Thursday, February 25, 2010

Wine for Smelling Like a Rose

Sick in Bed, Day 4: I'm not gonna lie to you, I'm smelling a little ripe. On the upside, after so many days of not showering, my hair has never been better conditioned. I can't really say how Steve feels about it, though I'm sure he appreciates my well-conditioned hair.

I don't know if everyone is like this, but I just don't want to shower when I'm sick. It feels like too much effort, and I sometimes fear that I will pass out under the hot water.

When I was 18 I finally had my tonsils out (once my father was told by a fellow doctor that since I had had strep so many times, my tonsils were basically strep-filled scar tissue that permanently looked like cotton balls). It took two weeks for me to heal fully after the surgery, and I am sorry to report that during this time I neither showered nor brushed my teeth. I had a good excuse: it hurt to open my mouth...but still.

Toward the end of my reign as Stink-Bomb, I was talking rather animatedly to my father, and he asked me, quite diplomatically I thought, if I planned on brushing my teeth any time soon. I replied in the negative, after which my father informed me that my breath was very "strong". Strong....I'm sure that was putting it mildly. I had about an inch of fur on my teeth, I'm sure toxic was more like it. It must have taken every ounce of my parents' strength not to knock me out and douse me in a vat of Clorox.

As I imagine Steve must want to do now. Luckily I think he has a rather poor sense of smell, which is probably why he can still stand to be in the same room with me. Well, that, and my charming personality. And my super-conditioned hair.

Wine recommendations starting again next week...I promise.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wine for Being Rudolph

Sick Day #3, and I'm really over it now. I was up coughing at 2:30am, while Steve snoozed away on the airbed in the office. And I have gone through an entire box of tissues since last night, and it's only 3pm. My poor nose is now red enough to guide Santa through the thickest of snow storms.

I always wonder where, where is all that mucus coming from?? How does it just appear all of a sudden? What purpose is it serving? Why are such vast quantities necessary? What about the whole "a little goes a long way" concept?

I cleaned the bathroom this afternoon, which I am choosing to take as a sign that I am turning a corner. Like when I was young and had been sick for several days and would then start blubbering that I was never going to get better, and my dad would laugh and say that my crying was, in fact, a sign that I was getting better. So weeping and bathroom cleaning....clear signs of improvement. I hope.

I miss my class, and today we started learning about Spain, specifically Rioja and Navarra, which are known for Tempranillo and Grenacha. Spain has six different wine classifications, which makes me hate Spain a little bit, because everywhere in the world has a different classification system with different names and definitions, and I have to learn all of them. After a while I just want to cry: "Can't we just call it wine and be done with it?"

No wine recommendation again today, since I can't smell or taste anything anyway, and you, my friends, must suffer with me.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Wine for More Coughing

Hello and welcome to "Sick in Bed, Day 2". This has been a very odd virus. Normally I have some warning, you know that feeling you get when you are starting to get sick, that makes you say "Oh crap, I'm getting sick" or something along those lines? Then the runny nose starts, and the headache, and then the cough settles in and outlasts everything else until finally that, too gives up the ghost.

But this time around i got no warning at all. One moment I felt fine, and the next I had a really bad cough that kept me up half the night. But the rest of me felt absolutely fine. No runny nose, no congestion, no sneezing, no headache, nothing. But now suddenly, in addition to the cough, the runny nose and the sneezing have started two days into it. And the cough just keeps on coming.

I put myself on vocal rest yesterday, because I basically can't talk anyway, and the more I talk, the more I cough. So i thought, by that same token, the less I talk the less I'll cough, right? Wrong.

I took my cough syrup last night and Steve and I went to bed. I, of course, was sitting up, because, well, that's the only way I can sleep without coughing. So I tried to sleep. But instead I coughed. And I coughed. And I sat up even straighter. And I coughed some more. And Steve put in earplugs. And I coughed. And I drank six glasses of water to try and stop coughing. And I stopped coughing. And then I had to pee fourteen times from all the water. And i coughed. And Steve groaned. And I coughed some more. And Steve rolled over, groaned and tried to get as far away from me in the bed as he could.

So i got up, and sat on the couch, and tried to sleep on the cough so as not to disturb Steve. And the coughing stopped, and I was so tired, and so desperate to be in bed, that I got back in bed and tried to sleep. And I coughed. And I coughed more. So poor Steve (trapped in that horrible in between of feeling sorry for his poor wife who is hacking her lungs up and wanting to desperately scream "For the love of God will you please! Stop!! Coughing!!!!!!"), goes out to try and sleep on the couch. In honor of that, I coughed some more.

After a little while, the coughing seemed to subside, and he crept back into bed, and both of us nursed the glimmering hope that we might be able to sleep. But no, the coughing returned. God only knows what time it was, and both of us by this point were so desperate for sleep that tears were not far off. After a time, though, finally the coughing subsided for real, and we were able to get a couple of hours of sleep. As you might imagine, a good time was had by all.

Miraculously, Steve still seems to love me, and even plans on coming home tonight. Tonight, though, we will set the airbed up in advance, because that things weighs about 900 pounds, and the thought of trying to set it up at 3am is enough to just push anyone over the edge.

