Blessed Samhain

Blessed Samhain

Thanks to for the picture!

The Harvest has ended and summer is officially over. The light wanes; the darkness creeps on ever earlier. All Hallows’ Eve is the night where the veil is the thinnest between the worlds; when the dead can speak again to the living, and the living can hear them.

Pile your bonfire high. Circle it at least once without looking over your shoulder. Ward your home with hag stones and crystals, or plain table salt; and keep a courteous tongue in your mouth to all who cross your path after dark. You never know if you speak with the living or the dead, when the light has failed.

Be vigilant. Keep your loved ones close, your small pets closer. There is but a sliver of  moon in the sky to light your way when the streetlights go dark.

This year has been different; people, strangers, are wishing me Happy Halloween in droves. More people in my neighborhood have Halloween lights and decorations up than ever before. But the goblins knocking on my door range from the sweetest young princess to a towering ogre – all, of course, being properly “treated”. One young witch even rested her broom in the “Broom Parking Only” space by my front door.

The year turns. Sometimes it seems to me that I celebrate the start of a new year two or three times, once school has started in the fall. But that’s okay with me – it gives me more chances to get it right.

Happy Halloween. May your dead rest easy, may your spirit soar on the winds, and may your bonfire never die out – till morning makes the world safer again.

Blessed Samhain.  Blessed Be. It’s time to light my own bonfire.

The NaNoWriMo Pressure is ON

I can’t do NaNoWriMo this year. That’s National Novel Writing Month, for the unenlightened.  It’s not that I don’t want to, because I do. But I’m on deadline (one I’ve made for myself) and I am still getting used to writing around a full time job.

Every writer’s loop I’m on, though, is pushing it. “Who’s doing NaNo? What’s your NaNo name? Let’s start a support loop!” The push is from ALL the writer’s groups. Not that anyone denigrates those of us who don’t do it; but it seems like EVERY writer’s loop I’m on, there’s someone putting together a NaNo support loop. Even my publisher has a NaNo loop. But the peer pressure to join the support loops? AMAZING.

If I WERE to do NaNo this year, I could technically join nine NaNo loops; I’d spend more time reading messages from the support teams than I would spend writing. Um, what’s the purpose again? I know, not every writer belongs to nine groups – some only belong to seven. Or maybe a conservative four. Still…I miss the “olden days” of NaNo. Back when only four or five thousand people were doing it.

When I first did Nano, waaaay back in 2003, the only people I knew who were doing it was my best writing buddy Jenn Reese and a couple writers I knew in Texas. It was a mostly solitary endeavor, with the exception of delightful posts from Chris Baty and the NaNo organizers; and I can truly say that my work was a vomit draft, with “no plot, no problem” my mantra. However, I couldn’t fix those 54,000 words to save my life. The book still lurks on my hard drive, waiting to pounce on me when I don’t have anything else to write about. Luckily, that hasn’t been an issue.

I next completed NaNo in 2008, along with my two teenaged sons and my husband. There were more people doing NaNo, but I focused on my own, internal support group. We all finished; we all rejoiced. That book is in much better shape, but because of the books I’ve written in front of it, it will now most likely be mostly scrapped – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’ll be able to save bits and pieces, just not the whole plot. *wince*.

The good to come out of this go-round of NaNo? My eldest son is taking writing classes in college and really enjoying them; and my youngest is doing NaNo again this year, only this time he’s writing in French. (Yes – in FRENCH. I have strange and wonderful kids.)

So all you NaNo-ers out there, I applaud you. I hope you’re plotting and planning, and that your novel-to-be has some sort of structure before you start (though technically that’s against the spirit of NaNo – or it used to be, anyway). I shall plug away at my novel rewrites and continue my blogging, and not miss the STRESS of NaNo at all. I can stress myself out just fine, thanks.

Maybe next year I will have the freedom to do NaNo again. But for now, I’ll cheer all of you NaNo-ers on from the sidelines – when I’m not busy writing.



The Girls’ Weekend in Paso Robles

The Girls’ Weekend in Paso Robles

For those of you not from California, Paso Robles is the next in line of the big wine counties here. First on the map was Napa Valley; then came Sonoma County. Now Paso Robles is lifting its head and making itself known after being there and growing grapes for umpety years.

