snow-syracuse-university

A Wine for Snowy Days

It’s December in Central New York so it’s to be expected that there will be snow. The kids had their first snow day this past week after about 14 inches fell over a day and a half or so. With the first real snow came the first real bad commute! In fact, for the first time I can remember, I actually left for the gym at my usual 5:15 a.m. time, drove to the end of the street and onto the main road, only to turn around and go back home! The road wasn’t plowed, it was snowing like crazy and the wind made it very difficult to see.

That’s totally not like me. Normally, when I’m up and out, I’m up and out. But, the roads really were not cooperating. So, I parked the car back in the garage, sneaked back into the house and climbed back into bed, still completely dressed in workout gear!

It was nice to get the extra time cozy in bed, but the fact that I missed the gym threw me off the entire day! I didn’t have the same energy or appetite and I missed being there. This is why it’s so important to make something a habit or routine, if you really want to commit to it. Because someday, if you do it right, it will become automatic and you won’t be able to imagine life without it! That’s how I feel about my gym time.

Last evening, I had a few errands to run, which is a bit unusual since I like to stay home once I get home from work. When I settled onto the couch for the night, my husband poured Spice Block Cabernet Sauvignon. He wasn’t sure about it because it was a bitter fruit taste but it didn’t bother me too much, particularly once I added the green olives and pretzels to the mix!

I’m looking forward to my next shipment from First Leaf tomorrow so I can start trying some new mid-range wines again. We’ll need them for the final week before Christmas when we hustle to get the rest of the shopping and baking done. Hopefully, the snowy days will be just enough for a white Christmas, but not so much that it keeps us from our routines. Cheers!

 

 

 

alarm-clock

Wine for Middle-of-the-Night Wake-Up Calls

Last night was a bit sleepless, at least in the middle of the night. Right around 1:15 a.m. our daughters woke us up. At first, I thought they were in my dream, “Mommy? Mommy?” Then, they moved on to “The fire alarm is going off!” Wait, what? We were both up in a hurry! I quickly asked if it was malfunctioning since I didn’t hear it going off. They said they thought so; it would not stop beeping. Why, oh why do those things always malfunction in the wee hours of the morning? #FirstWorldProblems

Anyway, my husband went upstairs took the battery out and came back down. He got back into bed just as I was thinking aloud that I never did change the battery in that one OR the one in our son’s room. Just the main level one. Uh oh. My husband predicted our son would probably be in our room in 10 minutes. Luckily, he wasn’t. But…

Twenty minutes later, just after I fell back asleep, we heard our son on the monitor. He sounded like he was choking! Again, my husband was out of bed in a flash to go check on him. Turns out he was “choking on his cough,” or so he told his father. My husband tucked him back into bed and came back to bed. “We should just stay up tonight,” he proclaimed at that point, to which I responded, “It feels like we have a newborn again. Just as you fall asleep…nope! Wake up!” Needless to say 5 a.m. was a harsh reality this morning and it hurt to wake up!

It’s Tuesday, a full day before the usual #WineWednesday festivities. But, it’s #WineWednesday eve and I think it’s Wednesday in some part of the world by the time we settle onto the couch later this evening in front of TV. So, wine it is. I’m not sure what we’ll have but it needs to be good. I’m thinking the Sauvignon Blanc that’s in the wine fridge will do the trick. Easy drinking, yummy white.

This up all night stuff is cramping my 5 a.m. fitness style. A nice glass of vino will help me settle in for a long winter’s nap – hopefully, without interruption.

Wine for Daylight Saving Time

It happens twice a year – we change the clocks either forward or backward as part of daylight saving time. Neither is optimal in my opinion. No matter what, everyone is always off for at least a week and it’s rough going. I am a proponent of just changing them by 30 minutes and leaving it. No more changing it twice a year. Just deal with the daylight as it comes. But, that’s just me.

Usually, I’m pretty grouchy about daylight saving time weekend but this year, I am in a much better mood. That’s because I needed that extra hour. Badly. Heading into the weekend, I was woefully behind in everything – my work, my school work, housework, life’s errands – you name it. Try as I might, I just couldn’t get ahead. It was really weighing on me. So, I embraced the extra time this weekend and never looked back.

Friday night, the girls and I went to a colleague’s home for wine, dinner, snacks and good conversation and fun. Oh, and we also did some lesson planning. But all in all, it was fun. Saturday, after normal chores, such as grocery shopping and taking the cat to the vet, we turned the outdoors over from spring/summer to fall/winter. That means, pulling what was left of the garden and flowers, putting toys and things away and cleaning out the garage so I can start parking in it overnight again (frost and snow is NO fun at 5 a.m.).

