Monday, July 28, 2014

The Grape Update...Escape...and Other Observations

The yeast and "must" has stopped working...and the still clarifying white wine siphoned and strained off into a holding container at this time.

Gratefully the grassy green colour seems to have dissipated. Using the egg white method of clarification. Ten thousand ancient Italians can't be wrong.

Tasted a sip of the raw product and damn...hoping it mellows a bit in the settling process. Wishing I  had a proofing bead...because this is not your Nonni's wine.
Maybe a tad too much yeast and sugar because right now this is strong like "shine". I seriously think you could flame it.

The "Message in This Bottle" may be:

                           Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!!!!

We will see when the settling/clarification/initial ageing is over at the end of August.

Adding the finishing touches to "Escape" (my Dune painting) today with a
ghost balloon in the upper left hand corner floating away...and soon to be sealed.

And finished "Idgy's" requested sky painting.

Which is...well...just a sky.  :)

But she is very happy with it. A slice of summertime!

Personally, I think it needs a couple of ghost balloons intertwined.  

Enjoyed the kids and grands company over the weekend...and bathing later with Chris practicing Bach's  Minuet # 3 in the living room. Kind of pleasantly surrealistic.

Not so pleasantly surrealistic...the news out of West Africa...somewhat alarming.  From 29 cases/deaths in March localized in one small country in Africa (Guinea) to (currently) 660 deaths spread over four countries (Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone) and over a thousand known contacts being followed. Between political manoeuvring, rampant misinformation, fear and ignorance-- something that could have been quickly quarantined and eliminated has become an epidemic.

But that isn't even the really alarming part...Bear with me.

Within the past two weeks in Liberia there have been 8 deaths that defy the normal transmission patterns.

One of these was a Liberian man who boarded a plane infected and flew to Nigeria. He collapsed in the airport and died 2 days later. During that time he assured medical personnel that he had not been in contact with anyone who had the disease and had not attended any funerals.   

Now i would disregard this as incidental...and assume that he MUST have unknowingly had some form of contact...if it weren't for the following seven cases-

Four nurses...and three doctors.

All in Liberia. All infected during the same 2 week period. Several of them already dead...and all who maintain..insist...that at no time was their protective protocol breached.

If it were an isolated incident I can see where that might happen-- but seven health care professionals in the midst of a "hot-zone". People who are watching patients liquefy from the inside and die in front of them? 

(To put this in perspective, in the 15 years I was a nurse, I had one careless moment resulting in a needle-stick. That was over 20 years ago and I can still remember the shaky, horrified pit-of-your-stomach, I might actually throw-up-here...reaction. The incident reports required. The post testing for well over a year. HIV/Hep C being the biggest risks that I faced at the time. I was amazingly lucky.)

Bottom line: There is absolutely no way that 7 doctors and/or nurses breached protocol with Ebola at the same general location, within a week of each other and not one of them realized that they had a breach.  You would stand better odds buying a winning lottery ticket, okay? It isn't just unlikely.  It is impossible.

What could be happening?

Intentional Internal sabotage? (...perhaps an infiltrator...)

Intentional External sabotage? (...the local villagers haven't been exactly welcoming recently...)

A Substrain of the Ebola virus beginning to mutate to another form of transmission...possibly airborne? (...viruses mutate...Ebola has already went through 6 mutations since its discovery...)

Time will tell. 

 But something is not right with this picture.

More anon...

Je présente

Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday's Cup...County Fairs and Vin Nouveau

Friday, and the end of a busy week.

The County Fair was on in my "Little Corner of the World". James and Nicole took Emma out for an evening. 8 years old and she had NEVER been to a County Fair before. EVER. She rode every ride...enjoyed seeing and petting all the animals...munched fair food...and just generally had a blast!  I took an afternoon solo and checked out the adult division (Photography and Art...Baking and Canning/Preserving...Flower Arranging and Herbs) as well as enjoying the Fair chow and doing a little photography, myself.  The Fair slipped up on me this year...definitely going to exhibit in several categories next summer!

