Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Best Foot Forward

Though the temps are hovering in the 70's and low 80's, it's officially Autumn. Time to start thinking about trading in the summer shoes and flip flops for suede and leather shoes and boots!

In the kitchen, I condition my Boos cutting board, bread bowls and wood-handled cutlery with mineral oil a few times a year, and in the Fall, I condition my shoes and boots.

Having shiny shoes makes a person stand out as someone who cares about appearance. As a child, I was taught to put Vaseline on my patent leather shoes and buff them up before church or a party. One of my chores was to shine my dad's shoes. I didn't mind the job, because he wore good leather shoes, and they smelled like leather, not like feet! I mean, size 10 1/2's went half way up my arm, so I was definitely earning my 75 cents a pair. I liked the ritual. Spread out newspapers on the kitchen floor, line up the shoes by color, choose the polish, turn the little metal lever to pop the top off, release the waxy scent, and begin. Hey, what would happen if I were to use Oxblood or Cordovan on brown shoes?! Nope, I knew this was not the arena for rebellion.

Certain scents are triggers, and I have always liked the smell of shoe polish, gasoline and the dry cleaners's naphtha. I love, love love cooking aromas, flowers and cut grass...but, there's something I like about chemicals.

With this change in season, perhaps you'll join me in updating the shoe shine kit, or maybe you'll be inspired to create one! I've often said that I like to have the right stuff "on hand."

My shoe shine kit is a fabric box that's in my closet. It's easy to reach, with everything in one place.
Fabric boxes are also great for storing flip flops, small purses, and golf caps.

What's in the shoe shine kit?

Kiwi and Esquire brand shoe polishes in black, brown, neutral and mink oil. Rags made from cut up tee shirts, shoe mitts, sponges and shoehorns from various hotel stays, horsehair buffing brushes, horsehair polish applicators, heel savers and a suede brush.

Old, dried Meltonian shoe cream in Navy Blue. I only have one pair of blue shoes. Time to toss; it's seen better days!

Express liquid polish with a sponge is great for your office drawer, car, or in your golf bag.

Solid polish is ok if it's cracked, as long as it's still wet!

Now that your kit is complete, it's time to start polishing. Set aside an hour or so on a rainy or quiet day to get all your shoes and boots conditioned. You'll be ready to grab a pair and go, rather than having to deal with last season's scrapes, dings and leftover mud.

I'm not from a "military family" per se. 2-3 year stints were completed. Officer Candidate School, Navy, Coast Guard and Army...and it ended with my father's and uncle's generations. No siblings or cousins served. We didn't grow up with 'The Great Santini" bouncing a quarter off our just made beds, or having to spit shine our shoes. But, the discipline of some military service was handed down. Neatness, for one.

Anyway, what exactly is a spit shine? It's a few-hour long process of layering polish then wax, mixed with water, or better yet with spit, and buffing with a cloth or cotton balls to get a 'parade shine' or mirror finish on the toes of military boots. Admirable, but too lofty a goal for this civilian.

For general shoe polishing....

First, clean off the dirt. Remove laces, if any. Apply leather conditioner (neatsfoot or mink oil), work it into the seams for waterproofing (right boot in picture below), wipe it off and and let boots dry.

I've had the old pair of slides below for years and I still use the conditioning oil that came with them.

Lined up to dry after conditioning. Colored polish can now be applied, buffed off with a rag or chamois cloth and shined with a horsehair brush.

Suede can get crushed and marred, too.

Use a metal suede brush to lightly brush and restore the nap.

You can extend the life of your shoes, and prevent cracking by conditioning at least once a year, and by using shoe and boot trees to maintain the shape. The trees are available in cedar or plastic.

Nothing beats a new pair of golf shoes!

But, for a rainy or muddy round, we all have a less than stellar-looking pair.

I keep liquid polish with my golf stuff, and if I have the time, I give my shoes a quick once over. It's a quick fix and it'll do.

Dab it on, let it dry and then buff the shoes.

Paint the edges with black polish, and you're good to go~~best foot forward.

Life is good. Level & Plumb!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

My September 11th

September 11, 2001 is a day that seems frozen in time. It's hard to believe that 10 years have already gone by since the U.S. was attacked and taken completely by surprise.

I moved away from New York City last year, but the weather here in North Carolina on September 11, 2011 feels the same as it did that day in New York City 10 years ago. It's a crisp morning and the sky is bright blue and cloudless.

I'm going to ramble a bit, but I wanted to get some feelings down on "paper" about my 9/11.

