Susie Strong, and Wine Friday

Susie Strong, and Wine Friday

Today an amazing woman who is a WANA friend is undergoing surgery for breast cancer. As today is also the day I get a mammogram, I felt that I had to give a shout-out to Susie Lindau (along with a LOT of our other WANA friends), tell her that I’m thinking about her, and to remind my other dear friends to not forget about scheduling your mammograms. I’ve been scolded for not getting one since 2010; both my doctor AND her nurse chided me about it. So here I go, into the squeeze machine, and you can bet I’ll be thinking of Susie and her doctors while I do so.

In Surgery Today.

In Surgery Today.

Susie writes with humor and grace, and you can find her at Susie Lindau’s Wild Ride. Go check her out; she’s totally a blogger worth following. And to show your support, tweet her at #SusieStrong – Susie know you’re thinking about her!

For more information about the WANA Revolution, check out Kristen Lamb’s blog today. Talking about wine after discussing Susie seems a bit trivial, but – onward!

Wine Friday – Two Chardonnays for Summer

In these days of high unemployment and wild uncertainty, 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.

seekerThe Seeker California Chardonnay 2010 Alcohol 13.8% by Volume  Website:

On the Label:  “The Seeker relentlessly tracks down the world’s finest wines across time zones and continents.  Our wines are made with care by talented winemaking families, crafting flavorful, individual wines from selected grapes where they grow best.  The first Seeker wines come from France, New Zealand, Argentine, California, and Chile.  If you share the joy of discovery, this wine is for the Seeker in you.

“The grapes for our Chardonnay were discovered across California’s finest cool-climate vineyard sites to deliver a wine with ripe pineapple, golden apple, and pear flavors with a smooth, creamy finish.  Pour a glass and transport yourself to Sunny California wine country.”

My Take: I’m not usually a fan of what I like to call “consortium” wines (though that’s probably the totally wrong word); by that I mean, I prefer wines from a winery. From what the label says, these people go all over the world to find wines, then put their own label on them and import them. So it makes me kind of wiggly tentative about trying the wine.

But luckily, I bought before I read the label. This was a nice, easy-sipping wine, perfect for summer and fish on the grill. Barely any oak, so you stainless steel Chardonnay fans will be happy (though I’m glad I can say there’s no “tinny” taste at all). To top it off, it’s got a screw top, which makes it easy (especially for arthritic hands) to open.

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~

Ooh La La Chardonnay 2011  California Alcohol 9.0% by Volume  oh lala                     Website:

On the Label: “Ooh La La wines are light and refreshing with just at touch of mouthwatering zing that allows the fresh fruit flavors to rush forward.  The Chardonnay is lush and juicy with flavors of apple, tropical fruit and vanilla.  The perfect start to any occasion! SERVE WELL CHILLED.”

My Take: At 9% alcohol, THIS is the white wine you want to serve at parties. It is ever-so-slightly effervescent, which was a delightful surprise; and it stood up to appetizers just fine. Plus the bottle is – wait for it – capped, like a soda. How innovative! I’ve only seen that on a couple of bottles in the past. (Bonus – they also put out a Rose´, Pinot Grigio, and Riesling.)

My Rating: ~ Very, Very Drinkable ~ Stock up, so you’ll be ready to go all summer long, no matter where you’re invited.

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.

My Rating System: Undrinkable; Barely Drinkable; Drinkable; Very Drinkable; and the ever-popular “Stay Away! This is MY wine, you Slut!”

~ Until the next time, cheers – and remember to get that mammogram! ~


Demon Soul and Demon Hunt are all available for the Kindle and Kobo! Have you fallen into the Caine Brothers’ world yet?

A Retreat For One

A Retreat For One

When was the last time you went on a retreat? By yourself? With no agenda, but just to be?

This would be such a blast!

This would be such a blast!