 So...inspired by the "Grape Nut" I have officially started my first small batch of white wine.

A tiny corner of my kitchen now dubbed
 Gypsy Winery: Message in a Bottle Wines.

 I crushed white grapes for juice...added distilled water and sugar and the proper amount of yeast...covered my fermentation vat with thick cheesecloth and secured the entire thing with a re-purposed produce band.

By the end of the day I understood why the Greeks and Romans fermented their wines in clay vats. Nobody really wants to watch yeast do its thing.

And more worrisome (for me) was that since the whole grapes were used crushed and not just the juice...the first day the entire affair had a decidedly "Spring Green" tinge from the skins.

Joking, I said that if it were not to go away during the process I would have to name my début wine attempt

"The Green Green Grass of Home"

"Emerald City"

"We're not in Kansas"

or something similar.

But the yeast beasties quickly began working their magic, and little by little the green is giving way to a straw colour. Today is the 3rd day of fermentation (no picture yet) and both the colour and smell is closer to a nice white wine. And it is still foaming and working.

The general consensus seems to be when the yeast stops working/fermenting it is time to strain and bottle (age). This can take 21 days or more for a larger batch. My tiny re-purposed Motts glass vat...a bit quicker.  I am re-purposing those small single serving glass wine bottles sterilizing them and corking with a layer of sealing wax, and going to save a single bottle out of each batch as I make it.

Not spoofing this batch. All natural ingredients. No additives. See what happens.

This week's book is Norwegian author Jo Nesbo's latest tome: The Son
 Unlike his long running series of Detective novels...this one stands alone. It is certainly not a "whodunit" we know from the very first chapter who is committing the murders.  
By the very last chapter we come to realize why.

 Fast paced. Cohesive read, set once again in Oslo. Unforgettable characters. Would make a great movie. If you enjoy psychological thrillers, you'll LOVE this book.

And found a new Taste Sensation that you MUST TRY. I'm serious. Throw a container of this in your weekend shopping'll thank me for the tip.

Breyer's (the ice cream people) have tried their hand at Gelato.


As the Italians would say  "Meglio di Sesso"  (...better than sex...)

Which is saying...well...a lot!

At 160 calories per 1/2 cup it isn't terribly calorie intensive, and a half cup is the perfect sweet indulgence. 

So go. Enjoy your weekend and don't forget to pick up the Gelato!


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Oenophiles...Le Savant Vin...and "Grape Nuts"

Year ago on a Lake far far late husband-person, who was a true micro-brew connoisseur, (beer snob) want to try his hand at creating his own Pale Ale...and so after a trip to a local micro-brew supply house and more than a handful of hops...

A keg just like this one set atop a small dresser in our bedroom foaming and fermenting and became what we jokingly referred to as

Shroud 'O' Turin Breweries

When the night of the Great Tasting finally was proclaimed GOOD, and the beer was dubbed

"In Your Shorts- Pale Ale" 

As most of the tending had, indeed, been late at night in shall we say:

Attire Not Suitable for Company or Small Children.

Our creative label had a large pair of tighty-whities on the front. It was a small batch...less than 20 bottles...but we had a cook-out with the band, distributed it among friends, and its début was deemed a happy success!

Now, I have never been a beer fact I have only tasted one ( a Cream Stout) in my life that I can actually say I enjoyed, and I'm pretty sure that was only because the after-taste was surprisingly chocolatey.

I enjoy the occasional frou frou umbrella drink frozen with fruit juices or coconut cream and very sweet...topped with whipped cream and garnished with a cherry. More like dessert, really. Something they serve beach-side. Why is the RUM gone? You know. If they found a way to incorporate puff pastry and confectioner's sugar it would be perfect...just saying.

And my taste in wine was once disparagingly referred to in an Upscale Wine Cellar once as

" She wants something annoyingly sweet"

 True Story.

