Month: January 2015

Burns Night

Burns Night is a Scottish holiday celebrated on the 25 January to honor the famous poet Robert Burns.  On the day, to celebrate his birth Scots eat haggis, neeps and tatties (turnips and mashed potatoes).  Burns wrote a famous poem called ‘Address to a Haggis’ that is traditionally read at Burns night just before you eat. We skipped all these formalities and just went straight for the eating. If you don’t know what haggis is, look it up. But, I promise it tastes much better than it sounds.

IMG_1917

For dessert,  I made Cranachan, a traditional Scottish dessert. It’s very simple, but extremely satisfying, especially if you like whisky.

Cranachan

Ingredients:
16 ounces whipping cream
1 cup rolled oats
2 tbsp honey
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4 tbsp whisky
2 cups raspberries

Toast oats in a skillet over medium heat.  (I did mine for around 5 minutes)  Whip the cream until it is forming soft peaks. Add in honey, sugar, vanilla and whisky and gently stir to combine.  Put a handful of raspberries in the bottom on each ramekin and smash with the back of a spoon. Layer the cream and top with remaining raspberries.  If you’re ramekins are bigger than mine you can add an extra layer of raspberries and cream.  Refrigerate until you’re ready to serve. Yields 4 (and some leftover cream if you’re lucky).  It also goes well with a wee dram of whisky.

x K

The Language of Flowers

books to read
I joined a book club for 2015 so I am not creating a reading bucket list this year. That’s not to say I’ve given up my reading goals, but I just can’t predict all of the book selections to compile a list.

January’s book club selection was The Language of Flowers. This was an interesting read about family connections and the true meaning of love. It takes place in an ambiguous time period where characters use flowers as a way of communication. Without giving away too much, despite the fact that the book does go into (what I consider) gory detail about child birth and the following weeks, I found this to be an interesting read. I did not care for many of the characters simply because I could not personally relate to any of them. I did however love the secret language in which flowers can be used as a form of communication.

If you are looking for a quick page turner, this is a great book choice. Our next month’s selection is Wanderlust: A Love Affair with Five Continents, a read I am looking forward to! More to come next month.

x B

Artist Profile: Britt Bass

britt bassNext up in my Artist Profile series is Atlanta artist Britt Bass. This girl is young, sharp, and talented! It is so inspiring to see a young woman make sacrifices to make her dreams come true, but still have fun doing it. Her work is lively, bright, and spontaneous (I’m sure she would disagree with this since creating is a process, not an act of spontaneity!).

I love her use of color, whimsy, and energy that is embodied in each painting. Take a look at some of her more recent works below. She also makes iPhone cases, pillows, and prints for those of you on a budget (aka, me). Check out all of her gorgeous work here!

britt bass britt bass britt bassAnd my ALL time favorite piece that first caught my attention two years ago:
Britt Bass

I would love to incorporate some of these pieces into my designs/my personal home one of these days!
x B

American anomalies

Don’t get me wrong, living across the pond has its advantages.  But is also comes with its disadvantages.  It puts me into a constant love-hate relationship with the UK.  A few things I really love about the UK are worker’s benefits and free healthcare. Last week, I read two articles about both these hot topics in the US and they got me a little fired up.  (Warning: I’m about to get on my soapbox and I’m cramming a lot into one little post, but I hope you’ll stay with me.)

This first article was by Valerie Jarrett, a Senior Advisor to President Obama, about mandatory paid sick days.  It’s seriously cruel that people in the US cannot get paid sick days to attend to their health or take care of a sick family member.  The fact that only three states offer paid sick leave is absurd. People should not have to worry about their job security because they take a few days off work to nurse the flu.

2015-01-15T23-39-31-733Z--1280x720.nbcnews-video-reststate-800

This whole attitude has a knock-on effect regarding the US and employee benefits. The US is the only developed country in the world that does not offer paid maternity leave. In the 21st century, how is this even possible?! Women should not have to choose between their career and starting a family, nor should they lose their job because they decide to spend more than a few weeks with the baby right after it’s born.

This also leads me to vacation days. I really cannot believe that the standard vacation day allotment in the US is only 10 days. I mean if you take a few days a Christmas plus a few days at Thanksgiving, you’re lucky if you have five days for the other 10 months of the year.  That doesn’t even equate to one day per month. In the UK, the minimum vacation day allotment for full-time employees is 20 days.  Additionally, employees are entitled to five sick days per year.  So thankfully, if you get the flu (or worse) you’re not going to lose your job.

health insurance cartoon

The second article I read was from The Guardian about British expats navigating the US insurance chain.  Now, I must say I am in the dark when it comes to choosing or buying insurance in the US.  I thankfully have never had to do it.  Thanks to Obama, I was re-instated on my parents’ health insurance not long after I graduated from college and then moved to the UK before I turned 26.  I didn’t realize how expensive insurance actually is…so thank you Mom and Dad!   I learned the hard way (during a few months when I wasn’t covered on my parents’ insurance) how much one quick trip to the gyno can set you back.

