From Cowboy Tuxedos to Horse-Drawn Wagons, Rustic Wild-West Weddings Are Hot

Peak wedding season is almost upon us, and experts predict that Wild West Weddings will emerge as the hottest trend of the season. Look for rustic ranches, bales of hay, cowhide rugs, wildflower bouquets and lots of leather accents to help inspire this fun, relaxed theme.

Western-inspired weddings create the perfect combination of simplicity and elegance, giving brides and grooms a way to have a formal wedding without it feeling stuffy.

Here are some Wild West ideas you may see at your next wedding:

  • Western-themed announcements/invitations: Inventive brides and grooms are sending friends and family engagement printed material in the style of a Pony Express letter, or a wanted poster. Often they try to push the theme with their choice of wording, such as “we’re getting’ hitched” or “have a boot-stompin’ good time.”
  • Men’s wedding attire: A traditional cowboy tuxedo includes such amenities as satin notch lapels, etched bone buttons, corded yokes and a western bolo tie, but that look may be difficult to find in some parts of the country. The men in the wedding party will certainly be well dressed in their new jeans, western vests, boots, and 10-gallon hats. To set the groom apart from the other members of the party, have him wear a different color hat.
  • Women’s wedding attire: There are several styles available to the western-themed bride. For a more formal look, many brides opt for a modern, lacy, western dress. Look for the style of Victorian gown you might see in a vintage photograph. Attach the veil to a feminine western-style hat. Less formal attire can include denim skirts or new blue jeans with a white blouse that has a lace collar. And of course, no western outfit would be complete without cowboy boots.
  • Flowers: Of course, hothouse flowers and formal arrangements would not have been available in the old west. To maintain the theme, many brides try to keep floral arrangements simple, perhaps yellow roses in a decorative boot-shaped vase, or a bunch of cut flowers in decorated galvanized tubs. For bouquets, the trend is to use long-stem flowers tied together with a bit of rope. A hot trend is to pair bright-colored flowers with succulents. The contrast in color and plant life creates a wonderful bouquet.
  • Transportation: More and more couples hire a horse-drawn wagon to transport the wedding party to the reception, while others arrange for an old-fashioned hay-wagon ride.
  • Wedding reception ideas: Whether there’s a live band or a DJ, it makes sense that country music is played at the reception. Have a dance expert show the crowd how to line dance or perform the two-step, or go a step further and have someone call out an old-fashioned square dance. When making toasts, some western weddings have on hand a cowbell (replacing the clinking of crystal). Reception fare can be served on long picnic tables and fare can include barbecue, fried chicken, potato salad and baked beans. Western receptions bring margaritas and bottled beer instead of the traditional champagne. Moscow mule mugs can replace mason jars, which fit perfectly in a Wild West wedding. Guests can also sip on specialty craft beers or mix their own heirloom bourbon cocktails in those copper mugs.
  • The wedding cake: A neutral-hued buttercream cake is the way to go. Couples try to keep the color and flowers simple and let the texture of the wedding cake be the focal point. Details such as a cake stand made from a slice of wood, or branchy accents and horseshoes on the cake table can pull it all together.

Earth Day Shines The Light On Sustainable Grape Growers And Vintners

In 1969 at a UNESCO Conference in San Francisco, peace activist John McConnell proposed a day to honor the Earth and the concept of peace, to be celebrated on March 21, 1970, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere.

The United Nations sanctioned McConnell’s idea, but shortly after U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson founded a separate Earth Day on April 22 of that year. McConnell’s original idea faded away, and Nelson was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award in recognition of his work.

Purists remember McConnell’s dedication for demonstrating support for environmental protection, and now the idea has spread around the world. For at least one day, most of the planet’s inhabitants will take the time to promote ecology and sustainability.

Many industries have embraced the concept, and California winemakers and wine grape growers are no exception. In that state, water is an increasingly precious resource, and pressures from population growth, management policy, and climate change all threaten its availability.

Earth Day Collage

Vineyards must also deal with habitat conservation, energy efficiency, pest management, economic stability and human resources. Farmers who claim to be sustainable must take a wider view of their operation, taking into consideration: the workers, soil fertility, cover crops, wildlife, native plants, irrigation, and more.

