Sunday, December 23, 2012

Happy Holidays

So, usually I have a rant around this time of year. This year's is a bit different.  Hanukkah is over and my menorah has been de-waxed and put away. The chocolate coins have been eaten, and I am heading down to a friend's house for the Christmas period.

I have watched people get ready for the holidays via twitter and facebook and, to be brutally honest, I have no idea why most people bother from year to year. The stress is amazing. Panic over present-buying, grocery shopping, and being forced to spend time with certain family members.  Some of it is light-hearted, such as the annual battle over Brussels Sprouts. I love the little beggars, but won't be seeing them this year as my friends hate them! But some of the stress seems so pointless. I have witnessed a grown woman in tears over stocking fillers for her adult children... Seriously.

So, boys and girls... have fun. Yep. If you don't enjoy it, don't do it! Ok, so cooking a feast might be a bit stressful, but if you take zero pleasure from it get help or don't do it. At its core, Christmas is a religious holiday (hello... mass for Christ), and all of the presents and trappings aren't really the point. So.. decorate if it makes you happy. Go mad with the wrapping paper if you have fun. Or just don't. Do what makes the day special for you. Don't feel obliged to do anything that you actually don't want to do!  This is supposed to be a festive season. Make it one for you.

Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Solstice, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, and Merry Festivus. And any other wintery-time holiday you celebrate.

Save some mulled wine for me!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Food, Glorious Food!

As an American, one of the few things I really miss here in NI is particular foods. Like real Mexican.. and proper barbecue. BBQ is NOT chucking some burgers and sausages on a backyard grill. I'm talking real smoked meats, so tender they fall off the bone. Meat, meat, and meat. So imagine my amazement, and slight trepidation, when I heard of a BBQ joint opening up in Belfast!

Called Bubbacue, this little gem is tucked away on Callener Street, next to M&S. Inside is nothing special. A window shows you tables where meat is being chopped and sides are being dished up by fresh-faced teens in skinny jeans and t-shirts. You order at the register, and grab your drink, a pickle (take a pickle, people!!) and a Budweiser can with a number. Take a seat at a table covered in red and white check, and drool over the 4 bottles of sauces. Yes, folks, this is a sauce-your-own place! Being sick of turkey, I went straight for the pulled pork. Now, I could have had just a sandwich (served with skinny fries), but I went whole-hog (sorry!) and got the platter.. complete with cornbread, slaw, a pickle and 2 sides. I opted for the fries and beans. And of course a mason jar of half-sweet iced tea.

My order came pretty quick, served up on an enameled metal tray lined with paper. A mess of chopped pulled pork and all my goodies. The slaw was good.. not mayonnaise-laden, but lacking in a bit of punch. The skinny fries came skin-on and not over-salted. Yum!! Beans.. swimming with bits of onion in a delightfully spicy sauce.. not that gloomy stuff you get out of a can!  The cornbread was, dammit, better than my own! And the meat.. oh man! I of course tried all the sauces. You have your standard smokey BBQ, a tangy Kansas City-inspired sauce, a sweeter Memphis-inspired one, and a kick-your-butt mustardy Carolina sauce. Only thing lacking was a proper hard cord North Carolina vinegary sauce, but I am not sure Belfast is quite ready for that. They were all good, and I ended up slathering my pork in a combo of the Carolina and Memphis-style sauces.  Topped it off with a crunchy pickle speak (not quite kosher dill, but close!), and my iced tea. Zero room left for dessert, but there is always next time.

So.. an ocean away from good barbecue I am no longer! Merely a train ride and a short walk. There is only one downside... Bubbacue is a pop-up. They are only open for 3 months!

If you're in Belfast, get your butts down to Bubbacue. But get there early (they open at noon), as the meat-hungry denizens of the city clean the place out of meat in a couple of hours!

I'd put up a picture, but I was too busy eating...

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving Thanks

As an American in Northern Ireland, I always try to make a Thanksgiving meal for myself and some friends.. if I am not back home with my family! This year I am doing the same, but under slightly different circumstances. I don't mean to whine or complain, but a few months ago my husband of 8 years asked for a divorce. He had been away with work for a while, and now is in England.. and he decided not to come home, just sent an email. Shortly thereafter I lost access to the joint bank account, and a month later he cancelled my rent payments. My life turned upside down in a very short period of time. Now I wait to see if the benefits office will help, while I look for full-time work... meanwhile eating through my savings in order to pay the bills, and trying to figure out what I really want to do with my life now that I am starting over.

