Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year's Eve!

Some people dislike New Year's Eve but I am not one of them. Any day that encourages drinking Champagne is okay by me! I love bubbles: Brut, Extra Dry and Sec!

But before celebrating the new year with Champagne, its bubbles and toasts, I need to take stock of my hopes for this year.

12 months ago I made resolutions to exercise more, recycle more and work on The House less. In actuality I exercised less, recycled some and worked on The House all the time. Hmmm, how very rogue of me.

Rather than beat myself up about my failed resolutions, I'll make some new ones including recycling the list from last year.

Whoa! I did it! I recycled something and fulfilled one of my 2013 resolutions! Hooray! My resolution list did not fail! Now I've earned the right to drink Champagne!

And here's a toast: Wishing you a prosperous, Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Men's Silences

“The holidays are cozy,” I said curled up in an armchair palming my mug of eggnog.
“It’s a good time of year,” Mr. Wonderful said throwing another log on the fire.
“No labor, no sweat.”
“Just fun times and good drinks.”
“But don’t you miss the… work?”

Mr. Wonderful said a lot—in his silences. In fact the first six months we dated, he didn’t say a word. Of course that could have been because of me and my big, non-stop motor mouth that has to share every idea with those I care about to get their take on things and to see if we really are compatible because life and relationships are constantly in flux and by talking with each other we can air concerns and check in on with how each other’s doing and where we are heading in the grand scheme of things—

On second thought: maybe Mr. Wonderful was silent so much because I never gave him a chance to speak? ...Nah.

After a couple years of marriage I’d gotten very good at reading Mr. Wonderful’s silences. There was the silence of 1) Agreement; of 2) Disagreement; and of 3) I’m-not-going-to-touch-that-with-a-ten-foot-pole-greement.

Now this particular silence on this particular day between Christmas and New Year’s was clearly a Cat. #1 Silence—aka Agreement. Deep down I knew that he missed working at the studio, working on the house, working on the big hole in the backyard—aka the pool. Well lucky for him I had a DIY project to do!

“The kitchen cabinet interiors need to be painted.”
“Why? No one sees them.”
“I do. Every day.”

Another silence. Wow. Mr. Wonderful was super talkative today!

When we’d moved in to The House we were so busy with our jobs and getting settled we were forced to make choices. We'd decided to paint the kitchen cabinets on the outside but not the inside. When I had lamented this choice, Mr. Wonderful countered by saying how it didn’t matter since “no one sees the inside.”

“I do. Every day,” I’d said then. He responded with a silence. Comparing our move-in exchange to our current one I realized they were exactly the same, which meant painting cabinet interiors was vitally important to me while he embraced a Cat. #2 silence—aka he totally disagreed.

How could I have not heard what he’d said then? How could I have not heard his wishes? How could I hear what his silences said if he was so dang quiet?! Ever since the Fourth of July, we’d both been busy with work, working and workers. That’s it! We were disagreeing about this DIY project because for months we just hadn’t spent enough time together. Luckily I had a plan for that!

“Let’s paint the inside of the cabinets together!”

Incredible! He'd heard me! Now Mr. Wonderful was screaming this silence! And it was the mother of them all: a Cat. #3—aka I’m not getting involved PERIOD.

“Thanks for telling me what you want,” I said hugging Mr. Wonderful. “I’ll paint it myself.”
Silence. More Cat. #3 from my spouse! Amazing! We were having a fabulous conversation!

The New Year and its resolutions were still a few days away but here at the tail end of 2013, I realized two I’d put on my 2014 list:
1) Get some brushes, sandpaper and white paint.
2) Have more silent conversations with Mr. Wonderful!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Finally! Christmas is here! And my gifts were a success!

Mr. Wonderful loved the wine. In fact he opened a bottle right away to "test" it.

My 86 year-old neighbor liked the Eiswein I gave him. Or at least Harold didn't throw it away in front of me.

Jackson the cat pawed his wine cork "toy" once before attacking the wrapping paper and chasing his tale for an hour. How we laughed! Why did I even bother getting the cat a gift?

As for me, being with my loved ones was the best gift I got this year.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Magical Christmas Eve...