On top of that, I missed my Italian test today. These individual tests actually have no bearing on the final Certified Exam, they're really just study aids and test-taking practice for us, but still, I hate that I am missing any part of this class. My teacher said I can take the test tomorrow, but realistically, I just don't know if I will make it in tomorrow either. I can't talk at all, I seem to be feeling worse rather than getting better, I still am coughing until I gag and cough syrup does nothing to help it, and on top of that, it's pretty hard to do a wine tasting when your nose is so stopped up that you can't smell anything!

No wine today. Just hot tea with honey, and maybe a Cup o Noodles, because even though they will cause a big wax ball to build up in my stomach, they are still one of those comforting things i crave whenever i am sick. The one with the little bits of freeze-dried egg and the tiny shrimp in it? Heaven.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Wine for Coughing

I am sick today, which just stinks. It came out of nowhere this weekend. One second I was fine, the next second I was coughing, coughing, coughing. And this cough is weird. Normally I get a cold first, the usual sniffles and headache before the cough settles in. But this time it seems to be all cough and sore throat, so that I can't talk at all without coughing. It's fun. I have stayed home from my wine class today, which I HATE. Today is our last class on Italy, and then tomorrow is our test.

It's always a difficult decision to make, whether to stay home or not, but I always hate those people who keep going to work when it's obvious to everyone that they should be home in bed. I think people imagine that showing up to work sick is a sign of their dedication and work ethic, when really it's just a sign that they are unthinking dimwits who have just shared their germs, mucus and phlegm with everyone around them and gotten the entire rest of the office sick. Way to go there, Skippy! Plus I always think it's better to rest sooner rather than later, you know, before that cold turns into walking pneumonia.

So a sick day it is today. I seem to be prone to coughs. It's been this way since I was little when I used to get tonsillitis about 15 times a year. My brother , sister and I used to get it all the time, usually at the same time, so my poor mother would be coming around with a tray of Penicillin for all three of her children. That Penicillin is quite the antibiotic. I can't really knock it because, come on, most of us would be dead without it, but man, that stuff stinks. Not only is it horrendous going down (that aftertaste just makes you gag), but it's also nasty coming out. Penicillin pee, there's just no mistaking it, or forgetting it.

The worst part about these coughs I get is how hard they make it to sleep. My coughs are always worse at night, and often times I can't sleep unless I'm sitting up in bed. It's basically like trying to sleep on an airplane, only without the turbulence and persistent airplane fart aromas. And my coughs seem to be worse than a lot of coughs. They render me unable to talk for several days (not from losing my voice, but from the fact that any talking at all just makes me cough harder). And my coughs don't seem to be the normal "cough cough" deal. My coughs seem to be more of the "cough cough cough, gag gag gag" variety.

Unfortunately, cough syrup doesn't seem to do anything. Regular cough syrup that is. When we were kids and up coughing all night, my parents would give us this prescription cough medicine that had codeine in it. This stuff was amazing. It tasted like a shot of vodka, and we had to take it with an entire glass of water. And then we went nighty night.

Before you get up in arms about giving kids codeine, let me just say that that cough syrup was a savior, and was the only thing that allowed us to sleep and actually get better, because let's face it, that cough wasn't doing anybody any favors. I wished I had some last night, when I was sitting up in the living room coughing until 3am because I didn't want to disturb Steve, and I couldn't lie down at all.

So no wine today. Last thing I want to do today is drink. Unless it's a delightful codeine-cough-syrup cocktail. A girl can dream, can't she? Between coughing fits, that is.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Wine for Not Wearing Pants, Part II (or, Wine for Making an Entrance)

We left off yesterday with a production of Merchant of Venice I acted in in New York many years ago, in which I walked on stage one night without pants. If only I could say that this incident was the only mishap of the production, but alas...

One night, my Lorenzo and I were onstage, me lying with my head in his lap. We were supposed to be gazing at each other romantically while being serenaded, before being surprised by Portia. At the time I had long hair, and Lorenzo's costume included a vest with buttons. As we gazed at each other, I attempted to lift my head up to kiss him, only to be brought up short. I tried again and then realized that my hair was caught on one of his buttons. He attempted to untangle the hair without being too obvious, but nothing worked. This being a production in a tiny theatre, the audience was basically three feet away from us, and happened to be partially filled with my friends. I could hear them giggling and whispering to each other "Jocelyn's hair is caught".

Finally Portia entered, and knowing that we had to jump up in alarm, Lorenzo took hold of the hank of hair and tore it free of the button in one clean jerk. Luckily this actor had long hair, too, so he understood that he needed to hold on hard to the hair so that I wouldn't feel like it was being yanked out of my skull.

The worst incident of the run of this show, though, was the night that Lorenzo and I completely missed our entrance. In the play, there is a bit of a break between Jessica and Lorenzo's escape, and their re-emergence in another scene. Normally Lorenzo and I would go to the dressing room, which was down a flight of creaky wooden stairs, we would hang out for a bit while he played his guitar softly, until we had a sense that it was almost time for our entrance, when we would quietly make our way back upstairs. A lot of dressing rooms have monitors in them so you can hear what is happening on stage and know exactly where they are in the show, but this being a low budget show, we had no such luxury. Instead, you just had to be on top of things and pay attention.

