59 Candles, 59 Things – part thirty one

Thirty ninth thing: As the next part in this series, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention wine as being one of the things that make me happy.  Anyone who knows me can attest to my abiding passion for it. In almost every photo of me for the last 20 years, I’m toasting someone with a glass of red or white.

It wasn’t always so. In my (ah hem) younger years, wine and I were at odds.  Part of the problem was the “wine” I was drinking. Keep in mind, this was in the mid-70’s and Boone’s Farm was all the rage.  Also, MD2020 “Mad Dog” left lasting impressions and wicked hangovers. I was certain that I would NEVER enjoy wine.

Fast forward to age forty: At a wine tasting in Traverse City, I tried dry white wines and  liked them so much that I came home with a half case.  A few months later a dear friend and I were dining at an upscale Detroit area restaurant, she ordered Merlot.  I decided to try it and this began my love affair with dry reds.  I soon joined three wine clubs and learned a great deal about varietals and what I preferred over time.  My passion for wines knows no bounds as evidenced below.

Just a few glasses of wine enjoyed in my travels, cheers!

For more of my series, 59 Candles, 59 Things, click on “59 Things” under categories.

Keepin’ it real (or why I blog)

Since retiring I’ve found myself busier than I could have imagined. My mission when I began blogging was to document what life is like after a frequently stressful career, track new experiences and accomplishments as I check items off my bucket list and other goals.

By blogging, I can share my passion for writing, cooking, travel, cats, gardening and photography as well as reflecting upon my life from childhood to present with humor and poignancy. I choose to keep my blog upbeat. My blogging mantra, “no rules, just write”.

My expectations at the onset were that my audience would be those who know and love me. The reality is that only some of my family and friends are reading what I write – and that’s okay.

What I didn’t expect it is that I’ve reached an audience spanning 38 countries, from teens to seniors, crossing genders, sexual orientation and whose blogs are similar but often wildly different than mine. I’ve engaged with authors, photographers, students, comedians, professional chefs, doctors, fashionistas and world travelers. That’s been thrilling for me – and validating. After all, blogging puts your authentic voice and point of view out there for the world. And that world has been kind and encouraging.

My lifelong BFF and I attended a day long blogging class at Interlochen last weekend. We came away with insights that can’t help but make us better. Over the weekend, we brainstormed how to implement what we learned, generating numerous ideas for content and “best practices”. All while enjoying her fabulous log home on a lake, a sunset cruise on the pontoon, wine tasting at area vineyards, delicious meals and reflecting on nearly 57 years of friendship. This post was inspired by the class and events from last weekend.

Gourmet Food and Wine Tasting

Just before I headed to visit my stepmom in Florida, she’d left a voicemail on my home phone.

“Are you interested in a gourmet food and wine tasting dinner on the day after you arrive? Let me know”

I called back, “I’m in!”

Here was our menu:

IMG_5368My stepmom and I were joined by four of her friends and started with a pre-dinner cocktail.  Moving into the dining room, seated overlooking a lake I observed all the attentions to detail including this snazzy “butter rose”:

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Here were our courses:

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The little corn pudding (to the left) was exquisite! Everyone was applauding it. Like a little corn custard cloud. Oh my!

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Somehow, to my dismay, I missed taking a picture of the next course which was beautifully presented and delicious.  Sorry about that!

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And last, we were offered a lovely ruby Port to cap off the evening.

IMG_5385I was in a wine and foodie state of bliss and went to sleep recounting each course as I drifted into dreamland.  Every bite was delightful, artistically plated and the wines were superb.  The Rose and Pinot Noir were my absolute faves!

Spring or Fall in Michigan

“I’m the best season” claimed The Spring, “Everyone loves those first signs of life after a long winter”.

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“I respectfully disagree”, The Fall replied, “People love the fall after the heat of summer, those first cooler days, the way I change the landscape into an array of colors”.

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“Humbly, I must deny your claim of being the best season” countered The Spring.  “I turn grass from brown to green, make the trees bud then flower, push up tulips, crocus, daffodils and hyacinth.  The air smells sweet with apple and cherry blossoms, the soft spring rain, the warming days and cool nights.  What say you to that Fall?”

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“I can’t argue that you put forth a good show Spring” said The Fall sincerely, “But I bring forth mums, pumpkins and gourds, the smell of apples being harvested and pressed into cider, the telltale smoke of chimneys as people can enjoy their fireplaces.”

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At this point, I can no longer hold back (as the author of this imagined dialogue), “You are both equally lovely.  Indeed, after a long bitter-cold winter, I’m thrilled to see my garden coming to life in The Spring, the promise of getting my hands in the dirt and planting.  To open my windows, enjoy sitting on my deck, sipping a glass of wine on those first warm-enough-to-not wear-a-jacket evenings”

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“But then comes The Fall.  Those first days when it’s just cool enough to start wearing layers, the smell in the air of leaves wet with dew and the profusion of color that changes them into a vibrant palette of orange, yellow, red, gold and green when the sun lights up the trees.  That crispness to the air on a fall mornings and evenings. Wine tasting as our vineyards bring forth the new harvest.”

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Having listened thoughtfully, The Spring and The Fall agreed that they each were special in their own way and decided to applaud, each the other.

Meanwhile, The Summer sat back silently knowing that she’s the best season.  The Winter just sat sulking, as cold as ever.

Today’s Prompt:  “Give and Take”

Write a post based on the contrast between two things — whether people, objects, emotions, places, or something else. 

Today’s twist: write your post in the form of a dialogue. 

Painting Party at Picasso’s Grapevine

This is what the teacher painted

For those who follow my blog, you’ve seen references to my lifelong BFF who has been integral in injecting fun into my retirement life.

Yesterday, she gathered a group of family and friends for a painting party which is a new trend but the first time I’ve attended one.  Held at Picasso’s Grapevine, the hostess brings in wine and snacks, the venue provides ice buckets, cups, corkscrews and the like.  As we signed in we were given our own easel and canvas.  She’d pre-selected our subject for painting which was on display – a kind of Van Gogh-esque Sunflower scene.  In front of each easel were smocks, a large, medium and small brush, a cup of water (to clean our brushes) and a paper plate palate of acrylic paints in white, black, royal blue, burnt sienna, yellow, orange, red, green and purple.  Our instructor, Heather, started us off with a toast and as we raised our glasses, she explained the process.  At first we were all very quiet as we gripped our brushes with precision, getting the feel of painting.  As time went on and wine was consumed, we loosened up. The painting became more intricate and the laughter ratcheted up as our group walked around to look at how others were interpreting the same instruction.

Our group, lifelong BFF and I are far left.

Over all, it was a blast and even though I don’t think I’m ready to start selling my art, I felt a sense of accomplishment by doing something outside of my comfort zone.  It was fun, relaxing and I have a memento of our painting party as a bonus.

C'est Magnifique, no?
C’est Magnifique, no?