Cartlidge and Browne Merlot and Chardonnay

Is it the destination or is it the journey? My husband will tell you he’s all about the journey

Columbia, IL - Mississippi River in the background

Columbia, IL – Mississippi River in the background

and mostly I just want to get to the destination. Sometimes it’s both. Just a few weeks ago I embarked on a road trip or a journey if you will, that took me back to my roots in Southern Illinois and Northern Mid-Missouri.

The main reason for my trip was to celebrate my great-aunt’s 95th birthday but I decided to turn it into a real road trip. I set out on a Tuesday and made my way to Metropolis where I had booked a room at Harrah’s Casino for the night. I came to Metropolis to find my great-grandparents home and their graves. I have an old scrap book that belonged to my great-grandmother with an address of a home where she once lived. Sadly, the house was no longer there, just a vacant lot and apparently has been vacant for many decades. I thought maybe I would recognize some structures from all of the pictures I have from her. Well the pictures were from the early 1900’s and like all things, the town had changed. It looked a bit sad and run down.

Waterloo, IL downtown

Waterloo, IL downtown

The next day I took my time getting to Waterloo, IL, the small German town where my mom grew up and where I lived until moving to Florida at the age of four. I took a two lane road that went through quaint small towns with beer signs hung outside of taverns (I love these types of bars) where tidy little houses lined the main street with beautiful flower gardens.

Once I arrived in town, it took a few minutes to get my directional bearings but soon I was driving passed the familiar buildings on Main Street, the brick bandstand where they still hold summer band concerts and old neighborhoods. As I drove around I felt the nostalgia roll over me. It was strange to return, knowing my granny and so many of others I’ve known my entire life, are no longer living. Surrounded by familiar sights I remembered the fond memories I have of this small yet growing town.

You know you can’t have a good road trip without good wine (enjoy after the driving is done for the day please) I brought along a couple of samples I had received a few weeks ago from Cartlidge and Browne, “The original garage winery”. That seemed fitting for a road trip.


Merlot – 2013
Purple plum and strawberry aromas. Bright and juicy flavors of plum and black cherry. Firm tannins with a dry albeit short finish.
Appellation – North Coast
Alcohol – 13.5%
pH – 3.57
Total Acidity – 0.57
I paired this with a wonderful hamburger I got from the bar at Harrah’s Signature Bar. I enjoyed one glass of wine at the bar while waiting for my burger and fries and high tailed it to my room to enjoy the burger and Cartlidge and Browne.
Chardonnay – 2013
Ripe peach aromas. Creamy and mellow lychee and peach flavors with the slightest hint of butter in the finish. An easy drinking wine on a hot Midwestern evening while watching the fire flies light up the night.
Appellation – North Coast
Alcohol – 13.5%
pH – 3.41
Total Acidity – 0.6
I now have proof that wine keeps you young and is good for your health. I took a picture of my 95 year old great-aunt (who still lives in her own home) enjoying a glass of wine that I immediately posted to Facebook, she was a hit. To protect her privacy, I won’t post here but she’s tipping back that glass of wine.

During my trip I had the opportunity to connect with relatives I last saw when I was too

Original log house on family homestead

Original log house on family homestead

young to remember, to some who I haven’t seen in over a decade and even some who I only know from their grave sites. The trip actually seemed to be a bit of a cemetery tour as I visited the graves of 3 sets of great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents. Along the way I learned more about my family history. I visited some family homesteads, some in need of a little attention and one lovingly

Original log house on family homestead

Original log house on family homestead

Original barn on old family homestead

Original barn on old family homestead

restored to its original state of a log house. I really think I should reclaim this property as it sits on 246 acres with beautiful sunny open areas with gorgeous flower gardens. Other areas have been allowed to go back to prairie and provide refuge for the wild life and fowl. Some areas are being reforested (my great-grandparents grew Christmas trees on this property, so this seemed fitting). Given that so much of what I knew as corn fields has been developed into ticky tacky houses, it was nice to know there are still people who believe in preserving the land.

Unfortunately I’m unable to make this an annual trip but I promise it won’t take me 16 years to get back to this town I love.


