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.

 

 

 

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!)

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.

summer-riesling

Wine for Summer Days

Sunday afternoon the kids and I went blueberry picking at Emmi Farms in Baldwinsville, New York. We had a lot of fun and it was an adventure to drive down into the field to pick. The prices were more than reasonable and we were able to grab the first corn of the season, too. Yum!

blueberries-kidsAfter that, we decided to take a drive to Camillus, New York to check out a new retailer, Vine and Barrel, about which I had heard so many good things. Well, despite the nearly 30 five-star reviews on its Facebook page, my experience was less than desirable.

First of all, we walked in to see about five store clerks milling about, two of which were behind a large tasting bar. But despite the bar set-up there was nothing out for tasting. It was approximately 2:45 p.m. on a Sunday so I would have expected something. Usually, when stores have tasting bars, there is something set up. One of the ladies said hello in a noncommittal way. My daughter and I were the only ones in the store.

We went back to the fine wine room to check out the selection, which I had heard was unique. No one followed us. No one asked us if they could help us find anything. I was shocked. We meandered through the rest of the shop looking at the selection. Although they were touted as having the largest selection of New York wines, I didn’t find it to be any different from some of the other local shops.

We selected a Riesling from the Mosel region of Germany, a Malbec from Argentina and a $30 bottle of Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley in Oregon, as our splurge wine.

The Riesling was excellent and went well with our salmon and fresh corn for dinner. But honestly, I won’t be back to Vine and Barrel. It just wasn’t a pleasant atmosphere to be completely ignored. Oh, and whatever was going on with the intermittent loud 1970s rock music was quite distracting while we shopped. I definitely did not have the same experience as so many who sang its praises.

What’s more, I feel like it needs to grow into its space a bit more. It was cavernous in there and not at all homey and welcoming as I would expect a home-town wine retailer to be. At least we enjoyed our summer Riesling!

wine-barrels

Wine Review: Shelburne Vineyard

Earlier this week, I shared a review of Elfs Farm Winery and Cider House, located in Plattsburgh, New York. I didn’t want to neglect Vermont, so we also stopped at Shelburne Vineyard in Shelburne, Vermont while on our trip. My review follows.

The story of Shelburne Vineyard goes back 35 years but the first vintage was not released until 2000, so it’s a relatively young winery. Growing hardy grapes that work best in cool climates, much like Elfs Farm, the vineyard’s main vintage includes Marquette, Minnesota hybrids and a bit of Riesling and Vidal Blanc.

shelburne-tasting
The tasting list at Shelburne Vineyards features whites, as well as reds. A “barrel thief” is a member of their wine club.

The wines were crisp and clean overall. I enjoyed the whites much more than the reds, but that’s normal for me. I am not a huge fan of red varietals in this part of the country. They are too “dirty” tasting for me. My favorite wine, and one of the bottles we purchased, was the 2016 Louise Swenson dry white. While I enjoyed most of the whites, this one was unique, made from the grape of the same name grown at the vineyard.

My husband enjoyed one of the rose wines, the 2016 Whimsey Meadow Dry Rose, which is named after a meadow just down the road at Shelburne Farms. We actually had just finished hiking it prior to stopping at the winery! While the dryness surprised me, and not in a positive way (I wanted it to be less dry), that’s exactly what my husband liked about it. We purchased a bottle of that, too.

The winery itself has a gorgeous tasting room with floor to ceiling windows overlooking one of the vineyards. Live music is often featured and there is also a patio and mezzanine with tables and chairs for people to sit, chat and enjoy the wine. It was a pleasant, friendly experience all around. We’re glad we stopped!

Back to the Whimsey Meadow for a minute, below are some pictures from that hike, as well as a few others from our afternoon at Shelburne Farms, another highly recommended stop, if you travel to Vermont.