Musings

Weekend Update {A Few Favorites}

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It’s been a while since I posted  a roundup of my favorites, so I hope you’ll indulge me for a moment. Better yet, I hope you find something here to like too!

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When I saw New Belgium’s Coconut Curry Hefeweizen on the menu at a bar/restaurant the crowd I run with  frequents, I just about had an excitement attack. I love coconut- curry anything and I love beer, so I was smitten at first sight. Not so sure about the combo in a beverage? Try this recipe for coconut curry popcorn seasoning instead.

I would have liked to offer you a picture of the actual beverage (instead of its label), but I thought it unwise to open a bottle when taking photos at 10 a.m. They may be lax, but even I have standards (#isit5′oclockyet? #isitnoonyet?).

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I like to drink my new favorite beer while I read my new favorite magazine: Garden & Gun. I actually learned about this magazine from a “friday favorites” post on a blog I frequent. There is so much to read in this magazine, I don’t even know where to begin.

This month I’ve read about pies, a shooting team from Missouri which is one of the winningest programs in all of college athletics, cast-iron cookware and the history of the bourbon and coke. Speaking of bourbon…

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Cloister Honey is a Charlotte business that sells, well, honey. As you may have surmised from the beer discussion above, I tend to like things with a spike of unexpected flavor. Enter bourbon-infused honey.

I am not a huge bourbon fan, but I really like this honey. It offers just the right amount of bourbon flavor, sweetness and warmth. It is especially delicious in these no-bake peanut butter energy bites which I love to eat as a snack. Or breakfast. Or dessert.

Last but not least, this song. A few months ago, my friend Melina posted this video on her Facebook page. I listened to the song, thought it was catchy, and moved on. Then I read this interview and heard it on the radio within a 24-hour time span, so I thought it was time to share.

The tune is not only catchy, but the lyrics make me laugh a little. I’d take the tiger on a gold leash. How about you?

Happy weekend!

Weekend Update: Beach Read Edition

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I love books! They are my vice. I hear you scoff. Surely, books can not be a bad thing. Well let me tell you, they are. It is not all that uncommon for laundry to pile up and dishes to crowd the sink because I choose to spend the day with a book. Really, it’s a problem.

I really do not know why I like reading so much. The anticipation of what is to come with I flip back the cover? Escaping, experiencing or vicarious living? It’s a mystery.

When a friend recently asked for book recommendations for her trip to the beach, I cemented my plan to write a beach reads edition of the weekend update posts. I feel I must warn you, she asked for something light, and after thinking about what I have read lately, I had little to suggest. I guess since I prefer comedies at the movies, I save the drama for my books.

Some of these books I have read recently, while for others it has been a couple of years. It is by no means an exhaustive list of my favorites, just what I have thought to share today. Here goes…

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I suspect the truth is that we are waiting, all of us, against insurmountable odds, for something extraordinary to happen to us.”  

I know I am! And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini is the most recent book I have read, and I surprised myself by liking it as much as I did. It was a bit hard to follow the style that jumped from the 1950s to the present day to random years in between in no particular order. Couple that with the story told from the viewpoint of multiple characters, and it is certainly not for everyone. I liked the book for the way it captured the subtle human experiences that define us all.

 

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 You’ve been crying,”  she said, slightly astounded.

A little.” 

Because of her?”  The final word was weighted. I could picture it round and heavy, making a deep thump in a pillow.

How can you not appreciate words that make you see a word drop like a paperweight into a pillow. More importantly, why can’t I write like that (see above quote about waiting for the extraordinary). Sigh. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. I loved Flynn’s first book. Sadly real and full of surprises all the way through, Flynn weaved a new tale from the old story of  living a lie. I also recommend the immensely popular Gone Girl in which the descriptor “sugar-cloud kisser” still sticks in my mind. You will not want to put it down. (P.S. – I tried to read Flynn’s Dark Places, but it was just too dark.)