We all hear the "Where were you when...?" questions that surround a pivotal day. Being born before or after a certain event, such as the attack on Pearl Harbor, or the day President John F. Kennedy was killed,  places "your tick" on the timeline.

Sprinkled among my more pleasant memories, and the ups and downs of the day-to-day, attacks and disasters mark my timeline. They are the ripples in the relatively calm lake of my life. In my 50 years here, I remember very clearly where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news about:

1. The first moon landing
2. The Kent State shootings
2. Ronald Reagan and the Pope being shot
3. The Space Shuttle Challenger breaking apart
4. The World Trade Center was first bombed
5. Mid air explosions that downed the flight over Lockerbie, Scotland and TWA Flight 800
6. The start of the Gulf War
7. Blizzards and blackouts in New York
8. September 11th, 2001

I'll stop there for the purposes of this blog post.

On September 11, 2001 I was working at an executive recruiting firm at 100 Park Avenue. The building was one block south of 42nd Street and Grand Central Station, and 2 blocks east of 5th Avenue. I worked on the 11th Floor and had a 9:00am meeting on the 34th floor. Before heading upstairs I made my usual big cup of English Breakfast Tea and called a friend with whom I'd spent the weekend. I had gotten divorced 6 weeks prior, and she and her boyfriend were having a she came out to my family's place out East, and we hung out. September is so gorgeous on the North Fork of Long Island.  We BBQ'd and went on a 10 mile walk, chitchatting all the while about men, relationships, work and where life sat as we'd both just turned 40. On Tuesday morning 9/11 at 8:30am, we re-hashed the weekend and she told me that happily, she and her guy made up, and he proposed marriage the night she got back into the city, Sunday Sept. 9th. At around 8:45am, the phone went dead. We were mid-sentence. E-mail and instant messaging were nascent back then, and Facebook did not exist. I called back and got her voicemail, so I left a "hey what happened" wrap-up message and said I was heading to my meeting and I hoped we'd finish our convo soon.

The next time we spoke was after 1:00pm, and thankfully, she was safe at home. She let me know that while we were talking, she heard what turned out to be deafening jet engine noise. She turned to see the airplane scream past her office window, and crash into the Tower, right across the street. Fireballs caused blown out windows. Mayhem, confusion and dread converged, and she got downstairs and just started running and walking the 3 1/2 miles to her apartment on the Upper West Side. She thanked me for "training her" for the walk of her life. Wow.

All morning, the news was breaking, and I learned from one of my two brothers that Grand Central Station was closed. I was on Manhattan Island and had to get across the East River to Long Island City, Queens. There was some confusion in my office. Should we leave? Is the business closed for the day? Do we update our voicemails and e-mail "out of office" reply? Should there be a phone chain? Not a good time to create a disaster recovery plan, but this scenario was new to New York City, and it was happening in real time. My name is not on the front door. I walked out at noon.

Outside, I literally felt panic in the air. The scene looked like a B/W dubbed monster movie from the '60's. People were running down 42nd Street, not knowing where to go or what to do. Could the Empire State Bldg, Grand Central, the Chrysler Bldg or the 59th St Bridge be the next targets? On the other side of town, the same was being asked about the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, and the George Washington Bridge. Downtown, could the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges be next? The United Nations was already cordoned off and military personnel with machine guns moved us along. No gawking, no talking. There were hundreds of thousands of people trying to get out of the city, and many were not able to take their "regular commute" home.  No subways, no trains, no ferries. The scene was unfolding and no one knew that the deadly work was already done, and that it would be limited to Lower Manhattan. Military jets were searing the sky overhead. I made my way to the river and walked north to the 59th St Bridge. I walked very fast across the bridge, looked to my right and could see massive plumes of thick, black smoke where the Twin Towers had stood.

When I got to the other side about an hour later, I really heard the quiet. No commercial air traffic. New York is a v-e-r-y noisy place. It was brutally quiet. People were standing at their cars listening to the breaking news on the radio. I walked toward my house, looking across the river to the skyline and wondered if it would be further altered. Today? Tomorrow?

I called my family to let them know I was alright. They were ok, too. My sister was 30 miles away, on a Long Island golf course and could see the smoke wafting. By the next day, she could smell the burning wires and plastic of the downed towers. The odor was very strong in my neighborhood, for many weeks. One brother would be stranded in Ibiza, Spain for a few extra days because all commercial flights were cancelled. Not a "bad" place to be stranded for any reason except this, terrorism. His wife of just over 2 years was very worried. My mother had moved to Florida one month prior and was understandably feeling very disconnected and concerned for her kids who were living and working near the "epicenter." The term Ground Zero had not been created yet.

