Fox-a-roni (313th new thing).

April 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

Day Three Hundred Thirteen found me eating dinner with Patrick at Fox Bros. Having had a busy day without any new activities, I turned to a food challenge and ordered the “Fox-a-roni” with my smoked wings. It was a combination of Brunswick Stew and Mac ‘n Cheese, two of my favorite bar-b-que related sides.

Unfortunately, this combination did not prove to be equal to its two parts, at least to me. However, the wings were deliciously smoky, fall-off-the-bone tender and I gobbled them up without a second thought. Next time, though, I’ll probably just stick to Mac ‘n Cheese as my side. Or get extra wings.

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Touring the Wrecking Bar Brewery (312th new thing).

April 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

The appeal of gastropubs and brewery restaurants seems to have been steadily growing in the past several years, and I am not complaining. A few weeks earlier Patrick and I tried out one of the new small in-house brewery/restaurant combinations when we had a meal at The Wrecking Bar. On Day Three Hundred Twelve we returned on a Saturday afternoon for the free “Brewery Tour.” I was especially excited about seeing the workings of a small beer brewing operation after I had begun to brew my own alcoholic beverages.

We arrived just before the 4:30 beginning of the tour and sat down at the bar. Unable to resist, I took the suggestion of the bartender and ordered myself a beer brewed right downstairs. I chose the Red Ale and I have to say, it was one of the tastiest beers I had ever tried. Maybe it was perfect for my tastebuds right at that moment, or maybe it was everything I had dreamed my own Red Ale would be. Either way, it seemed to be the grand combination of smooth, creamy, and cold. Soon after, Brewmaster Bob walked around the room looking for any would be tourists. We joined the small crowd with our beers in hand and headed down the ramp to the mysterious brewery.

The garage door opened into a large basement-like room with oversized kettles and fermenting tanks lined on either side of the walls. I recognized the process of making beer through my experience as a budding home brewer. I pointed out to Patrick what I figured to be the wort making area and the fermenting tanks.I may have been secretly impressed with my knowledge, although it still paled in comparison to most others.

Bob gathered us in a circle around him as he described the process and informed his captive audience as to what brews were currently being made. And then we got to the tasting part, my favorite part of any brewery tour. We tried a scotch ale, a hefeweisen, and a stout. In between I sipped my red ale. People asked questions throughout the guide and individuals and small groups asked for more information as we refilled our glasses. There was another home brewer in attendance, and I enjoyed hearing his questions and subsequent answers. I rolled through my brain trying to think of an appropriately intelligent questions, but instead just asked something about whether or not he grew his own hops. The answer is, “Hopefully in the future.”

We left shortly after and I really felt that I had a better understanding of the beer-making process. Now I just need to get the recipe for that Red Ale and I’m set.

Alabama Shakes (311th new thing).

April 19, 2012 § 1 Comment

Patrick had seen the Alabama Shakes at the EARL months earlier, but my first time seeing the band was on Day Three Hundred Eleven, when they opened up a benefit show at Athens’s 40 Watt club. I had streamed songs from their website (since updated) and really enjoyed their bluesy rock and unique vocals. Patrick was super excited about seeing them live again, telling me they were going to blow up. And he was pretty spot on.

We headed to Athens straight after I got off work on a Friday night. It was only a day (or evening) trip for us, and we planned to head back to Atlanta after the opening act played, maybe catching a couple of songs from the headlining Drive By Truckers.

The show was amazing, one of the best live performances I had ever seen. The band had soul, the lead singer a riveting voice, and I was enchanted with her facial expressions as she sang, mouth opened wide at an angle as she belted out lines, her glasses slipping down her nose a little. Mostly, I was impressed with how fresh and unique their sound was. The rock and blues influences were obvious, but the sound itself was certainly their own.

We stood next to a couple of out-of-town Englishmen who made it a vacation to travel to Athens, GA and see the Drive By Truckers every year for the benefit performance for Nuci’s Space. After the Shakes, I overheard them gushing that the opening act was one of their new favorite performers, decided spur of the moment, from listening to that one show.

We weren’t alone in our delight with the Alabama Shakes. As Patrick predicted, the band has indeed exploded on the music scene with a full length album, a stint on Letterman, and a sold out European tour. Pretty good for a few young things from Alabama.

Sweet Face Scrub (310th new thing).

April 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

Inspired by my Egg White Facial Mask and with a desire to engage in more at home beauty treatments, I made a sugar scrub on Day Three Hundred Ten. After looking up various recipes to create a good facial scrub, I decided to marry several ideas into my own concoction. I mixed together brown sugar, a little honey, olive oil, and a drop of lavender oil.

I began to apply the chunky mixture with my hands, but quickly the brown sugar formed irregular clumps and would fall off my cheeks as I moved my fingers in a circular motion. At one point I looked like the punchline of some bad toilet humor. After awhile I could feel the sugar granules separate and move against my skin in what could be considered a scrubbing motion. Mostly, I felt the slipperiness of the olive oil.

