The Year is Half Over, What Have You Done?

On Saturday I woke up to the realization that the year is half over. And what have I done?

Well, I’ve had a lot of fun.

I’ve been to a bunch of Happy Hours with my girlfriends. (I almost never go out to dinner, but I am the queen of Happy Hour.)

I’ve done some cool hikes with my husband.

Sunday we went here.

Malibu hike Charmlee Wilderness Park
A beautiful hike through Charmlee Wilderness Park in Malibu

I’ve been to a bunch of concerts and country music festivals.

Brandy Clark. Coastal Country Jam featuring Jake Owen. Jay Nash, Tony Lucca & Matt Duke. (OMG – if you have a chance to see these guys – just one or all three together DO IT. They are amazing.) Stagecoach. U2. Oakheart Festival. Boots and Brews.

U2 Joshua Tree Tour Stage
U2 Joshua Tree Tour. I’ve seen U2 at least 10 times. I’d gladly see them 1,000 more.

Four festivals and three concerts are more shows that some people will see in a lifetime I realize, but those are not my people. God that sounded super assholey, didn’t it? That was not my intent. I’m super grateful to have gone to these shows. And I’ve got more on the way this year.

Hall & Oates with Tears for Fears (OMG!) Adam Ant (OMFG!) Green Day (Finally!) Thomas Rhett with Old Dominion & Walker Hayes (Cannot effing wait). And something called Retro Futura with Howard Jones, the English Beat and a bunch of other 80’s throwbacks. (Bought for a steal on Groupon – going with Dave and the kids. Should be a blast.)

So yes, it has been and will be a good year for music. Because live music more than anything is what makes me feel so alive. And young. (Seriously, so fucking young.)

And fun is great. Important, even. But I have goals this year that I have not achieved. I wanted to interview more artists like I did last year with Matthew Ramsey of Old Dominion and Matthew Nelson of Nelson. But I haven’t. Because that takes effort and I’ve been busy with a new(ish) job and life and just trying to keep all my balls in the air.

You know. Like everyone else.

I’ve only written seven blog posts all year. And maybe two newsletters (which you should totally sign up for because I obviously won’t overwhelm your inbox and you get a free book. Or rather bookette).

I did write this piece for my friend Jessica’s blog that I’m quite proud of, but only because she asked. And really. It was just a reworking of a piece I’d already written.

And my WIP – the sequel to Frosted Cowboy. LOFuckingL. I have an outline (ish). It’s actually a great story (at least that’s what everyone I’ve told the plot to says), even better than the first. And I’ve written some of it, obviously. But. But. What?

I’m just busy.

And lazy.

And so damn scared.

Because writing is so hard. And what if it’s terrible? (And like any first draft, it is so terrible.)

So, sure. I’ve had some goals. But I haven’t really had a plan. And  A goal without a plan is just a wish. I read that on Pinterest. Or maybe it was Twitter. One of those very philosophical websites.

A goal without a plan is just a wish

Saturday as I was cleaning that pile off my dining room table I came across an article I ripped out of Sunset Magazine by Anne Lamott called Time lost and found. And even though I was “so busy” and I’ve read it at least a dozen times before, I knew that this article about finding time to write was exactly what I needed and I sat down and read it again and it made me cry.

Because Anne Lamott knows the truth.

It’s so easy to make excuses. To be too busy to write. Busy job. Busy social life. Keeping all those balls in the air.

I’m not going to stop going to concerts or hiking with my husband or (god forbid) Happy Hour.

But what if I didn’t work through lunch every day. Or let one of those balls drop? (Or two? Or three? Or four?)

What if when I get up at 5AM (and I do, every single day) I actually write a blog post? Or contact a musician’s publicist? Or stopped being so scared to tackle my WIP?

Maybe in six month’s time – when the year is completely over, I’ll have done more than just have fun. More than just work. I’ll have created.

And my year will be one that was not half-lived.

 

*The quote “A goal without a dream is just a wish” is attributed to Antoine de Saint-Exupery (but you can find it on Pinterest). 

 

 

So I Kind of Co-Wrote This Book…

Most people who know me (even a little bit) know that I wrote a book.

Like forever ago.

And I’ve been editing it, and editing it, (and effing editing it) and querying it and querying it (and effing querying it) off and on for years.

It’s chick lit (with a heavy emphasis on chick and not so much lit). It’s not groundbreaking or earth shattering or maybe even that original (girl’s life crumbles when she loses fiancé and loses job and has to pick up the pieces and start all over again), but it’s funny. It would make a hilarious romantic comedy. (In my humble opinion.)

But I digress…

This post is not about that book. It’s about this book:

The Making of a Picky Eater

 

One that I co-wrote and you can actually click this link and buy!

I know what you’re thinking… How in the heck did that happen?

Well, I’ll tell you how.

I met this really cool woman named Beth Robeson at the 2013 Middle Sister Wine Gathering. (Which I was lucky enough to attend because I won a contest on Pinterest.) Beth contacted me after the gathering and asked if I’d be interested in adding a bit of humor to a book she’d written about picky eaters being made and not born.

I told her she sure didn’t need me because that was the funniest thing I’ve ever heard. My kids are picky eaters. They were totally born that way. (Or were they?) I mean, I certainly didn’t have anything to do with them being picky. (Or did I?)

She convinced me to take a look at the book and see if maybe I’d change my mind.

I have to tell you that the book was quite eye-opening. Turns out that perhaps I did have a thing or two quite a lot to do with my kids’ semi-picky palates. And by using some of the methods discussed in the book I’ve actually seen some changes in my kids’ eating habits. Admittedly they are small changes, but my kids are teenagers. If I had read this book when my kids were little I have no doubt that they’d be eating a much wider range of foods and I would have spent a lot less time in the kitchen being a short order cook.

