maria, lucia and christopher in the swimming pool

Wine for Hot Summer Days

It’s been a hot last few days in Central New York, much hotter than we are used to. The thermometer rarely goes above 90 during a normal summer but so far, we’ve hit and/or surpassed it a few times and it’s only July 3! Typically when it’s this hot, I avoid drinking too much alcohol due to dehydration and just because it makes me feel like garbage when it’s so hot. But, this past weekend, I had some fun loading up the coolers for a graduation party to celebrate my husband’s graduate degree.

The first stop was Harbor View Wines and Liquors where I purchased a case of 12 bottles at a 20 percent discount. I chose wines from all over the world, including Germany, New Zealand, Portugal, Argentina and Italy. In addition, my picks included a couple from the Finger Lakes Region of New York State, as well as Washington and California. I tried to vary the types of wines, choosing six reds and six whites, as well as different grapes. I figured it would be fun to have a hodgepodge available to guests or for us after the party ends!

I did the same thing with the beer selection. I chose a Mexican sampler, Saranac Summer Series, Blue Moon, Labatt Blue Light and some White Claw sparklers. Of course, there was plenty of water and sparkling water for guests, too. The most popular beers were the Mexican ones, followed closely by Saranac and Labatt Blue Light. We had one Saranac left and a few Blue Moons. As for wine? I enjoyed Goose Watch Vineyard’s Diamond white, which is made with the Diamond white grape, one of the originals grown in Upstate New York.

I think it’s fun to try a whole bunch of different types of wines and beers. There are so many in this world and I probably will never try them all. That’s why, when I have an opportunity to purchase a lot, I take it; your guests will have their choice and you’ll hopefully have something for everyone’s taste.

Summer Wine Choices

Overall in the summer, I enjoy white and rose wine over a red, simply because they are more refreshing to me. I typically have them at a slightly cooler temperature than I would a red so that may be one reason why. I don’t like an overly sweet wine. You’ll see me drinking a Sauvignon Blanc or a Cayuga White. Riesling is a popular choice, as well, especially with company, and White Merlot is a great standby, particularly with barbecue. Below are some of the ones I chose for our outdoor party.

Diamond
Goose Watch Winery
Finger Lakes, New York

Riesling
Clean Slate
Mosel, Germany

Sauvignon Blanc
The Crossings
New Zealand

White Merlot
Beringer
Napa Valley, California

Chardonnay
Bread and Butter Wines
California

I’ll add to this list, as I try more delicious summer wines. Please share your favorites below!

 

newspapers stacked on a table

Wine for Changing Times

Over the past 24 hours there have been two things that have made me pause to think about how much has changed with the world in my lifetime. Things that never changed for my grandparents for decades have changed within years for me.

For example, yesterday Sears announced it would close 72 stores, including one that anchored a suburban shopping mall near where I live. As the director of media relations for Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management, of course I facilitated interviews for local media with one of our professors who is expert in the field of supply chain and retail. As he explained Sears’ demise, he harkened back to the way it used to be. Sears was “the Amazon of its time,” he said in one interview. Wow. The Amazon of its time? But, yeah, think about it.

People ordered EVERYTHING from their Sears catalogs starting in the 1800s. Houses, cars, tools, farm supplies, clothing, you name it. Kind of like how we interact with the Amazon giant today. But, even when I was a kid, I remember Sears being the place my parents bought so many things from appliances to clothing to tools. We were in there all the time. We even used to have our cars repaired there or tires put on. So many things from just that one store.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I have a refrigerator and stove from Sears and possibly our washer/dryer, too, although they were a housewarming gift. What’s more? I actually visited a Sears store a few weeks ago to purchase a First Communion dress for my daughter. In fact, I am a big fan of Sears for children’s dress clothes. It’s the only place I’ve ever been able to find a suit that fits Christopher well and looks appropriate for Easter Mass.

This morning, on the way home from the gym, Big D and Bubba, a country radio show, based in Nashville, Tennessee, discussed another thing of the past – paper boys. One of the DJ’s explained that his teenaged son was up early and saw a car driving very slowly, then stopping, then driving then stopping. He was concerned and asked what the car could possibly be doing. His father, said, “Delivering the newspaper.” The son had NO idea that was a “thing.”

