Holiday Wines

Holiday Wines

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. Today I’m talking about Holiday Wines – those wines I reach for when creating a memorable meal, and under $25.

Kendall Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Pinot Noir 2010 Alcohol 13.5% by Volume; $16.99 on sale at Vons

On the Label: “Vineyard selection makes a difference. Our Jackson Estates Grown Pinot Noir delivers black cherry and raspberry fruit with velvet tannins found in our hillside grapes that intertwine with plum and spice from our benchland vineyards.  The wine was aged in French and American oak barrels that impart a hint of vanilla and cedar aromas.”

My Take: Funny, but as I’m writing this my hubby said to me, didn’t you already review that one? Yeah, well maybe! I suppose I need to keep an index of the wines I’ve reviewed. Hrm. At any rate, this wine paired beautifully with a big bowl of Cassoulet (the New Year’s Eve dish of choice). The depth of the wine dealt with the spice of the meats, and all around it was a wonderful pairing. Of course, in my book it’s hard to go wrong with Pinot Noir!

My Rating: ~ Very, Very Drinkable ~ and not a bad price, considering.

Stag’s Leap 2011 Napa Valley Chardonnay Alcohol 14.1% by Volume; $22.99 at Vons

On the Label: “At Stag’s Leap Winery, we appreciate wines that enhance conversation and artisanal foods. This Chardonnay is a story of balance, a delicious intersection of richness and minerality that benefits from the classical standard of viticulture, care of the land, and winemaking that is as relevant today as it was in 1893 when the winery was established.”

My Take: It was Christmas Eve, and I wanted a special wine to go with a simple dinner. I was making home made pasta and a rich garlic cream sauce, with broccoli alongside. So I splurged on this wine, as usually Stag’s Leap is out of my budget. (But it’s Christmas, Mr. Scrooge!)

I really, really liked this wine. It cut through the richness of the creamy sauce, enhanced the flavor of the broccoli, and rounded out the meal beautifully.  Truly a delight to be shared on special occasions.

My Rating: ~ Stay away! This is MY wine, you Slut! Another white to add to the Slut Status! Woo!

 Thanks for dropping by, please know that I LOVE having you here. As is usual, the ratings of these wines are my opinion only and can be affected by the weather and the late night news. Your taste buds will differ.

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

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

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

I LOVE hearing from you, so please leave a comment, okay?

Lynne Marshall’s Too Close For Comfort!

Lynne Marshall’s Too Close For Comfort!

Lynne Marshall’s new book, Too Close For Comfort, hits shelves today. If you love romances with older heroines, you’ll love Too Close For Comfort and Lynne’s other older-heroine book, One For The Road.

Lynne – you’ve just allowed me to push my wine blog to Saturday, lol! I’ve got five questions for you to answer, so I can introduce you to my readers. Thanks so much for playing along!

Christine: What draws you to writing older heroines? 

Lynne: Though life is interesting at every stage, I feel things become more challenging after forty.  Women often hit their stride after the big four-oh.  I believe we become more intriguing and sure of ourselves.  Also, I can relate to women a bit closer to my age than the twenty-something heroines and their dating adventures. I enjoy stories that include marriages and children and the next big relationship obstacle to overcome.

Christine: Other than writing, what is your favorite creative endeavor? 

Lynne: I am a totally uncreative person outside of writing.  I have done many crafts over the years, but none have stuck. I do feel that I am fairly creative with throwing things together and coming up with a darn good meal, though.  Is that considered being creative?

I also believe that I am a creative cusser. I make up cuss words, and enjoy stringing a long line together, with gusto, and hopefully won’t even offend anyone in the process.  In fact there is evidence of my fake cuss words in Too Close for Comfort, in particular, at the beginning of chapter Twenty-one. 

Christine: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?

Lynne: I would like to try out several places for a year, but not necessarily to settle down there for good.  I must say, I have a love affair with Canada, and I could see myself in a small seaside town in the Atlantic northeast.  There was one place in particular that my husband and I stumbled upon when we visited Halifax in 2010.  I believe it was called Chester, (Chester Harbour) Nova Scotia.  I’d really love to live there for a year. Or in Mahone Bay, which was equally beautiful and quaint.

Christine: Name three simple joys in your life.

Lynne: That first cup of coffee in the morning.  Knowing my husband is nearby.  Seeing both of my grown childrens’ faces.

Christine: If you could sit down for a meal with any literary character, who would it be and what would you eat?

Lynne: I honestly prefer to keep my characters in books, and actually being with them would ruin the magic of reading and imagination. So may I change that to any literary author?