So I did my best to add a little humor to the book. And I think I succeeded. (I hope I did anyway.)

If you’ve got picky kids you might want to pick it up. Even if you’ve tried everything. It might help you see “pickyness” in a whole new light. (And maybe even hang up that short order cook apron forever.)

The First Day of my 49th Year

On the first day of my 49th year I woke up early like I always do. But I did not write. I was not productive. Sometimes I wonder why I get up before the sun only to be lazy. But because it was my birthday I allowed myself the indulgence of Facebook and Pinterest without guilt.

At seven o’clock I went for a three mile run. It’s been a while since I’ve run that far. I never stopped to walk, but it was hard. Really hard. The last minute was especially brutal. I end my run on an uphill. I felt dizzy. Like I was going to vomit. I’m pretty sure that’s not what they mean by the term “runner’s high” but if it is then I want no part of it.

You might wonder why I chose to run on my birthday if I hate it so much.  I had friends coming over that night for appetizers and wine and knew I’d be eating a lot of cheese. A lot of cheese. Call it preventative maintenance.

I treated myself to a pedicure -after a shower of course- and then drove to The George Michael Salon in Beverly Hills. (No relation to 80’s pop star/90’s park bathroom lurker.) I’d won a long hair treatment worth $195 from a #Fabchat session on Twitter and my birthday was the perfect day to treat myself to such a luxury as my hair was definitely in desperate need of a little TLC.

Hair before George Michael Hair treatment
This hair is in some desperate need of a little TLC. (BTW – can you tell I’m not very good at selfies?)

 

Salon owner, Jessie Martinez, definitely gave me that. She washed my hair and put on an intense moisturizing treatment and then sat me on a comfy couch for an hour with a heating cap on my head. I sat and read my new book for an hour. (Talk about indulgent!)

Afterwards she washed my hair and set it in big rollers and I sat under a hairdryer that looked like it came out of the Jetson’s for another 45 minutes and read some more. Oh yes, it was a very good day indeed.

hair dryer
It looks like something Jane Jetson would wear doesn’t it?

 

The result was smooth, gorgeous hair without the harmful chemicals of some other hair treatments (ahem, I’m talking to you Brazilian) or the drying and damaging effects of a blowout.

I left the George Michael hair salon looking like this:

Hair-after-george-michael-hair-treatment
Please ignore my lack of make-up and focus on my gorgeous hair!

Jessie Martinez might just be my new best friend.

I stopped by Costco on my way home and battled the Father’s Day shoppers to pick up my favorite cheap wine -only the best for my friends- and returned home to  a clean house (best birthday present ever) and our Happy Birthday sign on the wall. (We have a Happy Birthday sign that I hang for everyone’s birthday every year, but mentioned last year that it never gets hung for me.) I’m not sure what made my heart sing more – the freshly vacuumed carpet or the sign, but the combination made me so happy that I didn’t even get crabby when I saw the dust rag carelessly left in the corner on the living room. (Isn’t that what you do when you’re done dusting – just drop the dust rag at the bottom of the last thing dusted?)

I made fried olives, a recipe that I found here, and have been wanting to try for a year. They did not disappoint. I set up for the party, put on a dress that I haven’t been able to fit into for years, and welcomed my closest friends into my home.

Fired-olives
Mmmm fried olives – delish!

The men went into one room and the women went into another. We drank wine. We laughed. We ate a lot of cheese. My friend Arlyne baked me a carrot cake from scratch. It was heavenly.

As birthdays go, it wasn’t anything grand, but it was quite wonderful.

Every day should be filled with recognizing the joy of simple pleasures…

Shirking off early-morning productivity to “catch up” on Facebook.

Feeling strong (albeit vomity) after a hard workout.

Taking the time to pamper oneself.

Reveling in the serene beauty of a clean house.

Enjoying time spent with close friends.

Indulging (okay, over-indulging) in wine and cheese.

The first day of my 49th year? No, it may not have been grand, but it was a damn fine day indeed.

Why I Write (Since You Asked)

mom-blogger-desk
This is how I do it.

Well, Kim asked anyway. And since I want to be a writer like Kim when I grow up (you know, one who actually gets paid to do it – on a regular basis), when Kim asks, I answer.

She invited me to participate in a blog tour called My Writing Process (#mywritingprocess). My Writing Process  is apparently a way to connect with other bloggers who identify themselves as writers. Yes, all bloggers write, but that doesn’t necessarily make them writers. (One look at Pinterest will tell you that.) I do not say that with any sort of snobbery or contempt (I mean, come on, what I write is certainly not literature), but to say people blog for different reasons. Some blog to show off their DIY prowess, some blog recipes, some blog simply to make money, and some of us, we blog to write. I blog to write.

So now I have to answer some questions and then pay this task privilege forward to three more writers who have blogs. 

1. Why do I write what I do?

I walk around all day with a lot of chatter in my head. When I’m driving to work, when I’m running, when I’m fixing dinner my head is filled with incredibly clever and funny things to write. Things I must write. Of course then I sit down to write them and they escape me. What was that brilliantly funny thing I conjured up in the car on the way to work? I’ll think to myself. And I can’t remember. Or worse I do remember and once I type it out I see it wasn’t very brilliant at all. It’s torturous. (And trust me when I say that all writers are tortured.) But every once in a while that thing does work on paper (or the screen) and it’s clever and funny and brilliant (okay, I’ve never actually been brilliant) and that makes the torture almost worth it.