It was a “thing.” I remember receiving two newspapers a day – one in the morning, the Post-Standard, and one in the evening, the Herald-Journal. The Herald-American came on Sundays. We got them all at my house and I read them religiously. It’s where we got all our news. There was no internet (yes, I was alive when there was no internet).

What’s more, there was a newspaper delivery person, usually a boy but it could also be a girl, who delivered the newspapers to special plastic boxes hanging under mailboxes, because you couldn’t put the newspaper in the mailbox. It used to be the job of one of the kids in my house to go “get the paper.” The delivery person, who we called the “paper boy,” since it was always a boy in my experience, also came weekly to collect payment for the papers. He’d ring the doorbell and say “Collecting!” It was a huge treat as a kid to be able to give him the money and get the tiny stamp-like receipt in return.

Nowadays the paper still comes, but only a few times a week, plus Sundays. And you pay online, not in person at your front door. In my lifetime, I’m watching print newspapers all but disappear. But in my grandparent’s lifetime, all they knew was newspapers. Imagine that pace of change exponentially accelerating as the years go by.

Anyway, it made me nostalgic for the way things used to be. I mean, there was an extra side job for a kid, delivering papers, that doesn’t exist anymore. They even got tipped when they came to collect! The responsibility that bred in young people was so valuable to them. Nowadays, I find it difficult to find a teenaged babysitter who is willing to and responsible enough for the job. What we had as responsibilities as teens in the 1980s is so different from what the teens have now.

It’s fascinating to see change happen before your eyes and valuable to look back and think about the past. Wine is a great way to sit back and ruminate on days gone by. I think a good choice is what we enjoyed on Memorial Day, Clean Slate Riesling. It’s an old standby and a traditional Riesling, but it allows you to start again or think anew. Best of both worlds.

What do you remember from your past? Comment below and cheers!

the Peanut Butter Club gathered in the Matthew 25 farm tractor

Wine for a Good Cause

Last week was a gorgeous week weather-wise in Central New York. One weeknight, our family traveled south of the city of Syracuse to a very special farm in Lafayette, New York, called Matthew 25. Founded 10 years ago, the farm is completely run on donations of time, talent and treasure. The farm grows crops and gives them away to the poor.

We joined the Peanut Butter Club from St. Mary’s Church in Baldwinsville, New York to work for an hour on the farm. After enjoying some pizza and meeting everyone else, the kids got right to work hoeing and planting carrots, four long rows worth! The children’s ages ranged from 2 or 3 to 11 and they needed a bit of guidance. That’s where the parents came in. But, they managed to get all the seeds in the ground with time to spare.

I’m super glad we took the kids. They definitely learned a valuable lesson about helping others in need. In fact, when asked what she did last week, Lucia, who is 8, said, “We planted carrots for poor people.” Message received!

When we arrived home, after getting the kids in bed, we enjoyed a Pinot Noir I found at the corner liquor store. Cline was excellent! Cline Cellars are located in Sonoma County, California, a hotbed for excellent Pinot Noir. I even bought another bottle a few days later – it was that yummy!

Matthew 25 is always taking donations. You can sponsor a crop, volunteer to tend the crops or even harvest them, which we plan to do come August. There’s nothing better than to model the behavior you want to see in your children while helping those in need. We felt good about what we did and enjoyed a rare evening together as a family with no electronics. If you live in the CNY area, I highly recommend looking into Matthew 25 and seeing how you might be able to help its mission. Cheers!

farmer Rick shows the kids how to plant carrotsLucia and Christopher help another girl cover the carrot seedsMaria and Christopher plant carrot seeds

 

cross stitch

Wine for Celebration

We celebrated over the weekend, just a tiny bit. What did we celebrate? Well, for starters, there was a royal wedding! Well, maybe we didn’t quite celebrate that but we did watch; hard not to get absorbed in all the pageantry of the event. Even Christopher enjoyed the soldiers and white horses! No, we celebrated the fact that we’re finally making some progress on things around the house and the busiest of days are behind us.

remnants of a tree branch felled in the backyardOn Friday, a tree company came to take down a large tree branch that had been precariously hanging since last fall’s terrible storm brought down a section of it. It took four experts mere minutes to take care of something we never could have done ourselves but to save money, a huge mess was left behind. I arrived home to see everyone in the back yard picking up leaves and branches. I decided right then and there that we should have sparkling wine!