Samuel Clemens!  Oh my gosh, what I’d do to share a meal with Mark Twain.  I’d let him choose the meal and would do everything in my power not to let him know whether I hated something or not.  Though he’d probably test me by ordering something weird, and I’d love knowing that!  I’d eat something I’d never liked before in order to share a meal with Mark Twain, and I’d listen to every single word he uttered and would watch every gesture and expression he made.

Lynne, thanks so much for stopping by! Readers, I swear you will LOVE this book – give it a look see!

Too Close for Comfort
The Wild Rose Press

Dissove the partnership…or renegotiate between the sheets…

Blurb: Joy Waltham is stressed out. Before she can expand her business empire, she needs her ex-husband’s signature dissolving his silent partnership. A trip to Maine to find her ex, get the signature, and chill out seems ideal. But instead of relaxing, Joy winds up in the middle of a mystery—and wrapped in the overprotective arms of Comfort’s chief of police—her ex-husband.

After retiring from LAPD, Paul Donovan took charge of tiny Comfort’s police department. Bored senseless, he’s still not ready for chaos in the form of his ex-wife shaking up his life. Joy arrives just in time to meddle in his investigation of a string of accidental deaths. Now forced to work together, Joy and Paul confront some unexpected challenges.

It’s emotional deja vu as they dig through their thorny past, reawaken old sexual attraction, and face the fact they never stopped loving each other.


“It could have been crazy,” she said, straightening her shirt.

Paul didn’t believe her. She read it in his expression. They had no business reopening their past, and that was exactly what they’d do if they got it on right here right now. She stared at him, desire whispering for a reprieve. Joy cleared her head with a sigh. He swallowed. So did she.

He patted her hip, a sure sign that the party was over. “Let’s go.”

Not quite understanding what had come over her in the first place, she attempted to sound upbeat. “Well, it was fun while it lasted.”

She pulled up her corduroy pants while Paul backed out of the car, ass first. He tucked in his shirt and pulled off his knit cap then scratched his head. He made a sound in his throat like a quiet self-deprecating curse. With lips drawn tight, and eyes crinkled at the corners, he stepped back while she crawled out.

“So what’d we learn from this?”

He didn’t waste a beat as he opened the passenger door for her. “That I had no business bringing you out here.”

She stopped close by his face, and ran her hand along the jaw that had just rubbed her cheek raw. She caught a whiff of his aftershave mixed with a surge of testosterone, and wished she’d had the chance to breathe more of him. “You’re right, Mr. Straight and Narrow,” she said, staring at him, her mouth still tingling from his kisses. “This was probably a mistake. Heaven forbid we should have some mind-numbing sex for old time’s sake.”

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

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

Wrestling with Recipes – Vegetarian

Wrestling with Recipes – Vegetarian

Sorry about the lack of blog posts the last couple of weeks. I’m finding healing takes up a lot of energy! I am, however, getting a lot of work done on my latest book, so that’s a plus.

But as I get stronger, I am at last cooking again and enjoying it. Getting adventurous. So, yesterday I made this terrific recipe that ended up being more of a pain than it needed to be. (Afterwards, I was a zombie. And it wasn’t the wine I drank that made me a zombie! I guess I need to cook something less ambitious for now.)

Cover of Vegetarian Cook BookI’d bought this book called Vegetarian, over 300 healthy and wholesome recipes chosen from around the world, pubbed by Metro Books with Nicola Graimes listed as the Consultant Editor. (If you click on the link, it’ll take you to Amazon.)

So there’s no one driving Chef force behind the recipes, which may account for the rather randomness of it. And while this is a Vegetarian cook book, they use a lot of dairy and eggs and cheese throughout, which surprised me. Plus there’s NO nutritional information, so don’t go looking for it.

There is, however, a comprehensive introduction and discussion on the basic vegetarian whole food diet, the essentials you need for good health, and over 100 pages on The Vegetarian Kitchen and what to stock and why. Interesting reading, and I’m glad I picked it up in the bargain bin when Borders was going out of business. (Sniff…I miss my Borders!)

Anyway. I’d found this meal in the book called Potato Rosti and Tofu with Fresh Tomato and Ginger Sauce (pg. 312). Since we’re trying to eat a couple meals a week meat-free, and since I have a back yard full of tomatoes, this looked like a good start.

