Wine for Friday the 13th

There are a few each year – months that include a Friday the 13th. I’m not that superstitious when it comes to the number 13. I think it’s because back in high school, I was ranked 13th in my graduating class and I experienced a lot of success from that, including getting into SUNY Geneseo. What’s more, I’ve never exactly had a “bad” day on Friday the 13th so it doesn’t scare me as much as it frightens some! So, today is Friday the 13th and it made me think about the kinds of “scary” wines you might try to celebrate.

  1. The wine that you don’t think you’ll like. Last night, I had a 2011 Tobia Seleccion Rioja that my husband purchased. We were both wary of me trying it because it includes the dreaded Garnacha grape, which I typically don’t enjoy at all. But, as a red blend, there was only five percent of Garnacha so I figured I’d give it a shot. Not gonna lie, I tasted it a little bit. The bitterness and sort of peppery mouthfeel was real. But, I didn’t hate it! I enjoyed a glass before bed and it wasn’t as “scary” as I thought. Try something you don’t think you’ll like; you might surprise yourself!
  2. The questionable wine. We’ve all done it. That one bottle that just sits there but probably shouldn’t. Or the wine that arrives after spending way too much time on the UPS truck. Or the wine that was stored improperly. It’s always a crapshoot when you open any bottle of wine, really, but when you know the path it took to your glass was tainted, it’s even more “scary.” Open that bottle. Take a sip. You just never know! And, it beats dumping a perfectly good bottle of wine.
  3. The wine you got wasted on last time. Those of us who have ever had too much to drink probably can name the exact beverage that did them in. And many of us can not only name it but will add that they can’t smell it or drink it without remembering that fateful night. But, these drinks come back to haunt us when we least expect it. Instead of turning up your nose, take a deep breath and sip. Nothing better than a nip of the hair of the dog that bit you!

Wine is never “scary” if you embrace the qualities that make it the mysterious liquid that it is. This Friday the 13th, step out of your comfort zone. Cheers!

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!

 

 

Wine for Leadership

Leadership development has always been a cornerstone of my career. From my earliest days as a leader in the television newsroom, serving as a producer, to my position at Lockheed Martin as the inaugural program manager for the Communications Leadership Development Program, to participation in Leadership Greater Syracuse and other similar programs, I continue to hone my skills in this area to grow as an employee and a person.

This year, I’m fortunate to be a part of the first-ever Syracuse University Advanced Leadership Development Program. The course meets monthly, focusing on all aspects of leadership. Part of the learning so far has been introspective; we’ve taken an Emotional Intelligence assessment, as well as the Strengths Finder assessment from Gallup. What’s more, we selected supervisors, peers and colleagues to complete 360 assessments of ourselves, all in an effort to learn what makes us tick, what we do well and where we could improve.

It’s interesting to take a long hard look at yourself in this way. After completing the Strengths Finder, I learned that my top strengths are: Achiever, Consistency, Discipline, Activator and Responsibility, which are all aligned with an “Executing” type of leader. None of this surprises me. I’m the one who gets things done. I’m extremely disciplined both at work and at home. My life is governed by routines and plans and I can always be counted on to “get ‘er done.” While this all might sound terrific to most, it has at times been a challenge for me. For example, I often find it difficult to say “no.” Plus, it’s easy for people to assign me projects and tasks because they know I’ll get it done so I’ve often found myself in a “burnout” situation due to the volume of activities in which I end up involved.

But while there are drawbacks, I am still proud of the kind of leader I’ve been. I like that I have discipline and am an active participant in my professional and personal life. This has helped me complete a graduate degree online, while continuing to work full-time. It also has allowed me to stick with a regular fitness routine, complete with a virtual trainer and significant improvement in my overall health. My focus and determination to get things done is an asset!

So, as I viewed this morning’s sunset on my way out of the gym (see featured image with this post), I thought about who I am and who I aspire to be in the future. I think during this leadership course, I want to broaden my world view so I’m not so insulated and focused in my thinking. I want to think about things more and take more time instead of just going, going, going to get things done.

What kind of wine goes with leadership development? Well, a “game changer,” of course. Leaders challenge us to extend our view, see what’s possible and experience success. The 2013 Magnus Nox Merlot I enjoyed last night is a perfect example of these characteristics.

Magnus-noxIts description at First Leaf Club says, “Dark and smooth, the Magnus Nox 2013 Merlot is part of an epic vintage with high praise from some of the most revered critics in wine. Wine Spectator Magazine called 2013 California wines “golden” for the Golden Coast, and critic Robert Parker said that 2013 was “a game changer,” and the Magnus Nox doesn’t disappoint. Light sage and plum accents play off of the oak flavors in this well-balanced, silky Merlot. Our experts have been trying it with anything they can think of, so far it’s been best with flatiron steak and roast chicken, but we think it may very well go with everything.”

The words I’ve highlighted can also be applied to great leaders. Who wouldn’t want to be revered, praised and epic? And the best leaders I’ve encountered can lead everyone and are balanced in their skills and views. I’d say this wine is a great way to describe leadership. Plus, it was extremely tasty, as well!

For more information about some of the leadership concepts I’ve mentioned in this post, please see the below resources:

Emotional Intelligence

StrengthsFinder 2.0

 

Wine for Water?

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a long time. You see, every time I drink a glass of wine, I think how much I’m enjoying it and how I really should be drinking water, too. Then, that leads me to think about how I don’t drink nearly enough water in a day, which leads me to feeling like a complete health failure. But, honestly, why the heck is it so easy to drink anything else but water? For me at least, water is just not something I enjoy drinking. I’ve tried everything to change that.

