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It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Less Christmas, part 4

Even though I’m streamlining the holiday decorating, our family room still gets a lot of attention. It’s where our now solo tree stands and where we’ll hang out to watch movies or hockey. I fell in love with bottle brush trees a couple of years ago and when I updated the mantle from a traditional motif with topiary stocking hangars draped in greenery, ribbon, lights and whatever else I could cram on the tiny space, I knew that the bottle brush trees were just what I wanted–something fun and light-hearted. The stuffed reindeer head is my favorite piece and I’ve been adding pom pom garlands instead of greenery (and no debris to sweep up on the daily!) to keep the vibe irreverent. Even though my kids are teenagers and young adults, I still like the cheeky Santa sign to remind them they better watch out. I pulled our red leather recliner in on the action with a white throw I stole from one of the bedrooms and a black belt for a nod to the jolly old elf. I kept their stockings for sentimental reasons, and, per request, we still decorate the tree with the ornaments accumulated one-by-one over the last twenty-eight years.

I obviously do not have a compulsion about correctly placed ornaments. My only rule is that anything that remotely looks like it has stuffing has to be placed above the dog’s snout reach. Also, our tree has a light that won’t light, so I think next year we’re going to have to supplement our pre-lit tree with a few extra strands of lights.Processed with VSCO with av4 preset

This is why I will always love Christmas decorating. There’s a sparkly reindeer made from one of my kid’s tiny hands, a salt-dough ornament personalized from our first Christmas with four, an engraved ornament from the year my husband and I married, a horn decorated by the kids’ great grandma, and George Washington from a family visit to Mount Vernon (and placed where Oliver can’t reach him #stuffiekiller)Processed with VSCO with av4 preset

It’s beginning to look a lot like less Christmas, part 3

To be honest, it’s not just during the holidays that I hear the siren call of “more, more, more!” for the counter above my kitchen sink. It doesn’t function as usable counter space and it’s always tempting to start piling stuff on the ledge–decorations because it’s the first thing you see and then the odds and ends that seem to accumulate in a kitchen. I try to be disciplined and only keep a few succulents and some usable, but too-cute-to-store measuring cups on the ledge throughout the year. This year, I retired the 3-level snow globe vignette inspired by Pinterest and channeled my inner Joanna Gaines. I love the large “Christmas Trees For Sale” sign that Jo and Chip hang in their kitchen, but not enough to scour antique shops for a similar one with the just right patina (or for that matter, try to store one for 11 months of the year.) So last year I snagged this little sign in the Target bargain bin, but just leaned it on a shelf.

When I decided to put the bottle-brush trees and Santa gnome on the counter, I knew I had found the perfect spot for my sign.

My view while wondering why no one puts their dishes in the dishwasher is brightened with some holiday cheer, and it easy to clean around. And if I start to think maybe it needs some evergreen swag, I remember the year I filled in all the space with real greenery, and the pine needles constantly dropped off the ledge into the sink and the colander when I drained the pasta!

It’s beginning to look a lot like less Christmas, part two

As part of baby-stepping our way into a Christmas inspired more by minimalism than the holiday aisles at Costco, I decided the kitchen needed room to function as a work space more than a display space. We retired the kitchen Christmas tree with the popcorn garland, cooking-themed ornaments, and homemade gingerbread men, but I wanted the kitchen, where I spend a lot of time, to still feel festive. I also wanted space to roll out cookies without moving a million tchotchkes from the island to the table and back. I streamlined with just a few things that can be easily moved to the side. My chef Santa from our over-the-top years of collecting watches over the gnomes peeking out of house-shaped lantern and the ever-depleting jar of red and green M & Ms. My youngest made the gingerbread house at a “cozy” party over the weekend, and it rounds out the kitchen island vignette. It’s also the only place that we’re pretty sure Oliver the tricky golden doodle can’t reach it.

Check back tomorrow for a lot less of everything and kitchen sink!