Certain standards are laid down by third-party organizations such as SIP Certified, helping growers, vineyards and consumers rethink their approach to sustainability.

While many consumers are dedicated to looking for wines labeled as “green wine” or “organic wine,” SIP Certification is a unique combination beyond those two labels. Imagine a wine that builds community between vineyards, workers and the land. A new way to look at sustainable agriculture to ensure that:

  • Fertile soils exist to produce hearty grapes for years to come.
  • Vineyards and their workers are both dedicated to the same sustainable practices.
  • Green wine and eco-savvy consumers have yet another choice they can make — one that supports both the land and the people that create their favorite wines.

The partnership between Wine Institute and the California Association of Winegrape Growers (established nearly a decade ago in the form of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance) has well positioned the California wine community as a leader in sustainability. The various certification programs and other regional educational programs have been embraced by California growers and vintners and have bolstered the environmental and sustainability credentials of the industry in public policy and market arenas.

Participation in both self-assessment programs and third-party certification continues to grow. Over a 10-year period from 2002 to 2012, 1,800 vineyard and winery organizations, representing 72 percent of California’s wine grape acreage and 74 percent of case production, have self-assessed their operations. In addition, CSWA has held 232 targeted education workshops for 10,737 participants. As of 2012, 56 wineries and 178 vineyards were CCSW-certified, and countless others have sought certification from other third parties, including SIP.

Holman Ranch in Carmel Valley is certified by SIP, which requires a lengthy process of accountability. The winery will celebrate Earth Day on April 22 by treating the first 22 visitors at its tasting room (at 19 E. Carmel Valley Road) that day to a complimentary glass of its SIP certified, earth-friendly wine.

Wine drinkers may not be able to readily taste the difference, but they can certainly feel the difference. And that’s what Earth Day is all about.

 

How John B. Stetson Changed Cowboy Culture Forever With His ‘Boss Of The Plains’

In the early 1860s, a man named John Batterson Stetson headed west to find his fortune in the gold rush of Colorado. He never found much gold, but he stumbled onto wealth anyway — around a campfire.

While on a hunting trip, Stetson entertained his friends by creating a smooth, soft felt from animal fur. By dipping the fur in boiling water and kneading it with his hands, he created a unique material that he fashioned into a hat, one he wore for the remainder of the trip as a joke. He soon realized, though, how well the hat protected him from the rain and harsh sun.

At that time, men (and a few women) on horseback had a choice of wearing floppy felt hats, raccoon skins or derbies. None were perfect for a life in which the rain, wind, dust, sun and cold took turns tormenting them.

So Stetson began to think about marketing his newly invented accessory, and he stitched together fur felts to make a wide-brimmed hat with a tall crown. He called it “The Boss of the Plains” and it was about to take the West by storm.

With only $60 dollars loaned to him by his older sister Louisa, he purchased tools and fur, rented a small room in Philadelphia and took on two workers. By the early 20th century, Stetson owned the world’s largest hat factory. Covering 9 acres of ground, the factory employed 5,400 people and produced 3,336,00 hats annually. Stetson had 10,000 retail merchants (1,125 in foreign countries) and 150 wholesale distributors.

Stetson had created his own gold rush. Every horseman, plains drifter and wannabe cowboy had to own a Stetson, and they all ponied up $5 (expensive in those days) to buy one.

Stetson began to produce the first incarnation of “The Boss” in 1865, and he was considered the sole maker of this newfangled headwear.

Because Stetson’s hats were pricey, each cowboy only ever bought one, and they wore them until they fell apart. Soon enough, throughout the west, every cowboy wore an often-battered Stetson hat. That gave birth to an aesthetic that represented the untamed West — the pursed, rolled cowboy hat. And anyone wanting to fit in had to have one.

Even after the wild aspect of the West was somewhat tamed, the cowboy hat never really lost its ability to lend that reckless and rugged aura to its wearer. It has become a symbol of Western pride and bravado, gracing the heads of America’s most treasured Western heroes, from old-time favorites like actor John Wayne, Clayton Moore as the Lone Ranger, and country singer Gene Autry, to modern-day popular artists like Garth Brooks and Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing on the television series “Dallas.” J.R.’s hat is now displayed in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s contemporary Americana exhibit. Furthermore, the Stetson hat has also been worn by prominent country singers from Dale Evans to Trisha Yearwood, spurred on by legendary female maverick Annie Oakley, proving “that females can carry off this most essential Western look, too.”