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Girl and Dragon Wines

Not having kids, summer really just means those months where it’s warm and the days are long. It also means lighter traffic for my husband’s commute which is good but I miss the summers I had when I was younger.
Summer meant freedom. Freedom to read the books I wanted to versus assigned books (which also came with book reports or term papers), freedom to leave the house in the morning and not come home until the street lights came on, spending the entire day in the pool or playing in my room or outside. Hours and hours of just playing. Oh how I miss those days. Yes, I can read the books I want to and I can come and go as much as I please but there’s this one little thing that I have to do every day, even in the summer…work!
Office work, house work, work, work, work. What I look forward to the most now is when my husband comes home and if it’s not too hot we head to the front porch with a bottle of wine. If it is too hot or cold, depending on the season, we turn off the TV, turn on music and get this, we talk. Yes, we actually enjoy each other’s company. Of course maybe the wine helps. Er, just kidding honey.
Anyway, let’s get to the wine part. Last week I was delighted when I checked my wine mailbox and found 15 wines had arrived for me to sample. If the rest are like the first three, you and I are in for a real treat. Since I’m still trying to get through Storm of Swords, the 3rd book in A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) I felt Girl and Dragon was a good start.
Girl and Dragon Malbec

Rustic and earthy aromas, think old world wine style. Black cherry and black berry flavors with soft and supple tannins. Soft leather finish. Wow, this was an amazing wine. I’m going to check to see if it’s available in my area this week.
Region: Mendoza, Argentina – 10,000 foot elevation
OAK AGING: 12 Months in small French oak barrels
ALCOHOL: 12.5%
SRP: $13

Girl and Dragon Cabernet Sauvignon
Dark fruit aromas. Big, bold black plum, dark berry flavors. Bold tannins and a long berry finish. Delicious and I want more.

Region: North Coast, CA
OAK AGING: Aged 18 months in French Oak barrels
ALCOHOL: 12.5%
SRP: $13

Girl and Dragon Pinot Grigio
Aromas of grapefruit and peach. Fresh and vibrant white stone fruit flavors. Bright acidity and clean finish. Crap, where have these wines been all my life? Ok, all my wine drinking life.

Region: Veneto, Italy (IGT)
ALCOHOL: 12.5%
SRP: $13

If you’re looking for an online community where you can talk about and learn about wines, checkout The Wine Sisterhood



I find myself thinking a lot about those summer’s as a kid. My mom was a teacher and stayed home with me in the summer. I’d wake up, grab some cereal and plop myself in front of the TV. Usually watching Monkees re-runs or some old Ultraman shows. Anyone remember this show? I wasn’t much of a fan but still watched. At 10:00 my mom would make me break away from the TV and go play outside or in my room, read or I could go play in the pool. I used to spend so much time in our pool, at some point in the summer I’d end up with a case of Swimmer’s Ear and the tips of my fingers and toes would be so raw and red from the pool sides I’d have to sit out for a few days. Those days were long and torturous to me but being an only child it didn’t matter that my friends weren’t around to play, I could play for hours on my own.
In high school, my summer days were spent slathering baby oil and iodine on my tan body either in our back yard or at the beach. There were also days of going to the mall, the movies, spending time with friends and even a few weeks of voluntary summer school to get some classes out of the way. Not my favorite way to spend my summer by the way but a necessary one.
Sigh, now I spend my summers working, sweating and swatting at mosquitos while I water our “sun challenged” gardens and wishing we had a pool. Why is it once we become adults we miss out on all that summer fun? It’s just not fair! Well there’s one thing I can do now I couldn’t do then, drink wine. Yep, that seems like a good plan. Cheers.

Just a thought, do you think Khaleesi drinks Girl and Dragon wine? I bet she does.

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2014 Giesen Estate Winery Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough

IMG_20150613_124122743_HDRSummer is in full swing. The heat wave my area was experiencing has finally broken and we’re beginning to get some rain again. As I type this I’m listening to the sound of distant thunder and watching the skies darken and winds pick up. That’s ok, I’ll take it. Our veggies need the rain, just none of that bad stuff or hail please.

In between swatting at mosquitos my husband and I have enjoyed some really great summer wines. In my last post I told you about the wine samples I received from Giesen Wines. The Sauvignon Blanc is just as good as the Pinot Gris and very traditional in the New Zealand style.

Classic Sauvignon Blanc aromas with eucalyptus, apricot and lime. Fresh and vibrant flavors bursting with peach, apricot and zesty citrus. Well balanced and bright acidity and a long dry finish. Light, refreshing and perfect summer wine.

Region: Marlborough -Wairau Valley & Awatere Valley

Alc: 12.5%
pH: 3.13
TA: 7.2 g/L
RS: 3.5 g/L

IMG_20150617_190014893_HDR IMG_20150617_200302283_HDR IMG_20150617_200754233_HDRWhile we wait patiently (ok, I’m getting a little impatient) for our summer veggies to come in, I was able to pick up some local grown zucchini while in Raleigh. We used some in salad but I still had a lot left so, in an effort to use up the zucchini and some eggs, always trying to use up the eggs, I made a summer zucchini pie. I also had some left over mashed potatoes and a great Iowa ham steak, which I turned into my version of ham croquettes. I even used one of my Granny’s pretty baking dishes. It’s probably a pie dish but I don’t make pies so I’ve started using it for pretty summer dishes.