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Less Christmas

The Ghost of Christmas Past

Growing up, my family would load the RV and head to Florida over Christmas to escape the Pennsylvania winter and dash my dreams of a Norman Rockwell holiday. Ever-practical, my parents decided it was pointless to put up a big tree since no one was going to be home. They stuck a 2-foot tree on a side table and finished decorating in record time. Fast forward to adulthood and I have my own house and a holiday-loving husband. When our first child arrives, we declare ourselves house-bound on Christmas forevermore and the decorating frenzy begins and lasts more than twenty years.

At our peak, we had a “princess” tree in the kids’ hallway, a tree in the foyer, a tree in the kitchen, a tree in the family room, and a tree in the basement. We had big Santas on the stairwell, flanking the fireplace, and little Santas sitting on any bit of open shelf in every room. Greenery hung off every banister, railing, and mantle, all entwined with fairy lights and hand-tied fabric bows. Couches didn’t escape either;  they were decked out in holiday throws and pillows. The kids’ rooms got Christmas-themed flannel sheets and stuffed santas and snowmen. The day after Thanksgiving, I unloaded the Christmas chinaware from storage and went to Target to load up on the new season of plastic and melamine kids’ dinnerware.

Our 4 kids were little and I loved decorating, and every year I developed amnesia about the time it took dismantling Christmas town. As our family grew up, however, the decorating began to feel like a burden and a chore that no one had the time or inclination to help with. I slowly began to cut back in 2016 and last year I canvassed the family about their feelings on the over-the-top decorating and whether I could update the decor. On one hand, I didn’t want to put time and effort into a tradition we had outgrown, but I certainly didn’t want to take away any beloved family institutions. What stayed? The big tree in the family room with the crazy mish-mash of collected ornaments, the decorations in the kids’ hallway, and the beloved Christmas Eve screening of Die Hard.

I didn’t go quite so hardcore, but I really love that decorating for the holidays is not a week-long sentence of hard labor and I don’t start to feel claustrophobic from all the extra everything and ready to tear it all down by the day after Christmas.

I’ll share a peak every day about what stayed and how I’m learning what minimalism means to me and my family.

I corralled the hot chocolate packets, peppermint stirrers, marshmallows, and spoons onto a tray with the milk frothier if the kids want to go old school. I’ll switch out the Christmas mugs in January and this got chocolate pop-up bar is good to go until Easter!

No Sleep till Brooklyn

Not to give my mother-in-law a complex, or anything, but we often head out of town as soon as she arrives for a babysitting job, I mean family visit. Our birthdays and wedding anniversary are perfectly spaced throughout the year, so practically anytime she comes to visit, we have an excuse for a getaway celebration.

Last weekend my mother-in-law flew in and we decided to see “Springsteen on Broadway” and visit our oldest daughter, who has just moved to New York, as an early anniversary trip. Our newly-minted New Yorker encouraged us to spread our city wings beyond our perennial fallback hotel, the Marriott Marquis in Times Square, so we decided to stay at the William Vale hotel in the Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn.

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The William Vale hotel

First surprise, it’s not any cheaper to stay in Brooklyn and the hotel rooms are not any bigger. I think the Marriott Marquis is obviously more convenient to Broadway and I swear the room is a bit bigger, but not having to figure out which side of the elevator bay has the elevator that goes to your set of floors is a huge plus for the William Vale. It’s easy to go in and out of the hotel, and Williamsburg is a great place. The pace is slower than the mid-town, often because you are dodging toddlers and their stroller-pushing parents, and the scale of the neighborhood is much more human-sized. No rows of skyscrapers blocking the sky and many of the intersections manage traffic and pedestrians with a stop sign. There is a sense of community in the shops and restaurants– not just tourist traps trying to process hordes of visitors. People live, shop, and dine in Brooklyn and that vibe struck me as much more European than other areas of NYC that I’ve visited.

