Tag Archives: wine

The Unexpected Leading to the Uncorked

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A pile of used wine corks.

I had an interesting experience this weekend with my two children, and as I flesh this piece out you will hopefully empathize a bit with me here.  To start with, my husband’s family lost an aunt a few days ago and we had to travel north towards St. Louis for the funeral.  It was going to be a short ceremony so the hubs and I figured it would be fine to let the kids come.  Other family members were going and they don’t get to see the kids much anyway, so what the heck, right?

Now, I don’t know how many of you out there have attended a funeral with children.  But let me just break it down a bit for you here.  My 9-year-old daughter had a thousand questions about it all, and my son was just wanting to know when it was over so he could talk again.  In actuality, I was very proud of my children and how they behaved.  I also thought it very intuitive of my daughter to be so inquisitive about the entire “death process.”  Neither of my children showed timidity when it was our turn to step up and stand next to the casket.  My son, who is 5, made a few loose comments and then just sat down in the front row and waited for the rest of us to do our thing.  I don’t think he really understood what was going on, to be quite honest.

My daughter, on the other hand, knew exactly what was happening,  Unfortunately, her life has already endured two funerals, both for her grandfathers, and they were under a year apart.  So she has a better grasp of death, and all the ramifications it has on a person, after watching my husband and I go through those experiences.  But this funeral was not like those, and she felt more open to ask questions and try to understand what this whole “bury the dead” entailed.

I chuckled a little bit to myself when I had to keep telling her not to touch her great-aunt. I mean, you don’t see that one every day!  “Mom, there is a bug that keeps flying around on her face!”  I told her just let it be and come sit down.  “No, mom.  I need to get it off.”  At this point I was gently grabbing her arm, trying to tug her in my direction towards the seats.  “Mom…”  Oh Lord, here we go again.  “Today’s April Fool’s Day, so are you sure this isn’t a prank?”  If I could insert the “smack my head” emoji here, I totally would because that is exactly how I felt.  I am pretty sure China heard her ask this question.  Suddenly my mind blasted a picture of this lovely woman, who was resting peacefully in her casket, sit up and yell out “just kidding!”  I guess that is what you expect when you take kids to things like this.  You go in holding your breath that nothing odd or disrespectful is said, but that gets squashed the first five minutes you walk in the door.

Just when I thought I had pulled my daughter away, she was right back up there by the casket, examining every nook and cranny.  Swiftly walking towards her I see her suddenly take one of the poor woman’s fingers and lift it up! Now I am almost running, in heels, towards my daughter while saying her name under my breath so it doesn’t echo throughout the room.  I didn’t want to be harsh because I know she was just curious, but heaven help me if someone saw her do it.  My husband saw it happen too, and he was closer to intervene.  Luckily at this point, we finally had everyone sit down so we could start the service.  Once we were graveside, my daughter then wanted to know about the pallbearers and how that all worked.  Then it was investigating the final resting place and the ground around it.  The questions never stopped and my husband and I tried to answer them as best we could.

In the grand scheme of things, it was a lovely ceremony and I have a feeling our aunt would have chuckled a bit at my daughter’s impertinence.  You just never know what you are going to get when you have children with you.  But I do know you have to just laugh it off and chuck it up as a good story to tell when she is older.  Parenting is such an endeavor and so hard, but also so fun and rewarding.  Stories like this remind me what fun children can be, and how innocent and beautiful their minds are compared to ours.  The tarnish of reality and age have not set in on how they view the world, and I find myself a bit envious of it all.

After getting through the day’s events, I thought it appropriate to open a nice bottle of wine from my dad’s collection.  I know he would have gotten a big kick out of the entire ordeal and all the questions my daughter asked yesterday.  I have this warm feeling that both my dad and my father-in-law are chuckling together in heaven, basking in the wonder of their granddaughter.

Once we made it safely home, I decided it was a great night to open up some wine.  Can you blame me on this one?  My head was still spinning a bit from the deluge of funeral and death questions.  I figured the wine I chose was going to be done Russian Roulette style.  The day had sort of held that theme.  I picked a 1990 Newton Cabernet Sauvignon from California.  It was delicious, and I am still drinking on it today as I compose this piece.

For a wine that is 27 years old, it still holds up.  But I think I need to see if other bottles are lurking around because it needs to be drunk.  With notes of blackberry and vanilla, the wine smelled so good after I opened it.  On the palate, the tannins mellowed out and had a slightly bitter taste, but in a good way.  Something you would expect, perhaps, from a wine like this.  The only thing I found lacking was the taste finished very short, so that is probably why it needs to be drunk now.