1 large zucchini – sliced into thin rounds
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup shredded cheese (I used mozzarella)
3 eggs, beaten
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Handful of chopped herbs

1 sheet puffed pastry

Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine beaten eggs, mustard, onion and cheese, spices and baking powder in a large bowl, reserving 1 tablespoon of the Parmesan.
Grease bottom of baking dish with butter. Lay puff pastry in dish, fold over edges or just leave them to hang over.
Layer (don’t stack) 2 or 3 slices high enough of the zucchini to cover the bottom of pastry, pour mixture over just to cover, layer more zucchini and pour remaining mixture, finish final layer with zucchini. I love cheese so I added a little more at this point.
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until golden brown. Sprinkle with the reserved Parmesan. Cool 10 to 15 minutes before slicing.

Serves 6

My husband and I are staying close to home this weekend. We decided to use the green house as a chicken nursery as we expect to have hatching chicks come July 6. We’re also hoping to get the new and bigger chicken coop framed out. Good thing we were planning to do it as our flock may be expanding soon. We currently have two hens sitting on nests. Oh boy, more eggs to get rid of… better start looking for more egg recipes. If anyone has any, send them my way.

I hope everyone has a safe and happy Fourth of July!

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Giesen Pinot Gris Marlborough, New Zealand 2014

There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no… You get the picture. IMG_20150613_124122743_HDRTwo weekends ago, my husband and I packed up the family  truckster, our dog Rooster and set out for some R&R in Raleigh, NC.

Travelling with our dog has its own challenges; he doesn’t like to be left behind in a strange place and who can blame him. So the first night we decided to eat and drink in the unit. I headed off to Fresh Market for some yummy food and of course I picked up a bottle or two of wine but I never travel without wine so we already had some at the condo. Here’s the good part, just the day before we left I received three Giesen Wines samples and here’s the really good part…they came in a cushioned travel wine “bar” complete with bottle opener, glasses and napkins.

IMG_20150613_123904194Now as any good wine drinking traveler, I IMG_20150613_123927121_HDRhave a small wine travel “bar” but had given the two bottle space to glass wine and champagne glasses, leaving me to carry my wine in a reusable wine bag. Now, I have room for three bottles and my wine glasses…yippee, I’m a happy wino.

I picked up roasted pork loin, baked potato salad, a small greens salad at Fresh Market and chose to pair with the Giesen Pinot Gris from Marlborough, New Zealand.

Aromas of peach and sweet tropical fruits I couldn’t quite place, pineapple maybe. Flavors full of white stone fruit, citrus and a hint of honey. The wine is fresh with vibrant acidity and a long dry finish. Great summer wine, especially for those of us with temps in the 90’s and no rain or relief in sight.

Region : Marlborough’s Wairau Valley, New Zealand – sourced from 8 unique vineyards
Alc: 14%
TA: 5.3 g/L
RS: 6.7 g/L
SRP – around $14


So how do three brothers from Germany end up growing wine in New Zealand? Through travels of course. The three Giesen brothers took an interest in growing grapes at an early age, starting with a hobby vineyard. Well, I had one of those, didn’t we all??? No? Hmm, odd. Anyway, back to the Giesen brothers. It was while Theo and Alex were traveling through Australia and New Zealand when they noticed a lack of varietals in wine stores. They also observed most of the wines came from the warmer North Island. Their first thought, Riesling grown in the cooler South Island.

They settled on Burnham on the outskirts of Christchurch where they purchased their first piece of land. Their brother Marcel joined them a few years later after completing his studies in winemaking. Today they have operations throughout the Marlborough region.

I have two more wines to sample so look for upcoming posts for more on Giesen Wines.

This was our first trip to Raleigh and when I made the arrangements through Airbnb in February I was looking forward to checking out a new area.

Since that time this is what I’ve learned about myself, I really love where I live and when I leave this area and go to a city, I feel a little stifled. The traffic, the noise, the crowds, the endless strip malls, it’s all just too much for me now and I generally can’t wait to get home.

Raleigh really was a nice city and I can see why people like to live there. We stayed in the Cameron Village area which was nice with lots of trees and grass and we were across from Fred Fletcher Park which Rooster loved as he got to sniff all the doggie’s butts. We walked around down town, saw the North Carolina Capital, the Governor’s residence, historic Oakwood and its cemetery. Mordecai Historic Park is also close to downtown and Oak View County Park was a short drive. Of course we hit the North Carolina State Farmers Market and brought home local veggies, cheese and other finds.

I mentioned above and in a previous post we used Airbnb for our accommodations. If you haven’t looked into this new way of finding a place to stay, I highly recommend. In a nut shell you stay in someone else’s home, apartment, room, condo, cottage, cabin, etc. Generally it’s a second home or a separate residence attached to a main home. It’s a great way to stay like a local. Plus you have amenities you may not find in a hotel, fridge, icemaker, stove, microwave, etc. I know most people don’t want to cook when they go on vacation but for use traveling with Rooster, it was great to pick up some food at Fresh Market, eat off real plates with real utensils.