Also, I talk a lot (a lot) so I guess writing is just another way for me to keep talking when no one is around. I’m kidding. (A little.) I think writing is a way of connecting with people. There are so many times I read things and think to myself, “Yeah, I feel that way too,” so I hope what I have to say (or rather what I write) resonates with people. That they read my words and think, “Yeah, I feel that way too.”

Plus if you want to know the dirty truth, I like people to tell me I’m awesome. But people don’t tend to walk up to me and say, “Hey Charlene, I think you’re awesome.” But they do sometimes walk up to me and say, “You’re blog post was so funny.” Which is sort of the same thing.

So I guess I write what I do to quiet the voices in my head, to connect with people, and to fulfill my sad and desperate need for approval. And to torture myself. (And feel awesome.)

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Do I have a genre? I don’t consider myself a “Mommy Blogger” because I rarely write about my kids these days. At 17 and 13, I feel I don’t have the right to tell their story anymore. (Though every once in a while I can’t help myself.) So whatever my genre is – personal essay, lifestyle, or as I like to call it – “slice-of-life,” I guess what makes my work different is that they’re my stories to tell. The crazy chatter from my brain. Of course that makes everyone’s work different doesn’t it? I suppose others are much better at getting to the point. I’ve always admired others who can say a lot with very few words, where as I tend to do the opposite, which is saying very little with as many words as possible. (For example I could have cut the last eleven words out of the previous sentence and it would have had the same meaning, but I just can’t! And this post? Waaaay too long. Sorry about that!)

3. How does your writing process work?

I get up early – 5:00 almost every day (yes, even weekends) to write. The plan is to pour a cup of coffee sit down in the quiet calm of my house and write. I don’t have an office, so I sit with my laptop at the kitchen table in my daughter’s spot. I don’t know why I always choose her chair over my own. Maybe because it looks out into the backyard. I open the curtains and watch the night turn to day as I tap away at my keyboard. Or sometimes I will write in a notebook – three pages, for those of you familiar with “morning pages.” I wrote the first draft book that way – pen to paper in the wee morning hours. Well, that is ideally how my writing process works – early, alone, in the dark.

Lately it is something much closer to what happened today. It’s Saturday as I start to write this and I’ve gone to bed late every night this week so I allowed myself to “sleep in” until about 6:15 this morning. I planned to walk the dog at 7:00 and go for a three mile run at 8:00, so I knew I wouldn’t have much time, but I wanted to get a few thoughts out. Then I went on TimeSuck – I mean Facebook, so no writing took place – unless you call commenting on the triumphs and tragedies and (mostly) minutiae of my friends’ lives and informing them about the triumphs and tragedies and (mostly) minutiae of mine writing.

After the Facebooking and the dog walking and the running I woke Marley up and made her breakfast and then took her to an event at school. I was home a little before 10:00 and Chandler and Dave had left for the day, but instead of coming back to write immediately I rolled on my foam roller to work out the kinks from running, took a shower (well, after the running that was fairly necessary), threw a load of laundry in the washer, stripped my bed (but decided I’d put my clean sheets on later), cried my eyes out as I read the article in the Times about that horrific bus crash carrying college-bound high school students to Humbolt, and then threw the load in the dryer (after taking the time to hang my gym clothes and delicates), and then finally sat down to write this post. I typed two sentences and the phone rang. It was Marley, ready to be picked up.

I picked her up, took her to the library, went to Trader Joes’s for necessities (milk and wine), came home, had lunch, and then went to her lacrosse game. (Marley was goalie, her team won, it was awesome!) We returned at 3:30, I put clean sheets on my bed, stopped myself from taking the time to do the pillow cases, and sat down to write.

Phew!

Oh, I  didn’t finish of course. I only had about half an hour before I had to do other things. So I got up at 5:00 Sunday morning and wrote some more (like I was supposed to – alone and in the dark). And now I’m finishing this early Monday.

So I guess you could say my process is to get up early under the guise of writing and then avoid writing as much as possible until I can’t avoid it any longer. I don’t know why I procrastinate. I think is has something to do with the torture. Or maybe so I can convince myself that my writing sucks because I “don’t have time” to do it properly.

4. What am I working on?

Hmmm… other than avoidance? Good question.

Another rejection letter, that was fairly constructive rather than the standard “it’s not you, it’s us, but really it’s you because your writing sucks” form letter, is forcing me to look at my novel again. What can I take out without losing my voice? How can I punch it up? Make it funnier? Make you want to read more. I’m actually considering changing my beloved first line -my hook- which I’ve held onto as if my life depended on it. But perhaps the life of my book depends on me letting it go.

And I recently wrote a piece for Listen to Your Mother that got rejected. Which is fine, really. (Though it does make me bitter petty enough to not give them a link.) There were only 12 spots available and I think that at least 14 people auditioned, so you know, odds were against me. In all seriousness, unlike the poorly edited drivel I usually post here, it’s a kick-ass piece that has a place somewhere, so I need to shop it.

And of course I try to post here every Monday, but as I’ve stated, the chatter in my head often doesn’t translate to my fingers.

 

Okay, are we done with this? Now that I’ve bored you all to tears if you’ve even made it this far (which I suspect most people haven’t – I probably wouldn’t) and you no longer like me because you’ve figured out how weird I am?

Anyway, now is the part where I pick three people to keep this tour moving. Picking only three people is very hard. Picking three people who will actually do it (and not murder me) is even harder, but here are my three:

 Tina Drakakis – my soul mate from skirt.com. Yeah, I always pick her for things. Because she is kick ass and awesome and 1,000 times funnier than me, which makes me really want to hate her, but I can’t because I love her too much. Plus she’s been posting a lot to her blog lately, but I haven’t seen much that is new, so I’m giving her a kick in the butt to get back at it. She loves it when I do that. (Or maybe not.)