One of the many shops in Williamsburg

I loved all the green wherever it can grow in Brooklyn

The concierge at William Vale recommended Antica Pesa (https://www.anticapesa.com) when we were unable to secure reservations at Lilia (https://www.lilianewyork.com). Our dinner at Antica Pesa was very good. The crudo e bufala croccante sold us on the restaurant when we read the review on The Infatuation  as the “best fucking hot pocket you will ever eat.”( https://www.theinfatuation.com/new-york/reviews/antica-pesa) It was.

If a Hot Pocket were an It Girl

We also ordered the Gita Fuori Porta, basically an Italian charcuterie board, that was fine, but a little bit of a let down from that damn fine Hot Pocket. The three of us then shared two pasta dishes-Spaghetti caccio e pepe and the Schiaffoni all’Amatriciana- that were tasty and, to me with all of my one trip to Italy under my belt, cooked like they do it in Rome. Our second course was the Fiorentina—a Porterhouse steak brought to the table pre-sliced on a sizzling cast iron platter. My daughter pulled her pieces off right away to have them quite rare, but I left mine on a few moments more to make sure it quit mooing. We were both pleased. The menu states the Fiorentina is for two, but with the starters and pasta courses, we shared the steak amongst the three of us and were satisfied with our portions. A slice of tiramisu for the table rounded out the night.

The Fiorentina finished cookout our table

The only disappointment was the wine list. We ordered the only Brunello they offered, and it was…okay. Maybe someone who wants their Brunello to taste like Pinot Noir would love it. The second bottle was an Ornellaia La Serre Nuove and it was fine, if overpriced. We were really looking for a special wine and were not impressed with the wine offerings. At the end of the night, we ruefully looked back at the restaurant’s dictum forbidding outside bottles of wine and realized too late why that rule exists. If you love fruity Italian wines, there may be a winner for you. Otherwise, I think I would recommend ordering wine by the glass, but definitely go try that Hot Pocket.

For a quick nightcap we headed back to the William Vale. They have an extremely popular rooftop bar that has a long line to wait for the dedicated elevator to go up to it. If you are a guest of the hotel, your key card in the regular elevator will allow you to go straight to the Westlight rooftop bar. And wait in line to get a drink and have a screaming conversation with your party that no one can hear anyone else. We had a drink at the bar in the hotel’s restaurant Leuca. It was calm, with attentive bar staff, and conducive to a conversation.

We returned to Leuca for brunch the next day before heading to Bushwick to check out the new pad. Many fewer thousand- dollar Bugaboo strollers, but still a neighborhood feel with lots of kids around. Bushwick is grittier than Williamsburg with more gang tags and less art graffiti, fewer shops and a lot more bars. And so much weed. A gentleman on a stoop rolled a blunt the size of which I’ve never seen outside of a Cheech and Chong movie. It’s hard as a parent because I want to protect my kids, but I also want my kids to be independent and follow their dreams, even into Bushwick. I doublechecked that she still had her pepper spray and I made peace with the fact that I lived in some let’s say more colorful areas and had never had any problems—unlike the multiple property crimes we’ve endured since moving into an affluent suburb.

Please return her accordion! Bushwick accordion larceny

My daughter decided to join us for dinner in before our show and after freshening up at the hotel, we had a 45 minute Uber ride to Broadway from Williamsburg. We had trouble deciding whether to eat in Brooklyn or close to the theater, and we forgot to make reservations when we committed to heading to midtown before dinner. We were lucky to get seated at Le Rivage, a French restaurant that we enjoyed on previous visits, and didn’t complain about our table being on enclosed porch. The wine prices, especially for a restaurant within walking distance to the Broadway shows, are reasonable and we got a decent bottle of Saint-Emilion Bordeaux. I chose to go more down-home in my 3-course prix fixe choices. I started with the country pate– it was a little drier than I prefer and they gave me the tiniest dollops of country and Dijon mustards. The restaurant had a huge trophy from a NYC burger festival for its French Onion Soup Burger and I had to try it. Bleh. If you are of a certain age and went to public school, imagine “swiss steak”—which is neither Swiss nor a steak—on a bun with fries from a food service freezer section. I did enjoy the chocolate mousse for my last course! My husband had the trout almondine and my daughter the duck a la ‘orange from the upcharge menu and they did liked their dinners. well enough

