Monthly Archives: January 2014

The “Annabelle-ism”

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My daughter, the first-born child in our family, is known to be a little dramatic at times.  Okay, that is a bit of an understatement.  She is EXTREMELY dramatic.  In fact, during one of her “fits” I often find myself saying out loud, “Annabelle would like to thank the Academy….” She doesn’t think it is very funny.  Oops.

When Annabelle first started talking and putting thoughts together, I decided to start a continual document on my computer called “Annabelle-isms.”  I record every single funny, embarrassing, out-spoken thing this child has said in her short six years on this planet.  And I absolutely love going back through them, reminiscing on all the face-squishing moments this little girl has caused me over the years.  But one story in particular I feel the need to share because it still brings tears of laughter to my eyes when I read it.

This story takes place when Annabelle was a little over three years of age.  I did not have Addison, our son, at this point in time.  Just Annabelle-and believe me, she was enough to handle.  The day was pretty typical for the two of us, visiting the gym, running errands and getting groceries before heading home.  Naptime was quickly approaching, but Annabelle and I had made it all the way through the store without a major meltdown (thanks to me opening up a package of Oreos).  Now, I don’t know about your grocery store, but our checkout aisles are junked-up with magazines, candy racks, gum and the occasional cigarette lighter paraphernalia.  I pick an aisle that had as little as possible for little hands to grab.  Annabelle continues to sit in the front of the cart eating Oreos as I begin to load my items on the conveyor belt.  All of a sudden she starts to yell, “Mommy, Mommy!”

Now, for you moms out there, I know when you hear the word “mommy” you let it go in one ear and out the other unless it has that specific “tone.”   The one which lets you know the child is hurt or in trouble.  It is the difference between a whine and an actual call of alarm.  This specific “mommy” Annabelle was saying over and over had the tone of “I want your attention, and I want it now…but my limbs are still intact.”

I glanced up at Annabelle to give her my attention when she started pointing at all the miscellaneous things in our particular aisle.  “No Annabelle,” I began.  “You can’t have the Pez candy dispenser!”  This is where it gets good.  “No Mommy, I don’t want that.  I need my lighter.”

“Your what?”  I ask her, stopping in mid-air with my unloading.  “Your lighter?”

“Yeah, my lighter,” she continues in this innocent voice.  “I need it for my cigarettes.”

Oh. My. Gosh.  The first thing that pops into my head is how does she know lighters and cigarettes go together.  Oh wait, my mother is a smoker.  There you go…insert literary eye roll.

Now, as the words so eloquently come out of her mouth I notice a nice young gentleman behind me waiting to check out.  And I make the mistake of locking eyes with him.  I see scorn and judgment in them.  Sweat starts to form at the base of my neck.  This guy seriously believes my kid knows what she is asking for right now?  Has he ever heard the phrase “kids just say the darnedest things?”

I give him a nervous laugh-you know the one I am talking about, right?  The kind of laugh you used when you had to explain to your parents why the car had a busted light or why the vodka bottle was filled with water.  It was one of those laughs.  He continues to just stare and judge-Mr. Personality.  Meanwhile, my devil-of-a-daughter is still yelling for the cigarettes and lighter!  Oh Lord, help me now!  I see a “coming-to-Jesus” session with my mom over this one.  Can the floor just swallow me up right now?  I wanted to scream at the man behind me, “I don’t smoke, it’s my mom who smokes!  Yes, I give my kid high fructose corn syrup, but not nicotine!”

By this point in time I was basically hurling my grocery items towards the kid who was starting to bag stuff up.  I desperately needed to get the heck out of dodge.  Annabelle’s rants were starting to draw more attention around me.  I looked at Annabelle and said in what I hope was a calm and orator-like voice, “Honey, stop.  You don’t smoke (oh really?) and you don’t have cigarettes (another genius statement, Samantha).”  I continue on as if I’m scolding a teenager caught smoking under the school bleachers.  “No one in our house smokes.  Let’s go.”