Rina Nedar – her blog, Mommy Has a Story, is quite lovely. You should read it. And her fiction is even better. Plus she started the writing group I’m currently in that makes me set goals and keeps me accountable, which quite frankly, I find a little bossy, so now I’m going to make her do something. (So ha ha Rina!)

Abby Byrd – her blog Little Miss Perfect is hilarious. She says fuck a lot, calls her two-year-old an asshole, and isn’t afraid to piss people off.  I would like to say the F-word more (like I do in real life), but people have told me they don’t like it, and I don’t like to piss people off (except for the three people I just named, obviously) so I don’t use it as much as I’d like to in my blog. And as I stated above, my kids are older now, so I can’t call them assholes. Oh, and Abby uses a pen name for her blog, but one day when her memoir is published (and it’s great, so it will be), you will know her real name, trust me on that.

Get to work ladies – you have one week to expose your soul to the internet. But hey, you’re writers. You’re used to that.

(And for those of you who stuck with this entirely-too long post, I really do thank you.)

The Beauty of Pinterest

Like most women I like beautiful things…

Bradley Cooper

Bradley-Cooper-shirtless
Yeah, I chose a picture of Bradley Cooper shirtless. You’re welcome.

 

 

Diamonds

diamond-bodysuit
You can totally see me wearing this, right?

 

 

Pinterest

Pinterest

 

 

And since Dave won’t let me date – which is the only reason I’m not Bradley Cooper’s girlfriend (obviously)…

or buy me diamonds – due to the violence and price fixing, not because he doesn’t think I’m worth it (so he says)…

if I want a little beauty in my every day life, Pinterest it is.

But, lately it seems Pinterest is starting to become a bit like Bradley Cooper and diamonds – unattainable.

I mean, I’ll never wear this little black dress…

dress-with-criss-cross-back

 

 

My backyard will never look like this…

backyard-patio-with-pool
All that’s missing is a cabana boy with umbrella drinks.

 

 

Or this…

Outdoor-living-room
When do I move in?

 

 

And 35 years of applying make-up has never once resulted in anything that’s ever looked remotely close to this…

smokey-eyes
Gorgeous! (But I think if I tried it I’d look like a suburban hooker.)

 

 

But there is one thing I can do…

I can cook.

So lately I’ve been turning my Pinterest attention towards food. Beautiful, yummy, delicious food. Crock-pot meals. Appetizers. Desserts. I have been pinning away like crazy. And I’ve even made some of the recipes. Although I’m not sure my efforts would actually be called a success.

First I tried this crock-pot recipe for Mongolian Beef. Doesn’t it look gorgeous?

mongolian-beef-recipe
A crock-pot meal my kids would actually eat.

 

 

This is what happened when I made it…

mongolian-beef
Uh… not quite like the picture

 

 

In my defense it was Dave who got it from the crock-pot to the table. But still. I don’t think a pretty plate would have saved it. It’s no small wonder that Marley would not eat it. (Chandler however thought it was delicious.)

Then I tried this…

tomato-peach-burrata-salad
This is about as gorgeous as food gets.

 

 

Mine was almost as pretty…

Pinterest inspired tomato peach burrata salad
Not too bad

 

 

Except my balsamic reduction sauce didn’t really caramelize and came out rather runny. And the heirloom tomatoes weren’t as flavorful ask I’d hoped. (Maybe because I cheated and got them at Trader Joe’s instead of the Farmer’s Market.)

I was starting to feel like a Pinterest failure. My food was either ugly and tasty or beautiful and meh. There had to be some way I could bring the beauty of Pinterest into my real life.

And then I found it. Something I could do. Something attainable. Something I could make useful. Beautiful even.

I took my kitchen drawer stuffed full of plastic bags…

plastic-bag-storage
This is one heck of a mess!

 

 

And folded them like little flags. Now my plastic bag drawer looks like this…

plastic-bags-folded-like-flags
Home organization at it’s finest!

 

 

Yeah, I can fold a plastic bag like nobody’s business!

It may not be nearly as beautiful as this…

bradley-cooper
I might or might not have a Bradley Cooper (Secret) Pinterest Board

 

 

But at least it’s attainable.

Follow me on Pinterest and find out what else I think is beautiful

Have you ever tried anything you’ve seen on Pinterest?

Photo credits: Bradley Cooper, Diamond bodysuit, Pinterest, Little Black Dress, Backyard with pool, Outdoor living room, Smokey eyes, Mongolian Beef, Tomato Peach Burrata salad

So, I Won This Contest on Pinterest… (Part 3)

Napa-collage
Wine Sisterhood Gathering 2013

Yes, it’s my last installment of my fabulous weekend in Napa with the Wine Sisterhood. If you missed part one and/or part two you can read them here and here.

When I woke up on Tuesday morning I had purple teeth. And not just a little. Ah, the price of drinking wine for 10 hours straight! Instead of Zumba I did a quick 1/2 hour on the elliptical at the gym next door because I needed extra time to wash my hair. (No, I don’t wash my hair every day – so?!) After my shower I ran downstairs, grabbed some breakfast, and brought it back to my room so I could pretend I was having room service for breakfast. (Which you might be interested to know is just about my most favorite thing in life.)

Jennifer went for a run and picked up coffee and a biscotti. I like big breakfasts (and lunches and dinners). Jennifer likes small breakfasts (and lunches and dinners). If you were to look at us standing side by side this would not be a surprise. (Skinny bitch!)

When we went downstairs to the conference room I noticed an incredibly beautiful woman I hadn’t seen before. She was stunning. Like a model. I was surprised that I hadn’t noticed her before as she had that type of presence that one takes notice of. Her name was Leila Janah and she was one of the morning’s speakers and founder of Samasource and Samahope.