 

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Biology gives you a brain. Life turns it into a mind.” 

Middlesex was the first Jeffery Eugenides’ book I read, and it remains in my top five favorites. I only heard of the book because one of my major goals in life is to read every book that has one a Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Middlesex won in 2003. More recently, it is the audio book the characters played by Seth Rogen and Barbara Streisand listen to in The Guilt Trip. It is the story of Calliope Stephanides and her journey of going from Greece to Detroit and from a woman to man. Sounds crazy. It’s captivating.

“I don’t know what you’re feeling, I won’t even pretend.” 

It was by picking up Middlesex that I learned Eugenides also wrote The Virgin Suicides. I loved the movie; I thought it was bold. The book was very much the same as the film, so you probably will not get too much more from reading it if you have already watched the movie. Still, it is a worthwhile – albeit twisted – read. Weekend Update: Beach Read Edition

She may have looked normal on the outside, but once you’d seen her handwriting you knew she was deliciously complicated inside.” 

The Marriage Plot is Eugenides most recent book. It was much lighter than the first two. Madeleine, Leonard and Mitchell are the college-age players in a story that explores love, life, God and the early 80s.

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But what are our stories if not the mirrors we hold up to our fears?” 

Read something by Wally Lamb. My friend Melina recommended his books to me when I was in a bit of a book slump, and I am so glad she did. Her description beats anything I could say: “Complex characters. Beautiful metaphors. But all oh so tragic.”

His characters get under your skin. They agitate and aggravate and keep you reading. Oprah agrees. She picked both I Know This Much Is True and She’s Come Undone for her book club.

As you have likely deduced, when I like one book by an author, I tend to seek out all he or she has written. The first Wally Lamb book I read, I Know This Much Is True, remains my favorite. The story chronicled the lives of two twin brothers – one with a mental illness and one without.

Well, get used to it, the whole world is nuts.

I wasn’t a cynic; I was a banged-up realist.”                                                    

I went on to read She’s Come Undone about annoying Dolores Price and her struggles from adolescence to adulthood, followed by The Hour I First Believed about Caelum Quirk’s journey as he nursed his wife through the aftershocks of PTSD. Nothing like a light beach read, huh?

For something much less tragic, Wishin’ and Hopin’: A Christmas Story is perfect for Christmas in July. It is a quick, funny read that actually takes place throughout the year and leads up to Christmas.

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So, that’s that. I can’t invite you to dinner, but I can invite you to my virtual book club. If you would like to see my full bookshelf, feel free to link up with me on Goodreads or Slice. And tell me, what are you reading?

Thirsty Thursday: Asheville Breweries

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Another Super Saturday leads to another Thirsty Thursday. This seems to be how I like to kick off June. Instead of sticking around Charlotte, this time a group from Charlotte headed up to Asheville on a five-brewery tour. I am embarrassed to admit that after seven years of making a home just over two hours away, I had never made the journey west to enjoy all Asheville has to offer. Technically, I still haven’t enjoyed all the city has to offer, but I have enjoyed a good deal of their beer.

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First stop: Wedge Brewing Company. At the end of the day, I proclaimed Wedge was my favorite. I loved the shaded outdoor area and the generally easy vibe I got there. If I lived in Asheville, I could see myself enjoying a beer under an umbrella there on any lazy Saturday. It was quickly pointed out to me that, while Wedge was great when we where there, it might not be so great if it were a rainy day. The long covered porch might offer some solace, but the bar area itself is teeny tiny.

I ordered the Noble Cider which - despite my professed love for Wedge – was not a Wedge beer! Instead, Noble brews the cider that Wedge sells. When we visited, the cider was so new that its release party had not even taken place. Ciders have held a special place in my heart since my college days when drinking Hornsby’s was a luxury.