If you want to know where we stayed in Raleigh or in Nashville, leave me a comment and I’ll be happy to pass the info along to you.


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Underground Cellars Free Wine Sweepstakes

FREE WINE! That’s right free wine…well if you’re the lucky winner that is. Humph, alwaysLCBO-wine-bottles a catch right.

But it’s free to enter so what have you really got to lose? Click on the link below for your chance to win.

Grand prize is “Wine for a Year” — $1,200 — a $100 credit for Underground Cellar for every month, for a year

Additional prizes available. See official rules below.


Official Sweepstakes Rules NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR TO WIN. A purchase will not increase chances of winning a prize. Open only to legal residents of the fifty (50) United States and the District of Columbia, 21 years of age or older, however, wine may only be delivered to certain states and areas, as described on each offer’s details page. Void in Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories and possessions and where prohibited by law. Sweepstakes Period: The entry period for the Underground Cellar “Wine for a Year Giveaway” (the “Sweepstakes”) begins on May 6, 2015 at 12:00:00 am. Pacific Time (“PT”) and ends on June 30, 2015 at 11:59:59 p.m. PT (the “Sweepstakes Period”). To Enter: During the Sweepstakes Period, you may enter by following the directions below: 1) Online: Follow the directions for ways to earn automatic entries. In order to be eligible to use these methods, participants may be required to provide their name, age, contact information, and complete mailing address. Limit of one-thousand (1000) entries per person. 2) Mail-In: Legibly hand-print your name, age and complete mailing address on a 3″ x 5″ piece of paper, insert the paper into a stamped #10 envelope and mail it to: Underground Cellar 425 Market Street, Ste. 2200 San Francisco, CA 94105 Entries must be postmarked by June 30, 2015 and received by June 30, 2015. Limit one-thousand (1000) entries – regardless of means of entry – during the Sweepstakes Period per person, immediate family, household address, phone number or email address or account. Subsequent entries received on any given day during the Sweepstakes Period from any person, phone number, household address or email address after the first 1000 entries received from that person, number, household address or email address on that day will be void. Entries generated by script, macro, agencies or robotic, repetitive, automatic, programmed or other automated means will be void. All entries must be received (or postmarked, in the case of mail-in entries) by 11:59:59 p.m. PT Regulation Details Underground Cellar reserves the rights to cancel, change, discontinue and/or revoke prize, or modify the terms, conditions and any compensation stated or implied without notice. Conditions of Entry: Entries must be submitted via one of the methods described above. By entering, entrants acknowledge compliance with these Official Rules, including all eligibility requirements. All entries become the property of Underground Cellar (“Sponsor”) and will not be acknowledged or returned. Shawster Ltd Company, Underground Cellar, their respective parents, affiliates, subsidiaries, divisions, wholesales, retailers or distributors or advertising and promotion agencies and each of their respective officers, directors, employees, agents or representatives (collectively, “Released Parties”) are not responsible for misdirected, late, lost, delayed, inaccurate, damaged, garbled, incomplete, undelivered or stolen entries, delayed or misdirected entries or text messages or any combination thereof, for whatever reason, for lost, interrupted or unavailable network, wireless service provider, cable, satellite, Internet Service Provider (ISP) or other connections, or for errors, omissions, interruptions, deletions, defects, phone transmissions or delayed transmissions or in operations or transmission of information, in each case whether arising by the way of technical or other failures or malfunctions of computer hardware, software, communications devices, or transmission lines, or data corruption, theft, destruction, unauthorized access to or alteration of entry materials, loss or otherwise and any mechanical, electronic, network, computer, printing, typographical, human or other error relating to or in connection with the Sweepstakes, including, without limitation, errors which may occur in connection with the administration of the Sweepstakes, the processing of entries or text messages, the cancellation of any game, the announcement of prizes or in any Sweepstakes-related materials. Sponsor reserve the right to cancel or modify the Sweepstakes if fraud, technical failures or any other factor beyond their reasonable control impairs the integrity of the Sweepstakes, as determined by Sponsor in its sole discretion. In such event, Sponsor reserves the right to award the prize at random from among the eligible entries received up to the