I can’t remember. All my travels have a purpose – writing conferences, mostly. Or vacations with the hubby, or visiting the family, or writing retreats with friends. But take ME on a retreat, with nothing planned? I am having difficulty wrapping my brain around it.

(I will say the closest I come to having gone on a retreat was when I visited Tehachapi, last December. I stayed with my brother and his gal, and had a wonderful time with no real purpose behind it, other than helping out some friends.)

Leonie Dawson put this thought into my head with her post about her retreat. Now, she has a 3 year old, and I don’t; so she had anxieties about leaving home that I don’t have. (My anxieties are much weirder uh, different.) But where should I go?

Or camping. By myself. Well, maybe not...

Maybe camping. By myself? Well, maybe not…

Aside from where to go, the other question lingers in my mind. What would I do on a solo retreat? Leonie’s retreat didn’t quite go as she had planned, but it was just what she needed. Three nights and days of solitude and the sea and sunshine, which refreshed her and refilled her creative well.

My circumstances are a bit different, and I won’t be planning any three-night stays in a b&b on an ocean cliffside any time soon. (Or on a Boat, Bed and Breakfast…) But I really want to go on a retreat, so I am going to start small. I won’t be all alone, but I’ll have my days free and I won’t be at home for two nights. Two absolute musts, as far as I’m concerned.

I shall go prepared, but without plans. Which means I’ll take my camera and my computer and my drawing stuff, and see what happens. And I’ll meet up with my man at nights for a yummy dinner and great discussion about what we did that day, plus the comfort of not sleeping alone.  Sooo…

Back to Shelter Island Marina go I! Woo!

Back to Shelter Island Marina go I! Woo!

But before I can go, I need to get the Guitar book edited and off to the publisher (fingers crossed). Which means I need to hustle! The last thing I want is to have a deadline looming over me while on a retreat. That is NOT relaxing, lol!

(By the way, welcome to the new look of the blog! My thanks to Kristen Lamb for the new tagline.)

Have you ever gone on a retreat by yourself, with no plans in place? Does that sound like
something you would ever do? If so, where would you go? How long would you go for?


Thanks so much for stopping by. Until next time, cheers!

The Role Flowers Play – Star Jasmine

The Role Flowers Play – Star Jasmine

This year I have been surprised, time and again, by how my favorite flowers were also my Mom’s favorite flowers. The way they turn up in my life is amazing.

Spring shows me that star jasmine, that lovely, fragrant-filled star-shaped flower, should really be the unofficial flower of Southern California. This is a photo of the jasmine in my Dad’s back yard, and it’s what I grew up with – how could I not love the scent and appeal of star jasmine?

The star jasmine in my Dad’s back yard. It’s been there since I was a baby, and it was just a tiny plant in the ground. Oh, and the plant to the right is a giant pumpkin plant.

But what’s more, it seems like everywhere I go, I find star jasmine tucked away somewhere. In a corner, or a pot by the door of a restaurant. Used as an ornamental, a wall covering, or adding lacy appeal to a rustic fence. Just walking in my neighborhood shows me that most of my neighbors have star jasmine somewhere in their yards.

Jasmine as sculpture…

Decorating a rustic fence.

I enjoy walking from where I park my car to my work because of this lovely scent. It also makes the obligatory 45 minute walk around the neighborhood much more fun. Lately I’ve been taking a camera with me, and finding the jasmine and taking photos just perked up my whole day (though the neighbors watched me warily).

Brightening up an otherwise dull, unused corner.

I remember one summer evening before my father had torn down the swing set. I was sixteen and had just gotten dressed up (don’t ask me why!) in a kind of prairie outfit – blue skirt with a white underskirt (swiss voile? something like that) with a white top that laced up the front. I had just finished reading something sad and romantic, and I went outside and sat on the swing. Smelled the jasmine, heard the call of the mourning doves, and felt melancholy – I would never know love. I would die a terribly tragic death and everyone would feel sorry for me.