I pushed the cart Annabelle was sitting in towards the bagger so he could load our groceries.  Then I planned to pull a Florence Joyner and sprint out of the store.  The entire situation was embarrassing and hysterical, all in the same moment.  A typical Off-Broadway satire that only a mom could truly appreciate.  I am sure anyone who witnessed the entire scene was left scratching his or her head in confusion, wondering what the heck just happened.  Oh, and did that kid really ask for cigarettes and a lighter?

And for the guy behind me in line with the dagger-shooting, disdain-filled eyeballs (who obviously didn’t have kids), I have this to say.  One day you will have a child, girl or boy, and in your mind you will have a vision of how this child will carry his- or herself in public.  And this said child will completely pull that figmental rug from under your feet, wrap it over your head, then proceed to perform a “Dutch Oven” on you (if you don’t know what is, look it up and laugh).

So there you have it, one of my best “Annabelle-isms” to this day.  But I am sure as time rolls on and she learns more vocabulary words, witnesses more inappropriate cable commercials and acquires new “habits” from her school friends, my Word document will just keep getting longer and longer.

Now, if I have to compare my daughter to a wine in this world I would have to choose something with pepper and spice.  What better wine to serve such a purpose than a red Zinfandel?  Don’t confuse this wine with the light pink version on the markets.  Yes, that wine is made from the same Zinfandel grape, but it has been mixed with white varieties and sweetened up a bit.  The wine I am speaking of is robust, not anywhere close to light-bodied or sweet.

I am new to the world of Zinfandels, but when I had some a few months ago at a tasting I fell in love with their spicy undertones.  They completely surprise the palate, hinting at blackberry and currant when you first sip, but then blasting your tongue with a bold spice that could stand up to any meal you serve on the table.

Zinfandels have their biggest presence in California, but you will also find some from southern Italy and even Australia.  I would go to your local liquor store or wine shop and try a few different bottles, compare their likenesses and differences.  You don’t have to break the bank to find some good labels.  If you want to try a trusted name, Rombauer (California) makes a Zinfandel that would cost you around $30.  One label I have had is Quivira (California).  Their Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel will only cost you about $20, and it held up nicely to this particular grape’s heritage.

Until next time, cheers!

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Going Rogue in the Kitchen

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I have always been one of those individuals who will try anything once, at least when food is involved.  One of my favorite things to eat in the culinary world is sushi, but it is also the one thing I have never even dared tackle in my own kitchen.  About a month ago I was checking out at my local grocery store and noticed a young couple behind me.  On the belt stacked neatly beside my dividing bar was an entire collection of items they planned on using to make sushi.  A thought suddenly poked into my brain; if these 20-somethings could make sushi at home then why on earth could I not do this myself?

I tried not to be obvious as I threw sideways glances in their direction, taking note of all they were going to use-sushi matt, sushi rice, seaweed papers, ginger, veggies and tuna (which was frozen).  Hmmm, I think I could definitely do this.  Surely if I can bring two healthy children into this world, I can whip up a few rolls in my kitchen, right?

So I decided last week would be the time to try it.  My household was sick (I felt the need to wear a surgical mask 24/7), so I knew going out to eat would not be an option.  Normally when I cook in the kitchen I tend to go a little rogue.  I don’t necessarily follow recipes.  I might use them as guidelines, but I always change up ingredients or add extra spices my family likes.  But sushi, well, let’s say I didn’t have the guts to fly by the seat of my pants on this one. I needed a recipe, and a simple one.

One of my all-time favorite chefs is Giada de Laurentiis.  I love all the fresh ingredients and simple steps she uses to create her dishes.  Now that I had thrown down the gauntlet to myself to make this dish, there was no turning back.  I fired up my computer, logged onto the Web and searched Giada’s recipes.  Aha! I found what I was looking for-salmon hand rolls.  Even though I new I was going to switch the vegetable ingredients on the recipe (I had some in my fridge that needed to be used) there were still a few items I needed from the store.

