Wine for a Hurt Paw

Pets are a lot like children. They need constant care and feeding, playtime, discipline and all your love. They also are not immune to accidents. Saturday afternoon around 4 p.m. we had our first experience with the emergency vet clinic. I let Daisy out as usual and when she came back in her paw was bleeding all over the place. I immediately laid her down and called for help. Everyone came running. We couldn’t determine what was wrong and even though we wrapped it tightly, it didn’t stop. To make matters more challenging, we couldn’t find the special pencil thingie that stops bleeding.

We called our regular vet and a voice mail advised us to go to a clinic across town. We weren’t too sure about it for a variety of reasons not the least of which was the distance. Plus, we sort of remembered there might be one in Camillus or Baldwinsville. Luckily, we were right. I grabbed my things and put her in the car, headed for the Veterinary Clinic and Emergency Care Center about 12 minutes from our home.

Daisy was a good girl throughout the ordeal. She was a little hyper when we arrived but the clinic staff were quick to respond and they took her back immediately while I checked in. I didn’t have but a minute to text the family to tell them we had arrived when Daisy came out as good as new. Turns out she had torn her dew claw completely off. We have NO idea how or where she did that. A bandage for about 24 hours and now she’s as good as new.

If you live in the northern suburbs of Syracuse and every require emergency vet care, I highly recommend the VECCC. They were friendly, efficient and caring. I was in and out in less than 10 minutes. All told, the entire experience from when Daisy came in to when we arrived back home safe and sound was only about 40 minutes.

Needless to say after the adrenaline rush of the whole thing, I was ready for a glass of wine. Good thing we had our choice of the Icellars Estates reds that my husband brought back from Canada. I enjoyed the Syrah with our creamy tortellini and tomato soup, and the Arinna with our Instant Pot pizza pasta (which is so good, it’s like crack!) the following evening.

That means there’s only one bottle left of our special Canadian stash, besides a couple of ice wines in the fridge, which last forever. We’d better make that one count! Cheers!


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“No” Wine for a Week

This past week, and the week before it, have been crazy busy in our household. Jon has had back to back opera performances, which means lots of rehearsals nearly every evening. I’m not used to doing the evening routine alone every single night! It’s not necessarily hard but because it’s not the norm, it’s left me completely exhausted. I literally have been getting up at 5 a.m. and haven’t relaxed until 8:30 or 8:45 p.m. every single day.

I don’t tell you this as a sob story because it’s totally fine. I share this because it’s meant I have not had a single glass of wine this entire week! Usually, on normal evenings, I sit down around 8 p.m. with Jon and we open a bottle of something. Without Jon, I hesitate to open a bottle that I know I’ll only drink one glass from. Plus, I’ve been so tired, the last thing I want is a glass. I really just want bed! LOL.

But, not having wine this week reminds me that although I truly enjoy trying all different kinds and thinking about them in the context of my daily life and times, I don’t “need” to drink wine. In fact, I’ve slept a whole lot better and more soundly! Of course, I’ll never know if it’s because I haven’t had that night-cap or if it’s my intensely long days of working out, work (which has been insane due to a crisis project), teaching, kids’ activities (swimming two nights and piano the third night) and general household chores.

Tonight, I’m headed to Jon’s opera performance at Syracuse University’s Setnor School of Music. They are doing a modernized, English translation of Gianni Schicchi. Maybe we’ll have a glass of wine after the performance. I’ll get right on that! Cheers!

journaling, drinking water and eating steel cut oats

Wine for Perseverance

colaneri estate winery

Wine for a Road Trip to Canada

Faithful readers know that a couple of years ago, my husband and I made a trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake in Canada to spend a few days and nights in wine country. We had a wonderful time and fell in love with one winery that had just opened literally days before we visited, Icellars Estate Winery.

Although we did purchase bottles from them, we drank them almost immediately and then missed them; you can’t purchase their wine here in the United States so we’ve been out of luck, following them on social media and wishing we could try the new vintages. The owner even commented back to me once that perhaps I could do a barrel tasting sometime!

At any rate, my husband decided that for Christmas he would surprise me and he made the trip in one day to Niagara-on-the-Lake to get some wine for me from my favorite winery there. The border patrol thought he was crazy, driving all that way for a few bottles of wine but he made it across and on to the winery.

After a minor snafu with the credit card not working (he had to drive to the nearest “petrol” station for an ATM), he procured a few bottles of my favorites. Plus, he did a barrel tasting! He even carefully brought a pipet back to me in a sealed jar. It probably wasn’t exactly the same but even so, how cool is that?

