Wine for a School Fundraiser

Saturday night I attended a “Mom’s Night Out” event, a fundraiser to raise money for my daughter’s second grade class. The fellow mom who hosted the party invited all the moms from the second grade to come for a wine tasting and essential oils demonstration.  While the oils were mildly interesting to me, I was really most curious about the wine. The company that was presenting the tasting was called ONEHOPE Wine.

Just more than a year old, the company was founded to help support various not for profit causes, in addition to sharing fine wine. Its vineyards are mostly located in Napa Valley and Sonoma County, and the “Cause Entrepreneur” who was hosting the tasting said the wines we were tasting were a result of a collaboration with Robert Mondavi, Jr.

Each wine we tasted had a specific cause for which proceeds from its sale would support – everything from fighting cancer, to planting trees in the rainforest to supporting the music and arts culture. According to the organizers, the way this fundraiser worked, 50 percent of the proceeds would go to the cause related to the particular wine while 10 percent would go to my child’s second grade.

I was pleasantly surprised that roughly half the wines we tried were actually very good! Usually these types of mass-produced wines are less than stellar and/or you can’t trace them to their real source. While you don’t know the exact origin of the wine in terms of the actual estate ONEHOPE is at least transparent about where the grapes are grown, listing the source, but not so open about where they are actually made and by whom. It lists Mr. Mondavi as the consultant/winemaker but nothing more is revealed (the exception is the Iconic wines, which are estate grown and bottled, according to ONEHOPE Wine’s catalog).

And herein lies the rub for me with these things. Sure, it’s fun to taste some wines that you may or may not enjoy. But the tasting is only part of it for me. I enjoy learning about where the wine is made and how and by whom. It also helps me extend my learning about wine. So, I was a little disappointed not to have the full story.

As far as the wines go, we mostly tasted whites, which were OK. I enjoyed the Brut Sparkling Wine very much, as well as the Sauvignon Blanc. Two others were too sweet for my tastes and the Chardonnay was too much of a departure from the usual qualities of that grape for me to enjoy it. Plus, it had a strong hint of coconut and I don’t like coconut at all! LOL!

The reds were amazing. My favorite was the Pinot Noir, followed by the Zinfandel, which like the Chardonnay was a bit of a departure from the usual. It wasn’t as black pepper spicey as Zins normally are and I really enjoyed the complexity of it that blended through as it hit your tongue. The Cabernet Sauvignon was nice, as well.

The tasting had different foods to accompany the wines. Most were well-paired but a few were unusual for me, such as the cheddar with the Pinot Noir. Another mom was ready to dump her wine; luckily I caught her just in time with a piece of chocolate, which turned out to be a much better pairing!

All in all, it was an enjoyable evening and the hostess was fabulous. It was a nice idea to have the wine tasting and the essential oils, a little something for everyone. While I think the ONEHOPE Wine concept is a good one, I hope in the future the company considers a bit more transparency in how its wine is made and by whom. I think it could represent a boon for the wineries that are participating; they could promote their goodwill in supporting all these fantastic causes. Now, I must go figure out what I’m putting in my case that I’ll be ordering. After all, it’s for a lot of good causes, including my daughter’s well-rounded education! Cheers!

 

 

meal-planning

Wine for Meal Planning

For as long as I can remember (at least since I’ve been a “grown-up”), I’ve planned my weekly meals. Somewhere along the line, it just seemed to make sense, given a busy work schedule. In the beginning, I even selected meals based on what was on sale at the grocery store, visiting more than one to save every last cent! Nowadays, I’m not quite that comprehensive, though if I had more time, I sure would be!

It was a gorgeous Saturday afternoon this past weekend, so I took advantage and sat on my deck with a Red Blend from Winc, while the kids played on the slip n’ slide and planned out meals. I typically use Pinterest as my “go to,” reviewing recipes I’ve pinned along the way. Lately I’ve been bored with reviewing those and have ventured back to my cookbooks, which prior to social media, were heavily used!