time of the impairment. Sponsor reserve the right, in their sole discretion, to disqualify any individual they find to be tampering with the entry process or the operation of this Sweepstakes or to be acting in violation of these Official Sweepstakes Rules or any other promotion, or in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner. Underground Cellar reserves the right to disqualify any winner not in compliance with the terms above. Selection of Winners: On or about July 7, 2015, a random drawing will be conducted by Underground Cellar from among all valid entries received during the Sweepstakes Period, and all decisions shall be final and binding in all respects. Official winner announcement will not occur until winner has filled out all necessary paperwork provided by Underground Cellar. Odds of winning a prize depend upon the number of valid entries received. Many will enter; only one (1) entrant will win the grand prize, while up to 271 other entrants will win gift cards to valued at up to $250 each. Potential Grand Prize winners who entered online will be notified by certified mail on or about July 10, 2015. If the potential winner fails to respond to the notification and provide his/her name and mailing address information within 72 hours of notification, the entrant will be disqualified and an alternate potential winner will be selected. Potential will be required to sign an Affidavit of Eligibility/Release of Liability/Publicity and Advertising Consent and Release (except where prohibited by law) and such other documents, or provide other information such as a Social Security number, reasonably required by Sponsor. All such documents must be signed and returned within fourteen (14) days or prize will be forfeited. Documents are not considered signed and returned until acknowledged in e-mail by Underground Cellar. Acceptance of a prize constitutes permission for Sweepstakes Entities and/or their designees to use the winner’s name, address, photograph, video content, testimonial or other likeness and/or prize information or personal exposition (and/or any edited portion thereof) for promotional, advertising and/or publicity purposes in any media, now or hereafter known throughout the world in perpetuity, without compensation or notice to, or further consent of, to the winner to the extent permitted by law. Return of any prize notification or prize mailing as undeliverable will result in disqualification. Allow 90-120 days for prize delivery. All potential winners are subject to verification before any prize will be awarded. In the event that any potential winner is disqualified for any reason, an alternate winner will be selected in a random drawing from all eligible entries received during the Sweepstakes Period. The Sweepstakes participant is solely responsible for entering the Sweepstakes during the Sweepstakes Period and properly claiming a prize if selected as a winner. The reporting and payment of any tax liabilities (federal. state and local) incurred by the winner as a result of this Sweepstakes and any prizes won are the sole responsibility of the winner. Prize: (1) Grand Prize: The Grand Prize consists of: A) 12 gift cards of $100 given monthly for a year Prize: 1,000 separate gift certificate credits for an amount up to $250 that can ONLY be used on the website following specific instructions to be provided directly to the winner. There is no cash value for the gift certificate and it may not be exchanged for cash, sold, traded, or used by any other person than the Sweepstakes winner. Other gift credits may be awarded in values as further described herein. Eligibility: Sweepstakes open to legal residents of the fifty (50) United States and the District of Columbia who are 21 years of age or older on the first day of the Sweepstakes Period. Employees of Underground Cellar and its respective subsidiaries, affiliates, divisions, advertising and promotion agencies, individuals engaged in the development, production or distribution of materials for this Sweepstakes and the immediate families of each, or persons domiciled in the same household of such employees are not eligible. Sweepstakes is governed by U.S. law and is subject to all federal, state and local laws. By entering the Sweepstakes, participant agrees to be bound by these Official Sweepstakes Rules and the decisions of administrators and Sponsor, which shall be final in all respects. Sweepstakes Entities, and each of their respective affiliates, divisions, subsidiaries, and all coordinating agencies shall not have any responsibility or liability whatsoever from any and all liability, claims or damages arising out of the Sweepstakes entrant’s participation, and the acceptance and use of any prize. Governing Law: This Sweepstakes and these Official Sweepstakes Rules shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of Arizona without reference to conflicts of law principles. All actions, proceedings, or litigation relating hereto will be instituted and prosecuted solely within the State of Delaware.