So it was by chance and curiosity, that I picked up the "non-wine-snob" wine snob's recent release The Wine Savant by Michael Steinberger. An oenophile who prefers to refer to himself as a "Grape Nut".  A no nonsense...often witty...comprehensive guide to wines, vintages, tasting and more.

(Once during our travels together through Napa and Sonoma, while in California, the husband-person and I discussed doing a straight-faced wine tasting ala Sideways with the following banter:

"Light and fruity...but with subtle undertones of a 1957 Chevy...with...a cracked block. Definitely some undertones of 30 Weight there...and maybe a wet Labrador in the back seat"

"Yes....definitely wet Lab...but there is something you taste it...what a peculiar after-taste..."


Until we were asked to leave...or possibly forcibly removed.)

So you can imagine my laughter when Steinberger highlighted some actual wine-snob quotes he had encountered during his time as a writer and self-proclaimed "Grape Nut"  Descriptions such as cat piss, wet dog, pencil shavings...and then there were the really unforgettable like writer Evelyn Waugh's son, Auberon...who observed that the wine he was tasting

"Smelled like a Dead Chrysanthemum on the Grave of a Stillborn West Indian Baby."  

 (...he eventually was forced to issue a formal apology over this review, deemed both tasteless and insensitive...)

or Michael Broadbent's  reflections that the wine reminded him of

"The Smell of Schoolgirls Uniforms"

A bit creepy!
No..he was NOT arrested after this observation.

So maybe the whole '57 Chevy Routine wouldn't have even made them blink.

An excellent, entertaining informative little non-fiction, anyway! If you love wines, or just enjoy laughing at wine snobs this is the book for you!

 Sparking, with me, not only a review...but also the beginnings of what may be a New Adventure, of sorts.

I live my life very much like my favourite Heinlein quote:

And they left off the last (and best line)

 Specialization is for Insects.

 Or perhaps Andy Warhol summarized it best-

Try Everything.

And since I am already proficient in making soft cheeses, handmade chocolates and crusty breads, herbed butters, pesto and jams...well wine seems the natural progression.  Perhaps with time I, too, could become a "Grape Nut"


And there are a plethora of interesting "recipes" and ingredients out there to combine and try. Pears, Peaches, Fruits and Berries in addition to the grapes. The process itself seems fairly straight-forward. With one reminder standing out above all the others:

"When fermenting make sure that the vessel cap has an adequate escape route for the build-up of CO2 gasses or you will go from wine-maker to bomb-maker in a few short days. "

Got it.

And have invited my 25 year old son to sample my trial efforts with me as they ferment...even found a Honey Mead that looks easy to make and inviting. Would love to try some of that deep dark wildflower honey in a Mead.  Going to start very small batches (1-4 cups) until I discover what works. May then do a larger batch to bottle, cork, wax seal and share.

From TJ Swann to '47 Cheval in six easy lessons...

Yeah right.

More anon...



Saturday, July 19, 2014

The 5-2 (Fast Diet) After One Year

                                            " Just Before Starting- 2013"


                                         "Today- July 19, 2014" has been a year.

From 4:3 at the beginning to 5:2 and then 6:1 in April to maintain my loss.

I have lost the equivalent of

and feel like I have finally reclaimed my life (and waist). With the 6:1 I eat whatever I want (minding the amounts) and unlike the yo-yo diets of the past...I maintain my loss. No more counting carbs or worrying about fats or more forbidden foods or guilt over over-induging. No more dieting.

To naysayers and skeptics I say...I am living breathing proof this diet/lifestyle plan works.

To those who are just starting this journey...hang in will happen.

To those who are interested in learning about The 5:2 Fast Diet

And to everyone else- who supported me along the way...thank you all, so much!



Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Cup of Acrylics

Spent the morning playing with a study of the Michigan Dunes. Had to tabletop the easel after realizing the thing is just HUGE and doesn't do well on the patio without seriously rearranging things. Not this morning, okay?

And it was brisk this morning. Tucker climbing into my lap mid-brush-stroke to curl in a snug kitty ball.