It's Christmas Eve! I love this day with it's last minute shopping, baking, wrapping.

I relish how Christmas Eve is the last day of Great Expectations before tomorrow's presents, eating and unwrapping…

Enjoy today's excitement! Merry Christmas Eve!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Jingle Bells

“The Christmas tree looks good,” Mr. Wonderful said admiring the evergreen I’d decorated in the living room.
“What about these?” I said swooping my arm toward the fireplace.
“The stockings are a nice touch.”
“And this?”
“Mistletoe? You’re thorough—”
“What about the plants I decorated outside?!”
“Have you lost your mind?”

Deck the halls with boughs of holly! Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la! Christmas! It’s the only time of the year you can go overboard decorating every room, window and cubby hole with festive lights, tinsel and bells and everyone loves it… except Mr. Wonderful. Unlike the rest of the universe, Mr. Wonderful is not a fan of decorations although he does tolerate a turkey in November, some pumpkins in October and piles of tax receipts before April 15. So with Christmas, he liked the simple approach. In other words: zilch.

This lack of decorating was a problem because well, I loved it! How could I convince him that decorating every plant, bough and twig was the thing to do at this time of the year? A string of lights flashed in my brain! Of course!

“We have to decorate the exterior of our house because the neighbors do,” I said marching out the front door. 
“Who does that in our neighborhood?”
“Jerry!” I said swooping my arm toward our San Franciscan neighbor with the endless strings of red, green and white lights, which traced the outline of his house, including mailbox, gutters and outdoor electrical outlets. 
“You have a point,” he said shaking his head in defeat. Ah-ha! I clapped my hands and rubbed them together in anticipation of wrapping white lights around our palm trees—each one 60 feet tall!

“On second thought, maybe we shouldn’t decorate the outside,” Mr. Wonderful continued. “Since Harold doesn’t.” He swooped his arm toward our 86 year-old neighbor’s house and sure enough, the only festive thing Harold had up was the U.S. flag, which was more in keeping with the Fourth of July than X-mas, Jolly Saint Nick or fa-la-la-la-las. 

Drat. Now Mr. Wonderful had a point. Jerry’s decorations cancelled out Harold’s lack thereof and I was back to square one, otherwise known at this time of the year as the First Day of Christmas.

I needed to find another rationale for Christmas decorations. Christmas! That’s it! Of course!  I turned to Mr. Wonderful.

“We have to put Christmas decorations on the exterior of our house because it’s just for these few, special weeks a year.”
“Hmmm.” Mr. Wonderful said crossing his arms. “I’ll agree to that if you’ll let me not decorate for 52 weeks a year.”
“But that doesn’t make sense.”
“Neither do Christmas decorations.”

Now I’m not a lawyer but his logic was illogical, unconstitutional and not mathematical. If I let him not decorate for 52 weeks, then it would prevent me from decorating for my two weeks. 

No, I needed some how, some way, some thing, to convince Mr. Wonderful that I should display my tasteful, festive Christmas decorations to the world. Something! Of course!

“Jackson!” I entered the house calling our fierce some feline. A bell tinkled and Jackson trotted up to me.
“What happened to the cat?!” Mr. Wonderful said in shock.
“I decorated him for Christmas,” I said petting Jackson’s fur as he rubbed up against my leg the whole time the little bell on the red ribbon around his neck jingling and jangling. “What do you think?”

Mr. Wonderful rubbed Jackson’s ears, the bell tinkling with each turn of the cat’s head. “If he doesn’t mind being decorated,” Mr. Wonderful said. “Knock yourself out decorating the house.”

Then I kissed both my guys, under the mistletoe. Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Christmas Decorations--New

"Which one do you like?" I asked holding up a silver snowman and a gold snowflake.
"Do I have to?" Mr. Wonderful said rolling his eyes in the busy Christmas aisle of the local holiday store.
"It's a tradition worth continuing."  
"But I don't want one."
"I want you to want one."
"I was afraid of that." 

