Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Happy Hot Buttered Rum Day!

* I was sent tea by Pure Leaf and Influenster for sampling purposes.  All opinions and rebellious tendencies are my own.
Did you know that January 17th was National Hot Buttered Rum Day?

All of the folks up north with their snow shoveling and skiing and other cold weather activities might really appreciate a warm cup of cheer about now. 

But here in Houston, it is a humid 77F outside which isn't that conducive to the hot dreamy creamy concoction; however, I have never been one to strictly adhere to convention.

Nor have I ever been one to strictly follow a recipe...I'm seeing a pattern here...perhaps I have a problem with authority.  I digress.

This past holiday season, I recently discovered the delectable goodness of hot buttered rum.  What I never realized before then was that it is made with hot water and not by heating the whole drink.

It seemed like I was missing a trick there.  Then it came to me - why not add one extra layer of flavor by making the libation with tea?!  And Hot Buttered Rum Tea was the result.

Pure Leaf black tea with vanilla is perfect for this recipe because it infuses a depth of flavor.

If you or someone you're serving is tea-total or even more importantly, a designated driver, then simply leave out the rum and no one is left out of the deliciousness!

Hot Buttered Rum Tea
1c. softened butter
1 1/4c. brown sugar
1c. whipping cream
1 1/2c. powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. cloves, ground
1/4 tsp. nutmeg, ground
1/2 tsp. cinnamon, ground
Pure Leaf Black Tea w/Vanilla teabags
Cinnamon Sticks
Whole Nutmeg

Buttered part:

Cream brown sugar and butter in a mixer. 
Pour in cream, powdered sugar, and spices. 
Mix until whipped and totally incorporated. 
Spoon mixture into a container and put in the fridge until ready to use.

Rum Tea part:

Make a mug of tea by steeping the Pure Leaf teabag in 6oz. boiling water for 3 or 4 minutes. 
Remove the teabag and put 2 Tbs. of the butter mixture and a shot of rum in the mug.
Give it a good stir.
Serve with a cinnamon stick or some freshly grated nutmeg over the top.

*I prefer to use dark rum or spiced rum here but white rum is also good.


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Jazz Loves Disney...and So Do I!

"This is a sponsored post from Disney Music and One2One Network.  All opinions, potential muffin basket bribery, and fanatical love of all things jazz and Disney are my own."

Did you hear that squeal of delight?

I get pitched periodically to review stuff--you, as my readers, know this.  I always appreciate the opportunity but I'm not always overjoyed with the product.  Y'all...when I opened my e-mail to see that there was a new review campaign that involved the latest reworking of Disney songs into jazz charts, I got excited - super excited...as in I may have squealed out loud.  Then I set about finding out how I could apply for the campaign and thought about sending the person in charge a muffin basket just so they would include me.  No joke.

Are you aware that Disney has produced several albums that orchestrate their time-honored classics into various genres?  I know this because we have several of them: "Bibbidi Bobiddi Bach" and "Heigh-Ho Mozart" are both written in the style of well known classical composers and "O Mickey Where art Thou?" is arranged in the style of blue-grass.  Jazz and Disney are two of our family's all-time favorite things so a new compilation arranging Disney songs in a jazzy way has sent us over the moon.  Thus the squealage. 

How much do we love Disney and jazz?  Here are but a few instances of how jazz and/or Disney have played a part in our life: 
  • Engineer is a phenomenal bass trombone player and has played in many jazz bands throughout the years.  While in England, the musical director of the town band chose to feature Engineer in a Disney song that was written jazzy to begin with, "I Wanna Be Like You."  It's kind of his signature tune now.
  • Engineer and I honeymooned at DisneyWorld and have since been back several times with Diva.  It is truly our happy place and we have encouraged every young couple to consider honeymooning there too.  I can't imagine being treated better as newlyweds than DisneyWorld.
  • Our first pet together was a cat named Tigger and he was the best cat we ever had.
  • As a child, my favorite record (and yes, I mean vinyl) was "Mickey Mouse Disco."  I wore out "Disco Duck." 
  • My singing partner and I used to go into schools teaching kids about styles of music (jazz being one of our favorite lessons).  Our take away from that lesson was that one could "jazz" any tune.  We often used Disney songs as examples kids could relate to when recognizing different styles of music.
  • Diva is a Disneyphile to say the very least.  She can quote nearly every word from nearly every Disney movie and as for the songs, fuhgeddabowdit.  She knows every tune and lyric by heart. 
  • I was interviewed in college for my hometown newspaper and the reporter asked me what I wanted to be when I graduated.  I told them I wanted to be a Disney voice when I grew up.  If that same reporter asked me now, I would say a jazz singer.  Seriously.
  • On any given day, someone in this house is quoting a Disney movie, most likely Emperor's New Groove or The Incredibles, although "Just keep swimming..." from Finding Nemo is basically a line said daily.
  • Our media library is almost exclusively Disney movies.  
  • Jazz concerts are Engineer's favorite.  He loves the atmosphere, the talent, the way the musicians showcase each other in solo spots then come back together in a cohesive band/combo; I love jazz, but Engineer breathes it. 
  • And if you're still not convinced how entrenched we are in Disney-ness, just look at the name of this blog - Pary Moppins.        
You can see that all aspects of our lives are musical and Disney-fied:  before we were married, just after we were married, throughout our marriage, passed on to our child, in our work life, in our extra curricular activities, and the day-to-day nature of our very existence.  The presence of Disney and music are all-encompassing here.

