1.24.2009 Comments: (0)
So we've recently found out that Tommy and Kristen are having a baby boy, and Holly and Chris are having a baby girl! I'm pretty sure we're still in college. I missed the part about being a grown up. How Tommy got us to the New River Valley Speedway, I'll never know. Holly in a dress. It was kind of a big deal. The Roanoke Mall! Day trip to the big city!

Two months later...

1.22.2009 Comments: (2)
Recap: We love Jack Daniel's. We spent Thanksgiving in Nashville. The Jack distillery is less than two hours away from there. We visited. It was magical. And onto the photo adventure. So, you arrive, you hop into a tour group, you watch a wonderfully cheesy video about the heritage and history of how Jack is made, and then you hope in a (bio-diesel!) bus to take you to the start of the tour, and you walk the rest of the way. There will be no walking involved with this photo tour, lucky you. Clearly, I don't remember everything...just the stuff that relates to the photos. So, one of the last steps before the whiskey is barreled, it is "mellowed" through charcoal. This means it is literally, drop by drop, passed through huge barrels, 12 feet tall of (wooden) charcoal, which removes impurity and ensures a smooth taste. The distillery actually makes it's own charcoal by harvesting certain types of wood, and cutting and charring it on their own property. Our tour guide thinks the reason Jack tastes so good is because the distillery is built on a clear, deep natural spring. The water is clean, free of pollution, and it has never run dry. Bad news for when that day comes I guess. This is me, being incredibly happy, walking into the still house, where they drop off, measure, and add the corn, rye and malt into the alcohol to make the sour mash. (Which is why it's called sour mash whiskey on the label) The mash sits in enormous steel drums and looks...gross. But wow, it's ridiculously high proof at that point, it makes your eyes water just smelling it. After the icky mash stage, the gunk goes through the stills, and then goes through the mellowing process. Our tour guide was telling us about the taste testing processes as well - one group tests it before the mellowing (where it runs through the charcoal) and one group tests it before bottling. If it is rejected before bottling, it's mellowed again. If it's rejected AGAIN, it is used...somewhere else along the line, I forget where. After this, it's barreled, in barrels that the distillery also makes by hand. The barrels are charred on the inside to give the whiskey it's color, and some of the taste. Every barrel is only used once. They're aged in barrel houses, like the one below. There are 77 of them across the county, each one holding about 1 million gallons of whiskey. I remember the tour guide mentioning that the barrel houses have to be a certain distance apart due to fire concerns, but it was only like 200 feet or something. In my head, I'm thinking...1 million gallons of highly flammable liquid, only 200 feet apart...whatever. Inside one of the barrel houses They actually make four different "types" of Jack - one is the kind that you see all the time, and Dan and I bring to many a party. Each batch is actually blended from several different barrels to maintain a consistent color and taste. At liquor stores, sometimes they have Jack Green label, which is Jack, but is actually of what the distillery has deemed lesser quality than most of their whisky. Gentleman Jack is one step up - it is actually mellowed twice, and is the reason you get charged more. There is also Jack Single Barrel - any size bottle you get will be from one barrel of Jack - not blended from several batches like the other types. At the distillery, you can buy an *ENTIRE* barrel of your very own, and all the bottles that that one barrel can produce (which is something like 250). Each bottle is hand bottled and numbered, and sent to you along with the barrel itself. Pretty much, Dan and I have a new life goal. Jack Daniel was only 5'2" tall - there are two statues of him on the distillery property. JD, Dan and I are BFF. The first Friday of every month, every employee at the distillery is given a pint of Jack, just because. Giving the liquor away is legal, drinking it is legal - buying it in the county, not so much. It's a dry county. While we were there, we visited all the cute little stores - bought chocolate fudge made with Jack, souvenirs, heard gossip about the distillery and the new master distiller (draaaaaaaaaaaama about the outgoing guy) and we brought home a Jack decanter. Once we got back to CA and put our Jack actually in it, we felt pretty fancy. James is still debating how he feels about it. And yeah, that was our tour. I won't lie - we have about 45 times as many photos as you see here because every five seconds, I was all "Take a picture!!" or "Did you get that?" of like...trees or other completely non memorable things. But you should ALL go if you're anywhere near there. You won't find yourself actually IN Lynchburg unless you're specifically going for the distillery tour because there isn't anything else there, but yeah. Make the pilgrimage (Franklin, I'm looking at you).

Urban (snooty) Hiking

1.21.2009 Comments: (1)
Dan and I went on walk #3, which was up in the ridiculously wealthy area of SF, Nob Hill. The name would also imply that it is a steep, you know, hilly area. I want you to know that we chose to do this walk after going to a nice lunch (it's Dine About Town again! woot) and walking like, almost a mile, to the START point of the walk. Good decisions all around. So, the area is where the "Big 4" railroad barons of the early 1900s made their ginormous homes. One of them took up an entire city block. One of them had a gated wall and "tradesmen" entrance. Way too much money. So yeah, they built some mansions, and their friends built some mansions and after the big 1906 earthquake, only ONE of their homes survived. Because the quake started a huge fire, andddd all of them but ONE built their homes out of wood. Fantastic. Grace Cathedral - the whole complex takes up an entire square city block The bronze doors to Grace Cathedral Inside the Cathedral - shocking news, it was based on Notre Dame A view from the labyrinth inside the cathedral Looking down a cute little alley A really ornate apartment complex entryway The apartment building where "Vertigo" was filmed Dome inside one of the fancy hotels

