Lessons from Dogs

It was a cold and dreary one along the Chesapeake Bay. The weather brought with it a bit of unease and melancholia. I often find that spending some time alone with my dog on days like these helps ease some of that grayness.

Just me and the pup, that day. The kids had slept late and my husband didn’t feel like going out in the rain.

While feeding the ducks from the red brick lined sidewalk, a man approached. He asked if he could pet my dog. Gordon loves that, little attention junkie that he is.

While the dog did all his cute moves to get more scratches behind the ear, the man shared how much he loved being around dogs.  “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. Gordon responded with an earnest shimmy of his tiny tail-nub.

With a shyness in his eyes, he 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 the only cash I had with me, a twenty.

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. I could remember the lessons from dogs… and not think twice about being nice.

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 a local shop down the street.

He beamed at me and said, “thanks for understanding.” Sometimes the lessons from dogs are the ones that teach us how to be better humans. 

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

Follow Your NOLA

Did you know that Carnival season in New Orleans kicks off on January 6th? So many people think it’s all about Fat Tuesday. Much like just about everything else in this city, there is so much more to it. 

I’m reviving this post published after our first family trip to the Crescent City to introduce you to some of the many reasons we love this magical place more than any theme park or cruise ship. Who couldn’t love a place that has a parade for everyone from Joan of Arc to the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus

It isn’t just the parades though. Yes, there is food and oh boy, is there drink. But there is also art, music, workshops, and so much more. While this is our love letter to New Orleans, you’ve got time to go this year and write your own too! 

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 in 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. 

Laissez les bons temps rouler, mon amis!  

 

how to make a starburst candy cocktail

Remember those cheesy 80’s ads for Reece’s peanut butter cups, “You got your peanut butter all over my chocolate!” Yuck, just nope. I may be alone in my loathing of that combination but I can certainly get behind the tagline for those ads, “Two great things that go great together,” if we’re talking vodka and starburst candies.  So the question now is, how to make a Starburst candy cocktail.

Time for a confession, the Starburst candy cocktail was an original idea of mine.  Oh sure, I’d love to take full credit for it but that rests with the little BBQ joint in suburban Maryland where my team, The Little Urban Achievers play (and by that I mean own) Pub Trivia.

While The Hideaway cocktail was tasty, it was just a tad too sour for me so I thought I’d take inspiration from their unique libation and give it my own twist. Of course, it will still be garnished with starburst – duh.

Starburst Candy Cocktail
Serves 1
Sweet, a little sour and perfect for happy hour!
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Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
5 min
Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
5 min
Ingredients
  1. 1.5 oz Limoncello
  2. 1.5 oz Stolichnaya Wild Cherry Vodka
  3. 1 oz Tart Cherry Grenadine by Quince & Apple
  4. San Pellegrino Aranciata
  5. Starburst Candy
  6. Cocktail Skewers
  7. Ice
  8. Cocktail Shaker
Instructions
  1. Place ice, limoncello, vodka and grenadine in cocktail shaker. Shake well. Strain into glass of your choice. Top with chilled Aranciata. Place several candies onto skewer and garnish.
Notes
  1. If using standard grenadine, add in some fresh squeezed lemon juice to balance the sweet and sour.
Adapted from The Hideway
Adapted from The Hideway
Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom http://chickennuggetsofwisdom.com/

Using that craft grenadine may be the key to the success of this cocktail. Quince & Apple really let the cherry shine in this simple syrup. Yes, it’s a bit pricey, but it doesn’t take much of it to impart that deep cherry flavor. Plus it doesn’t go bad. I may even give it a try as a flavoring for ice cream or pancake topping.

Though not YET tested, I suspect this would be great in the summer over crushed ice! Do you have a favorite candy? Think it might make for a tasty cocktail? Let me know. I’m always looking for new ways to mix things up. Mixology.. mix.. get it. Okay, maybe I’d better lay off the taste-testing for a bit.

Visiting Iceland in Winter

How many travel blogs have you stumbled upon in your quest to figure out if visiting Iceland in winter is a good idea? I’d love to tell you that you’ve finally found the post that will answer all your questions and ensure that you have a magical trip. Here is the thing though, I had no intention of visiting Iceland in winter… until I did, sort of

In our family, we aren’t big on big gifts to mark occasions like birthdays or graduations. What we are big on is escaping whenever a good excuse can be found. So, when my husband’s big Five-Oh rolled around, he asked for an epic trip to Iceland. 

I started plotting and planning well in advance and then life happened. Our planned Spring expedition soon became an early Summer aspiration.  Before I knew it, Fall had rolled into town and we had yet to get our tickets booked. 

Like any good one-time-award-winning-travel-blogger I scoured the interwebs in search of last-minute trip ideas. Right around the time that I’d annoyed every travel writer pal of mine with copious questionings, I tossed out any idea of a well-planned trip.

I hit the book button on tickets through WOW airlines and contacted a homeowner on Airbnb. Nothing like phoning it in for the half-century celebration of the birth of the man who makes my every day an adventure, huh? 

All of that lack of planning had us touching down in Keflavik on a late November morning around 5 am. It also meant that we happened to embark upon our Icelandic adventure in the midst of a freakish cold snap that had the average temperature hovering somewhere around, oh… say thirty degrees Fahrenheit. Thus we were for all intents, visiting Iceland in winter. 

Cold though it was, it was none the less magical and amazing. More to come on all of that and some planning advice for those who hope to do better than aspire to be me, in a future post. For now, I will let photos tell the story. 

 

 

5 Myths About Taking The SAT

I’ll admit it’s been a minute since I took the SAT.  If I recall correctly, taking the SAT was nearly as stressful as figuring out the proper hair-to-aquanet ratio.  Things hadn’t gotten much better by the time my two oldest kids were ready for the test.  The good news for today’s college-bound kids is that things are changing. Changing in big ways.  I’ve partnered with the College Board on a series of sponsored content geared toward helping students and their parents navigate today’s SAT. 

5 Myths About Taking The SAT

questions and answers on taking the SAT

Myth 1: Taking the SAT later in the year means getting harder questions.

Truth: The College Board ensures that every version of the test is equally weighted in difficulty. 

Myth 2: Leave a question blank if you aren’t sure of the answer. 

Truth: Taking your best guess is the best practice. The SAT no longer deducts points for guessing. 

Seems my Dad’s old theory of always choosing “C” if you didn’t know the answer, holds some water now. When in doubt… Charlie out!  

Myth 3: You only take the SAT if you’re hoping to go to an East Coast college. 

Truth: The SAT is accepted by all College entrance exams. In fact, colleges and universities don’t have a preference for other tests over the SAT. 

Myth 4: SAT prep classes are very expensive.

Truth: The College Board has partnered with the Khan Academy to offer Free, personalized Offical SAT Practice. 

Myth 5: Don’t take the SAT twice. 

Truth: 2 out of 3 students actually improve their scores when taking the SAT more than once. 

five myths about taking the sat

How many of those myths did you think were truths? These days it’s not your Mama’s SAT, folks. Have questions? Email me or tweet them using #ChoosetheSAT.  

In the next installment in the series, we’ll explore ways to help students with SAT study and prep. You may be surprised by what is not on the test anymore, I sure was.  

Note to parents: If your child hopes to take the March 2018 SAT, the deadline for registration if February 9th, 2018. I know getting those dates right and not missing deadlines was an issue in our house. Get more info on registration here.  

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