In 1965, Stetson marked its 100th anniversary by publishing a booklet called “The Stetson Century.” In it, the company’s then president said this: “It is, I think, possible to say without too great exaggeration that America grew up under a Stetson. Today our business is so truly world-wide that there can be but few corners of the globe where the name Stetson is not known and honored.”

Still, the company fell under hard times (many blame a hatless John F. Kennedy’s oath-of-office speech of 1961 for the decline of hat fashion), and in 1970 Stetson ceased manufacturing.

The company reentered manufacturing in the 1980s, but went bankrupt in 1986, and Hat Brands purchased it. Since 2009, Pro Equine Group has owned Stetson, and it continues to sign on new partners and manufacturers to bring Stetson belts, wallets and home textiles.

Today the hat has become an optional accessory rather than a requirement for proper dress. But the name Stetson will love on forever.

 

Olive Oil Fraud: How To Ensure That What You’re Tasting Is Authentic And ‘Extra Virgin’

The next time you reach for that bottle of extra-virgin Italian olive oil in your cupboard, be aware that it’s probably not extra-virgin, it may not be from Italy and — here’s the shocker — investigations reveal that it may not even be 100 percent olive oil.

Here’s what occurs regularly on the open market: Spanish and North African olive oil is shipped to Italy, cut with soybean oil and beta carotene, and nefariously mislabeled. The adulterated oil is shipped around the world, to countries such as the United States, where it’s estimate that 70 percent of the olive oil offered for sale is doctored. That’s according to The New York Times, who in January of 2014 furthered the investigation after a string of shocking revelations over the past few years.

Journalist Tom Mueller first broke the story in the New Yorker in 2008, and even wrote a book on the subject. “Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil” studies how the once symbol of purity has become deeply corrupt. Mueller has become an expert on olive oil and olive oil fraud — and the book tells a story of globalization, deception and crime from ancient times to the present, and is a powerful indictment of today’s lax protections against fake and even toxic food products brought into the United States.

The reports have inspired olive oil lovers to try to avoid getting duped in the future. But how can you tell if your olive oil is fake or real, extra-virgin or extra-tainted?

The University of California at Davis has conducted a series of studies on the topic of olive oil sold in California, and it can be read at http://olivecenter.ucdavis.edu/research/files/report041211finalreduced.pdf.

In short, the college found that domestic olive oil from single producers or co-ops was always real. In the foreign oil market, it helped to buy from growers who bottle their oil directly for retail sale.

So consumers who want pure olive oil can buy from a single-family farm or small co-op of growers. That’s because almost all olive oil fraud happens with the middle men — the people who buy olive oil in bulk from individual farmers and collect it in bulk to sell to corporate buyers, who mix, sort and sell it to grocery stores.

holman olive oil

When it comes to domestic oil, California is one of the leading olive oil producing states. In order to give consumers some piece of mind when it comes to purchasing real extra virgin product, the California Olive Oil Council has implemented a seal certification program. This program ensures that every bottle with the certification seal is 100 percent authentic.

It’s North America’s only quality control program that actually exceeds the strict international standards for true extra virgin olive oils. For an olive oil to be seal certified, it needs to adhere to strict guidelines:

  • All olive oil must be mechanically extracted without the use of chemicals or excessive heat.
  • There must be less than .5 percent free oleic acid in the oil itself.
  • Must pass a blind taste test, performed by a certified tasting panel, to ensure positive taste elements and no defects.

If you want an absolutely definitive test done on your store-bought olive oil, you can send in a sample to UC Davis’ Olive Oil Center. They will perform the same testing on your sample that they performed in their original study. For information visit olivecenter.ucdavis.edu.

Or you can develop your own taste test. Real olive oil — the good stuff — will be powerful and peppery and it will catch in your throat. You may actually cough, ad your eyes may water. But these are in fact good indications that what you’re tasting is authentic. It is also full of the reasons, especially flavor and health, that we’re drawn to olive oil in the first place.

