Kentucky Derby Bourbon Balls | On The Menu

The following recipe for Kentucky Derby Bourbon Balls originally appeared on August 6, 2009 on my old blog,

It’s that time of year again. When strangers come together to celebrate race horses doing what they do best. While the ponies run, the people are enveloped in merriment. The Kentucky Derby is celebrated with food, with drinks, with friends, with cheers… the city parties for two weeks, y’all. And one of my favorite treats of the season (or really any time of year) are bourbon balls.

My mom shared her recipe with me and we made them together for a few years until I learned how to do it on my own. I got confident and even submitted bourbon balls into the Kentucky State Fair a couples years. (Spoiler: I didn’t place. I have a theory that it’s rigged.) And my mom continues to be known to hand over her homemade confections when saying thanks or congratulating someone. They are so good that people request them. Nom nom nom.

What I’m saying is you don’t have to buy bourbon balls wrapped with ribbon in a cellophane box. You can make them at home, share them with your friends and hear them gush about how good they are. And you can say, “It’s no big deal! They just taste that good because they’re made with love!” Because this candy recipe is not hard. Takes a little time, but not hard.

Rich chocolate surrounding a soft, sweet center that has a wonderful bite of bourbon. You know you want them.

Kentucky Derby Bourbon Balls

– 1 stick of butter
– 1 ½ boxes of confectioner sugar
– ½ cup of bourbon (I’ve used Maker’s Mark and Heaven Hill green label – they honestly taste the same)
– pecans pieces
– chocolate (Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips do the job nicely)
1. Let pecan pieces soak in bourbon while creaming the butter and sugar.
2. Then mix in the bourbon/pecan mixture thoroughly.
3. Form into bite-size balls. You may have to refrigerate the mixture so that it doesn’t stick and will form more easily.
4. Refrigerate balls (they get gooey if left in room temp).
5. Melt chocolate with a little paraffin wax in a double boiler.
6. Dip balls in chocolate, return to wax paper and top with pecan half.
7. Consume and allow your taste buds to do a happy dance.

Barbara Brewer - Love the variety of recipes,!

Week 17: Macro Photography | 2017 Project 52

I hadn’t tried macro photography until last year — and I got hooked. I didn’t become obsessed with it enough to look into a macro lens, but every time I saw flowers I had this urge to take my 50mm lens, reverse it and get super up close and personal. I’ve gotten a few favorites with my second try after some flowers had dried out (these photos might be hanging in my bathroom now), but I just keep trying new things as I see them.

I had five different plants to test drive for this week’s challenge. A couple of weeds growing next to our house and some of the greenery that is planted in our front flowerbed. I had expectations… but those were thrown out the window early on because I am clearly out of practice. But I went with the flow, tried different ways to photograph the same plants I’d brought inside. And I ended up with one that surprised me.

Settings: f/–, 1/320 sec, 50mm, ISO 1600
Camera and Lens: Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF50mm f/1.2L USM

This is a leaf from one of the nandinas (sacred bamboo) in my front yard. It stays green all year round and some leaves turn red, either a bright glowing red or deep maroon. The color is what made me want to photograph it.

Like I said, I don’t have a macro lens, so I fake it by removing my 50mm lens, turning it around and then hold it up to the camera body. It’s a tricky technique because the ISO controls the light and auto-focus doesn’t work; there’s a lot of slight movements and holding of breath. My arms got tired after just a couple minutes of it.

This image is pretty soft focused, but you can tell just how small the depth of field is with this macro photography technique; only a small area, just to the left of the centered brown spot near the tip is in focus. But sharp or not, I still like the photo. I like how I was able to frame the leaf, with the tip being centered on the right side. The vein carries your eye across the leaf and a bright red and yellow leak into the otherwise green surface. It’s so cool to see something I would consider so small and insignificant this up close, because that change in perspective makes me crave more of it.

Week 18: Imperfect
due 05.03.17

“In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they’re still beautiful.” –Alice Walker

No living thing is perfect. No circumstance is perfect. And as much as we strive for it, sometimes it’s better to accept that nothing will ever be perfect. But because we’re surrounded by people, places, things, and situations that are imperfect doesn’t mean that they are ugly or insignificant.

