Luxuries, Big and Small

Luxuries, Big and Small

This past weekend, the Hubby and I spent a few hours at Laguna Beach. We visited Vladimir Kush’s art gallery – he does lovely surrealistic glicee´s that all cost way too much for my wallet, but are lovely to look at (one of the little luxuries), so do please go look!  We wandered around other galleries, too, and enjoyed the sun, the scent of the sea, and the joy of a beach town on a warm winter day.

At lunch, we hit up Ocean Avenue Brewery and had some craft beers and a fantastic lunch. Thus fortified, we went on to the boardwalk to take photos – of the sand, the beachgoers, the paddle boarders, and the ever-present pelicans. Needless to say, my pelican shots didn’t come out too good. The day was beautiful – warm, sunny, not a cloud in the sky. We walked, giggled, held hands, took photos and had a wonderful time, feeling it must be July and not January. After about three hours, we were ready to continue our journey south.

Our final destination was the Pelican Cove Inn Bed and Breakfast, in the village of Carlsbad. A lovely place, it’s more like an exclusive hotel than a typical B&B – private entrances to all the rooms; ours had a bath (SPA TUB!!! WOO!!!) and a shower, a queen-sized FEATHER bed with a net canopy overhead, a fireplace, a sitting area, a small dining area. I could easily see myself living there while frantically trying to finish up my 100th novel, lol…very much a big luxury. But – considering that the last time we were there to celebrate our life together just six days before I had brain surgery, well…lets just say, this time around we were relaxed, happy, and ready to enjoy the weekend.

When we got to our room, the same one we had the first time, it felt like home. Stretching out on that bed and realizing I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t want to – little luxury. Taking a spa tub before dinner, then again at six in the morning – little luxury. Stirring coffee over breakfast at the B&B (artichoke quiche, fresh melon, fresh croissant, boysenberry jam, orange juice…), another small luxury. (Usually we don’t have time to stir our cream into the coffee, it’s splash, pour, shove the travel lid on and go.)

Saturday night, we went back to Vigilucci’s Cucina, a fabulous Italian restaurant on State Street in Carlsbad. We had a lovely wine (which I’ll talk about later) with dinner – I had a fabulous ribeye steak in a gorgonzola-mushroom cream sauce…totally a big luxury! Hubby had wide egg noodles and seared scallops in a multi-mushroom medley sauce. Both dishes were fantastic – the night magical, as we sat outside and enjoyed the fresh air.

Dessert capped the night – three baby cannoli that we split. Oh my – truly a luxury!

Sunday after breakfast (already described, above) we went back to our room and lolled. I curled up in the feather bed and read some, hubby took a nap, played guitar, and finally encouraged me to get going. Even though our hostess Nancy said we didn’t have to leave at noon, we did end up checking out about then – which meant it was time for wine tasting at the Witch’s Winery (I think…I didn’t buy anything. What I liked was over priced…) and then finally, brunch at Vigilucci’s. Because we could, I guess…

At any rate, the eggs benedict was wonderful, the Bellini (usually champagne and chambord unless its a Peach Bellini) was just so so (champagne quality not the best) but the coffee and the ambiance, magnifico.  We dawdled over breakfast, another little luxury, until finally it was time to leave. After a long, barefoot beach walk (another luxury!) and perusing some antique shops, and Hubby finding the washboard of his dreams, we finally loaded up the car and headed out of town, back to home and to the young men who didn’t even miss us – and the cat who did.

So we came back after our weekend of big and small luxuries physically tired but emotionally refreshed and relaxed. I didn’t read email, or write. Instead, I refilled my creative well at the hands of others’ creativity, truly a treat.

What are some of your favorite luxuries, big or small?

Rieslings for the Summer

Rieslings for the Summer

In these days of high unemployment and global financial crisis, it’s nice to relax with a bottle of wine that doesn’t break your pocketbook. I’m here to sort out the memorable from the truly awful, and each bottle is under $10.

My friend and fellow writer, Kathy Bennett, asked about Rieslings a few posts ago.  Now, if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you already know I’m not a sweet wine fan. But being the dedicated Wine Blogger that I am, I forged ahead into uncharted waters and tasted some Rieslings this past weekend. So here you go, Kathy…hope you find a few in here that  you like! (I know I did…)

Kendall Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Riesling, 2010
Monterey County, California 100% Jackson Estates Grown.   Alcohol 13.0% by volume; regularly $14.99, on sale at Albertson’s for $9.99.