Ingredient list in hand, I perused the seafood section of the store…no sushi-grade salmon (I live in Missouri, enough said).  But there WAS frozen tuna, which is what the young couple had purchased for their sushi.  I grabbed two small steaks from the freezer and threw it in the cart with the rest of my purchases.  The recipe called for asparagus, but I knew I had red bell pepper, carrot and cucumber at home.  Why buy more items when I needed to use what I already had in the fridge? I was going rogue on sushi now.

Here was my sushi 101 checklist (rogue-style):

-Frozen Ahi Tuna steaks (about 4 oz each)

-Fresh flat-leaf parsley or cilantro

-Short-grain brown rice (you can also use white rice version)

-Sushi matt

-Seaweed papers

-Pickled ginger

-Soy sauce

-Toasted sesame oil

-Wasabi powder

That afternoon, recipe in hand, I julienned my ingredients and cooked the sushi rice accordingly.  I defrosted the tuna in cold water in the fridge, which is how you should always defrost your seafood to avoid spoiling the meat. This usually takes several hours, depending on the size of your fish.

Once everything was ready, it was time to start rolling.  Sushi matt in hand, I started to assemble my ingredients one-by-one.  Giada’s tips were easy to follow and it only took me about 20 minutes to make six or seven rolls.  This gave me enough time to pour myself a glass of vino and whip up a quick meal for the kids (they are not sushi eaters).

A few pictures to show you:

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I have to give my better half some kudos on this adventure in the kitchen.  He loves sushi, but has never ventured to eat the homemade kind.  He didn’t even bat an eyelid when I told him what I made for dinner.  He just grinned and dug in like it was a plate of steak and potatoes.  All in all, the sushi was a success, and now I know I can make my own rolls at home.  The world is my oyster when it comes to this area of cuisine…wonder what I will make next?

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Not bad, huh?  If you are feeling adventurous in the kitchen, here is a link to Giada’s salmon hand rolls:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/fun-salmon-hand-roll-recipe.html

Even though I changed the ingredients, it gave me a good guideline to follow for my first sushi-making experience.

As I mentioned before, this recipe lends itself for some wine.  So here is my wine recommendation to have with your own homemade sushi.  I would opt for a sauvignon blanc when it comes to this type of dish.  These wines are crisp and clean, so they won’t distract from the flavors of whatever roll you are making.  Even if the sushi is spicy, this is still a great wine to pair.  Tyler Florence, in conjunction with Robert Mondavi, has a great sauvignon blanc on the market that only costs between $15 and $20, depending on where you buy it.  I found it at my local grocery store.  You will taste grapefruit and sweet lemon, but the wine is very balanced and smooth.  For more information you can look up Tyler Florence, or visit www.wine.com.

Until next time, cheers!

Sloughing off Cells

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Recently my good friend asked me if I did “dry brushing.”  “Dry brushing?” I asked.  Hmmm, I had to think for a bit and remember if I had heard of this technique before.  Thinking, thinking…nope.  Never heard of it, and certainly haven’t tried it.  “So what is it?” I ask my friend.  She leads me to a few web sites and a YouTube video, allowing me to discover this little “secret of the spas” practice which claims numerous benefits ranging from detoxification to cellulite reduction.  Cellulite reduction?  Really?  I am SOLD!

So I start to delve into the world of dry brushing, wanting to know exactly what it is, the kind of tools used and if the benefits touted by practitioners really have some validity to them.

Here is what I have found after a little digging.  Dry brushing, most commonly used in spas, is basically the practice of taking an all-natural bristled brush and gently rubbing this DRY brush all over your body before hopping into a toasty warm shower. To dry brush correctly you should start at your feet and move up the legs and body in gentle, circular motions.  The idea is to move the brush towards the heart’s center.  And remember, be gentle.  Taking the top layer of your skin off is not the goal of this holistic practice. Proponents say to dry brush at least once, if not twice, a day.

Okay, now for the benefits.  As I mentioned earlier, cellulite reduction is SUPPOSEDLY one of the biggest benefits to dry brushing.  The other benefits (as if they matter, right?) include tighter skin, increased circulation (which aids in the detoxification process) and removing dead skin cells from the body.

