Thursday, May 30, 2013

Cat Overboard!

We'd swum in the pool (us, not the cat--he can't swim), the French doors were open and the sunlight lingered well past 7:30 PM. 
"What a perfect spring evening," I said wearing dry clothes again and sliding into the sofa. "Nothing can shatter this moment." Mr. Wonderful nodded putting his arm around my shoulders.
Nooo, my interior voice whimpered.

"What was that?" I said but the room was empty for my spouse had sprinted to the backyard. I raced after him but the sunlight was just a memory and the residual glow from the sunset didn't provide enough light to see my two noses on my one face. Or was one of those noses Mr. Wonderful's? "That splash," I continued "It sounded like someone threw a brick in our pool."
"It wasn't a brick," Mr. Wonderful said scanning the pool.
"A rock?"  Just then we heard splish-splashing in the dark water.
"A motor-boat?" 
"It's our cat!" Mr.Wonderful said barely audible over the desperate splashing in the water. In the darkness we crouched by the pool trying to determine where Jackson was so we could leap in and save him. He didn't wait. He couldn't wait. Before we could get any closer, Jackson kitty-paddled to the side of the pool, grabbed onto the concrete sides with his claws and pulled himself up to suburban land. He could swim!

Sitting poolside I patted my lap and called to him. But Jackson was done with the great outdoors. If he'd had any energy, he would have whimpered. Exhausted, he beelined for the safety of the house, leaving a ribbon of water in his wake that made me think we should rename our house: "A River Runs Through It". 

From room to room I followed the water trail as wide as the Mississippi River, I grabbed a warm bath towel to dry him off but Jackson was so freaked by his close-encounter with the pool that he kept walking, preventing us from getting near him and transforming my house floors into a massive slip-n-slide. 

He was in shock and pain but--gee--all wet like that he looked so skinny and… funny! I stifled my laughter. This was serious business for him and us. After dripping water in every room of the house he finally succumbed to the dry towels and my hugs. When the towels were wetter than he was, he sat on my lap, licked my hand and fell asleep. 

The spring night returned to the calm promised by its early evening. While the cat and Mr. Wonderful slept, I tossed a question in my brain: Cats hated water, so why would ours spring into it? 

The next morning I found the answer: a lifeless grasshopper floating in the pool. After dinner Jackson must have chased the grasshopper, which escaped the feline by springing into the pool. 

Ahhh, spring! That time of the year when things are hopping and cats are swimming as well as Michael Phelps.

"Hey Jackson," I said over breakfast. "Since you can swim how about you join me in the pool for some laps?" He looked at me and just whimpered.  

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Neighborly Opinions

"Your yard is looking… different," our 86 year-old neighbor, Harold, said surveying our property. 
"...Thanks?" I said. "But without the grass you can't really call it a yard."
"Then what is it?"
"A garden."
"Oh, okay."

After months of killing grass, choosing plants then replanting it, Mr. Wonderful and I had finally finished our garden's turf-less transformation. Now came the hardest part: hearing what the neighbors had to say about it. 

Norma bustled outside wearing large dark sunglasses over her regular eyeglasses.
"It's looking good," she said pointing to my labor of love.
"Thanks, Norma," I beamed.
"So what else are you going to do to it?" My stomach dropped. I felt like a preschool teacher had just told me my kid was less than perfect, that is; if I'd had a kid and he/she'd had a preschool teacher.  
"This is it," I said forcing a smile. "We're finished."
"Well... it looks like a nice yard."
"It's not a yard," Harold corrected her. "It's a 'garden'."
"Oh, okay," she said nodding. 

I heard the white noise of Jerry's weekly rose-food spray stop. I looked up to see him pop up from behind his rose bushes adjusting his San Francisco 49ers baseball cap. 
"Your yard is looking real nice," he said. 
"Thanks, Jerry--"
"It's not a yard," Harold said. "It's a 'garden'."
"Oh, sure." Jerry said but by his tone it sounded more like the neighborhood rose specialist was unsure of calling what we'd just created anything close to a 'garden'.