Leila-Janah-Samasource
Leila Janah tells the Wine Sisterhood about her mission

Sama means equal in Sanskrit, the ancient Indian language. Leila’s father taught her that all people are equally deserving of dignity and opportunity, and that landing in a middle class family with access to good schools, health care, and food on the table every night is pure chance. Her father instilled in her a belief that we have a duty to help people who aren’t as lucky in life’s birth lottery.

Samasource  connects women and youth living in poverty to dignified work via the Internet. Samahope uses crowdfunding to pay for low-cost life-saving surgeries in impovershed parts of the world.

So it turns out Leila Janah is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. Leila showed us this film about one of the women that benefited from Samasource:

She then told us about her two non-profits. It was really amazing to hear from a woman who is making a true difference in the world.

Our next speaker, Danielle Smith, was just as beautiful and just as dynamic. I was lucky enough to get to know Danielle a bit before she spoke as she was in my group, the Mischief Makers. She is an award winning former television news anchor and reporter with two websites – Extraordinary Mommy and Danielle Smith Media.

Danielle-Smith-Extraordinary Mommy
Danielle Smith in an interactive video workshop. Photo credit M.J. Wickham

Danielle led an interactive workshop about getting comfortable with video and was looking for three volunteers to get up in front of everyone and record a one-minute video. Because I knew I’d never hear the end of it from Jennifer (and in case you haven’t noticed, I don’t mind being the center of attention) I volunteered. I didn’t have anything planned, so I just gave my blog a shameless plug and joked about the fact that I was bitter about Pinterest winner Katie getting a shout out instead of me the day before. I got a few laughs and during my critique Danielle told me my humor really came across. So perhaps there will be video in this blog’s future. We’ll see…

Danielle-Smith-video-workshop
Hey, here’s another crappy picture of me on the Internet! Photo credit: M.J. Wickham

Okay, it’s 10:30 AM already – on to the drinking! We had a wine and cheese pairing with Cabot Cheese and Culture Magazine.

Cabot Creamery is a 1,200+ farm family dairy cooperative that produces all natural, award-winning cheeses. (If you like spicy their Habanero Cheese is deliciously hot, Hot, HOT!)

Culture Magazine is a magazine about cheese. Cheese! (Have I mentioned that I really, REALLY like cheese?) Note to self: get subscription to Culture Magazine ASAP.

The cheeses were paired with wines from the Wine Sisterhood labels – Middles Sister “Surfer Chick” Sauvignon Blanc, Purple Cowboy Tenacious Red, Monogamy Cabernet Sauvignon, Deep Purple Zinfandel, Middle Sister, “Sweet & Sassy” Moscato. My favorite cheese was the Humboldt Fog goat cheese. One woman said she thought she only liked Brie, but she was wrong. (Oh boy was she – this cheese rocks!)

wine-and-cheese-pairing
Wine Sisterhood wines + cheese + Culture Magazine = FABULOUS!

Of course after the wine and cheese pairing we were starving, not to mention thirsty, so we split into our groups for lunch and more wine tasting.

The Mischief Makers got on our party bus and headed to Domaine Carneros for a sparkling wine tasting and a lovely light lunch. We took a tour of the beautiful chateau and met wine maker Eileen Crane. I added her to the list of fabulously dynamic women I met on this trip. I loved learning more about the sparkling wine process and would definitely recommend a tour of Domaine Carneros if you are a sparkling wine fan.

“Art of Sparkling Wine” Tour offered daily at 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m and is $30 per person.

Domaine-Carneros
The wonderful Domaine Carneros

After our wonderful lunch we headed to Palmaz Vineyards for a tour and tasting led by Florencia Palmaz. Palmaz is a gorgeous family-owned and operated winery. The Palmaz family is originally from Argentina, but moved to the states in the 1970’s. They fell in love with Napa while patriarch Julio Palmaz was finishing his medical residency at UC Davis. Palmaz turned his love of mechanics and engineering (he invented the coronary stent) into designing the vineyard’s elaborate gravity flow winery. From the stunning views to the deep basement caverns, this multi-level winery is truly something to see. Jennifer thought it was the highlight of the trip.

We had an amazing wine and food pairing (The wine was spectacular and the smoked duck breast wrapped around a cream cheese and fig filling was to die for). The tour and wine pairing is by reservation only. It costs $60 and is worth every penny.

Palmaz Vineyards
The view from Palmaz Vineyards
Palmaz-vineyards-tanks
A wine engineering masterpiece!
Palmaz-vineyards-tanks-downstairs
Another view
Palmaz-wine-and-food-pairing
Heaven!

After Palmaz we went back to the hotel. Do not however think there was any time to rest. After a quick stop to our room Jennifer and I checked out the Wine Sisterhood Sassy Suite. What is a Sassy Suite? It was a suite reserved to showcase the Wine Sisterhood wines and fabulous items for sale at the Wine Sisterhood online shop. (Looking for a gift for a wine-loving girlfriend? Look no further, this online shop will hook you up!)

Wine-Sisterhood-Shop
Welcome to the Sassy Suite

Next was The Hess Collection for more wine tasting and our last dinner. The Hess Collection is a vineyard, winery, art gallery, and local artisan gift shop all rolled into one. I loved the Hess Collection Winery because not only are their wines very good, they are sustainably farmed and Napa Green certified. We enjoyed a delicious buffet dinner. I loved (and I mean LOVED) every meal, but I think this one prepared by Chef Chad Hendrickson was my favorite. (And the blue crab mini-tostada appetizers – Oh. My. Gawd!)