Another prompt that can be defined in many different ways, so I encourage you to write down your ideas and try to photograph the ones that intrigue you the most. When you approach your subject, consider the story you’re wanting to tell and photograph it at different points of views and with different apertures. Look beyond the surface of whatever it is and allow yourself to explore.

If you post your images on Instagram or any other social media, use the hashtag #2017project52 so that we can find your work and give it some love!
Have questions about 2017 Project 52? You can find more about it here or in the Flickr group description. Please join us!

Macro – Butterfly Season - […] I knew, though, what I wanted to take a picture of as soon as I saw this week’s theme. I do not know much about Macro photography, but luckily my old camera has a Macro Focus. The MIL camera might have something, but so far in my practice with it, I have not found a Macro setting. I also was not very comfortable with the idea of removing the lens and faking the Macro like Mrs. Brooke. […]

Yves Gagné - It’s a great idea this 52 weeks project. After a while you tend to get lazy or take the same shots over and over, and that i don’t want. So taking part in this group is just refreshing and motivating.
Thank you.

Brooke - I’m happy to hear you’re enjoying the photo group, Yves! And I agree, it is a good way to keep your wheels turning and encouragement to try new things with your photography. So glad that you found it and are having fun!

Your photo this week of the lily, where you could see the pollen on the stamen – it was wonderful. Can’t wait to see more of your work and I look forward to seeing how you interpret our “imperfect” theme this week.

Doggin Love No. 32 | I’m Not Looking At You

It’s been a LONG time since I posted some doggin love.

I took some pictures of my deaf dog, the BDD, just the other day and she would not look at the camera. At all. Not once. So I have a little series to share.

“I’m not looking at you. Not looking. Nope, nope, nope.” She is the goofiest dog in the world.

Happy Friday, y’all!

Week 16: Unexpected | 2017 Project 52

While the beginning of this challenge, nothing of mention was happening… nothing unexpected… but that sure did turn around on Saturday.

Mike and I had plans to go to UofL’s spring game to watch the red and white scrimmage. We tailgated for a bit. Went to the game, sat in the fancy seats in the Brown & Williamson Club. Left the game to go to The Granville. Swung by the fraternity house to see if his key still worked. (It did.) Then ended up at home where we took the longest naps ever.

It was a whirlwind of an afternoon and so much fun. But it didn’t stop.

We got a call at 9pm to join some neighbors up the road. I was still tired as hell, but Mike wanted to go and I’m glad he forced me out the door. We ended up seated between six of our neighbors, finding our second wind, and having a blast just laughing it up. But the unexpected kept coming.


Settings: auto –  f/2.2, 1/10 sec, 31mm, ISO 2000
Camera and Lens: Samsung Galaxy s5 

I totally used my cell phone this week! We have a burn pile in the middle of our neighborhood, probably 100 yards from anyone’s house but visible from all back doors. And with a mild night without wind and a fire chief in our midst, the group voted that the pile burn that night. While three of stayed back in the safety of a back porch, the others marched out into the darkness and got to work.

I honestly didn’t want to leave the back porch. As much as I love bonfires, I had come across a [dead] snake earlier that afternoon in our backyard and the idea of walking through ankle-high grass… well, that snake had to come from somewhere, didn’t it?

The stack of branches didn’t burn well as it was too green, so the group gave up an hour into it but they had fun while it lasted — and happened to pick up a couple of strays as well. We have a great group neighbors, so any time we spend with them is a good time. Even when it’s unexpected.

Week 17: Macro Photography
due 04.26.17

Macro photography is a new love of mine. I don’t own a macro lens, so I actually fake it — and I’m going to tell you how in case you don’t have a macro lens either! True macro photography requires a lens that will capture an image at a 1:1 or 1:5 ratio, meaning that you will get a life-size magnification. But you can get creative with gear that you already have and achieve a similar effect.