On this particular night, we went down to the dressing room as usual, chatted, laughed and sang songs. We must have Kumbaya-ed it one too many times, because I suddenly had a very bad feeling that we had been downstairs too long. I jumped up from my chair and ran to the bottom of the stairs to hear where they were in the show, and was horrified to realize that we were supposed to be on stage.

Now the idea, when something goes wrong in a show, is to try to get through it smoothly so that the audience doesn't realize that anything has happened. What should have happened that night is that Lorenzo and I should have quietly made our way up the stairs and waited for an appropriate moment to make our entrance. Yup...that is indeed what should have happened.

But is that what happened? Nooo, it was not.

I went into full-on headless chicken mode, flapping at Lorenzo "We missed our entrance!!!!!" and then plowing full-speed up the stairs. Poor Lorenzo came running after me hissing "Wait for me!!!". But did I wait? Noooo, I did not. I must have sounded like a water buffalo clomping up those creaky stairs at full speed. I didn't wait for a good moment to make my entrance, I didn't wait to make sure that Lorenzo was with me, I didn't even stop to catch my breath. I exploded onto the stage, panting and sweating. There was nothing subtle about my appearance on that stage. I might as well have lit my hair on fire and then run around screaming "I missed my entrance I missed my entrance!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" A split second after I burst on stage, Lorenzo burst out after me.

Everything on stage stopped. The other actors stared at us and we stared back at them, wild-eyed and breathing heavily. For a split second no one moved. Then, as always happens, someone started saying their lines again and the show continued, adrenalin rush and all.

My wine for making an entrance is a Gaja Brunello di Montalcino "Rennina" "Pieve Santa Restituta" 2004 from Tuscany. This wine is smooth, mellow, silky and round with a nose of black cherry, currant, roses and cinnamon with black cherry, tobacco and leather on the palate. Brunello is often considered one of the best wines of Italy, and I could see why. It is the kind of wine you want to have with a rich Italian meal. Who knows, it could even make you feel content, in spite of the fact that you might have recently missed an entrance, lost a hank of hair, or neglected to put on pants.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wine for Not Wearing Pants, Part I

I confess to having a bit of writer's block today. I have been trying unsuccessfully all day to think of what I could write about. It is an uncomfortable feeling, having writer's block. It reminds me of forgetting your lines on stage; that split second of panic that feels like hours, when your heart pounds, your breathing stops, your eyes glaze over and dart back and forth. It is just one of those moments that most actors dread. It feels like the whole world stops. But then, miraculously, someone always saves it. Either the person who forgot his or her lines suddenly remembers them, or someone else onstage finds a way to jump over it, and the play moves on, most of the time without the audience ever knowing anything was amiss.

Sometimes, however, there are mistakes that are so obvious, no one can miss them. One particular production I was in in NYC of A Merchant of Venice was full of such mistakes. As I believe I have mentioned before, this was the production in which I went onstage one night without any pants.

Allow me to elaborate: I was playing Jessica, the daughter of the tyrannical and overprotective Shylock, who has essentially forbidden her from going outside the house where she might be in danger of meeting some nasty Goy boy who might pollute her mind and ravish her body. Unfortunately for Shylock, Jessica has already met and fallen in love with Lorenzo, and together they have planned Jessica's middle-of-the-night escape from her father's house. Most of the time, any significant change in a character's life will require a wardrobe change, and so it was with Jessica. I was supposed to change from the skirt I wore in my father's house to pants and a long cape for my getaway.

The wardrobe change was quick, and the cape was long, down to my ankles, and the fabric swished against the black pantyhose I wore under my skirt and well, one night I didn't realize that I hadn't put my pants on after taking my skirt off until I got out on stage and wondered why my legs felt so much more breezy and cold than usual. Some folks watching in the audience might have thought: "Wow, I see the symbolism of the wardrobe choice; she's naked now, she's newborn, she's left her old restrictive life behind and is now free." I think most people, however, probably just said: "Well now, there's a girl who's not wearing any pants."

There are some more memorable moments from the run of this show, but in the interest of keeping these posts on the shorter side, I will save them until tomorrow. For today, my wine for not wearing any pants (part I) is a Farina Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005. Amarone is an intensely flavored dry red wine made from very ripe bunches of dehydrated grapes; in other words, raisins. This perhaps would make this wine more appropriate for a pants-less, wrinkly, old man, but oh well. This medium-body wine has a rich nose of dried fruit, figs, prunes, cherry, black currant and dried leaves with black cherry, raisins, fig, prune and cherry pipe tobacco on the palate.

I just love that this wine is actually made from raisins; I never would have thought it possible to get juice from a wrinkly old raisin. I guess that's what Viagra is for....

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Wine for Chocolate

Like many people, I have a sweet tooth; and, like many people, my sweet tooth focuses on chocolate. I love chocolate: milk chocolate, dark chocolate, filled chocolate, flavored chocolate, chocolate cakes, cream pies, Nutella spread, brownies, cookies, you name it, I love it.

My love for sweets and chocolate goes way, way back: when I was young and got lost in the grocery store, all my parents had to do was look in the check-out aisle where I could always be found sniffing the candy and gum; at night, when I was very young and supposed to be asleep, I could just feel that my parents and siblings were eating chocolate downstairs, and I came down, crying "I'm missing all the fun".