"Hey, neighbor!" Charles said trotting across the street. "Your yard looks great!"
"It's not a yard," Harold said. "It's a 'garden'."
"Whatever you call it, it looks awesome!" Charles said beaming everyone a 1,000 watt smile. "Is that the French game thing you were talking about?" he said pointing to our Pétanque court.
"Yes," I said fearing for what would come next.
"Well invite us over so we can play on it already!"

In that moment I loved Charles more than ever. But I also loved Jerry, Norma and Harold because although it may not have been what they would have chosen to do, they supported us and our new 'garden'. I hope we can be half the neighbors they are to us when they change their yards--or not--to look like our turf-free one. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Digging In

"Today we finish the garden!" I said pulling on my work boots--again--and putting on my soil-encrusted baseball cap--again.
"You said that last weekend," Mr Wonderful mumbled rubbing his shoulder. "And the weekend before that. And the--"
"Today is different."
"What do you mean?"
"I'm tired of being dirty."

We'd worked on it for a whole month. Every weekend was devoted to doing something in the front yard: 1) Creating the Pétanque court; 2) Planting the natives and drought-tolerant plants; 3) Weeping that it was taking so long.

So single-handedly I decided that today--yes TODAY!--was the final day. 

My garden design had a three-prong approach:
Close to the house I had a bed of purple lavender and a bed of purple and white lantana. In the middle we built the honey-colored Pétanque court. Along the street we planted the California natives that were so small they didn't show up in pictures now, but next year! Just wait! They'll be huge!

At the half dozen nurseries I shopped at, I picked the biggest, healthiest drought-tolerant plants. Unfortunately when I got them home and in the ground, they looked itty-bitty. 

Here's the lantana BEFORE going into the ground.

Here's the lantana AFTER going into the ground. Sigh.

Then we watered and mulched everything we'd planted. Plants love nothing better than being snuggled under a bed of rotting leaves and decomposing tree bark, which you have to disperse while doing a downward facing dog pose. Ah! Gardening is so glamorous!

Then we created a path of stepping stones to walk from the Pétanque court to the front walk sprinkling Dymondia, aka "Silver Carpet" among them.

So here's the plant list: 
Manzanita, Cleveland Sage, Salvia, Wooly Blue Curls, Verbena, Blue Fescue, Dymondia, Buckwheat, Dragon's Blood, Lavender, Yellow Bladder Pod (yes, that is a real plant) and Aloe.

As the sun was spreading pink and melon colors across the evening sky, we finished the garden. Finito. I stood up and tossed my soiled garden gloves in the wheelbarrow. Mr. Wonderful looked at me and laughed.
"You're covered in dirt," he said.
"Well get a good look because this is the end of me being dirty." 
"What do you mean?"
"Last one in the pool is a rotten egg!"

That evening the pool never felt better.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Going Native!

"I'm going to buy native plants for our garden," I said sipping a crisp Chardonnay.
"Good," Mr. Wonderful said popping an olive into his mouth.
"At a nursery specializing in natives."
"In San Diego."  
"Good--huh? WHAT?!"

I didn't blame my husband for being shocked at the prospect of me driving four hours--round trip--to buy plants. Personally I thought I had reached a new level of koo-koo because on this beautiful spring day--one that I did not have to work in the office--I would willingly hole myself up in a space smaller than a cubicle and go inland (read: scorching heat) where it would feel like the air conditioner had broken down 10 years prior. It was craziness! 

The only thing that made me stick to my plan was the manzanita tree. After reading up about the gazillion varieties of manzanitas, I'd decided we needed the Dr. Hurd manzanita variety, better known by plant people as: Arctostaphylos manzanita. I know, the name just rolls off the tongue, right? After calling nurseries in 26 different area codes, this San Diego spot was the only place east of the Sierras that had a 15-gallon (read: big) Dr. Hurd manzanita.  So I packed my music, maps and snacky-snacks and drove south, young man! 

