town square has several quaint restaurants and several JD gift shops where you can buy anything (and I do mean ANYTHING) you want to commemorate your visit, well, except whiskey. And they use the staves of those used barrels to make everything from rocking chairs, to coat racks.

The store had this display celebrating the new Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey. I'm pretty sure Jack and I could be best friends, I mean we are pretty good friends already. As a beekeeper though, the bee themed honey section just made me smile.

Beekeeping Jack! Clearly we're soul mates.

The General may have to wait a while for the next move...

We decided to try and eat at a local place but it was right around 5:00 and most things were closing up. And this was on a Friday night, which reminded me of the time we were in Arkansas and my husband told our daughter that we needed to eat early because they rolled the sidewalks up at 6:00. She wanted to know just what those fancy sidewalks were made out of that they could be rolled up. The last place open in town was Barrel House BBQ.

I'd eaten some of the meat before I took this photo, there was much more!
 Located a half block off the square they are serving up good food in a down home atmosphere. The staff is friendly and when we were there reruns of The Rifleman were playing on the flat screen. Everything about this place was comforting. My husband ordered the chicken salad wrap and I went for the pulled pork BBQ with a side of beans, 'cause I'm all original like that. While I was waiting for the food to arrive I went to the ladies room and the building must have been a house previously.

There was a shower in the bathroom which led me to wonder just how messy the BBQ was going to be.

I have to say I loved everything about this place. The meat is smoked in a smokehouse just out back and the sauce is for sale, in old school jars. The simplicity of the place is its charm.

 We had fun reading the ceiling and the comments from previous patrons.

Happy travels and eating, y'all!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Jack Daniel's Distillery Tour and Tasting

My favorite "shot" from the tour.
It's been a rough winter. Not weather-wise necessarily here in the south, unless you count endless days of dreariness, but certainly in every other way. Spring and its symbolic new beginnings can't come soon enough. My husband and I thought we'd take a little trip we've been trying to get around to for years to mark the end of it. So Friday morning we packed over night bags and headed east, toward mecca on a pilgrimage.

Destination: Lynchburg, Tennessee. A tour of the famous Jack Daniel's Distillery was long on our bucket list. Okay, so maybe we have more of a barrel list.

I love grown up field trips.

I'm not sure what we expected as we drove up  but a parking lot filled with cars wasn't it. As we walked toward the visitor center we marveled at the license plates from all over the country, sort of a drinker's Disney Land. Stepping inside we were surprised at the size of the building, the museum like atmosphere, and number of tourists. You can take a free tour or for $11.00 you can embark on a tasting tour. Guess which one we chose!

Sugar maple stacked in the rickyard

After watching a short film (use the bathroom now, there are none on the tour!) you have a group photo made and board a van which takes you up to the rick yard. Jack Daniel's makes their own charcoal and the process starts with sugar maple cuts of wood, stacked, aired out, and burned just the right amount to retain wood flavor without ending up with a pile of ash.

The tour then heads to the cave where water bubbles up from an underground spring.

"Every drop of Jack Daniel's ever made has come right out of this cave." ~Tour guide, Wes Cambell

The safe that killed Jack Daniels
Just a few steps away from the cave and statue of JD sets his house including the safe he kicked that broke his toe, that eventually led to his death.  A useful story to share with all the angry people you know. If they are really getting on your nerves you might just tell them you know where there is a safe they can kick.

I was unable to take photos inside any of the buildings (which are immaculate) but here's what you need to know about the distilling process:

It was a tasting tour!

 Trees located near the distillery, as well as rock, and sides of buildings are covered with what is called "still mold." A kind of mold that apparently enjoys alcohol vapors. If you are in the woods and see trees black with it, there is a still nearby. It was a low tech way the revenuers use to use.
 At the end of the tour you can enjoy some lemonade. The distillery is located in a dry county so they can't "sell" any whiskey here. They can however "give" it away. You can  taste a small portion on the tasting tour and buy a collectible "commemorative" bottle. They then "give" you the whiskey inside. Aren't they clever?

You've arrived!
I'd recommend this tour even if you are a teetotaler. The history is interesting, the location is beautiful and quaint, and if nothing else it's nice to see an American business that can never ship its operation overseas. There's only one place you can make Tennessee sour mash whiskey and that's in Tennessee.

The General in front of the entrance to the visitor's center.

I told you it was kind of like Disney Land!
Happy travels, y'all!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Beware the Ides of March (and travel photos)

I'm headed out of town today for an overnight trip to a fun and interesting place, I'll share with you in a couple of days. This morning however, I'm remembering the happiest trip ever which included literally rolling around on the floor of a villa overlooking Rome with one of my dearest friends. Having friends who probably will never assassinate you is a big bonus in life, if you were looking for something to be thankful for at the moment.