On the Label: “The less we handle the fruit, the better the quality. The combination of climate, soil and hillside vineyards delivers a superior-flavored grape.  Our Jackson Estates Grown Riesling is no exception. Stone-fruit flavors of apricot and peach deliciously mingle with hints of Anjou pear and bursts of jasmine. This wine’s distinctive taste is a result of the coastal vineyards in Monterey County, from where it was harvested.”   –Founder, Jess S. Jackson

My Take: I really liked this wine, to my vast surprise. It has a faint flowery scent and a touch of the sweetness – just perfect for a spring meal (Easter, perhaps). The hubby wasn’t as enamored as I was, due to the slightly steely aftertaste and not enough sweetness in the foretaste.

My Rating:  ~ Very Drinkable ~ I’ll definitely keep it in mind now for those spring/summer warm to hot days.

Robert Mondavi Private Selection Riesling, 2009  California  Alcohol, 12.5% by volume  Regular price, $11.99 – on sale for $6.99 at Albertsons

On the Label: “Through timeless winemaking innovation, an uncompromising eye for quality and unshakable faith in California’s vineyards, Robert Mondavi was a pioneer in producing wines that rival the world’s finest. The enticing floral and spice notes of our Riesling weave through the crisp fruit flavors.”

My Take: This wine smells like honey in a glass, and also has a lovely aftertaste of honey – light, crisp, sweet but not too sweet. My hubby said  “This is  a Riesling!” For me, this particular wine isn’t one I’d reach for on a daily basis, but for all of that it sits pleasantly on the palate and begs for a picnic at a scenic spot with someone special.  Some sharp cheese, maybe salami, and this wine – you’ve got a winner.

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~ Plus it’s a fantastic price!

Chateau St. Michelle Riesling 2010 Columbia Valley, Washington State  Alcohol 11.0% by volume  Regularly $9.99, on sale for $7.99 at Albertsons.

On the Label:  “Enjoy classic Washington state Riesling in this fresh, crisp and balanced style. Delicious flavors of ripe peach and juicy pear are underscored with racy acidity.”

My Take: Admittedly, I had this wine under unusual circumstances. 1. I’d already had two glasses of Pinot Noir. 2. The wine wasn’t properly chilled. 3. I wasn’t really looking to have more wine. However, this blog called…and the wine answered. To my surprise, it was my favorite of all three. The sweetness is balanced between the Kendall Jackson and the Mondavi; the alcohol content is lower than both; and there’s no steely aftertaste. The scent is fresh and floral, but not overwhelming. Perfect for a picnic, or a before dinner drink.

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~ It doesn’t get a higher rating because, frankly, it’s not a red.  But to my taste buds, it’s the best of the three. Hubby preferred the Mondavi – and we’d both still drink the Kendall Jackson. And to my surprise, I’m now a Riesling fan!

As usual, this is just my honest opinion and depend upon my mood, the weather, and what cycle the moon is in. Your taste buds will differ. And hey – if you’ve got a varietal out there you want me to taste, let me know! You know where to find me…

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

Demon Soul is available for the Kindle and the Nook! Have you read it yet?

 My rating system: Undrinkable, Barely Drinkable, Drinkable, Very Drinkable, and the ever popular Stay away! This is MY wine, you slut!

In the Garden

Today was the perfect gardening day. We headed out about 3pm, a bag of 65 bulbs in hand and trowels at the ready. Within 3 minutes, we realized we had a bigger problem – weeds.

Weeds, and the I-can’t-believe-I-planted-it-because-it-takes-over-the-whole-yard morning glory. The twice-damned vine was EVERYWHERE. In the apple tree. Twining around the berry bushes. Hiding behind the tomato pots in the weeds, and making plans for taking over the center of the yard. (Some of my tomato plants have wintered over…I ate a cherry tomato yesterday, fresh from the vine and bursting with flavor. Yum!)

Anyway – back to the weeds. Being the enterprising couple that we are, we roused our boys from their hermit-like hiding in their rooms, and put them to work. We have two “official” garden cans, and two cans we use to put the leftovers that we can’t stuff into the official cans. The boys (young men?) pitched in and filled both sets of cans while weeding out empty planting beds, and taking care of the weeds trying to hide the artichoke plants. (We’re up to six on artichoke plants, if anyone is keeping track.)