I grabbed my camera and some film and walked over the Pulaski Bridge where Queens connects to Brooklyn, to see the lower skyline across the East River. I took some photos through the chainlink fence. I shot a few rolls of film then went home and turned on the TV. And I cried.

I walked to the waterfront, 2 blocks from my house, and I saw people jumping off a tugboat onto the Long Island City Piers. They are not passenger piers so there are no gates, and people were just leaping. Many had no idea where they were. They were two rivers and a long way from their homes in Connecticut, New Jersey, Westchester and Long Island. It was warm, so people slept in the parks, in doorways, and some of my neighbors took in strangers. I had some people stay in my house, friends of friends, and I couldn't tell you who they were.

By late afternoon, New Yorkers were in "community mode." Firefighters, police and medical techs were making their way in, and people were posting "Missing" flyers with photos and descriptions of colleagues and loved ones all over walls, fences, US Mailboxes, lightposts and telephone poles. The breaking news was non-stop, with more horrible stories coming in from Shanksville, PA and the Pentagon in DC. People came together in disbelief, sadness, and in wanting to help somehow.

There was no phone chain from my office, but I didn't want to be a no-show at work on Wednesday the 12th. The subway was running, oddly, so I jumped aboard for my 2 stop commute to 5th Avenue/42nd St. 5th Avenue was eerily empty...very few cars and some handfuls of people wandering around. I went into the camera store that was always having a "going out of business" sale, and bought some more film. I thought to get some postcards, which you can see below. I kept them in the original paper bag and labeled it "Purchased in NYC Sept 12, 2001. They're not reprints.

By 11am, our office building was evacuated because there was a bomb threat at Grand Central Station. The station was closed and there were no subways running. I hoofed it down 11 flights, thankful to be wearing flat shoes. Once out on the street, I had a river to cross. Again. I never thought to bring sneakers to the office. I walked over the 59th St Bridge for the second time in 2 days. That's it. New York was under attack by terrorists, and there was no sense of an end point. I didn't return to work for the rest of the week. Our clients and prospects were downtown for the most part, and the grim reality was emerging that they were just GONE. Aon Corp, Marsh McLennan, Cantor Fitzgerald...

Hospitals were on alert to take in the wounded, ready with triage and with white-sheeted stretchers lined up outside. And no one came. The horror was setting in. What was the magnitude? Massive, burning rubble, and the chirping of the alarms from buried firefighters' communications equipment. Thousands were missing, thousands were probably dead. All the terrible words were being uttered by news reporters...grim, grisly, acrid, recovery mission rather than rescue mission. Those words spell disaster.

I went into "what can I do" mode, and drove to Costco to buy athletic socks, shaving stuff, white tee shirts, toothbrushes, toothpaste and soap. I collected 'hotel sample' shampoos and soaps from my neighbors, and some work gloves, facemasks and heavy duty rags from the industrial hardware store a few doors down from my home. No one hesitated. I packed it all into the car and on Friday I drove, crying intermittently, to the Jacob Javits Center on the West side of Manhattan, which was made a designated relief/supply drop-off center. A quick trip across midtown Manhattan, in an out, with armed National Guardsmen waving me through on both ends.  It wasn't much, but the boxes were accepted with gratitude. In coming days, large corporations mobilized huge pallet loads of donated supplies, and local restaurants set up mobile kitchens and fed those who were working "on the pile" 24/7 to find survivors and recover the dead.

As the days, weeks and years passed, I heard about people I knew casually, who were feared then confirmed dead. My brothers' friends, 20+ members of my athletic club, 4 women from the Junior League, neighbors, the husband and the mother of two high school classmates. There were near misses, too. Husbands of 2 friends who got to work late, and came up out of the subway to see the people jumping off their burning office buildings. An unspeakable sight that will never leave them. People I knew who had breakfast meetings uptown, and who by fate were not at their desks that morning. There are endless stories, and images and thoughts and feelings---and my experience is very much "on the fringe" compared to so many. I was in NYC that day, but my little slice of life was not directly affected. A pair of pants was being held for me at a store in the World Financial Center, to be picked up "anytime after September 10th." I was not planning to get them on Tuesday the 11th. In no way did I have a "near miss" experience. I never did get the pants, though.