Ahhh, Christmas. It's the only time of the year that I buy frivolous things like blenders, mixers and a wedding anniversary gift for my spouse and me. Growing up, I received a new ornament every year and I decided--yesterday--to restart the tradition this year in our new house. Which meant that I needed a new ornament, Mr. Wonderful needed a new ornament and my car needed a new hood ornament. 

Okay, maybe "need" was pushing things a little too far. So if I didn't "need" one, at least I really, really wanted one with a cherry and whip cream on top. To make me feel better about buying superfluous things, I was insisting that Mr. Wonderful also get an ornament. It was with this latter element that I erred on several fronts: 1) I took a man shopping; 2) I did this during the holiday rush; 3) I wanted him to choose a decoration?! Had I gone mad?!

Mr. Wonderful is many things: handsome, dependable, talented, handy, funny, charm-- But I digress. My point is, Mr. Wonderful is many things except a decorator. He does not like frou-frou decorations and the only thing he dislikes more that frou-frou decorations is being forced to buy frou-frou decorations on a busy Saturday at the mall 10 days before Christmas. Suddenly I felt guilty for dragging him here.

"If you want to forget this and go home, do it," I said with a shrug.
"Great!" he said pulling the car keys out of his pocket and bee-lining for the mall exit. Oh, no! If I didn't stop him he'd be gone, I'd have to get his and my ornaments and then bum a ride home from Santa or one of his elves because having seen the carnaval-like atmosphere at the mall with frantic shoppers and different Christmas tunes blaring from every different store, my spouse would never return to the mall to pick me up. I'd be stuck there with "Grandma Got Run over by a Reindeer" into infinity. I needed to do something fast.

"Before you go, pick out your own ornament." He stopped in his tracks.
"You want me to pick out an ornament?"
"I know you hate frou-frou decorations."
"But I hate frou-frou decorations."
"Just get whatever you want." His eyes locked on mine and he paused. For six full seconds.
"I'll only get an ornament if Jackson gets one, too." 

In this world there are givers and takers and I was a definite giver, helping my family, friends, and complete and utter strangers. There wasn't a taking bone in my body. But our tuxedo cat, Jackson, he was a serious taker. He took food, toys and all of our attention at all hours of the night and day meowing incessantly until he got petted, brushed and stroked enough to his liking. It was enough to turn Mother Theresa over in her grave. Why should we get our cat an ornament? 

"Deal?" Mr. Wonderful said sticking out his hand. Try as I might, I couldn't be stingy at this time of the year, not even toward the ultimate feline taker.  

I shook my spouse's hand and he disappeared among the ornament racks looking for the ideal ornament, looking for something that spoke to him. Meanwhile I spun the rack looking for something for Jackson, when BOOM! I found it! It was an ornament with a cat on it that totally summed up Jackson's taker life and luxury lifestyle. 

Just then Mr. Wonderful returned grinning. He'd found an ornament for himself.
"That was fast," I said being infected with Mr. Wonderful's excitement. "Let's see it." He held up a papier m√Ęche ball.
"It's not frou-frou," he said. "Plus I can fix it up anyway I want it to. Although I sort of like it just as it is."

"It's perfectly you." I said admiring the simplicity of his ornament and taste. "Here's Jackson's," I said holding up a confection with a beret-wearing cat on a settee covered in glitter. Mr. Wonderful laughed. 

"It's so luxurious, frou-frou and totally him!"

With ornaments bought and mission accomplished, we left the busy mall holding hands to go decorate our tree. And our tree wasn't frou-frou at all.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Christmas Decorations--Old

"Look at this one," I said removing an ornament from the box marked "Christmas".
"It's… uh, well… it's unique," Mr. Wonderful said sipping his espresso.
"I painted it myself."
"How old were you?"

It's Christmastime, that wonderful time of the year when we celebrate the season of giving with eggnog, mulled wine and 316 local performances of "The Nutcracker". Even if Mr. Wonderful were giving me grief about my hand-painted ornament, I could take it because I enjoy Christmastime. My mom and grandmothers preferred this holiday above all others and instilled in me an appreciation for the sights, sounds and decorations of this festive season. Although they failed to give me any painting skills.