It still amazes me how wine holds up after so many years, kind of like parents.  We get through the battles and have a few scars.  But in the end, we tend to mellow out and enjoy the wonders life has to offer.  Whatever life brings your way, I hope you can at least enjoy the moment, perhaps with a glass of your favorite wine.

Until next time,

Cheers!

 

 

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A Soup with No Name

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We all have that moment when we open our freezer, fridge or pantry and realize it is time to clean house.  Just like a closet, your food needs to be inspected and weeded out every six months or so.  It is good to check your expiration dates, move items around that need to be  cooked sooner and make a note of what you don’t need the next time you find yourself wandering the aisles of the grocery store.  And this means saying no to the “10 for 10” deal on items your local grocery is trying to clean off THEIR shelves.

For some reason today I found myself trying to come up with something for lunch and the only thing that sounded good was soup.  Fall just lends itself to soups, chilis, and stews to warm the belly when the temperature starts to fall outside.  Today was no exception, and I knew I needed to clean out the pantry.  Of course, I found a plethora of items that needed to be used before going bad.  So I pulled several out of the pantry and came up with an idea for soup as a way to use them up.  The great thing I love about making soups is you can throw just about anything together and make it taste good, so long as your ingredients are wholesome.

Today I had cannellini beans, dried porcini mushrooms, canned tomatoes, some frozen greens, a frozen bag of onions/peppers/celery, and some frozen “meatless” crumbles.  I was feeling an Italian inspiration coming on with this one, considering the tomatoes, mushrooms, and beans were from Italy.

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Basically, when you are making a soup from scratch you just cook each item in layers.  So I started with the onion blend and some good olive oil on a medium-high heat.  Once that was defrosted and sauteed a bit I added the meatless crumbles.  I let that cook up a few minutes before adding the tomatoes, beans and then the vegetable broth.  I had to let the dried mushrooms soak a bit in warm water before throwing in just a handful to the liquid.  My seasonings were an Italian blend, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.  I used roughly a teaspoon of the blend, 1/2 teaspoon of the garlic and a pinch of the remaining two.  With soups, you need to let all the ingredients cook down a bit and simmer before adjusting your spices.  My last go-to spice I use, thanks to my Mom, is Beau Monde seasoning.  This is the best little gem to having in your cabinet, especially when it comes to soups and sauces.  I can’t tell you what it is, but it really can pull all your seasonings together in the end of the cooking process.  I use it all the time in my cooking.

With soups, you need to let all the ingredients cook down a bit and simmer before adjusting your spices.  My last go-to spice I use, thanks to my Mom, is Beau Monde seasoning.  This is the best little gem to having in your cabinet, especially when it comes to soups and sauces.  My mom used this all the time in her recipes and passed this little secret on to me.  A mixture made of salt, onion, and celery, can really pull all your seasonings together in the end of the cooking process.  I am currently trying to use up my current jar so I can find an all natural version.  The one I have used for years has a couple of hard-to-pronounce names in the ingredient list.  I tend to steer clear of those when grocery shopping.  I may try and make my own Beau Monde blend when I find the time!

For a soup with no name, it turned out pretty tasty and gave me a healthy lunch without spending a dime.  Now I have some leftovers to get me through the weekend rush of activities.  I am trying my best to stay healthy and true to myself and making soups from some great ingredients is a sure way to fill your belly while saving on excess calories and unhealthy fillers.

Now, the only thing to make it better is a good glass of wine…but that would be ringing Friday in a little too soon for this mom.  If I had the chance, I would open up a nice Italian Chianti or Montepulciano.  No need to worry about a specific year or vineyard.  I would just find something that fits your budget but gives you a great punch on the tongue with the robust earthiness typically found in your Italian reds.  At least that is what I often taste when presented with one, others may have a different viewpoint (which is perfectly fine in my wine-tasting opinion).

So I hope your next adventure in the kitchen whips up something tasty while cleaning out the shelves.

Until my next inspiration,

Cheers!

Americans Yawning at Wine?

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This evening I was sitting (which doesn’t happen often in this house) reading my latest Wine Spectator magazine (I still have three previous issues I need to read), and of course, sipping a glass of wine. Now, don’t think I am going all “pompous” on you here. I wasn’t wearing a smoker’s jacket or silk pajamas. Classical music was not playing in the background. Actually, I had my ratty pajamas on, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse blasting on the television and a 3-year-old singing “Thomas the Train’s” theme song. Not really the atmosphere adhering to an issue of Wine Spectator. But this is my life, and at least I get to have a little indulgence every once-and-again.