My first hangup? The recipe called for 3 3/4 cups of tofu, cut into 1/2 inch pieces. How do you buy 3 and 3/4 cups of tofu? I went by weight, only later realizing that weight doesn’t equal – well, never mind. I wish they had just said buy one 16 oz block of Tofu. I ended up buying 32 ounces of tofu (two 16 oz blocks) – which frankly was 16 ounces too many (but they were on sale, so I lucked out).

Then the recipe had me marinating the cut-up pieces in a TERRIFIC marinade – but there wasn’t enough marinade, so I had to double the recipe. (I’m finding that to be true very often. Is it just me? Or do recipes tend to skimp on marinade amounts?) After an hour of marinating, scatter on a cookie sheet then bake until crispy, 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven. Um, let me just say – there is no way, even with turning, that you’ll get crispy tofu in an oven. No way. The only way, in my experience, to get crispy tofu is to fry it. If I’m wrong I’d love someone to explain how to do it! My tofu, after baking, was still soft (and yes, I used extra firm).

The rosti was fun – 2 lbs of potatoes cut in large chunks and boiled, cooled, then grated into shreds. Season with salt & pepper, then form by hand into potato cakes, and fry in a thin layer of oil for 6 minutes per side. This recipe made more than we needed, and we ended up using the leftovers for dinner tonight – but would be spectacular with breakfast, as well.

Then there’s a sauce – you add the marinade to 8 chopped up tomatoes and some olive oil in a hot pan, and cook the heck out of it. The recipe called for me to strain the sauce to get rid of the skins, but by that time I’d been in the kitchen far too long to do such nonsense. (By the way – this is a long slog in the kitchen. Easily two hours, with minimal time to just sit and stare at nothing. This is not a recipe you want to make on a busy weeknight with the kids screaming in hunger.)

Two rosti, a scatter of tofu, and topped with the delish sauce. Add a tossed green salad, and it was a wonderful meal. EXCEPT – when I make this again, I will split a cake of tofu in half width wise, then cut in quarters before marinading. None of this 1/2 inch crap. After marinating, I’ll probably dip it into some – oh darn, forgot the name of it…rice based dry stuff – anyway, dip it in that and then fry it quickly for the crispy.

I might add an egg to the rosti, just to keep the potato cakes from separating so easily in the pan. That was a minor headache.

All in all, the men loved the dish. LOVED it. It was a light and yet filling meal, with an label for Alexander Valley Vineyards ChardonnayAsian flair that everyone appreciated. The hubby and I shared half a bottle of Alexander Valley Vineyards 2010 Chardonnay, regularly $18.00 but on sale for $11.99 at Vons. A terrific addition to the meal, though a Sauvignon Blanc would have worked as well.

This is the first recipe I’ve made out of this book, and I think before I make another one I will read the recipe carefully and see where the traps are for the unwary cook. I’d much rather change something up as I go, than buy ingredients I don’t need.

Wrestle Factor (time + grrr moments):  ~ High ~  
Taste/Likeability Factor: ~ High~
A Remake? ~ Yes, Absolutely, With Variations ~

Do you have cookbooks that you always have to “fix” the recipe? Or are you a slave to how it’s written? AND – What’s your favorite cookbook? With the advent of the internet, I do a lot of last minute “what do I want to make tonight” searches, but I still prefer to skim through a cookbook in my lazy time and think of filling happy bellies. What about you?


Thanks so much for stopping by! If you like this post, do let me know. I’m thinking about having a regular feature on recipes if there’s any interest. Of course, I may do it anyway, because I’m like that, lol! Cheers, and remember to drink responsibly!

A Week Without the Internet

Well, the title isn’t entirely true. I do get the internet on my phone, but there are some places I can’t comment, and I find it a lot more tiring to deal with Facebook and websites on my phone than on my laptop.

So technically, in the laptop-connecting-to-the-internet way, my family has been without phone service and internet for the past week due to an unfortunate snippage of wires in the attic while hooking up a ceiling fan to electricity. (In my hubby’s defense, there were a LOT of non-essential wires from the previous owner’s alarm system. Shoddily done in the attic and sprawled all over. Plus, it was 90 outside – well over 100 in the attic.)

But as I’ve been in and out of reality anyway while on pain meds, I haven’t really missed it (with the exception of the blog posts I wanted to write). I’ve read close to two dozen novels at this point but haven’t reviewed them. I find I’m slowing down more, I’m learning which emails I read and which I really don’t, and paring down my email groups accordingly.

I also am learning what I miss, twitter being one of them (and the ability to easily do research the other one). My first day out of the house this week was Wednesday, and I headed to Coffee Bean and the free WiFi…and reconnected with the good folks at #MyWANA. I even did a couple #1k1hr rounds, which kickstarted my writing again.