Okay, so I can understand how one may think that reworking children's songs could be super cheesy but there is no cheesiness here.  The artists performing these tunes are legitimate jazz musicians and the album is even recorded with Verve (the Team Moppins preferred jazz label.)  The tunes are so cool, you could easily have them playing in the background at your next cocktail party and no one would bat an eyelid that the tracks were from cartoons.

I have now listened to this album basically on a loop since I downloaded it and have fallen madly in love with some of the tracks.  Here's the thing: many of Disney's mid-century movies' soundtracks were already jazzy.  Think about the swinging tunes from Lady and the Tramp, The Jungle Book," or The Aristocats--they seem like no brainers to add to a Disney jazz album.  The difficulty for the artist at that point lies in allowing the listener to challenge the sound they are familiar with in order to accept an updated version.    

"Everybody Wants to Be a Cat" is the first song on the album.  It is performed by Jamie Cullum who has been a favorite of the Moppins household since we lived in England and, yes, we even have a couple of his albums.  We enjoy his crisp take on jazz standards and pop songs.  His sensitive treatment of The Aristocats tune kept the fun vibe of the original and married it with his fresh style.  His orchestration is on point and as I listened, I closed my eyes and could see the alley cats singing and playing.  The introduction sets the scene perfectly of a cat slinking by smoothly, then it changes suddenly to frenzied caterwauling.  Granted Jamie had good bones to work with; that was a great choice by Verve to put his track first, to get the audience hooked and excited about what was to come.

As soon as I told Diva about this album, she immediately replied, "They better have 'He's a Tramp' as part of the line up.  That is one of my all-time favorite Disney songs."  I told her it was number 2 on the playlist, and that it was also one of my favorites.  Where as Mr. Cullum just had an iconic tune to work with, Melody Gardot not only had an iconic tune, she also had the added obstacle of iconic singer Peggy Lee.  I've got to admit, there was a moment as the track started that I thought there was no way that someone could do that song, or Ms. Lee's voice, justice.  Then I heard Melody say, "What a dog" and I knew it was going to be scrumptious.  Her sultry voice fully embodies the tone of the piece and the character who sings it in Lady and the Tramp.  The chanteuse has such an ease to her voice and between the buttery saxophone, walking bass, and the support from the yummy chords the piano was laying down, this was easily my favorite track on the album.

Some other notable tracks were the Stacy Kent's Bossa Nova version of "Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo" sung in French.  It thoroughly upped the cool factor on that tune.  Cinderella's saccharin "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes" gets a grown-up instrumental make-over by way of a solo muted trumpet and The Rob Mounsey Orchestra; I could easily see this version as the soundtrack to a couple's first dance.  "The Bare Necessities" is light and bouncy yet has great flow.    

I would be remiss if I didn't also mention the absolute delightful and delicious French version of "I Wanna Be Like You" from The Jungle Book played by The Hot Sardines.  It's frothy and feels like the French Quarter on a sunny day.  What a super track to end the album with.  

Here's a full track listing:

1.  Jamie Cullum – "Everybody Wants To Be A Cat" – from The Aristocats

2.  Melody Gardot – "He’s A Tramp" – from Lady And The Tramp

3.  Stacey Kent – "Bibbidi Bobbodo Boo" (French version) – from Cinderella

4.  Gregory Porter – "When You Wish Upon A Star" – from Pinocchio  

5.  China Moses – "Why Don’t You Do Right" – from Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

6.  Raphaël Gualazzi – "I Wanna Be Like You" – from The Jungle Book

7.  The Rob Mounsey Orchestra – "A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes" – from Cinderella

8.  Hugh Coltman – "You’ve Got A Friend In Me" – from Toy Story

9.  Anne Sila – "Let It Go" – from Frozen

10.  Melody Gardot & Raphaël Gualazzi – "The Bare Necessities" – from The Jungle Book

11.  Laika – "Once Upon A Dream" – from Sleeping Beauty

12.  Nikki Yanofsky -"Someday My Prince Will Come" – from Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs

13. The Hot Sardines – I Wanna Be Like You (French & English version) – from The Jungle Book (US release only)

You can download the album starting November 18, 2016 from either iTunes or Amazon.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that Disney will decide to produce a second jazz album, perhaps even all instrumental.  They have so many other jazz inspired tracks from Monster, Inc. and The Princess and the Frog that I would love to hear with fresh ears.  I think "Prince Ali" from Aladdin would be a great choice as would "I've Got No Strings" from Pinocchio or "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" from The Lion King. 

I highly recommend this album for kids, for parents, for grandparents, for everyone!  

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Perfectly Practical #227 - Tip to Get Your School Kids to Drink Water

It's the middle of the first semester and by now a school day routine has been set and followed for the most part.