If you have never had the chance to read a Wine Spectator, I urge you to pick up a copy the next time you find yourself roaming the magazine aisles at Barnes and Noble. Even if you despise wine and only drink whiskey or tequila (which they advertise profusely in their magazines), you should flip through it for the simple fact this company has one of the best-produced pieces of “quick read” literatures on the market. Not only is the magazine larger than any other on the stands, but also the pages feel so much different than your typical monthly read. They are thick and rich in color. It is almost like you can feel the font on each page you hold. Okay, sorry for digressing. I get lost in thought on these things. I love the written word, especially when I get to hold it in my hands. So it hits a pretty soft spot for me. If you really don’t care about all that, pick it up for the good wine tips and buyers guide at least. You never know whom you will impress.

My point in this post is not to talk about how fantastic the pages of Wine Spectator are, but rather, to bring up an interesting point I read in the latest issue. In the “Grapevine” section for this month it talked about how Bordeaux wines have started dropping prices. It then makes a correlating statement about younger generation Americans not willing or truly understanding why it is important to pay higher prices for wines coming from First Growth vineyards in France. I have to say, as a Generation X wine-drinker, I agree with what the article seemed to lament. I see this so often among my peers. They want a wine, something to drink tonight with a steak or great piece of fish. They are usually not looking for wine to cellar for years to come, anticipating in the way it will taste at a child’s graduation dinner or wedding reception. And honestly, that is okay. Passion for wine has to start somewhere along the road of life, and sometimes it never really gets above the “let’s have a few bottles on hand when we feel the mood strike” level.

I may be reaching out on a limb with this one, but there might be some truth to the article’s statement about how “Bordeaux has also failed to ignite interest in the next generation of wine drinkers.” Ralph Sands, senior wine specialist at California-based K & L Wine Merchants goes on to suggest, “Bordeaux needs to upgrade the little marketing that they do here in America to attract new young buyers before it’s too late.” Is he right? Who knows, but it is an interesting piece of information to ponder for wine aficionados out there. Fact is, I can see the generational gap in wine buying when it comes to high-priced French, and even American wines, fade a little. Especially if it is a bottle never before tasted.  Many of the First Growth and Second Growth Bordeaux wines need to cellar for several years after they are released on the shelf to really become ready to drink.  They are usually very tannic wines, and can turn off a newly groomed wine palate.  I remember how my dad used to cringe when he opened a nice Bordeaux and I could barely stomach the stuff!  These wines can be an acquired taste, and for a “green” wine drinker, not always the best “bang for your buck.”  But it doesn’t make them bad wines or wines unworthy to buy.  There just needs to be a little education and marketing behind them for newcomers roaming wine aisles across the country.

When there are so many great wines you can open for much cheaper prices, why buy an expensive bottle, or a case for that matter. Why spend money on something unknown if you don’t plan to cellar it and wait for the “great moment” when it should be opened. This is even truer for shoppers who go in to a store to buy a bottle and look at the labels, lost in a reverie of hard-to-pronounce vineyards from far-off countries. Unless you ask the store’s proprietor, or do your own research, it can be a total crapshoot.

But do I buy the nicer bottles, yes, and that is because a great man who loved his “high-priced Bordeaux wines” raised me. And they are delicious wines I enjoy opening for friends and family members who have never, or may never, experience this style of wine. I toast him and think of him with each pop of the cork. It is his legacy to me, and a legacy to his grandchildren.  I then tell a story about the wine and why it was one of his favorites to my drinking audience.  At the same time, I love finding a great deal on a bottle of wine, and then shock the hell out of my wine friends who assume it is a costly bottle simply because of the flavor and body it holds.

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As our society ebbs and flows, so will the world of wine. Anyone owning a vineyard in France (specifically Bordeaux) probably has an idea that marketing needs to change with the times, that name recognition will not always win consumers. Promoting your wine and telling new wine drinkers why it is so fabulous and unique are great necessities for survival. And that is okay, it is business and how the “cookie crumbles” in a buyer’s market.

A friend of mine, who is a great French Burgundy aficionado, once told me that wine is great not because of the year, but because of who drinks it with you. I think my generation, and generations below me, adhere to this because they love the idea of opening a good wine with great friends as opposed to opening great wines by themselves.

So my wine advice for today is not to be afraid to take a leap on a bottle of wine. If you have had wine before, you probably know a little about your personal variety preference (cabernet, pinot noir, etc.). Perhaps you want to venture out and experience great Bordeaux. Unsure what to buy? Take my earlier reading advice and look at the Wine Spectator’s buyer’s guide. But if you are not ready, it is okay.  Don’t think because a wine is costly, or comes from a particular region, it is worth breaking your budget. There are lots a great wines out there, expensive and inexpensive, French and American. And many times big-name French labels will have less-expensive wines to offer with the same great quality and flavor as their more “collectible pieces.” Once you find the wine, get a group of great friends, open it up and make some memories. I guarantee it will make the vino taste that much better.