I simply love the fresh, crisp taste of this type of beverage, and Noble Cider was a perfectly light but flavorful summer cider. While at Wedge, I did try a sip of their Hemp Ale, Oatmeal Stout and Witbier. All were something I would order, but the Witbier was particularly delicious.

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Second stop: Highland Brewing Company. I have a friend who would say her hands-down favorite beer is Highland’s Gaelic Ale. I have never much cared for that beer, but I know Highland brews quality beer. I looked forward to visiting the brewery to try their many other varieties.

And try them I did. The spicy Razor Wit Belgian Wheat  has usurped Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy as my favorite summer beer, and I can see myself drinking quite a few of the rich, chocolaty coffee Black Mocha Stouts this winter.

On a rainy day, I probably would have said Highland was my favorite stop of the day. They have a very nice indoor facility and a comfortable outdoor area. One of their beers certainly inspired my favorite review of the day. St. Terese’s Pale Ale was described as tasting like “a hop peed in a cup.”

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Thrid stop: Green Man Brewery. Quaint is the word that comes to mind as I search for a descriptor for Green Man. The space is small (there is only one indoor bathroom!), but there is plenty of outdoor seating. Plus they have a Yoda.

This is probably one of the more goofy reasons to like a place, but I loved the way the Green Man logo changed according to season. It was fun to recognize one of the faces in our group of pint glasses was wearing sunglasses. Then I saw my Green Man was wearing a winter hat, while the girl who sat beside me had a Green Man with pretty autumn leaves in his hair.

A more reasonable reason to visit Green Man is for their beer (not their logo). I enjoyed the Summer Wheat (noticing a pattern to my beverage choices?). My notes on the day began to wane at this point, so all I can offer in way of a descriptor is “spicy, but not quite as spicy” as the wheat beers at Wedge and Highland. I know. You will just have to go there and see for yourself.

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Fourth Stop: Wicked Weed Brewing. I was really looking forward to Wicked Weed. They advertised beers flavored with cucumbers and other beers flavored with plums! Neither was available when we were there, but I happily enjoyed the Passion Fruit Saison. As much as I liked this flavorful saison, the Tyranny Hoppy Red Ale ale was a mistake.

The individual responsible for the “hop pee” Highland review said the red ale smelled like a dumpster. My initial reaction was one of surprise. I had no idea my friend had such a dramatic streak. But he was right! It smelled exactly like a dumpster on a hot summer day, and once you had that smell in your nose, the beer tasted just like that smell. Not breathing in the aroma of the beer before taking a sip did not help. My friend was much more gracious about the situation than I, simply noting that sometimes things just go wrong. This was certainly one of those mistakes.

I was bummed that, after all of my anticipation, this was the most disappointing stop of the day. Wicked Weed gave off more of a restaurant than a brewery vibe, and since we stopped by during the Saturday night dinner rush, it was barely controlled chaos at the bar. If I make it back to Asheville before another seven years go by, I would definitely like to give Wicked Weed another try. Their menu looks delicious, and they have new beers advertised on a regular basis. I am presently intrigued by the sound of their Peach Habanero Saison and Black Angel Cherry Sour.

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Fifth Stop: Lexington Avenue Brewery. We ditched Wicked Weed early and headed on down the street and around a bend to LAB. If you thought my notes on Green Man were bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet. I got off my wheat beer kick and enjoyed the Cream Ale here. Our waitress described it as the lightest beer they brewed. Shy of trying all LAB beers, I will agree.

Like Wicked Weed, Lexington Avenue had a good looking menu. I had the opportunity to try the Drunken Chicken – grilled free range chicken, whiskey glazed bacon, arugula, caramelized peppers and onions on a house made hoagie – and was happy with the results. Not astounded, but happy.

Across the street from LAB, the storefront full of lit paper stars at Chevron Trading Post caught my eye. I took about 20 gazillion pictures of those stars, but I will leave you with just this one. I am glad the store was closed by the time I arrived or else I would have likely bought one…or two or three. Plus, I need a reason to go back, right?

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