Summoning, a conversation Idgy and I had recently about some of the new artists marking their work with DNA now.  I think the most frequent comment might have been "pretentious".
Well now, like some of the Old Master's work actually...and after removing a few black stray Dune definitely has kitty DNA  :)

To be fair...he has a few drips of sky blue himself.


I think they may be my favourite thing to paint, so far. And enjoying coffee and fresh air while creating is even nicer.

Anyway...the beginning of the Dunes

I want to add more texture to the sand...but afraid I might destroy what I have already finished.  Just playing with technique right now, anyway.

Bought a few 8x10 stretched canvases to play. 
May even go with a bit of multi-medium with this...and work in some genuine gelled sand and textures.

And no...I won't be channelling my inner Bob Ross and add a 
Happy Tree...m'kay?

Oh...and a couple of shots of my inherited kitty! 


Who is having none of the whole "being petted/touched" thing yet...but seems to
 really really like the canned salmon!


Monday, July 14, 2014

Adventure with Waterfalls

Enjoyed an absolutely beautiful day with my eldest son and wife and two of the "grands" yesterday at Cataract (lower) Falls. The breeze off the water and the sound was even nice for a quick doze under some river willows mid-day. Huge kudos to Grandma Nancy who watched Aiden...bath...bottle and warm blankie and he was down for the count.

And even bigger kudos to James and Nicole for helping me get from the Upper Falls to the Lower...which would have been easier on the back of a Sicilian donkey or Mountain Goat...and don't even ask about climbing back up! LOL! And Donna for letting Brenden join us :)

Emma and Brenden fished and rock hunted...built a hideout in the river willows...and even caught (and released) a small leatherback turtle. All and all a wonderful afternoon.

Spent the evening rocking the baby...and enjoying a home cooked meal. Boy, can this girl cook! Chicken Fried Steak with Home-made from the dripping gravy...peeling and mashing potatoes...seasoned corn. A feast!

"See Mom, I told you she was an amazing cook!"

 Even sent a "Mother-in-Law Bag" home at the end of the evening with enough for my lunch today :)

Enjoyed a movie with the kids and learning to make those rubber-band bracelets...catching lightning bugs and hanging out the new hummingbird feeders...and watching as a squirrel tried desperately to plunder the bird feeder.

Looking forward to a trek to Chicago soon with Nicki and Emma to the American Girl Doll Store for an afternoon tea and maybe to get "Rebecca's" ears pierced...just like Emma's.

I am seeing Hello Kitty Earrings in both their futures!

Hard to believe Aiden is 2 1/2 months old now. Time flies. And what a happy smiley guy!

And Brenden and Emma just fell together like a couple of playful puppies...hiding and seeking and catching a little bit of everything (frogs, butterflies, caterpillars, turtles).

Turned in last night...tired...a bit stiff and sore from our Adventure...but smiling. I am truly blessed.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Pop-Tarts...Book Reviews and French Easels...

                                    "420 calories...SERIOUSLY?"

Brought to my attention by the youngest son the other morning.


There are no coincidences.

Official Snack Food of Colorado.

I'm just sayin'...

So...a Roller-Coaster Week.  My friend Tess was buried on Tuesday.

And her feral kitty "Lovey" has been left...after the family cleared her apartment

Poor kitty has been sitting on an old wooden picnic table bench nearby just absolutely lost. She is completely unapproachable...Tess was the only person she would let touch her. It was her undoing. She loved Tess and would follow her around like a small dog....but she has started cautiously making the trek across to my patio to eat with Tucker, now. I am hopeful that before the snow flies she will come to trust me and make her way inside. 

If looking out to see all of her things still on the patio as though she were going to step outside and chat...water her flowers...and talk with the cats...was hard. Seeing her place bare and "Lovey" waiting on her never-to-return is much much worse. Her packed service was a testament to how many lives she touched throughout her own and how much she was loved.

This week also my oldest grand-daughter's 9th Birthday

Hard to believe she is NINE already!