NOT a let down

1.20.2009 Comments: (1)
So I went to the doctor today (nothing to be concerned about) and in the interest of full disclosure, it was the "lady doctor". I was recommended to my new doctor by a co-worker and this may sound stupid, but I haven't ever had such a positive experience with a doctor. So I got there, and didn't have to fill out forms because they mailed all the forms to me ahead of time, nice touch, no? Anyway, I was in the room with the infamous stirrups and got my weight/blood pressure taken (my BP is excellent apparently - good job self!) and then she says "the doctor will be right in, but you don't have to undress yet" Confusion. So, the doctor comes in, introduces herself as Amy and then proceeds to TALK to me for almost 20 minutes about my medical history, any concerns or questions, etc. Talking to GYN while still wearing pants. It was crazy. And great. So then eventually, she left, I get undressed and she completed the exam in probably 7 minutes. I was just really impressed - I haven't ever had such a comfortable conversation with a doctor. Maybe everyone else (female) has had really great care, but yeah, I was blown away.

Let down.

1.13.2009 Comments: (1)
So I read alot. You may have heard this before. There are very few books that I dislike so much that I can't finish them, even if I mentally (or verbally) criticize the book the whole way through. Anyway, I picked up a book tonight off my fiction shelf to start reading (yes I have a fiction shelf, and a non fiction shelf. don't judge) and was really enjoying getting home from work around 5:30 and sitting down to read. I finished about half the book before Dan and I sat down to eat dinner and watch the premiere of the new season of the Biggest Loser (yay!) Afterwards, I picked the book back up and within a chapter, things went downhill. Horrible writing and characters, totally predictable ending. Granted, it is technically a "chick lit" book, complete with pink cover, so maybe I was asking for it. But, I had to finish it. So I pretty much sped through the rest and threw it across the room afterwards, being so annoyed that someone actually published it. Ugh. It's so dissapointing for me when books let me down. So, now I will be starting another book before bed to get the taste of that book out of my mouth. *rant over* Good news: Missy Higgins is coming yet again to San Francisco, this time with Justin Nozuka! Even better news, the show is March 23rd, and I leave for a conference in DC on the 24th. Meant to be, clearly. ~Mood shift~ Bad news: My grandma is about to go through another round of chemo, six weeks long. Not as intensive as "traditional" chemo, but still difficult. A catscan this week also showed some new spots on her lungs, which is not good news. The doctors are not sure if the chemo regimen they have planned will take care of these new spots, so...yeah. I have avoided the freak out about her cancer, because her doctors have been overwhelmingly positive and she has sounded very strong when I have talked with her. But I'll admit, this new development officially makes me nervous. So, if you are a person that prays and you've got a spot open on your prayer family and I would be grateful. And, now I don't really know how to wrap up after that. How about... Happy anniversary Missy and Franklin!!

Oh the injustice!

1.04.2009 Comments: (1)
So here I am, in Buzz, which is the best bakery EVAR and one of my favorite spots in the DC area, where they have free wifi. I came partially to do work, which ain't gonna happen my friends, and partially to write a longggggggggggggg entry about everything I've been promising to write about and look at me taking the time to do this on my vacation!! Except, yeah, I don't have the pictures on my computer and Dan has the camera. Awesome. So, you're just going to have to deal with me delaying you for, oh, another month or two while I ramble about something else. Well, the holidays have kind of come and gone, but I personally had a wonderful time. My mom came out to Berkeley for the Christmas/Hanukkah time and we had a good time - lots of firsts! I cooked my first "traditional" Christmas dinner, my mom exchanged Hanukkah presents for the first time, and it was definitely the first time I got a vehicle towed in California, woot. Mom came in on Christmas eve, and so Christmas was spent cooking, opening gifts and doing some cat-sitting for a friend. Day after, we went into SF and took mom up the steps to Coit Tower (Ro, this should sound familiar) and then went to Chinatown. For the first time Dan and I were able to get someone to the SF fortune cookie factory! It was this tiny little doorway in an alley in Chinatown, it was awesome and the cookies are SO GOOD. My mom was impressed with our SF tour guide knowledge. The next day, we went up to Napa (...what else did you think we would do?). Went to 4 wineries, three of which we had never been to before, which was fun, and got mom a little tipsy before dinner. Dinner was lovely, and then the car wouldn't start. So, then there was waving down strangers to try and jump the battery, which didn't work, then a tow truck and then a $150 cab ride back to Berkeley (yes, Enterprise refunded us for the taxi) and, wow. Anyhow, as you can tell, my mom clearly got the highlights! Now I'm back in the 703/202/571 and I've been having a fantastic time. I feel like every bit of my time has been spent relaxing in places I love (like rightthissecond) or with the people I love the most, which is a pretty sweet way to spend a week. I'm not sure I really need to recount any of this week, because everyone who reads this are the folks who I've been spending all my time with, so... (I'm sitting across from a couple who rolled in, got comfy with their identical coffees, and pulled out identical macbooks. I love hipsters.) Anyway, some new years resolutions. 1 - Get a manicure because...damn. 2 - Remember birthdays. ALL of them. 3 - Get over the thing about calling people. 4 - Get lazy ass moving in some form of working out a couple times a week (I did actually find something that I think will work for me...but I won't be bragging until I actually, you know, try it) 5 - Stop buying things I don't need and donate more. 6 - All the environmentally good stuff I talked about a few posts ago. mmmmk thats a lot. lets not go crazy. I just re-found this picture from Fall 07 and kind of love it.