As you can imagine, Halloween was a dream come true for me, and I would get weepy with joy looking at my bag full of candy, and feeling anger and resentment toward anyone who had been crap enough to give me one of those teeny boxes of raisins. I mean, come on, raisins? Who are you trying to kid? You may as well just have taken your five bucks and thrown it in the trash, because I guarantee, that's where your raisins went. The biggest problem I had was not eating all of my candy in one night. Unlike my sister, who kept her candy in a pillowcase in her closet, and would still have candy in it the following Halloween, I struggled to have any candy remaining a few days after the holiday.

One unfortunate Halloween when I was about 7 or 8 years old, my parents went out of town and my grandparents were staying with us. Not knowing that they really needed to take the candy away from me, my grandparents left me alone with my loot, and I must have eaten it all in one sitting, because I woke up in the middle of the night pulling a Linda Blair, which my poor sister then had to clean up.

By far the best chocolate story from my youth is the chocolate-covered cherry story. My father used to be the chocolate-master: he kept chocolate hidden in various places and would bring it out and give some to us whenever he saw fit. I didn't have to be too old or too bright to realize that he always kept the chocolate in the small bar in our den where he kept the booze. One day when I was about nine or ten years old, I was alone at home, and fell victim to a chocolate craving of biblical proportions. Unable to control myself, I went to the bar where there was a box of recently opened chocolate covered cherries. Carefully, I removed one of the cherries from its tray and ate it, putting the box back exactly where it had been.

That first one was so delicious, with the smooth milk chocolate and that sweet syrupy cherry middle, that I just had to have another one. And another one after that, and another and another, until, with horror, I realized that there were only four chocolate covered cherries left in the box. Frantically, I rearranged them in a few different ways until I found the configuration that I felt best made the four chocolates look like many, many more, and put the box back in the bar.

A day or so later, we were all in the den watching television, when my father got up from his chair and asked the question that usually filled me with glee: "Is it time for a treat?". I blanched, I froze, I panicked, I decided this was a good moment to make my exit while still keeping my cool. So I jumped up from the couch with a frenzied "I have to go to the bathroom", ran from the room, got into my bed and hid under the covers. After a few minutes, during which time I just knew my family had discovered the missing chocolates, I heard my father call my name. It was said with a kind of accusing, yet coaxing tone, the kind you might use with a puppy who is hiding after peeing on the floor. He called my name, and I decided to maintain my cover and throw him off the scent by shrieking back: "I didn't eat them!!!"

To this day, no one in my family can look at a chocolate covered cherry without remembering that day. So to commemorate the demise of those chocolate cherries, I suggest we have a taste of one of Steve's and my favorite ports, Heitz Cellars Ink Grade Port Napa Valley. This fortified, sweet wine is a blend of many lush Portuguese grapes, and smells richly of dark cherries, blueberries, raspberries, coffee and yes, chocolate. It is delicious on its own, but also complements strong blue cheese and yup, you guessed it, chocolate. A bottle of this rarely lasts longer than 2 weeks in our house. It would appear that nothing sweet is safe with me...just ask the cherries.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Wine for New World Test

Today we had our New World exam. This included a theory test with questions about the wine worlds of USA, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. The theory test was followed, of course by a blind tasting. As always we had to identify and analyze one red wine and one white. Even though our theory exam was New World only, our tasting included wines from anywhere in the New World, France, and even a few from Italy that we tasted in the first two weeks of class. That's a lot to choose from!

I am very happy to report that both parts of the test went very well! I identified the red wine correctly as a Pinot Noir from the USA; I thought the white wine was a Chardonnay from France. After the test, we all convened in the hallway and discussed our guesses. Half of the class thought the white wine was a Chardonnay and half the class thought it was a Riesling. Guess what it was? A Viognier from France. So I got the France piece at least. But it just goes to show, this stuff is freakin' hard.

To celebrate the (mostly) successful completion of the New World module, let's crack open a bottle of Cliff Lede Vineyards "DIVA" Sparkling Wine Napa Valley 2000. Cliff Lede is a very cool winery slightly off the beaten path in St. Helena, and this sparkling wine is a treat: bright and lively with a yummy yeasty aroma combined with apple and pear, it is delicious as an aperatif, or to enjoy at any old time of the day. As it says on the bottle's label, "This lady can Sing!".

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Wine for Speaking with Conviction

I have noticed something that happens in the class when we do our wine tastings: the men declare, the women ask.

As I may have already mentioned, when we taste a wine in class, we discuss three aspects of the wine: the sight, the nose (smell) and the palate (taste and mouth feel). Two people in class discuss each wine; one person describing sight and nose, and the second person discussing the palate. We go through each wine this way, moving person to person through the rows of seats.

What I noticed is that all the guys in the class state their observations directly and confidently ("I get raspberry, plum, tobacco, smoke and mushroom."), even if they're wrong. The women on the other hand, end every deduction with a question mark ("Um, I think it's medium alcohol? With plums? coffee? Medium acid?"), even when they're right.