While waiting for the opportunity to plant, and to stay out of the guys’ way, I got the big clippers out and de-branched the christmas tree. The trunk now waits for one of the kids to saw it up, and the branches await the fireplace. Plus, the yard is a little bit cleaner.

Once the weeds were taken care of, we could plant. Out of the 65 bulbs, hubby planted probably 35. Don’t ask me what they were – I know he planted 10 purple Echinacea, but I don’t remember the other two…and of course, two of the three weren’t bulbs, they were rhizomes. The third was definitely a bulb, however.  So all of the rhizomes got planted – but we’ve got 30 of the bulbs to still scatter. I’ll do my best to get them in the ground in the front this coming week…

The air was crisp, cool but not cold. The sky was impossibly blue, and the sun gentle on my face. Doing the work – weeding, planting, getting my fingers deep into the soil (which I did!) – was somehow life-affirming. Rejuvenating. Not to mention, damned good exercise. I didn’t get the writing done that I had wanted, but the time outside in the sunshine was very well spent.

SPEAKING OF WINE…(weren’t we?)

The other thing I did this weekend was to taste some Rieslings. I’ve got one more to go, but to my surprise I’m enjoying them. I thought they would be too sweet for me – but for sipping wine, they are spot on. I look forward to the discussion on them this week!

Another wine note – a winery contacted me and asked me if I’d like to taste and review a bottle of wine they’re just putting out – a new blend. After I picked my jaw up from the floor, I answered back but of course! And they have sent me a bottle of the wine, without me paying a dime. Very cool, what? Unfortunately I haven’t had time to taste it, what with this weekend being dedicated to tasting Riesling (thanks to Kathy Bennett, lol). However, I got to taste another wine on Friday that will go well review-wise with the donated bottle, so I look forward to bringing those thoughts to you.

Now, its almost time for dinner. The NY and San Francisco game is 17 to 17 with 30 seconds left in the game. JoePa has died. Hubby is gearing up for another week on Christian Slater’s new show, BREAKING IN, which also stars Megan Mullaly.

May your coming week hold love and laughter, and – as a dear friend of mine always says – “seek joy, y’all”.  Seek joy, indeed!

~ Demon Soul is available for the Kindle and the Nook! Have you read it yet? ~

Three Unusual Reds

Three Unusual Reds

In these days of high unemployment and global financial crisis, it’s nice to relax with a bottle of wine that doesn’t break your pocketbook. I’m here to sort out the memorable from the truly awful, and each bottle is under $10, unless noted otherwise.

I’m calling these reds unusual because either they’re niche reds (one distributor) or their hard-to-find reds (perhaps closeouts).

Four Vines 2009 Old Vine Cuvee Zinfandel Sonoma County, California Alcohol 14.4% by volume. $8.99 at BevMo! on sale.

On the Label:  “Old vines lend depth and character to layers of silky berry fruit and spice. The wine begins with a rich fruit, then glides into a lingering sexy oak finish. Enjoy with candlelight and a friend…” Christian Tietje Winemaker

My Take: First off, I have never seen this in the grocery store. In order to find it (what’s left of it, that is), you’ll have to go to BevMo or another big box wine and spirits store. That said: This wine is made by one of my favorite winemakers, who actually sold the Four Vines label a year or so ago and is now making wines under the Cypher label. When we saw the Zin going for only $8.99 (30% off sale at BevMo!), we had it that same day to see if we should rush back and get a bunch of bottles.

The wine was good, I will say that. However, it wasn’t the stellar wine that I’ve become so spoiled with from Cypher (at 3 times the cost, I might add).  Even though its only a 2009, I’m thinking it was a wine that was made to drink young and, therefore, it has already lost some oomph for me. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not a terrific bottle of wine.

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~ And it is a very good price.

Chessman Vineyards Reserve North Coast Pinot Noir 2009 Alcohol 14.3% by volume $10.04 on a “get rid of” sale at Vons.

On the Label: “In chess, choosing the right chessman and placing it on the right space maximizes the force of the move.  Likewise, choosing hte right vineyard that produces the highest expression of a particular varietal is the key to great wine.

Chessman Vineyards has found the perfect vineyard sites, from renowned North Coast, California, with the perfect varietal, Pinot Noir.  with its favorable exposure, climate, and soil, our North Coast Pinot Noir is the highest expression of this wonderful grape. Maximize your next move by enjoying a glass of Chessman Vineyard’s Pinot Noir.”