A couple of minutes later I felt properly exfoliated and started rinsing off the sugar and oil from my face. The granules came off quite easily, but after several washings, I still had a glean across my skin. But olive oil is good for the skin, right? I was more worried about clogged pores and eventual pimples than whether the oil was nourishing.

I finally had all of the goo off, and wouldn’t you know, my skin felt pretty darn soft. Baby-like, some might say. It had a similar glow to the Spa Sydell facial I tried several months before, at a fraction the cost.

Next time I try a sugar scrub I may stick to the simple mix of white sugar and oil. Maybe using another kind of sweet grain would prove less clumpy. And I think I’ll exfoliate my whole body.

Hot Mess Yoga (309th new thing).

April 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

Before Day Three Hundred Nine I had never really done yoga before. I had mimicked the simple exercises on the Wii Fit, but not taken a class or learned proper positioning under the guidance of a professional. A twenty-nine year old white suburban girl who doesn’t yoga? With the fitness’s popularity, it’s pretty difficult to comprehend. To make up for stereotypes, I jumped straight in, head-first, by taking a Bikram (hot) Yoga class.

My friend Jenny had been to Marietta Bikram Yoga studio before and volunteered to go along with me. She said it felt really good and was quite relaxing. I tensed at the thought of embarrassing myself. I can barely touch my toes, let alone twist my body into some crazy pretzel shape. But I was committed. If anything, the oxygen therapy the day before had at least opened up my blood cells or something.

I arrived early for the 4:30 class and headed in to change and sign the requisite waiver. You know, the “Not responsible for injury or death” one I have become quite used to over the course of this blog. The employees seemed nice and I disclosed this was my first ever yoga class. The bald burly instructor came up and introduced himself (his name which I cannot remember) and seemed intrigued when I told him about my doing-something-new-everyday thing. He assumed it was something healthy, but I quickly dispelled that idea by mentioning that I had infused vodka with skittles. He wasn’t expecting that.

Once Jenny arrived we headed into the sweltering studio (Bikram Yoga is performed in a 105 degree room), laid our mats down at the back with our towels on top, and us on top of that, similar to the other two people in the studio. After a few minutes and about fifteen more people copying the procedure, and just before I started to doze in the heat, the overhead lights came on and Yogi Man bounded in.

He explained the starting position (feet together, arms at our sides) and we all commenced with this strange breathing exercise that involved holding a fist, fingers entwined, under the chin and exhaling while opening up the arms and lifting the elbows, head tilting back. The inhale was the reverse. I performed this warm up easily enough, although my weak upper body strength started to show with the ache in my shoulders.

This was followed by a series of standing exercises. I can’t really remember most of them, with their difficult-to-pronounce names. I know I participated in about three positions before the room started to swirl. I had been warned about the likelihood of light-headedness and possible nausea, so when the corners of my vision began to blur and darken I lay down on my mat as instructed and rested. I probably opted out of second sets of the standing positions more times than I actually completed them. I was up and down like a bunny rabbit, but much more slowly. I saw the need for the waiver in the beginning. Why was I doing this voluntarily?

The seated positions were slightly better, although there were few I opted out of again. There were rests between each one, which I enjoyed immensely. Could I just lie on my back for the rest of the class and call it yoga?

At the end of the class we did some ending breathing exercise where you puff air out of your “O” shaped mouth in short succession. Yogi Man said we were removing the “toxins.” I will never understand these crazy health people. He thanked everyone, gave me a brief applause for staying the whole class, and offered me and Jenny an “electrolyte drink” when we got out “on the house.” It turned out to be Emergen-C. Then the lights were dimmed again and everyone lay down on their mats, slowly getting up one by one. Jenny popped up right away but I stayed for a few minutes, gaining my breath.

At first I thought hot yoga was just a weird and uncomfortable form of exercise (I’ve never heard a fitness expert tell me that it was normal for my elbows and wrists to feel strained while exercising), but it turned out it was just that class. Apparently most instructors don’t bark out orders and talk incessantly like a drill sargaent or call out people who are performing the positions wrong. And they certainly don’t mention vodka infused with skittles to everyone and then chuckle, explaining it was an “in joke.” Jenny also told me that yoga was about flow and any other class she attended did not involve rotating staccato-like from one pose to the next AND in her other classes, the instructor did the poses too. Yogi Man attempted a few for demonstration, but then explained away his inflexibility as “not being warmed up.” Jenny, who took just as many rests as I did to avoid fainting (at one point I watched fearfully as she stumbled a little in slow motion) said that she had never felt that way in the hot yoga class before. And I believed her. Because that was difficult and yoga was supposed to be kind of peaceful.

I think I will try Bikram Yoga again, but definitely not with that instructor. I like the idea of the poses and the flow and the heat, but I don’t want to faint in front of twenty other sweaty people.

The Oxygen Chamber Experience (308th new thing).

April 17, 2012 § 2 Comments

On Day Three Hundred Eight I paid someone to zip me into a plastic spaceship filled with oxygen for an hour, aka a Hyperbaric Chamber. I stumbled upon the idea via one of the half-off discount sites, and decided to try it out.  I had dabbled in homeopathy and seen a chiropractor; breathing in pure oxygen for an hour was hippie enough to be another similar new experience. After work I drove myself to the Wellness Center in Alpharetta for an hour of breathing.