Every year when I was a kid, my parents bought me a new Christmas tree ornament. Some years the ornaments were elegant, other years they were creative, funny or so-so place holders. Each one serves as a marker of a childhood.

Now in my own home, I unpacked these ornaments and hung them on a tree.

Here are some of my ornament highlights.

Every tree should have a nutcracker. This mini version even has a mouth that opens and closes to crack any nuts tiny enough to fit in his pie hole.

One of the joys of Christmas is making things with your own hands--like sugar cookies, wreaths and ornaments. Here's a hand-painted one of a rhinoceros. Although rhinos are not the cuddliest or most Christmasy of animals, growing up I really liked them and have several rhino ornaments. I still like this one even if Mr. Wonderful was underwhelmed by the painting.

Christmas ornaments needn't be just angels, lowing sheep and virgins. I also liked this one of "Mater" the pickup truck from the Cars movie.

But at the end of the day, the simple ornaments are the best. This one remains a perennial favorite.

Hoping you deck your tree in style!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Wine Gift Ideas

This year I'm giving everyone on my Christmas list wine-related gifts.

Mr. Wonderful is getting wine. He already has a lot, but more won't hurt him. Or me!

My 86 year-old neighbor, Harold, will get a bottle of sweet eiswein. Maybe it will sweeten him up?

Jackson the cat will get a cork cat toy, which I know he will write me a kind "thank you" note for and cherish for many years to come.

If you're looking for wine gifts for Christmas, check out these wine-y ideas!


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Giveaway Books Given Away

The Goodreads giveaway for my book, Evolution of a Wine Drinker, has ended. Which means there are five people who will now get a signed copy of my book. I hope they like wine…

Just so they know, and you know, and they know that you know: the books are in the mail!

I hope the packages arrive by Christmas! If not, we'll blame snow, international customs, and more international snow.

Thanks to everyone for participating in the Giveaway! Your enthusiasm for my book got me so jazzed that I want to Deck the Halls with… Wine!

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Yosemite: Summer VS. Autumn; A Scientific Experiment

TITLE: Summer or Autumn: When is the best time to visit Yosemite?

"A thing of beauty is a joy forever," declared John Keats in the opening line of his poem Endymion (1818). But come now. Was this declaration really true? Was a beautiful thing beautiful all the time, 365 days a year, forever and ever, into infinity? I had my doubts. Case in point, when I get my hair cut it looks, if not beautiful at least pretty good, I'd even say "above average". But six weeks later it's an unruly mess that doesn't register on the scale of "pretty", "good" or even "below average".

No, my fellow scientists! I had to test Keats' belief with my own scientific test.

This fall Mr. Wonderful and I visited Yosemite National Park and between the fall colors and sunny weather we found it a thing of beauty. However, everywhere we hiked in the park--Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite Fall, just around the "fall" air--everyone kept telling us to come back in the summer when the waterfalls would be running, the weather would be warm and it would be super beautiful.

QUESTION:  Were they right? In Yosemite, was summer more beautiful than fall? I had to know and the way I would discover this was not by blindly accepting what they said as truth. What a concept! Rather I would determine this myself by examining the cold, hard facts of science. A-ha!

First, I had to determine how I would test my Question. The most scientific way would be by taking a scientific sampling of the scientific subjects. In other words, ask people their opinions. During our autumn trip, I posed my question to Mr.Wonderful, the Ahwahnee Hotel Clerk and the chipmunk I saw on a rock. They all agreed that fall was the prettiest time to visit Yosemite. However being caught up in the moment, were people--and chipmunks--just saying that fall was the most beautiful time because it was here and now? What if I returned in the summer and put forward the same question? Would people--and Chip and Dale--say the same thing about summer then? Hmmm.

I determined that my first method was tainted by personal opinions. No, fellow scientific thinkers, I needed to use solid facts to determine if fall was more beautiful in Yosemite than summer and the best way to do that was by playing Rock, Paper, Scissors with Mr.Wonderful. After several games where I rocked his scissors and he papered my rock, I discovered that this method was creating skewed data because Mr. Wonderful was still voting for "fall" whenever he won. Hmmm.