This nursery was located 20 minutes northeast of San Diego in a place called Escondido, which is Spanish for "hidden". Driving to it proved my fears had been well founded--the car was small, the sun was hot and the nursery in Escondido was very "escondido". I followed my map's directions but after driving up and down the same road for 30 minutes without finding the street that the nursery was located on, in complete frustration, I turned into a street that didn't have a name, a street sign or any sign of life. Of course this was the street of the nursery--Las Pilitas

Once parked I approached the two Las Pilitas nursery workers, who both wore cowboy hats. 
"It's hard finding your nursery without a street sign," I said stretching my legs.
"Someone stole it," the woman with the tan hat said.
"Why don't you get a new one?" 
She shrugged, "Everyone knows where we are." 
Not me or the other 349 million Americans who don't live in San Diego! You've added even more time to my drive, which means I'll be stuck in L.A.'s rush hour traffic going home--is what I wanted to say. Instead I smiled because I was here to buy plants, not cause trouble.

According to the woman's name tag she was "Liz" and after talking to her for six seconds I discovered she was an expert on natives. I showed her a picture of a California native and asked for its genus and species, with one glance at the photo she said it was a Verbena lilacina "Paseo Rancho". I asked about salvias and she gave me a 40 minute treatise on how bees, hummingbirds and every person on the planet--which included me even though I didn't know what they were six weeks ago--loved verbenas. When I asked her for the 15-gallon Dr. Hurd manzanita trees, she marched me to their spot. 

"They're small," I said trying to mask my disappointment at how the 15-gallon pot was bigger than the 12-inch plant.
"They'll grow," Liz said. 
"I'll take two."
"No," Liz said putting her hands on her hips. "You can't buy two manzanitas."
"But I want two."
"I don't care."
"I'm paying you!"
"I don't care."

Not only was this nursery "hidden" but so was its capitalistic nature. I'd never heard of an American businessperson not selling anyone what they wanted. Usually my problem was buying too much. Today Liz was going to ensure that I bought too little. 

"Look," she said locking her eyes with mine over her reading glasses, "You don't have the space for two manzanitas in your garden plan, so I'll sell you one."
"But it's so small," I whimpered.
"Natives don't like being in pots. They dislike being bound. But you put them in the ground and wham-o they'll take off." 

I took her word for it. But as we loaded the plants in my car I looked at my natives--an unassuming collection of small pots holding smaller twigs. My husband already thought I was crazy to drive all the way down here to buy plants but if I came home now with a couple pots of soil and twigs he would completely freak out.

I shared my concern with Liz. She said to get the natives in the ground and take a picture of them. Then one year later take another picture of them and then we'd see how much they'd grown.

A year?! 12 months?! 365 days?! Nooo! But what else could I do except believe her? 

That night I greeted Mr. Wonderful with a carful of plants.
"I'm home," I said.
"Good," he said.
"This is what I bought," 
"It'll take a year for them to grow."
"Good--huh? WHAT?!"

I told you.

Friday, May 24, 2013

If You Build It, the French Will Come

So you love France, French fries and fromage? This means one thing: you should make your own Petanque court. Since Mr. Wonderful and I just made one, I'll tell you how we did it. 

1) Buy the supplies, including: gravel, DG (Decomposed Granite), landscaping cloth and edging stones.
2) Grab a bottle of Ricard and mix yourself some pastis
3) Drink it in one go. 
4) Forget pleasure for the next 16 hours because it's time to build a Petanque court. 
5) Rope off the outline of the court. Regulation Petanque courts measure: 4 meters by 15 meters (aka 12.8 feet x 48 feet). Since my 86 year-old neighbor, Harold, wouldn't let me co-opt his front yard for a regulation court, I had to minimize these dimensions to fit my yard. 

6) Dig down 6 inches to form a trench, aka the court-to-be.

7) Line the perimeter of the trench with the edging stones.

8) Flatten the dirt in the trench and fill it with gravel.