Why do we do this? I was doing it too until I noticed the pattern and forced myself to stop. Actually, no, you know what, that's not true. Now that I remember, it was the guy who sits in front of me who basically said to me when I finished one of my descriptions that I knew more than I thought I did, and that I should be more confident in my delivery. He wasn't being obnoxious; he said it more in a "You can do it!" kind of way, but it bothered me that I was doing that and hadn't even noticed, and that I, in the end, needed a man to point it out to me.

Was it that I needed permission to be bold? Are we as women so much more afraid of making mistakes than men? Are we somehow give a subliminal message that we don't know anything, whereas men are given the message that they do? Am I being too simplistic and making sweeping generalizations?! Probably. It just really bothers and upsets me that all the women in the class are questioning themselves so much, probably without being aware of it. I was afraid of being wrong, and then being embarrassed in front of the class, which is ridiculous because we are all learning and are all making mistakes.

I have been making a concerted effort now to be bold in my descriptions in class; to not end any of my sentences with question marks, and to not proceed as if I am somehow ashamed of what I am saying. And you know what, an interesting thing has been happening: I feel more confident and positive while I am speaking. I feel more certain of what I am saying, and I care less if I am wrong. Speaking in a confident and secure manner has, in fact, actually made me feel more confident and secure. It is impressive, this power of speech, of the voice, of expression. I studied this very thing for years at Shakespeare & Company, but I sort of forgot about the power of the voice until now.

So let's celebrate speaking out and being bold with a Rolf Binder Shiraz "Heyson" Barossa 2006. This Australian Shiraz has a wonderful nose of blackberry jam, black raspberry, chocolate-covered blueberries smoke and figs with tobacco, dark chocolate, coffee grounds, blueberry and blackberry on the palate. It is wonderfully complex, smooth, full and round. No questions asked.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wine for Tofu Madness

My sister called me last night to say that she had a block of tofu and was wondering what she should do with it. And no, she was not actually asking for a meal suggestion. She was, in fact bringing to mind one of the oddest and worst roommate experiences I have ever had.

When I first moved to New York, I sublet a room in a two-bedroom apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn. The girl whose room I was subletting was someone I knew from the theatre, and since she seemed fairly normal, I assumed that her roommate and apartment would be, too. Well, you know what they say about assuming.

The apartment was in a terrific location, on 6th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues, close to the subway and the main shopping drag. The apartment itself was, I should say, a bit odd. There was no living room to speak of, there were just two bedrooms, a bathroom, a large closet off the long narrow hallway and a kitchen. It wasn't dirty exactly, but it was dingy and dark, and felt old and a bit rundown. It also had mice, and one day when I came home, I found one of the mice writhing around in the closet, dying from some poison that the landlords must have put down. When my parents came to help me move into my own apartment, my father actually cried when he saw where I had been living. At the time I didn't think the place itself was that bad (you can put up with a lot more when you're young), it was the roommate who eventually sent me running for my life.

She was, without a doubt, one of the weirdest people I have ever not met. I say I didn't meet her because she never actually introduced herself or even said hello to me. I don't necessarily think that you have to be best friends with your roommate, but I do believe in actually being, you know, normal with them.

I am a friendly person for the most part, and since i had just moved to a new city when I got to Park Slope, I was hoping to at least have someone to talk to in the apartment, but she literally never came out of her bedroom when I was in the apartment (unless of course I was in my own room with the door closed). I don't remember her name, but I think it was something like Crazy McNutjob.

As I have mentioned, she did not appear to me in person, but she left evidence of her existence: a kitchen that smelled as if all she ate were hard-boiled eggs cooked in a vat of vinegar; a used tampon loosely wrapped in tissue and left on the bathroom shelf; poop on the bathroom floor; and the oddest item by far, a block of tofu in the toilet. Yes that's right. Tofu. In the toilet. This last one still baffles me beyond all reason.

She was actually at home when a friend of mine and I found the tofu in the toilet, and when I knocked repeatedly on her door to get her to talk to me about it she refused to open the door! She just completely ignored me, and I wound up saying a sentence I never in a million years would have dreamed I would say: "You know, you can't put tofu in the toilet." There then followed an even more bizarre scene of my friend and I trying to remove said tofu block with the assistance of various spoons, pulleys, levers and plungers. Let me just say this, it wasn't pretty.

Still to this day, I cannot imagine the thought process that would lead a person to believe that it was a good idea to put a block of tofu in a toilet. My sister suggested that perhaps she was just trying to cut out the middle-man.

In honor of Crazy McNutjob and the tofu madness, let's crack open a bottle of Hewitson Shiraz "Mad Hatter" McLaren Vale 2006. This is a beautiful example of what Australian Shiraz can be: rich and warm with a nose of raspberry, cherry, chocolate, plum, blueberry and smoke with a palate of chocolate, black cherry, blueberry, raspberry, dried leaves and tobacco. Yum. It doesn't really go with tofu, but then I wouldn't eat that tofu anyway; you now know where it's been.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Wine for Talking, Talking and More Talking

My sister informs me that she remembers the Undies Song as follows: "Undies undies, ba-ba-bop. Undies undies, ba-ba-bop. I love undies. 'Cause undies are a ba-ba-bop." You can see the subtle nuances and differences in the two versions. My version is perhaps a bit more aggressive, accusing another person of looking like a bop bop bop, whereas my sister's version is all about loving the undies for their very ba-ba-bop-ish-ness. Interesting...very interesting.