I bought a Ruffino prosecco from the corner liquor store, nothing fancy. But while there I spotted two more wines that looked interesting. So, I picked up a Pinot Noir from Liberty School wines on the Central Coast of California, and a rose of Malbec, too. After drinking the rose with dinner, we didn’t actually pop the cork on the Ruffino. We saved that until Saturday night and pretended to toast the royal couple instead!

Although a tree branch down is not a huge cause for most people to celebrate, I also felt like celebrating because most of the major events of spring are over, meaning I have time to reorganize, reenergize and clean out! I spent hours Sunday cleaning out my craft room. In hindsight I should have taken a “before” picture because it was pretty bad! The “after” picture is a thing of beauty, if I do say so myself!

I love making things look neat and love purging even more. Sometimes I think I hoard just so I can have the pleasure of getting rid of stuff later. Actually, I’m not too much of a hoarder because the things that get saved are useful. My issue is that I forget I have said things and end up buying more! But, between what I have and what I recently inherited in the way of craft supplies, it all needed to be organized and straightened up.

I am of the believe that you don’t need as much space as you think you need because if you have the space you will fill it. I think being a little bit squeezed is a good thing because it forces you to be strategic about what you acquire and keep. I didn’t think I had the space for all the new stuff but when it came right down to it, I had plenty of room.

Sunday night, we capped off the weekend with Hawkes Cabernet Sauvignon, a glorious, full-bodied red that has a dry, but not too dry finish. Ready to hit the next spring cleaning project next weekend! Cheers!

maria, lucia and christopher smiling and eating ice cream

Wine for “Almost” Spring/Summer

I’m on a roll now! The weather turned gorgeous this week. I’m feeling a bit more like myself. In this post, a short one for #WineWednesday, I wanted to share my top 5 spring/summer wine choices. Cheers!

  1. Sauvignon Blanc – I enjoy those from New Zealand, although I have enjoyed a few from other regions, as well.
  2. Chablis – I seldom write about this one because it’s rare that I find a good bottle but when I do, wow! I forget how much I love it. My favorite pairing for Chablis is sushi.
  3. White merlot – This one is often overlooked but very enjoyable particularly if you have guests who are not used to drinking wine. It’s essentially a blush, which has wider appeal.
  4. Riesling – Of all the whites, this one is my favorite. I love the German Rieslings and those inspired by that region, particularly the Mosel/Saar River area. Try Hermann J. Weimer from the Finger Lakes region in New York state..
  5. Red blend – Red blends tend to be easy-drinking and often fruit forward, making them ideal for nights by the campfire. You can find inexpensive ones at most local liquor stores, including Lucas Vineyards Tugboat Red and Red Truck wine. Any red blend will do!
  6. BONUS: Champagne/Prosecco – Who doesn’t love a good bottle of bubbly? It makes any ordinary day/evening a real treat!

What are some of your favorite summer wines? Comment below! I love new ideas!

person pulling a friend up a hill as the sun sets

Wine for Motivation

It’s been a while since I posted. Seems that happens every spring. This spring, though, is different because it’s been a rough one weather-wise and in terms of all the activities. It’s been snowing in Syracuse since last October. Yesterday some of us woke up to a few inches on the ground! Today, May 1, the weather is supposed to be sunny and mid-70s. Let’s hope we’ve turned the corner.

Because, honestly, I think not having the nice spring weather has hurt my mojo. I never realized how much I counted on spring fever to propel me through the end of the school year. Believe me, I could have used that extra spring in my step this year. Between performances and birthdays, we have First Communion and graduation, two things that don’t happen annually. Plus, work got nuts with a crisis university-wide, in addition to all the normal end-of-the-academic year craziness. Somehow, I’ve managed not to go crazy myself!