And already gearing up for next month's birthday celebrating with Emma
(who will be 8 in August)
                                        "Look Grandma...I'm a FROG!"

And doing a bit of celebrating (and treating) myself...after finally acquiring some fairly coveted art supplies for summer. Perhaps happiest about the French Easel I  have waited and waited for...

If you look at the scale compared to my rocking STILL have no idea how huge this thing really is...and the elm palette will probably be used more for fresh fruits, breads and cheeses (and wine, of course) on the side, than acrylics. Never mind that the entire thing came in a flat box and required assembly!!!!!!!!!!!

Actually, that part was fairly amusing.  Tina and Chris and I slowly figured it all out (...did I mention there was NO instruction sheet, either...) like monkeys at the obelisk.

At one point the jointed legs bending make the entire thing resemble

An Imperial Walker out of Star Wars.
Later it would take on more of a "Transformer" groove.

Still...perseverance and a pan of brownies later- we managed to assemble the behemoth. Thanks kids!

"That's didn't look this large on the picture."

"Mom...the picture was a 3" x 3" image!!!

Looking forward to "painting on the patio" Summer through Fall...and transform it to a tabletop box and easel for rainy days and Winter. Also picked up a rolled canvas of good brushes...several pre-stretched ready to hang canvases...a collection of palette knives and a large assortment of tube acrylics.

 Living La Vida Bob!

This week's book that first novel by Iraq Vet: Kevin Powers

"The Yellow Birds"

A gut-wretching trek through the midst of the Iraq war and his home-coming as told through the eyes of a 21 year old soldier.  Emotionally...right up there with his book of poems. Possibly the best book I have read this year. Certainly the most moving. Destine to become a movie release...and already busy "casting" in my mind!

A Must Read.

(...this should be required reading in HS...before these kids cluelessly enlist...)

Also, did an afternoon of Mall-Ratting in Terre Haute this week with Loretta and Kay. Coffee and breakfast at Cinnabon' at Macy's (...which is nice, but I still miss LS Ayres...) Exploring the new scents at Yankee Candles. Try the Double Chocolate Layer Cake tart. My entire home smells like fresh baked chocolate cake now...hence the pan of brownies later in the!  Yankee Candles are fattening. And snagged some of my favorite bath scents from Bath and Body. And concluded with a delicious brunch at TGIF's.

A bit of basking and "playing in the plants" later- and my week is complete.

The dark and light pink petunias are cascading out of their baskets...I have deep purplish-blue Morning Glories blooming...the white Moonflowers are up about 4 mini-decorative pumpkins are full of orange blossoms...the Concords are winding their way up the trellis promising grapes this Fall...a basket full of multicoloured Zinnas and Columbines and several smaller pots of pink blossoming Sweet Peas are the back a basket of "our sunflowers" yellow and orange are reaching skyward and the kitchen herb basked is bushy and full now and am regularly using off it to cook. All in all...the patio garden is a huge success!  A veritable rainbow.

And an invite to my eldest son and his wife's for Sunday Dinner with the grandbabies :)

                                                   "James and Aiden"

Life is good!


Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Pursuit of Happiness...

And so,  the three day weekend winds down.

Three days spend enjoying family and friends and fireworks...good food...good books...a nap or three...basking and relaxing :)

And underscoring that instead of endless wants and "got-to-haves" maybe  we need to take a good look around ourselves and take a minute to appreciate all the wonderful people and things that surround us.

Lost a friend over the holiday weekend. 

Tess (...of dubious crazy cat lady fame...and second home to my cheating feline, Tucker...) passed away at 56. A massive MI after making it home from surgery only days before.  Enfolding Ryan now, her son...Chris' age. The two of them pulled together Bill's Musical Memorial years ago.

And so...while the rest of the world was busy enjoying their BBQ's and fireworks...Ryan was dealing with the aftermath...and shock...and "what-do-I-do-now?" of losing his Mother.  

RIP, Tess. 