The Hess Collection
The Hess Collection

Napa-Green

The Hess Collection
Our closing dinner
Dinner at Hess Collection
Jennifer’s tiny plate
Dinner-Hess-Collection
My ginormous plate!
empty-plate
All done!

Complimentary winery tours, including an overview of The Hess Collection Winery and Vineyards are offered daily between 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. A tasting of four current release wines is $10. Unique experiences including a private tour and tasting, and wine and food pairings start at $25. Reservations can be made here.

After dinner we boarded the party bus for the last time. And I have to admit, I may have been over-fine-wined-and-dined. (Well, can anyone ever be over-fine-wined-and-dined?) I was tired. But happy. So happy. I felt so lucky and so blessed to be able to have this experience.

So what’s it like to win a contest on Pinterest? What do you think?

So, I Won This Contest on Pinterest… (Part 2)

Wine Sisterhood Gathering 2013
Wine Sisterhood Gathering 2013

As promised here is the Day Two recap of my trip to the 2013 Wine Sisterhood in Napa that I won on Pinterest. (If you missed Day One you can find it here.)

Jennifer is a good travel partner because she is an early-riser like me so when I wake up at o’dark thirty I don’t have to worry about disturbing her. We actually had a wake-up call for 6AM. (Yes, we are freaks.) She wanted to run and I wanted to hit the 7:00 Zumba class. She discovered the quiet early morning streets of Napa on foot and I put on a coin skirt and shook my booty (in a very uncoordinated-Kate-Gosselin-on-Dancing-with-the-Stars kind of way).

There was a gorgeously delicious breakfast buffet in the conference room at 8:00, but after our workouts showers were quite necessary so we didn’t make it down to the conference room until about 8:50. There was still plenty of food, but I missed out on morning socializing.

At 9:00 Terry Wheatley, our organizer and hostess extraordinaire gave opening remarks that were emotional and quite inspiring. She spoke of her vision for the Wine Sisterhood and quoted Walt Disney when she said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”

Terry Wheatley Wine Sisterhood
Terry Wheatley talks about big dreams

Then Terry gave a shout out and congratulations to a Pinterest winner…

named Katie

Katie brought her husband to the girl’s trip with her because he is her best friend blah blah blah.

What the… What about ME?! I’m a Pinterest winner too! Who loves to be the center of attention. Don’t I get a shout-out or a crown or something?

Katie of Hems for Her
Curtis and Katie at the flapper party at Raymond Vineyards

Katie obviously got the shout out because she is younger and cuter than me and the fact that she brought her best-friend-husband is just adorable right? Whatever Katie! (I’m just kidding – Katie is awesome. And she has a beautiful fashion blog called Hems for Her. You should check it out.)

Wine Sisterhood Pinterest winners
Two happy Pinterest Winners (I think I look drunk in this photo, but afterall it was taken at 11:30 AM!)

At 9:30 we listened to our first keynote speaker, Digital Diva Aliza Sherman, talk about all the fabulous phone apps that are available right now. Aliza is a great speaker and had fantastic information. Some of the apps she told us about were Drink-u-lator, an app that helps you know how much wine to buy when you’re planning a party (hint – it’s not a bottle per person!); Trover, a sort-of Instagram meets Trip Advisor; and Foodspotting, a sort-of Instagram meets FourSquare. I learned so much from her. Mostly, that I have a really lame phone. (I actually already knew that.)

Aliza-Sherman
Aliza Sherman talks apps

At 10:30 (yes in the morning) it was time for Bubble University. Translation: Sparkling Wine Tasting. (Now we are talking!)

The bubbly Leslie Sbrocco guided us through our tasting. (Yes, that pun was intended!)

Leslie is an emmy-award winning television host and Today Show Contributor and my new girl-crush. Leslie told us about getting the HUGE tattoo of a glass of  rosé sparkling wine on her calf, the different types of sparkling wine, what food to pair sparkling wine with (in her opinion all) and showed us how to saber a champagne (or sparkling wine) bottle. (That means pop the cork with a saber. It’s super-cool. Check out a 6-second video posted by Girlfriendology of Leslie sabering a bottle of sparkling rose here.)

Sparkling-wine-tasting
The fabulous Leslie Sbrocco schools the Wine Sisterhood on Sparkling Wine

After the sparkling wine tasting we broke off into two groups: Mischief Makers and Drama Queens – named after two of the Middle Sister wines and boarded luxury mini-buses for food and wine tastings aplenty. I was in the Mischief Maker group. (Oh don’t act all surprised by that – I am totally not a Drama Queen!) The groups would flip itineraries the next day.

The Mischief Makers went to a restaurant called Bistro Don Giovanni’s for lunch. It was Oh-my-god-I-feel-like-I’m-in-Italy delicious! We were given a four-course meal and a white and a red choice of Don Giovanni’s own estate grown wines. (So what if I chose both – be quiet!) One of the many things we talked about during lunch was the importance of a great wine label. We loved the label for Gio, Don Giovanni’s Sangiovese.

Don-Giovanni-Napa
Good times and great lunch with some winesisters – Lisa (@belvinowinery) and Sue (@kaysyrah) at Don Giovanni

After our lunch we waddled onto the bus to head to our first winery of the day.

Chappellet 

Our tour of Chappellet Winery was given by their Director of Hospitality, Candice Pannetier.  Candice gave us a tour of the barrel storage room and vineyards and told us the history of the family-owned winery and its owners, Donn and Molly Chappellet. Founded in 1967, the winery is located in Pritchard Hill and was one of the first wineries to pioneer high-elevation hillside planting. I don’t know what any of the means, but whatever it is they’re doing over at Chappellet, they are doing it right – this wine is crazy good. The winery is now run by three of the Chappellet children, but we had the privilege of meeting Molly Chappellet. She was an extraordinary woman with such a warm and lovely presence about her. She was so gracious and sophisticated and beautiful it felt like meeting royalty. (And I’m sure in Napa she is akin to royalty.)