We’ve already enjoyed one bottle but there are a couple left in the wine fridge that we’ll open sooner rather than later. He also stopped at a nearby winery, Colaneri Estate, and picked up a few of their wines, which we also enjoy. They use the Appassimento style, where the grapes are dried in the sun a bit before the wine is made. It’s popular in Italy and brings out interesting, full flavors in the wine.

How far have you gone to get a favorite wine? I’d love to hear your story; share in the comments below! Cheers!

rigatoni with meat sauce in the instant pot

Wine for an Instant Pot

Happy new year! I have been so focused on goal setting and other projects that this blog has taken a back seat for a couple of weeks. But, I’m all set to get back into the swing of posting. One new development I’ve been wanting to share with you is the addition of an Instant Pot to the Howell kitchen.

I received one from my husband this past Christmas and it’s been interesting! The first couple of recipes we tried were pretty good – macaroni and cheese, chicken soup and hard boiled eggs. My husband made a yummy goulash for New Year’s Eve and I’ve since been doing weekly meal prep, including steel cut oats for breakfast each day, as well as lots of other dinner recipes.

For the most part, it’s delicious, fresh food prepared quickly but if I’m being honest, it’s not that much faster than stove top or oven, depending on the recipe. One of the recipes I tried was Portugese Tomato Rice and Shrimp and that bombed. It burned the bottom of the pot and caused it not to pressure cook as it was intended to. That gave me pause and I was nervous the next couple of times I used it, but I’m still using it a few times a week.

I am using a combination of recipes I find on Pinterest, along with three cookbooks I received for Christmas, as well. Tonight, we had rigatoni with meat sauce and I also made banana bread steel cut oats for breakfast for the week.

I’ve cooked with wine in the instant pot but as far as wine that goes with it, really anything goes! We’ve enjoyed so many yummy dishes from steamed fish and veggies that went well with a Chardonnay to pasta dishes with Cabernet Sauvignon.

If you’ve been contemplating an Instant Pot and you are interested in preparing fresh, delicious food for your family in an efficient way, I definitely recommend it. It’s a great addition to our kitchen. In fact, I haven’t even stored it yet! Even the crock pot goes from the basement to our kitchen counter on a somewhat weekly basis. The Instant Pot still hasn’t made it’s way down; it’s being used that much!

If you’ve tried it or if you do try it, please comment below and let me know what you think. Better yet, share your favorite recipe! Cheers!


A Wine for a Christmas Stocking

In my last post I alluded to the fact I was finishing up a Christmas stocking for my son, a long tradition that started with my mom years ago. A couple of years ago at this time, I was finally finishing up a stocking for my daughter, Lucia, nearly seven years after she was born! I was determined to finish it for her but was torn because I also really wanted to start one for Christopher. My mom said she was looking for a new project and would be happy to start Christopher’s stocking for me, and maybe she might even finish it! I was relieved. I quickly picked out a pattern and delivered everything to her.

She worked tirelessly on the stocking but as her health deteriorated, she just couldn’t cross stitch any longer. The stocking was delivered back to me over the summer to finish. But, that was when she got a lot sicker and ultimately passed away in late August. And, after that, I just couldn’t bring myself to pick up the stocking to finish it. There was something about the fact that she held the fabric and pulled the floss through so carefully. I just couldn’t.

But in late October, I decided I had to finish it. It would be special since it would be something she and I made together. Of course, being mom, she left me the hardest part! All kidding aside, she had done a gorgeous job and I had to complete it just as carefully as she did. A week before Christmas I spent the weekend binge sewing to finish it in time for Santa’s arrival. Near the end of the project, I actually ran out of the floss color needed to finish it up! Luckily, my dad found a bunch in her stash of cross stitch paraphernalia. In fact, it was exactly the right amount needed to finish it. Divine intervention?

My husband finished it up, sewing the back on for me. He likes to sew, and I think he wanted a piece of the stocking action, as well. Christopher is one lucky boy to have so many people love him so much that they would work together to finish his Christmas stocking. And, he’s three years old so he didn’t have to wait as long as my middle child!

While sewing I took a break to enjoy some wine, which had an appropriate name, Still and Co. Still always reminds me of Christmas Eve because one of my favorite carols is Still, Still, Still. The winery’s Merlot was lovely and full-bodied, as well, if not a bit tobacco-y.

Still also has a third meaning, in this case. My mom is still with us, helping us complete the stocking, making sure we even had the floss to finish it up! I know she’s watching us all this Christmas season, as we dig our hands into our own stockings from our childhood, so lovingly crafted by her. We all miss her, but she’s still with us and will always be with us. Cheers, and Merry Christmas!