 I may take in Lovey, one of her "ferals" she fixed and worked with for years. Eventually taming to the point of it following her everywhere, devotedly. Sat outside this morning watching the sunrise with a lapful of Tucker, and saw Lovey sitting rather lost on a picnic table near Tess' silent apartment.

I will miss her. A lot.

During our 4th of July Weekend Pursuit of Happiness

I was introduced to this by Chris during a trek into Avon. Not just a "hamburger joint" but an Adventure!  Featuring a burger that looks exactly like the photograph and is literally too large to get your mouth around...and a small grocery sack topped off with fresh hand cut fries...with touch-screen drinks and any flavouring you wish to add. (...I tried a Fanta Orange mixed with vanilla flavouring immediately turning it into an ice cold liquid Dreamcicle..)  A bit on the pricey side as fast food goes...but worth every penny!


Try it, yourself :)

Baked a huge Pineapple Upside Down Cake on Friday and quartered it to share with Rita, Tommy and Sue.  Tommy bringing me over a half of an ice cold watermelon only the day before. Reminiscent of past holidays in The Rose Cottage when Sandy, Margaret and Ken and I would gather in the middle to share samples of our feast.

Saturday's morning bask, made even better by the new MJ Rose (Author of The Reincarnationist)  novel:

The Collector of Dying Breaths

Continuing the saga of the E'toile fragrance family. Revisiting old characters (Malachi, Jac, Robbie and Griffen) as well as introducing interesting new ones (Serge and Melione) Since a great deal of this relies on the back-story...this book does not stand alone well. They work best when read in the order written. Discovered MJ Rose last summer. Not Tolstoy, but definitely captivating summer reading. 

The Collector deals with two stories. The Present (Jac's life now) and a medieval perfumer/alchemist for the court of Queen Catherine Medici. Quickly paced. Well researched. Historical fiction. Nicely brought together at the end enmeshing the past and present lives.  If you have ever considered reincarnation or already believe in past lives, this is the series for you!

Well worth the read. 

 A bit of rain now...cooling things off and reminding me that the weekend "carriage of excess" is slowly resuming its "pumpkin like" status. Clearing the leftovers, catching up the laundry, answering the e-mail and planning for the upcoming week. Monday may be a day of Fasting, Reflection and Silence. 

                                                     Chris and Tina

 Thanks guys, for a wonderful 4th!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


Having a GREAT time...glad you're finally here!

If April is my favorite Month in Spring...July must certainly be the very BEST month of summer!

 Family and friends. BBQ's and Beaches. Long hot sunny days basking with a good summer read. Watermelon and fireflies. Holidays and fireworks :)  Flowers blooming and frogs in the evenings.Homemade lemonade and home grown tomatoes. Warm summer rain.

Ready for Summer Fun!

A bit of an interruption in July plans for Idgy and I (...circumstances beyond our control...) had to bump our previously scheduled holiday up to early September...but the good news is that it will give us 2 weeks, extra cash and a road-trip THAT made it better than okay!

 Even if we are back to

more days "in the box"


Hey, no problem...we have COFFEE and BISCOTTI here...and sometimes even come up with solutions to the World's Problems.  
Not a bad way to spend an hour each morning! 
For the last 9 years.

(...Millstone and Nonni's should give us a discount...)

Busy plotting and planning the 4th of July Festivities!
Grabbed a slender book of poems by Iraq Vet: Kevin Powers, today. Powers is the author of Hemingway Award Winner  The Yellow Birds. 
 The book of poetry is entitled Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting. And is amazing, thought provoking, eye opening and at at times gut-wrenching. The Iraq War and the Aftermath as depicted by one of its prose. When he forms in poetry the horrors of the Superior officers using village children for mine-sweeping a dollar a'll cry. When he explains through prose what it is like to come back State-side after being hyper-alert through multiple tours and try to get through a regular city will begin to understand. After finishing this piece my reaction was to sit stunned. Definitely an "oh wow" moment.
Can't say too many good things about this compilation of thoughts.

In queue for Yellow Birds now.

More anon...