I know one concern we've had with Diva was that she doesn't drink enough.  How can she concentrate throughout the day if her body isn't properly hydrated?

Diva is not a fan of plain water - never has been.  That's a problem especially since we don't drink soft drinks often, I don't buy juice, and there is only so much milk one can consume (although Diva tries to push her natural limit.  That girl loves milk.)  We also don't use sweeteners so diet drinks are out.

AND she sees through that whole fruit infused water stuff; she considers that a waste of fruit.

She will drink water, but she doesn't enjoy it and will go for it only if she is really thirsty.  But as we know, by the time the brain registers thirst, the body is already on the path to dehydration.

This is my solution:  instant drink mix.  I can harp on the child to drink water and even monitor her intake when she's home but she is at school for most of her waking hours so at least I know she's had one glass of water during the day.

Is it the healthiest option available?  Probably not, but it does mean that her thermos comes home empty from school so I'll count that as a win.

Instant Drink Mix

3 Sachets of Unsweetened Powdered Drink Mix
2 cups Sugar

Pour drink mix and sugar into a pint jar.  Screw down lid and shake contents in jar until mixed.
Stir in 2 teaspoons of mixture per glass of water.

Things to think about:

Two teaspoons of this mix is roughly 30 calories which is far less than most any other drink option.

You could use something other than sugar like honey crystals or coconut sugar if you don't want regular ol' refined sugar.

You could use powdered lemon or lime or even instant tea instead of the powdered drink mix if you don't want the food coloring involved.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Spring & Summer Hats 2016

Easter bonnet 2016

It's hard to believe, but we've come to the end of the line.

Sadly, I have no more hats to show you.

I guess that means I need to do a little shopping. 
In the meantime, if you want to take a look back down memory lane, you can see my collection here:

Spring 2011
Summer 2011
Fall 2011
Winter 2011-2012
Spring 2012
Summer 2012
Fall 2012
Winter 2012-2013
Spring 2013
Summer 2013
Fall 2013
Winter 2013-2014
Spring 2014
Summer 2014
Fall 2014
Winter 2014-2015
Spring 2015
Summer 2015
Fall 2015
Winter 2015-2016

This is part of WIWW.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Madly in {Puppy} Love

Engineer never wanted Diva to grow up not knowing the love of a dog so at 5 months pregnant, we trundled down English back roads to a tiny village outside of Oakhampton where a couple of guys were selling a Yorkie/Westie cross puppy.  When we got to their house, I was in desperate need of the loo (I was pregnant remember) so I asked the owner if I could use his facilities and when I came back out, Engineer had a wiggly matted dirty little ball of fur in his arms. 
He was grinning from ear to ear. 

He was smitten.

As we drove the windy way home, we decided on the name Truffles since it was close to Valentine's Day.  Engineer then spent every morning training Truffles to do all sorts of tricks.  She could sit, stay, lay down, roll over, play dead, beg, and wave.  He also taught her to freeze when a treat was on her nose until he said "okay." 

She was a smart as a whip. 
She was also stubborn as all get out.
She was every bit of a determined terrier.
Engineer said that she and I were peas in a pod; that's probably why she picked me as "her person."

As a puppy, Truffles would come lay across my feet while I was at the stove cooking.  She also liked to lay across my belly while I was pregnant.  She slept with us at night and many times I would wake up to find that she had wriggled her way under the covers and was laying on her back with her head next to mine on the pillow.  If I happened to move my face toward her during the night, I would be awakened by a wet nose touching mine and a lick on the face. 

Truffles loved walks in the English countryside, along the canal, or on the beach.  She especially liked the beach because that walk would end at a tearoom which resulted in a bit of cake for all.

She went with me everywhere, to Diva's school, to work, to the bank, to my parents' house.  She lived with us in two countries and two states, went on quite a few road trips with us, and outlived several of her doggie siblings.

You could always find Truff in a laundry basket or a bag, on a blanket or a pile of dirty clothes - anywhere warm, soft, and/or squishy.

Truffles had gotten a lot slower in her advancing years and walked with what we called the "Truffle Shuffle."  She was not without her problems, she had severe allergies, chronic ear infections, she became blind and deaf, and developed arthritis and mammary tumors.  It was when the tumors changed shape and size and she quit eating that we knew she didn't have much time left with us.

Engineer looked at me one morning last week and said, "You should take Truff and have a good day with her today; it may be her last."  So we did.  She rode with me to Diva's school (one of Truff's favorite things) and we spent a little while outside just letting the breeze caress her face. The dog affectionately known around here as Truffty Puff Dog McGraw and I ate pretzels (the only thing she would eat) and had a "Gilmore Girls" binge watching session.  She laid on my belly and slept like she had done when she was a pup.  I did a fair amount of crying and if a shifted at all, again, like she had done 15 years previously, she licked my face with her velvety tongue.  

On Thursday of last week, we said goodbye to our first "Little Girl" and on Friday Diva woke up to the first day in her life without Truffles in it.  Truffles almost made it to 16.

Engineer says we plant roses and dogs at every house.  We had planted roses months ago and on Thursday evening, we planted a dog.  
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