This week, I have two recipes from the Go Red for Women cookbook, as well as a few from Pinterest. I try to vary the main protein source so we don’t get bored, so chicken, sausage, beef, pork and vegetarian are the main buckets. Then, I try to include something we all have had before and like, as well as new recipes, when I can find them. As I was making my grocery list over the weekend, I thought perhaps sharing some tips would be helpful for people attempting meal planning themselves. Here goes:

  1. Always be clipping and saving. That goes for coupons and recipes. I am constantly reviewing savings apps, such as Ibotta, as well as digital coupons and direct mail coupons, saving those that make sense. If you still get a newspaper, the Sunday coupon section is also a gold mine. As for recipes, during down times I’m always reviewing Pinterest for new recipes and pinning them to my boards. I also subscribe to several eNewsletters that include recipes I can pin or save for later.
  2. Try to keep sales and seasons in mind. I try to align my meals with what’s on sale or in season. This not only keeps cost down but also tastes the best! Right now, for example, is the best time for those pork/apple combination dishes. Apples are fresh in Central New York! All summer, long we do lots of vegetables since our growing season means we have lots of fresh produce to choose from. When Wegmans has different types of seafood on sale, I leverage that, too, since often seafood is quite expensive!
  3. Think about schedules. I take the time to review our weekly schedule so I can align meals with what’s happening each evening. If, for example, it’s a busy lesson night for the kids, a crock pot meal works best. Also, if a meal needs prep the night before, I make sure I have time the night before to do said prep!
  4. Make a list. My grocery list is very Type A. I list everything in the order in which it appears in the store. If you think I’m crazy, imagine going grocery shopping with three kids in tow. It reduces the opportunity for error to at least go in order! Even then, I always forget something! On one side of my list, I list the days of the week and the meal per day. On the other side, I list the groceries needed.
  5. Be flexible. Even though I have my meals planned and groceries purchased, sometimes you need to know when to move things around. If you no longer have time to make a recipe or just don’t feel like eating it, move it to another day. It happens. Sometimes, we’re forced to eat something else simply because I forgot to buy an ingredient or the ingredient wasn’t as fresh as we had hoped. Even remembering to take something out of the freezer can make or break dinner for the evening!

These are just a few of my tips. Meal planning is a way of life, to me. Once you get into it, you can’t imagine not doing it. In fact, on weeks when I’ve completely thrown it out the window due to stress or unforeseen circumstances, I find we eat a lot less healthy and it’s a lot more annoying to get dinner on the table. So, for me, meal planning is a sanity-saver. Maybe it will be for you, too. Cheers!

school-lunch-prep

Wine for Lunch Prep

I’ve been pinning them for months. Years even. Those school lunch ideas where people put all kinds of delicious, nutritious items in little Bento boxes and tupperwares. I’ve even tried a few at times for the girls — when I was feeling ambitious and productive. But, I’ve never prepped lunches for myself, preferring instead to bring leftovers from dinner. This week, I decided to finally take the plunge and try to prep all five school/work lunches in one sitting. The “recipe” from Ziploc said it would take one hour. Here is how it really went down.

First of all, it’s kind of a large grocery list when you’re talking about a few unique items in a lunchbox for a whole week. The kids and I tackled it with our normal grocery shopping and we noticed we purchased a lot more fruit and veggies, which made us all feel impressed with ourselves! We were going to be healthy!

When we got home from Wegmans, we left all the lunch ingredients on the side counter since we knew we would get to them shortly and it made no sense putting it all away. Then, after a quick crockpot prep for dinner (chicken and dumplings), we ate lunch and got started. I followed the recipe from the beginning, prepping each item in the order they were listed. While I did that, one of my daughters helped with the prepping and the other opened all the containers we had to buy to in which to fit all these cool concoctions!

Then we got started putting it all together. My daughters helped prepare and stuff the containers so it went a bit faster than if I was on my own but, boy, did we make a mess of the kitchen! Still, we managed to find an appropriate container for everything and packed it all up. There were a few hiccups along the way. For example, we realized we need more small containers for dips and dressings. When Thursday night comes, we’ll remember that when we pack Friday’s lunch (we decided we’d have small containers left from earlier in the week by then and could finish packing at that point).