This morning, as I grabbed my usual coffee at Starbucks I reflected with a friend on how unmotivated I am. I have so many things to do and work on, some exciting projects and even things at home, such as spring cleaning. None of it is really being done. Not that I’m not working at all but it’s just not my normal pace. I need something to jump-start my energy levels and get me motivated!

My gym time is still going strong; I started a new fitness challenge this week, with a personal goal to really focus on progressive overload. That’s the idea that you lift heavier each time you do the workout, making more impressive muscle gains. I had gotten lazier about that so it’s time to redouble my efforts.

I’m still enjoying my wine but even that isn’t exactly a motivator. For example, the other night we had Walking Dead wine! I mean, Walking Dead? That doesn’t scream high energy! It wasn’t bad but a little on the fruit-forward side so it was a better sipping wine than anything else. Apparently there is a whole line of them; we had the red blend.

This weekend is a birthday party and my daughter’s First Communion; next weekend is Jon’s graduation from his master’s program and the remaining May events include science fair and open house, as well as a few other activities for the kids. The pace isn’t slowing any time soon. Hopefully my spring fever will kick in.

What motivates you when you’re in a slump? Share below! I need all the help I can get! Cheers!

workout-wear

Wine for Workout Friends

As I have mentioned, I belong to a private Facebook group of women who are all on the same workout journey. Train with Lyzabeth’s program comes with exclusive access to this group. At first, I didn’t think I’d participate in it at all. Boy, was I wrong! I think the primary reason I’m still active on Facebook today is my involvement and interaction with this terrific group of women.

First of all, they come from all. over. the. world. Seriously! And, they all have different jobs, backgrounds and lives! Some are going to school, while working and raising families. Some are entrepreneurs, such as one of the group’s superstars, Alicia Mayi, who owns Ali of all Trades.

She recently created a bunch of tanks and tee shirts for the girls in the TWL group to wear at the gym. We’re all from the same tribe even though we’re from all over the world! I purchased a few tanks, as well as a fun t-shirt for my husband. Alicia added a fun surprise to my shipment, as well; a decal of a wine glass that says Wine for All Times!

This is a great example of her thoughtfulness and is illustrative of all the girls in the TWL community. They are supportive, understanding, caring individuals. I’m so glad to have virtually connected with them and look forward to perhaps meeting them someday soon!

When we do, we definitely have to have sparkling wine. I mean, what’s a girl party without bubbly! We could toast our commitment to our own health and whatever else our hearts desire. Some of my favorite sparkling wines are Italian Proseccos and I love a good Cava from Spain, as well.

In fact, writing this reminds me that I want to try some more sparkling wines in the future. I recently read a blog post about Austrian sparkling wine. Hmmm. Maybe my next review? Cheers!

cartesian wine bottle with a glass of red wine in it

Wine for A Wrinkle in Time (Review)

Blogger’s note: If you have not seen the movie, you may wish to skip this post. 

Opening weekend, I took my daughters to see A Wrinkle in Time, along with my dad. We had been waiting forever to see this movie. A few days before it came out, the reviews started to roll out… and they were not good. I almost elected not to go; they were that bad. But, in the end, we used a gift card to justify our trip; after all, we weren’t paying full price!

Now, I read and adored the book when I was a little girl. My daughters also have read the book, most recently, Lucia. So, we knew the story and we were looking forward to seeing it come alive on the big screen. But, alas, the streak continues – books are nearly always better than movies in my world.

First of all, there was a continuity problem, as well as a pacing issue. I just felt that things happened too quickly in the movie. It went from one thing to the other to the other so rapidly, that things were left undeveloped and, for me, it was hard to get my head out of one situation and on to the next. This is an issue regardless of whether you are familiar with the book. As for continuity, of course things were eliminated from the screenplay, as is normally the case with a movie adaptation. However, the writers left certain lines in that just didn’t make sense. In an early scene, for example, Charles Wallace is accused of heating way too much milk on the stove to which he responds, “You never know who might be visiting.” But, then, the visitor doesn’t materialize until later! (In the book, there IS an additional visitor in that scene.) So, that’s just one of many missteps.

Also, a key portion of the climax is completely eliminated from the movie, which to me just ruined the entire thing. That scene needs to happen in order to resolve the story and they left it out. Even my 8-year-old wondered why we were not able to see that part. What’s more, the ending, which wasn’t exactly the way it went in the book was secular, and the movie omitted the Christian references. That was the part of the story that spoke to me the most and to have it eliminated was disappointing.

