Dog Wisdom

This past weekend was a cold and dreary one along the Chesapeake bay. The weather brought with it a bit of unease and melancholia. Self-medicating seemed in order.

I spent part of the day in Downtown Annapolis, just me and the pup. The kids had slept late and Marc didn’t feel like going out in the rain. While feeding the ducks a man approached. He asked if he could pet Gordon. Gordy loves that, little attention junkie that he is.

While we talked about the dog and the dog did all his cute moves to get more pets the man shared how much he loved being around dogs. He said, “dogs never think twice about being nice. They seem to know if they are good to you you’ll be nice back. Sad that doesn’t always work out for them.” He thanked me, rubbed Gordy’s head and walked away only to turn around and head back.

He then said he hated to ask but he was homeless and hungry and wondered if I had some change to spare. Without thinking twice I handed him a $20. I tend to be very wary of panhandlers having seen more than one head off for a fix. He could have been intending to do the same thing but I realized in that moment it wasn’t my place to judge. I could do a nice thing because it was nice and leave it at that.

A dog doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, educated or illiterate, clever or dull. Give him your heart and he will give you his. ~ John Grogan

Heading back to the car I heard someone call, “Hey, Gordon’s mom!” I looked across the street and it was the same guy with a big bag full of sandwiches from Jimmy Johns. He smiled and said, “thanks for understanding.”

Sometimes dogs teach us how to be better humans.

Chrysler Pacifica: A Minivan for Anti-Minivan People?

This post is sponsored by FCA US; however, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

I am not a minivan person. This is exactly what I said when I was asked if I’d be interested in reviewing the Chrysler Pacifica. To me minivans are clunky, chunky, boxy and just don’t get me excited about driving. I like to drive. I like a car that has some oomph, style, and maybe just a touch of sexy.  So, not a minivan.

I also like a challenge and after learning that Car and Driver ranked the 2017 Pacifica as the number one pick in the category I thought I’d take this one on.  After a week-long test drive I hoped to answer this question;

Is Chrysler Pacifica a minivan for anti-minivan people?

Minivans do rise to the top of the list in one really important category; safety. The Pacific holds the crown in this category with somewhere around 100 safety features including lane departure warnings, a very impressive surround-view camera, forward-collision alert, and parking assist (perfect for lousy parallel parkers like ME!) Does it make me a bad mom that safety isn’t my only consideration?  I get that it should be, but… I want to enjoy the ride too! 

The Fun Factor

If I could design a family crest it would half to have some sort of road trip reference. We’ve gone from beach houses to cabins atop mountains, hotels big cities to tents the middle of nowhere, and four wheels took us most of those places. Keeping everyone entertained is key to a successful road trip and Pacifica truly has something for everyone in this category.

Any car, in fact most cars these days, can have a DVD player. Chrysler’s Pacifica goes far beyond this with a suite of interactive games (no wifi needed), wireless and USB port compatibility with nearly any device, available satellite radio and more.   

Our family put Pacifica through the paces on our annual Holiday Hot Cocoa Rally. Every year we pile into the car with full thermoses, fresh cookies, and wrapped gifts for charity. After stops to drop off gifts, it’s a marathon of holiday lights, tunes, and memory making. After all it is the most wonderful time of the year, right? 

The Pacifica did a great job setting the mood with a really impressive sound system, heated seats and steering wheel. Where the car truly stood out was in its ability to allow you to configure the seating with one-hand operation stow-and-go in the second row seats. That feature turned the car into a cafe, theater, and arcade all in the space of one evening!

Even this non-minivan person was impressed with how this was so much more than a ride. I will say that with all the tech and features included in model we test drove, I can see it taking some time to learn how to optimize these options. I’m not sure if Chrysler dealers offer an in-house “How To” session but if they do I’d highly recommend availing yourself of this education. 

Bonus Smart Features

When it comes to life in cars, my kids have what I can only think is destructive power on par with a tornado. I can leave the car wash with a sparkling clean ride and within an hour of picking them up it looks like a band of gypsies have taken up residence in the back seat. That’s on an average day. The force is increased immeasurably when we’re on an epic eighteen hour jaunt from Maryland to Louisiana.   Add to that our new furry family member; Gordon the Frenchie (who has white fur, what was I thinking?!) and keeping a clean car is a pipe dream.

Then came Pacifica’s built-in vacuum cleaner. Pure BRILLIANCE!

Some other great bonus features to the model we drove, included;

  • a panoramic roof
  • touch-free trunk door operation
  • second level rear storage
  • heads-up display for navigation, trip tracking, systems alerts and more

Plus, it makes for a pretty sweet break room when you’re working events on the go… or trying to get five minutes of kid-free time in your day.