We packed Monday’s lunches into a lunchbags right away and put them in the fridge. Then, we stacked everything else, Friday on the bottom, into the fridge for the week. Cleanup didn’t take as long as it looked like it should have, which was good. All in all, the prep took an hour and 10 minutes plus cleanup so the Ziploc recipe was close! Maybe once we do it a few times it will come together more quickly.

I was way too busy with the assemblyline of putting all the lunches together to even think about opening a wine. But, now as I write this (while eating leftover hummus and crackers), I’m thinking about an easy drinking white or red, depending on what’s in the fridge! I think virtually anything goes when you’re making a huge mess in the kitchen with the kids. In fact, I almost cracked open a beer because it was taking up precious space in the fridge for where we needed lunches to go!

Would I do this kind of lunch prep in the future? Maybe! It wasn’t the worst thing but I guess it all depends on if we enjoy the fruits of our labor. We’ll let you know!

 

Wine for a Sad Time

It’s been a while since I posted. Those who know me well will know why, but for those who are casual readers, let me explain. My beloved mom passed away Aug. 18 after a 27-month battle with glioblastoma (brain cancer). It was devastating when she was first diagnosed, because we knew there was no cure. Then, it was devastating to watch her fight so hard to delay the inevitable. Then, it was devastating to learn there was nothing more that modern medicine could do. After multiple surgeries, radiation treatment, gamma knife procedure and chemotherapy, there was nothing else that could be done. My mom was tired, and it was time. She went home with hospice care, and just one week and a day later, fell asleep, never to wake up again.

Wine is normally associated with happy times – weddings, family milestones, work promotions, or just a fun Saturday night. But, it’s also associated with sad times. My uncle drank two glasses before the calling hours. But he couldn’t even remember what kind of wine it was. It just was. Wine is kind of that way. I have been so numb that all the wine I’ve had in the past week has been a blur. But, it’s an old friend that I am glad is around when you need it.

Because my best friend is no longer around. She was the one who I spoke with on the way to and from work every single day for more than two decades. She was the one I called or texted first when anything happened. Anything. She would listen patiently if I needed to vent and never once would complain or say she had to hang up the phone. She just listened.

So many people offered sweet memories of my mom over these last several days. It’s too much to relay here in one blog post. But, everyone agreed on one thing – mom was a saint. She never said a cross word to or about anyone. No one ever said anything negative to or about her. Now, how many people can you describe this way? I bet not many. That’s the kind of special person she was and she doesn’t have to be your mom for you to realize it.

My brother put together a slide show of mom to which we all contributed photos. I thought I’d share it here to show you all how wonderful she was. May she rest in peace and may we all find the strength to get through life without our saint here with us on earth. As my brother so eloquently shared at her funeral, my mom often gave this advice: “Be good. Be safe. Have fun.” Truer words were never spoken.

 

 

 

A Day in the Life – Fall Edition

Earlier this year, I shared a typical day in my summer life. Now that back-to-school is nearly upon us, and I begin teaching public relations at the Newhouse School again, my thoughts are turning to my fall schedule. As promised, it’s below. Now, keep in mind some evenings are a bit more hectic when there are swim lessons, saxophone lesson or Daisy Scouts. Then, we just do our best to get to the activities and back home for the evening routine as efficiently as possible. During those activities, I do get in some grading, at least!

5:05 a.m.
Alarm

5:15 a.m.
Leave for gym with pre-workout shot

5:30 a.m.
Workout – drink BCAAs during workout. Right now, I’m doing the Train with Lyzabeth workout series.

6:30 to 6:45 a.m.
Leave gym with protein/glutamine shake

6:45 to 7 a.m.
Arrive home for shower

7 to 7:15 a.m.
Leave for work

7:30 to 7:45 a.m.
Arrive at work

8 a.m.
Teach public relations class

9:30 a.m.
Grab breakfast at Starbucks on the way into the office

12 p.m.
Lunch and grading/course prep

2:30 p.m.
Afternoon snack

5:00 p.m.
Leave work

5:30 p.m.
Arrive home and prepare dinner while cleaning up, etc.