My "10-mile walk" friend invited me (and my mother) to see her in the temporary office space that Merrill Lynch was using in early October 2011. I think it was on Vesey St. She and her colleagues were issued facemasks, and work was getting back online very slowly. I took photos looking down at the still smoldering rubble, and of some street scenes. People were writing names and messages in the dusty windows, and there were thousands of "Missing" flyers posted.  I have saved some newspapers and magazines, and I have a film cannister with ashes I took from a large planter on a street a few blocks from Ground Zero. I didn't want to be a gruesome souvenier hunter. Maybe my nephews (aged 8 and 5 now) can borrow these "pieces of history" someday for a future school report.

I picked up this random piece of paper, and found it a bit eerie since the attacks were by airplane.

Ashes and a crumpled piece of paper.

One room in my NC home has been dubbed "Le Refuge" by my cousin, Christina. It's an homage to NYC with some photos, some city-centric mementos and  posters (1912 and 1923) of the skyline and the 59th St. Bridge. There is no radio or TV. It's a quiet zone for reading, relaxing and reflecting.

Among the photos in "Le Refuge" is one that I took in the 90's from the Observation Deck on the Empire State Bldg. It shows the southern tip of Manhattan and the Twin Towers.

One corner of a bookcase shelf has NYC mementos. Matchbox-type police car and taxi, a photo of the Chrysler Bldg, and an Empire State Bldg Christmas ornament. The photo at left is the only bit of 9/11 displayed. I took the photo from the Pulaski Bridge at 1:30 pm Sept. 11th, and it shows smoke billowing from where the towers stood.

Also on the shelf is a small snowglobe that my cousin Christina gave me when I moved to NC in 2010. It broke but I couldn't throw it away. To me, it's a symbol of New York's bubble having been burst. The city was altered on many levels, but it's still standing and it's people are healing. My September 11, 2001 is a day I'll never forget.

Don't be stingy with your hugs and "I love you's." Keep your family and your friends close.

Live life fully~~ Level & Plumb. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

50 x 50 Staying on Track

I'd heard it all before~~

Eat healthy, watch your portions, shop the outer perimeter of the grocery store, exercise...

...and I'd tried all of this before~~

Weight Watchers, Diet Center, NutriSystem, Jenny Craig, Curves, the gym...(sporadically)

At 6 months into the low-carb plan I embarked upon with my doctor, I can say that what I'd heard before has turned out to be the case, and the basis for my success!! I've lost 40 lbs so far, and I'm a month past my 50th birthday. I'm within the range, so I'm quite happy with my progress. I haven't felt deprived, or depraved. Eating healthier has become a LIFESTYLE, and I shop the fringe with no pull toward my old ways.
I keep fresh fruits and veggies on hand every week.

I do have a little sweet tooth even though I take a Chromium pill every day! I allow myself a few squirts of Reddi Wip every week or so. It's 15 calories for 2 TBS...I either put it on No-Sugar Jello or take aim right out of the can, as it was meant to be used!

My plan is low carb, no white stuff. My doctor pointed me to "Food For Life" brand Ezekiel Bread about 2 months into the diet, so I would not have total sensory bread deprivation. It's dense, and for my taste, it's better toasted. I have a sandwich (usually roast turkey/avocado/lite mayo and a little of my basil pesto) or perhaps an egg/tomato muffin every once in a while. For breakfast, toasted bread/lite cream cheese/smoked salmon/dill and a squeeze of lemon. The bread is made from sprouted grains rather than flour. I'll have an open face "sang-gwitch" to save some calories for a glass of wine or a vodka with diet tonic once or twice a week. A girl's gotta live!

The KEY to my success so far has been in making sensible food CHOICES and not being bound to counting points, exchanges or calories.  The body adjusts to the low carb diet without all that bother. I wrote everything down for 3 months, including the weather and my mood. Now I'm making automatic choices and I don't need the diary.

At the Greek Festival last night, I had a Kota Pita (grilled chicken, lettuce, tomato and a little tzatziki sauce) on a *gasp* pita. With a *gasp* light beer. It's the first beer I've had in 6 months, and I can't say I've missed it. I have allowed very, very little white flour bread in, too. Maybe a few pita chips at a party. Hummus doesn't taste as good on a piece of celery. I'm STILL on track...and I just operate within reason, given what's offered at festivals! I skipped the baklava sundae, with no problem.

The Food Saver has been a lifesaver as well!

I get good prices on bulk seafood and chicken, and I can 'foodsave' individual portions. It's easy to grill for that night's dinner, plus an extra portion for the next day's salad.