Two weekends ago, my boss let me have a half-day off and I went up to Paso with two girlfriends. We got on the road around 2pm and headed north; not a good thing on a Friday. I don’t remember how long it took us to get to Santa Barbara, but we stopped there for burritos at Freebirds, the local hangout on Isla Vista for all the UCSB kids. And yes, we were SURROUNDED by kids. I haven’t felt that old in years.

The youngling with us powered down a huge burrito while the driver and I, of a similar age and body type, split nachos – which we couldn’t finish. And then we were onward.

It was a bit of an awkward drive for me. I sat in the back seat, thinking I would write on the way (HAH!); what that did was put a sound barrier between me and the front seat gals, especially since I only hear out of one ear now. But we did okay.

We finally hit Atascadero, found our hotel room, and settled in – but just for a moment. We needed provisions. We were still full from our late lunch, but a bottle of wine and some snackies wouldn’t go amiss.

We found a Food 4 Less down the highway a bit. By the time we got a cart and made our way in, we were giggling helplessly over something or other. I don’t remember what, I only remember how delicious it was to giggle a tad uncontrollably. All through the store we were that way – and we hadn’t had a SINGLE sip of wine. Not ONE. Amazing, but true!

Finally provisioned with salami, bread, cheeses, and grapes (not to mention a bottle of Eberle Merlot and Barefoot Cellars Rose Champagne), we headed back to our hotel room, did battle with the ice machine and the ice chest, and finally were able to get into our jammies and have girl talk.

I’m going to skip the girl talk. It was fabulous, it was full of the good stuff, and you’ll just have to use your imagination.

The next day, we hit up seven wineries. SEVEN WINERIES from 10am to 5pm. SEVEN. Hubby and I usually only can manage three, four TOPS before we’re too giddy. So I am definitely proud of our prowess. Of course, it didn’t hurt that our driver preferred sweet white wines, and there weren’t a lot of those to taste.

Briefly, here are my notes from the seven wineries:

Eberle – Really enjoyed the whites, not so the reds. Bought a viognier for the hubby. Nice cave tour, but our tour guide had less personality than a grape.  The picture to the left? Eberle is German for swine – hence the statue of the pig out front.

Adelaida – Became a club member. Sigh. 3 bottles, 4 times a year; must be a member for 1 year prior to canceling. Bought four bottles here – a white, a rose, and two reds.

Tablas Creek – We’re here because our youngling wanted to pick up some wine for her dad, but they’re all sold out of the wine she wanted. I bought a present here for my brother, and it’s not wine.  We had a picnic out front before we went in – two wineries and we’re feeling like we forgot to eat breakfast (which, since it was free, and filling, we most assuredly DID NOT forget to do).

Jada – Pretty winery. I think we’re on the Old Vineyard Road but I’m not sure. I bought olive oil and a zinfandel vinegar here as much for the bottles as for their contents.

Dover – Great dog! A huge St. Bernard is lolling on the grass out front, and there’s a rope swing. Too, too romantic. Bought a port here for Tom but it’s a huge 750ml bottle. Not what I’m used to.

Terri Hoag! Fell in love with their tasting glasses, and bought 4. Also bought a bottle of wine. Don’t remember what it was. Tasted good though I think. Um…

Ecluse Winery We had just an hour left before tasting rooms started to close down, so we hit up Ecluse, which was just up the road from Terry Hoag. They had Blind Dog Wine – one of the owners’ sons had a guide dog because he was deaf as well as a bit autistic I think (not totally sure). The dog was with the son for so long, that it went blind with age. I not only bought 2 bottles of the Blind Dog Wine without tasting it, but I also got a hat. Because a percentage of the proceeds went to Dogs for the Deaf. I also bought a bottle of something else – not that I remember what at this point…

(Did you notice how the more I tasted wine, the less notes on the wine I actually took? Hilarious!)

Sunday  We had a great dinner last night at McPhee’s Grill. I had filet mignon in a bordelaise sauce, and we had wine with dinner…I think it was an Eberle. Not sure. I do know we didn’t finish it.