6:00 p.m.
Dinner

6:30 p.m.
Prepare lunches and snacks for next day, review kids’ school folders and answer homework questions, add powders to shaker bottles, lay out gym and work clothes for next day

7:00 p.m.
Bathe Christopher

7:15 p.m.
Hang out with Christopher and Lucia

7:30 p.m.
Read to Christopher and get him into bed

7:45 p.m.
Read to Lucia and get her into bed

8:15 p.m.
Head to the couch with my cross-stitching, book, phone and wine. This is also my time with Maria. I also fill out my workout/food log and review the next day’s workout. When needed, I grade papers or course prep but I try to leave that for the weekend.

9:30 p.m.
Maria goes to bed.

9:30 to 10:30 p.m.
Hang out with my husband (lots of times I fall asleep WAY before now, though. 5:05 a.m. comes early!)

A Day in the Life – Summer Edition

Many times I speak casually with people who are in awe that I am able to juggle a full-time job, daily workout and family. I read countless articles about how women can “have it all” or “fit it all in” and wonder why so many find it challenging to even have time to workout. At times in my life, I, too, have had difficulty fitting in a workout but it’s always been due to a new baby! That is probably the one wild card that throws everything off-balance. But, I always return to a state of equilibrium as the babies grow. Today, I have a 3-year-old, 7-year-old and 10-year-old so things are getting easier in terms of finding time for me.

Nonetheless, I thought I’d take a stab at taking you through my typical day so you can see how I fit things in. Now, one caveat is that it’s now summer. That means work is slower, I’m not teaching my two classes and the kids are not in school. The fall edition of this schedule looks quite different! But, we’ll return to that in a few months!

5:05 a.m.                     Alarm

5:15 a.m.                     Leave for gym with pre-workout shake

5:30 a.m.                     Workout – drink BCAAs during workout

6:30 to 6:45 a.m.        Leave gym with protein shake

6:45 to 7 a.m.             Arrive home for shower

7 to 7:15 a.m.             Leave for work

7:30 a.m.                     Arrive at work

9:30 a.m.                     Grab breakfast at Starbucks

12 p.m.                        Lunch

2:30 p.m.                     Afternoon snack

4:30 p.m.                     Leave work

4:45 p.m.                     Arrive home and prepare dinner while cleaning up, etc.

5:30 p.m.                     Dinner

6 p.m.
Prepare lunch and snacks for next day, add powders to shaker
bottles, lay out gym and work clothes for next day

6:30 p.m.                     Bathe Christopher

6:45 p.m.                     Hang out with Christopher and Lucia

7:15 p.m.                     Read to Christopher and get him into bed

7:45 p.m.                     Read to Lucia and get her into bed

8:15 p.m.
Head to the couch with my cross-stitching, book, phone and wine.
This is also my time with Maria. I also fill out my workout/food log
and review the next day’s workout.

9:45 p.m.                      Maria goes to bed.

10 to 10:30 p.m.
Hang out with my husband (lots of times I fall asleep WAY before
now, though. 5:05 a.m. comes early!)

So, there you have it! My full day. I do most of the house cleaning on weekends. My husband also pitches in and we’re neat people so we pick up after ourselves daily. He also handles the majority of the laundry but I help fold in the evenings and we both keep it going all weekend.

In the fall, there are also more evening activities, I make lunches and prep the kids’ school things and I have to squeeze in grading for my two classes. Plus, I get home from work later, as well. My husband is back in school, as well. In the summer, we only have swimming lessons on Wednesday evenings so it’s not too bad. My husband takes care of piano lessons on Monday afternoons. He also takes care of getting the kids to their daytime summer activities.

Christopher is continuing to attend daycare most days. Maria will head to the Geek Squad Academy two-day workshop later this week. Both girls start summer camp July 10. So, we’re staying as busy as possible this summer!

As you can see, “wine time” is only about an hour or two at the very end of my day. It’s when I wind down and enjoy a glass or two with my husband. Wine for evening time, the end of a busy day. Cheers!