9) Flatten the gravel and cover with landscaping cloth to prevent weeds from growing in your court.

10) Fill the trench with DG. This adds a honey color to your court and makes you think you're in France, along the Mediterranean or anywhere but in your own backyard.
11) Wet the DG and flatten it. Getting it wet helps it to lay flat.

12) Voilà! You have a Petanque court! 

Now that you have a court for Petanque, just beware of the French--they'll show up on your doorstep begging to play a game or deux. If they bring a bottle of Ricard... I'd let them play.

Profitez! (French for "Enjoy!") 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Big Plans, Little Spaces

"I want the Pétanque court here," I said waving my hand at the front yard.
"Uh-huh," Mr Wonderful said beside me.
"And the garden beds here, here, here and... here."
"And the fruit trees--"
"Where does the airplane runway go?"

Mr. Wonderful had a great sense of humor. Often his jokes had me laughing so hard I'd forget to breathe and just snort. And his impressions! You should hear his Robert De Niro--"Are you talking to me? Are you TALKING to ME?" Wow. It was like being married to a taxi-driving, raging-bull, mobster with a heart of gold-en cannoli. 

But this time his comedic comment didn't tickle my funny bone. In other words: there weren't any snorts.

Maybe his comment wasn't funny because he was doubting me. No one likes to be doubted, especially people taking a big risk like the Wright Brothers, Neil Armstrong and George Washington. Ripping out my grass and planting California natives was as bold as creating the first plane, flying to the moon and creating a new country. Kind of. 

Maybe my spouse's comment wasn't funny because he thought I hadn't thought this through--I thought. Months ago I took the lead on this turf-less garden project and immediately dove into researching plants, visiting nurseries and talking to green thumb experts about what to plant in our corner of paradise. I knew what I wanted and had it all planned out of where every single plant would go. Kind of.

Maybe my husband's comment wasn't funny because he didn't feel involved. We had renovated so much of the house's interior together--as a team--but now with this garden project I was doing all the heavy-lifting. Which meant I had to include him so he and I were functioning like a well-oiled team. It would be like he was Joey LaMotta, the manger-brother, to my Raging Bull Jake LaMotta. Kind of.

So I grabbed a pencil and paper and got to work. I made a diagram of the layout and plants I'd planned for the garden and broke it into three zones: 1) The drought-tolerant plant zone; 2) The Pétanque court zone; 3) The California native zone. 

"You have big plans for the little space that is our yard," he said.
"We can do it but only if we do it together," I said extending my fist to his. He paused then gave me a fist bump.
"Okay," he said with a smile.

Clearly I'd made him an offer he couldn't refuse.

Next up: Making the Pétanque court!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Imported VS. Domestic

"What beer do you want?" Mr. Wonderful said pushing the shopping cart.
"My favorite: Stella Artois," I said grabbing a 6-pack. 
"A baguette."

Apparently I preferred my dinner imported over domestic. Perhaps this was because I wasn't born and bred in California but moved to the Golden State as an adult. In other words: Imports liked imports, which was my rule of thumb on the inside of the house. But as far as the outside of the house went--I declared publicly--I was going native! 

"You're taking your top off?" our 86 year-old neighbor said hustling across his lawn to get a closer view.
"No, Harold. I'm not changing my clothes."
"Oh," I heard the disappointment in his voice.
"I'm going to plant California natives.
"Oh," his disappointment increased.
"In my front yard."
"Ohhh," he sank into his lawn chair deflated. I explained that California natives were plants that grew naturally in California, on its wind-swept ocean coasts, in its hot, dry deserts, along the slopes of Mount Hollywood--"
He rolled his eyes: "You mean: weeds." 

Harold didn't mince words but he did raise a point that many shared. Many domestic products were dismissed just because they were local, such as: 1) American beer; 2) American cars; 3) Americans in America.

As a Proud American I had to admit that while I couldn't change people's minds about all things American, I could try to inform them about the benefits of plants native to their region, namely: 1) They grew well with little water; 2) Had a long blooming season without pesticides; 3) They spoke with your same accent.