Stage before the show

After bidding our daughter farewell, after all, tickets to see Springsteen on Broadway are expensive as hell, we headed over to watch one of the best shows we have ever seen. For over two hours, the Boss told stories, jokes, and accompanied himself on the piano, guitar, and harmonica to soulful renditions of some of his greatest songs. I knew he could sing and play, but I was astounded by how well he could draw in his audience and make the theatre as intimate as talking around a kitchen table. For me, I was sometimes torn between whether I should act like I’m at the theatre or like I’m at a Springsteen concert. Judging by the forlorn “Bruce” calls and sporadic clapping in time, I wasn’t alone. But, man, it was awesome. At the end, he apologized because his wife Patty Scialfa, who usually comes out to play with him,  had flown out to do mom stuff and reminded us that, “there is no understudy for the wife.” When the house lights were brought up so the audience could take photos, he went ahead and gave us an encore as amends (like anyone could be mad at the Boss after a show like that!)

The encore

As the show ended, we didn’t get outside fast enough to be in the front of the theatre for the autograph signing and hand-shaking that he does on the way to his waiting car, but we were good.

The next morning we walked around Williamsburg to find a Polish bakery that I had noticed walking to Antica Pesa Friday night. We never found that one, but we did find a great one in Martha’s Country Bakery!

I had a flat white and an almond croissant that, close your eyes French people, rivaled what I’ve had in Paris. My husband had an Earl Vanilla latte and a berry turnover and berry sconce, and a berry Napoleon, their specialty, to go. I brought black and white cookies as big as a salad plate home for the kids and Grandma. No one tried the cookies until Tuesday and it disappointingly dry and crumbly—maybe it had been fantastic on Sunday, the other baked goods certainly were.

Overall, I really enjoyed staying in Brooklyn more than staying in the more congested touristy areas close to Times Square. We took Uber to get around in the city and my daughter took a combination of the subway and Lyft. While I may be too old to rock the party eight days a week anymore, a weekend in Brooklyn is perfect!

Scoring at TJs

Have you heard of the hedonism treadmill? We’ve got a grocery store hedonism treadmill going on in my neighborhood. First, we only had the basic Giant food–to be fair it was clean and bright and had more variety than any grocery store our parents and grandparents had ever shopped in–but we heard tell of this amazing grocery store out of New York called Wegmans. The first Wegmans to open in our county need police to direct traffic, that’s how crazy we were for a grocery store with all the regular stuff, plus an amazing prepared foods section and babysitting! The next Wegmans to open up in our area ditched the babysitting area, but put in a bar, and since all my kids were in school by then, I thought that was a great idea. It didn’t take long, however, to grow tired of all those options. You know, Wegmans was great and all, but, well, it was just so big! If only a smaller grocery with great organic foods and a top-notch prepared foods section would open. Our prayers were answered by a brand-spanking new Whole Foods, with a pub! Apparently the grocers’ marketing teams know our area! It was awesome and a glass of wine before shopping helps those Whole Foods’ price go down, but, you know, maybe what we really needed was a grocery store with convenience foods and organics, but cheaper. Next stop on the food store hedonism treadmill was Trader Joe’s. While our new TJs does not have a bar, it does have ample parking.

I thought I’d share some of my new-found faves from Trader Joe’s

I made the honey roasted pumpkin ravioli and it was amazing! I prepared according to the package directions and served it with melted butter and some jarred pesto (from Wegmans). One package served two of us.

The Tapas Sampler has 3 varieties of cheese in just-right amounts and a great price of $9.99. I’d be hard-pressed to get three different cheeses for that price anywhere else. When I want to serve two or three varieties of cheese, I have to buy bigger blocks which substantially raises the price and often, there is leftover cheese that goes to waste.