Sure, things are hard. But I have a roof over my head. I have family, although they are far away, who care. I have friends who bring me cake on my birthday and send me LEGO. I have the ever-goofy Loki. I have my health (well..and the NHS!!).

I look around me and most of my UK pals are gearing up for Christmas. The TV is full of commercials encouraging us to part with our money for presents (and apparently a hair dryer is a good gift!). And although there is a lot of Black Friday stuff back home, Thanksgiving is not about that. It has always been a day spent with family and friends. Food and football. Descending into that tryptophan-enduced coma after eating just one more helping of turkey. So, amidst the uncertainty of my own personal life, I am thankful I have enough to feed my friends and enjoy their company.
So enjoy your family, your friends. Eat turkey and pie. And remember what is truly important.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Skin Care

Really? Skin care? Yep. A while back, the lovely Sera suggested that I try some products by Purity Organic Skin Care.  Hooked up on the old Twitter, I was sent some samples to try. Samples.. ?! Nope, they sent full-size trials of their face wash, face scrub, regular moisturizer, overnight moisturizer, anti-aging serum, and make-up remover!  Wow.

So why on earth is this whisky-drinking blogger blogging about skin care? Because I have been fighting to find something that *works*. I have oily skin. Always have. Minor acne that rarely goes away and have tried all sorts of things to keep the oil under control and my skin clear. I've tried ProActiv.. and it worked to a degree, but god-forbid you stop using it for a month.. NIGHTMARE! I used Clinique, too. But it's so expensive...  So why shouldn't I test out some new stuff?

Anyone who's read this blog knows my style of reviews..

The face wash is awesome.. a little goes a LONG way. Cuts through through the grease and grime of the day in a flash.  I use it right after the scrub.. which is nice and gentle, but does the trick.

I am one to abhor most moisturizers. They always make me feel greasy. However, the day-time Purity one is great for after swimming! That chlorine can do a job on you, so that lives in my gym-bag.

I have found a great night-time combo, however. A little bit of the serum, followed by the overnight moisturizer. I wake up NOT feeling greasy and horrible as I usually do.

And.. the winner... the make-up remover. I think they call it the cleansing lotion..  I had a bit of a laugh at Halloween. Just to scare the kids a bit as they came around trick-or-treating.
A combination of water-based makeup and grease paints, I had envisioned a battle at the bathroom sink. Nope. I rubbed in a bit of the lotion, and rinsed. That was it. It was all gone. A washcloth to get the last bits off, but NO SCRUBBING.

A total win.  So, my UK-based people.. if you are frustrated with expensive stuff, or want some products that aren't loaded up with harsh annoying chemicals, check these guys out.  The link... it's up there. Go click it. Tell them I sent you!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Bourbon and Blogger

So, logging back in to add a new post and... bam! Hit with a Google request... Since Google is already linked with blogger they want me to consolidate. Ok, ok. Fine. But did they HAVE to change the interface? I don't remember all my font settings and they're different! I think! Maybe! Who knows. I have to go back and check everything, find where the settings and formatting options are hiding. I really should have just learned to code a decade ago, as planned.

Evan Williams 2001 Single  Barrel
Anyway, the nice chaps at Master of Malt sent me a bourbon sample! Yay! This one is Evan Williams 2001 Single Barrel, coming in at 43.3%abv.  This one was aged for a decade before bottling by Heaven Hill. The result? Yum. Yes, I might say that often, but this is one smooth, tasty bourbon. A bit of spice, a bit of that vanillay-caramelly flavor, but nothing to overpower you. Therein lies its danger. It is an easy-drinking bourbon, even neat. Almost a bit too easy for a good sippin' whisky.

Not sure if you like bourbons? Or do you call Jack a bourbon (don't get me started)? Then give this one a try! You can of course, grab a dram sample from Master of Malt, or just buy a whole bottle. You'll like it! And if you don't, just send it my way and I will make sure it doesn't go to waste.

I am, of course, always on the lookout for new whiskies to sample, so if you see one you'd like me to try, just let me know!  I will be happy to try before you buy...