After months of reading up on California natives and criss-crossing the city photographing them like an Ansel Adams of the Suburbs, I made a short list of some of my favorite natives, like: the Manzanita Tree;


and a Ceanothus tree with an American Agave.

After our imported dinner, Mr. Wonderful perused my native photographs. "These plants look good," he said. 
"You don't think they're weeds?"
"No way."

And that's why I married him not the neighbor.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Becoming French in America

"You want a coffee?" Mr Wonderful asked putting a pod in the espresso machine.
"Oui," I said.
"Are you speaking French?"
"Are you crazy?"

Drinking espressos, wearing stripes and eating Nutella with everything: all these things helped me look French in America but playing Pétanque would make me become French in America.

Pétanque? you say, What the merde is that? Let me expliquer this français pastime. Like most sports, Pétanque involves balls--specifically a small wooden one called a cochonnet (French for "little pig" or in English a "jack") as well as each player having three larger steel balls. All the balls are thrown with one hand onto a smooth playing field such as a dirt path or gravel walkway. See how fancy it is! 

The game consists of tossing the cochonnet onto the path. Then player A throws one of her steel balls at it trying to get as close to the little pig as possible. Touching the piglet is the gold standard. Then player Mr. Wonderful throws one of his steel balls trying to get as close to the bacon bits as possible, which means if he knocks player A's steel ball away from the little pork product he gets to sing and dance--simultaneously--in French.

These steel ball (or boule) tosses are repeated until each player has tossed all three balls. Then comes the scoring. After all the boules are tossed, the player whose ball is closest to the cochonnet, gets a point. If player A has one ball closest to the piglet and the second closest ball belongs to Mr. Wonderful, then player A gets one point and Mr. Wonderful gets rien points (French for "zippo points", "zilch", "nada"). However as is often the case, if the three balls closest to the bacon ball belong to player A, then she gets three points and Mr. Wonderful gets rien points. See how much fun it is!

The name "Pétanque" refers to the fact that when throwing, both your feet must be planted on the ground ("pieds tanqés" in Provençal), which means one-leg in the air ball tosses aren't allowed. Three things make this sport French: 1) You don't expend any calories while doing it; 2) You can play it with a glass of wine in one hand while throwing the ball with the other; 3) You don't have to carpool anyone anywhere to play it. In fact the best place to play it is at a local park or at home... if you build a special Pétanque court. See how great it is!

Mr. Wonderful looked at me over his cup of espresso.
"Is this your way of telling me you want your own Pétanque court?"
"In our turf-free front yard."
"We--," he stammered
"Are you speaking French?" 
"No, but we, no grass and now Pétanque? The neighbors will think we're crazy."
"Oui! But then what's new?" 

In English or français I say do what you love: and I love Pétanque. Besides, once we invite the neighbors to play on our Pétanque court, I bet they'll want one at home, too!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Killing the Zombie Grass

"You killed the grass," Mr. Wonderful said pulling the black plastic off the front yard. "Congratulations!"
"Thank you," I said graciously accepting his praise as if I were receiving an Academy Award. I seized the rake and spoke into its handle, "I'd like to thank my husband, my cat, my agent--"
"But you didn't kill these," my spouse said pointing to countless yellow-green shoots.
OMG My yard wasn't dead but covered in… Zombie grass!

It had been a slow death--eight weeks to be precise--but finally the turf had succumbed to my power. Back in February I had laid black plastic tarps across my lawn to kill the grass and to make the space a turf-free paradise for California native and drought-tolerant plants. Under the sun's rays, the black-colored plastic heated up and suffocated the grass to death. Ahhh, the power of black. Yep, black is beautiful.

But a funny thing happened while I was smothering the turf, I was inadvertently nurturing hundreds, thousands, gazillions of palm tree seedlings. Or what I call "Zombie grass" because: They. Don't. Die.