Final Analysis

There is no denying that the Chrysler Pacifica has some really amazing features. You’d be hard pressed to find a car that offers more in terms of being family-friendly and offering cutting edge safety features. The tech integration makes a mobile lifestyle both fun and productive.  As a family ride, the adaptability is unbeatable.

So, did the Pacifica make a minivan person out of me? Not-so-much.

While it’s packed with awesome options for safety, storage, and entertainment, it still drives like a minivan in my book. The body shape is sleeker than most but still a bit boxy for my tastes and the profile sits a bit low. I like a higher ride if I’m not in a performance car.

Being that we have a big family and love us some long drives, I may have to ponder on this just a bit longer. Were I to wake up on Christmas day and find a big red bow festooned Pacifica in my driveway I wouldn’t be disappointed.  If Ryan Gosling were in the passenger’s seat… Hey Minivan Girl!

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Bourbon Cherry Dark Chocolate Fudge

Bourbon Cherry Dark Chocolate FudgeHonestly, does a post with a title like this really need anything more than a recipe? I could tell you about how I’ve just recently developed an interest in bourbon, and the craft of distilling it. Could go on about how discovering I like it has sparked all sorts of mixology adventures. Maybe I should tell you that Maker’s Mark enlisted me in some boozy baking fun, and that they helped in the development of this recipe by sending along a bottle of their amber awesome for me to play with. But really, all you want to know is…

“How do I get this in my belly… NOW?!”

So here ya go, you chocolate-loving-booze-hounds. (people after my own heart)

Bourbon Cherry Dark Chocolate Fudge IngredientsOne note about ingredients : Though fudge is oft made with semi-sweet or milk chocolate, this recipe uses high cacao content dark and semi-sweet chocolates. Why? Because this blend helps showcase the smokey notes of the bourbon and plays well with the tart cherry flavor. I tested a few chocolate options and this final blend took the recipe over the top – which is what boozy chocolate should be, right?

Bourbon Cherry Dark Chocolate Fudge
Serves 24
Dark, rich and delish, adding bourbon and cherries takes this fudge from holiday treat to confection perfection. I highly recommended using both good quality chocolate and vanilla bean rather than extract.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
3 hr
Total Time
3 hr 15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
3 hr
Total Time
3 hr 15 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup Bourbon (I used Makers Mark)
  2. 1 cup Dried Dark Cherries
  3. 1 pod Vanilla Bean
  4. 1 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
  5. 1 cup Sugar
  6. 5oz Sweetened Condensed Milk
  7. 1/4 tsp Kosher Salt
  8. 6 oz Semi-Sweet Chocolate
  9. 6 oz Dark (70% Cacao) Chocolate
Instructions
  1. Place cherries and bourbon in a small sauce pan, allow to simmer on medium heat until most of the bourbon is absorbed into the cherries. Set aside. In a double boiler over medium heat combine milk, sugar, vanilla caviar (insides of the pod) and butter. Allow to come to a simmer. Add chocolate by 1/2 cups, whisking to combine. Once all chocolate is melted, remove from heat. Stir in cherries and bourbon until combined. Place in a disposable 8x8 foil pan. Top with dried cherries, pecans, walnuts, or almonds (optional). Allow to cool. Refrigerate for a minimum of three hours before serving.
Notes
  1. If you prefer a more pronounced bourbon flavor, decrease the amount of condensed milk by 1 ounce and increase the bourbon to 3/4 of a cup.
Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom http://chickennuggetsofwisdom.com/

 

 

Follow Your NOLA (a love letter to New Orleans in pictures)

Follow Your NOLA

For some, there are places in this world that call to them even if they’ve never been. I’d always thought that was the truest definition of wanderlust, a need to go places we’ve never been. A recent trip to New Orleans changed my perspective. If ever there were a person in this word for whom the tagline Follow Your NOLA applied that would be my youngest daughter. 

From a very young age, maybe about six or seven, she’s been fascinated by New Orleans. One might think that came from tales of my travels, but no. Long before my first visit she’d seek out shows on the History Channel or Discovery that talked about the folklore, food, and stories that cling to this city like so much Spanish Moss. It was actually rather sweet to sit huddled on the sofa and shiver at the tales of The Myrtles Plantation. Frankly, I was nearly as enamored.  

After my first trip to NOLA when she was eight the fascination grew. I think she wore beads and a mask to school for a week. Her room began to take on a distinctly French Quarter vibe and by the time her ninth birthday rolled around it was clear the theme would be… Big Easy. 