Exercise-wise, I'm still "playing" rather than sticking to one regimen. I mix it up with powerwalking, a blend of walking with little spurts of running, the 30-minute kickboxing workout at 9Round, riding my beach cruiser bicycle, and a little hula hooping. Now that I'm lighter, I find it so much easier to get in and out of a kayak. No grunting. 

I feel like my sparkly 'ol self. I'm shooting for the next 10 lbs to disappear by Thanksgiving. Halloween is approaching and I know this...I won't buy a bag of candy "for the trick or treaters" and sneak the Milky Ways and Three Musketeers' outta the bag the way I used to. No need.

Life is good. Level & Plumb.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Short Sheeted

I love my bed.

And I love drifting off to sleep in nice, cozy linens.

My comfort zone; where I've probably spent half my life. I adore soft cotton (softer supima, pima, jersey knit or Egyptian for 3 seasons, and flannel for winter.) Satin, no thanks. The mattress is "high contour" about 13" tall, and I rotate it a few times a year. I didn't bother with a pillow-top, nor do I use a feather bed. I don't have an outrageous pillow farm. Says me.

I prefer 4 simple layers...quilted mattress cover, bottom fitted sheet, top sheet, light blanket and a white duvet. I had a throw and two pillows made in New York--Asian guys floating in whimsical balloons--and I pull a color from that palette when I buy sheets.

What disrupts my sense of serenity? Queen size sheet sets. True, the fitted sheet fits the mattress perfectly, with it's extra deep pockets.

But, the flat sheet is too narrow to tuck in on the sides! I read labels, and I know that my mattress is 60" x 80" x 13".  60 wide + 26 deep =  86 across. So why can't I tuck in a flat sheet with a finished size of 92" x 102"? There's way too much fabric to tuck in at the bottom of the bed! I'm no math whiz, but there should be 3" extra on either side to tuck under the mattress. After washing the sheet for the first's too narrow. I like to tuck loosely enough so that my feet can point up, rather than having to turn them sideways.

This is not an audition for Black Swan, I just want to get some zzzz's.

I compensate by tucking the blanket all the way under, but that little untucked top is vexing. I have my priorities straight, believe me, but why can't mills produce complementary sheet sets? The sets often have more appealing patterns than separates, and I'd rather not have to buy a King sized flat sheet. LL Bean does it right with their generously cut flannel sets, so I may have to look to see what they have in cotton.

Those people in Maine, they know how to do cozy.

Holy Crap!

The Bathroom.
Comfort Station.
The Ladies'.
Powder Room.
The W.C.
Water Closet.
Public Convenience.

It's the last moniker, public convenience, that prompted me to write this blog post. Some bathrooms I've visited have not given me that sense of privacy, comfort and convenience that ya just oughta have for life's necessary, indelicate, and sometimes most urgent moments. And cleaning public loo's has got to top the list of the world's worst jobs. I mean, really.

I bet there are a million stories I could collect on the topic, but frankly I don't want to plumb those depths.

In Mexico, where urgency is elevated to new levels, there will be no time to think, much less to fumble for coins. You need to know ahead of time that you h-a-v-e to have pesos at the ready. Pesos will get you thru a turnstile or will buy you a length of toilet paper from an attendant. Your anguished expression? They've seen it thousands of times. "Tres pesos, por favor."  "Do you have change for a five?" is not a question worth asking. BYO baby wipes. 'Nuf said.

In Scotland, the toilet paper was very waxy. 'Nuf said.

In Italy, not only have I seen half a phone book hanging by a rope where the toilet paper should go (hello, black ink!)...but there's often a hole in the ground where the toilet ought to be.

Logistical issues abound. Where to hang your purse or daypack? Challenges arise when wearing pants rather than a skirt, p-hose or tights, and balancing while securing/using the toilet tissue. Sheesh. Knee problems, or being handicapped? I think you're sh*t outta luck.

Last weekend I was out to lunch in the very civilized city of Charlotte, NC and my friend came back to the table and said, "You're not gonna believe the bathroom."


Sure, it was clean and well appointed. I'm pretty open, but not in the Ladies' Room. I locked the door and swore to myself that I'll never end up in prison.

Hands-off Cooking Class

Most of the cooking classes that I take are hands-on, with a group of 8-25 all pitching in to make food and learning how to de-bone fish and fowl, make pasta, or use a gadget like a mandoline. They're recreational classes and we all chat, sip wine and enjoy eating the food we've made. I was tired on this busy Labor Day weekend, so it was actually nice to sit back in a class that was a demo with wine and food tastings.