Modern Wedding Parties Bend Gender Roles, Leading To “Best Woman” And “Man Of Honor”

Tradition dictates that a “best man” supports the groom and a “maid or matron of honor” supports the bride during a couple’s journey to becoming husband and wife. But in this modern age where gender roles become blurred and tolerance rules our thoughts and actions, more and more wedding parties feature simply “best people.”

 In recent years many more brides and grooms are being accompanied by opposite members of sex — all to make way for something that suits their day.

Leah Ingram, author of “The Balanced Bride: Preparing Your Mind, Body and Spirit for Your Wedding and Beyond,” said the opposite-sex attendant trend has a lot to do with the fact that today’s brides and grooms are older than in previous generations.

“People are out on their own, out of college, living and working and making their own friendships,” she said.

In these modern times, non-romantic friendships between men and women occur quite frequently. Under those circumstances it only makes sense to have your best friend at your side — regardless of gender.

As usual, it’s celebrities who tend to kickstart trends. When musician Jamie Hince got hitched to supermodel Kate Moss in 2011, he chose his bandmate Alison Mosshart as his “best woman” instead of having a best man.

But eliminating strict gender roles actually gained traction in 2001 when Peggy Post updated her great-grandmother-in-law’s wedding etiquette book to include protocol for opposite-sex attendants.

As one can imagine, the name “best woman” can cause a bit of friction among couples. Who else can be called “best woman” but the bride herself? And does a bride-to-be really want a woman planning her future husband’s bachelor party? Probably not. Similarly, a potential groom may not find it entirely comfortable having a “man of honor” on the other side of the aisle, someone who is helping with the lingerie shower.

Most modern couples simply say: Get over it! But if you feel you must explain, in the program the groom’s friend can be listed as “The Best Wo-Man.” When it’s time to announce the bridal party, the DJ can something like: “Here is the maid of honor, ‘Diane,’ being escorted, not by the best man, but the ‘best woman,’ Todd’s childhood friend, Ms. Melanie Jones.” She can also be referred to as “best friend of honor to the groom.” And when a bride has a maid of honor who is male, he is usually referred to as “man of honor to the bride” or “best friend of honor to the bride. 

So what are the clothing rules for these friends-era weddings? Do “bridesmen” wear hot pink suits if the bridesmaids’ dresses are pink? Do “groomswomen” wear tuxedos?

Post says opposite-sex attendants should try to blend in with the rest of the party.

A man on the woman’s side can wear a tuxedo. A woman on the man’s side can wear a dress that matches the bridesmaids’ dresses. Or perhaps she would feel more comfortable in a pantsuit or a dress that matches the men’s clothing.

If you decide to have opposite gender attendants, you should ensure that your photographer is fully briefed so that the man of honor or the best woman gets included in the right groups in the wedding pictures, or that they don’t get left out altogether. A traditional photographer may easily overlook this, so pointing it out may become necessary.

 

 

 

Don’t Throw Away Those Used Wine Bottles — Repurpose Them Into Works Of Art!

For the first time since someone figured out how to ferment grapes, the United States has unseated France as the world’s leader in wine consumption by volume.

Each year Americans down nearly 30 million hectoliters of wine, according to the International Organization of Vine and Wine.

That amounts to nearly 4 billion bottles of wine (roughly 13 bottles per average American), with many of those vessels being tossed.

But wine bottles have such a great shape, heft and sparkle that it almost seems a pity to just get rid of them with the week’s recycling (or worse, to have them littering our landscape). It’s easy and fun to repurpose wine bottles in a variety of ways — and we’re not talking about re-creating those kitschy Chianti bottles candles from the 1970s.

Here are some quick and crafty tips on how to re-purpose your used wine bottles.