Everyone at the chiropractic office was very nice and I felt totally comfortable…until I climbed into the deflated oxygen tank. It looked like some strange spaceship pod. With only a thin unzipped slit on the side, climbing in was challenging. I channeled my inner snake an ungracefully slithered into the chamber. Quickly my mind drifted towards claustrophobic thoughts as the chiropractor started zipping up my only escape route. I felt a hyperventilation coming on, but managed to calm myself enough to continue.

As the pod inflated (with me inside), my head began to fog and fill with pressure, similar to taking off in a 747. Through the plastic window to the right of my head, the administrator kept asking if my ears had popped. I knew my left one had, several times, but the right stubbornly resisted attending the oxygen party. Eventually the pressure subsided enough for me to assure my caregiver that I felt great. We hit level four and everything calmed. I was allowed to put the oxygen mask on and lie back and relax.

I breathed deeply and reveled in the fact that the pressure between my ears had finally dissipated. At first I just laid there, but then remembered reading something about how laughing brings oxygen to the brain and lungs more quickly than normal in and out breathing. I don’t know of it was true or not, but to take advantage of the idea I pulled out my phone and visited AwkwardFamilyPhotos.com, which never fails to make me laugh.

I tried listening to music and napping, but mostly I just lay on my back looking around the small space. I couldn’t tell if I felt any different from before I crawled into the chamber. I didn’t have any sort of “oxygen high” or anything.

After an hour, the chiropractor returned to deflate the pod. It felt just as bad as the inflation process. My head filled with pressure as I tried desperately to pop my ears. If I had oxygen treatments regularly I would hate to go through such annoyance at either end of the sessions. Finally, when the pressure inside returned to that of outside, the plastic device was unzipped and I moved to slide back out. I managed to limbo through the opening before landing with a thud on the floor outside.

My oxygen levels were taken through a clamp applied to my finger and I was told that my levels were very high. Whaaa? Why didn’t they take a “reading” before the oxygen experience? I nodded my head in a fake appreciation of the information and headed out the door. On the way home I tried to think about if I had felt any different from when I had entered the building, but I have a feeling that any perceptible change was just a side effect of the placebo effect. While oxygen therapy is indeed a medical procedure designed to improve people’s health, I seriously wondered about the plastic tank in the wellness center. I don’t think this experience will be on my list of things to try again.

Georgia’s Stonehenge (307th new thing).

April 13, 2012 § 1 Comment

There is a mystery found deep in North Georgia. It stands a whopping 19 feet high on a small hill in a rural section of the Granite Capital of the World, Elberton County.  The Georgia Guidestones are a series of towering granite slabs etched with a series of guidelines for humankind. In 1979 a man under the pseudonym “R.C. Christian” visited a local granite supplier to hire them to build this monument. After visiting Elberton’s banker (the only person to whom he revealed his true identity), he purchased a small plot of land just outside town on which to build the structure. The Guidestones were unveiled in March 1980 to a crowd of a hundred curiosity seekers. Ten guidelines are etched in the face of each vertical piece of rock, in eight different languages.  The most controversial and ominous is the one listed at the top of the list. “Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.” With over six billion people living on this planet, five hundred million seems like a pretty low number. These tenants are referred to by Guidestone naysayers as “The 10 Commandments of the Anti-Christ.”

Patrick and I had first heard about the Guidestones a couple years ago, but Day Three Hundred Seven was the first time we were able to see the “American Stonehenge” up close and personal. To prepare, Patrick ordered a book about the history and mystery of the edifice and together we watched a couple of mini documentaries, one from the History Channel and another from the Guidestones’ website. You should definitely watch both for more information on the Guidestones and the conspiracy theories that surround it . There are many rumors as to what group, individual, or organization is behind the Georgia Guidestones. Ted Turner’s name has been thrown around, as well as a centuries old secret society called the Rosicrucians. The History Channel episode gives value to the latter idea.

We took I-85 almost to the South Carolina state line before we exited into the North Georgia countryside. After a brief detour at the Ty Cobb Museum, we found ourselves driving up Guidestone Rd and onto the county owned property where the structure lays. R.C. Christian and friends were smart. To avoid paying taxes on the property, they ceded the land and the granite monument on it back to Elberton County.

We spent about half an hour examining the area, reading the giant etchings on the English side of the slab, and peering through holes carved into the stone showing the direction of the North Star and other various astronomical phenomenons. Patrick even Tebowed (it was relevant at the time of our visit).

I have to say that the visit was slightly anticlimactic. After hearing so much about the mysterious carvings in the north of our state for awhile, I think I expected a lightning storm of Apocalyptic proportions. But the puzzle is still incredibly intriguing and I would love to know the true identity of R. C. Christian and truth of his Rosicrucian affiliations. It sounds like something out of a Dan Brown novel.

If you do get the chance to visit the Guidestones, I highly recommend it. A nearly twenty foot monument to strict philosophical ideas built in the middle of Georgia is not something to miss.

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