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Reunite Lambrusco

Have I mentioned lately how much I love living in NE Georgia? Well I do. Unlike Florida with its two seasons, hurricane and summer (which happen to overlap), this time of year DSCN3076brings new growth each week.
Spring vegetation begins in late winter with the daffodils poking up through the ground and their yellow and white flowers dotting the landscape. Soon after there’s an explosion of color from leaves, grass and flowers. Currently my Bearded Irises are standing tall and looking beautiful. My Knockout Roses have flowers and many more blooms on the way. It took two years for them to get established, we also had a problem with chickens eating the blooms, but they seem to be doing just fine now. In my flower garden next to the Irises are a multitude of Lily varieties. Buds appeared over the weekend so in a just a couple more weeks as the Irises fade, the Lilies Bearded Iriswill take over.
In addition to the beauty you can see with the eyes, there is also beauty you take in through your nose. Honeysuckle is flowering and perfuming the air. Mingled with other scents I can’t identify, I’m distracted from the climbing humidity as Rooster and I take our walks in the morning.
Another thing spring brings, more outside time and outside wine sipping. This past weekend my parents were here for Mother’s Day. As we sat in rockers on the front porch, I teased them about bringing the heat from Florida. Granted it wasn’t nearly as bad and humidity was not too high, it was still warmer than I’m currently used to. I knew just what we needed, a summer wine. A sample I received of Reunite Lambrusco to the rescue.
I’m not a sweet wine drinker but there is a time and place for everything and the first hot weekend, sitting on the porch, it was time for a light easy drinking wine. Luckily my step-dad likes sweet wines and he gave the Lambrusco two thumbs up.
We finished the bottle inside paired with bone-in grilled country ribs finished with a peppery BBQ sauce, purple potato salad, three cheese mac & cheese, broccoli cheese cornbread and deviled eggs. The rest of the week I think will be heavy on salads and protein. Can you say Carb overload.
Reunite’s history began in 1950 when nine wine producers from the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna joined to form the Cantine Cooperative Riunite. In 1967 the group introduced Americans to Lambrusco which had a niche among many American wine drinkers at the time. If you’re old enough you may remember the TV ads in the 1970’s and 1980’s, “Reunite on Ice…That’s nice.” Imported by Banfi Vintners, 2015 ushers in a new Reunite with new labels, new advertising and a new website. Click here to go on their website and checkout the old classic ads.
This morning while walking Rooster, I passed a patch of honeysuckle and was immediately taken back to 1974. It was that year my mom, dad & I left Illinois and moved to Ft. Myers, Florida. We rented an old house off McGregor Blvd. The summer air was always heavy with honeysuckle, jasmine and orange blossoms. At that time there were still plenty of orange groves in the area and it seemed every house had at least one orange tree. To me that was Florida, perfumed air. Which trust me is better than the dead sea life smell you’d get from Ft. Myers Beach so often.
The houses are still there but the groves are gone. Replaced by parking lots, strip malls, miniature golf and so many things that diminished the beauty and nature. Progress they call it. I call it sad. I know the urban sprawl from ATL is spreading my way. I see it in local small cities and read in the local newspaper how the politicians want big industry (yet the deny a distillery), big chain grocery stores and big chain restaurants.
I’ll hold onto the charm of my new area as long as I can and just cross my fingers no big changes come and destroy our beautiful surroundings.

Below are some pictures from Amicalola Falls State Park. We had a pre-Mother’s Day picnic there this past weekend. So beautiful.

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Spring Dishes – Thai Coconut Lime Curry Soup

I love spring. I love the flowers, the trees with new tender leaves, how my sun dappled

Thai Curry Coconut Soup

Thai Curry Coconut Soup

back woods changes with the leaves filtering the sun, the start of veggie and herb gardens and I love that I’m able to open the windows and let fresh air flow through the house after months of windows and storm windows locked and closed.

There’s just one problem with all this new growth, the return of…pollen. That fine yellow-green dust that coats everything, gets up my nose, in my eyes, down my throat and generally makes me miserable. This past week I’ve kept the open windows to a minimum, just one and only open about three inches. I blame the pines for this mess.

Spring not only brings renewed growth but it also ushers in the season of lighter eating. No more slow cooked meals heavy on meat, sauces and filling carbs. Salads, lighter meats, spring/summer soups now make up our dinner menus.

I know one soup that will be on our spring/summer menu, Thai Coconut Lime Curry Soup, oh mama what a soup! The soup can be made without meat but I added chicken breasts and rice (you can use rice noodles as well).

1 cans – light coconut milk
1 tablespoon curry mix
2 cups – chicken broth
1 tablespoon lime juice
Zest from lime
1 carrot or 3 baby carrots – julienned for full carrot, sliced lengthwise into 3 or 4 pieces for Baby carrots
3-4 Kale leaves – washed and torn off the stem. Tear into bite size pieces
Grated ginger to taste – can use ground as well
Salt to taste
2 chicken breasts
1-2 cups Jasmine rice

Fish sauce
Lemon grass
Cilantro stems

Cilantro leaves
2 green onions, thinly sliced

Cook chicken breasts thoroughly, set aside and cool. Once cool cut into chunks. In the meantime, cook rice for specified time per package.

For soup combine first 5 ingredients in a soup pot. If using fish sauce, add at this time. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add carrots, lemon grass and cilantro stems and stir.
Place rice and chicken in soup bowls and ladle soup into the bowl. Top with cilantro, green onions, sprouts, bean sprouts or whatever you have on hand.

Super easy, quick and delicious.

We’ve had lots of great dishes over the last few weeks so I’ll be posting more on a regular basis. Unfortunately I now have one of those spring colds that’s going around, so I think it will be chicken soup for me for the next few days.

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Black Box Cabernet, Travels and Nashville

I recently met up with my cousin in Music City, AKA Nashville. We used AirBNB and black-box-cabernet-sauvignon-2011_300dpibooked an apartment in Midtown. Surrounded by bars, restaurants and Vanderbilt University just down the street, the area is bustling with people of all ages. We hit a couple of bars, ate at some wonderful restaurants, walked downtown Nashville and Saturday evening we sat bundled up in layers while people watching and sipping wine.