My Take: Okay. This label goes too far, especially since I read it after I tasted the wine. And trust me, it is NOT the “highest expression of this wonderful grape”.  I found it young, lacking in complexity (that may develop over time) and rather thin, which some pinot noirs can be. It is a cranberry color, reminiscent of a fruity Beaujolais Nouveau. I don’t know if this wine will get better over time (well, with each successive glass it does, lol). I’ve been waiting to try Chessman Vineyards, since they are usually priced above $15; now I realize I don’t need to worry about it. Note: This vineyard doesn’t have a website. I find that exceedingly strange.

My Rating: ~ Drinkable ~ It went fine with pasta and garlic bread, even though it kinda got lost amongst the garlic.

Pacific Coast Highway Vintage 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Alcohol 14.5% by volume – around $8 at Fresh N Easy Markets.

On the Label: “The Pacific Coast Highway hugs the coastline of California and provides one of the most scenic drives in the world. It has inspired songs, poems, books; and now a wine. Enjoy the ride.

My Take: I admit, I was hesitant to try this wine as it was the third bottle I’d bought at Fresh N Easy  and the first two didn’t fare well in the Christine Rating System (the other two were reviewed here).  But dinner was almost ready and I needed to open something that befits a Wednesday night’s Mexican Plate Special. Besides, I love the name. Hubby and I got to drive PCH way up around Big Sur last March, and it was a magical, wonderful time. (Of course, after we got home, part of the highway fell into the sea…but I digress.)

So anyway, I opened, I poured, I sipped, I was surprised. The wine was drinkable straight from the get-go, no need to wait for it to air. The color is a deep purple-black and the taste, juicy and smooth. It almost tasted like a merlot, it was so mellow. It is a 2009; my guess is you’d better snap up bottles of this before it turns, and drink them now. (Does anyone other than the mega-rich or mega-snooty keep wine for more than a few months? Just wondering…)  It’s definitely an any-day wine and perfect for Wednesdays.

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~ A good all-around meal wine that won’t break your pocketbook.

That’s it for this week, thanks so much for stopping by! Remember these are my opinions based on my mood, the color of the sky, and whether the cat is purring or hissing. Your taste buds will vary.

I love your comments and wine suggestions, so please feel free to give me suggestions. (I’m still working on Reislings, Kathy!)

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

Demon Soul is available for the Kindle and the Nook! Have you read it yet?

My rating system: Undrinkable, Barely Drinkable, Drinkable, Very Drinkable, and the ever-popular Stay away! This is MY wine, you slut!

Now What?

Now What?

It’s been a strange day. My goal this year was to get DEMON HUNT off my plate and onto my editor’s plate by 1-15-12 – and I did it, as of about 9:20pm last night. The book that has been haunting me for the past year is out of my hands for the moment, and boy does that feel GOOD!

Today, I’ve been (between work projects, of course) wandering through my various and sundry flash drives, going through my writing history. I’ve got two pages of one book I’m DYING to read but, unfortunately, I haven’t written it. Bits and pieces of story ideas for Harlequin which haven’t been written. A high fantasy trilogy, also not written (but I’ve got TERRIFIC titles for those 3 books).

Then, I crossed paths with two books that were finished and had undergone extensive revision. Of course, that was before I knew what “extensive revision” really meant, but anyway. Two books. Finished. They need polishing; one is more of a romantic suspense (not too heavy on the suspense, though), with a young rock n’ roll heroine and an older hero; the other is – well, back in the day I’d call it chick lit, but not any longer. So I’ll just say it’s a humorous coming-of-age story about a 30-something female radio personality who trains for and runs a marathon for a reality TV show in the hopes of winning 2 million dollars.

They both have promise. They both need work. They were both, surprisingly, written in 2006.  So, I think while I’m digging through Justin and Maggie’s story for DEMON LUST (title not in stone), I’ll take breaks and work on these other two books just for kicks.  Though I really need to get back to that two-pager – wow, it was fascinating. I have a lot of world-building to do for that one, but that’s okay.

It is so cool to realize I’ve been doing this for eleven years. To realize that yes, I’m a writer. These stories have merit. They may not be ready for the big time yet, but they work. It’s thrilling, exciting, and so damned satisfying!!!

What fun stuff you can find when you go trolling through your flash drives (or closets, bookcases, dresser-drawers, boxes in your garage…can you tell I’m thinking about spring cleaning?!).

What have you found, lately, that you hadn’t seen in a very long time?

~  Have you read DEMON SOUL yet?  If you have, drop me a line and let me know what you thought!  ~