A Wine for Organizing

Cross stitching is a hobby I’ve had since I was about 10 years old (I think?) or maybe even younger, if you count my first needlepoint projects. My mom cross stitched. My grandma cross stitched. I guess you could say it’s in my DNA to be a cross stitcher! At any rate, I used to be much more prolific with my projects, finishing multiple kits per year and even giving them as gifts. Now that I have kids, two jobs and other things vying for my time, I don’t do it as much as I used to. A couple of months ago, I took it up again to finish up a Christmas stocking for my son.

This is a tradition that has been carried down from my own mother. She made homemade stockings for my brothers and me – mine was needlepoint and theirs were cross stitch. So, when I had children of my own, I decided to carry on the torch and make them stockings, too. Maria’s was finished early in her life but poor Lucia had to wait until two years ago for hers! She’s was nearly 7 years old! (I told you I’m not as prolific!) I’ve been finishing up Christopher’s, determined not to make him wait another five years! But, more on that in a future post.

As I worked on his stocking, I neared the end and ran out of a color I needed. I literally needed maybe six or seven strands and ran out. This always happens. I mean, I must have hundreds of DMC floss in the craft room but, of course, this is the color I don’t have. I sent my husband and daughter out to A.C. Moore for more, but they came back with a different style of floss – it was the correct color, but too thick for me to use. It was then that I remembered mom’s floss collection. I figured it had to be still in the house. Dad wouldn’t know what to do with it. So, I texted him, asking if she had DMC floss #746. He found a teeny tiny bit! Plus, he found much, much more.

The following morning after church, he gave me a giant box of all the cross stitch stuff he found. Maria and I eagerly combed through it as soon as we got home. She had complete kits, never opened, including smaller ones for the girls. She had blank hand towels on which you could cross stitch designs. She even had a needlepoint kit, which I’m pretty excited about since I love needlepoint. Best of all? She had hundreds of DMC floss colors, including all of my late grandma’s, as well.

I spent most of the afternoon and evening winding DMC floss around little paper bobbins. It was therapeutic after all that binge cross stitching I had been doing to complete that stocking! I love all the colors and it was a great, mindless activity to get them all wound. I’m nearly done and the next project will be to organize them in order of number into all the plastic boxes we have to store floss.

My next project is a Last Supper kit, by Janlynn my husband gave me last Christmas. I’m feeling a renewed energy around my cross stitch hobby now with all my newfound haul. I’m even thinking about making one of my New Year’s resolutions to commit to 30 minutes a day, three times a week to cross stitching. I really do love it. It de-stresses me and it’s fun! It’s the getting into it that gets me.

Oh, while I was winding floss, I was drinking the most lovely red that came in my latest First Leaf shipment. International Archives: France 2016 Mouvedre France was so yummy and, really, the best wine I’ve had in a long while. It was perfect for sipping along with organizing. What hobby will you recommit to in 2018? Comment below! Cheers!


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!





Wine for All the Corks

Earlier this year I was on the hunt for some crafty ways to use all the corks we’ve amassed over the past few years. I found there’s a whole new world of do-it-yourself projects using wine corks. Everything from bathmats to wreaths to keychains. After searching Pinterest for said cork ideas, the app has since been serving up more and more ideas of what to do with all the corks. My head has been spinning!

Then, a couple weekends ago, my daughters and I attended a craft fair at a local elementary school and purchased a lovely Christmas tree made of recycled wine corks. We thought it was so cute and immediately, the light bulbs went off above our heads. We can do this!

We set out to purchase the supplies for crafty cork Christmas trees with the intent to gift them to the teachers in our lives (who thankfully do not read this blog so it’s OK that I’m sharing this)!

A trip to Joann Fabrics and A.C. Moore to obtain the accoutrements and we were all set to go. This was our shopping list:

Hot glue sticks
Hot glue gun (for Maria to use)
Gorilla glue (in case the hot glue didn’t take)
Rhinestones (shades of green)
Sparkly puffballs (red, green and white)
Buttons (red and green, as well as assorted)
Ribbon (in festive holiday colors)
Gift bags
Tissue paper

Each Christmas tree required us to choose 13 corks of the same size. We glued together two, three, four and three to form the tree, followed by one cork for the top. We also glued ribbon to the top from which the tree could be hung. A few trees simply had a bow at the top. After gluing the tree together, we let it set and then added the bling to each cork front to create the final design.

In addition to trees, we also created a snowflake and a few candy canes, too. It turned out to be a fun activity for a cold, rainy Saturday. Christopher and Lucia got in on the action, too, selecting the bling and designing the trees.

One thing I learned from this whole endeavor? You really don’t need Pinterest to create a neat craft. All you need is inspiration and imagination. As far as wine goes, it had a leading role in the crafting since drinking it resulted in the corks we used for the trees. But, I don’t recommend drinking it WHILE crafting. 😉 Cheers!



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.