Characters were missing, which may prove to be challenging in the future, should they decide to make the sequel into a movie, as well.

What did they do right? They released in on daylight saving time weekend, making a unique marketing message to get people to the theaters. They also, played out the “girl power” theme, with a strong message to young girls everywhere to embrace who they are and don’t be afraid, etc. There was also commentary on bullying, which was a good anti-message. I also loved the science themes; the main character was good at science and loved it, which is a great message for young girls to hear. The scenery and costumes/makeup were beautiful. My 11-year-old daughter exclaimed as we left the theater, “There was a lot of glitter in that movie!”

Would I recommend this movie? Maybe. If you have young, impressionable girls in your life, it’s a great message. If you haven’t read the book, you may enjoy it for what it is. If you have read the book, I urge caution and perhaps an open mind to avoid disappointment.

As far as wine, while we didn’t see the movie at Movie Tavern where I could have ordered a glass, I did think about wine and time. Wine gets better with age, as you know. And, perhaps the same could be said for movies. Some movies, as my husband pointed out, were complete duds when first released but later became smash hits. Even “It’s A Wonderful Life,” got a lukewarm reception way back when but now is considered one of the best.

Often, wine improves with each sip, as well, which was the case with the one we drank this past week. First Leaf Wine’s Cartesian Cabernet Sauvignon from the Central Coast of California at first was almost bitter to me and I wasn’t sure about the overall taste. But, as I sipped it, it got better. Time was on its side, you might say. Maybe time will be on A Wrinkle in Time’s side, as well. Time will tell.

ceasar's casino statues

Wine for a Honeymoon Memory

Five years ago this month, my husband and I went on our honeymoon. We decided to visit Las Vegas, Nevada since neither of us had been before. Of course, being the type A, crazy woman I am about, well, everything, I had to research all the best places to eat…and drink. I stumbled on a wine bar at Caesar’s Rio Casino, which had rave reviews on Yelp! Its website describes the highlights:

  • One of the country’s most impressive wine collections
  • Renowned wines from around the world
  • Choose from more than 100 wines by the glass
  • Relaxing atmosphere, complete with a bar and a lounge
  • Exquisite wine and cheese pairing

As you can see, it was worth a visit. We took a cross-town bus from Caesar’s to Rio, and from there navigated down to the cellar. It didn’t disappoint. It was so cool to see all the vintage wines on display like a museum of viticulture! Plus, we arrived pretty early in the evening, really more like late afternoon, so we were the only ones there. The bartender was attentive and helpful.

We selected a wine and cheese flight and got right down to business! Delicious wines that we would ordinarily never get to try. So worth the money to sit and enjoy them with the perfect pairings of cheese.

We really wanted to try Opus One, since it’s on my bucket list. I can’t even recall if they had it by the glass but what they did have was a wine called Altvs, a Napa Valley red, which the bartender said was in the same league as Opus One. Now, I still haven’t tried Opus so I can’t make a comparison but I can say that the Altvs was excellent!

We purchased a bottle and got it all the way home, saving it for our first date anniversary six months later. In fact last year, my husband procured two more bottles through a local wine seller here in Syracuse, New York. Each vintage had a bit of a different taste but still so yummy.

Altvs is a big Tuscan red wine, requiring at least an hour of decanting to let it breathe. You really have to plan to enjoy it. It goes well with anything Italian or just by itself or with a piece of chocolate.

It will forever be our “honeymoon wine.”

green-kettlebells

Wine for Sharing My Workout Journey – Part 1

A few years ago I became very interested in fitness again. I say again because back in college was when I first got the lifting bug. I would go to the SUNY Geneseo gym with my friend who taught me a ton of exercises. I figured some out on my own, as well, from watching others and I logged countless miles on the Stairmaster, which in the 1990s was all the rage.

When I first graduated from college, I continued to go to the gym but I mostly did the machines and not too many free weights at all. I’m not even sure what routine, if any, I followed because I honestly don’t remember back that far! But, I recall at least going every day after work.