Until next time, cheers!

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Women: What is Our Self Worth?

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I have to vent a little on this post.  I said in an earlier blog this particular subject would come up again with me.  And now it has…such a dichotomy of thoughts on what I want to express here.  The subject is a woman, and the issue is our self-worth.

So where does one start with this?  History has shown, and still shows to this day, women are often valued based on “self-worth.”  Until the early 21st century, a woman didn’t have a true place outside the home and was considered “worthy” based on the amount of dowry she could bring to a marriage.  Thankfully most of that has changed in modern times.  We have seen the rise of women’s liberation, breaking the glass ceiling and even women holding high-ranking leadership positions throughout the world.  This being said, why do we, as women, still fall into the trap of defining ourselves by our worth?  Why do we focus so hard on the numbers on a scale?  Why do we care whether or not we look a certain way or play a certain role in our life?

It surrounds use everywhere, images of beautiful women on billboards, buses, in magazines and newspapers.  We see them on television, perfect visions of the ideal female body.  Perfect hair, teeth, clothes, you name it and these women have it.  But do they?  It is basic marketing and advertising to promote a product.  Sex sells, right?  Hasn’t that been the slogan of American advertising companies (including Hollywood pictures) to get consumers to buy products or go see a movie?  Catchy phrases and slogans are used to lure women and men into the marketplace to purchase the “next best thing.”  It’s a consumer’s world, and I truly love it all.  But you have to look at these things with jaded goggles.  You have to know which is fact and which is fiction.

I majored in communication studies at Vanderbilt, so I did a lot of reading and writing.  I loved this major mainly because it brought me out of my small town shell and into the real world of thinking and feeling.  My professors pushed me to really dive head first into the words I read in speeches (ranging anywhere from Washington’s Inaugural Address to Martin Luther King’s speeches-there are more than just THE ONE).  I loved hearing these individuals and all their ideals.  The moments that changed their lives and made them better people, better thinkers and better ideologists.  I loved these words because it helped me think more about who I was and who I WANTED to be in this world.

It brings me back to dealing with the mindset I find in my own sex.  The belief that, despite how strong we may appear on the outside, we still fall prey deep down in our psyche to numbers and self-worth ideals.  And I am just as guilty as the woman next to me in line at Target.

Let’s face it; I am a total consumer in today’s modern age.  I love gadgets, read tabloids and watch Entertainment Television.  I do admit reality TV is something I truly despise.  I can’t stomach watching people make complete fools of themselves and believe they are not acting out a pre-scripted role.  Reality?  Not hardly, especially when there is a camera following you around the room.  Think about it-when you get that sudden interview for a local news channel and the camera is shoved in your face, how do you act?  No way close to natural, right?  But I digress…

I have amazing friends in my life, and they all help me in one way or the other.  We support one another, hear the laughter and share the tears.  Yet each time we get together I can’t help but notice how the conversation always turns to the latest diet, what our weight is, or how we wish we looked this way or that way.  Lusting over body types and how much we want to fit “back into our old size.”  Talking about the latest failure in the kitchen (I ate a pan of brownies or devoured a sleeve of Thin Mints), it seems these women (myself included) boil the conversations down to how little we feel our self worth is in life.  And every time I leave a dinner or social gathering with my friends I find myself shaking my head and having to tell myself there is more to life than what came up in our conversations.  We are all strong, independent women with families and responsibilities.  Some of us work outside the home, which adds to the pressures faced each day.  Yet we all still boil down to numbers on a scale or feeling we should fit a certain “mold.”  It makes my heart ache a little to think it, even type it.

So that is what I am here to say in this piece-to remind each and every one of us (myself included) that our self worth is more than just a number on the scale, a size plastered on a pair of designer jeans or an image of what we “wish” we could be in life.  There are so many examples, so many instances where I want to shake the individual in front of me and scream to the person “You are more than this!”  But I don’t, and instead try and offer the most supportive advice and motivation I can.  I have dealt with that battle, the feeling of needing to measure up to the person beside me, to fit an ideal.  And I am over it.  Can I scream that now?  I AM OVER IT!  I know who I am inside and out.  I know my weaknesses and my strengths.  It has taken a lot of time and hard confrontations to realize this, but I am thankful for each and every one of them.  I have handled weight issues, eating “issues” and trying to fit into a certain mold.  But you know what, it really isn’t what matters at the end of the day.  What matters is the knowledge that my children are safe and healthy, my family is happy and that I am doing whatever is in my power to make sure I remain on this earth to take care of them all.  Not because it is what society expects me to do, but because I want to be there.  I want to share in the memories and pass on to my children whatever knowledge I have to offer.  This is what life is really about, making a difference outside of our “self” and fighting tooth and nail against what is typically expected of our sex.