 I’ve often wondered over the years if perhaps she was drawn to this city not by wanderlust, but by something deeper within her. In my travels, I’ve become certain that there exist in this world people who are simply old souls.

These people seem to have deeper connections to places, customs, and cultures than most of us do. They needn’t have grown up near or been raised within the places and things they love. They are simply a part of them no matter time or distance. My daughter is an old soul and New Orleans her muse. 

She recently celebrated her first double-digit birthday. How? With a trip to her city. 

Never have I seen such instant love. The child who is usually first to start fussing about long walks, couldn’t sit still. She nearly prowled the streets of the French Quarter. Night fell and she lit up like one of the gas lamps that dot the streets. She savored every spice (even tried alligator) lingered to look at every piece of art, got her cards read and sang Ella Fitzgerald songs on street corners with bands from around the globe. 

This is her city and she is its child. They belong together. Here is a short love letter to New Orleans in pictures that she chose. 

Stay tuned for full articles on food, music, history and the unique culture of New Orleans (penned by me) for A Cork, Fork & Passportand Skimbaco Lifestyle

Laissez les bons temps rouler, mon amis!  

 

Turkey Tech: Apps for Thanksgiving Planning

Believe it or not, we blinked and the holidays snuck up on us. If you’re like me, you may have found yourself in a daze wondering how this happened and just how you’re going to get everything done in the next five days or so. Fear not my friends all you need is a little turkey tech! 

Thanksgiving planning (say it with me) … there is an app for that! In fact, there is more than one way to use technology to help get the turkey and all it’s trimmings on the table. 

photo credit: foodista
photo credit: foodista
Bon Appétit Manual

Sick of that tired old green bean casserole? Not sure when you should start the stuffing? Looking to liven up the turkey day lineup? This is an app you’ll want to check out.

Condé Nast has updated their popular (free) app – Bon Appétit Manual –  that helps take some of the mystery out of what to cook and when to cook it. It’s also packed with ideas that will put an end to boring, bland and overcooked dishes.

Butterball Cookbook Plus

Planning, prep, thawing, cooking… this app has it all covered. Makes total sense since Butterball is pretty much synonymous with Thanksgiving dinner. 

Ah, but the Butterball Cookbook Plus app comes with more than just Thanksgiving day guidance. Want to know what to do with those leftovers? Is it worth it to snag two birds while their cheap and cook one later? Let their everyday recipes be your guide. They’ve even got options for turkey snacks. Sweet tryptophan daydreams, Batman!

Hello Vino

Because… hello, you can’t forget the vino. How many times have you found yourself wondering what wine to bring as a hostess gift? Or better yet what to serve to your guests?  

Hello Vino is the app that takes care of all that. It also helps you shop within your budget while hopefully helping you avoid the disappointment of getting stuck with an expensive and crappy wine, for which no thanks will be given. 

Blogs… Yep, Go Old School 

Remember way back in the day (like five years ago) before you’d just mindlessly pin things that you’d never actually read? Don’t get me wrong, I love some Pinterest. Let’s be honest here though it’s become a bit of a shiny object thing over there. 

See It. OOOH, like that! Pin it. Never actually find out what the post it links out to even is. Gah! 

This holiday let us give thanks for blogs and bloggers out there who slave away in the kitchen, perfectly pose their food, snap mouthwateringly awesome images and actually share their recipe for YUM with us! 

Thirty Thanksgiving Side Dishes from A Cork, Fork and Passport is a roundup of drool-inducing inspiration from around the blogosphere that pretty much wraps up ALL you need for the perfect meal of thanks, except for the bird. Julie’s very own Au Gratin Brussels Sprouts will change your life. 

No stress Thanksgiving bird? Inconceivable! Or maybe not. This recipe for Easy Garlic and Herb Roast Turkey from NeighborFood could put the makers of Zoloft out of business.

 Liza at (a)Musing Foodie is a muse of mine (see what I did there?) From weeknight make-it-easy dinners to the center of your holiday table, she’ll keep you hungry.  This year we’ll be heading to The Big Easy for a non-traditional holiday. So last week I made her roast turkey recipe using a small bird and little fuss. 

Oh. My. Yum. 

Top off that turkey and side dish fuss with a sweet and happy ending from THE Garlic Girl. Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Icing for me, yes. You’ll need to find something for you because I’m not sharing! 

No matter whether your turkey day is high tech or no tech, remember that gratitude is something that requires no app. Happy Thanksgiving Nuggetiers! 

Disclosure: As a member of a very cool team of influencers for Verizon Wireless I sometimes receive compensation, cool gadgets to test drive, or get attend special events. All opinions entirely my own, based on my experiences, because you deserve nothing less!  

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