Tastings at Chappellet can be booked here and start at $25.

Chappellet-vineyards
Beautiful Chappellet
Chappellet wine pour
More wine please Candice!
Wine sisterhood at Chappellet
Time for more wine!
Molly-Chappellet
Napa royalty, Molly Chappellet tells us about her beautiful winery
Chappellet wines
Yes please!

During lunch and the bus ride and walking around the Chappellet, I got to know some of the women in my group a little better. One of the best things about this trip was the amazing women I met from all over the country. Two of them were Debba Haupert of Girlfriendology and Beth Robeson of Healthy Kids Fast. Debba and Beth were both smart and interesting and funny. (Love them! Do yourselves a favor and check out their websites.)

Quintessa

Our next stop was Quintessa Winery.  When Agustin and Valeria Huneeus purchased the property for this winery in 1989 it was one of the few estates in Napa Valley that had never been planted to grapes. (I met Dave in 1989 and loved that Quintessa was established the same year we were.)

Our tour was given by Gwen McGill, their Director of Marketing, who showed us their beautiful grounds that includes a lake, five hills, a river and two forests. Not only were the grounds beautiful and the wine fantastic (we tasted the Illumination Sauvignon Blanc ($40), their Quintessa 2009 ($145) and Quintessa 2008 ($150) – hello!), but the vineyard is farmed entirely with biodynamic and organic techniques. We also tasted three different cheeses including this Seascape cheese from the Central Coast Creamy that was so ridiculously good I’m seriously considering having some shipped to my house even though it’s $17/pound. (Yes, it’s that good!) I was swooning over Quintessa.

Tastings are $65 and can be booked here.

Quintessa Gwen McGill
Gwen McGil pours Illumination Sauvignon Blanc
Quintessa
Gorgeous!
Quintessa Lake
What a view!

The Kitchen Door

Next we headed to The Kitchen Door for dinner. (You know, because we were so hungry.)

The Kitchen Door is located in the Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa and is definitely a must-visit destination. The restaurant was closed for our party and chefs Todd Humphries and Christoper Litts made a special menu for our dinner.

First appetizers were passed around – Gourgeres Stuffed with Spinach and Mornay Sauce (think creamed spinach stuffed into a little bite-sized pastry), Deviled Eggs with Wasabi Tobiko (um, yum!), Salmon Pastrami with Sauerkraut on a Rye Crouton (ridiculous!) and Demitasse of Mushroom Soup (best mushroom soup I’ve ever had). Is your mouth watering yet? We still had three courses to go!

1st course
Spinach Salad with Pt. Reyes Blue Cheese, Shaved Apples, Toasted Walnuts and a Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

Entree
Pot Roast – Whole roasted center cut beef shoulder with garden vegetables and fresh grated horse radish.
(a vegetarian option was offered, but who wants that?)

Dessert
Bettermilk Panna Cotta with Sour Cherry Compote (Oh. My. Gawd. So good!)

Wine
2011 Tablas Creek, Patelin de Tablis Blanc, Paso Robles, CA
Unti, Rose of Grenache/Mourvedre, Dry Creek, CA
2008 Six Sigma, Tempranillo, Lake County, CA
2010 Bonny Doon, Old Vine Field Blend, ‘Contra’, Santa Cruz, CA

I chose the Bonny Doon ‘Contra’. It was excellent.

Our hotel was only two blocks away so the buses left after dropping us off and when we finished dinner we all walked home. I don’t think the walking home, the morning’s Zumba class, or all the walking we did around the vineyards was nearly enough to keep this food and wine from sticking to my middle-aged middle -but who cares? I was in foodie-food and wine-snob heaven.  So different from my $7-Costco-and-fake-it-like-you-made-it-Trader-Joe’s-frozen-dinner regular existence.

Kitchen-Door-Napa
The Kitchen Door – you MUST eat here when you are in Napa

Stay tuned for Day Three. Could it be any better? Maybe…

So, I Won This Contest on Pinterest…

That’s right – I won a contest on Pinterest. And you should be jealous. Because it was freaking awesome.

That sounds a little snotty doesn’t it? I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for it to come out that way. I’m not trying to brag (much), it’s just that – WOW – this was really super fantastic and I really, really have to share.

Last year I found out about this contest from Middle Sister Wines on Pinterest. You had to pin a picture of one of their new wines –Rebel Red, Drama Queen, Wild One or Mischief Maker- and where you spotted it (or bought it) onto a pinboard on Pinterest. The prize was a trip for two to Napa for the 2nd annual Wine Sisterhood Gathering. I had no idea what the Wine Sisterhood Gathering was, but I knew I wanted to win. I mean a free trip to Napa with a girlfriend – what could be better? (It turns out nothing! Could be better, I mean. Because this trip was the bomb!)

Here is the photo I pinned:

Pinterest-Contest-Winner
This may be a crappy photo of me, but it won me a trip to Napa!

Yeah, it’s a pretty sucky picture of me. In fact, I almost didn’t post it because I really didn’t like it. But I’m so glad I did. I mean, who needs dignity when free wine and travel are involved?

What exactly is the Wine Sisterhood Gathering? It was a three-day conference featuring interactive workshops, winery visits, ridiculous dining experiences, and time to mingle with influential women from a variety of industries and backgrounds. Translation: Wine tasting + gourmet food + amazing women = AWESOME!

I was a good friend to one and a bad friend to many when I chose my friend Jennifer to go to Napa with me. (Sorry everyone else – really!)