First, I did the whole fill two, one-liter bottles with water and drink them all day until they’re gone. Then, I tried this water bottle with an alarm that sounds if you haven’t sipped in an hour. It also tracked your consumption, and if you drank eight cups, it would play a little tune. That’s now sitting in our cupboard, dinging every hour or so (can’t figure out how to turn it off!). I have tried putting something in the water, such as Crystal Light or cucumbers or lemon. I tried downloading an app that reminds you to drink and tracks your consumption. I even tried purchasing pretty water bottles to encourage their use. Nothing. Has. Worked.

Meantime, a couple of good wines I’ve had recently, include a 2013 Hawthorne Grove Merlot from California, which was oaky and cherry/plum-like all at once, as well as a 2013 La Celia Elite Malbec from the Mendoza wine region in Argentina. Finally, last evening, we had a French white, 2016 Le Douleur Exquise Bergerac Blanc, with a delicious, simple dinner of tangy citrus chicken, sautéed kale greens and steamed broccoli with cheddar cheese sauce. We enjoyed my homemade applesauce for dessert, made with the Macintosh apples we’d picked earlier that day. Yum!

So, tomorrow, I’ll start again with the water goals. Too bad I’m not Jesus Christ, who was able to turn water into wine. Because then I would be home free, drinking enough water without the guilt. But, seriously folks, help me out. What can I do to encourage more water consumption? My good health depends on it!

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 Too Many Corks

For as long as I’ve been enjoying wine, I’ve been saving the corks. At first, it was fun just to collect them in a giant glass bowl. Then, I received a few decorative gifts that required corks – two plaques to hang on the wall. One Christmas, Santa even brought us a giant “H” into which we could stuff corks.

It’s been a long year or so and we’re back to being inundated with corks. I thought I might do a little digging online to see what we might do with all of them. What I found was equal parts entertaining, useful and downright crazy! Here’s a sampling:

  1. BuzzFeed lists 37 creative ideas from barrettes to coasters to keychains to even useful household hacks. Some of these may have promise!
  2. Prakticideas has a DIY birdhouse that I’d really like to try sometime. Super cute!
  3. Those who have a bar area or game room might really love this cool idea from WonderHowTo.com for a dartboard backsplash.
  4. My husband promises to make a couple of these pumpkins to add to our fall decor this year. MyGourmetConnection has a step-by-step look at how to create these gourds.
  5. For the truly adventurous, here’s a DIY on Etsy.com for a wine cork tank top. You have to be all in to create and wear this number! Not sure I’m game but, hey, maybe someday!

I’m only scratching the surface with the endless ideas for recycling wine corks. For now, I think I’ll just keep adding to my collection. While I enjoy a 2015 Snickerdoodle Chardonnay from Heartwood and Oak, those crafts and hacks can wait! Cheers!

 

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Courtesy: Women Over 50 Facebook page

Wine for the Perfect Pizza

Full disclaimer: My loving husband suggested this blog post topic as a tribute to his excellent grilled pizza he made the other night!

Pizza and wine are like peanut butter and jelly. They just go together. In fact, I first started enjoying wine in college while scarfing down slice after slice of Mama Mia’s pizza in Geneseo, New York. Still today, I really don’t enjoy pizza without a glass of red. And what’s great about pizza wine is that you can go sweet or semi-sweet or even dry and seldom can you go wrong.

The other night, my husband grilled a pizza for us. It’s been a while since he did it, actually. I was reminded of one of the first meals he made for us when we first started dating. He made a grilled pizza with pesto sauce and all kinds of goodies on top. Yum! But, then, he started to get a bit sour on the whole grilled pizza thing. Sometimes the dough would stick to the grill, or it would burn before the toppings were set. One thing after another and lots of cursing… you get the idea. So, it had been a while.

This time, he used dough from Nichols, a local supermarket, which sources dough from DiLauros Bakery on Syracuse’s North side. It turned out to be the perfect density for a grilled pizza. He added some yummy pizza sauce, pepperoni, peppers and onions and it made for a crispy, Italian style pizza that we all enjoyed.

We had a 2016 Monarch Glen Merlot with our pizza, but I have to confess I ate the last leftover piece just now with a Swedish Hill Viking Red and it was heavenly. I added a salted dark piece of chocolate and it was the finishing touch to what was a long first day back at work and school after being away for a week.

The next time you have pizza, whether it’s homemade or takeout, remember the red wine! And if you need a few more ideas, easy-to-find selections that pair well with pizza are Lucas Vineyards Tugboat Red and Red Truck wine. I typically find them in most local liquor stores. Cheers!

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.

 

 

 

wine

Wine for Speechless Moments

I’ve experienced a lot of speechless moments lately. Anyone who knows me well knows that’s highly unusual for me. But, I have nonetheless. Sometimes, it’s when you just can’t help but shake your head at something that happens at work. Other times it’s an emotional bombshell that drops you to your knees and renders you unable to articulate it in words.

Speechless moments, though few and far between, tend to make us stop and think. And when we stop and think, we realize the world around us is amazing, weird, scary, upsetting, funny and variable.

Pausing to think about the times when I have had no words recently, I realized tasting wine can be that way, too. Sometimes we take a sip and a ton of emotions form. Other times, it’s meh.

I don’t have any particular wine to share with these deep thoughts other than to acknowledge that speechless moments are part of life. Enjoy them. And the wine.