The wine is really priced well and there are a lot of tasting notes on the shelf which helps me to navigate through unfamiliar wines. On opening day, they had a wine tasting and some really mellow customers waiting in crazy-long lines.

In the frozen food aisle, the macarons are ridiculously inexpensive and unbelievably tasty! A box of 12 in a variety of flavors in $4.99! I like to keep a box on hand just in case. I keep buying them because I’ve eaten them “just in case” the football game is on, or it’s not.  The Taste of Alscace flatbread and a glass of wine can save any day when you walk in late and starving.

How I Learned Somm-thing about wine

You know the feeling when you fall in love with something and discover there is a whole genre of movies and documentaries just waiting for you? That’s how my husband and I felt when a friend mentioned that we would like Somm on Netflix. We watched it and became totally invested in who would pass their Master Sommelier test. It’s like watching the Olympics of wine tasting— they can accomplish extraordinary feats like discerning grape varietals, climate of origin, and vintage years by observing, smelling and tasting the wine. We followed our favorites in the next installment,  Somm: Into the Bottle, and started printing off wine tasting worksheets from Masterssommeliers.org so we could play along with our wine of the night. From watching and learning, I am pretty confident I could discern a Chardonnay from a Pinot Noir and not much else with real confidence. But seriously, the sommeliers sharing their journey have an extraordinary gift and I’m grateful to those who are able to taste and describe for those like me, who are still figuring out how to describe wines they want to drink with dinner. Needless to say, we are stoked for the premiere of Somm 3 next month!

My brush with fame

Thirsty for more, we next watched Decanted, a documentary about winemaking in Napa and it highlighted the establishment of Italics winery. Of course, Italics was at the top of list of wineries to visit. I must admit I was fangirling a little bit during our tour and tasting. It was a blast to see the improvements made to the buildings from the time that the documentary was shot. What can I say, I don’t get out much!

I blame our next wine flick for my husband’s obsession with checking every wine cork we pull at a restaurant to make sure it matches the label on the bottle. Sour Grapes is the saga of wine counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan. It draws you in with a true-crime story, and then offers a glimpse into a world of Lifestyles of the Rich and Spending a Shit-ton of Money on Wine. When it came out that Johnny Depp spent thirty thousand a month on wine, I wasn’t too shocked, but I was flabbergasted by the money dropped by Burgundy collectors and the video clips of Rudy and friends bragging about the cost of the bottles they had popped that night. I felt so much better about socking away a few Napa Cabs that cost more than our monthly car payment in 1990.

Yup, he checked the cork against the label here

 

So what is the most important thing that I’ve learned from my wine entertainment? The best way to learn more about wine is to drink more wine! And that’s a lesson I can take to heart.

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Go ahead, rose´ all day!

My favorite rose´is Caldwell’s Joy, a heavenly rose´of Syrah with an astronomical price tag–around $70 a bottle–so there’s no all-day party at that price point for me! Fortunately, it’s not hard to find a delicious supermarket rose´ that delivers the flavor of summer with a price as tiny as a Kardashian bikini.

My faves under $15

French Blue rose´ of Bordeaux is my go-to bottle because it has enough structure to stand up to summer fare like grilled chicken and salads, but can also segue into heartier wines when used as an aperitif.

Marval rose´is perfect for  beach or poolside parties because 1. it has a spout for serving and a handy spot for hanging and 2. you get 1.5 liters for about $15!

Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve rose´is very light and fruity, but not too sweet!

Pool Boy Cotes de Provence rose´ could be the ultimate poolside accessory with its plastic bottle and handy screw top. #safetywine

Summer Water rose´is fruity, light, and crisp, and my favorite wine with sushi and a tuna poke bowl!

Charles and Charles rose´is the steal of the summer at 10 bucks! Crisp and tangy it is the perfect glass for lounging in the sun. I love it with aged cheese and something salty!

To the Beach, Beach

Our nearly-annual trip to the beach will soon be upon us, and I can’t wait! Our visits and the cast of characters have morphed through the years, and we have started to come pretty close to what we consider the perfect beach vacation. For us, we have distilled the 7 days into sand, wine, and food.