The way I prefer to shoot macro is to do a reverse lens with my 50mm. (You can read about my first try with macro photography here.) You simply detach your 50mm lens from the camera and flip it around holding it up to the camera body. You’ll definitely want to secure your camera around your neck and steady your arm that’s holding the lens; the slightest movement will change your focus. (My arms always get tired, so your elbows will become your best friends.) The best way to control the image is to control the light with your ISO — you won’t be able to set an aperture or shutter speed with your lens detached. And auto-focus won’t work either. So be patient, keep trying even after you get frustrated… and I bet you’ll be surprised with what you’re able to capture.

Another way to achieve a nice macro photo is to use the macro mode on a point-and-shoot camera or even your cell phone. Most offer this setting and it can be a lot of fun to experiment with.

And the final cheat: take a close-up of your subject with a zoom lens and crop the image.

If you want to do some reading to learn more about macro photography, I’ve included some links below:
Introduction to Macro Photography
Understanding Magnification
Macro Photography (Or Have to Fake It)
25 Beautiful Macro Photography Shots

If you post your images on Instagram or any other social media, use the hashtag #2017project52 so that we can find your work and give it some love!
Have questions about 2017 Project 52? You can find more about it here or in the Flickr group description. Please join us!

Week 15: Yellow | 2017 Project 52

Boy, do I love color challenges! I couldn’t tell you how ladies I saw in yellow blouses and dresses walking back from lunch this past Monday — they were everywhere! But that’s the fun part of a color challenge, letting your eye find it in everything around you.

I struggled at the beginning of Week 15 because the weather got cold again (Back down to 30º and wind chills? No thank you.), so I didn’t really feel like exploring outside. Besides, yellow is so much easier to find when it’s bright and sunny out because it’s a bright and sunny color. But I found some inspiration at home Sunday night when I was cooking dinner with Mike. And then I found more on Monday at lunch because Katie had lemons in her water. And then again when I got home because I finally spotted some yellow flowers in the field across the street.

yellow flower

Settings: f/4.0, 1/250 sec, 35mm, ISO 250
Camera and Lens: Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF35mm f/1.4L USM

I settled on the dandelion photo.

While I told myself, “You’ve done this before… please pick the kitchen picture… woman, it is a weed, not a flower!” I was still drawn to it. And one of the things I’m trying to practice more often is listening to heart when it comes to my photography. So I chose it as my yellow for the week.

Why do I like it? Well, we’ve established I like #fromwhereIstand photos because of the personal perspective no one else will ever have. But it’s a true representation of spring. Dandelions are popping every where. And the temps warmed up to a breezy and blissful 81º, so I wore a dress and sandals to work. Yes. Spring is here. And I heart this damn dandelion.

Week 16: Unexpected
due 04.19.17

Since I was little, my dad has always said “Expect the unexpected.” And while preparing yourself, mentally and physically, for challenges that you may or may not face can teach you to look at different perspectives and adaptable. The same goes for photography: expecting the unexpected can make you a stronger photographer.

Carrying your camera with you, even if it makes you feel out of place, can present a number of opportunities. Knowing the what lens works best for you and the settings you’ll need on your camera so that you can pull it up and snap a photo will save you seconds. Moving yourself around your subject and finding the “right place” can help you tell a stronger story. Being patient and waiting for the right moment can make the difference between something ordinary or a money shot.

This week I challenge you to carry your camera with you often and look for scenes that seem like they could lead something interesting. If you’re a parent, try to catch your kid when they’re not looking and doing something funny. If you’d like to try street photography, pay attention to the people you see and if anything grabs your attention. Photograph your family, your friends, your pets… something in nature that caught you off guard! Just keep your eyes open and stay open-minded.

For some inspiration, I’ve included a few links below:
How Embracing the Unexpected Will Make You a Better Photographer
Unexpected Light Sources
50 most Unexpected Perfectly Time Photos

If you post your images on Instagram or any other social media, use the hashtag #2017project52 so that we can find your work and give it some love!
Have questions about 2017 Project 52? You can find more about it here or in the Flickr group description. Please join us!