I am not a radical person, just a realistic individual who is tired of the fight waged against my sex.  I am over the feeling that I am not “enough” simply because I don’t work outside the home or volunteer enough at my kids school.  I do the best that I can each and every day, and some days I make huge mistakes while other days I conquer the world.  It would be this way whether I had a 9-5 job or continue the “domestic diva” role I currently hold.  I guess what I am saying is I own up to what I do, find the things in life that make me happy, give fuel to my ambition and try to keep myself balanced.

I am over the feeling that I need to look a certain way.  I like my own style, bright colors and things that make me feel comfortable.  I don’t wear things to impress those around me; I wear things that make me feel GOOD!  If it is considered revealing or out of the ordinary, I don’t care.  It is my style, what I move freely in and what I like.  I know my body and I know my limits.  So I go with it and choose not to sweat the small stuff.  In the end, it doesn’t really matter because I get up the next day to see the sweet smiles of my babies saying “good morning mommy.”  I get a kiss or hug from my husband, and yes I bring him coffee every morning along with my own cup.  These are the things that really matter.

Sure I will have moments when I think a dress may fit a little too tight, or I should lay off the dessert for a few days and let my body recoup.  But I am finished with counting calories, analyzing every single thing that goes in my mouth because it truly makes life miserable.  As I have found, life it way too short to sweat the small stuff.  So here is what I want you to do, if you feel inclined.  Throw away the damn scale (go by how your clothes FEEL).  When you eat food, really taste its flavors and enjoy what it has to offer your palate.  How does the food make your body feel?  Listen to what it tells you and you will discover the things that make your own being function on a healthy day-to-day basis.  Forget trying to fit into a certain mold; instead find what makes you feel good about yourself; what makes your body run the way it should.

Some people may see me as a health freak, or weight-conscious individual who worries about appearances.  But really, I am not.  I do love going to the gym because of the mental release I experience, plus the challenge I can place on myself when I am there.  I need that challenge to exist on a daily basis.  I also love food and cooking.  I enjoy the stuff that isn’t so good for me because I know I also give my body enough of the things that make it feel good.  Balance-that is what I have FINALLY learned.  It has been a long, hard road, but I am getting it a little more each day.

So you see, I am not perfect, nor do I want to be perfect.  I am the person I want to be, I am getting comfortable in my own skin.  And it has been a long and arduous road to get to this point.  But I am so thankful to be here and hopefully can exude some of it on my fellow mates.

Those who know me know I love wine.  Wine is something I can never give up; it’s just a part of my individuality.  And I love learning about it each and every day.  In fact, my wine tip of the day comes from a great magazine article in the latest Wine Spectator.  The article is about Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, the French matriarch of one of the leading vineyards in the world.  Her family has produced award-wining wines from their vineyards in Bordeaux since 1853.  If you haven’t had the chance to taste a Mouton-Rothschild or Lafite-Rothschild, I hope you get it.  The wines are outstanding and always hold up to the Rothschild standard of winemaking.

Interestingly enough, Philippine’s father, Baron Philippe Rothschild, did not believe women had a place in the world.  Yet, here is his daughter holding court over a multi-million dollar business for over 20 years.  She has helped the Rothschild name grow into the 21st century, expanding the family’s business interests across International Waters.  If you get a chance, you should read the article or do some research on this incredible woman.  Pick up the latest copy of Wine Spectator or search the Baroness and her wines online.  There are many subsidiary wineries and joint ventures that won’t drain your wallet but still offer the Rothschild quality.

And for further enlightenment on your journey, here are a few books that I have read along the way; hopefully they will make the same impact on you as they did on me.  Forgive me if I get the bibliography wrong.  I am a bit rusty and blowing the dust off my Bedford Handbook from college.

Bordo, Susan.  Unbearable Weight:  Feminism, Western Culture and the Body.

California:  University of California Press, 1993.

Bordo, Susan.  Twilight Zones:  The Hidden Life of Cultural Images from Plato to O.J.

California:  University of California Press, 1997.

Sadeghi, Dr. Habib.  WITHIN:  A Spiritual Awakening of Love & Weight Loss.

Los Angeles:  Premier Digital Publishing, 2013.

Bradley Bayou.  The Science of Sexy.  New York:  Gotham Books, 2007.

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!

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!