Compared to every other developed country, Americans spend exorbitant amounts on healthcare.  I hate to pull the Walter White reference, but the man resorted to cooking meth in order to cover his medical bills just because he got freaking cancer.  Although that is a bit extreme (and not to mention fictional) it does prove a point.  Americans shouldn’t have to go into debt to cover medical bills.  I don’t understand why Americans are so against a public healthcare system.  It’s not perfect, but I’m a huge advocate of the National Health System in the UK.  I know I pay for it via taxes, but every time I go to the doctor it costs me absolutely nothing!

For being such a world power, and progressive country, in some ways I can’t believe how behind the US is compared to other countries, particularly in Europe, when it comes to holiday entitlement, paid leave and healthcare.  You don’t even want to know what the Scandinavian holiday and maternity (and even paternity) benefits are.  It’s things like this that make me a bit remiss about my motherland.  Americans tend to be too concentrated on looking out for number one rather than the greater good, even if it means a healthier society with affordable… or dare I say free… healthcare and paid sick days.  Easier said than done, but really America, c’mon get your shit together.

I will get off my soap box now, but I leave you with one image that illustrates what the cost of healthcare in America can do to a person…

walter white

x K

Travel Guide: Cincinnati

cincinnati travel guideBoth sides of our family live in Cincinnati and the surrounding areas warranting a bi-annual trip every year for as long as I can remember. With work, moving, etc. this has slid to a more annual occasion. Now that we are older and easier to entertain, exploring the city is much more interesting since the city is rich with history, beautiful architecture, and natural landscape.

This Christmas we made a trip with our parents, all of the siblings, two dogs, and onesignificant other. We managed to squeeze a lot into our short visit. We went to see the Art Deco Union Terminal which functioned in it’s prime as a train station for all traffic coming in and out of the area. It is still used for freight transportation, but its terminals have now been transformed into galleries and museums.

union terminalcincinnati travel guide

The following day, we took a driving tour around downtown with our grandmother as our tour guide. We stopped at the Cincinnati Music Hall with its stunning detailing. Next, we walked to see the Contemporary Arts Center, a modern marvel in the architecture world.
cincinnati travel guidecincinnati travel guide
cincinnati contemporary arts centercincinnati contemporary arts center

We then climbed to the top of the Carew Tower Observation Deck and got to see a fabulous aerial view of the city including it’s winding river and the corresponding networks of railroad tracks and highways. We took the suspension bridge (from which the infamous Brooklyn Bridge was modeled) across the river and explored beautiful Covington, KY, where the architecture is reminiscent of Charleston homes.carew tower observation deckWe also visited the Cincinnati Art Museum located on the top of the quaint Mount Adams (sorry no photos since it was dark and raining). Their collection is extensive and boasts some excellent pieces ranging from early civilization to post modern. After our day of driving and exploring we wound down with our family at a local brewery, Rhinegeist, named by German immigrants after the area’s similarities to the Rhine River in Germany.

cincinnati travel guide

I’m already looking forward to my next trip to explore more of this fascinating city!

x B

Artist Profile: Emily Jeffords

I would like to begin a new series on this blog to highlight hardworking artists who have made a name for themselves. It is so great to see young, talented artists becoming so successful and more importantly that art is still very much appreciated in this digital age.

I wanted to begin with my favorite artist whom I always turn to for inspiration, wise words, and gorgeous imagery. Not to mention, she’s from my hometown of Greenville, SC! Without further ado, meet Emily Jeffords.
Emily Jeffords Fine ArtHer loose, impressionist brush strokes are so lively and her color palettes are bright and happy it makes it difficult not to love. Her originals are beautiful, but she creates such lifelike prints that collectors on a budget (like myself) can barely tell the difference. I own several of her prints and have been extremely satisfied with the quality. She also has fun a collection at Minted, and with West Elm so the possibilities of adding gorgeous art to your home are endless! See her full collection of originals and prints on her equally as beautiful website.Emily Jeffords Fine Art Emily Jeffords Fine Art Emily Jeffords fine art

x B

Beer Making 101

Back in November, I mentioned that I had recently done a beer making class. Well, finally all can now be revealed…which basically means that the beer is finally ready to consume.  A few friends invited us along to the London Beer Lab for an afternoon workshop to brew one batch of beer.