I’ve  learned a lot of lessons along the way. Living with other people for a week really taught me about what I like and what I can learn from how others do things. Years ago we went with my husband’s extended family and they wanted everyone to cook at once, and then the families would just heat up a plate of the various main dishes and sides. Very efficient and you did not have to coordinate dinner time, but I like the camaraderie of everyone visiting in the kitchen while I cook and sitting around a table with nothing but time begets the best stories. I also learned that there is a secret circle of hell that resides at any oceanside grocery store on a Saturday, the traditional day of east coast rental turnover. On our first visit to Hilton Head Island, I froze a baked ziti and brought it and enough groceries to get through the weekend. When we arrived at our rental house, I popped it into the oven and by the time we unpacked and had taken the kids to dip their toes, it was ready. Bringing the groceries requires a lot of forethought and planning, but it was so worth it to stroll into the Publix on Monday afternoon and not have stand in a checkout line that stretched to the back of the store.

I’ve also learned to bring my own spices. Even if I plan to buy the meat for a main meal at the beach, I bring a Ziploc bag with the various spices for that dish with me. Again, a few minutes of planning at home saves a lot of money at the grocery and your cupboards are not full of barely used jars of thyme. My favorite homemade mixes to bring are Mexican seasoning for ground beef, thyme and salt for oven-roasted skin-on chicken breast halves, and ingredients for the brine for skinless, boneless chicken breast. I also bring my own salt and pepper grinders and my good knife. I hate using a dull knife and sometimes the cutlery at a beach house is dull or missing altogether. Also, bring a Sharpie. With so many people running around, it’s imperative to label bottles of water, and my kids would tell you, the last packages of snacks that you are claiming.

We also bring our own wine. We might pick up a few bottles at Publix, especially of Rose´, but we bring the good stuff from home. For us, it is worth the hassle because we get to choose what we’d like to drink and not settle for some overpriced mediocre bottle. Hilton Head Island is a 10-hour drive down the most congested, spirit-testing stretch of I 95. To keep our wine cool, if not our heads in the traffic, we use gel-filled freezer packs between the bottles and keep them covered, away from direct sunlight. And drive like hell.

All the stress of the drive melts away at the sight of the bridge to the Island—except I’m still pissed at the guy who was tailgating me so closely that I couldn’t see his headlights while I’ve got a string of cars barely a car-length in front of me and we’re driving, well, let’s just say I’m keeping up with traffic. Dude, there is nowhere to go, the traffic is bumper-to-bumper to the Keys! Sorry, I had to get that off my chest.

The march of time has changed our group—expanding families and conflicting schedules caused the trips with my husband’s extended family to peter out and our family became the locus for a new group. Our first visit to Hilton Head was  just my family of six and my mother-in-law. My mother-in-law has gotten remarried and her husband now joins us, my nephew started joining us with his wife and daughter, had two more children and then has gotten divorced and remarried with the addition of a step-son, my dad has passed away, but my mother still comes, and we worried that my oldest would be unable to join us this summer after college graduation because of work, but she can! I think that is a hidden beauty of annual vacations. Because they are discrete points of time in a whirlwind life, I can look back at each vacation and remember what my family was like with crystal-clear clarity because it wasn’t muddled by errands, appointments, practices and the muck of life.