  • Keep plants hydrated: To make a slow-drip irrigator, drill a ¼-inch hole through a cork and stopper and secure it to a water-filled bottle. Press the whole thing neck-first into well-hydrated soil next to a plant or plants.
  • Stop tall boots from sagging: Tuck bottles into the shafts of footwear like cowboy boots so that they’ll stay upright in a closet or mudroom.
  • Soap dispenser. Outfitted with a pump or drizzle top, a wine bottle can be a decorative replacement for an ugly plastic bottle.
  • Prop up you books: Fill a bottle (especially one that holds special meaning) with sand for a keepsake that doubles as a bookend.
  • Make a festive light display: Feed a 50-light string into a hole drilled into a bottle’s side (use a ¾-inch tile bit, then enlarge and smooth out the hole with a conical grinding stone).
  • Edge garden beds or paths: Stockpile empties until spring. Then excavate an 8-inch-deep trench and bury bottles neck-first, leaving exposed bottoms to glint in the sun.
  • Make your own hurricane lamps: Remove bottoms of bottles by using some glass-cutting tools to fashion “covers” to place over tea lights. To create this decorative project split the glass along a carefully placed fault line using thermal shock. Make a deep etching with a glass-cutter around the bottom of the bottle. Then pour very hot water over the etching before immediately placing in ice bath. Sand the sharp edges of the bottle, then use a polishing cloth for a smoother edge.
  • Create a water bottle: Using the method described above, cut the top off of a particularly decorative bottle. Once edges are smoothed, the bottle can be used at the dinner table to replenish water glasses.
  • Homemade candle: Forget the Chianti bottle. Take the label off a bottle by soaking it in warm, soapy water, then stick a long candle in the top. Kitschy? Perhaps. But effective nonetheless.

 

 

Used For Everything From Wigs To Violin Bows, Horsehair Has Been A Valuable Commodity For Thousands Of Years

Most people expressed shock when it was reported that a suspect in western Pennsylvania cut the manes and tails from three horses at the Henderson Equestrian Complex north of Pittsburgh — absconding with the hair.

State police conducted a search for the illicit barber because the crime is all too commonplace in this day and age. There is a high demand for horsehair and it has become a coveted commodity for creating faux manes and tails for show horses, for use in brushes (notably fine-art paint brushes), wigs, hat bands, jewelry, pottery, upholstery stuffing and even high-end violin bows. Horsehair is also used to create a hard-wearing fabric called haircloth, and for horsehair plaster, a wall covering material formerly used in the construction industry and now found only in older buildings.

While horses can grow back their tails and manes to full length, it takes years.

Horsehair is the long, coarse hair growing on the manes and tails of horses. It can be very stiff or very fine and flexible; mane hair is generally softer and shorter than tail hair. The texture of horsehair differs among breeds and the management of the horse, including natural conditions such as diet or climate, can affect the feel and strength of the hair.

 Horsehair is a protein fiber that absorbs water slowly, but can be dyed or colored effectively using traditional dyes. Horsehair fabrics are woven with wefts of tail hair from live horses , along with cotton or silk warps. Horsehair fabrics are sought for their luster, durability and care properties. Horsehair is a very good insulator and also has a natural oil and rigid structure that allows the strands to be woven tightly while remaining waterproof and warm.

 Many historians believe that Spaniards in the 8th century were the first to use horsehair as a textile. The first documented use occurred in the 9th century in Switzerland where the Swiss used horsehair in the woven plans for the monastic compound St. Gall Abbey.

For thousands of years, fishing lines were made of plaited horsehair. It was commonly used in the 19th century as covering fabric for furniture. It was almost always the fiber used in popular shaving brushes. It was also common in hats and women’s undergarments. It also was used in hairdos to create the “Gibson Girl” look — or used to fashion wigs.

 The shutdown of many slaughterhouses across the United States may have led to a horsehair shortage — and could have led to the Pennsylvania thievery. But cheap horsehair in bulk is still available from other countries. 

 Manufacturers typically purchase it in bulk from suppliers in China, a country that is rumored to obtain the hair from slaughterhouses. Groups supporting humane treatment of animals do not advocate buying horsehair for that reason, so make sure that if you do it comes from ethical sources.

In the meantime, a few horses in Pennsylvania will be without their tail hair, something critical for them during fly season. Owners will undoubtedly use insect repellent to help their horses effectively swat — and may even resort to using tail extensions (yet another use for horsehair).