The last time I saw my cousin we were in high school. I knew this trip had to include alcohol as we reminisced and caught up with each other’s lives. Of course wine would have to be a part of the trip and I knew I would be lugging bags from my car up three flights of stairs so I wanted something easy to carry.

Aha, box wine! I used to shake my head at boxed wine but it has come a long way and those tetra boxes filled with that yummy juice comes in very handy for travel. Instead of lugging several bottles of wine, one Black Box Cabernet was more than enough for the weekend.

Aromas of blackberry, plum and a hint of vanilla. Plum, black cherry and cocoa flavors combine with smooth tannins and a long finish.

3 liter boxes contain four 750ml bottles. I keep one on hand at home as I like that I can grab just a glass and put the box back in the wine fridge since the wine stays fresh for four weeks. I also like knowing that the box and bag are more eco-friendly than conventional glass bottles. The older I get the more important the Earth is to me and I try to take care of her. A few years ago while traveling via plane; I purchased two of the small tetra Black Box wines for packing in my luggage. I didn’t have to worry about breakage and it didn’t add a lot of weight to my luggage. They’re also great for picnics, if the area allows alcohol.

Pork Belly with tomato tower. -A take on the BLT

Pork Belly with tomato tower. -A take on the BLT

Saturday morning we had breakfast at Noshville, a NY style Delicatessen located on Broadway in Midtown. A must order, the corned beef hash, that tasted of all spice and juniper berries. Dinner was at Bound’ry, serving modern cuisine at affordable prices. We dined on Belgian Ceasar Salad, which I recreated as part of our Easter Dinner, Korean Beef Wraps and my favorite… Chili Charred TN Pork Belly. Our belly’s full we headed back to the apartment, grabbed some wine, bundled up as the temps were in the low 30’s and sat outside for some people watching.

This trip proved I really have changed since leaving Tampa. In the past I would have loved being in the middle of all the bars, restaurants and well, the “action”. Having spent the last 3.5 years on a quiet country road where the nosiest things are the roosters the all night noise, the traffic and the crowds were just a bit too much for me.

Bathtub cooler - Paradise Park Trailer Resort - Downtown Nashville

Bathtub cooler – Paradise Park Trailer Resort – Downtown Nashville

The first night I laid in bed, trying to block out the loud music coming from 20 something year old’s birthday party in the parking area, the noise coming from the bars, streets, cars, sirens, etc. At that moment I thought, I’m no longer a “City Girl”, no I prefer quiet country life now…sigh. I’m not sure if that makes me old or just settled and happy. I’m going for the latter.

By the time I loaded my car on Sunday, after brunch at The Tavern (get the Singapore

Singapore Fried Rice

Singapore Fried Rice

Fried Rice) I was ready to get the hell out of Nashville and back to open roads. I would have loved to have more time with my cousin and I’m hoping we can get together again sometime over the summer. This time I think we’ll pick a quiet spot in the mountains or maybe near a lake.

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Casa Sant’Orsol Barbera D’Asti 2013

I guess it’s been awhile since I’ve not only posted something about wine but really posted 81barberadastianything. The Farmer’s Almanac predicted this winter would be colder than the 2014 winter. I know the NE has had a brutal time but I was beginning to think the Old FA got it wrong for my area of NE Georgia, then winter really did show with a vengeance. It started with one of the worst ice storms old timers can remember. Of course my county got the worst of it and 90% of the county was without power. I live at the end of the county line and a rural area so we were one of the last to get heat, running water (and flushing toilets) and lights back on.

While we were in the dark another round of cold winter air made its way to the region. Then as if that wasn’t enough to prove it really was big bad Old Man Winter, we had two rounds of winter storms dumping snow within two days. But that’s ok, I love the snow and secretly hope we get one more round of snow. Please keep the ice in the glass, I’m not interested in seeing the trees and everything else encased in ice.

Through it all you know I kept my wine cork handy, even if I did need to open the bottle by candle light. One cold night we enjoyed Casa Sant’Orsola Barbera D’Asti 2013 and enjoyed with a bowl of Alessi Split Pea Soup we cooked over the fire in our fire place.

I won’t comment on the color since it was pretty dark in the room but the aromas were luscious yet intense black fruits. Intense flavors of dark plum and blackberry provide firm tannins and a full body and a long fruity finish.

I picked this up at Total Wine for around $8.99.

SantO’Orsola was born out of a joint venture between brothers Secondo and Luigi Martini in 1947. Located in the Langhe region of Italy the brother’s love for wine led them to a life of winemaking. Borrowing from a holy church dedicated to Saint Ursula the brothers named their wine Sant’Orsola. As not only the company expanded but also the family the name was changed to Casa Sant’Orsola. Decades later the Martini Family continues to make wonderful wines and now in its third generation.