It started on Sunday, March 3, when Jennifer and I flew to Napa on a teeny tiny airplane.

small-airplane
Yikes! That is one small airplane!

Once we landed at SFO were met by a stretch limo (that I’m pretty sure was bigger than the plane) that whisked us away to the fabulous Andaz Napa Hotel. We shared our limo with three amazing women who had flown in together from the East Coast – Elizabeth Mascali and Dawn Sandomeno from the fantastic better-than-Martha-Stewart party planning blog Party Bluprints, and Carol Cain from the very cool (I wish it was my) travel blog Girl Gone Travel. We chatted the entire hour-long limo ride and really hit it off. These ladies are FAB!

Limo-ride
My chariot awaits!

When we arrived at the hotel our rooms weren’t ready yet (we arrived before official check-in time) and everyone was starving, so the five of us had lunch two doors down at a restaurant called Tarla Mediterranean Grill. I chose their crab sandwich which was basically a BLT with avocado and lump crab meat on ciabatta bread. So in a word – YUM!

crab sandwich
Lump meat crab sandwich – like a BLT on crack!

When we went back to the hotel we had to wait a little longer for our room so we checked in with the sisterhood and each got this awesome bag full of swag with items that can  be purchased at the Wine Sisterhood store in the near future.

swag
What an awesome gift bag!

We sat in the hotel lobby and enjoyed a complimentary (and very delicious) glass of John Anthony 2010 Sauvignon Blanc. I’m telling you – I could get used to the Napa lifestyle. We were given a beautiful double king room that I was too lame to remember to take pictures of.

So here’s one I stole from the Internet. (It’s from their website – I don’t think they’ll mind!)

Andaz-hotel
Oh yeah!

After relaxing for a short while we changed into flapper(ish) outfits because we were headed to the speakeasy at Raymond Vineyards Winery.

Raymond Vineyards – what a trip. We are talking crazy good wine and a winery that David Lynch could have created. I’m telling you this place was surreal. Our host, Jean-Charles Boisset (who was wearing a purple velvet suit) greeted us and told us the history of the winery in the red room.

Jean-Charles Boisset
Our wonderful host at Raymond Vineyards
Raymond-vineyards-speakeasy
The red room at Raymond Vineyards (yes, this is the best picture I have – sorry!)

We then headed to the Crystal Cellar for an appetizer dinner. (My favorite kind!)

Raymond-Vineyars-Crystal-Cellar
David Lynch has nothing on Jean-Charles Boisset

Here I am enjoying some yummy apps with my new friends…

Lorraine Robertson, Carol Cain, me, Elizabeth Mascali and Dawn Sandomeno
Lorraine Robertson, Carol Cain, me, Elizabeth Mascali and Dawn Sandomeno

BTW – side note… speaking of awesome women – do you see the 1st person in this picture? Her name is Lorraine Robertson and she ran a marathon earlier in the day. Yes, you read that right. Lorraine flew in from Atlanta on Saturday, ran a marathon Sunday morning and Sunday evening partied like a rockstar. She is my idol. Seriously!

Off of the Crystal Cellar was the Barrel room. And it was full of cheese.

Raymond-vineyards-barrel-room
If I died, this would be my heaven!

And olives…

party-food

and other yummy things…

party food

While we were in the barrel room Jean-Charles came in and offered a back-room tour of the place. Unfortunately I was treating the table in the barrel room like a feed bag and did not see my friends go. Dawn and Elizabeth told me I really missed out. Boo! (But seriously, can you blame me? Look at all that cheese!)

cheese plate
Get in my belly!

After much eating and drinking and winery exploring the Wine Sisters were done and ready to retire. We had get to bed at a decent hour to gear up for the next day that involved 7AM Zumba, a 10:30 AM champagne tasting and more food and wine than even someone who uses a cheese table as a feedbag would have thought possible.

Stay tuned to find out all about it…

*photo of Jean-Charles Boisset courtesy of Sarah Nelson.

It’s Hot

On Saturday morning I was wasting time on the Internet pinning things to my Pinterest page. Inspiring sayings that look like this:

Wouldn’t you like a life like this?

Yummy food I really and truly do hope to make one day that looks like this:

Tuna and chickpea salad
Tuna and chickpea salad – sadly I’m the only person in the Ross household that would eat this!

I was also pinning pretty clothes I’d like to own. (BTW – I’d also like the life that goes with clothes like these!)

You can totally see me wearing this right? (No? Sigh…)

and this…

Fall fashion with leopard shoes
Adorable! Love those shoes.

and this…

Beautiful fall fashion for office
Wouldn’t I look nice wearing this to my publisher’s office in NYC? (You know, if I had a publisher?)

and this…

gray and teal fall fashion
Adorable!

not to mention these seriously cute brown boots…

brown-boots-for-fall
My life will not be complete until I own these boots! (Click the picture if you want to find out how to buy them. They’re only $43.00!)

and finally this…

greay and peach fall fashion
I cannot tell you how cute I’d look in this!

Then I left the house to drop Chandler off at the bus for his cross country meet and take Marley to her soccer game. This is what the the car thermometer said:

102 degrees in September in Los Angeles
Hot hot hot

Yes, mid-September is still summer, people, and it’s usually Los Angeles’ hottest month. My poor kids. It’s way too hot to run 3 miles or to play soccer for an hour.

How to pack an ice chest for hot soccer games
Ready to go with cool towels, Gatorade and plenty of water.

And even more importantly, poor me. How am I supposed to obsess over warm and cozy fall outfits that I cannot afford and have no place to wear in weather like this?

It’s just not right.

I’m curious… are you pinning on Pinterest? What do you like to pin? Follow my Pinterest page here. (I promise to follow you back!)