It’s overcast today – we just had breakfast. Soon we’ll head out to Cypher where I’ll spend far too much, and then on to Harmony.

And so it went… We did make it to Cypher, and I did spend too much money. Then we went to Harmony, where I spent more money. All in all, I shouldn’t buy another bottle of wine for at least 3 months…but since they were all over $10 a bottle, I’ll have to, won’t I, in order to keep up the blog?

In retrospect it was the perfect trip. We laughed ourselves silly, we sipped, we ate, we talked about deep and important things. We snored and cleaned our faces with interesting products and slept in and cursed the bad hotel coffee. We drank wine, and we bonded.

When I asked my hubby if he was sure I should go (because it was just weird, thinking about going to ANY wine country without him), he said of course. I needed time with women, he said. I work with 5 men. I live with 3 men. I need the bonding time.

And he was right. Thanks, Adina and Debbie, for a weekend I’ll never forget. Hugs!

My Mother’s Wedding Dress

It skulked in a high cupboard for decades, in a cream and black-striped box that used to hold a nice women’s coat, from back in the day when women’s coats used to come in nice big boxes. Mom had first brought it out to show me when I was six or seven, then reverently packed it away again. I forgot about it – marriage was in the far mists of my future.

I saw it again after I got engaged, and Mom and I talked about my wedding dress. I tried hers on, to make her feel useful (I was such a brat). It was pretty, but at the time a bit too old fashioned for me – stiff satin with a square neck and 3/4 length sleeves. In my defense, I was a very young bride-to-be – only 19, and with no concept of fashion outside of my pointe shoes and tights. In retrospect, I’d have looked killer in that dress after a fitting or two.

Time marched on. I had my wedding (during that awkward year, 1980 – slap between the hippy beach weddings of the 70’s and just prior to the huge, lavish, DYNASTY-type affairs of the mid-80’s) and a lovely brief honeymoon, but I didn’t wear Mom’s dress. Instead, it languished in its cupboard. The delicate headdress for the veil slowly turned yellow with age, and the heavy linen underskirt grew just a tiny bit brittle. They were in their own box, one that used to hold a blanket. The dress, like the boxes, was from the early 1950’s.

Decades passed. I had two children and many different careers, and only thought of Mom’s wedding dress when I saw my parents’ wedding picture. Then Mom died in 2007. After some time, we boxed up her clothes, divided up her jewelry, tossed out her makeup. But the wedding dress still waited in the high cupboard in the hallway, forgotten and much too high up for an old man and  woman to worry about what was actually in that cupboard.

I didn’t think about my Mom’s dress again until one day this spring, when I visited my Dad. His roommate and caregiver had been doing an unusually thorough spring cleaning, and had found the boxes in their place in the hallway cupboard. Dad proudly gave them to me. I was at a loss. I had two young men at home, and not a daughter (or prospective daughter-in-law) in sight. But it was important for him to give them to me.

So I took the boxes home, thinking perhaps a successful costumer I know would like the dress. But somehow, the boxes stayed with me. First in the back of my car for weeks. Then they moved into the house, and in the heat of summer took up residence in front of my cold fireplace. Magazines and guitar picks and sheet music eventually got piled up on the boxes, and they were obscured – we became unsure about what was sitting there on the hearth.

Time passed and autumn approached. This past week, a fire was asked for, which meant the dress was unearthed from its resting place on the hearth – this time, to be moved to the end of the couch. As the hubby prepped the fireplace, I took the dress out, admired the length of the train, the stiffness of the satin, the cut of the neckline. I didn’t bother to hold it against me, as the waist was impossibly tiny for my now-middle-aged figure; and I knew finally a deep reluctance to part with it.

“Perhaps my niece Sara would appreciate it. She has two girls,” I offered. My husband gave a noncommittal grunt. Perhaps Sara would want it. It would at least stay in the family that way.

But I didn’t contact her. I know the dress deserves better. I know there are places that will clean and then preserve the dress in a vacuum-sealed bag (which is how my wedding dress is packed – it hides under my bed). I know some costumer would probably drool over this dress.