In my web search I did find a few sites that insisted the benefits should be taken with a grain of salt, but there really are no harmful effects to dry brushing.  Which is why I went out and bought an all natural brush-you can find them at your local Wal-Mart, Target or some grocery stores-and started dry brushing.  I try and do it at least once a day. But remember, I have two kids, so sometimes it is hard to even squeeze in a shower for myself.  Have I seen any benefits?  Well, not really, but I do notice my skin is a lot softer than before.  I don’t think I have done it long enough to notice a reduction in cellulite.  But I am staying optimistic!

So if you feel inclined, give the dry brushing a go and see what you think.  If anything, you can slough off a few dead skins cells in the process.  But if you find your skin gets irritated from the brushing, I would stop and just stick to whatever skin regiment you did before.

For more information, you can visit the site I found informative on dry brushing.  Simply go to http://www.mindbodygreen.com.  And because I always like to know the good with the  bad, I found some helpful information on http://www.drweil.com.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word “spa” I think of relaxation…which makes me think of grabbing a glass of wine.  So here is my wine tip for you readers.  If you are planning a trip to the spa, or just need a moment to relax and unwind, I like to open up something that is light and crisp.  For this type of wine, you can try a Sauvignon Blanc or an unoaked Chardonnay.  One of my favorite Sauvignon Blancs is from Raymond Vineyards in St. Helena, Ca.  But there are plenty of inexpensive labels out there with good flavors.  You really can’t go wrong with this type of wine.  If you are looking for an unoaked chardonnay, Mer Soleil’s Silver is unbelievably tart and crisp for this type of wine.  It is usually in the $25 range, and it comes in a really beautiful ceramic bottle.

For more information on these wines, visit http://www.raymondvineyards.com or http://www.mersoleilvineyard.com

Until next time, cheers!

New Year’s Resolutions…are they worth it?

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Look at the calendar-it is crazy to realize we are already at the end of January.  With each new year, it is customary to make resolutions.  Silly little requirements we place on ourselves to try and make our lives better, our health better or to just let go of bad habits.  But in all honesty, as you approach February, how are you doing on your resolution?  I can tell you how mine is going…terrible!  Ugh, each day I get up and say to myself:

“Self, you can do this.  Eat better, work out more…yell at the kids less…do more yoga.”

By the end of the day, not only have I devoured a package of dark chocolate (that is supposed to be good for you, right?), I have also missed a work-out because my son wouldn’t nap and then had a scream-fest with my 6-year-old daughter on why we don’t disrespect mommy and daddy with words.  Ah, another day and another failure of the resolutions.

So here is my idea on resolutions.  Simply don’t make them.  It just automatically sets you up for failure!  What I have discovered over the years, after long conversations with my girlfriends, is to set realistic goals.  Goals that you can master one tiny step at a time.  Not many people do very well going cold-turkey, right?  So if your vice is soda, cut out one soda for the week.  The next week, cut out another, and so forth.  Gradually you will reach your ultimate goal of giving it up.  All too often we are pressured to fit into a perfect mold, a cookie-cutter shape.  But usually the real beauty we miss (especially women) is that we are all unique.  So why do we want to conform to one set standard?

All too often I am just as guilty as the next Jane Doe in feeling I should be thinner, have less wrinkles or drink more juices.  I could write hours and hours on this topic, but I don’t want to bore you when I am just getting started on blogging.  I am sure this item will come up again and again in later posts.  So stay tuned, or send me some comments and we can chat.

And because I think every new year deserves a new wine-here is my wine tip for the day. For those of you determined to give up desserts, you may not want to leave out cherry pie. Okay, not an actual pie, but a delicious, fruity California Pinot Noir with the name “Cherry Pie.” It is a wine to drink alone, with poultry or any kind of red meat. Try it and you will immediately fall in love with a different kind if “pie!”

http://www.cherrypiewines.com/wine

Until next time, cheers!

Loosing a Father.

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Loosing a Father.