Now as you have probably noticed, I am having a little trouble keeping these posts short, and I apologize for that. I'm a talker, what can I say? I like to talk, and that seems to also translate to my blogging world. It's always been a bit of an issue, my talking. In elementary school, my teachers all basically said the same thing to my parents: nice girl, but can't seem to shut her trap. I'm sure they didn't use those words exactly, but that was the drift. Though as I remember, I seemed to have two modes: Chatty Cathy, or Daydreamer. I know I spent many a school hour when I wasn't yapping away or singing, staring out the window. I can only assume I was thinking about how undies are a ba-ba bop and how much I loved them for it.

I come by the chattiness honestly. My mother is a talker. She LOVES to talk. She will talk with you, to you, and over you. So great is her love of talking, that she often can't restrain herself from chiming in long before you have actually finished your sentence. Talking with my mom can sometimes feel a bit like being on Jeopardy or something, with my mother as the slightly out-of-breath contestant, hand poised over the buzzer, just waiting to jump in with the right answer.

So a conversation might go something like this: Me: "I wanted to go get a--" My mother: "Car?!! Tetanus shot?!! Oompa-Loompa??!!!!" Most of the time she has no idea what it is you're trying to say, but she just can't stop herself from throwing out at least three different options before actually letting you finish what you were saying. And though this can certainly get--("Exciting??!! Upsetting??!!! Badminton??!!!!")--annoying, there is no doubting her interest and enthusiasm.

So in honor of being both chatty and enthusiastic, let's share a glass of (water??!!! Milk??!!! Yoo Hoo??!!) Tikal "Patriota" Mendoza 2008. This is a really unusual red wine since it is a blend of two of Argentina's most important grapes, Malbec and Bonardo. It is a beautiful garnet, purple color, with an amazing nose of raspberries, blueberries, wintergreen, sandalwood, bramble, allspice and chocolate. It's bold without being too overpowering, and at $23 a bottle, it's worth a ("fortune??!!! penguin??!!! potato??!!") try.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Wine for Song Lyrics

I was reminded this morning of how fun it can be to misunderstand the lyrics to songs. The radio station I listen to in the car on my way to class played "Funky Town" and I recalled that I used to think that the lyrics to the chorus were "I want two tickets to Funky Town". I think they're actually "Won't you take me to Funky Town" or something like that. This way, she is asking someone to take her somewhere, as opposed to my version, where she could have just been talking to her travel agent.

You know that song by The Police with the chorus "We are spirits in the material world"? When I was younger I thought they were saying "We are spare ribs in the material world". These lyrics make absolutely no sense, of course, but I didn't spend too much time worrying about that. Apparently, I just wanted spare ribs. I must have heard that they were particularly delicious in Funky Town. Hence the two tickets I needed to get there.

Clearly I have always been a star in the lyric-writing department. When I was about five years old, I wrote a song with the words "I met all my my nursery school. Karina and Diana and Christina, too. I don't know if there's any more to do." and then repeat. I have no idea what that last phrase of the song meant, but I'm sure it was significant.

By far my best song was written, I think, when I was even younger than five (my sister can correct me if I'm wrong). This one was brilliant in its simplicity. I urge you to set these lyrics to the tune of your choice and give it a go: "Undies undies, bop bop bop. Undies undies bop bop bop. Undies undies undies bop bop bop. You look like a bop bop bop." Yup, that's right. Me. Mozart. Child prodigies, both.

About 10 years ago, I was in a production of "Henry IV, Part I" at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, MA. This was when the theatre company was still performing at the Edith Wharton property, and the outdoor theatre was this wonderful wood stage behind the main house, surrounded by trees on three sides. We would often make our entrances from the woods, emerging out of the darkness and shadows of the trees into the lights of the stage. It was a magical spot for Shakespeare, and it makes me sad to think that there will be no more performances on that stage; the stage no longer exists now, and Shakespeare & Company has moved to an entirely different location.

"Henry IV, Part I" is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, and I played a few small roles in this production: I was a traveller who got chased off into the woods; some sort of freaky Druid woman dressed all in black ( this was the worst because the mosquitos in an outdoor nighttime summer production in Massachusetts are, to put it mildly, aggressive, and we were supposed to remain absolutely still while getting eaten alive); and finally, a soldier on the battlefield.

"Henry IV, Part I" has a terrific battle scene which ends the play, and we had hours of stage combat training with broadswords and bows and arrows. Stage combat is spectacularly fun, because so much of selling it involves lots of vocal commitment; in other words, shout and grunt a lot. Practicing during the day in the sweltering summer heat was not always a joy (one person even fainted), but watching the whole cast performing in the evening with the swords glinting in the stage lights as people fought each other in and amongst the trees was pretty cool. We even had a few storms come in during these battles scenes, and hearing the thunder crash and the lightning reflect off the swords as the storm approached was beyond thrilling (until of course you realized you were holding a large lightning rod in your hand, and then it was just freaky).