And then, you know, I got over it. But the memory has stayed with me, and every time I smell jasmine I get a slightly melancholy and yet happy nostalgia.

What about you? Is there a certain flower that resonates with you, more than any other?


Thanks for stopping by.  Hope you have a safe and happy Memorial Day. Until the next time, Cheers!

Red Wine and BBQ

Red Wine and BBQ

In these days of wild uncertainty about everything, 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.

We’ve arrived at Memorial Day weekend – the tail end of May (already!!). In the northern hemisphere, this heralds the beginning of summer. And while Memorial Day is the American holiday to remember and reflect on all the soldiers who have died for our freedoms, it also tends to be the kick-off to barbecue season.

So what better way to get back into the swing of Wine Fridays than with a blog about wines to go with your barbecue? Many people think you need a big wine to go with the sometimes really zesty flavors of BBQ, but I say, not always. Below are two wines that work beautifully with bold flavors and yet are also terrific sipping wines.

Blackstone Winemaker’s Select Red Blend 2010 Alcohol 13.5% by Volume; $8.99 at Vons.

On the Label:  “Our Blackstone red wine is produced from vineyards located throughout CAlifornia’s finest grape-growing regions.  After harvest, each vineyard lot is carefully developed to capture its distinctive flavors and aromatic qualities.

“Our wine is a blend of California’s best red wine varietals and emulates Blackstone’s style; smooth, flavorful and balanced.  This wine is soft and silky with flavors of ripe plum, blackberry and dark chocolate with a long, lush finish.”

My Take: The hubby brought this home one night and we had it with barbecued chicken, smashed potatoes and a big salad. The wine is definitely as advertised – soft, easily drinkable, yet it held up against the strong flavor of the barbecue sauce just fine.

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~ A good wine to bring to a Memorial Day cookout, or any summer party.

Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot 2008 Columbia Valley, Washington  Alcohol, 13.5% by Volume $9.99 at Vons

On the Label: “Grand Estates is synonymous with quality, consistency and value. Combining the best vineyards fromt he columbia Valley with artisan winemaking results in a world-class wine.

“To add a layer of complexity to our Grand Estates Merlot, we ferment our juice with whole berries to create a rich aromatic profile, highlight exceptional fruit flavors and exhibit a lush, velvety-smooth texture.”  – Ray Elnberger, Winemaker

My Take: Many people have been swayed by the movie SIDEWAYS and no longer drink Merlot, which is a pity. A good merlot has a wonderful mouthfeel; not too big, but definitely big enough to handle anything a barbecue can spit out at you. We had this wine with grilled sausages, grilled veggies, with a side of pasta parmesan (no red sauce, just butter, pepper and parmesan cheese). It handled the spicy sausage just fine and was a lovely complement to the veggies and pasta.

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~ Yet another good value, and a crowd pleaser. I think I might have snagged the last bottle of 2008 at my grocery store; if you find the 2009, I’m expecting it to be just as solid a wine.

As usual, this is just my honest opinion, which will depend upon my mood, the weather, and what cycle the moon is in. Your taste buds will differ. Enjoy the weekend my friends, and stay safe out there.

~ Until the next time, cheers! ~


Demon Soul and Demon Hunt are all available for the Kindle and Kobo! Have you fallen into the Caine Brothers’ world yet?

I Heart San Diego, Naval Base and Everything

I Heart San Diego, Naval Base and Everything

San Diego is where I was born. I did not live there long enough to get to know the city well as an adult; the places I drove to when I was 16 – 19 were the high school, the ballet studio, Balboa Park, the beach, my boyfriend’s house. That was pretty much it. Oh, and yeah, the mall. Back when indoor malls were new (late 1970s, for those of you who aren’t sure of the time frame).

Having a boyfriend (aka now the Hubby) meant my horizons got wider. Which means, I never went to the beach before driving there with him. It was our first date, actually – I drove us in my new-to-me Toyota Corolla, a pretty yellow four door, in 1977, to La Jolla Shores and we walked along a spit of land that fell into the sea a few years later.