*Written January 21, 2013*

The one-year anniversary of my father’s death rapidly approaches and I have found myself contemplating the past year without his presence.  Dad and I were so close, as close as any daughter could be to her father.  We were so much alike, yet different in many ways.  Dad was always someone I could talk to and know I would get that “realistic perspective” of life, and he was never afraid to tell me his honest opinion-even if it was completely opposite of what I wanted to hear.

Dad touched a lot of lives for the 72 years he called Earth home.  He was a husband, a father, an uncle, and a grandfather.  But what he loved being the most was a doctor.  For the sake of time and space, Dad’s medical career was outstanding.  He started out as a general practitioner in the Air Force back in the late sixties, and after a tour in Vietnam, came back to settle down in Memphis.  He married mom in 1975 and in the next few years decided he really wanted to specialize in radiology.  By 1982 he reached this dream, moved mom and myself up to Cape Girardeau, and spent the remainder of his life working as a radiologist for Cape Radiology Group.

Dad and I shared many loves, but the main one we connected over was wine.  Anything and everything I know about wine comes from what dad taught me over the years.  Now I continue this passion, and seem to be converting my husband from Budweiser products over to Napa Cabernets.

I could go on and on about my dad, about how much I miss this man, about the piece of my heart that aches and longs for one of his great big bear hugs.  But I would be here all year if I took time to write everything down.  For those who have lost loved ones, you know the kind of pain and loneliness that comes from death.  Others may have yet to experience this.  One thing is for sure, we all have to face death at some point in our life, and the ordeal is never easy.  So end today by telling someone you care about how you feel, give them a hug or a kiss, or simply take time to have a conversation and find out about their day.  Because tomorrow, that person could be gone.

My father’s favorite Napa cabernet has to be Raymond.  Raymond Vineyards, located in St. Helena, CA, was always considered to be a “table wine” in my dad’s home.  It was one of the first wines he learned to collect on, dissect and truly enjoy as a connoisseur of California reds.  I still enjoy this wine on a weekly basis, thanks to my dad.  And I hope you find a bottle to enjoy too.

To learn more about Raymond Wines, visit http://www.raymondvineyards.com.

Until next time, cheers!

Toddlers are…

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July 24, 2011

*I wrote this piece two years ago with the intention I would publish it.  Better late than never, right?*

Having a daughter is an interesting experience….one that changes on an hourly basis.  One minute she is sitting in my lap telling me how much she loves me and saying things like “Happy Mother’s Day,” or “Happy Birthday,” to only be talking back and yelling “NO!” at the top of her lungs.  *sigh*  Does it get any easier??  When does this crazy yo-yo attitude even out a bit?

And the kicker to it all?  I have another child coming in October….What?  Oh boy.

You know what my biggest fear is about having another child?  I feel as if I am failing at raising the one I already have, so what business do I have bringing another person into the world?  Okay, maybe not completely failing, but I do feel as if I come up short a lot of times as a mom.  My problem is trying to keep up with what all the “smarties” out there trying to tell me what to do with my child.  Have her learn this, make sure she knows that, yadda, yadda, yadda.  But you hear that stuff enough and you start to believe it.  Like drinking the Kool-Aid.

Well, let’s just hope that God gives me an extra dose of patience for this next child, or maybe for just the one I have now.  I certainly will need it while trying to nurse, change, and play with a new baby while keeping a toddler entertained and feeling loved.

For you moms out there wondering how you are going to make it to the next day, here is my advice.  Take a deep breath and remember Rome was not built in a day (sometimes it helps to have a glass of Italian wine in hand to really believe this statement.)  And for you moms who seem to have this gig under control?  Give me some pointers, and quick!

As for Italian wine?  Well, my favorite reds tend to come from the Piemonte region, which is located just at the base of the Swiss Alps.  Look for wines from Barolo or Barbaresco, or wines made from the Nebbiolo grape.  These wines age very well, over decades, and have a spicy fruitiness that holds them unique to the region.  Don’t be afraid to try one, most wine and liquor store owners can guide you towards a bottle without completely breaking your budget.

Until next time, cheers!