As the years went by I continued to go every day and a couple years before Maria was born I met and worked with my first personal trainer. His name was Tony and he owned a tiny gym associated with a physical therapy place in Liverpool. Tony was a former trainer for the New York Yankees and he was awesome. He would just wander around the small gym offering tips and tricks and his ab workouts were amazing. When he sold his gym I continued to go, paying for my very first personal training sessions. That’s when it began – my love affair with weightlifting.

I had kids, went through lots of personal stuff and got out of my routine but when Christopher turned two or thereabouts, the new Y opened near our house and I went back. I quickly remembered all of what I loved about weightlifting but there was one thing missing – I needed a roadmap – a journey, and a goal – a destination. I loved going but didn’t know what to do with myself once there. Plus, I really wanted to look better. I was tired of looking so skinny all the time. I wanted a few curves!

I began to voraciously read everything I could online about lifting for women. I knew what my goals were and I Googled relentlessly trying to find the magic formula. I searched Pinterest looking for workouts and recipes and I started following everyone I could find on social media for inspiration. The first lifting workout I landed on was pinned by Jersey Girl Talk, a 30-something professional woman in New Jersey who blogs about fitness, health and beauty. She shared a bit about her own journey and as I read her experience it was like looking in a mirror. I, too, was sick of being skinny. I, too, wanted to look and feel better. So, I tried the workout she shared from Simply Shredded. For the first time ever, I was growing muscles! I was so proud of myself and that summer I regained my confidence and wore short shorts again for the first time in years.

Jersey Girl Talk ended up becoming my primary motivator and educator for the months that followed. She would post workout videos, recipes and supplement regimens, all of which I tried. She would post about sales on workout gear and I found a few stores I never knew sold activewear, such as Forever 21, and I bought new clothes that made me feel feminine and strong.

Everything was giving me confidence and I was thrilled. I even read a few books on lifting for women, including “The New Rules  of Lifting for Women,” which was a bible of all the exercises and things to know. Honestly, lifting as a female is really no different than it is for a male. We all have our goals and the path to get there is a similar road. Everything was going great that first year until…I hit a plateau. I was bored. I wasn’t gaining. I wasn’t even feeling that great. So, back to the drawing board I went and lo and behold, one day I stumbled onto a website that has changed my life, literally.

I searched for “workout plans for hard gainers” one day, after learning that was what the fitness world called people like me who have trouble gaining muscle and weight. One thing led to another and I found Lyzabeth Lopez, a personal trainer with dozens of health and fitness certifications, based in Toronto, Canada. She had an online program that was perfect. After locating a coupon I purchased it for $50. It’s a one-time purchase that has paid great dividends so far – I now have a formula for success, her Muscle Gain program, which is a combination of a workout and meal plan. What’s more, I’ve found my “people,” and I’ve found something that works that I have not gotten bored with – I feel better than I have in years.

In my next few posts, I’ll explain all that I’ve learned from Lyzabeth, including how to set your goals, how to figure out how many calories are right for you to eat each day and what percentage of protein, carbs and fat you should have. I’ll explain how I arrived at my vitamin and supplement regimen, and what I’m striving for in terms of meals. Finally, I’ll explain how I became addicted to my 5:30 a.m. gym time, what I do and how I do it.  I don’t simply preach what Lyzabeth says, but I’ve made it my own. I don’t even follow every single one of her rules, some because I can’t and others because it won’t work for me personally. I’ll explain how I figured all of that out.

Why do these posts now? In the past week, two women in my life, both on different health and fitness journeys, have marveled at how much I know about health and fitness and bodybuilding for women. One said I really should consider sharing it more widely for others. So, here I am.

One rule of Lyzabeth’s that I break? I enjoy wine. She doesn’t condone it much at all, except maybe for special occasions. And, while I’m on a bit of a break from wine during Lent, my husband and I are treating Sundays as the feast days they are, and have chosen to enjoy wine on Sundays. Today, I’ll make my famous eggplant parmesan and we’ll enjoy a yummy Barolo he picked up. Because I believe we all have to have the things we enjoy in life. I believe we can, and can still meet our health and fitness goals. It just might take us a bit longer! Cheers!