So I went to Atlanta in August

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Part of my job entails traveling around Canada and the United States to teach people how to use the custom software we make. I’m usually gone at least one week a month, sometimes two. Most of the time I end up in Toronto, for some reason (and other than hanging out with my squishee Chel I’m not a huge fan of the city). Or I end up in places that would be nice if I weren’t there at that particular time. Like when I went to Winnipeg. In February.

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Or Atlanta, in August. If you follow me on instagram you may have seen a daily photo diary I posted while I was there, but I thought I’d fill you in a bit more on the trip. If I’m traveling more, then I can’t be cooking and crafting so you’ll just have to get me as tour guide instead sometimes. 20150819_081822 Anyway, I went to Atlanta in the last week of August. I thought about posting this back then but I got busy and you know how stuff like this happens …

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If you’re not used to southern American climates, I wouldn’t recommend going to Atlanta in August. Every day I was there, it was 100% humidity with lows of about 29°C and highs of 35°C. I spent much of my day sweating while traveling between air-conditioned locations. And every night it rained. Like, FLOODED. I had to learn how to un-soak my shoes with my hotel hairdryer. Every night.

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But Atlanta (at least, the downtown area where I stayed), is a very interesting city. To give you a bit of background, all the architecture within the central city limits is all new. Atlanta, a railroad town, was invaded during the American Civil War in 1864 and they burned down EVERYTHING. So Atlantans don’t have a huge attachment to historical architecture, and the modernistic style that has taken over much of the downtown core makes me feel a little bit like I’m walking through some dystopian film set. I was working in the Capital Hill area so most of the buildings I passed every day looked like this.

Atlanta 2015

Atlanta 2015

I would hang out with Jimmy Carter in the mornings and check my email before going to work.

Atlanta 2015

I never notice all the big grandstanding touristy things. The stuff I notice when I travel is all little. Like this tiny mosaic embedded in a sidewalk.

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And the fact that all the shrubbery is holly. ALL OF IT. I’m used to just seeing this stuff at Christmas.

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This 9/11 tribute really struck me.

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I went to the Georgia Aquarium as well. I did think that some of the tanks looked a little small for the size and amount of animals in them, but the displays were cool.

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AND THEY HAVE WHALE SHARKS.

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You can also go behind the scenes and see how everything is maintained.

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When I left the aquarium it was absolutely pouring rain. Of course.

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I also visited the Coca-Cola Museum, which is neat. Coke was born in Atlanta, and you can learn all about the history of it in the place. You also get to sample Coke products from all over the world.

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And the gift shop is a little nuts.

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Of course when I left it was pouring rain. If you’re planning to do more than one touristy thing in Atlanta (I would have but I ran out of time), then I would recommend getting a CityPass. These attractions are expensive and this will save you a bit of cash.

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I also popped into Twin Smokers BBQ and had the absolute best bourbon milkshake of my life. I highly recommend. Plus they give you a carousel of the barbecue sauces of your choice.

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Everyone was so nice. I gave directions to another lady visiting the city (thank you Google Maps) and dinner recommendations to a Floridian tourist. At one point I was walking down the sketchy part of Peachtree on my way to work and I stopped to answer a text message. One of the habitants of the street asked me if I was okay and if I needed help, simply because I’d stopped walking. Even the rampant homeless population was nothing but cordial.

Atlanta 2015

Thanks for a great visit Atlanta!

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The Un-Cola

The Un-Cola

I saw this recipe on Freshly Pressed this past summer and was inspired by Krista and Jess to make this recipe from the New York Times (thanks ladies!).

My brother Ando has always been a fan of carbonated beverages.  Specifically the cola variety.  The more caffeine the better (he used to be a bit of a night owl).  Sodas aren’t that great for the teeth, of course,  as they contain a lot of sugar.  The colas especially so.  Ando’s tip for strong dentition: drink sodas only in conjunction with food, and use a straw.  When I saw this recipe, I thought he’d like it.  It’s made of all natural ingredients and contains significantly less sugar than your average can of Coke (which has 39g of sugar in it, the same as 10 sugar cubes).

The Un-Cola

These sorts of natural syrups are a sign that we are trying to return to simpler times, and the creators of this recipe, Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain, are doing just that (so you can go visit them Ando and tell me how the recipes compare — it’s just over the bridge after all).

So this is his DIY Christmas gift from his little sister (SURPRISE!), which, together with all the other presents for the Manhattan Crew, I am trying to get completed and mailed out before the end of the month — how’s that for organization?

The recipe itself is pretty straightforward, but does require a certain attention to detail.  I also had to do some serious sleuthing around St. John’s to find all the appropriate ingredients, though if that means puttering around Food for Thought and Fat Nanny’s for an hour or two then I really don’t mind.

The Un-Cola

You’ll need to grate the zest from 2 medium oranges, 1 large lime, and 1 large lemon.  I doubled my batch so that the Pie and I would have some to try, and then made up an extra set of dry ingredients so that Ando can cook himself up a refill.  Each batch makes about 3 cups syrup.

The Un-Cola

So I grated a lot of citrus.  I’m going to save it and make a fabulous beverage soon.

The Un-Cola

For the extra dry ingredients, I used a zester, which gets the peel without the bitter pith.

The Un-Cola

Then I heated my oven to 150°F and spread the peel on a baking sheet to dry.

The Un-Cola

It probably cooked for about an hour while I was doing all that other stuff.

The Un-Cola

Take some whole nutmeg and a fine rasp and grate yourself about 1/8 teaspoon of that stuff.  Mmm, smells so good.

The Un-Cola

Crush one section of one star anise pod with a spoon.

The Un-Cola

Cut a vanilla pod so you have a 1 1/2″ section (that’s almost 4cm for you metric folk).  Use a knife to split that section in half lengthwise.

The Un-Cola

You’ll also need 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon dried lavender flowers, 2 teaspoons minced ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon citric acid.  You can get citric acid at stores that sell canning supplies, or try specialty or health food stores.

In a heavy pot over medium heat, bring all those ingredients to a simmer in 2 cups water.  Reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for about 20 minutes.

The Un-Cola

In a large bowl, mix together 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar.

The Un-Cola

Plop a colander or strainer on top of that and line it with a double layer of cheesecloth.

The Un-Cola

Pour the contents of the hot pot over the cheesecloth and gather the ends of the cloth together so that all the solids are in a nice little package.  Use a spoon to squeeze out all the liquid from the package against the side of the pot.

The Un-Cola

Stir the syrup occasionally until the sugar dissolves, about 10 minutes.  Transfer to a container and keep it in the refrigerator.

The Un-Cola

In order for this to last the trip over the sea and land and a river to Manhattan (from one island to another) I decided to can it.  You can see my tips on canning with a stove top canner here.

The Un-Cola

To drink, pour 1 part syrup over ice and mix with 4 parts seltzer or soda water.  It tastes FANTASTIC.  Not like a commercial soda, but one where you can taste all the flavours that went into it.  AMAZING.

The Un-Cola

And here is the little container with the dried peel and all the other dried ingredients (minus the sugar) that Ando will need to make his own batch.

The Un-Cola