Our adult crop of palm trees was attractive but useless: they didn't provide shade, they were so tall I couldn't see their tops unless I was at the park--six miles away--and they were prolific breeders. Their seedlings sprouted everywhere becoming an army of Zombie grass.

But I was not deterred. I would not let my turf-free yard become a Zombie grass playground. I grabbed my trowel, a bucket and single-handedly dug up every seedling in a one-foot radius. It took me 17 hours. When I paused to look up at the rest of the lawn--I swear!--there were 68 times more Zombie grass seedlings in their place! It was a Zombie Apocalypse... at my home! I retreated to the house and locked the door.

There had to be another way. At the tool shed I grabbed a shovel, which was way bigger than a trowel, so it would take me way less time to dig up the Zombie seedlings. I marched to the front yard and was accosted by Zombie seedlings hurtling toward me with dead eyes and droolly mouths. Something had to be done!

I retreated fast to my home and double bolted the door. Now what? I needed help with these Zombies. I grabbed my phone and dialed the office for the The Walking Dead TV show.

"Production office," a bored Production Assistant fresh out of college said.
"Please help! I have Zombie grass! Attacking me!"
"Uh, Miss, I think you have the wrong number--"
"Is this The Walking Dead TV show?"
"Then I have the right number. So about this Zombie grass--"
"Uh, Miss, I'm sorry but I have the wrong number." Then he hung up on me.

Without the Zombie experts, what could I do but… fight! Realizing that trowels and shovels were the right idea but too small, I went for the big guns. At the home improvement store I rented a rototiller. Back at the ranch, Mr. Wonderful unloaded the machine with gusto and begged to till the soil himself. Finally someone wanted to help? He wanted to kill the Zombie grass? I gave him the go ahead. Big time.

He rototilled the soil east-west and north-south and in just two hours wiped out the entire population of palm tree seedlings. The Zombie grass was gone!

I dialed The Walking Dead TV show and told them the good news. The Zombie grass was history! The PA was nonplussed.

Sigh, no one understands your victories like you do.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Wine Writing: Reflections on a Month of Wine Blogging

Blogging about wine from A-Z for an entire month? Yes!
Could I have picked a worse month to do it? No!

After signing up to do the A-Z Blogging April Challenge, I spent a long weekend in Houston for its fabulous Film Festival and to watch my husband pick up the prize for “Best Animated Short” for his film Pepe & Lucas. He was the humble winner and I the proud spouse.

I’m a writer-performer of comedy and with seven talented women I co-wrote, rehearsed and performed a one-hour Sketch Comedy show: THERE WILL BE SNACKS. We performed twice in April—once at Second City Hollywood and once at the awesome Comedy Central Stage! Both were great shows with terrific houses!

The most glamorous aspect of April was spending three entire weekends digging up the front yard with my husband and installing our own Pétanque court—aka French Bocce, or French lawn bowling, or an excuse to throw a ball with one hand while holding a glass of wine in the other. I’d submitted to build this court with the City and it had to be completed by the end of April.

But then, didn’t everything?

All of this was on top of working and writing on other projects.

My goals for the A-Z Blogging Challenge 2013 were to write 26 comedic story/essays about my chosen theme of wine. This I accomplished. I also wanted to include as many of my own photographs as possible because I love photography and believe it can help tell a story or set the tone of a story. This too, I accomplished.

Did I have every post posted at 12:01 AM on the required day? No. Did I write blog posts in advance? No. Rather I wrote the entry every day on the day that it was due. This was a major part of the challenge and what I wanted to experience—sitting down and writing every day.

Before the challenge started I created a list of what word I would write about for “A” and “B”. I had four options for “C” and six for “J” and on the allotted day had to narrow it down to one to write on. I also tossed my planned entry for “R” and wrote something completely different that I could share with my beautiful cousin after she attended her first chemotherapy session. (I sent her the link and she liked the post.)

I am glad that I did this challenge, although sometimes it was more challenging trying to upload my blog posts than to write them! During those four days in Houston I couldn’t upload because I didn’t have a relaible internet connection! Argh!