We also had to rake the backyard and we STILL have leftover tree in our yard from when it fell a few weeks ago. I did the raking and Jon did the wood/tree pickup. All afternoon we worked. I filled about 10 bags of leaves and Jon made a pretty good dent in the tree branch cleanup. We were both tired and sore by the end of the day but we found time to do school work, watch a few episodes of Stranger Things and then I turned in around 10.

Sunday was church, and then the rainy weather made it an inside day. I made beef stew for dinner, as well as squash, sweet potato, carrot, white bean soup for lunches and stuff during the week. Dueling crock pots on the countertop made for a wonderful smell! I finished grading and prepping for class, did laundry and cleaned.

Now, as I sit here writing this post, my boy is in the tub, the girls are chilling and Jon is doing schoolwork. I feel caught up and in a much better place than I was at the start of the weekend. Thank goodness for daylight saving time in 2017!

What kind of wine goes with daylight saving time and fall/winter preparation? I am enjoying The Dark at the moment, a fruit-forward red blend from Cosentino Winery in Napa Valley, California. It’s easy drinking for the relaxing Sunday evening ahead. Plus, the name of the wine is appropriate for daylight saving time – it was dark at 5 p.m.! Maybe my productivity will continue and I’ll actually work on Christopher’s Christmas stocking. That’s fodder for another post. Cheers!

st-vincent-saragossa

Wine for All Saints Day

It’s All Saints Day, a day when Roman Catholics commemorate all the saints who have gone before us. Many people have that one saint or saints they identify with and pray to when they are in need. Even if you don’t have a specific saint, there are a few that are more well-known than others. For example, St. Anthony is the patron saint of lost things, and St. Joseph, besides being the father of Jesus, is known to help people sell their homes. It is said you should bury a statue of him in the front yard, facing a specific way, even! We Catholics have interesting customs!

But, today, we think about all the saints and we attend Mass. It made me think, as I walked to the office from class this morning, who is the patron saint of wine? We know there is a God of wine – Dionysus (Greek) and Bacchus (Roman) – but is there a saint? Turning to Google, we find there is. In fact, there is more than one!

The main one appears to be St. Vincent of Saragossa, the patron saint of winemakers, but I also found others E.C. Kraus’ wine blog. According to New World Winemaker, vineyard workers and winemakers in France, as well as much of Europe, adopted St. Vincent as their patron saint in early medieval times but no one is sure why. After all, St. Vincent was actually Spanish! But his name begins with “Vin,” the French word for wine so some believe this may be the reason.

Blog Your Wine lists several more saints who are somehow aligned with wine, winemaking and vineyards, including St. Morand, who is best known for living off a bunch of grapes during the 40 days of Lent, leading up to Easter!

Catholicism and wine have long been intertwined so it’s no surprise that there would be a patron saint or saints tied to wine but I found it interesting that the origins of the alignments were largely unknown! Be as it may, luckily for us, this year All Saints Day falls on #WineWednesday. There’s no better time for Catholics to raise a glass of vino to their favorite saints. I may just stop on the way home and pick up a bottle of Franciscan Estate wine from California’s Napa Valley, which is always a crowd pleaser for around $20. Plus, it’s a nod to my favorite Sisters of St. Francis here in Central New York, who are ALL saints, in my opinion. Cheers!

Wine for Warm Fall Days

This fall has been absolutely gorgeous in Central New York. It’s been a welcome change from the cool, rainy, non-existent summer we experienced. This past weekend was no different. Both days the sun shone brightly and temperatures were in the mid-70s. I had an incredibly productive weekend, getting all the chores I wanted to get done completed. I had things on my list, such as making Christopher’s spider Halloween costume, going through the kids’ clothes switching out summer gear for cooler weather clothing, and even cleaning out the linen closet and refolding the sheets (remember that chore; I’ll refer to it again in a bit).

We also had time to visit Beaver Lake Nature Center for an hour or so Sunday afternoon. It was a gorgeous hike and the kids enjoyed romping through the woods and skipping along the floating bridge over the bog.

From there, we headed to Longbranch Elementary School where Lucia and Christopher played on the playground with a bunch of other kids. After working in the yard a bit (cleaning up a downed tree limb that wreaked havoc last Sunday evening), we enjoyed a delicious meal of spaghetti and homemade meatballs before settling in for the night.

Oh, and about that linen closet clean-out? Well, it’s literally something I do twice a year. And it’s a good thing I had done it because Saturday night, our poor sitter actually had to rifle through it looking for new sheets for our son’s bed. Instead of going to bed he decided to sprinkle baby powder all over his bed! Ugh. Three and a half year old children are so mischievous!

But, it’s hard to get angry when the weather is so amazing and we’re enjoying the last remaining gorgeous days of fall before the snow sets in. The two wines we enjoyed this weekend were both from One Hope: Cabernet Sauvignon (monies support children with autism) and Pinot Noir (funds raised support pet adoption). Cheers!

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!