The really interesting thing is, no one at the house is overly-itchy about not having internet. Hubby has been valiantly sitting in the ugliest sauna ever (our attic) while painstakingly tracing wires and connecting things up (we now have a landline that works – in our closet), and yes we’re checking our cell phones to keep on top of our email, but other than that, we’re all pretty loose about not having it. Which frankly is something of a relief.

Of course, the boys are back at Moorpark College, so they have WiFi there. And the Hubby has gone off to Coffee Bean without me when he really had to have connectivity. But there are no overt signs of withdrawal, and that’s all to the good I think.

The last time I went a week without the internet was a couple of years ago, when we went camping for 10 days and I deliberately left my laptop at home. And now that I think about it, the week prior to losing internet I found I was sitting too much and staring online (not writing, not yet) and that wasn’t good for the incision, even when I did use an icepack. So not having internet this past week has allowed me to read more, nap much more, and begin to write (at Coffee Bean) and continue to write (at home) and, most likely, has helped speed the healing process.

I really wanted to get a wine blog posted today, but I was writing on the novel yesterday and I didn’t feel good about bringing empty wine bottles to Coffee Bean. I will do my best to get one written today at home, and post it tomorrow. For as I mentioned to my dear friend Maria, while I’m not drinking wine at the moment due to the drug consumption (and the fact that it tastes bad to me currently), I do have empty bottles sitting on my desk, waiting for their moment in the sun.

At this point, I think we’ll have connectivity next week. If, after this weekend the hubs can’t figure it out, he’ll call a friend of his that’s a phone guy.

So, that’s my week in a nutshell. When was the last time you were without Internet? Did you do it deliberately, or was it accidental? Are you one of those people that checks their smartphone before you go to sleep, and is it the first thing you reach for when you wake up? I’d love to know!

How Do YOU Start?

How Do YOU Start?

Causes of procrastination - laziness, fear of failure, and perfectionism

Thanks to for the graphic.

I can’t figure out how to title this post. It’s about commitment, see, and I just can’t seem to find the right title. So it’ll wait until the end I guess. Hopefully by then I’ll have figured it out.

I’m about to start a short story, a sort of prelude to DEMON HUNT, the 2nd novel in my Caine Brothers series. I’m primed – I’ve combed through my email, I’ve scoured Facebook, I’ve Triberr’d and Tweeted and gotten another cup of coffee, went to the bathroom, have music on…the house is empty and I’ve got a full four hours in front of me to be creative…

…but actually starting the story is still a dance step or two away from me. So now I’m procrastinating by blogging about my procrastination. I guess this whole thing is a process.

Commitment to the story is paramount. Deciding where to begin is crucial. I already have my characters, my setting, and I know where I want the story to end. But the variables within the parameters I’ve set are endless. Plus, plotting in any depth gives me hives. (Shallow plotting? I’m there!) How, then, to choose amongst a myriad of possibilities?

I don’t know why this story, at this time, has me balking at the gate like a skittish horse, but there you go. Its true, what every successful writer has said – writing doesn’t get easier as you go along. With every book, you learn how much you don’t know. With every book, you strive to get better – deeper, smarter, stronger. So the bar is constantly being raised, and the writer never meets their own expectations.

I guess I have to learn to be okay with that.

You're either in or you're out.

thanks to Dr. Sven Goebel

Panic doesn’t go away with knowledge. Accepting a hit of panic along with a floodtide of joyous writing seems to be the only way to go. Understanding that the fingers need to just begin – commit to the first words – then the rest of it will come. Permit ourselves to write a shitty first draft – farts and all – will at least get the draft down.

Revision after that is a writer’s best friend. DEMON SOUL went through six completely different first chapters (and numerous main character name changes) before I found the right first chapter to give the right tone to the story. That sixth new first chapter was what helped me sell to the editor.

I know all I need to do is hop to it. Get the words down. 15,000 of them (short story, remember). Once they’re down, I can groom them, perfume them, pluck their collective eyebrows and give them a lovely glow with the right foundation. Once it’s all dressed up in its go-to-party outfit, the story will be ready for publication, and I’ll be one more step on the road to realizing how much I still don’t know.

I guess I’m ready to start. After I get myself another cup of coffee, put on some socks (my feet are cold), and change my playlist to something more soothing than Muse.

What about you? What do you find yourself doing, before you feel ready to plunge into a new project? (Ah, there it is…my title!) I’d love to hear about your tricks and tips to getting those first words down.