7 of us gathered at Reid's Fine Foods in Charlotte on Sunday, for a grilling class given by Heidi Billotto.

Heidi's well known about town, giving classes at her home, at Reid's and at local farms. She also makes appearances on local TV as well as giving demos at trade shows like the Southern Ideal Home Show and the upcoming Southern Women's Show.

It was a small group, and since it wasn't hands-on I refrained from taking pix, and going all "food-arazzi." Heidi gave us good tips on grilling, such as not brushing veggies with olive oil prior to grilling (the fat causes flame-ups and makes the veggies soggy) and to pat meat and fish dry, even after marinating, so they don't stick to the grill. Soak a cedar plank overnight so it doesn't burn. Skewer food after grilling, to ensure that it's all cooked evenly. Local pork can be cooked to medium rare (no need to call an ambulance!) but commercial pork can't, due to additives, antibiotics and pesticides. Add oil last to a marinade, to let the acids and other ingredients do their work first. Simple tips for cleaner, better grilling!

 Rather than go through the recipes that we learned, I thought I'd share some of the interesting products that Heidi used. We each used about a dozen tasting spoons for everything from mushroom soy sauce to marshmallow fluff. I've had the latter only one other time in my l-i-f-e, at age 30! Kitschy and fun when used sparingly on a Grilled Banana Split! All products were available for purchase at Reid's after class, and we got a 10% discount. I picked up some things I've never tasted or used before.

 Tondo White Balsamic Cream is a white balsamic reduction---with a thicker consistency, like honey. It's not used in larger amounts, the way you use balsamic vinegar. As a garnish, a dab goes a long way, and the color of food isn't altered.

Heidi used Dark Muscovado sugar in the marinade and the sauce for Pork Sate with Pecan Dipping Sauce. It's a British specialty sugar, darker, coarser, stickier and with more molasses than regular brown sugar. Great flavor. Or should I say, flavour.

Ok, who among us hasn't loved a Biscoff cookie, and maybe asked for two, when flying Delta Airlines?

I did NOT know that Biscoff, which is a Belgian graham cracker-y tasting cookie (the name is a contraction of biscuit and coffee)...comes in a JAR. It's available in retail stores, and you can get it without having to buy an airline ticket.

This deadly-good spread will be stored next to the Nutella...and will be used in decadent desserts. What's the harm in dipping a teaspoon in that jar every now and again?!

Ok, this next one is just kee-razy, and insanely flavorful. Vegetarian friends may want to skip to the next blog posting.

Skillet Bacon Spread

The label answers the question, "What the heck is bacon jam?" Well, "it's a tasty condiment we created in our Airstream trailers here in Seattle. You can eat it with a spoon, but it also goes great on burgers, sandwiches, mashers, and scrambles. The possibilities are endless, so visit us at for more ideas and to share your favorite use."

The nutrition label shows the calorie content as 80 for a 1 oz serving. Kinda low in total fat, carbs and sugar...but there is a load of sodium. Heidi didn't use this in her demo, but after she went off on a tangent about a bacon class she's giving (!), she pulled a jar off the shelf for us to taste. It's really good in a small dose...but then, when does bacon ever taste bad?

For the wine pairings, we tried E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone White with the grilled chicken. Very crisp and fruity. With the Pork Sate, we tasted Bridlewood Estate Pinot Noir, which had the black cherry, purple plum notes and spiciness that I like.  We sipped Chateau Smith Cabernet Sauvignon with the Strip Steak stuffed with Mushrooms and Goat Cheese. We learned that Washington State merlots are a "bigger wine" body and taste-wise than cabernet. That goes against conventional wisdom. This medium-bodied cab was very nice~~raspberry, black pepper, vanilla and cola.

My favorite wine was the last one we enjoyed, with the very decadent Grilled Banana Split. We were going to try Black Chook, a sparkling shiraz from Australia, but there was no stock for us to purchase. Instead, we had Cantina di Casteggio Sangue di Giuda. (Blood of Judah.)

This sparkling red wine is from Pavia, in the northern Italian region of Lombardy. Frizzante, or fizzy wine pairs well with rich dishes (like dessert) but would also be very nice with a holiday turkey dinner or a pork dish. It was like a red prosecco.

Heidi's demo was very engaging and my friends and I had a really nice, relaxing afternoon...sipping, supping and shopping. Sounds perfect, doesn't it?

Life is good. Level & Plumb.