Because of Mr. Wonderful's commitment to the beauty of fall, this second technique wouldn't work either. No, my fellow, hard science thinkers, I needed a new method to collect unbiased data to compare these seasons visually. Eureka! I could use my pictures! Since I'd been to Yosemite both in the summer and the fall I could use my own photographs to compare that one special place in two different seasons to determine if beautiful Yosemite was beautiful all year long. Or not.

In the summer deer were present eating green grasses and leaves. Although they were a bit skittish since their food was as plentiful as shopping at CostCo.

In the fall, deer were abundant along the hiking trails where they had come out of the forests to graze. Busy eating what they could find in the proverbial couch cushions, they were completely unperturbed by us visitors.

The summer meadows were lush with sylvan green hues.

The fall meadows were painted in colors of steel, amber and gold.

In the summer the falls--Yosemite and Bridalveil--gushed thousands of gallons of water a minute.  

In the autumn the falls--Yosemite and Bridalveil--were trickles of water, as if someone forgot to shut off the tap.

The Merced River was warm enough to paddle down in a raft wearing a bikini.

The Merced River was too narrow, shallow and frigid for anything except gazing at it.

In summer, El Capitan was grand but a little foggy.

In the fall, El Capitan was just grand.
Hmmm, hmmm, hmmm.

CONCLUSION: Each season had its high peaks and low valleys. The summer had the water and fog but the fall had little water but all those rich colors. Taken together however, Yosemite, was a thing of beauty in the summer and the fall. Yes, Mr. Keats, I agree!

There was one hitch to my method: I only looked at two of the four seasons. Therefore, I was unable to discuss the park in the winter or the spring. Hmmm. Never fear, fellow scientists! That just means I have to make two more trips--in winter and spring--to Yosemite National Park--all in the name of science and beauty!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Book Giveaway

Are you on Goodreads?
You want to be on Goodreads?
Here's a reason to be on Goodreads!

Goodreads.com is a popular website just for book lovers and readers. Through it I'm hosting a Giveaway of my book Evolution of a Wine Drinker! Enter to win one of the five signed copies by clicking on the link below; then at the Goodreads site, click the "Enter to Win" button.

The Giveaway ends December 10, just in time for Christmas, so enter soon!

As I say at the betting windows at the racetrack, I've got to be "in" it to "win" it. Make sure you're "in" on my wine book Giveaway!

Thanks and good luck!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Yosemite Sam!


It's amazing how this one name conjures up so many things. Specifically: 1) A gorgeous National Park; 2) Getting back to nature; 3) The first half of Sam's nickname.

So when Mr. Wonderful and I took off to the Sierra Nevada to see Yosemite! we were hoping to see all these elements and more.

We saw Half Dome, the half of a granite mountain that is the iconic symbol of Yosemite. This unique, 5,000 foot high rock formation was made famous by Ansel Adams and annually attracts countless adventurers to climb all 5,000 feet of it. We did not climb it because we are not that adventurous.

We saw the granite mountain, El Capitan. Anything called "El Capitan" tells you it's important. The only mountain more important than this one is "El General". But we didn't see it because it was spending the weekend in Vegas playing Blackjack.

We saw Bridalveil Fall. In November, the highest waterfall in North America is still the highest, but it's less impressive in the Water-Flow Department. Actually, the waterfall is more of a tiny trickle.

 Mr. Wonderful saw a mule deer up close and personal. I don't know who was more shocked at being so close to the other--the deer or the dear Mr. Wonderful.

We saw a male mule deer with a rack of antlers on his head that put every princess tiara to shame. His points were so impressive and slightly scary, especially when he looked at me head on. Although deer attacks are rare, I didn't want to be the first one of the year to be attacked by one of Bambi's parents.

We saw so many natural wonders and beautiful animals in Yosemite! But we had one grand disappointment: We did not see Yosemite Sam. And believe me, I looked and looked for him.

Nevertheless, if you love nature, camping, Ansel Adams photography and want to have your breath taken away several times a day, go to Yosemite National Park! Just don't expect to see Sam when you're there.

Ahhh, Yosemite!