I must admit, I was pretty darn good at the sword-play, but in the end, my role in the final battle scene was that of Crazy Mace Lady. I was given a baton with a black-painted plastic chain, at the end of which was a black nerf-ball with sponge spikes attached. In the stage lights, it looked pretty real, and my job was to go running through the battlefield, swinging my mace and bashing people, both dead and alive with it, while screaming bloody murder. This was not only loads of fun for me, but was also much loved by many of my cast-mates. We had such fun with it, that my friend Amanda and I wrote our very own heavy-metal song, inspired by Mace Lady.

Here are the lyrics: "Mace lady!! She's crazy!! Hit you in the face...with her mace!!!" Repeat. And repeat. And repeat. I know we wrote some other lyrics to go with that chorus, but I can't remember them now. I think we can all agree that's probably a good thing.

My wine for writing lyrics is Seven Hills Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2005. This Syrah is a beautiful inky garnety-purple color, which I feel is an appropriate salute to Mace Lady and the havoc she wreaked. It is a complex, subtle Syrah, with a nose and palate of raspberry, blueberry, figs, plums, black pepper. violets and clove. This would be a wonderful wine to have with beef stew, or steak au poivre, but would also be delicious on its own, say, while writing a song, or after a hard day of macing.

Please share your best mis-heard song lyrics in the comments section; they're always so much fun!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Wine for Remembering Kitten

This week marks three years since I put my wonderful kitten to sleep. She was seriously the sweetest cat I have ever met. She was the cat who made even cat-haters fall in love with her. Case in point was my husband, who really didn't like cats at all, but once she came to live with us, he was smitten.

Here they are in one of their cuddly moments. As you might be able to tell from this photo, kitty was a little on the plumptious side, with one of those terrific swinging kitty bellies. She loved to play fetch and to be chased, and she would run run run, belly swinging in the breeze, and then flop down on her side, so someone could pat the belly in all its glory.

Part of what made her so sweet was how un-cat-like she was. She was not aloof and independent, and she wasn't schizoid, the way some cats are. She never suddenly lashed out and scratched you for no apparent reason the way most cats will, which was a good thing, since she was also diabetic and had to be stabbed twice a day with needles.

Pretty much all she wanted to do was curl up on your lap and sleep. She did like to play and fetch, like I said. She liked to hide behind doors and play peek-a-boo; if you didn't play fetch with her when she wanted, she would meow until you did; or else, as she did one night with me and Steve, she would go get her little mouse and bring it in to where we were watching tv and then meow. And brushing, my god she loved being brushed. The second anyone picked up that brush she would start squeaking and run after you. That was how Steve first won her over, with the power of the brush. She would purr like mad, and then jab her face into it. It was hard to imagine that it didn't hurt, she rammed her face into it with quite a bit of force, but it seemed to delight her. Eventually, she would work herself into such a brush-loving frenzy she would start biting the brush, like she was just so excited she didn't know what to do with herself.

She bonded with my parents, who, of course, wound up taking care of her for a time (it must just fill parents with dread when their kids say they are getting a pet, since they must just know it means that at some point that pet will become theirs). She and my dad had a whole ritual of television watching and cuddling. My dad is obsessed with watching financial programs, and he was convinced that the kitty would lift up her head whenever she heard a particularly good stock tip.

There are so many funny kitten stories, but I won't bore you with them. I will just share one final thing she used to do that always made me laugh: the post-poop dash. She would do her business, spend 10 minutes loudly stirring up the cat litter to cover it (yet still somehow only managing to cover about half of it), and then she would hop out of the litter box and sprint from one end of the apartment to the other, belly swinging wildly. That poop must have really been weighing her down, because she certainly seemed happy to get rid of it. You could practically hear her shouting "I'm free! I'm free!!"

One final picture. This was taken in the last few months of her life. She's a bit cranky at this moment, because we just had to clean her ears. I believe she was plotting how to poop in my pillowcase. She didn't do it, thankfully, but I think you'll agree she was definitely thinking about it.

Because of how sweet she was, I told Steve I thought she was a marshmallow in a kitty's body. Steve accurately pointed out that she was more like a kitty in a marshmallow body. How right he was...

So let's drink a toast to my sweet kitten with a sweet dessert wine. This Calera Dessert Viognier Mount Harlan 2006 from California is wonderfully sweet without being cloying, full of rich, warm peach, nectarine, honeysuckle and jasmine notes. It would be wonderful with dark chocolate, or a light strawberry shortcake (maybe one where the shortcake has a little lemon or orange zest in it) or peach cobbler.

To kitten...may I pat the swinging belly again one day...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Wine for France Test

Woohoo, have finished with France! Finally! We celebrated the end of the French nightmare with a lunch of Steak au Poivre cooked by someone at the Culinary School, and (of course) wine!

The test went pretty well, I think. I guessed the red wine correctly, and got very close on the white; I concluded that it was a Loire wine and thought it was Chenin Blanc but it turned out to be Sauvignon Blanc. But the two wines are produced in neighboring Loire regions, so I was in the right ballpark. Tomorrow we start New World, which includes the USA, Australia, New Zealand and South America. At least with these areas, the varietal is printed on the label, so that takes some of the work out of it.