But This Post Isn’t About That.

Two weekends ago I spent the entire weekend down in San Diego with the hubs. I hope to do so again, very soon, and stay on the boat he’s staying on while he performs there. In the meantime, I want to share some of the beauty that is Shelter Island (and I’ll tell you the story of my first time there in a bit).

Just the most beautiful view. I wouldn’t mind living in one of those houses on the hill. Or, for that matter, one of those bigger boats…You?

Shelter Island is beautiful. Now, my sense of the geography of San Diego is totally off, so forgive me, but I believe Shelter Island is a part of Point Loma. At any rate, it’s also called the America’s Cup Harbor – there are even signs to that effect. More on that later. While I was waiting for the hubby to finish playing banjo and take me to the Starbucks so I could plug in and write, I took this photo.

I’d live on one for a summer. Would you?

And of course, here’s one of the hubby playing banjo…

My man, practicing the banjo. One of the hardest working actors I know, anywhere.

And some dogs I saw, racing along the water together. They looked like they were having SO much fun!

Two dogs having a roaring good time in the water. No, they’re not mine. Yes, their owners were not far away.

But now I suppose you want to know the story of my first time on Shelter Island. Well…hubby gave me really good directions. Except he said the fatal words – “You can’t miss the turn. There’s a huge sign.”

This was my first time to Shelter Island. I was still in The Boot, but I decided to go down, visit my dad for a half day, then hie myself hither to see my hubby. Unfortunately, while his directions got me to the right place, his “you can’t miss it” had me expecting flashing lights and pointing fingers and a sign that said “GO THIS WAY CHRISTINE”. So I kept driving on Rosecrans, passing the small street sign that said Shelter Island, and the sign that said “America’s Cup Harbor”, figuring that the sign to turn must be bigger. In fact, I went so far on Rosecrans that whenever I looked to my left, between the houses I saw water. I figured I was getting close.

And I was. Unfortunately, I was very close to the Point Loma Naval Base. Ahead of me by almost 500 yards I saw a guard shack and two armed military men. Knowing I was in the wrong place, for a few seconds I thought I should make an illegal U turn and flee…but I wasn’t sure if they wouldn’t have a military helicopter after me, what with the strange goings-on in our country lately. So instead, I sedately crept forward, getting my self-deprecating skills polished as we inched ahead. (Everyone was stopped.)

(BTW – I was going to put a photo here of the checkpoint, but I couldn’t find one and OF COURSE I didn’t take one.)

When I got up to the soldier, I rolled down my window and expressed my abject apologies, saying I was supposed to go to the Shelter Island Marina but my sense of direction kind of sucked and could I please make a U turn? He listened, nodded politely, asked for my license, walked around to the back of my car, called in my license plate and probably my drivers license number. When he came back I smiled self-deprecatingly (practice came in handy) and I said that I hadn’t wanted to make an illegal U turn.

He nodded again, politely, and then told me that I would proceed to the armed officer ahead of me, make my U turn, and he would hand my license over to me on the other side of the cement berm.

Um, okay. So I went ahead, turned at the young (SO YOUNG) soldier’s wave, came around to the other side, and accepted my license. The other young soldier waved me on and wished me a good day.

I headed to the hubby and the marina, chuckling at my encounter with the military but still in awe and a bit trembly. SO glad I wasn’t a Bad Guy at that moment. Did I mention the (no clue what type weapon) guns they had slung over their shoulders?

But I finally met the hubby at the Tiki of Bali Hai. And I leave you with that photo…

This is the parking lot not only for the Bali Hai restaurant, but for the Shelter Island Marina. Oh, and at night, the Tiki on the roof only has one glowing red eye. Spooky…


Thanks so much for coming along on this journey. What unexpected encounters have you had while adventuring? Animal, mineral, or vegetable, lol?


Until next time, be good to one another. Cheers!