You can read my suitcase's version of events here: From Assisi to Rome.

Happy Friday!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Seeing the World

Capturing Finland
People often have "seeing the world" as one of those things at the top of their lifetime to-do-lists. Pyramids beckon from a desert, bustling cities sing a siren's song, and we long for far off sunsets on romantic beaches. For some of us who have adventurous spirits we cannot bear to think that there are entire seas we may never dip a toe in. Travel has much to teach us about ourselves, and if we are fortunate enough to do a bit of it, there are life lessons for the taking.

Open your eyes: We want to see what there is to see. Arrive in any city and the first thing everyone wants to know is "What should we see here?" We want to mark something off our list; a museum, a piece of art, a renowned building. One reason for this is that when we return home we want to be able to answer the question "What did you see?" Unfortunately often in our quest to plow from one tourist stop to another we are blinded to treasures available all around us. Every new place offers up countless unfamiliar aromas, sights, and sounds. Take a moment to pay attention.

Open your heart: Traveling with an open heart means that you are open to getting to know people and their culture. Meeting locals or even other travelers enriches the experience, but  you have to be willing to share a bit of yourself. Chances are, you aren't going to travel halfway around the world and find your soul mate but you may make new friends or engage the culture in a way that teaches you something. If you are paying attention and are in tune with your spirit you can allow the positive things from others too seep into your heart.

Open your mind: Leave the judgement and uber nationalism at home. Patriotism is fine, but let go of the arrogance of thinking that what you are familiar with is necessarily right or better. Every culture has lessons to teach. Be respectful of other religions, customs, morals. Be willing to adapt yourself to whatever the situation is. Ask yourself: What can I learn from these people? What are the positive things about this culture? Allow yourself to be enlightened by the new and different.

If you can't travel: Globe trotting can be expensive. Though happiness studies show that it is a better investment than a material purchase, it may still not be possible for you to make the trip of a lifetime at this point in your life. That doesn't need to keep you from seeing the world. You can open your eyes, heart, and mind right in your own back yard. Have you been to all the museums, art galleries, and parks in your own town? Everyplace has something to offer.

 One thing that travel does is break up the monotony and ordinariness of the day. You can do that wherever you are by visiting the main attractions in your hometown. It's amazing how many people haven't been to the spot in their town that attracts out of town visitors. Open your eyes and see what nearby places have going on. Get a group of friends together and book a tour of local attractions.

Within our own communities we tend to form groups and relationships with those who are like us or have similar interests. Open your heart at home by volunteering at a local charity, or getting involved in a community project. Sit at an outdoor cafe and watch people. Just observing others going about their business can make you feel more connected. Noticing the similarities and diversity in those around you can lead to a feeling of understanding and connectivity. Work on meeting new people outside your normal group of contacts. 

Especially in America every town has several cultures living together. Open your mind by shopping in an ethnic store in another part of the city. Visit a church whose religion you know nothing about or attend an ethnic festival. Participate in a language class offered by a church (I took Greek this way a couple of years ago).

 See your world. Wherever it is. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

A Taste Of NOLA: Corn and Crab Bisque

At our house we love Louisiana. And hot sauce. And seafood. I especially love all those things in New Orleans. You know, where you sit down in a restaurant and someone brings you a bowl of something delicious. But sometimes it can be a long time between NOLA fixes and one must make do with an at home reproduction. Such was the case a few days ago when I went trolling, not in the gulf with a net but on the net looking for a recipe for crab bisque. I found this one and everyone loved it.

It was a little pricey since I used an entire large can of lump crab meat at $13.99. Next time I would probably only use half for this and the other half for a seafood pasta sauce to stretch out the grocery budget.
Make your own stock. The essential beginning of any great soup.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped celery 
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 cup blond roux (1/4 cup vegetable oil and 1/4 cup flour)
3 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup cooked corn
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1 pound lump crabmeat
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped green onion
16 crab claws, optional
1. Heat the butter over a low to medium heat in a 4-quart saucepot. 
2. Add onion, green bell pepper, celery, red pepper and garlic and cook for 1 minute.
3. Add chicken broth, white wine and thyme. Bring to boil.
4.  In a small bowl make blond roux by combining oil and flour and stirring until a smooth paste is formed.
5. Whip in roux until mixture begins to thicken. Whip in cream, reduce heat to a simmer and continue to cook until cream is blended in and beginning to thicken.
6.  Add salt, hot sauce and corn. Simmer 5 minutes.
7.  Very carefully in order to not break up lumps, stir in lump crabmeat, parsley and green onions. Simmer until heated.
8. Divide into 4 large bowls. Garnish with crab claws.
Yield: 4 servings
*Original recipe here.