I have witnessed another terrific driver: today, while stopped at a light, the guy in the car next to me started trimming his nose hairs with scissors. Do people not remember that they're not, in fact, invisible in their cars? Those windows are see-through you know. We can still see you. Most people just don't care, though, do they? Years of riding the NY subway and seeing more than one person cutting his toenails on it should have taught me that.

Random fun fact that I learned: Champagne corks are in fact the same cylindrical shape when they are placed into the bottle as every other wine-bottle cork. It is the pressure that builds as the Champagne ages in the bottle that forces the cork partway out and causes that mushroom shape. I did not know that! Try that fun-fact out at your next party or business meeting-you'll be a hit!! A big, fat, wine-geeky hit.

No wine today; I've had enough to drink.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Wine for the Last Day of France

Hooray, we are finished with France! And we spent this last day in a most fitting way: by discussing and tasting Champagne! Tomorrow is our France test consisting of multiple choice questions and a blind tasting of one red wine and one white. After the test, we will celebrate with a French meal accompanied by French wine which we actually get to drink.

I have spent so much time studying that now I just want to leave it alone and not think about it anymore. I have been having trouble falling asleep the last few days, mostly because I will be lying in bed when suddenly a name of a french wine region, producer or varietal will pop into my head and I will try to remember everything I know about it, and before I know it, my mind is racing and i am awake.

To try and calm my mind down again I force myself to think of anything other than wine. Last night, for some reason, I started thinking about dogs wearing outfits. Much of the time, I am not a fan. I dislike little shivery dogs wearing sweaters, riding around in people's handbags. But some outfits and accessories are just delightful.

The pug in a tutu is always a big hit, as was the funny, scraggly, hairy little dog we saw running around down by The Warming Hut wearing Bat-wings. The ugly, super-sweet bulldog wearing antlers was also very cute, especially because he just seemed so proud to be wearing them.

Steve is not a fan of any kind of doggie costume, and I can see this causing problems down the line. We don't have a dog at the moment, but we plan on getting one at some point in the future. We both love the movie The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, and have agreed that Tuco is a pretty great name for a dog. I feel very strongly that if a dog is going to be named Tuco, then it must be outfitted properly with a sombrero and a poncho. At the very least, right? I mean, you can add spurs, a gun holster and a Sheriff badge, but that might be pushing it. Steve is staunchly against this, but I just know that I will not be able to stop myself. He insists that the dog will hate it, but I don't believe that to be true. I believe that the dog will come to love its sombrero and poncho, and soon will not want to go anywhere without them.

In fact, for Halloween, Steve, the dog and I can all dress in our wild west attire and actually BE The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. Guess which one I will be? (If you say "the ugly", I will hunt you down. I know where you live,)

To celebrate the last day of France, let's drink a toast together with a lovely bottle of Veuve Clicquot Demi-Sec Champagne. Yum, yum and more yum. It's light, fresh and not too sweet, with a hint of dried apricot and lemon on the palate, and a lovely rich, soft mouth feel. It just tastes elegant, if that's possible. Maybe not the sort of thing you'd find Tuco drinking, but that Pug in the tutu...

Monday, February 1, 2010

Wine for Flash Cards

First things first: I will be modifying my posting schedule a little. I will be adding new posts Monday-Thursday evenings, and sending out my reminder email on Friday mornings. Hope that works for you, too!

I have been having a few flash-car-related mishaps lately. As I'm sure you know, the whole idea of flash cards is that you write a question on one side of an index card, and the answer on the other side of the same card. In this way, you can test yourself. I, however, have been so intently writing down all of the questions and answers, and paying such attention to getting down all of the information, that I have accidentally been writing the questions and answers on the same side of the card. Adding to this embarrassment is the fact that it took me almost four weeks to realize my mistake.

The consequence of this little oversight is that my poor husband now has to test me on all the information on these cards. Which brings us to the second flash card-related-issue: as I believe I have already mentioned, my handwriting is, um, bad. After almost 9 years together, Steve is remarkably adept at deciphering my scrawl, but even he periodically hits a snag. Recent study sessions have gone like this: Steve asking me to name a producer or area in France, and me not being sure and asking him to give me a hint in the form of the first letter of the answer. Steve then looks at the flash card and says: "I can't", to which I reply: "What do you mean, you can't?", to which he says: "Well, it's either a 'P' or a 'B' or a 'G". Undeterred, I suggest he give me the second letter instead. Long pause. A look from the flash card to me. Me to the flash card. Then, "I can't".

The best one of these was when he asked me to name a "grar cnu". When I told him that it was actually "grand cru", Steve announced that my handwriting is atrocious. This is, of course, completely 'tnue'.

Today in class we enjoyed some of the dry white and sweet wines of Bordeaux. My wine for flash cards is a Clos Le Thibaut Monbazillac 2003. This is technically a wine from the Soudouest, but it was included in our Bordeaux extravaganza. It is a sweet botrytis wine made from Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadel. This one has wonderful aromas of ripe fig, passionfruit, lychee, pineapple, kumquat and honey with lychee, pineapple and apricot on the palate. It really is a lovely wine, and though it falls a little flat on the finish, at $18 a bottle, you can't go wrong.

Let me know what you think!