Mornings are spent walking on the beach, drinking coffee by the pool, and giving warnings about putting on enough sunscreen. Depending on the day’s tide, we might boogie board on the incoming surf or start the sandcastle of the day. Since we tend to get up with the sun at the beach, it doesn’t seem odd to crack a beer before lunch and then eat lunch with a rose´ to fuel a full afternoon of swimming and chasing the badminton birdie down the beach since we never seem to be able to return it to the server. As evening approaches, I head back to the house to shower and begin dinner prep. I love to have theme nights for dinner and a lot of times there’s a specialty cocktail to match our upcoming meal. Margaritas, of course, for Mexican night and Aperol Spritzes for Italian night. For the kids, we make slushies out of the sour mix and bring  San Pellegrino flavored sodas for some Italian flair.  Dinners are long and leisurely, when they were small the kids watched a video after dinner while the adults lingered and now most of the kids are old enough to drift in and out to catch a story and then go back to their phones. Like the wine, the reminiscences flow and a great counterpoint is that my parents and mother-in-law did not see each other (except for our wedding day) until we started going to the beach together and obviously, we didn’t know her husband until about 10 years ago, so the older generation is sharing backstories with each other that we had never heard before.

And so the days repeat. We rent bikes and we will bike to lunch one afternoon and then at least one other time, we will bike to get ice cream. We’ll take a few leisurely bike rides down the beach or around the lagoons looking for alligators (we always find them!), and there is always one misadventure, like the time a rainstorm caught us unawares. But no mini golf or arcades, no eating out every night, and definitely no shopping at outlets—in all seriousness, why is outlet shopping on vacation a thing? We play games at night, Tripoli, Hearts, Spades, and the kids’ favorite—the fishbowl game. Sometimes I plan crafts, like everyone gets a small canvas and paints a beach scene or one year we collected our corks and made pirate faces with Sharpies on some and tied others with kitchen twine to float them as a pirate raft in a little pool left during low tide.

At the end of the week, we finish packing and get ready to return to Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Alabama, (and now New York), but we are connected, both my nuclear family and our extended family. Shared stories and experiences will carry us through until the next time, and as our parents age and my kids start their own lives, there is always the bittersweet feeling that things will never be the same.  But I hope that these weeks at the beach with nothing more than sand and family time will be the mortar that builds the foundation for the kind of tradition that keeps our family, however it changes, together throughout the years.

The A to Z guide to the Napacalypse

is for Apothic wine that you should never, ever drink, unless you like your Swiss Miss spiked with rubbing alcohol.

B is for bottles of wine that you should save to help commemorate good times.

is for corked, which you don’t want your wine to be-unless your into wet cardboard aromas

is for Del DottoWinery that I want to make fun of for their pretentious, imported Italian cave, but their wine is soooo good.

is for Extra-Dry, the champagne preference of the under-aged and your mother-in-law.

is for full-bodied wine and how Napa Cabs roll.

is for Gallo wine, most likely where we all started.

is for half-bottle foolishness, when is 375ml ever enough?

is for indecently priced wine lists—really, $39 for Cupcake?!?

is for JohnFucking Caldwell and his Prometheus-like smuggling clone gift to us all.

is for Kalon–where you go To for some of the best Cabs in Napa.

is for LeftBank Bordeaux that have power and elegance and cost a lot.

M is for Muga, a great Spanish wine with lots of cedar notes.

is for Napa, of course!

O is for Oenophilia, which while harder to spell, sounds nicer than borderline alcoholism.

is for phylloxera, an evil aphid that eats the souls of wine lovers and the roots of grape vines.

is for OnQ which makes great wines in Coombsville.

is for refrigeration and is the secret ingredient to enjoying grocery store wine.

is for sommelier who should be an expert in wine, and not an asshole

T  is for terroir which is important for understanding that where a grape grows affects its taste and the wine that is created, but when I have to say it, still makes me feel like the priest in A Princess Bride

is for ullagewhich is where the wine used to be at.

is for vineyards that are as beautiful to look at as they are necessary to our survival

is for wax seals that you drill though with a corkscrew, not send yourself to the emergency room with a stab wound to the palm while trying to cut through the wax.

is for the xs formed in wooden crossbars of crates to store wine.

is for yeast which makes grape juice so happy and pretty.

is for Zinfandel and why that pizza tastes so damn good.