Olive Oil Poaching Leads To Silky, Luxurious And Incredibly Tasty Fish

Poaching is a classic French method in which a chef gently cooks something (usually fish) in a liquid over low heat. Traditionally, that liquid is a light broth, known as a court bouillon. If done correctly the finished fish comes out delicious, light and flaky.

The Italians took that method a step forward, substituting extra virgin olive oil as the liquid, and it’s the foundation for an entirely different way of cooking. This is not deep-frying. Submerging a sturdy fillet of fish such as halibut or tuna into a bath of warm olive oil and then cooking it in the oven at a low temperature is to many a revelation. The fish comes out of the bath with a remarkably tender, silky texture — with a pure seafood flavor that’s hard to achieve with any other cooking method. It’s moist, but never watery, and any residual oil is not burnt or acrid, but rather light, sweet and slightly peppery.

OilPoachedFish2Not only does this method lead to alternative taste and texture, it provides chefs with an additional use for olive oil — one of the healthiest oils on the planet given that it’s rich in monounsaturated fatty acids and vital polyphenols.

One of the remarkable things about the poaching technique is that the timing is virtually foolproof. Twenty-five minutes is the magic number for perfectly cooked seafood every time. Chefs will let the fish sit at room temperature for about an hour before poaching because cold fish from the refrigerator will lover the temperature of the oil dramatically.  The best doneness indicator is the appearance of white droplets of albumin (protein) on the outside of the fish. Or you can make a small cut in the fish with a paring knife to visually check for doneness.

There are three keys to perfect olive oil poaching. First, make sure that the fish you choose is rich in flavor and firm in texture, and is cut into at least 1-inch thick fillets. Choose a straight-sided sauté pan or saucepan that will hold the fish in a single layer to the pieces don’t overlap. Finally, be sure to use extra-virgin olive oil for poaching, because its rich flavor will penetrate the fish. In the interest of cost, do not use high-end finishing oils, but rather good-quality extra virgin oil.

Normally you will use between 4 and 6 cups of oil to poach the fish. Be sure to save the oil in order to extend it into a few more poaching sessions. Let it cool to room temperature and strain it through a fine sieve lined with a coffee filter. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.

Following are the steps to poach fish in olive oil:

  • Step 1: Remove the fish from the refrigerator, season it, and let it sit at room temperature for about an hour.
  • Step 2: Heat the oil over low heat just until it reaches 120 degrees. Use a candy or instant-read thermometer to monitor the oil’s temperature.
  • Step 3: Immediately transfer the pan with the fish to the oven, and poach for exactly 25 minutes. When plating the fish, drizzle with a little of the poaching oil, and spritz with lemon juice.

 

More And More Brides And Grooms Make It Their Pet Project To Incorporate Furry Friends Into The Ceremony

A wedding is a family affair, and it’s safe to say that no one should be excluded — but how about those furry, four-legged family members?

Modern brides and grooms have extended their wedding guest lists to include treasured pets that are weaved into the ceremony in a variety of creative ways. The trend has become a natural progression of dressing down the ceremony by making it more fun and accessible to all.

If you can’t imagine walking down the aisle without your precious pup, favored feline or maybe even your beloved bird, there are plenty of ways to make this a reality without turning your ceremony into a zoo.

As fun and creative as it sounds, including your pet in the wedding does require some thoughtful planning.

Photo

Consider the following:

  • Weddings can be stressful and overwhelming for a pet that does not adapt well to new environments or is uncomfortable around strangers. Be sure your pet has the demeanor and patience required to participate.
  • Decide what part of the ceremony you would like your pet to attend. It’s prudent to involve your dog or other pet friend in the ceremony but not the reception, as receptions tend to be full of noise and stress.
  • Be sure to check with the wedding venue to make sure that pets are allowed.
  • Based on the role your pet is playing in the ceremony, start preparing early for the tasks it will be required to perform.
  • Designate a handler that will be with your pet at all times throughout the ceremony.