As the last bit of my mother’s youth, though, and as I look at my own long-gone youth in the rear-view mirror, my mother’s wedding dress has become a symbol of all her love, hopes, dreams, wishes and desires.

I am never sentimental about my mother; but I find I just can’t part with it. So for now, and my guess is until it becomes imperative at Christmas, the boxes containing my mother’s wedding dress, underskirt and veil will remain on the edge of my couch, making her once again a part of my life.

Love you, Mom. Always.


Two Rose´s For Thanksgiving

Two Rose´s For Thanksgiving

Unemployment is still high, the politicians are still wrangling, and Friday comes as we all breathe a sigh of relief. I’m here to talk about wines – the good, the bad, the truly awful – and better yet, they’re affordable. Most are under $10 and can be found in your local grocery store.

With Thanksgiving coming up, and a weekend of wine tasting under my belt (that’s another post…), I’ve got a couple of Rose´s to discuss. It was a hot topic at the wineries, with many wineries featured a Rose´ to my surprise, because those same wineries didn’t have the Rose´s out in March. So between now and Thanksgiving, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on Rose´s both from the grocery store, and from the wineries. Because it’s never too early to plan the wine for the meal.

Cypher Pistil Paso Robles, 2010, $17.60 at the winery Alcohol 14.8% by volume – pre-released only for club members due to limited production (I’m a Freak Club Member)

On the Label: “Eclectic Rose Wine Produced & Bottled by Cypher Winery Paso Robles, CA

My Take: I loved this wine this past weekend, when I visted the winery. And maybe a tiny part of me bought it because my hubby likes Rose´ and he wasn’t with me.  OR, maybe I bought it because it was the first of only two wineries on Sunday, and I was still drunk from the day and night before. Whatever….

The bottle is cool; the front “label” is on the inside, pink snakeskin with the word CYPHER down the middle (what you see in the picture above is the back label).  The color of the wine is a pale pink – the blush of a fair-skinned bride, or the color of dawn on a cold winter morning. The scent – is vaguely flowery and alcoholic. The taste? Um…like a steel-casked Chardonnay. Kind of. Maybe.

We had it with turkey-sage meatloafettes and smashed potatoes. The hubby raved about the potatoes, liked the meatloafettes, and didn’t comment on the wine until I asked him. And he said it did its job – cleaned his palate between bites, but otherwise kind of bland. And I couldn’t disagree. Maybe it’s the high alcohol content that is overpowering the delicacy of this wine? I don’t know.

My Rating: ~ Drinkable ~ Such a disappointment overall. I don’t believe Rose´ improves with age (but I don’t know that for a fact); if I head out to Cypher next spring, I’ll definitely give it another taste, since I have a pre-release bottle.  If I’d been totally aware of that, I’d have suggested to hubby that we wait to open this bottle. But then again, life’s too short to save the good wine.

Penrosa Tempranillo Rose´2009,  product of Spain. Fresh and Easy, on closeout at $3.99. Alcohol 11.5% by volume.

On the Label: “Spain is producing some of the finest rose´wines in the world due to their beautifully ripe grapes and new modern winemaking practices. This rose has been made to be the perfect al fresco refresher on long hot summer days.”

My Take: I’m a fan of this wine, and yet – having it side by side with the Cypher, I have to admit that this is a juvenile wine. Young, bursting with fruit, flirty, it is unpretentious and – as advertised – perfect on a hot summer day when you’re sitting by the pool. It makes the Cypher taste much more sophisticated, but some days you just want to sip strawberries in a glass, you know? The low alcohol content is nice, too.

My Rating: ~ Drinkable ~

Um…it just dawned on me that I might have reviewed this wine earlier. If so, well then…there you go!

All in all, I don’t think either of these is a good wine for Turkey Day. I much prefer white to start with as I cook, and then switching to a good Pinot Noir – my comfort wine, if you will – to sip with the meal.

But luckily there are a few weeks to go before that all important Thanksgiving meal. I’ll fling some more choices your way as we go along.

As usual, this is just my honest opinion and will totally depend upon my mood, the songs hubby is playing on the guitar as I write, and what bills I’ve just paid. Your taste buds will differ.

~ Until the next time, cheers – and remember to drink responsibly! ~

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