Life

The last month has been one of those mile markers in life that kind of sneak up on you. Obviously, I had known my daughter’s college graduation was coming this past May for the last 4 years (Thank you, child, for gettin’ ‘er done in four!) and the kids’ birthday always come one after another in a dizzying six weeks’ time, but I was still surprised to find myself with an adulty adult, a nineteen year-old who already has a year of college under her belt, a seventeen year-old who has to start seriously looking at colleges, and a fifteen year-old who can get her driving permit in six months. After years devoted to helping (pushing, prodding, nagging) the kids meet concrete goals: learning to walk, talk, read, tie their shoes, put laundry in the hamper (I’m still working on that one),drive a car, fill out a college application, how do I help them learn to live?

The shocking suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain as bookends of a terrible week made me think about what is a good life? Is there anything I could do, say, or show my kids that could possibly light their way back if they ever find themselves in a dark place? And I have no answers.

Spade and Bourdain were both wildly successful by every yardstick imaginable. I had a Kate Spade diaper bag and those kids grew up to have Kate Spade handbags. The persona of insouciant New Yorker translated into fashion, a desirable home décor line as well as well as books. Anthony Bourdain was famously cool and hip with TV shows and got to live a life traveling and eating that seems like a dream— a job where I get paid to travel and chow down? Undeniably, their success came from deep reserves of talent and hard work. So when I tell my kids to persevere through school and work and good things will come to them, while not a lie, it is no guarantee that it will be enough. With success came fame and money. I never think of fame as a prerequisite to a good life, and I can easily see that as a stressor. But money, that is supposed to be the elixir that cures all. Once basic needs are met—food and housing—money can be transformative–education, philanthropy, travel, Frette sheets, Romane´-Conti, and someone to clean your toilets. Still not enough. And medical care. In a time of uninsured and under-insured, money gives you access to the best doctors and facilities. Didn’t matter.

Please believe me, I’m not criticizing Kate Spade or Anthony Bourdain for not being happy or thinking them selfish for not appreciating the lives they led. My heart breaks to think of the pain they suffered to make the choice they did, but that pain terrifies me because they left behind people they LOVED. So they had love, in addition to the success, but the torment blinded them and I want to know, could anything have made them grope back to the light?

I don’t know. And, I think every parent agrees, that is the scariest part of the journey.

If you or anyone you know needs help, reach out.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

You’re not alone. Confidential help is available for free.

1-800-273-8255

New movies and a glass

Book Club

Formulaic comedy about 4 older women (divorced, widowed, never married, and married) trying to get their groove back after reading the “Fifty Shades” trilogy. Jane Fonda’s character Vivian, out of all the stereotypes, is the most tiresome. Vivian is a successful businesswoman who has stayed as sharp in business as her plastic surgeon’s scalpel, and feasts upon an array of one night-stands instead of eating carbs. Alas, her playgirl attitude is not because Vivian finds relationships draining and chooses to spend her emotional energy on her life work and girlfriends, but she’s just a girl afraid of getting her heart broken. Why can’t a successful woman choose not to be in a long-term relationship (or relationships) because it’s a rational choice not based on fear?

Francis Coppola Director’s Cut Cabernet–the BIG pour

Solo

Harrison Ford was not in it.

For people who love the Star Wars universe, it’s a fun movie. I’m lying. Star Wars fanatics will only go see it for ammunition to destroy whoever directs the next installment of the saga and deviates from sacred canon. I’m particularly thinking of you—girl dressed like Chewbacca on a 90 degree day–and one of my kids. For anyone else, I’d say it’s worth a rent on On-demand, but not the right kidney cost of a typical night at the local Cineplex.

Goes well with Joel Gott Cab

Avengers: Infinity War

No real spoilers, but was I the only person who didn’t realize this was a two-part movie?!?

I changed it up with a Moscow Mule

Deadpool 2

Still raunchy as hell, but maybe a kinder, gentler Deadpool in this one? Or it could be that any movie watched after the unrestricted trailer of The Happytime Murders would seem like a benign afternoon in Mr. Roger’s neighborhood, if you know, Ryan Reynolds was there dropping F-bombs.

Another Joel Gott Cab, movie theaters need to step up their wine list game