The biggest decision is determining what role your pet will play in the ceremony. Following are some ideas that can be pulled off with minimal planning and effort:

  • Use your pet to propose. Hanging a “will you marry me?” sign around your dog’s neck, for example, will set the stage for what’s to come. Or tie an engagement ring tightly to your cat’s collar and let your beloved find it on her own.
  • Let them star in your save-the-date cards or engagement photos. Including your pet in these photos gives recipients a peek into your personalities, and tells them more about your “family.”
  • Give your pet a special job, such as a sign holder, or as a prop at the photo booth.
  • Let them be the flower girl escort, or the ring bearer. Having the flower girl walking your leashed pet down the aisle can really make a fun statement. For especially well-trained pets, securing the ring on a special collar can be a cute way to retrieve it when the Officiant asks for it.
  • Have your dog stand in for the flower girl. You can dress them accordingly with an adorable top hat or flower crown — making a picture-perfect wedding moment.
  • Forget the bouquet and carry your pet down the aisle.
  • Let them stroll down the aisle before you.
  • Have them by your side during the ceremony.
  • Equestrian brides can ride their horse to the reception, the gown artfully draped on either side.

Sure, including a pet in your ceremony or reception may take a little extra work and planning, but you’ll be pleased to have included your animal pal in the long run. Remember to include them in some formal and not-so-formal wedding photos because years from now those images will be considered picture-perfect wedding moments.

Wine Ice Cream Could Be The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

You’ve had a miserable day. You want to go home, kick off your shoes and make no decisions — except maybe one: Wine or ice cream? Tough call. The alcohol in a glass of wine can certainly numb us to a cruel world, while a bowl of ice cream comforts with its fat and sugar.

But now, thanks to a century-old dairy in upstate New York, we can have both — in the same bowl (or glass).

Mercer’s Dairy in Boonville, N.Y., has come out with its own line of wine-infused ice cream that contains 5 percent alcohol by volume. This is not “wine flavored” ice cream, but real wine blended into eight different cream concoctions: Cherry Merlot, Chocolate Cabernet, Peach White Zinfandel, Port, Red Raspberry Chardonnay, Riesling, Spice and Strawberry Sparkling.

As it turns out, we have Hillary Clinton to thank for this spectacular merger of two vices. When then-U.S. Senator Clinton put the grape growers next to the ice cream makers at a Washington D.C., showcase of New York farm products in 2003, wheels started turning. Mercer’s owner Roxiana Hurlburt became inspired by the sight of guests adding Mercer’s Dairy ice cream to wine glasses from a neighboring booth. She took her time (nearly a decade) perfecting the formula, which was especially difficult because higher alcohol concentrations prevent ice cream from freezing. Settling on 5 percent alcohol, she then had to jump the hurdles put down by state lawmakers before she could make the blending legal.

Though Mercer’s first created the recipe in 2006 and began selling it in 2007, it has recently become more than just an upstate New York secret. In December Jimmy Fallon mentioned the dessert in his opening monologue, and the product was a secret ingredient on the Food Network show “Chopped” last month.
Admittedly, this isn’t the first time someone has thought to combine alcohol with dessert. However, this is the first truly alcoholic ice cream to hit stores. While the brand Ciao Bella offers 
alcoholic sorbet (and the Internet holds plenty of DIY recipes to make alcoholic ice cream), Mercer’s is the first to package and sell ice cream reserved only for those over the age of 21.

The wine ice cream contains 300 calories and 14 grams of fat per half-cup serving. Mercer’s ships it by the pint, half gallon, five-quart pail, or three-gallon tub, depending on how hungry — or thirsty — we are.

Find out more, or place an order, at www.mercerswineicecream.com

To make your own wine ice cream at home, try this recipe:

 Red Wine Ice Cream

(Serves 8)

2 bottles full-bodied red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/4 cups sugar
9 yolks
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Steps: Pour wine into a large pot and bring to a simmer. Add cinnamon sticks and peppercorns. Simmer until the wine is reduced to 1 cup (it should take about 1 hour).

  In a large pan, bring the milk, cream and half of the sugar to a boil and turn off heat. In a bowl, whisk together yolks and remaining sugar. Temper the yolks into the boiling milk by gradually whisking about 1 cup of milk into the yolks and adding this back into the pot with the remaining milk. Stir in the salt and the vanilla. Whisk in the reduced wine. Set pan over a bowl full of ice to cool. Pour the chilled ice cream base through a fine mesh strainer. Process the base in an ice-cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Freeze at least 2 hours before serving.

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