Upon arrival we were asked what type of beer we wanted.  Being the trendy beer lovers that we are, we chose to make an IPA (surprise). The lovely guys at Beer Lab then selected the type and amount of barley we should use.   We started with Maris Otter, Crystal 200 and torrified wheat.  All of these were specifically chosen, I can’t remember all the reasons, but mainly it was to achieve the amber color we were going for and to have a fairly standard IPA base.  The grains then went into the special German-made urn with 20 liters of water to heat and sparge the grains in order to release the sugars. During this hour and a half, we got a lesson on all the different types of grains, tasted them and what beers use different grains and why.

beer making 01

After the sparging was finished, we then had to add the hops.  This is where things got fun.  We smelled many different hops, primarily American, but there were also a few English and German hops as well. Then came the hard part…choosing which hops we wanted to use, and whether we wanted to use them for the bitterness, flavor or aroma.  We selected several of the American hops and also used one each of the English and German hops.  This was done over a period of 30 minutes.  After adding the hops, we had to let the wort (this is what you call beer before it becomes alcohol) cool.  Once it reached the right temperature we put it into a bucket, added the yeast, and left it to ferment for three weeks.

beer making 02

Following the fermentation process, we then had to bottle the beer and leave it to carbonate for a few weeks. Our friends kindly took care of this process for us while we were away from the holidays.  After about seven or eight weeks, our beer is officially ready to drink!  For a first attempt, the beer is actually pretty good.  We achieved a good amber color.  It has a slightly bitter taste, followed by some floral notes. All in all, I’m quite happy with how the beer turned out and not disappointed that we yielded 70 bottles of this stuff!

beer photo 1

x K

Golden Globes Recap

It’s no secret that I love awards season, fashion, films, and Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. When all are combined into one evening for the Golden Globes, it makes for some solid entertainment. First, I am beyond excited that Whiplash, Birdman, and Grand Budapest Hotel all took home awards! It is so great seeing these indie films finally getting the credit they deserve. J.K. Simmons and Michael Keaton both delivered incredible performances in their respective films and if we’ve met you know how I feel about Wes Anderson!

Next, let’s move on to the best dressed of the night. My vote is with Emma Stone, but all of these other ladies came pretty close.

Jumpsuit perfection:
72nd Annual Golden Globe Awards - Arrivals
My fashion icon:
Lupita Nyong'o
The world’s most envied woman:
George Clooney, Amal Clooney
Metallic beauties:
Jessica Chastain  72nd Annual Golden Globe Awards - Arrivals
All images from people.com

Here’s to awards season 2015.

x B

10 Ideas For Winter

things to do in winterI normally dread the onset of winter. Oftentimes so much that I forget to enjoy fall. But this year I’m learning to like the winter. While I don’t want to spend extended periods of time outside, it does have it’s benefits! I am learning to ski, I’m painting more, I’m catching up on my reading and TV shows. So, for those of you less-enthused about winter just settling in, here are 10 ideas to keep you happy and entertained this season.

10: The cold makes for a great excuse to hibernate and catch up on the latest movies and binge watch all of your beloved tv shows. Netflix just added Friends and even though I’ve seen them all 8 million times, I can’t. stop. watching.
9: Try a new recipe. I am trying to break out of my culinary rut of tacos/lettuce wraps or salads every night. I would like to try some winter soups and meals that can be prepared ahead of time and eaten later in the week when things get busy.
8: Make something. Try knitting a scarf, painting a landscape, or making jewelry. It’s a great way to keep your hands and mind active while watching all that Netflix!
7: Play in the snow. I found an igloo in my park this weekend. You don’t have to get that ambitious, but you should take advantage of the more fun alternative to rain.
6: Read a book. I joined a book club, so I don’t have a reading bucket list this year, but I will keep the book reviews coming!
5: Discover new music. This always helps me beat the winter blues. Not to worry, I’m cooking up my winter playlist to share with you soon. I know the suspense is killing you.
4: Do yoga. This is more for me than anyone, but yoga is always so soothing, but especially in the winter. If you’re crazy, you can try hot yoga, but I don’t think that’s for me.
3: Pick up a winter sport. I know it’s easy for me to say living in Colorado, but I’m learning to ski and have found that it is a great workout, beautiful, and yes, one of the most emotionally challenging sports I’ve tried.
2: Perfect your hot cocoa/coffee recipe. I go ape shit on some coffee in the winter and love finding new ways to spice it up. But a great cup of cocoa complete with marshmallows or whipped cream will do just fine too.
1: Plan a dream vacation. What better time is there to dream of crystal clear waters, sunshine, and endless beaches? Plus you can put all the money you save not going out in these frigid temps towards your vaca!

Stay warm!

x B