Well here we are again, parts of my area are under a Winter Storm Warning, I was really hoping for more snow but if we get anything will just be sleet and black ice…ick! I realized last week I’ve seen snow just six times in my adult life. Having left Illinois when I was four when my family moved to SW Florida, up until recently my idea of the “white stuff” were the white sandy beaches of Ft Myers Beach, Sanibel and Captiva. So while I’m looking forward to spring and love seeing the daffodils and Crocus pop up out of the ground, I’m still waiting for my Dogwood to get buds, which typically occurs in February. Maybe Old Man Winter’s not done with us yet.

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All Hail Kale!

Kale is the latest green super veggie. I mean it’s everywhere and you can’t get away from it. But why would you want to? I give credit where credit is due and Kale is the new black, it goes with everything.
Go to any “trendy”restaurant and I bet you’ll find at minimum two Kale dishes. I know the price of Kale has shot up in some parts of the country due to its recent popularity but luckily my local Kroger carries it year round for .99 or less. Since fresh veggies aren’t readily available this time of year I find myself buying a bunch of Kale just about every shopping trip.
This past week I wanted to make a rice, pesto and shrimp dish. Well my best efforts to keep my basil plants going indoors has fallen to my dog Rooster and his need to visit the “salad bar” on occasion. The pesto I made late last year after harvesting all of the basil outdoors is long gone and I was left looking for a substitute. The recipe I was basing my dish off actually called for mint, well that’s gone dormant for the winter so my only option was Kale.
It’s amazing how little Kale I needed to make this pesto shown in the picture here. Just IMG_20150126_164721925_HDRthree leaves, minus the rib, some EVOO, salt and fresh grated parmesan. I could have added a little lemon juice but decided that was just a little too summery for a cold evening.
Over the past year I’ve used Kale in soups (Italian Wedding Soup), pasta dishes like I would use spinach, pizza, salads – Kale Caesar is a favorite of mine with my homemade *Caesar dressing, pork chops stuffed with kale and feta and so much more. Today I made Kale chips, oh these are so good, they taste like roasted Brussel sprouts.


Kale Chips

Kale Chips

I didn’t do anything fancy for flavors on my first time, just extra virgin olive oil and salt. Preheat oven to 375. Tear leaves away from ribs into bite size pieces. Place in bowl and drizzle with olive oil and salt. Arrange in one layer on baking sheet, place in oven for 10 minutes. Rotate pan after 10 minutes and drop temp down to 150, bake for another 5 minutes. I turned the oven off and just left the Kale in for another 10 minutes, then remove from oven, allow to cool and enjoy. A tiny bit of lemon juice would really brighten the chips up and be delicious. Like most leafy greens Kale really cooks down so you may want to do several pans or batches at a time. I think my next batch will be Black Truffle oil with Black Truffle finishing salt.
Caesar Salad Dressing
I make my dressings in small batches so they don’t expire before I can use them. I also don’t really measure my ingredients out for my dressing but the ingredients I use are listed below with approximate measurements.
1/2 cup freshly grated or ground Parmesan cheese
3 anchovy fillets
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 fresh egg yolk (optional) You may find the olive oil is enough emulsification but for a thicker dressing I add one, fresh from my chickens, egg.
Salt and black pepper to taste
Chop the anchovies and garlic, place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well mixed. I store mine in Weck jars in the fridge and use them within two weeks of making.

Need yet another reason to eat your Kale? Just checkout the benefits:
At just 33 calories, one cup of raw kale has:
Nearly 3 grams of protein
2.5 grams of fiber (which helps manage blood sugar and makes you feel full)
Vitamins A, C, and K
Folate, a B vitamin that’s key for brain development
Alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid. (While kale has far less omega-3 than fish, it is another way to get some of this healthy fat into your diet.
Lutein and zeaxanthin, nutrients that give kale its deep, dark green coloring and protect against macular degeneration and cataracts Minerals including phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and zinc
– source Webmd

Ok, well I just finished yesterday’s batch and couldn’t resist. Next batch with truffle oil and truffle salt are baking now.
– I started this post two weeks ago but as we all know, sometimes life just gets in the way of the things we want to do. Last night I found another use for Kale, creamed Kale. Holy cow was it delicious.
Remove kale from rib and tear into bite size pieces. Blanch kale (I found you can really skip this step if you’d like), place kale in pan placed on low heat, add 1/2 cup of cream and 2 tablespoons of butter and stir to mix well. I then added 1/4 cup of Montery Jack cheese, heated and allowed the mixture to reduce. Not the healthiest dish but sure was tasty. Sorry no pics, we were too busy eating to photograph.

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