The best aspects of this A-Z Challenge for me were:
  1. Writing a 500-1000 word piece every day
  2. Meeting other (wonderful) bloggers
  3. Reading and following their blogs
  4. Growing my own followers
  5. The supportive staff that runs and monitors this Challenge
  6. Winning the Liebster Award from the talented Helen Jameson. Again, thank you Helen! I didn’t even know this award existed and didn’t believe I’d even gotten anything so receiving it was a pleasant surprise.
  7. A book! I collected some of these A-Z wine stories and added them to new wine stories that I wrote into one book about vino. My wine book, Evolution of a Wine Drinker, is now available at Amazon as a Paperback and as an eBook!
Ideas that could improve the A-Z Challenge in the future:
  1. When signing up, please make it very simple how to add the category of the type of blog one writes. I write a Humor/Comedy blog and when I added the requested (HU) after my blog’s name when signing up, the signup page/program repeatedly rejected my web address. I was so close to not even doing the challenge but finally opted to forgo the (HU) label and just type my blog address without it. Judging by the looks of the list of bloggers without a category label for the A-Z Challenge I don't think I was the only one challenged with adding this label. Whew!
  2. I wish I could have connected with more humor and comedy/clown writer types, and addressing the above element would facilitate that.
  3. As a comedy person I crack jokes and did so in a couple comments on my own blog and on other blogs. I think comedy writers appreciate these jokes. But if I offended anyone with a comment it was my attempt at being funny! And if you didn’t find it funny, I guess I’m not as funny as I thought I was! My apologies! Again, identifying comedy writers would resolve this. I could tailor my comedy bits for the comedy types.
  4. I could not upload the Badges for the A-Z Blogging Challenge; the Liebster Award; or the A-Z Blogging Survivor. Perhaps this is a "it doesn't work with Mac" problem? Or a "it doesn't work with Blogspot" problem? Or a "it doesn't work with Alicia" problem? I spent way too much time futzing around with these badges when I could have been writing or reading other great blogs. So I just didn’t use any of them.
  5. Without the badge element working I couldn’t pass along the Liebster Award to other talented writers that I discovered during this challenge. This is my single biggest disappointment of the Challenge
  6. SO, I have decided to mention the five (not the usual 11) Liebster Awards winners here! And if they want the Liebster Award badge please go to Helen Jameson's blog and pick it up! I read so many blogs during the challenge but I found myself going back to visit and follow the blogs of the five writers below. So thank you for writing!
Liebster Award Winners:
1. The Happy Life Blog
2. A Month of.... Blog
3. The View Outside
4. JA Bennet
5. Writing in Wonderland

Liebster Award Questions:
Please answer the following questions on your blog and link back to mine.
1. What book changed your life?
2. When did you know you were a writer?
3. Who's funnier: Jerry Seinfeld or Louis C.K?
4. What's your favorite type of wine?
5. What book have you read over and over again?
6. Who's funnier: Tina Fey or Amy Poehler?
7. Have you published a book? If yes, please name it:
8. Do you read the news in its paper form or online?
9. Who's funnier: Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert?
10. Who's your favorite book character?
11. What's funnier: Modern Family or The Big Bang Theory? 

I close with a huge thank you to the staff, writers and bloggers who created, monitored and ran this 2013 Challenge. Please pat yourselves on the back. You deserve the praise! For me, this Challenge made the blogosphere smaller, my writing community tighter and my writing habits better.

Thank you all and wishing you a wonderful day!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Z is for Zinfandel

"You made it!" Monica said hugging my neck.
"I couldn't miss wine night!" I said stepping into her Spanish Colonial home.


This blog post has been removed.

However you can find it, and more, in my collection of wine stories called Evolution of a Wine Drinker available on!

Thank you!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Y is for Château d’Yquem

This blog post has been removed.

However you can find it, and more, in my collection of wine stories called Evolution of a Wine Drinker available on!

Thank you!