 

Wine for a Daisy Scout Ceremony

Tuesday night Lucia had her Daisy Scout pinning ceremony. Technically, she should move into Brownies next year but since her troop got a late start and half of them are not old enough for Brownies yet, she’s staying put. Still, the troop leaders held a short pinning ceremony and they had a Teddy Bear Picnic to earn their Teddy Bear Picnic badges.

The whole family attended to support Lucia; while it’s not quite the same as a band concert or piano recital, it’s still important to her so it’s important to us! It was super cute to hear their song.

When we got home that evening, we opened a bottle of wine that came with our latest Winc delivery. This is the second bottle of wine we’ve had, though, that I really have not enjoyed. Both wines seemed to lack the fruitiness that was promised in the tasting notes. I told my husband I felt the wines were bad and maybe were not stored or shipped properly. He said he liked them and didn’t feel they were bad. Maybe it’s my taste buds with these allergies then! Anyway, they had no nose to speak of and really no flavor. This particular wine, One from the Quiver, was dry with no fruit, though tasting notes indicate higher than average fruit. No idea. Anyway, it was not enjoyable for me and I’m not looking forward to trying another Winc wine.

Wines are tricky, particularly when you have them shipped. This time of year, they can go from air conditioned distribution centers and UPS trucks to hot front porches. I think it really can taint them in the end. Thankfully, excellent clubs will take them back for a credit or replacement, so it’s not a reason to avoid them completely! Still, I’m not sure I’m sold on Winc just yet. 😉 I leave you with a gallery of photos from the Daisy Scout ceremony. Cheers!

science-project

She Did It!

Lucia’s first Science Fair was a resounding success! The judges seemed impressed with her work. Here she is showing her friends and posing in front of her final project.

Wine for a First-Grade Science Project

It starts early these days. The science projects, that is! My first grader is doing her first science fair at school this week and she’s all set to go, but only because I helped. There were NO guidelines offered by the school, just a few websites for us to go check out. And honestly, what can a first grader possibly do on her own to research ideas? So, I dutifully researched ideas and browsed Pinterest boards until I came up with five “finalists.” After much debate, she decided to do her project on clouds.

I purchased all the supplies and used a Pinterest mom’s blog as a guide but in the end, we did mostly our own thing with the display. Her experiment will create a cloud using a vase, water, shaving cream and blue water. She was good about making everything herself; I jumped in on a few of the harder items, such as writing out a long title for one of her cloud formations.

She did a great job on it, as you can see below. I can’t wait to see her display it proudly for the judges. She did a nice job and it’s nice to see her trying something new!

Now, what kind of wine goes with a science fair project? Lots! But, I think that evening I enjoyed Kin and Country, a 2015 red blend from the Lodi, California that came in our latest haul from Winc wines. You need something bursting with energy to accompany a young student’s science project. Patience is a virtue with the school work, so choose a wine that doesn’t need to be decanted and can fill your glass, and your tummy, right away!

Below is her work-in-progress. I’ll post pictures from her final display later this week. Cheers!

IMG_0721

 

A Wine for a Birthday Party

It’s been a week since my son turned 3; his birthday was April 20. And I’m just getting around to writing about it! He’s my little man with a big personality. Over the weekend, we had a “Stinky and Dirty” birthday party for him with nearly 20 people. The weather was gorgeous and we were able to barbecue on our new deck, which was terrific!

In fact, although the menu was simple – grilled cheeseburgers, hot dogs (Hoffman’s, of course!), potato salad, pasta salad and fruit salad – our guests were thrilled. It was the first summer-like meal of the season so it tasted particularly yummy!

Just before noon, I opened a bottle of Rioja rose wine. In all the party madness, I forgot to take a photo of it to remember what I drank! It was an easy-drinking wine that went well with the food. In fact, it reminded me of White Zinfandel, if I’m being honest, which is a solid summertime wine. There’s something about a blush wine that says party to me (well, that and Champagne, but we didn’t have any of that!).

As for Christopher, he and his cousins enjoyed Capri Sun in the sun. He had an unbelievable haul of presents, too, from a ride-on train to his very own car, and lots of hot wheels and toys in between. A good time was had by all!